Category Archives: Project Management

One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

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Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content Job Boards, Customer Profile, Leadership, Marketing, Project Management, Reputation Management, Resumes, Social Media

How Much Time Does It Take to Write Website Content?

This is a question that is near and dear to my heart.  Besides writing client content, I’m rewriting My Web Writers’ website content these days.  I’m finding that as the afternoons drag into the evenings and people circle into my office only to find my hands waving them away with, “Shhh, I’ll be out in a few minutes,” that clearly writing thirty-five pages of my own site’s content is taking more time than I bargained for.  That’s because, while I planned just to copy and paste the old stuff and make a few tweeks, that’s not what’s happening.  I’m rewriting and adding new thought into old verbiage.

I should have hired My Web Writers.

To my defense, I did ask my husband to write a few pages…

Copyright My Web Writers 2014

What a trooper!

Bless him.

So, I guess I can’t really blame you, Ms. Do-It-Yourself for wanting to take on the task of writing your website or blog content all by yourself.  We’re great writers (and so are our spouses), so why do we need help?

Here’s why.

It is taking me (yeah, and him, too) about 1 -2 hours per page each with content that’s close to our hearts.  With those 35 – 70 hours back in our lives, we could be getting our laundry done and getting your laundry done.  I could be working on losing the gazillion pounds I gained eating granola bars while sitting in a computer chair.

Outsourcing projects to writers is efficient.

We have to scale.

You can’t get around to managing a company if you’re grasping to details that others are perfectly capable of delivering.

True.  No one knows the subject matter like you do, but then consider being your project’s editor.  With a good writer, you’ll cut your time in half- at least.

How much do you get paid at work per hour?  How much will it cost to pull three people off your boss’ pet project to get your company’s website content updated?

We have three people waiting for the opportunity to work, so that your team can stay on task.

How long does it take to write website content?

Plan on one to four hours per page if you do it yourself, but it’s a lot less time if you outsource it.

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How do I Find and Hire a Great Web Writer?

How to Hire a Web WriterHiring a web writer may appear to be simple and straightforward, yet many people continue to make critical mistakes that cost their business both time and money. It requires a well thought out process to ensure you receive the best writing talent and results for your business.

Both online and in your local community, there’s a vast network of freelance writers ready for hire. Whether you’ve successfully navigated this process many times or this is your first attempt, there are some key things you need to know. Here are five steps you should take when hiring your web writer.

1. Make sure you’re ready for a writer

Is your business truly ready for professional writing help? There are a couple key points you should consider before hiring a web writer. Foremost, you should have a strategy for your content and be able to communicate this strategy to your writer. If you’re still in the “idea” phase, your project may not yet be ready for professional writing help. Additionally, you must have the bandwidth to manage writers. It will require your input and direction to make the project successful, so be sure you are ready to dedicate time to your web writer.  If time is sacred, hire a writing agency to oversee your content project. A dedicated content agency will assist you with all of the necessary details to make the content successful – including hiring and overseeing writers and editors.

2. Define your budget

Before you hire a web writer, you should be fully aware of the scope of the project and your budget to pay for it. There’s a broad range of rates for professional writing making it overwhelming to narrow down the best options. Knowing your budget will help guide you toward the writer that is the best fit for you. It will also allow you to fairly negotiate prices so that both parties are comfortable with the work arrangement.

3. Know where to look

When trying to find quality, freelance writers it can be challenging to even know where to begin. You can look at online networks for professional writers. These allow you to post your project and writers will bid for the work.  Sites to find individual writers include Elance, WriterAccess and oDesk.  Also, think local. Ask fellow business owners for word of mouth recommendations for writers or agencies they have already worked with or search the directory within your chamber of business. References and recommendations will give you that extra boost of confidence that you’re working with a respected professional.  If finding, interviewing, and vetting out writers and editors is a step you’d like to avoid, let a writing agency handle those details for you.  Unlike applicant banks, content agencies usually interact with their writers to make sure that the articles you receive meet or exceed industry standards.

4. Keep your expectations in check

Remember that you’re hiring the web writer to create quality content, not to magically triple your sales or to increase your bottom line. While good content can certainly enhance your web presence and marketing efforts, such results should not be expected solely from your web writer. Manage your expectations and place your focus on the scope of the project which you hired the web writer to complete.

5. It takes more than just a great writer

In addition to keeping your expectations in check, be sure to remember that the type of content you receive is also dependent upon how clearly you communicate with your web writer. Be as specific as possible with your needs and provide all the essential information to your writer. Remember, you know your business better than anyone else. For an outsider writer to convey this in their content, they need your insight and expertise. Aim to be a good project manager – just as you would with any other employee – and provide your web writer with the tools they need to succeed.

A web writer can be a valuable asset to your team. Before you hire professional writing help, be sure to consider these five steps to ensure a productive and enjoyable working relationship. ~Stephanie

Share your thoughts! What good or bad experiences have you had with hiring a web writer?

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Filed under Business Strategy, Content Job Boards, Leadership, Project Management, Web Writers, Writing Careers

How to Write a Big-Impact Proposal in a Short Amount of Time

By My Web WritersWill You Hire Me Image

Putting together proposals is a critical part of gaining new business. Unfortunately, they can consume a lot of time and resources. Because the business is not guaranteed and most often proposals are free, you don’t want to dump too much effort into this type of work. Yet, you still want to put your best foot forward to increase your odds of winning the job. How do you split the difference? Here’s how to create a big-impact proposal in a small amount of time.

Create a blueprint, not a how-to guide

One of the biggest mistakes of proposal writing is providing too much information. Your potential client needs to understand your vision for the project and get excited for the results, but they don’t need a play-by-play. Not only does this take up far too much time, it also puts your proposal at risk of being taken and implemented by someone else. Think of it this way – you want to create a blueprint for the work you can complete, but not a step-by-step how-to guide that makes it easy for anyone else to do the same. Paint the big picture, but leave the finer details for the paid job!

Know what matters…and what doesn’t

Another mistake is thinking that a potential client wants to know every single detail. More often than not, they would prefer to be given a general idea and few examples here and there. Anything more can make a proposal far too long and very overwhelming for a client to try and sift through. Keep your proposal to the most meaningful information and leave out the sections that clients would likely just skip over to get to the “meat.” For example, a description of your company should be short and sweet – no more than a paragraph and an executive summary of the project should also be limited to several paragraphs (not several pages). This is all added bulk that can be eliminated. It will save you time and your clients will thank you as well!

Pull from past proposals

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you write a proposal. Certain sections such as the paragraph briefly describing your business, an explanation of a particular service or your pricing structure can all be copied over from past proposals. Once you have these “modules” written just the way you want them, you can simply insert them into any new proposal. This will save you hours of rewriting the same content over and over.

Take advantage of technology

Finally, be sure to take advantage of all the different resources and shortcuts technology now provides when it comes to proposal writing. Online services such as BidSketch (http://www.bidsketch.com) make proposal formatting easy and professional. All you have to worry about is the content and they take care of making it look great. This also provides your clients with the ability to review, edit and sign the proposal electronically which keeps the proposal process moving along smoothly. For a small investment, these tech tools will reduce your time spent on each proposal and allow you more bandwidth to take on additional projects.

Proposals are a necessary evil of business growth. One of the greatest skills you can learn is how to craft a professional and on-point proposal in a reasonable amount of time. By putting these strategies to use, you will be able to create big-impact proposals without depleting all of your resources to do so! ~Stephanie

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Purchasing Furniture – Why Did She Buy From Your Store?

By My Web Writersphoto (1)

This typical female, Gen X, furniture customer Is ready to buy. Where will she make her purchase?

Today I’m pausing to journal about the major furniture purchases I recently made. I’m doing this for both of us. Though they’re in other industries, we’re always looking for ways to improve online marketing for our clients.

When I shop, I often revert to a personal pattern that pre-dates my use of the Internet.  Do you?  If not, you’re younger than thirty-five.  Though, I’ve changed through the years, I’m probably typical for a female, age 35 – 50.  Knowing that 65% of US shoppers will browse online and buy in stores over the holidays, how can we better serve this lucrative demographic?  What triggers dollars spent at your store?

Of course, I’m just one woman and each woman is an individual, but here’s a snapshot of how I arrived at furniture purchases from four different stores during the week prior to Thanksgiving 2013.

Top of the Furniture Sales Funnel

The buying process started a few weeks earlier.  A builder suggested that we look at Houz, a home ideas app, for backyard ideas.  The app offers ideas for all rooms of your home, too.  We never did build, but the trends I saw in the app stayed top-of-mind when it was time for furniture in the home we recently purchased.

I could have scoured Pinterest, too, but I didn’t.  I just didn’t have a lot of time to hunt and peck for pieces of online furniture and more ideas to confuse the choices.  Time is valuable and I tried not to waste it.

Middle of the Furniture Sales Funnel

Like many Americans, when it came time to shop for furniture, I drove to the nearest showrooms- Kittles, Ashley Furniture, Value City Furniture, Kittles Express, Office Max, Office Depot, and Houseworks.   Kinesthetic shoppers need to see, to feel, and to touch each piece to envision family and guests relaxing, conversing, working, and eating.

Would the quality be worth the price?  Would the exact colors match the floors, walls, countertops, and appliances?  What are today’s trends and which classics are still hip?  I didn’t shop online when I was absorbing information because I learned plenty in the stores.

In one store, a sales woman approached my husband and me and wouldn’t stop chattering. If we paused at a piece to discuss it, she’d wiggle into the middle of our conversations.  We’d politely stand there wondering when she would stop. After doing this for the third time, we quickly walked out because a hungry salesperson’s stalking, at this stage, wasted our time and was annoying.  We weren’t buying on that day.  We were just looking.

The office furniture seemed blah- mostly ugly, big ego desks or very cheap, modern designs with little space to spread or to store.  The sofas were perplexing.  Do we buy another puffy couch for the family room or a grandma-like sofa for the living room? Nothing appealed, at first.

Did we want to have a fun and casual red set or an espresso, leather upscale look? The new kitchen table needed to be round, but how big?  Should it match or contrast our floors? Should we go rustic or classic? Geez — so many choices.

Pages like the one below from Kittles did very little to help me to understand what I’d want in my living room, family room, kitchen, and office.

Kittles with no content

There is no category level content to entice or to educate.  With the exception of the main slide, the pictures don’t suggest use, features, or style. Kittles, if you’re reading this post, consider how strategic copy writing and editing can help both your conversion and SEO.  My own sales pitch aside (hey, I do understand the sales woman); there came a day when we could no longer function without furniture in our rooms.  It was time to buy.

Bottom of the Furniture Sales Funnel

Last Sunday, I decided the best place to find office furniture would probably be at an office supply store.  By then, I’d ruled out a modern, sleek look in the office. The sales person at Office Max offered the Black Friday price a week early and probably called me “Ma’am” fifty times.

Office Max pic

He put up with my indecisiveness over this desk verses that desk and he stopped talking after I cut him off on purchasing the extra protection plan.  The prices were exactly the same in the store as online.  This was a coordinated attack and I bought the furniture at the store with the same free delivery offered online.

Office Max product description

While the in-store experience offered set-up at a charge, notice that at the same purchase point online (the product page), the company’s set-up package is not suggested or offered.  If the customer has to hunt for it somewhere else on the website, forget it.  Adding drop down boxes for “I need set up” on each product page would immediately increase online revenues at Office Max.

The Final Hours of Purchasing Furniture

I spent nearly a day in Kittles yesterday trying to fine-tune what I wanted. Then, came the ping-pong price game.  Prices kept dropping, but we went back and forth so many times and it took so long, that by the afternoon, I left the store.

I opened my iPad and typed in searches for long-tailed keywords with model numbers to check pricing in other stores.  What was the price for a “Broyhill Travis sofa”?  Another business could have stolen my purchase in these moments when my sales person was going back to her manager for yet another price reduction request.

Broyhill Travis couch

After he said, “No, I can’t do it”, I would have bought online, especially if free shipping were offered. Instead, my search took me first to the Broyhill website.  Obviously, they didn’t want to get into the middle of price negotiations because they left out prices in their product descriptions.

Other stores did the same.  Instead of sharing prices, online store-after-store said, “request a quote”.  I didn’t have time to wait for a quote.

Request more info

With Thanksgiving in a few days, I wanted shopping done asap. Because I didn’t know if the purchase was sound, I dropped the sofa and chair from my list all together.

I took a trip back to Ashley Furniture and found a different sofa.  I popped into Value City Furniture and found a kitchen table and chairs that I liked better than the ones offered at Kittles and Ashley.  While there, the Value City online prices dropped, so a lower price was honored at the store.  Bed Bath and Beyond sold nifty bar stools for less and with free shipping. Then, I went back to Kittles and purchased the items I felt were fairly priced.  All of the stores said their prices were Black Friday prices and that if anything changed, they would honor the changes.  At a certain purchase point, most offered free shipping.

I’m waiting for the door bell to ring with my deliveries.  How fun!

What’s a key to increasing online conversions? Lower your online prices.  Develop better content (pictures, videos, and words) to display furniture in ways that highlight colors, finishes, and uses. Provide in-depth information.  Keep the various stages of the furniture sales funnel in mind and develop profiles of your buyers at each stage.

What have you noticed as important to increasing online sales, whether you’re in the furniture business or another industry?  How would the above process differ for a man or a younger or older person? How would the process differ for another woman in the same demographic? Take a moment to share!

~Jean


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Adding Content to their Website Increased Our Client’s Keyword Reach

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Filed under Apps & Tools, Business Strategy, Customer Profile, Holiday Blog, Local, Mobile, Personas, Product Descriptions

Seven Helpful Apps for Social Media Marketers

By My Web Writerssocial media apps

With social media, time is of the essence. There is only a small window from the moment something happens until it’s old new or no longer relevant to your audience. But just because social media doesn’t stop, doesn’t mean you have to be strapped to a computer ready and waiting for the perfect opportunity to post content. The seven following apps have changed the face of social media management, removing the automation and redundancies and freeing up more of your time to handle the higher level thinking.

1. Facebook Home

Facebook is a pillar of all social media. You’re likely familiar with the standard Facebook mobile app, but this one allows you to be even more connected to your online world. Facebook Home replaces the homescreen on your mobile device with your Facebook news feed, giving you instant access to your network’s updates and activities every time to unlock your phone. If you find yourself checking Facebook at least once an hour (and likely much more frequently than that) Facebook Home will save you both time and steps.

2. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is an essential tool for social media marketers whether you use it from your computer or from your phone. The mobile app is well-designed and makes posting content quick and easy. You can take a photo, write a caption and have it blasted out across numerous profiles in mere seconds. Long gone are the days of having to log into each account separately and format the same message again and again—and boy are we glad!

3. Flipboard

Many social media apps do little more than mimic timelines, but Flipboard connects and combines many of your social network accounts into a single, attractive magazine-style page. You can stay in the know with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Tumblr all in one app. This takes the redundancy out of logging into multiple accounts and checking each feed individually. Best of all is Flipboard’s stylish layout which makes scrolling through updates much more interesting.

4. Gowalla

Gowalla is a free, location-based social networking app that uses the iPhone’s built-in GPS to determine your location and suggest things to do nearby. If you find yourself in a new city for the night and want to explore the local nightlife, Gowalla is an intuitive and reliable source for entertainment. Once you decide on a fun excursion, be sure to share it on social media! Note: Gowalla is best used in large cities where more users means more suggestions of activities.

5. Plume

Formerly known as Touiteur, Plume is stylish Twitter client that allows you to customize and organize your contacts and content. Features include color-coded contacts, the ability to hide specific tweeters/topics, inline photos and streaming. The common theme among helpful social media marketing apps is their ability to cut through the chaos and cut down on your time spent sifting through information that’s not relevant to you. Plume is a perfect example of such an app. Twitter especially requires real-time communication and Plume helps you stay organized to stay on top of your interactions.

6. Instagram

Instagram continues to blow up the social media scene. Because it is centered on sharing images, it’s an essential tool for all social media marketers looking to further their brand visually. The Instagram mobile app allows you to take any photo from your phone, edit it with filters and borders and share it with a large audience – all without ever needing to touch a computer.

7. Feedly

More and more we rely on our phones as a source of entertainment and information when we have a few moments to spare. Feedly captures and organizes new posts from all of the blogs to which you subscribe, allowing you to easily catch up on your reading while you’re waiting in line or waiting on a friend. This app can really help commit you to keeping up with your blog feed by making it easy and accessible on a moment’s notice.

Much of the information shared to social media happens on the go. It’s important to have the ability to create, post and manage content from anywhere. Mobile apps are the tools to do just that. Take the time to try a few, or try them all, and decide which ones best fit your lifestyle and organizational preference. Be sure that they make life easier, not more complicated and commit to using them in order to achieve the most benefits!    ~Stephanie


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Filed under Apps & Tools, Social Media

Content for Less- Fat Brain Toys Involves Customers in Content Creation

By My Web Writers

Toys that Use Words

Fat Brain Toys doesn’t play around when it comes to website content.  Owner, Mark Carson, has always supported written content on the site’s category and product pages; but, Matt Hansen, Director of Marketing, says that it was only about three months ago that the educational toy retailer really started developing blog content.

It seems like many marketers attend webinars and read articles that explain the importance of content to conversions and search engine rankings, but then they return to work and leave out the paragraphs.  Why?

Content creation is expensive.

Blog Sales Powered by Writers

Hansen says that Fat Brain Toys “employs three in-house writers with a variety of skill levels, but listens to feedback from many internal and external stakeholders.”  You can sense the community when you visit the site.

Play is Fat Brain Toys’ blog.  Each week, the writers add videos, newsy snippets, and creative articles around a theme.  But, how does the company curate so much content without straining their budget?

play

In a green box at the top of the Play blog, writers click and find a call for

 “content from leaders in the toy industry, leaders in the world of raising children, and great thinkers who believe in pure play. Each piece of content will be shared with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of visitors. As a contributor to PLAY, you’ll be given full contributor/byline credit with a short bio listing. We will also actively encourage link sharing. Fat Brain Toys will share a link to your site, and we hope you’ll share a link to your published PLAY content on your site as well.”

Who Would Write for Free?

The secret to securing inexpensive content is to embrace loyal fans and toy industry leaders, who want to build authorship profiles by using Play as their publisher.

The potential sales win-fall for Fat Brain Toys is notable. Many writers will write for article bylines just to increase exposure of their own personal brands, products, books, and speaking portfolios. Google authorship gives incentive for many writers to secure their personal brands this way. Between the free content and social sharing by writers, Play is revving up a sales engine.

This is the content creation model that many business leaders are thinking about and talking about at conferences and in meetings, but few are making it happen.  Fat Brain Toys is connecting and creating the model.

If You Can’t Buy It, Build It

Mark Carson also created the company’s unique review system.  He and his in-house team built an automated content contributor under each toy’s product description.

FBT Reviews

Consumers find content that details available options and hazards, linked articles from Play, related products and categories, accessory options, and other consumer reviews and rankings of age/gender usage. All of this data aggregates and moves the products up or down in the “new”, “shop by age”, or “shop by gender” sections of the site.

Google wants valuable content and this system offers it to parents.

Parents Help Parents with Special Perspectives

Carson also invented another consumer-generated content resource that is highly-valuable to the special needs and elderly populations.

Special needs

Parents, teachers, and caretakers explain how they use the toys with children and adults with special needs. There is a ranking system for the toy’s value index and the toy’s IQ that helps shoppers evaluate how their child or adult might use the toy.

Toy IQ

Again, the content offers value to shoppers and there’s a community of trust and interaction being built with the brand through the content interaction.

The Future of Content Creation

If you love or believe in a brand, chances are you won’t care about getting paid to promote it. You’ll contribute for intrinsic rewards like attention or the sense of helping others.

Fat Brain Toys knows that its core consumers are passionate about educating children and contributing to a better world through play and it has tapped into these passions.

Does this totally remove the need for in-house or freelance writers and editors? No.  Someone needs to curate and optimize the content.  The in-house team fills in where the consumer leaves off.

Your website still needs writers and editors who are masters of brand positioning, product knowledge, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, usage, and search engine optimization.  Fat Brain Toys hasn’t lost sight of that fact, but it does demonstrate how to involve your audience.

What would inspire your shoppers to interact more with your website’s content?

~Jean


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Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Business Strategy, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, E-Tail Category Content, Editors, Favorite Websites, Local, Product Descriptions, Project Management, Queries & Articles, Reviews, Social Media, Time Management, Writing Careers