May 24th, 2013 — Building a business, networking
If you follow this blog you’ll know that networking is not one of my favourite business activities. But as it is a necessary evil of the freelance life of a copywriter, I have to force myself to endure it now and then (but not as often as I should).
As I sit here preparing myself for tonight’s networking event (eek!) I can’t help but think about how closely related PR and networking are.
For example, if I were meeting a member of the press to promote my business, there are certain things I would automatically do, which are also things I should be doing when networking.
Hmm, that’s sounds rather vague, so I’ll explain what I mean.
Whether you like it or not image matters in business. By image I mean not only how you look, but also how you come across to others and how you interact with them.
Listen and interact
A bad networker will talk at you and not ask any questions about you or your business. They see the event as a way of speaking to lots of people and an opportunity to get rid of loads of business cards – not very effective.
But a good networker will drive the conversation with lots of open-ended questions that will lead the conversation in the direction they want it to go. They don’t bully answers from the person they are speaking to, instead they chat, ask questions and gather vital information that lets them know whether they can help them or not (now or in the future).
They effectively start to build a relationship with them.
Not everyone finds it easy to maintain eye contact with someone, especially if they don’t know him or her. But glancing left and right or looking at the floor while speaking comes across as quite rude.
By maintaining eye contact (without it turning into a staring match) you’re showing interest in the other person and holding their attention. It shows engagement and attentiveness, which will encourage the other person to chat openly with you.
If you do find it challenging, practice in the mirror.
Dress to impress
Be smart, but be expressive. There’s nothing worse than being at an event dressed up like a kipper and feeling uncomfortable. A networking event doesn’t mean you have to be suited and booted. Just make sure you’re smartly presented; dress like you want to be taken seriously.
It’s about you not me
Whatever you do, don’t just talk about you.
We’ve all been to a networking event and been talked at by the person who just wants to shout about their achievements, their business and their goals – yes, the networking bore.
If you want to be well received introduce yourself, but then ask them about their business, their future plans and what interests them. Make an offer of help or refer them to someone who may be able to help them reach their goals, just don’t be pushy.
Networking and PR are very closely related. Listening, eye contact, interacting and image are all an important part of the networking process. It may not come easy, but practice makes perfect.
May 22nd, 2013 — Building a business
And why The Apprentice candidates are wrong
Have you been watching the latest series of The Apprentice?
If you have, you’ll probably understand why I’m writing this post.
In the early days I found it quite entertaining, especially as it featured one or two candidates that looked promising. But this year’s line up beggars belief – would you seriously consider any of them as a business partner?
The girls are constantly cat fighting, the boys are just intent on getting one over on each other and as for Alex – has he come as the cartoon villain?
Yes, you need grit and determination to succeed in business, but you also need empathy and the ability to get along with people. What happened to good old-fashioned teamwork? I haven’t seen any of that yet.
Week after week they are back-biting, jumping in trying to hijack pitches, making decisions without any consultation and generally stabbing each other in the back.
Lord Sugar would be better off sacking the lot of them and investing in someone who actually shows some business acumen rather than a forced cut-throat attitude because they think it makes them look big.
OK, I’ll admit it makes good TV (although I can no longer bring myself to sit through their toe-curling antics any more), but it gives completely the wrong impression to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Let’s face it, if people run their businesses the way the candidates are, they will quickly alienate their suppliers and customers, not to mention their teams. Their attitude is a sure fire way to failure.
As a copywriter I have been in business since 2007. Over that time I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some fantastic people.
The vast majority have not shown any of the traits displayed by the candidates. Instead of arrogance they have shown empathy and a willingness to listen, engage and work together to reach desired goals.
That’s why they are still in business today and thriving.
I have a feeling that if any of the candidates actually manage to get a business off the ground (and apparently some of them already have) they will be short lived, unless they change their attitude.
To be a success in business you need determination, but that must come with equal amounts of empathy, engagement and good old-fashioned manners.
What do you think?
What’s your take on this year’s candidates?
Have they got what it takes or has The Apprentice turned into a business version of The Jeremy Kyle Show?
I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this one, so leave a comment below.
Thanks for letting me rant.
May 17th, 2013 — internet marketing, marketing, online marketing
Online retailers have it tough.
Their High Street counterparts have the benefit of being able to display their wares for all to see and a small army of sales staff to encourage people to buy and to answer any questions.
All the online retailer has is a website, a few pictures and some persuasive words.
One of the key elements in the sales process is trust.
Again the High Street retailer has the advantage of face-to-face contact, the products being available to see (try and touch) and the ability to talk to the customer to allay any buying objections they may have.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the online shop because there are several things they can do to garner trust.
If you can’t talk directly to your customers it’s essential you offer them as much information as possible to help them make their buying decision.
Offering ratings, reviews, detailed product descriptions and daily deals will help develop a trusting relationship.
A great example of this in action is Amazon.
Security (or rather lack of) is one of the key factors that will put people off buying on line, which is why you must show your potential customers that your website’s security is second to none.
If possible use an https:// domain and only offer reputable payment methods such as PayPal, MasterCard etc.
Also a no quibble money back guarantee is also a deal winner.
No one wants their details passed on to a third party so make sure you put potential customers’ minds at rest by publicly showing:
- Your cookies policy
- That you won’t pass their details onto a third party
- You only ask a minimum number of questions to complete a purchase
This one won’t always be possible, but if you can customise your service to suit your customer’s needs. Not everyone is going to have the same needs, so being as flexible as possible will show you as a company that puts its customers first.
Trust also comes from having a good reputation. Using your social media channels as a way of promoting your great customer service is the perfect way to show you are a company to be trusted.
Also make sure you make it easy for people to get in touch with an email address, phone number and postal address clearly shown on your website.
As you can see, there are a number of ways the online retailer can enhance its reputation.
Sally Ormond – Copywriter, MD at Briar Copywriting and avid online shopper
May 15th, 2013 — White Papers
Why you shouldn’t call them White Papers
Most people associate White Papers with large corporations that do all sorts of complex things.
The name has connotations of prestige, highbrow concepts and power, but that doesn’t mean they are reserved for the companies that call glistening city tower blocks home.
White Papers are marketing tools that are used to help potential customers resolve challenges they are facing. Of course the solution they offer will just happen to be a product or service offered by the company that produced the White Paper – fancy that.
Whether you write your White Paper in house or hire in the services of a professional copywriter or editor to help you, there are several things it must do (or in some cases, must not do).
The whole premise of the humble White Paper is to provide the information your potential customers need. So if you’re struggling to think of something to write about as yourself:
- What problems are your customers facing?
- Are these things you can help them with?
- What advice can you give that will help them?
Once you have the answers to these questions you can start planning your document.
2. No sales
As tempting as it may be your White Paper is not and should not be a thinly veiled advert.
The main element in any sales process is trust. When face to face its easy to get a sense of whether you trust someone or not, but in an online world it’s not so easy. To convince the reader they can trust you, it’s essential that you offer advice and information. Any whiff of sales and they’ll be off so don’t blow it.
More often than not White Papers are written in over complicated English with loads of big words, complex jargon and ridiculously convoluted sentences.
Write yours in a conversational style that speaks the language of your reader. Break it up into short paragraphs with plenty of sub headings to give an outline of what it covers.
Some of you are probably frowning as you are reading this, but a conversational style is far more effective than formal corporate speak because it generates a friendly approach that makes you come across as being genuine, approachable and helpful.
If you are making claims it’s essential you back them up with relevant facts and figures from reliable sources (that should also be cited within the document).
A White Paper without substantiating evidence will come across as woolly.
5. Good looking
Getting a professional designer on board is as important as a professional writer. Your finished document has to look the bee’s knees so make sure you don’t fall at the final hurdle by using a homemade PowerPoint cover with clip art images.
As with everything a catchy title is essential and another tip is to ditch the name ‘White Paper’. Go for something that is more likely to appeal to your readers such as ‘A Special Report on…’
Finally, once it’s written and ready to go, promote it like fury.
Place it on your website, promote it through your social media channels, email marketing and newsletters. After all, if you don’t tell people about it, how are they going to know it exists?
White Papers – or whatever you want to call yours – can help any business regardless of size or sector.
Have you used them successfully in your business?
If so, leave a comment below and tell us how and why you used one.
May 13th, 2013 — blog, blogging, blogging for business
Are you fed up hearing about the wonders of blogging?
Yes, we all know that it boosts your credibility, visibility and drives traffic to your website, but it’s such hard work constantly coming up with new ideas.
And sometimes it feels as though you’re writing for an empty room because no one shares or comments on your posts.
So what’s the point?
The point is the credibility, visibility and traffic thing mentioned earlier. And if you find you’re not getting any shares or comments it says more about your blog posts than your lack of audience.
Every post you write has to be aimed at your readers and that means writing stuff they want to read about, which probably isn’t going to be what a God awful journey into work you had.
So before you start typing, think carefully about what you’re writing and ask yourself these questions:
1. Does it target my audience?
Every blogger has a niche; their area of expertise. Because every blogger is an expert in their field people are drawn to them to learn and get tips. So is the blog you’re writing related to that niche? Is it answering the questions your audience is asking?
If you’re using statistics, facts and figures in your post, are you sure they’re right? There’s nothing worse than using incorrect information because some bright spark will notice and shout it from the rooftops, damaging your reputation.
Always check and double check before using them.
3. Is it unique?
Obviously your content will be (won’t it?), but I’m thinking more about the way you write. Even if you have a favourite blogger, the worse thing you can do is try to emulate them.
Your audience want something different, they want to get to know you and that means developing your own style, writing personality and voice. That way your work will stand out and be instantly recognisable.
Is it, really?
Think carefully about what you’re writing – is it worth reading? Will it add value to your audience? If they find it useful they’ll share it, but if it’s a load of pointless ramblings they may well look elsewhere for the information they need.
When writing your blog (or anything for that matter), always keep your language and sentence structure simple. People don’t want to be faced with complex words and dense swathes of text; they want something that’s quick and easy to read and that’s useful.
This one really is a combination of everything that I’ve mentioned so far. If you tick all the boxes from 1 – 5 your content will be shared, widening your audience.
7. Your goals?
Although you are primarily writing for your audience, your blogs also have to achieve your own goals.
Whether that’s to drive traffic to your website, build links, promote your name and business etc.
So next time you write a blog post, bear these points in mind and make sure both you and your audience get something out of it.
Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd and blogger.