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    Outsourcing Your Blog Writing

    March 17th, 2010
    Perhaps the biggest challenge in creating a company blog is the realization that it is a big responsibility. Developing an effective blog is not something you can do when time allows. To be effective a blog has to be well written, valuable to the readership, and posted on a regular schedule, not sporadically.
    Blog writing is hard work. It takes time and effort to write high-quality posts on a regular basis. Because marketers are so busy, more and more are outsourcing their blog writing. That makes perfect sense, but there are a few things to consider before hiring someone to do your blog writing, specifically:
    1. Have a specific business goal for your blog so you’ll know if you’ve been successful and, just as important, your blog writer will know why he or she is writing. If the goal is to increase traffic, for example, to your website a good writer will incorporate your keywords into their titles and copy so the search engines can easily find your site.
    2. Similarly, to be an effective SEO tactic and drive more traffic to your website you should blog a minimum of four times a month, such as every Monday. Many digital marketers insist that you need to post at least three times each week to be effective. The truth is the more the better.
    3. Hire someone who is already familiar with your industry and its lingo. Every industry has jargon, common terms with specific meaning that differs from Webster’s definition. In addition, someone with relevant industry experience will know the proper style and tone of your company and your target audience.
    4. Your job is to be Chief Editor. No matter how qualified the writer, you still need to take ownership for every post. I encourage my clients to edit everything I write because I want the words in their blog to be their own. Besides, it’s easier to edit than it is to create so think of your blog writer’s job as completing 95% of your post so, in 5-10 minutes, you can finish and approve it for posting.
    5. Hire the best. Blog writing talent is not expensive. There are a lot of agencies, freelance writers and out of work marketers who would love an opportunity to write regularly. Before you hire someone, however, review multiple writing samples and ask for references. You are, in effect, hiring someone to represent your company with words that, once posted, will live forever in the ether, so take your time and hire the best available person.
    6. Expect to pay from $50.00 to $250.00 for 150 to 350 well-written words. The cost range has to do with the writer’s qualification, skill, specific industry knowledge, and the kind of content you require.

    Blogging is a great way to get your name out, increase traffic to your website, become a thought leader in your industry and accomplish other, equally important, business goals.

    Outsourcing your blog writing is a great way to accomplish serious business objectives and increase your productivity.  Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss the  risks and rewards in more detail.

    8 Comments "

    Talk is Expensive

    February 17th, 2010

    Most of the small business owners I speak with describe themselves poorly. When I go to a local Chamber of Commerce meeting I hear people say things like; “I’m a Plumber” or “I’m a Realtor.” That’s troubling.

    Your not The Godfather trying to hide what it is you actually do. If you’re a gangster then saying, “I’m in the Olive Oil business,” is probably not a bad idea. You need to be expansive in your product description and interesting, not understated and boring.

    The reasons are (1) people buy benefits and value, (2) small introductions discourages further conversation and, (3) as a result, you will miss sales opportunities and that can be expensive.

    First, let’s cover the issue of people buying benefits and value. If you said, “I’ve been very blessed. Since 1990 my company has been part of building more new homes in (fill in the city) than any other contractor in the area.”  That description is more descriptive, not as dull as I’m a Builder, I’m a Plumber or I’m a Framer and, most importantly, encourages further conversation. Note, you still have not told the other person exactly what it is you do.

    Instead, you framed your company in broad terms while, at the same time, let them know that you’ve been successful, been in business a long time and, by extension, are reputable. Aren’t those really important points? Doesn’t that make you an important resource for information and local knowledge?

    Had you said, “I’m a Plumber,” those important points probably would not have come up, your position would have been diminished and the next question may have died in silence. With a more robust description the next question will probably be some form of, “What exactly do you do?”

    That is an opening for you to further explain that you do custom bathroom renovations as well, if that’s what you do. Do you see how this progresses?

    I can assure you that successful people never make the mistake of under-describing their unique value proposition, their important customer benefits, and every successful person I’ve met is an excellent conversationalists.

    If you are truly interested in helping someone, which means you don’t just want other people’s money for money’s sake, you need to be a master at encouraging conversations. Conversations that afford other people the opportunity to get to know the best of you and you of them.

    Here’s a second example, you’re at a Chamber meeting and someone says, “I’m a Realtor.” That, in itself, can be a conversation killer. When I hear, “I’m a Realtor,” my first impulse is to look for the door. Sad but true.

    It’s not personal.  There are just too many Realtors and, frankly, they all sound the same. They all seem to want to either sell my home or sell me some real estate. I read the books too. I get it. Stay focused, be hungry, push, push, push… That’s crap! I don’t like to be pushed and I don’t know anyone who does. How about a gentler approach? How about an approach that preserves everyone’s dignity? How about not looking at me the way a dog looks at a bone?

    When the time comes to say what it is you do, the smart Realtor might say, “I specialize in waterfront property on Lake Tahoe (pick you favorite lake).” This second approach is gentler, far more engaging, and really leverages the power of a few keywords to communicate your value and unique qualities. I’d still know you’re a Realtor but you sure wouldn’t sound like one and I wouldn’t want to escape you.

    Here’s why. Most people I know would love to live on a lake? Most people are curious about the price of lakefront property. Aren’t you? So your natural reaction is ask a few questions? “What do lakefront lots start at these days?” is one question that comes to mind.

    The key here is to do the hard work upfront to understand your client benefits, your unique value and then be able to describe those attributes in interesting and conversation-promoting ways.

    There’s an old cliché, “Talk is cheap.” Well, in my view “Talk” can be expensive too.

    2 Comments "

    Writing Humor

    January 9th, 2010

    Telling jokes and funny stories is a challenge for most writers. That’s unfortunate because humor is often the best way to make a point. In the real world I often make my point with sarcasm. As an aside, after years of hard work, my family is well-trained in my particular brand of humor. Strip away the visual cues, specifically my facial expressions and hand movements, and my thespian-like voice inflection, however, and my dry charm and incredible wit can get lost on the page. See what I mean?

    The ingredients for writing good humor are one part grammar and two parts angle and misdirection. You’ll need all your punctuation tools, especially dashes, colons, semicolons and the proper use of three dots to extend a sentence, signal an interrupted thought or change of direction, to be sure. But the key to good humor is the angle you use to approach the subject and the effective use of misdirection, like an illusionist. Move your audience down a familiar path and then, re-direct them to your conclusion. It sounds hard but it’s not.

    I begin with objects and people that my readers already know. Often I will compare or simply mix two dissimilar objects or people together, which is an early signal to my audience that something unusual, something funny, is coming. It’s a variation of the A parrot and a Priest are sitting in a bar…theme. You know what a Priest, a parrot and a bar are but you don’t know what they could possibly have in common. The unusual combination tells you the story is humorous and probably has a larger point, a punchline.

    Humor is also fiction and the basic instruction for writing good fiction is to show, don’t tell. I don’t know the original author, but I did some editing to show you what I mean:

    The day finally arrived. Forrest Gump dies and goes to Heaven.

    He walks up to the Pearly Gates and is met by St. Peter himself. As Forrest approaches he notices the gates are closed.

    St. Peter looks up and says, “Well, Forrest, it is certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot of good things about you. I must tell you, though, Heaven is filling up fast so we started administering entrance examinations for everyone who wants to get in. The test is short, but you must pass to get into Heaven. Do you understand?”

    Forrest responds, “It sure is good to be here, St. Peter, sir. But nobody ever told me about any entrance exam. I sure hope that the test ain’t too hard. I don’t like exams and life was a big enough test as it was.”

    “Yes, I know, Forrest,” said St. Peter. “But the test is only three questions and you must try.”

    St. Peter folded his hands and looked poor Forrest right in the eyes. “The first question is, what two days of the week begin with the letter T? After letting that sink in for a moment he continued, “The second question is, how many seconds are there in a year?

    Forrest’s head began to bob up and down slowly so St. Peter continued. “And the third and final question is, what is God’s first name?”

    Forrest just walked away.

    He returns the next day and sees St. Peter, who waves him up and says, “I could from your face that you wanted to think, Forrest. Now that you have had a chance to consider the three questions, please, tell me your answers.”

    Forrest replied, “Well, the first one, which two days in the week begins with the letter ‘T’? Shucks, that was hard at first and then it was easy. The answer is Today and Tomorrow.”

    The Saint’s eyes opened wide. He paused to consider what Forrest said and in an understanding voice he responded, “Forrest, that is not what I was thinking but you do have a point. I guess I wasn’t specific enough so I will give you credit for correctly answering the first question.”

    “How about the next one?” asked St. Peter. “How many seconds in a year?”

    “Now that there was a hard one too and it never got easy,” burbled Forrest, “but I thunk and thunk about that and I guess the only answer is twelve.”

    Astounded, St. Peter exclaimed,”Twelve? Twelve? Forrest, how in Heaven’s name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?”

    “Well,” Forrest drawled, “It’s got to be twelve: January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd… ‘

    “Stop right there,” said St. Peter, holding his hand up. “I see where you are going with this, and I see your point, though that was not quite what I had in mind….but once again I will give you credit for a correct answer. Let’s just go on with the third and final question. Can you tell me God’s first name?”

    “Sure, that was the only easy one” Forrest replied with a grin, “it’s Andy.”

    “Andy?” an exasperated and frustrated St. Peter blurted out. “Andy? Ok, I can understand how you came up with your answers to my first two questions, but just how in the world did you come up with the name Andy as God’s first name?”

    “Shucks,” Forrest said. “Just like everyone else, I learnt it from the song.” With that Forrest began to sing, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me, Andy tells me I am his own.”

    St. Peter bolts up, opens the Pearly Gates and screams at the top of his lungs, “Run, Forrest, Run!”

    Well, I thought it was funny.

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    Endorsements that Work

    January 4th, 2010

    Approved stamp

    Few things are as powerful in sales copy as endorsements. Here are five things to keep in mind when including them in your sales copy.

     

    1. Names and website addresses (URL’s) strengthen your photos.

    Adding names and web addresses to your testimonials make them more believable. Since unethical marketers falsify text and names, providing additional information such as a name and/or URL lets your target audience, with a little extra research, verify your claims. Having a verification option increases the believability of your testimonials.

    A photo also carries a hidden message, your customers are passionate enough about your products to share personal information.

    2. Using audio and video.

    Audio and video endorsements carry more weight than text and photo endorsements. Seeing and hearing someone deliver an endorsement, with all the tonal and visual cues associated with direct communication, is more personal and believable than a text-only endorsement, even one with a photo.

    Audio and video endorsements are often easier to secure than written testimonials. With today’s technology they can be secured virtually anywhere at any time and eliminates the need for your customer to write a clear and concise statement.

    3. Multiple endorsements.

    Multiple endorsements should be spread around the page. You don’t want to have a “endorsement section” because since most people will only read one or two if they’re bundled together. Spreading them around lets you extract maximum value from each one.  The best place to insert them is right below each sub headline.

    4. One or two endorsements.

    If you have only one or two endorsements it’s best to insert them below the mid-point of your sales copy. That gives you the opportunity to make your pitch and, then, have it reinforced by your endorsements.

    Many marketers believe endorsements should be inserting right after your first sub-headline as an encouragement for your audience to keep reading. I disagree. If someone visits your website ,for example, they’re probably going to stay long enough to read a paragraph or two before leaving. Use the opportunity to make your strongest points first and hen use your endorsements as reinforcement.

     

    5. Focus on results.

    Endorsements such as, “Wow, we had fun at Bob’s dealership!” are semi-useless. Endorsements about the results produced by your product or service are more believable if they are qualified (“excellent service”) and quantified (“my car was delivered in 2-hours”).

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    Short Conversations

    December 31st, 2009

    This is the time of year to reflect on our lives and the world around us. One of the biggest self-reflective questions I ask myself is WHY I’m in business for myself. It isn’t about the money, I made a lot more in the corporate world and that option is still available if I want to cash-in.

    Part of my answer surprised me. Part of my answer is blogging — I enjoy it. Blogging is a wonderful outlet for my passion to write and desire for self-expression.

    At any given time I have 5-6 blog posts in-process. Charged up by some external stimulus, an article I stumble upon, an email from a friend, or even a Tweet, I fire up my keyboard and throw-up on a page. Meaning, I write as fast as I can and don’t worry about grammar, spelling, organization and anything else I consider part of the editing process.

    My goal is singular, transfer my thoughts into the computer. It’s amazing how one strong opinion or question can bring forth several hundred words or more. A few minutes editing (or an hour or more) and I’m down to an acceptable 300-500 words – a blog post.

    There’s a more complete answer to my business question, however, and that is choice, freedom. I like living my life on my own terms. I’m an independent cuss but I try not to be ornery. What’s the point?

    Cans connected with stringWhen I was a freshman in college a professor told me he had a plan for his life and recommended that I have one too. He said he wanted to educate himself as much as he could in his first 25-years. He knew the following 25-years or so would be devoted to family, mortgage payments and saving/praying for enough of a nest-egg to retire at a reasonably young age and with good health. And finally, he wanted the last 25-years of his life to be enjoyable and stressed that didn’t mean sitting on his rear-end, playing golf, or drinking a bottle of fine Pinot Noir every day.

    I didn’t have a plan at the time so his sounded good to me, which brings me to my last point.  My business is about about my time. It’s about time being an unknown commodity: How much does each of us have? No one knows.

    So, for me that includes more time with family, friends and pursuing my interests. None of that works if you decide to pursue senior management, or even management for that matter. Management demands are too high and without them, and the corresponding authority or responsibility, being a 9-5 employee is simply too passive and mind-numbing for most people — at least it is for me. I’m in charge of my life, thank you, and I’ll fight for my independence.

    I’m fortunate to belong to several groups of people who care for one another, but not everyone is that blessed. I also have a business that helps others and provides me a new challenge every day, or so it seems, and genuine fulfillment. It’s doubtful I’ll ever replace my old salary but my new blood pressure (110/75) tells me I made the right decision and my old professor would be proud. It’s funny how one short conversation can impact a life.

    My wish for 2010 is that I can have a lot of short conversations.

    2 Comments "

    Why Outsource?

    December 28th, 2009

     

    I can think of a lot of good reasons to outsource. Here is a list of my top six reasons. If you add one we’ll have seven!

    Seven

    Expertise: Outsourcing lets you acquire specialized expertise to accomplish goals, complete projects and augment your existing resources. Popular projects to outsource are social media tasks, such as blogging, search engine optimization, and specialized training or coaching, such as presentation skills or facilitation.

     

    Flexibility: Small projects that require unusual expertise such as website design, sales training and video production are prime targets for outsourcing. Large projects that require organizational change and an outside perspective, such as institutionalizing Six Sigma or Strategic Pricing, are also excellent projects to outsource. The key is outsourcing lets you complete the work or meet your goal without disrupting day-to-day operations and personnel.

     

    Economics: Outsourcing is a variable cost option since no full-time employees are added. Variable costs projects are typically easier to get approved than additional headcount. In addition, since outsourcing is a global industry acquiring world-class talent is often much less expensive than acquiring the same talent locally.

    Accountability: Outsourced resources do not suffer from goal diffusion or from being distracted by common day-to-day fire-drills. An outside provider of resources has one responsibility and one priority, which is to complete the project. Focus delivers better results and greater accountability.

     

    Speed: Much has been written about speed being a differentiator between good companies and truly great companies. Outside providers can often bring in several people, or even several dozen, to complete a project or task in days, as compared to the months it often takes to acquire fill-time expertise. Few companies can diffuse their existing resources without affecting day-to-day operations.

     

    Technology: Few companies can afford the money to purchase or the time it takes to learn the latest technologies in every area of operation – sales, marketing, IT, logistics, etc. Outsourcing allows you to rent the technology you need from the best provider for as long as you need it and no longer.

    6 Comments "