Category Archives: Time Management

You Can’t Judge a Buyer By His or Her Cover

Yesterday, I received this letter from Phil Eisaman, Digital Marketing Manager for the Great American Spice Company.  I could completely relate to his experience because I too sold cars for a brief summer right out of college. I asked Phil if I could share his story with you and he agreed.  Thanks for taking a moment to write it, Mr. Eisaman.  It’s no wonder American Spice continues to increase revenues year-over-year!  We can’t judge a buyer by his or her cover– all should be treated with respect. ~Jean

 

car-160343_1280

Hi,
I read your story about the leather jacket and loved it. The salesman was a good salesman because he had to be to survive. Treating everyone who walks in the store as a potential customer is huge. Having said that I have a story to share.

I was working at Fort Wayne Acura selling used cars back in 1997. Being new at it my boss always taught me to never make assumptions about customers– just treat them well. Using this method I quickly out paced all the other salesmen, selling more cars than some of the most seasoned salesmen.

One afternoon my boss gets a call from another lot manager saying there is a walker headed your way (a walker is someone that walks from dealership to dealership). This young man started at the auto mall and made his way all the way down to my lot. My coworkers said, “Go get him I am sure he is a big spender” with sarcasm in their tone.

I greeted the man on the lot with a smile and a handshake. He says “I have been to 10 lots and you are the first to talk to me.”

“How can I help you today, Tony?”

“I am looking for a car,” he said.

“Well how much are you looking to spend?”

“About  $2800.00,” he replied.

Pointing to an early 90’s beat up Grand Am I said, “That one may work.”

“I will take it,” he said as he handed me $3000.00 in cash. I went to my Manager and said,

“This guy out here wants to buy that Grand Am.”

My manager says, “Phil we can not get that financed. It is too old.” Handing him the cash his eyes lit up and he said, “Phil we have $100.00 into that car. You are making a fat commission!”

The next day at the sales meeting I received great praise from management as the others were scolded.  In car sales you are only paid commission and if you don’t sell anything you take a loan against your future commissions. I didn’t want to owe money for not selling. I made 3-5 thousand a month selling used cars because I treated everyone like a potential customer and treated them with respect. I only sold cars for a few months because it is still a shady business in my book.

And remember “With desperation comes innovation.”  -Phil Eisaman

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Filed under Audience, Business Strategy, Capturing Audience, Customer Profile, Local, Reputation Management, Sales, Time Management

20 Questions to Ask Yourself about Copy before Starting a Project

As a business owner preparing for a project on your website can be a long process that is difficult to organize. Even as a writer it is easy to be overwhelmed at the beginning of a new project. To help overcome any potential problems it is very important to solidify the details of the project before the writing can start. Having these twenty questions clearly answered can make writing projects much easier for all involved.

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

Courtesy of Flickr.com user Milos Milosevic

What is the Project?

Is the project a small update to reflect a new season, is it starting a new blog to appeal to a new audience, or is it a full site upgrade? Without this information clearly stated it is impossible to accurately plan the rest of the project.

Why Create Content?

Once you decide what the project is it is important to know the reason for starting that project. Are there some pages that are outdated, poorly written, not SEO optimized, or is it something else? Knowing why a new project is being started makes sure that all the appropriate changes are made to what doesn’t work and what is working is left alone.

Is the Content Going to be Reused?

Is the content going to only be used once or will it be used again and again? Content that is intended to be reused will use evergreen phrases that will maintain their meaning for years to come.

Who is the Target Audience?

Your writers will need to know this information before they can start writing quality content for your project. Content that is written without a clear audience sounds too general and won’t give you any lasting connection with your audience.

What Need Does the Content Address?

Once you identify who the content is trying to reach you can increase your connection with them by finding a specific need or two that your company can fulfil. Knowing the needs that are being addressed means that writers can craft their content around that need.

Will There Be Any Other Requirements Beyond Writing?

A large project will have many requirements beyond writing, such as new graphic designs and videos. Having these other requirements outlined early on will eliminate a lot of last minute confusion when attempting to bring all the separate pieces together into one cohesive whole.

How Many Hours Will the Project Take?

As a project progresses the answer to this question will change but knowing this information will help to determine approximate times and dates for when the content will be ready for customers to see.

What is the Budget?

This is important to discuss especially if external writers are going to be used.

What is the Tone or Style of the Piece?

Is your company an authority who is providing information to your readers? Or are you trying to start a conversation with your customers by asking them questions throughout your content.

Does the Content Need to be SEO Optimized?

Any content that is intended to attract the attention of search engines needs to be SEO optimized. More questions will come up when deciding what keywords to use and how to provide quality content that both meets the clients’ needs as well attracting search engine algorithms.

Word Count?

Do you need short descriptions to improve SEO rankings? Or do you need longer form blog posts intended to impart information to your readers? Good word count estimates will make sure that you won’t have content that won’t be used.

What are the Guidelines the Writer Should Follow?

Are there unique services that only your company provides? Are there words or phrases that should be avoided? Understanding what should be emphasized and what should be played down can only help your writers provide you with better content.

How Many People Will be Involved? Who of Those People Have Final Approval?

Even the most collaborative projects have one individual who can give the final approval. Knowing who this person is early in the project will prevent any confusion about who has the final say on the content.

Who Comes Up with the Topics?

Do the writers have the freedom to decide what topic to write about, or will topics be provided to them? Even if you decide on a combination of the two sides a writer will be happy to know exactly what is expected of them.

Do Any Drafts Have to be Seen?

Is content expected to be seen in a rough form as well as in a finished form? Rough drafts can help ensure that all the content has the same tone but it also can increase the amount of time a project takes to finish.

What is the Rewrite Process?

No matter if drafts are expected there are always revisions to be done. The rewrite process can become confusing if it isn’t clearly outlined beforehand.

What is the Timeline? And what happens if the deadline isn’t met?

While the final deadline may be decided earlier there are many smaller deadlines that need to be met in order to meet the final deadline. Deciding the consequences of any missed deadline allows everyone to know when work is due and what will happen if it is late.

Can earlier content be reused?

When content is simply being updated, keeping the older content is useful to show what topics should be discussed on that page. Poorly written content can become a good example of what not to write.

Any Specific Sources to Cite? If Interviews are Involved, Who Finds the Subjects to Interview?

Does your company have a close relationship with another company that should be reflected in the content? Letting writers know which sources to cite before work begins makes the writing process much easier because the writers will only use approved sources.

How will Success be Measured?

Once a project is finished what determines if the project was successful or not? Success can be measured by an increase in the number of visits to or an improvement in search engine rankings. By determining how to measure the success of the project you can decide which analytic tools to use to track the success.

 

These 20 questions will help you overcome many of the common problems that come up in every copywriting project.

~Megan

 

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How Well is Your Online Store Organized?

Heading into the back-to-school and holiday season, most retail stores and companies are going to be brushing up on their visual marketing skills as well as scrubbing down their stores and inventory to ensure the easiest shopping for customers. A clean, well-organized store will make for happy customers that will be likely to return and shop with you in the not-so-hectic seasons. Those customers will also be more likely to inform their friends about the service and great products they found at your store. All that’s left is making sure your store and ready for the quickly-approaching holiday season!

Update Pages

Image courtesy of Annie's

Image courtesy of Annies

The first (and easiest) step is to go through the inventory and update pages. Make sure pictures, prices, titles, and descriptions are all up-to-date—this is a great chance for you to refresh some older titles and descriptions. Update the language to be more descriptive and catchy so you’re sure to catch the attention of your customers. For example, instead of writing “This product will be of good use in the kitchen,” try something more vibrant and informative: “This handmade dishcloth set is the perfect gift for new homeowners celebrating their first Christmas in the house!” You can subtly suggest a use for the product while gently reminding customers of the upcoming holiday. It’s an easy way of helping your customer make sure they check everyone off their list. You’re also telling them what the product is and how unique it may be. Clear, concise, and upbeat descriptions are what will catch the attention of customers.

Rethink Category Pages

Cleaning up your pages also presents a chance to create product categories to better organize items. Break the products down into categories: Kitchen Wares, Bathroom Essentials, Holiday, and Welcome Baby are a few good ideas—these are types of gifts that cover a multitude of events. A clean, organized store (even if it’s an online store) will entice more people to shop, so always make sure that the best-selling and most popular products are at the top of the page—your customers may enjoy browsing through the products in your online store, but sometimes they’re looking for that one specific thing that they saw had multiple great reviews. If it’s an item that is selling regularly, even if it may not entirely apply to the holiday season, keep it in a prominent place on your page. Everything you do to prepare for the holiday seasons is simply going to result in making your online store much more consumer-friendly.

Talk About Your Store via Networking

This is also a great time to brush up on your networking skills. Whether it’s through a social media channel or by way of a blog, get in contact with other online shop owners! Communicate with them to get new ideas on selling products or visual marketing. Whether the stores are similar or completely different, building a network is a great asset as the stores grow. Social media activity will bring in new customers, too. If your store isn’t involved in social media or blogging, start today! Friends of friends of customers can like, read, or buy just by way of Facebook. Create a Facebook or an Instagram page or a Twitter account for your store and start showing off your products! Use hashtags, post pictures, follow stores and people (try to follow the people who follow you as a way of thanking them) and communicate. Create a blog to write about your products, what consumers could use the products for, and (if they’re handmade) write about the creation of the products. Have a few key words that are used multiple times in each blog entry to pull people in. Add pictures and links to individual products as well as the main page of the store.

Prepare for Holiday Traffic

Prepare for the upcoming holiday season by preparing your online store—give products and product descriptions a quick refresh, organize products into categories, and start using social media to promote products. Get in contact with other online store owners and start getting feedback, learn some new ideas, and apply those ideas to your store. With attention to details, your store will be better organized to finish the year strong!

~Holly

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Filed under E-Tail Category Content, Holiday Blog, Product Descriptions, Time Management

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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Hold Your Content Writers Accountable to these Five Resolutions

If you’re one of those lucky millions who recently shoveled a couple feet of snow, you probably had ample time to think, while criss-crossing the sidewalk and driveway.  Not only does the shovel feel heavy, but in some cases, so does your outlook on your professional skills and career.

IMG_6681The past is the past.  Look ahead. This year holds so much promise for you.  It’s a wonderful time to be an Internet Marketer and if you enjoy writing, great opportunities await you!

If you’re a manager of writers remember that, in general, writers are reflective.  Talk about this year’s resolutions with your team.

The following goals can be used by freelance writers or members of your content department to professionally stretch.

Attend at least one industry conference this year.

Conferences can be expensive, but you’ll find worthwhile investment in knowledge and networking.  If you attend a conference at the top of the year, you benefit from that knowledge and the contacts gained that year.  However, when you attend a conference in September, you’ll find decision-makers who are looking for your services at the start of their budgeting process for the following year.  Some of our favorite digital retail conferences include:

Some of our favorite authorship and publishing conferences are Highlights Workshops, Write-to-Publish, and the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Read on a daily basis.

There are so many worthwhile blogs and as a writer, you should be reading not only to gain business savvy, but to improve your writing technique.  Besides our own, My Web Writers blog (which you’re reading), we recommend that you keep tabs on the following blogs:

Improve writing with a daily grammar lesson or peruse articles at Copyblogger.

Improve your writing.

  • Do not send an email, resume, article, post, or power point to another without checking the spelling and grammar.  Use the many digital tools available to you.
  • Improve your story-telling by reading your articles out loud to a video camera or to a recorder.  Then, observe your fluency, word choices, and tone.  Put your work away and then look at it again with fresh eyes at a later date.
  • Take a college writing class.  Join writers groups.  Connect in LinkedIn forums.
  • Study sentence combining. The more you maneuver parts of sentences, the more you’ll see the various options open to you when editing.

Directors, hire a freelance editor this year for additional perspective on content.  An educational program for your writers is great, but one-to-one coaching by an outsider can correct individual idiosyncrasies.

Learn more about selling.

Many talented writers totally miss the concept of why they’re writing retail content.  That’s because many of today’s digital writers majored in journalism or creative writing because they wanted to write important news stories or memoirs or fiction.  Writing about soap, perfume, or widgets was never the original calling or intent.  Now, you want them to sell? The purist author is only producing website copy to pay the bills.

But, writers, you won’t be able to sustain your revenue for long if you don’t cozy up to the idea of selling and we don’t mean screaming at your audience to buy stuff.  We mean subtle, well-positioned selling that most readers never notice.

Where should you go to learn more about selling? Start with Seth Godin. He’ll turn your mind inside out.  Then, search for “selling techniques” or the “art of selling”.  There are so many videos and articles on the topic. You might land on the Sandler Method or find a helpful article at the Salesforce blog.

The most important fact to remember is that you can sell.  When you influence your children to earn good grades, you’re selling.  When you persuade your spouse to take a vacation, you are selling.  Apply the same principals of persuasion to the content you’ve been tasked to write.

Managers, provide sales training for your content team. You’ll notice a long-term difference in conversions.

Keep learning new time management techniques.

Not letting that blog post take all day to write is a stress that most writers share.  That’s because we were taught the writing process in school, but in the real world, the pace is much faster.  My Web Writers’ blog offers several articles on time management.  Speed up the process by adhering to these timing techniques:

  • Set a timer for each writing session;
  • Track your hours with a time card;
  • Make use of moments when you’re forced to wait- on trains, in cars, in the orthodontist office, while on hold, etc.;
  • Keep a notepad with you at all times to jot down or to list ideas that come out of nowhere;
  • Say “no” to distractions when accomplishing a particular goal within an hour’s time;
  • Allow for blocks of time to enjoy and then to psychologically remove distractions.

Supervisors, ask each writer to share an effective time management technique.  Then, choose a few to monitor and to reward this year.

Encourage and stretch your content department by implementing the above professional resolutions this year.  Did we miss yours? Share it with us!

Other Articles:

Stop Writing Fluff

Build Better Client Relationships with Help from Bruce

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

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Filed under Authoring Books, Conferences, Editors, Education Strategy, Favorite Websites, Leadership, Sales, The Writing Process, Time Management, Writing Careers

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


Other Posts:

What is Google Authorship and What Do Writers Need to Know About it?

How do I write content based on buyer personas?

Ten Tips for Starting a Social Media Conversation

Prioritize Your Social Media Channels

Twenty-five Effective, Call-to-Action Phrases for E-commerce Content

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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

5 Ways to Write Content on a Shoe-String Budget

My Web Writers 

As a business owner you are faced with challenging decisions every day, if not several times throughout the day. Everything from your focus and vision to your marketing plan, each requires significant attention to detail and countless hours of envisioning, business mapping, and collecting data to support the strategic planning that you put into place to live out your company goals and mission.

One of the most challenging decisions that you, as a business owner, might make is how to effectively develop your company’s web site content to increase your business presence, reach your target audience, and boost your business’ performance while maintaining your “shoestring budget.” You know, it comes as no surprise, neither marketing nor advertising come without cost. Lucky for you, however, we’ve come up with five ways to help you write content on a shoe-string budget.

In-house writers: If your company is fortunate to have a marketing department, albeit large or small, using in-house writers can provide you with good, quality content. As a department, your company should identify the goals it would like to accomplish through the use of its content. Will your content be used primarily online, in print, through various direct mail, email or telemarketing campaigns? Once you’ve hit on the logistics, get your team involved. Creating unique and interesting content doesn’t come easier than to involve a lot of different people. Help your team to understand the company’s vision and then let them be the voice of the company. Each person will come with several different and unique approaches to your company’s marketing strategy.  Whichever strategy your team is tackling, monitor and track how successful your company’s outreach is and develop your future plans accordingly. It will help you to respond to the strengths and weaknesses of the department and meet the needs of your company’s target audience.

Contracted writers: In some cases, companies don’t have the staffing to maintain the necessary presence on the web to satisfy their marketing team’s departmental goals or in-house writers don’t quite have a full understanding of SEO.  If that sounds like your company, consider partnering with a content writing agency to supplement or manage your online presence.  Think about your overall space, administrative, and time costs saved when putting together your budget.  You will get what you pay for, so be realistic.  Look for content quotes that are reasonable to the parameters and demands of the project.content

For a smaller budget, your in-house writers can begin their script and merely use contracted writers to edit or spruce up content. However, for slightly larger budgets or needs, freelance writers can take the joys of a blank page, use the mastery of their word-smithing capabilities, and turn your would-be dreams into a reality. And all the better, hiring contracted writers frees you and your staff of their highly valued time (especially if you’re likely to struggle at the stroke of the keys).

Content Management Software and Systems: Allow your company to tap into the ready-waiting success of content management software and systems just waiting to be utilized. If you’re not familiar with Hootsuite, let me give you the quickest, easiest one-two facts about it: It’s an A-MAZING must have. Hootsuite allows you the ability to manage and measure your social media networks all in one suite location. You can monitor and schedule social media messages, posts, and tweets for multiple accounts, while tracking any of your company mentions, all with the luxury of analyzing social media traffic. Sticking to your online schedule is simple when you schedule posts through Hootsuite. In fact, when the thought strikes you, schedule your post to appear in days, weeks, or months from the date you actually jot down your noteworthy thought. It’s a business-saver. And while you’re at it, sign up for an easy-to-use, online visibility account that keeps you in the news with PRWeb. Yep, it’s simple. Your writers can produce press releases about newsworthy happenings within your company and then share them with the rest of the world. Anything from a new employee, event, or product can now make headlines with the ease of online viewership. If you haven’t tried them, you should. Content management software and systems make distributing content affordable and easy, and they will make you seem like a genius!

High School and College Intern: Networking with local high schools, colleges and universities can be one of the most advantageous methods for developing content on a shoe-string budget. At most schools and colleges, student interns are nearing graduation and are experienced junior or senior level undergraduate students. In addition to having the benefit of hardworking students, desiring a position to give them hands-on, transferrable skills to carry over into the workforce upon graduation, employers can work closely with student interns to mentor them and provide them with the skills they desire in an employee on a trial-run basis, so to speak. It’s a win-win; students earn college credit and employers have good quality content written typically at no – or a low – cost.

Social Media: It should come without saying, plugging into social media is one of the wisest moves a company can make. Millions of individuals, nationally and internationally, visit social media sites daily. By maximizing your presence in various social media platforms, your company will successfully share your message, content, and company mission with the online world. And while you are building your platform, network, network, network. The more contact you make with the online world, the better you will be at getting your brand out to the world.

Marketing can be a tough hill to climb, but it doesn’t have to be. Utilizing the various marketing measures available to your company can help you take your business to the next level. ~Leah

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