Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

5 SEO copywriting tips for B2B companies

I love working with B2B companies. Many times, they have scads of unique content opportunities – they just need someone to point them out and send them in the right direction.

If you work for a B2B company and you’ve been wondering, “Why are people bouncing out of our site so fast” or “Why don’t we position for X keyterm,” read on. You may benefit from one (or all) of these five SEO copy tips.:

  • Do you know who you’re writing for? Who is your target audience? Do you serve multiple target audiences?  For instance, you may serve real estate agents, solopreneurs and large corporations.  That means three different audiences (or personas) – and each persona will have different goals, motivations and needs. Creating personalized content for your company’s different personas allow you to customize the content around what they need to see – and can help conversion rates skyrocket. For instance, Paymo clearly outlines their target markets on their home page, and lists persona-specific benefits.

  • Qualify your keyphrases for the B2B market. Many B2B keyterms can cause “keyphrase confusion” if they aren’t qualified for your market. For instance, when you think “blades,” you may think “server blades.” However, “blades” could also mean “hockey blades,” or “razor blades.” If you were a B2B company focusing on the single term “blades” when you really mean “server blades,” you’ll be missing the search engine boat.

Adding the qualifying word (in this case, “server”) will help the page position for the B2B phrase. Here’s how Dell does it:

  • Consider your tone and feel. One of the easiest ways a B2B company can differentiate itself is through well-written, engaging copy. That doesn’t mean that the content should sound “fluffy” or be inappropriate for the brand. But it does mean that you probably have more room to move than you think. For example, check out FreshBooks’ home page. I never thought an invoice could “Earn the awe of your clients,” but hey, the copy gets the point across in a fresh, snappy way.
  • Create clickable Titles. A common B2B Title is structured like this:  keyword | keyword | keyword| (insert company name here.) You wouldn’t write a headline like that – so why would you let the first opportunity for conversion (getting the click from the search engines results page) pass you by?  Create a compelling, “clickable” Title by including a benefit statement or even a call to action. For instance, check out this example from PSPrint. Their Title has keyphrases. It has a benefit statement. And it positions in the top ten, too. Triple score!

  • Leverage the content you have. B2B companies tend to have many content opportunity. For instance, newsletter content can be re-purposed for a blog post. You could create transcripts of past Webinars and post them online. Existing site copy could be transformed into top-positioning SEO copy through strategic keyphrase editing. The possibilities are out there – it’s just uncovering them, setting an editorial calendar and making it happen.

Save 20% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training while Heather’s out of town! Use coupon code CATSAWAY until June 17.

5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs

Mullet

Is your prospect all business in the front and a party in the back?

Do you instantly hit the “ignore” button when you see a certain client’s name come up on caller ID?

Do you write “please shoot me” notes during client calls?

Choosing the wrong clients is a slow, sure path to insanity. Fortunately, these folks throw up some pretty obvious red flags during the sales process. The key to business success is noticing those red flags in the moment – and not deluding yourself into thinking you can “fix” the client (yeah, right!)

Here are five common SEO client types to avoid at all costs:

- The “Taylor Swift” client

“All of my past SEO providers did me wrong and I want to tell the world!”

If a prospect is outlining her grievances about every SEO firm she’s worked with – and this is your first phone call – you may want to steer clear. It’s true that people can make bad SEO-provider decisions. And it’s true that there are bad SEO companies out there – and you may need to repair some legitimate damage. At the same time, you’ll want to proceed with caution when you notice that blinking neon chip on her shoulder. Especially if the prospect is ranting about her SEO exes instead of discussing the project.

With a “Taylor Swift” client, the real problem may not be “bad” SEO companies. Instead, the client may have some … issues. Just know you will never be her SEO knight in shining armor. No matter how well you perform, you too will “do her wrong” eventually – and she’ll add your story to the mix.

Do you really want to get involved with that hot mess?

- The mullet master

“I know a lot about SEO. I need doorway pages and article spinning.”

Does your prospect’s site scream 1999? Are they talking to you about doorway pages, keyphrase density and submitting to article directories? Your client could be so stuck in the SEO past that educating them will be a full-time job.

Assuming they listen to you.

Justin Timberlake may be able to bring sexy back, but you won’t be able to bring keyphrase density back. In a perfect world, you’re able to educate your prospect – and she actually listens to you and takes your advice. Unfortunately, many SEO prospects who are stuck in the past stay that way. They like it there. And they’ll keep calling providers until they reach someone who says, “Article directories? I love it! Yes, I can help!”

The “Yeah … but” prospect

“Yeah … but are you really sure that will work? My mother’s uncle’s cousin said I should try something else.”

Feeling like you’re talking to a brick wall? Do you have tiny bald patches from ripping out your hair? You’re talking to the “Yeah … but” prospect.  This person will shoot down any idea you have, even if they are the one who called you for help.

Unfortunately, this prospect is so pessimistic that making a decision is impossible. You’ll send proposal after proposal, but none of them will be right. Follow-up calls won’t help. Client education won’t help. This prospect is stuck in a deep hole of indecision and there’s no way to dig them out. Nor will you probably ever sign a gig with them. Walking away is the safest thing you can do for your sanity (and your bottom line.)

- The “Wimpy” client

“I don’t pay deposits. I’ll pay you the entire invoice when the job is complete.”

This is the client who would gladly pay you Tuesday for SEO work you do today.  When asked about paying a retainer, their flat answer is “no.” Maybe it’s because they’ve been “burned by a bad SEO provider” (see my earlier point above.) Perhaps it’s not “how accounts payable does things.” That puts you in an uncomfortable situation. If you want the gig, you have to trust that the client will pay you – and pay you on time.

Your response to this type of client should be something along the lines of “No freakin’ way.” Paying a deposit is a standard practice that shouldn’t freak out a possible client. If it does freak them out, that’s a huge red flag. Essentially, the client is asking you to extend them credit and take on all the risk. If things like paying rent and eating are important to you, always get a deposit up front.

The “shiny objects” client

“I need help with my SEO copywri … Look! A squirrel!”

One day, your prospect is pumped about Pinterest. The next, she’s talking about adding new blog content. The following week, she’s changed her strategy entirely and feels it’s time for a redesign. In the meantime, you find yourself sending multiple proposals and spending hours chatting about your prospect’s “cool idea.”

On the positive side, these prospects are extremely excited about the SEO and marketing opportunities. On the negative side, they often want to implement them all. Right now. And then change their minds.

Shiny-objects clients are notoriously difficult to work with. Sometimes, you can pin them down and get them to sign a contract. Just be prepared for lots of forwarded emails promising to “submit your site to 1,000 directories” or “help your guest posts get more exposure.” If something new catches their eye, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

What other SEO client types would you add to the list?

Learn more about managing clients. Boost your business with the Copywriting Business Boot Camp course – on sale now with coupon code PROFIT. Sale ends May 20, so sign up now!

Photo thanks to Jennifer Boyer. Love the mullet pic!

 

 

20 Copywriting Blind Spots All Web Writers Should Avoid

What are your copywriting blind spots?

What are your copywriting blind spots?

Do you ever read a blog post and cringe? “I don’t know how they missed that,” you think. “It’s such an obvious mistake!”

The truth is, we all suffer from copywriting blind spots. We’re so close to our own writing that it’s hard to see the mistakes.

It’s important to get a handle on your blind spots, and do it fast. We may not see these boo-boos, but our readers will. Depending on the severity of the mistake, it can cost us (or our clients) readers or even sales.

Here are the most common blind spots that I see:

- The content doesn’t include any keyphrases. Sure, it’s good to “write naturally.” But that also means you’ll still need to conduct keyphrase research and place those keyphrases (and related synonyms) in the content. I still see copywriters guessing at what keyphrases are relevant to the page … with disastrous results.

- The content includes too many keyphrases. New SEO copywriters typically make this mistake. Your best way to check for keyphrase overuse is to read your copy out loud. You’ll be able to hear where you’ve overloaded your keyphrase usage and editing will be a snap.

- Ignoring the Title. Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Rather than [keyword] | [keyword] | [keyword], why not write something clickable and compelling instead?

- Focusing on “us” “we” and “our company.” The key is to tell prospective readers what’s in it for them. If your copy is peppered with company-centered content, rewrite it so it focuses more on the reader.

- Odd sentence fragments. Sure, using the occasional sentence fragment can be a cool copywriting technique. But only if you know how to use it well. Don’t write sentence fragments unless you are very sure you can pull them off.

- Repeating concepts. Ever talk to someone who says the same thing in five different ways? It drives you nuts, doesn’t it? It’s the same with your content writing. If you’ve said something once, you typically don’t need to repeat yourself.

- The subheads don’t make sense. The purpose of the subhead is to give the reader a preview of the following paragraph. If you write a subheadline about “saving money,” but the following paragraph is about “saving time,” you’ve created a copywriting disconnect.

- There are no subheads. Subheadlines allow readers to quick-scan your writing and decide if they want to go deeper. Plus, if your readers are on a mobile device, subheadlines make your content easier to read. Don’t forget about them.

- The subheadlines are benefit-free. If you are writing sales pages, benefit-rich subheadlines help your prospect quick-scan the page and immediately understand how you can help them.

- Hyperlinking the keyphrase every single time. Yes, once upon a time, this technique was OK (within reason.) Now, you’ll be walking a fine spam line if you do it. Mix up your hyperlink usage and only use them where they’ll make sense to the reader.

- Writing too much content. It’s important to ruthlessly edit yourself (or have someone else edit for you.) If you take 750 words when you could have used 500, you’ll lose the reader.

- Forgetting the call-to-action. Every page should have a call-to-action (for instance, reading another article, making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter). Don’t forget to tell the reader what you’d like them to do. If you don’t ask for it, they probably won’t do it.

- Writing endless, scrolling copy. There’s a lot of truth to TL;DR (too long; didn’t read.) If you tend to write long-form content all the time, ask yourself if you could split up the content into separate pages. Especially if the content is sales content.

- Writing “too short” content. Brevity is not always a good thing, especially if your copy doesn’t fully say what you need. If you find yourself writing 50-word product descriptions that are “just the facts,” consider if you need to beef up your content.

- Discussing features, not benefits. People don’t care about your state-of-the-art technology. What they want to know is how will your product or service help them. Features are nice, but benefit statements are what sell.

- Writing long, scrolling paragraphs. Long paragraphs are overwhelming and hard to read. When in doubt, split up your paragraphs into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks. Your readers will thank you for it.

- Ignoring your customer persona. How your copy sounds and how it’s written depends on your customer persona document. You’d write different content for a self-described “computer nerd,” than you would for a self-described “club-going player.” The more specific your content, the better your sales.

- Repeating words. If you’ve already used a word in a sentence, don’t repeat it in the same paragraph. Repeating the same word looks repetitive, and readers will catch the fact that you’re repeating the same words repetitively. :)

- Fluffy claims. Be careful of saying things like “everyone loves this product.”  There’s not a product on this earth that is universally loved by “everyone.” Fluffy claims will trip the readers B.S. meters and they’ll unconsciously distrust everything else they read from you. Instead, use specifics (like percentages) whenever possible.

And the top writing blind spot to avoid?

-Boring copy. Content doesn’t have to be boring (and yes, I’m looking at you, B2B companies!) After all, one of the easy ways you can differentiate your company is with customer-centered, engaging content. If your content doesn’t sing, it’s time to add some zing!

What copywriting blind spots would you add?

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Photo thanks: Nimish Gogri

Should Content Always Be Free?

I’m going to suggest something radical.

You know that content you’re creating? Your blog posts, white papers and other assets you use for SEO and lead generation?

What if you sold that information rather than giving it away for free?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Back in the “early days” of the web, we didn’t have blogs or Twitter (ah, the wonderful days when we didn’t worry about social media.) Yes, we talked about the importance of “fresh” content and recommended publishing articles and white papers. But there wasn’t this massive push around “company as publisher.”

What’s more, people were used to paying for smart, premium content. They may not have paid a lot, but they paid something. And were happy to do so – after all, they were receiving fantastic information at a fair price.

Then blogging came on the scene. People quickly realized that blog posts = additional Google-positioning opportunities. This started the massive blogging craze we see today. It’s not enough to write a few articles a month. Today, companies feel pressured to write a LOT of quality content all the time.

You’re probably feeling the content-pinch yourself.

The question is: Is this still smart to do in today’s content-heavy (and time-scattered) world?

Sure, there are certainly SEO benefits to content generation. And there are certainly lead-generation benefits, too. From a branding perspective, writing fantastic content positions you as a market leader.

However, thinking about this from another perspective, “free” content may be seen as throwaway content that doesn’t have as much value as, say, a moderately-priced ebook.

I’ve been told many times that I’m “giving away too many secrets” on my blog. Before, I didn’t really agree with that perspective – after all, I love to educate and help people succeed. And the content did generate leads, so it was all good.

Today, I’m rethinking this position. Sure, giving away some content is a smart move – and I still agree that companies should maintain an active blog. But isn’t monetizing some of that content even smarter? This strategy may not work for all companies, but it could certainly work for some. Perhaps your company is one of them.

So, some discussion questions for you (and your in-house team) are:

– How often do you really have to blog (hint: it may be fewer times than you think.)

–  What would happen if you backed off on free content and created small ebooks and sold them for a small fee?

–  Are your existing content assets helping you meet your conversion goals? Or are you blogging/producing white papers/etc. because you feel you have to?

– If you did sell content, what information are you happy giving away for free – and what information is valuable enough where charging for it would be the smarter option?

I’d love to know your thoughts! Please post them in the comments below.

It’s the SEO and copywriting information you need – written with a funny and rebellious streak. Sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter today.

Photo thanks to walknboston. 

 

 

You inherited crap legacy content. Now what?

Does your company's site content make you cry?

Does your company’s site content make you cry?

Good news: You were just hired as the content manager for a well-established site.

Bad news: The content is horrible, it hasn’t been optimized for SEO and every page makes you want to cry.

This scenario is extremely common. Maybe it’s because the company has had various people overseeing the site’s content. Or, no-one “owned” the content before – so there’s no strategy, no cohesion and everything is a big, fat mess.

If this sounds like your company, take a deep breath and relax. The key is to tackle your site in baby steps. Here are some places to start:

Review the site’s analytics.

Even crappy pages can convert – maybe not to their full potential, but they can do it. Determine the pages that contribute the most to the conversion process. These top pages will probably be the ones you “touch” first. You’ll also want to review bounce rates and time on site. If people are clicking into your site and not taking action, you know you have a problem.

(As a side note, if your company doesn’t have analytics and goals in place, get those set up first. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.)

Review the existing customer persona.

Is it still relevant? Do you need to create a new one? If your company is serving a new vertical market, is there content just for them?

Check out your existing keyphrase document (assuming there is one.)

Do the keyphrases represent all phases of the buy cycle? Or are they mostly brand-specific terms that are only relevant when someone wants to make a purchase? Just to be safe, I’d re-run the data. You may find opportunities the previous person didn’t see.

Determine the overarching primary and secondary issues.

For many sites, the core issue is that the pages haven’t been optimized. This means poor Titles, and inconsistent (or no) keyphrase usage. Other sites may suffer from a variety of different writing styles that don’t fit the customer persona. Once you determine what the main problems are, you’ll be able to focus your efforts and get more done.

Are the pages written to sell? Or do you have a “meh” response?

A huge problem many companies (especially B2B companies) face is their sales copy is boring, benefit-free and basic. Tightening up the top sales pages and rewriting them can often result in an almost immediate “win” (that is, you’ll make money.) Consider testing pages with services like Optimizely. That way, you’ll KNOW what works rather than making an educated guess.

Can you find any easy wins?

Rewriting sales pages can certainly be an easy win. So can optimizing existing blog posts that lead to conversions. If you know a page is important to the sales cycle and it’s keyphrase-free, making it more SEO friendly can often have a huge impact. You’ll be able to drive more qualified traffic that should result in increased leads or sales.

Get organized – not overwhelmed.

Remember those top pages that drive conversion rates? Tighten those up and make those shine first. After that, have a plan for going through the site in organized, sequential chunks. That may mean focusing on your “easy win” pages next. Or focusing your efforts around a particular site section. Tie your efforts back to what you know makes your site money rather than doing a little bit of everything. You’ll see better results, faster, if you do.

Reviewing your site is something you can easily do yourself. Or, if you need an outside opinion, it sometimes pays to bring in a content expert who can develop an action plan. That way, someone with a fresh perspective (and perhaps a better understanding of the latest SEO content techniques) can help you along your path.

The good news is – even crappy legacy content can be transformed into a top-converting asset. It may take some time and you’ll be working in baby steps. But the end result will be a site that you’re proud to be associated with (and won’t make you cry when you look at it.)

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Thank you, migasun, for the great photo!

 

 

 

 

The lazy person’s guide to writing great copy – fast!

I love me my catnaps!

I love me my catnaps!

Would you rather be hiking a wooded trail rather than writing your latest blog post?

Or taking a quick catnap on the couch?

Or catching up with friends?

You can. You just need to learn how to write content the lazy way.

“Lazy” doesn’t mean that you write poor-quality content. Or you don’t write at all. It means training your writing brain to write top-notch content, faster.

Writing more efficiently has some pretty cool benefits. If you freelance, this means more money in your pocket. If you work in-house, this means you can tackle more projects more quickly and move work off your desk.

I’ve outlined the 5-step process I follow and what I teach other writers. If you follow these 5 steps, you can write a blog post in one hour or less. That should give you plenty of time to do the things you really enjoy.

Yes, you can do this. Even if you’re new to the writing life.

Here’s how to do it.

- Gather everything you need before you start writing.

When I say “everything” I mean “everything.”  You’ll want easy access to client interviews, product/service information, any notes you’ve taken and the competitive research. Having to stop what you’re writing to research one more keyphrase or check one more site is a huge time suck – plus, it breaks your flow.

- Don’t start writing until you’ve let the information “percolate.”

I spend about 10 minutes reviewing the material, making notes and determining how to approach the benefit statements or slant. If I have a brainstorm, I may even write some quick copy snippets. The goal during this phase isn’t to write the page. You just want to get some initial ideas on paper. Once you’ve finished …

- Set a time limit and write your copy.

Have you ever started writing a page around noon and – at 6 p.m. – it’s still not done? It’s a frustrating and tiring experience. Instead, set a timer for 25 minutes and write your draft. Don’t get into editing mode. Don’t worry if your paragraph structure is perfect. Just write. You’ll have time to edit it later.

(As a side note, it’s amazing how well we can write when there’s a time limit in place. There’s something about a ticking timer that gets our brains in gear.)

- Walk away from your draft.

Don’t edit it right away. Let it sit. You can come back to it in a couple hours, or even the next day.

- Tighten up your draft and send it out.

Again, I like to set a timer. I’ll review the content twice, spending 25 minutes each time. By the end of the second time block, I have a good-to-go final draft.

The more you tighten up your writing process, the easier it will be to write more content, faster. Finally, you’ll have more time for things you enjoy. Like sleeping. Or stepping away from your laptop and heading outside.

Have fun!

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Photo thanks to Mark Vegas

3 things Google can teach you about copywriting

Is Google more persuasive than Billy Mays? Perhaps…

What does Google have in common with the late Billy Mays?

Both are known for being extremely persuasive.

Google is a master at manipulating our emotions and changing our behavior. Think about it: How many of you use Google products because it’s easier, cheaper and – in the case of Google Glass – provides some awesome geek cred?

Yup. I thought so. And part of that reason is how Google markets their services.

Here are some copywriting lessons you can learn from Google – and how you can use them in your own business.

Everyone loves Google. Just ask them.

One of the reasons review sites are so popular is because we rely on them to help make our decisions. Should we go to a new restaurant? Better check Yelp first. Traveling? Check out Trip Advisor before booking that hotel room. We read reviews written by “people like us” to make our decisions.

If you check out Google’s Analytics home page, you’ll see that the first image is a testimonial. As you click into inner pages, you see well-known company logos as “success stories.”  If a company wondered if Google Analytics would work for them, they can read the testimonials and feel more at ease. Other people like Google. So they will too.

Here’s how to use social proof in your own marketing.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the power of testimonials. However, it’s amazing how many sites ignore this easy conversion tip. If you don’t have testimonials on your site, it’s time to add them. If you work with different vertical markets, make sure you have vertical-specific testimonials. It’s really that easy.

FUD Google

FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a big motivator. We want to minimize our pain and maximize our pleasure. So, when we hear about something that may be particularly unpleasant, we do what we can to make our world safe. Think of the millions of dollars people spent trying to calm their Year-2000 fears. Or how people will stop eating certain foods because they read one news article that said that they may be bad for you.

Google is all over the FUD approach. Once upon a time, algorithmic updates were sudden, violent acts. We may have had inklings that something was coming down, but Google didn’t warn us.

Today, Matt Cutts will drop hints about a “possible” update – which causes people to immediately freak out.  Some folks are so afraid of making a wrong algorithmic move that many site owners turn to AdWords in order to guarantee consistent traffic. After all, your main site’s rankings may bounce up and down and possibly plummet – and that’s much too unpredictable.  With PPC, your ads will keep running no matter what (within reason.) Is it any wonder many site owners ignore their main site and rely 100% on PPC? That’s FUD in action.

Billy Mays used to use FUD during his pitches. If you check out this old commercial for Oxyclean, you’ll see how bleach supposedly ruined a pair of jeans – yet, Oxyclean cleaned the jeans without mishap. The message? Other cleansers may hurt your clothes, but Oxyclean is the safe alternative.

How to use FUD on your own site

FUD can be tricky. It’s important to bring up the benefits of making the right decision (read: the decision you want them to make.) Yet, if you push it too far, people may kick back and ignore your pitch.

Check out the approach Gerber Knives uses.  They don’t come out and say, “If you purchase a cheaper knife, it may fail.” But they heavily imply it in the copy:

The message is pretty clear: If you need a knife for a “survival situation,” use a Gerber one. Or else.

Want Google Glass? There are only a few available …

You want me. I know you do.

You want me. I know you do.

The principle of scarcity teaches us that something becomes more attractive to us if we think we can’t have it. If something is only available for a limited time, or to a limited population, we want it more.

Now, think about Google Glass. The glasses are clunky, weird looking and are like the geeky eyeglass equivalent of a Segway. But people wanted their Glass. Badly. When you limit sales of a $2,000 product to “invite only,” it’s amazing how many people will immediately catapult the product purchase to a “need.” After all, there’s only a few invites out there. Don’t you want to be part of the chosen few?

How you can apply this in your business:

Are there ways you can make your product less available – for instance, reminding people that there are just “a few products at that price,” or making it a limited-time offer? If you provide services, you can tell clients that you’re only accepting X new clients every month. It’s amazing how products will compete for your time when they think that you may not have time to take them on.

The next time you read a Google announcement, think about how they positioned their content and see what you can learn. The Big G can be a wonderful teacher …

Are clients asking for SEO writing services – but you aren’t quite sure how to help? Does your company need a low-cost SEO writing training alternative?  Now, save almost $200 on the SEO Copywriting Certification Training. Hurry – offer expires April 30, 2014.

Photo credit: “Google Glass Explorer Exchange 36274″ by Ted Eytan

“HI, BILLY MAYS HERE!” by Don

Land the Gig with These 7 Freelance Copywriting Proposal Tweaks

proposalTired of spending hours writing proposals that never result in a sale?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how to get clients to say “yes” faster. Since writing the post, a number of people have said, “Heather, where I’m really stuck is how to write proposals. What do prospects expect? I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.”

You’re probably not doing it all wrong. But there probably are some things you can do to increase your odds of success. Here are some things to think about:

- Are your proposals detailed enough to be a DIY guide?

You’ve included a keyphrase list, a competitive analysis and a detailed explanation of the pages you’d rewrite and why. This process took you hours. You spent the time because you want to land the sale. After all, everything you wrote showcased your expertise. Right?

Wrong. Instead, your prospect could read your free proposal and easily do the work themselves.  Or hire a less expensive vendor. And yes. This happens.

Remember, the proposal’s purpose is to get the gig. Not give away your secrets. You may need to do some discovery to accurately bid on the gig. That’s cool.. Just save the meaty information for after you’ve cashed their check.

-  Do you include too many options?

Too. Much. Information.

Too. Much. Information.

Ever talk to a prospect and think, “Wow, there are so many ways I can help her.” That’s great. Just don’t put all 10 ideas in one overwhelming proposal. Why? Your prospect won’t know what to choose, what to do – heck, they may not even read all of it. After all, who wants to read a 20-page document when all they want to know is what you’ll do and how much it will cost.

The key is narrowing your options list way down. Remember, YOU are the expert – so choose what you think the prospect should do and focus on that. If your prospect needs options, limit them to three. You can focus on your other ideas after you’ve landed the gig and proven yourself.

- Should you have written a proposal in the first place?

Did you propose a $5,000/month agreement when the prospect has $500/month to spend? That’s a bad mistake. It’s crucial to prequalify the prospect and ask about budget before you get to the proposal stage. If the client can’t pay for your expertise, you can refer them to someone else before spending loads of time.

It’s true that many prospects don’t know their budget or don’t want to answer the question. One way to deal with this is by telling the client, “Most projects like this cost anywhere from $5,000-$8,500. Is that within your budget? If the prospect says, “yes,” you’ll know you can move forward.

- Did you include any testimonials or bio information?

It’s important to remember that the person gathering proposals may not be the decision-maker. In fact, your proposal may be emailed to multiple team members, all with their own ideas and agendas. You may not ever have a chance to talk to these team members or “sell” your services – so your proposal has to do it for you.

To put your best foot forward, create a “bio page” and include it in your proposal. I include mine as the last page. That way, if someone is wondering about my qualifications, they can turn to the last page and read them. They don’t have to visit my site or surf around (although I figure they do this anyway.) It’s a great way to sell yourself in an understated way. I’ll talk more about a proposal bio page in a future blog post.

- Have you explained your terms?

Um, what are you trying to say?

Um, what are you trying to say?

It’s easy to propose something like, “Instead of rewriting these pages, we can edit them for keyphrases.” Although that’s super-clear to you, it won’t be clear to anyone not living and breathing the SEO/online writing world.  The more questions that pop up during the proposal process, the easier it is to say no and work with the vendor who clearly spelled everything out.

Remember, even if your contact is SEO-smart, you shouldn’t assume everyone in the company (especially the decision-maker) has the same level of knowledge. If your proposal is passed around to multiple people, you want to focus the discussion on how you can help – not cause a huge email thread asking you to define your terms. It’s important to speak your customers’ language and use terms they can easily understand. One easy way to do this is …

- Have you templatized your proposals?

Why, oh why, are you creating every proposal by hand every single time? Especially when most of your clients request the same services? An easy way to save time is to create template copy discussing your service offerings, deliverables (yes, define your terms) and general timelines. That way, creating a new proposal is as simple as adding the relevant information, proofing it and clicking send. Which reminds me…

- Does your propozal have some funky typos?

Typos happen, especially when you’re kicking out a bunch of proposals at once. Prospects don’t dig typos, though – especially during the proposal process. And if you are using a template proposal, you better make darn sure that you erase the previous prospect’s name EVERYWHERE and replace it with the new client’s name. I’m paranoid enough that I don’t rely on Word’s find and replace function. I hand-check that stuff.

Spending time to freshen up your proposal is one of the smartest things you can do. If you’re stuck on what to change, it couldn’t hurt to hire a consultant to help. That way, an outsider can provide suggestions on how to take your proposal from so-so to spectacular – and you can land the gig every time.

Photo thanks to Doug Wertman (Proposal at the PBR)

Want to know how to get writing gigs without needing a proposal? Ivana Taylor spills her secrets in the Copywriting Business Bootcamp training. Now, you can save almost $100 if you use coupon code BOOTCAMP (though April 14th.) Sign up today!

 

 

 

 

10+ ways your freelance writing site sucks (and what you can do about it.)

Sad dog

Does your site copy make you sad?

Does your freelance writing site have some…sucky… elements?

If you’re a freelance writer, there’s a good chance your answer is “yes.” You may be able to transform your clients’ content into marketing gold. But your own site…not so much.

Writing copy for your own site is hard (really!). I’ve seen super-talented writers make major blunders on their site – mistakes they’d never make with a client.  Unfortunately, those blunders are probably costing them money.

Wondering if your site suffers from the same problem? Here are some ways your freelance writing site may suck:

- You don’t have a site.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to write for online clients, having your own site is a must. It helps with lead generation; it’s a place to showcase your clips and testimonials – plus, clients simply expect it. If you don’t have a site, you need to make it happen. Right now. Otherwise, people will not take you seriously as an “experienced web writer.”

sad t-rex

Nooooo! Not “welcome to my site!”

- Your headline reads, “Welcome to my site.”

This is wrong for so many reasons. From a copywriting perspective, your headline is valuable real estate. Instead of wasting it on a “welcome” statement, you’re better served with a hard-hitting benefit statement. From a prospect’s perspective, saying “welcome” won’t make you stand out from the crowd. I will hit the back button on any site where I see “welcome” as the headline.

- Your home page preaches to the choir.

Your home page is not the place to explain why your prospect needs an experienced copywriter. They know this already. That’s why they’re on your site. Instead, you want to grab your prospects’ attention and compel them to click deeper into your site. That’s where they’ll find the information they need.

- You designed your site yourself. And it shows.

There’s nothing that screams “amateur” like broken links, an ancient design and bad stock photos. I know site design can be pricey. I get it. But this is one place where spending a little extra will go a long way. A professionally designed site will show your prospects you’re a serious business person. Besides, who has time to design their own site? You should be hustling for business instead.

- You talk about yourself way too much.

Words

Quit. Talking. About. Yourself.

Many freelance writers go on about the classes they’ve taken, the seminars they’ve attended and the newsletters they subscribe to.  Unfortunately, your prospects don’t care. What they do care about is what’s in it for them. Sure, you can address some of this stuff on your “about” page. Just focus your services pages around how your can help your prospects overcome a problem and make more money.

- Your blog hasn’t been updated in a long, long time.

You don’t have to publish a new blog post five times a week. What you do need to do is stick to a blog publication schedule. Maybe that’s once a week. Maybe that’s once a month. The key is consistency and writing the best possible post you can. If you prospect notices a neglected blog, she may wonder if you’ll neglect her copy the same way.

- Your copy doesn’t connect with your target audience.

To paraphrase an old Diana Ross song, “Do you know who you’re writing for?” You want your target reader to know that you “get” her, you understand her pain points and you want to help. That means the tone and feel, what you write – even the information you put on the page – is laser-focused on your reader. If you’re writing general copy, you’re going to get general (read: so-so) results.

- You don’t practice what you preach.

If you are an SEO writer, you better make darn sure that your site is optimized. That means a clickable Title, fantastic content and well-researched keyphrases. Prospects will judge you if your site isn’t up to SEO-snuff.

- All your text is below the fold.

Where's the content?

Where’s the content?

You may have fallen in love with the WordPress template with the fancy sliders and big images. But if your text is all the way below the fold, your prospects may not scroll down to see it. They may get hit with your slider and immediately surf away. Remember, you’re a writer. Text sells. Not fancy sliders. (Thank you +Chris Simmance!)

- Making your copy all about Google – not your reader.

Concerned about your rankings? You may think that writing content “for Google” (read: stuffing it full of keyphrases) is a smart move. But it’s not. Not by a long shot. Not only is this considered spam, but it’s really bad for your readers. Don’t do it.

Want more tips? You can follow along with the Google+ discussion.

If you’ve put off working on your site because you’re “too busy” or it’s “not important right now” – it’s time to get to it. Fixing these extremely common issues will help you land more clients, command more money and generate leads more easily.

In short, it’s worth the time.  Now, don’t you have some site tweaks to make? ;)

Need a second opinion on your writing. The SEO Copywriting Certification training now offers content reviews and feedback. Learn more about the training.

Image credit:

©  | Dreamstime.com

How to get prospects to say yes faster

Even this sloth was motivated by these tips

Slow prospect? Get clients to move faster with these tips!

We’ve all been there.

You had a great phone call with your prospect.  You laughed. You bonded. You explored ways to work together. At the end of the call, the prospect said, “This sounds good. Can you shoot me a proposal outlining what we talked about?”

You hang up the phone, write up a fantastic proposal and email it over. Then … nothing.

No email.

No phone call.

No contract.

It’s like your proposal has fallen into a black hole.

You may hear from your prospect in a few weeks. Or not at all. And you’re left wondering what you did wrong.

So … what DID go wrong?

A number of things could have harshed your prospect’s initial buzz and caused the problem.

1. Your prospect could have gotten slammed with a bunch of work and they haven’t had time to read your proposal.

2. Your prospect is not the final decision maker. Your proposal is sitting in their boss’ inbox.

3. You didn’t talk about price and now your client is experiencing sticker shock.

4. Your prospect found someone else after you talked – and they don’t want to tell you.

5. Your prospect doesn’t feel a sense of urgency about signing with you.

The longer your proposal is “out there,” the less likely you’ll see a signed contract. Sure, there are exceptions to this. But the key is to try to control these situations as much as you can.

Here’s how:

If your prospect is slammed with a bunch of work 

Unfortunately, your prospect isn’t waiting for your proposal to pop into her inbox (ah, if only.) One way you can deal with this situation is by asking a simple question during your sales call:

“I can have this proposal to you by Thursday. When are you available to chat for 30 minutes so we can go through the proposal together and I can answer your questions?”

No, you’re not being pushy. Setting an appointment allows you to talk through the proposal and answer any questions. Plus, at the end of the conversation, you can ask for the sale (saying something like, “We can start on this project next week. Shall I send out an agreement?” tends to work well.)

Plus, this is good for your prospect, too. Scheduling a time to chat keeps the ball rolling. After all, you know how stressful it is to have something hanging out in your inbox for days (or weeks.) Your prospects feel the same way.

If your prospect isn’t the final decision maker

Your prospect may be gathering information for his boss. So, although he loves your energy and wants to work with you, he’s not the one cutting the checks.

Ask your prospect who the final decision maker is during your initial sales call. If he says “my boss,” try to loop his supervisor into the conversation somehow. One way is to ask that the supervisor attend the “let’s talk about the proposal” call.  That way, the decision maker can hear directly from you – and make a faster decision.

As a side note, you always want to connect with the decision maker as much as possible. Otherwise, you’re trusting someone – someone you don’t really know – to “sell” your services to them. That can often be a fast track to a “Sorry, but I can’t get funding for this” response.

If you didn’t talk about price and your prospect is experiencing sticker shock

Forgot to talk about price? Shame on you! If you’re overpriced for that particular client, you’re wasting their time (and yours) if you hold calls and create a proposal only to find that the client needs it for 50% less.

I know it’s hard to talk about money – but it’s something to get over. An easy, low-stress way to do this is mention during the initial client contact, “Our engagements start at $2,500″ (or whatever your minimum fee is.) Some people even put this on their contact form. That way, prospects with smaller budgets know to look elsewhere for services.

If your prospect decided to work with someone else – and they don’t want to tell you

Has it been a looonnnngggg time since you’ve heard anything? At all?  Are your friendly check-in emails getting ignored? It’s tempting to send a nastygram and say something like, “I’ve been trying to reach you for two months. You said you needed the proposal immediately. What gives?”

Relax and take a chill pill.

If it’s been a long time and you haven’t heard anything, let the prospect off the hook by saying, “I’d still love to work with you. I’ll continue to check in with you from time to time. Otherwise, I’ll assume that your priorities shifted and the project is on the back burner for now.” That way, you keep things friendly (after all, they may come back) and let them know that you’re open to other projects.

However, sometimes the problem isn’t because the client found someone else to work with. Sometimes, the issue is because they aren’t motivated to sign fast. If that’s the case ….

If your prospect doesn’t feel a sense of urgency

This is where a little psychology comes into play. If you want a prospect to sign fast, you may have to instill a sense of urgency. This can be done a couple ways:

1. Tell the client that you only have room for one more client – and other contracts are pending (many writers legitimately have this “problem.”) That way, the client knows that they have to act fast. Otherwise, they’ll have to wait to work with you.

2. I learned this trick from Ammon Johns (thank you, Ammon!). Provide clients a “fast-signing discount.” After all, it takes a lot of your time to chase down prospects, check in with them, etc. Why not incentivize them to act quickly? Plus, people always love to save money!

The more you can minimize the time to “yes,” the more clients you can work with – and the more money you can make. It may mean going through an extra step (for instance, holding a call to talk about the proposal.) Or pre-qualifying the client a little better. But, once you have your process tight and wired, you should be experiencing fewer “black hole proposals” – and many more signed contracts.

Top photo thanks to Dave Gingrich (handshakes)

Hey freelance writers! Want to learn how to make more money, faster? You can save almost $100 on the Copywriting Business Bootcamp through April 13th, 2014. Use coupon code BOOTCAMP.