Elevate Your Writing With These 7 Content Marketing Tools

suck

About two months ago, I moved into a new house. It’s my dream house – not because of the doggy door (that I’m constantly watching to make sure a snake doesn’t crawl in through) or the open kitchen and living room that lets me refill wine glasses without missing out on a minute of “The Bachelorette” (don’t judge, it’s a guilty pleasure… you know you have them too.)

It’s my dream house because of the built-in home office.

home office

We lucked out. The woman who built our new house was an architect who also worked out of her home. It has perfect lighting and a window with a view… A VIEW! Every day I see at least one of the animals in the desert zoo we bought, including coyotes, rabbits, hawks, and javelinas (look those guys up if you’ve never seen one – they’re nasty, plant-eating, smelly creatures).

But there’s just one “problem” with this perfect home office. The ceilings are high and the floors are stained cement. Doesn’t sound that bad, does it? Aesthetically, it’s not, but get me on the phone and it’ll sound like I’m talking to you in a tin can (or on the can, which is quite a bit worse)!

So, it’s time to hang some stuff on the walls. I keep putting it off because hanging stuff isn’t something I love to do. For years, I’ve used push pins to get those artwork and wall hangings to stay up. Most of the time it works! But for the type of wall hangings I’m putting up (the kind that’ll minimize the echo and make me sound a lot clearer on the phone), I need some power tools.

Confession time: Power tools scare me.

The thought of drilling the holes in the wrong places, hitting a stud, or ruining the dry wall is enough to make me do whatever I can to revert back to using the minimal damage causing push pins. And that’s the strange part. For somebody who hates using power tools, I must say – I use them every day in the online world… and I love them.

Content Marketing Tools

If you’re shying away from hanging something up on your blog or website because you’re afraid of making a giant eyesore of a mistake, here are a few tools to help you push past the fear and keep your content marketing efforts nice and tidy. [Read more…]

How to Send Better Emails (And Stop Annoying Your Customers)

No One wants to do business with a-14

My husband has taught me many things.

  • How to go grill on the Big Green Egg;
  • How to paint the roof with elastomeric;
  • And how to manage my email inbox.

The last point might sound surprising but hear me out.

As the saying goes, opposites attract. My marriage is proof of that – to a point. He loves the outdoors; I love toilets and showers. He loves action movies; I love reality tv. He loves beer; I drink wine. He never signs up for email newsletters; I’m marketing-minded and curious enough to sign up knowing I can always unsubscribe (which has a tendency to flood my inbox to the point of overwhelm if I’m not careful).

If you were to compare my inbox and my husband’s inbox right now, you’d see two vastly different landscapes.

Mine is crowded and stuffed with business stuff. There’s (way too much) information about sales, meetings, volunteer requests, blog posts – you name it, it’s probably there.

On the flip side, his is filled with only a handful of emails from family, friends, and a few of the companies he loves hearing from.

Case in point: I’ve turned off my email notifications because it’s just too much hearing a chirp every time a new email arrived. He has not and those chirps from his phone aren’t overwhelming either of us.

What does your email inbox look like?

[Read more…]

Does Your Content Marketing Smell of Arrogance?

No One wants to do business with a-9

It’s hard for me to admit sometimes, but I’m an only child.

I hate telling people that because too often their first reaction is, “oh, so you’re spoiled!” Thanks a lot. 

In my mind, spoiled means arrogant, demanding, whiny, and obnoxious. I’d like to think I’m none of those.

But that leads to another issue…Every family member has their own stereotypes to contend with.

The oldest child is supposedly the one who had it the hardest and is tasked with having the most responsibility

The middle child is often categorized as disgruntled. That’s probably because the parents were jaded by their first child so they didn’t do as much for their second child (supposedly).

The youngest child? She had it the best. Her parents had already worried enough about baby one and two that she didn’t have as many rules or restrictions.

What family cliche best matches your business?

Family cliches transfer to the business world too.

Big businesses, or the most experienced in the industry, often feel the most responsible for delivering a quality product. They started the trend, now they need to keep the momentum.

The middle businesses and younger businesses constantly compete with that experience. They want to show that even though they’re the new players on the block, they have what it takes to wow their customers. It’s this mentality that can shift their marketing message from customer-centric to arrogant.

Instead of marketing with value and uniqueness, they start marketing with overly promotional, ego-driven content – and therein lies the cringeworthy problem.

Your customer doesn’t care about your experience. She cares about her experience with your business.

Have you ever read a company’s sales copy that brags they have “a combined 75 years of experience?” Were you impressed? Probably not. What does “combined experience” really mean for you, the consumer?

Businesses put a lot of weight on demonstrating experience. Although your customer likes to know that your company has a strong foundation in your industry, her primary concern is how your years of experience will make her life a little bit easier.

Touting experience sounds more boastful than it does helpful. What did you learn in those 75 combined years that’ll make your customer want to work with you? That’s what she wants to know.

Harnessing the Power of Brand Journalism

It’s not a secret – storytelling sells. In today’s world, it’s called brand journalism.

Brand journalism happens when a business tells their story directly to their consumer. Instead of distributing press release after press release with a hope that some journalist out there will want to write something new and promote it to their audience, smart brands are taking matters into their own hands. Smart brands aren’t waiting for others to tell their story – they’re doing it themselves.

This happens on their blog. It happens through their podcast. Sometimes, it happens on video.  No matter the media format, brands have taken charge and created their own storytelling corner online and offline.

It’s a smart approach when it’s done right.

Are you telling the right story?

I was honored to have been interviewed on The Brand Journalism Advantage Podcast.

NOTE: It was my first time trying my hand at podcasting, so forgive the “um’s.” 

Nervous ticks aside, the show (and all her shows) had a wealth of insight offered in the amount of time it takes for you to drive to the grocery store and back again. One of her segments is “think like a journalist.” I LOVE that concept.

To tell the right story in your business, you have to think like a journalist because you are the journalist. What does your audience want to read? What will get your readers buying next month’s copy of your magazine? Or in your case, what will make your reader want to sign up for your newsletter to keep reading your stories?

If you’re boastful, arrogant, and boring, no one will listen. But, if you tell a story that your audience relates to, you’re suddenly impactful and compelling. It’s the latter option that sells your brand and builds your business.

On the surface that seems easy enough. But in practice, many brands revert back to arrogant tactics. Here’s how you can avoid making that same mistake:

Tell your story from your heart.

You have to start somewhere, so start by creating content that gets you excited.

Write each post with passion. Create each podcast with excitement about the subject you’re discussing. Your audience will feel that excitement and in turn, they’ll get excited.

Edit your work with a critical eye.

Once you’ve created your content, edit your work. Go back and review your work through the eyes of your audience. Using a critical lens to view your content will help you fine tune your message so that it’s less about you and more about the reader.

Listen to the unspoken feedback.

There’s a lot to learn from silence, analytics, and social engagement. Don’t aim for everyone to love you. Instead, aim for people to react to what you’re saying. You’ll have some naysayers and that’s okay. You’ll have some people who disagree with you, and that’s okay too. The goal is to spark conversation so that your reader walks away feeling like he gained something from your content…

… And in the end, you’ll look less arrogant and more helpful.

How Writing Scored Me 300% More Leads Online

leads online

The other day I was on the phone going over the monthly analytics figures with one of my VERY FAVORITE clients, when he had an “ah-ha” moment.

It’s important to note that this “ah-ha” moment in particular is what my marketing dreams are made of.

He said, “Wow, so this blogging thing really does drive traffic to the website!”

He couldn’t see it, but I beamed on the other side of the phone like a little schoolgirl who was just granted the right to down a full sleeve of Thin Mints because she got an A on her test. I LOVE MOMENTS LIKE THESE! (And I LOVE Thin Mints… but I digress.)

In spite of my excitement over blogging success stories like the one this particular client experienced, and in spite of the glee I feel when I see the upward traffic arrow with each new post I publish…

… I let my own blogging slack off now and then.

Why. Do. I. Do. That. To. Myself?

More importantly, why do I do that to my client base?

Blogging has always helped me generate more leads online, and yet… I fail to show how or why that happens in a way that can help others achieve that same success.

Will You Come With Me Behind This Delightful Red Velvet Rope For a Second? (It’s Not as Creepy as it Sounds… I Promise.)

My New Year’s Resolutions (as ridiculous as New Year’s Resolutions might be) were to revamp my website (check) and schedule time into my week to blog for my business (check, check.)

So far, the results have exceeded even my own expectations.

Since January, I’ve shifted to the New Rainmaker platform… and I love it.

On this platform I can conduct keyword research a little faster and upload posts a little bit easier. With that, I am also able to eliminate every single excuse that has held me back from blogging for my business.

Then came the scheduling.

I plan to post every Thursday, but some days I get so excited I can’t help myself but to hit the keyboard and pound out a few thoughts. So far, I’ve consistently published at least one blog per week since the start of the year. And guess what…

I’ve gotten an influx of work and leads! So much, in fact, that I almost have more than I can handle.*

*If I ever have more than I can handle, I have a few stellar writers that I lean on for help now and then, so don’t let that discourage you. We can still be friends and work together.

In fact, I SAW A 300% INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF NEW, QUALITY LEADS THAT CAME MY WAY!

As soon as I started practicing what I preached, my business started to surge forward… And yours can too.

Two Lessons Here:

1. You have to do damn work.

For too long, I put client work ahead of my business because, let’s face it, it’s easy to sit down at the computer, look over the day’s to-do list, get distracted by a super-fun project that you’re working on, and ignore your own business’s needs. It’s not that you don’t love your business too, but when push comes to shove, the other ridiculously exciting project pays the bills. 

You want that money in your pocket, like, yesterday, so you’re going to put the money making projects first.

That all sounds like a good idea until the money well runs dry and you’re left scrambling for the next client. Because guess what? Marketing your business might not deposit a $10,000 paycheck into your bank account tomorrow… but it will in a few months when you knock the socks off that new client who found you through your marketing efforts. By then you’ll be happy you put in a little extra effort to keep that business humming right along.

You have to put in the work to bring new business your way. That could mean spending a few extra minutes with the person you hire to ghostwrite for you on your blog. Or it could mean spending a little more time thinking about the words you’re using to sell your business.

Schedule yourself into your week and day. It’ll pay off in dividends.

2. You have to put yourself on the line.

Nerd Alert! Some of you get your kicks on roller coasters. I get mine through the “Publish” button.

It might seem easy enough to hide behind a screen and hit publish… until it’s time to actually send all your inner thoughts, dreams, and ideas out into the universe to be read, ridiculed, and judged. It’s quite the adrenaline rush. Don’t believe me? Try it sometime.

If you want to create a stir and infatuate your leads with your awesomeness, you’ve gotta put yourself out there.

One of my favorite bloggers is Erika Napoletano. We’re worlds apart in our view point on some things but I respect the hell out of her for the way she takes life by the cajones and shares her point of view. If you add some spice, opinion, and passion to your writing, your audience will show you that same respect… and give you the business because of it.

PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Sit down at your computer and pour your heart and soul onto the screen. Expose yourself (not in that way.) Choose a topic that your audience wants to know more about from you and give ‘em the goods.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few blogging ideas to get your mind going.

The point is to start.

… because if you don’t start, you’ll miss that delightful “ah-ha” moment and just keep getting the same frantic, desperate feeling you’ve been getting while trying to find those perfect new clients month after month.

Confidence vs. Angst: What Your Website Content Says About You

Website Content

There I was, driving down the street when I saw it: A sign that said, Eager to Close!! Seller Will Pay All Closing Costs!!

(Yes, the explanation marks were included on the damn sign.)

At the time, I was in the housing market. That sign was meant to attract people like me. It didn’t work.

My reaction to the sign was disgust – not excitement.

What was the agent thinking? Did she really think we’d pay listing price on that home? Not. A. Chance. We’d negotiate the hell out of that house… if we even took the time to look at it. And at that moment, I kept driving.

The palpable angst, fear, and desperation in the real estate agent’s message sent me running for the hills – not running toward the sale.

Does your website content make you look just as desperate?

It’s no secret that the real estate industry is filled with hungry agents who want to close their next home so that they can make a buck. As an entrepreneur, I respect the need to sell something. But the approach you take matters. It could get prospective buyers driving by – or it could get them in the door.

There are two ways you can approach a potential customer.

The first is the desperate way (see the example above.)

It’s the biggest turn off and the most gut-wrenching, cringeworthy approach.

Here’s another, less obvious, example of obvious desperation from a real estate agent during our house hunt.

While at an open house, the listing agent started chatting us up. My husband and I were the only ones in the house at the time, but she claimed that there was a lot of interest in the house. As we kept the conversation flowing, the truth came out. She was eager for us to place an offer on the house because it had been on the market for 120+ days.

Having an Air of Confidence in Marketing

The second approach is more refined. It’s also the approach that won our real estate agents the contract.

We’ve known our real estate agents for years. They’re a married couple who just enjoy getting out of the house and helping people look at homes. The interest they have in their job is palpable. They want to help.

When we bought our first house, this was the team of agents that helped us make the purchase. My husband met them while he was out on his own looking at houses. They saw him peering into the window of an empty for house for sale and stopped to ask him if he needed some help. He did and they handed him their business card.

This approach is helpful.

They saw someone who was clearly interested in buying a house and in need of help. They offered their expertise.

The approach was also gentle.

They never once made us feel like we had to buy immediately. Instead, they asked us what we wanted and then hit the ground running to help us find it. It was a win-win.

Which Approach Are You Taking?

I’ve won my fair share of sales contests. I’ve grown my own business selling my services without the help of an outside sales force. I get the need to sell, sell, sell.

I have also sat on the other side of a hard sale and felt how uncomfortable it can get. It’s awful. It doesn’t make the seller feel good (or at least it shouldn’t.) It doesn’t make the person being sold to feel good. It’s a lose-lose.

The world is cluttered with noise both online and offline. People are constantly trying to get your attention on television, the radio, road signs, social media, search engine results, and with flashy, ridiculous, embarrassing banner ads.

You need to stand out! But the way you stand out matters. Are you using desperation to get found? Or are you offering helpful, valuable website content to hit home with your marketing message?

One makes you sound like a teenager at an Ed Sheeran concert…

… the other makes you sound like an easy-going professional who is so confident in what she has to offer, she doesn’t have to beg, plead, and hound you to sign a contract.

How to Find Blog Topic Ideas

Blog Topic Ideas

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” ~ John le Carre

Have you ever had that terrifying feeling of staring at a blank screen knowing you had to fill the white space in front of you with words?

Me too.

No matter how seasoned of a writer you are, panic will sometimes set in when you know it’s your turn to publish a blog post.

One of the most common objections to content marketing that I hear from small business owners is, “I don’t really need a blog. What will I write about?”

Not knowing what to write about isn’t an excuse to avoid blogging. If you’re using that as a reason to get out of publishing your next post, you’re missing out on:

  • Serious SEO benefit.
  • The opportunity to position your business as an authority.
  • A sales tool to make your website work harder for your business.

You’re smart. You know that blogging is probably one of the best ways to build your website online. Now, it’s time to get out of your head so you can power through the fear of the blank white screen.

Here are seven tips to help you come up with some powerful blog topic ideas for your business.

1. Keep a Notebook Handy

This tip won’t help you now, but it will help you quite a bit down the road.

Hot blog topics rarely hit you when you’re sitting in front of your computer trying to figure out what to write. They pop into your mind when you’re at a restaurant, talking to a customer, walking the dog, or at 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep. When that great idea for a post pops into your mind, do a brain dump ASAP!

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll remember that post tomorrow (especially if it’s 3 a.m.) Write. It. Down.

This is the trick used by most professional bloggers. I know some bloggers who carry a physical pad of paper and pen around to write down blog topics. I know others who use apps on their smartphones, such as Evernote or Draft. Me? I use an app to record ideas because I know with confidence that I can pull it up when I need it the most.

No matter what your preferred method, get the idea out of your head and in print.

2. Go to Amazon

Probably one of the best ways I’ve heard of for finding blog topics came from the folks at Fizzle (full disclosure: that’s a referral link if you’re interested in joining me in this online community.)

Chase mentioned once on a podcast that he often looks at Amazon book reviews for topics in his field for inspiration. He doesn’t look at what the four and five star reviews say – those people are already happy with the book and supposedly already had all their questions answered. Instead, he looks at the three-star reviews.

The three star reviews are the moneymakers. These are the people who are hungry for more information about your topic. They want more information. If you’re trying to establish your business or personal brand as an authority, this is your opportunity to be the person to give that information.

3. Find Inspiration From Others

Plagiarism is not okay, but getting inspired by other businesses and bloggers that you admire is acceptable.

Get out of your head and into someone else’s mind for a little while. Explore another blog, read posts by other people, check out the types of topics they’re talking about. As you do, jot down your ideas for how you can expand on a concept or make it your own.

Bonus tip: Read the comments like you read the Amazon reviews for an added dose of inspiration.

4. Check Twitter or Facebook

Before you read any further, let me clarify: I am not condoning a random glance through your newsfeed! You’ll get sucked in by memes and food porn and then all hope is lost.

Look at Twitter or Facebook with a hyper targeted goal in mind – to read the newsfeed of reporters, journalists or bloggers.

These people are also looking for story ideas and will often ask questions of their viewers and request tips. Look at what they’re asking about and then answer their need on your blog. This is a fast, easy, and super effective way of establishing your business as an authority.

5. Current Events

You can also watch the news. What’s happening in your field? Is there an exciting story that just broke? Answer it with a blog post and give your take on things.

6. Ask a Machine for Blog Topics

When all else fails, ask a machine. HubSpot, one of the leaders in the content marketing space, has built a blog topic generator that does the creative thinking for you. Just enter a few words (preferably nouns) and let the robots go to work pulling up ideas for your next post.

The idea with the machine generated blog topics isn’t to create another boring blog. It’s to help you feel inspired to find your voice and make a bland topic your own. Remember that as you start pulling up topics and doing the research to form your next post.

7. Host Your Personal Brainstorming Session

Enough reading about how to come up with the next great idea for your blog. It’s time to get to work.

Here’s your homework for the day:

    • Get away from your desk. You won’t find much inspiration there. Work from somewhere else. If you can, go outside!
    • Turn your phone on silent and close your email and Facebook. You don’t need any distractions when you’re trying to be creative.
    • Set a timer for 30 minutes. If you’re using your phone, it should still alert you even if it’s set to “silent.”

Now it’s time to put the pen to the paper and start writing about your business.

Don’t worry about coming up with a blog topic. Just write with emotion.

  • Why are you so passionate about your industry?
  • What is your customer’s biggest fear?
  • Why do you love what you do so much?
  • What made you start your business?
  • How did you choose this path?
  • What makes you an expert in your field?
  • What questions are you asked most often?
  • Why are people fascinated by you?

As you begin to answer these questions and get your mind flowing with the intricacies of your field, you’ll see a few trends start to emerge. Dig deeper into each of these trends and start coming up with solid ideas for future posts. By the end of a half hour, you’ll have a handful of blog topic ideas to get you started.

What’s Your Best Tip?

There isn’t a shortage of ideas for finding the best blog topic. Every person does their research a little bit differently. How do you find blog topic ideas? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear!

Your Marketing Benchmarks

marketing benchmarks

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and sometimes Saturday) I get up before the crack of dawn and drive a few miles to my local Crossfit gym. It’s not your standard gym. It’s in a garage. We run in the dark, we grunt, we whine, we throw a ton of weight around, and we cheer each other on until the end of each brutal workout.

It might sound miserable to some but it’s my “me-time” and I love it.

Crossfit isn’t a new type of workout to me. I’ve done it for about four years. This is the fourth gym I’ve tried and I’m hooked. The biggest reason why? She holds quarterly “benchmark” weeks (read: hell week in a box) where we test our strength, take note of our progress, and push our limits.

I’ve never had this type of push in any other gym. Before, it was all about showing up and powering through each WOD (workout of the day for you non-Crossfit speakers) and getting things done one workout at a time.

THIS is different. THIS is measurable. I can actually see the payoff from my workout. The ROI if you want to put a business buzzword to it.

A few months ago, I was “only” able to deadlift 155 pounds for my one-rep max. Last week? I reached 210 pounds for the first time. I have struggled for so long to crack the 200 pound mark and this past benchmark week, I exceeded my own expectations. It was an empowering moment… and yes, I might have squealed with delight over this personal accomplishment.

Benchmark week is my chance to see how my hard work and investments have paid off over the last three months.

When was the last time you tested your benchmarks?

You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” It’s bullshit.

Personal live and professions overlap all the time. There are loads of lessons that you can take from your personal life and apply to your professional world to achieve bigger, better, faster, stronger results.

Benchmark week is one example of this.

I make no qualms about being a “word nerd.” In fact, I say it with a bit of shy pride. But numbers get me equally excited. They show results. They mean money. And they mean big wins both in and out of the gym.

Numbers mean a lot for your business.

One of the best books I’ve read lately about writing is, “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley. In her book, she talks about the importance of developing “pathological empathy.” To connect with your reader, you must have an intimate relationship with what he or she is experiencing on the other side of the page.

  • How does your writing improve your reader’s life?
  • How does your marketing give your customer peace of mind?
  • How does your product help your customers sleep better at night?

These are big concerns that need addressing. With strong messaging, you can tap into the emotions of your target market and show your audience the type of empathy they’re looking for. Without it, you’re just spinning your wheels and blasting worthless blog posts out into the world. No one reads those and they do nothing to inspire more customers to buy from your business.

Your analytics pave a clarifying path to show you where your marketing meets your customer – or more importantly, where it falls short.

Analytics to Watch

Any monkey can pull up Google manifested numbers on a screen. It takes smarts and human savvy to sort through those analytics and flesh out the meaning behind the numbers.

Knowing what numbers to pull out from your analytics is half the battle. Knowing what marketing benchmarks you should use in your company’s “benchmark week” is important so you don’t focus on the wrong thing (vanity metrics suck.)

Here are some of the top analytics your business needs to know to see how well your marketing is performing:

1. Website Traffic Patterns

The first thing you probably think of when you hear the word “traffic” is how many visitors your page sees in a day, week, or month. That only tells one part of the story.

Look a little closer to see what type of traffic you have.

  • How many repeat visitors arrive on your page vs. new visitors?
  • Where do those visitors come from? Referrals, search engines or social media?
  • When do those people leave?
  • What is your bounce rate?

Understanding the flow of traffic on your website will give you a better glimpse into where you’re gaining new eyeballs and losing your hot prospects.

2. Behaviors

You have the traffic, but now what? How are people engaging with your material on your website?

Time spent on your website matters. The more time people spend reading your content, the more chances you have to convert your audience into paying customers.

Sign ups matter. Is your content getting your audience excited enough to subscribe to your newsletter? If not, you might need to beef up your content marketing efforts. If it is, you’re doing something right – do more of it.

3. Technology

We live in a world surrounded by screens. Your customer’s smartphone, tablet, laptop, and television all display enticing (or sometimes less than enticing) advertisements. Knowing what type of screen your customers is using to access your website and content is telling. If you’re a local car wash and you see a lot of people accessing your website through their mobile device, you know that people are probably looking for you when they’re on the go. On the other hand, if you own a flooring company and your customers are accessing your content from a laptop, you know that they’re doing their due diligence before stepping foot in your store or buying from you.

Take that with a grain of salt.

Sometimes, people see your commercial on television and then pick up the smartphone that’s sitting next to them to look up your business. They’re not on the road. They’re not on the go. They’re at home.

Although it’s not an exact science, the numbers at least start the story of how your customers are finding you.

Takeaways

Without hosting your own “benchmark week” in your business, you’re losing a lot of clarity about your marketing. It’s hard to know what’s working. It’s hard to know what’s failing you. It’s hard to improve in a way that’ll keep bringing you bigger and better results.

Need help with this? I offer a monthly benchmark service for businesses to show what’s happening on their website and offer recommendations for where they can improve. If you’re interested in seeing your company’s progress and get actionable tips for online marketing improvement, let’s talk.

Finding Your Blogging Voice

Finding your blogging voice

This is probably the only time I’ll ever encourage you to fight.

But before you pull out your gloves and put on that oh-so-sexy UFC uniform that you’ve had stashed away in your closet for God only knows what reason, I have a confession to make: I’m probably one of the most sensitive people you’ll meet.

And it’s not a good thing.

I might not always seem like a sensitive soul on the surface but it’s true. Give me one wrong look and I’ll worry about what it meant for days.

With that obnoxious hyper-sensitivity in mind, you can imagine how much of a struggle it was for me to start blogging and putting my thoughts, ideas, opinions out onto the interwebz.

What will people think?

What will people say?

What if people *gasp* don’t like me?

It’s a scary (read: terrifying) feeling to open your soul to be judged by the masses.

In fact, it’s so scary that most people avoid it all together.

The fear of putting yourself on the line is one that business owners like you know well. You’ve done it already so I know you have the courage to start exposing your thoughts and opinions too. But there’s just one problem.

If you’re shaking in your boots while you hit the “Publish” button on your blog, chances are you’re not going to sound too authentic. Chances are, your blog is going to sound more like it was written by a robot than a human.

Enter: The Fight

I promised you a fight and here it is!

If you’re like many bloggers, when you sit down at the keyboard your thoughts are on your audience.

You think, and think, and think about what your audience wants to hear.

  • Are you giving them what they’re looking for?
  • Are you positioning your audience as the hero of your story?
  • Are you delivering the right information to help them through every stage of the sales process?

Coming up with content for your blog is hard enough. When you finally find that perfect topic, how do you write in a way that serves your audience AND stays true to you?

As Sally Hogshead said in a recent blog post, “Are you focusing so much on the other person (your customer, your client, your manager) that you’re losing your you-ness?”

If you’re cringing right about now because of how familiar that sounds, don’t worry. It’s happened to the best of us.

Breaking Past the Scary Side of Creativity

Writing doesn’t have to be scary. Staring at a blank, white page on the screen in front of you doesn’t have to fill you with anxiety.

It also doesn’t have to turn you into a people-pleasing robot.

After searching for years, reading other people’s blogs and trying to find that magic tip to help me break fast this fear and embrace my voice, I discovered one thing that helped. Just one. Fighting.

The Three Step Process to Finding Your Fight

If you could change the world tomorrow in any way, what would that look like to you?

I’m not trying to get you to conjure up your inner beauty queen and talk about creating world peace or saving all the puppies – even though that’d be nice – I am trying to get you to think a little bit about purpose. That purpose – or fight, if you will – comes from inside of YOU.

Here’s how to find your fight.

1. Define WHAT You’re Fighting For

My fight is to change the way business owners approach their marketing writing.

It frustrates me to see business owners toss up a “free” website with self-centered copywriting filling the headlines and paragraphs just so that they have a placeholder online.

Note: I put “free” in quotes because even though you’re not paying out of pocket for a website on Wix or GoDaddy, you’re paying big time in opportunity cost.

Words matter. They matter so freakin’ much that I put it on EVERY SINGLE PAGE of my website. It’s my fight. It’s the concept that I can speak to with absolute 100% certainty and passion because I believe it in my core.

What’s your fight? What’s your purpose online?

It’s a deep question but it’s one that deserves a healthy amount of thought.

2. Define WHO You’re Fighting For

The people you’re fighting for matter just as much (if not more) than your big picture purpose.

You can’t write a blog post to the masses and expect it to sound like your authentic self. Narrowing your focus and writing as if you’re speaking to the ONE person in this world whom you help will make your writing significantly stronger.

Right now, I have my perfect client in mind. I’m not thinking about writing to my mom or my husband because neither of them need this information. I’m writing this to the person who I know can benefit the most from this fight.

The person may or may not be real (although in my case, he is), as long as you have a person with a face, a name, and a story.

Who is your person? Who are you fighting the good fight for?

3. CONVERSE!

Let’s face it. Keeping your thoughts, ideas, and passions locked up inside of you isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy for you, your business, or the people you’re working so hard to help.

With your fight and your person in mind, it’s time to start the conversation.

This is where your blogging voice comes through.

Spark conversation with the person you’re fighting so hard to help. Talk about things that get you heated, passionate, and excited.

Let your thoughts pour out on paper.

Don’t edit as you write. Instead, follow Ernest Hemingway’s advice: Write Drunk. Edit Sober.

And, whatever you do, DON’T pull a Pete Carroll and overthink every play, phrase, and word.

Just write what’s on your heart. Write in a way that makes your excitement for your reader’s success so palpable that he has no option but to get sucked into listening to your story.

The Takeaway

FIGHT FOR WHAT AND WHO MATTERS TO YOU.

Your voice will come out naturally through your passion, excitement, and undying belief in what you’re saying.

Go ahead and give it a try. Then share your non-robotic blog post with me in the comments below. I’d love to read it (truly!)

2015 Content Marketing Trends

The Importance of a Content Marketing Strategy

I’ve got news for you, business owner:

You can’t make a touchdown if you don’t know how to run down the field.

Like it or not, marketing requires strategy. That strategy requires smart usage of words. And it’s those words that make you money.

The problem is, most business owners tend to opt for all-talk and little preparation.

Need proof? Check out the 2015 content marketing trends recently published by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, and sponsored by the New Rainmaker Platform (which this site is published on.)

Only 35% of B2B marketers have a DOCUMENTED content marketing strategy.

And that’s more than the only 27% of B2C marketers with a DOCUMENTED content marketing strategy.

To be fair, 48% of B2B marketers say they have a strategy but just haven’t documented. The remaining 17% who don’t have a strategy or aren’t publish their content on a hope and a prayer that it’ll bring in new leads, new business, and more sales.

Does that sound like you?

It’s okay if it did, but it’s not okay if you continue to let your marketing take on a life of its own.

The Superbowl is this weekend. I am willing to wager a bet that Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and each of their respective teammates have a strategy of how they’re going to get the football past the competition and into the end zone.

For your content marketing to work, you need to have that same mindset.

There’s a lot of noise online these days.

Open up Facebook and check out your newsfeed. Overwhelming? Probably. It’s a noisy world out there.

74% of B2B small businesses and 69% of B2C businesses are creating more content in 2015 than ever before. 

Among both B2B and B2C businesses, the most popular content created looks like this:

  1. Social Media Content
  2. eNewsletters
  3. Articles on Your Website/Blogs

Written content is preferred over in-person events, print, videos, photos, and presentations. 

There’s good reason for this. It works.

But it only works if you have a solid strategy in place that’ll help you cut through the noise and make your message resonate with your target audience.

The report offers more proof to back up that statement.

Companies with a documented strategy are over 2x more effective at documenting the ROI of content marketing.

One of the biggest struggles companies face in investing in website content is the lack of numbers to back the money being spent. Knowing what works and what doesn’t

How do you create a written content marketing strategy that effectively generates more leads and bolts your business past the competition?

In the report, the Content Marketing Institute outlines a few key metrics to monitor.

  • How often is your competition producing content? Are you producing enough?
  • What type of content are other companies finding most effective? Are you actively pursuing those same types of content?
  • How much money are other companies investing in their content marketing? Are you investing enough?

You already have the answers to some of these questions (see above or get the details in the report).

The point is this: Producing content without a smart approach will deliver mediocre results at best. Producing content with a documented, smart strategy will get you to the type of traffic, quality leads, and sales that you can brag about to your other business owner buddies.

And THAT is worth your investment EVERY TIME.

100 Words That Instantly Add Sizzle to Your Sales Copy

Let’s play a word association game. What would you say if I asked you to describe a salesman in one word?

If you’re like most people the words sleazy, slimeball, moneymaker, or pushy come to mind.

Salesmen don’t have a great reputation. Yet as an entrepreneur, you’re forced to operate as one on a daily basis.

  • Every time someone asks you what you do for a living, you’re selling her on the idea of your business.
  • Every time you meet someone who should use what you have to offer, you’re selling her your goods (or services).
  • Every time you talk to someone, you’re selling her on your smarts and status within your industry… because you never know who she might refer to your business!

Yep, like it or not, you’re a salesman.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re lumped into the stereotypical type of salesman that comes to mind (see above for a reminder on why that’s a bad thing).

The problem is, sleazy sales work. They’ve worked for decades and they continue to work. To find a healthy balance between falling into the trap of becoming the type of salesman that makes people avoid eye contact with you when you walk in the room, you need to watch your words.

Watch Your Sales Words

The way you communicate on your website, in your sales emails, and in person says a lot about you. It shows how you operate and how much you believe in what you sell.

Although you never (seriously… NEVER) want to fall into the trap of becoming a sleazeball, there are a few lessons you can take from the playbooks of the top salesmen in controversial industries.

Why controversial? Because they spark the biggest reaction among their customers.

For you to make a strong name for yourself and bring in the big bucks, you can’t run from controversy. You need to use words that give your copy feeling and stir up emotion in your readers. To do that effectively, here are 100 words that are safe enough to use without looking sleazy, but spicy enough to make you look enticing.

Help ‘em visualize what it’s like to work with you

Using experiential words, you make people instantly envision themselves in an experience when buying from you.

  • Apocalypse
  • Armageddon
  • Bloodbath
  • Bloodcurdling
  • Uncensored
  • Thrilling
  • Tantalizing
  • Famous
  • Notorious
  • Behind-the-scenes
  • Red-carpet
  • Fantasize

Push the boundaries

There are certain words that sound innocent enough given the context, but they still trigger a heightened emotion when people hear them. Push the boundaries and use these words to conjure up excitement.

  • Spicy
  • Crave
  • Enticing
  • Sinful
  • Scandalous
  • Provocative
  • Steamy
  • Spine-tingling
  • Blissful
  • Mind-blowing
  • Sexy
  • Moaning
  • Tantalizing

Tap into their fears

Fear-mongering works. Everyone is afraid of something. When you know what that something is, use these words to harness the fear and turn it into a sale.

  • Frightening
  • Terrifying
  • Prison
  • Beat
  • Assault
  • Crazy
  • Danger
  • Blundering
  • Jeopardy
  • Invasion
  • Dumb
  • High-risk
  • Perilous
  • Invisible
  • Demon
  • Chilling
  • Forbidding
  • Menacing

Make ‘em feel amazing

Nothing gets more people excited than feeling like they’re doing something right. Excite your reader and make them feel warm and fuzzy using these words.

  • Sensational
  • Delightful
  • Courageous
  • Charming
  • Breathtaking
  • Beautiful
  • Stunning
  • Gorgeous
  • Dazzling
  • Magnificent
  • Brilliant
  • Intense
  • Unworldly
  • Divine
  • Godly

Indulge in their anger

Misery loves company. When your customer is angry, fed-up and sick of dealing with something, indulge them by joining along with their frustrations using these words.

  • Abuse
  • Arrogant
  • Bullshit
  • Revolting
  • Disgusting
  • Repulsive
  • Smug
  • Superior
  • Ruthless
  • Stuck up
  • Obnoxious
  • Frenzy
  • Boorish
  • Turmoil
  • Rage

Show ‘em the goods

What do people want more than anything in the world? Money, love, fame, and fortune. Give them what they crave with these words.

  • Free
  • Skyrocket
  • Soar
  • Jackpot
  • Winning
  • Explosion
  • Dollar bills
  • Luxury
  • Lavish
  • Rich
  • Abundant
  • Gift
  • Bonanza

Give them peace of mind

When all is said and done, nothing is more enticing than a restful night of sleep knowing that you are in good hands. Your customers want to feel safe with you. Show them they can trust you with these words.

  • Moneyback
  • Refund
  • Lifetime
  • Proven
  • Verified
  • Certified
  • Secure
  • Fail-safe
  • Social proof
  • Best-selling
  • Top-seller
  • Most requested
  • Guaranteed
  • Surefire

That’s it! Interchange any of these words with some of your boring, wornout sales copy and watch your conversions soar!

What other words would you add to this list?