How to spend less time writing proposals (and still land the gig!)

Are you spending hours on your proposals and still not getting the gig?

Maybe it’s time to give your prospects less to think about.

I received this email from a frustrated freelance copywriter:

“When clients ask me for a proposal, I spend at least 3-4 hours working on it. I review their site, run keyword research, make a list of how I can help, etc. The end result is a 15-20 page proposal that looks great. I’m not getting the jobs, and now I’m wondering if I have to add more information? Help!”

If proposals are a part of your business, you understand this woman’s pain. It’s like spending hours to get ready for a date that never shows up. You’re sitting there looking pretty, and find out that your prospect decided to “date” someone else (assuming you hear back from them at all!) Ouch!

Plus, from a business perspective, that’s three to four hours of billable time out the window.  ::poof::

The answer?  Give your prospects less information packaged in a different way. Here’s how to “dumb down” your proposals and give your prospects what they really want.

Rule #1: Don’t give it away.  

It’s common for new freelancers (or anyone new to the proposal process) to blur the lines between “proposal” and “billable work.” Proposal-time is not the time to figure out a strategy, run a bunch of time-consuming research and outline your process. At best, you’ll overwhelm the prospect with your reams of material. At worst, the prospect has no reason to hire you – after all, you’ve already told them exactly what you’d do and how to do it. If a prospect needs strategy in addition to hands-on work, explain that it’s a separate deliverable.

Rule #2: Try to set up a phone chat before you create a proposal.

Email only goes so far – so take the time to set up a quick, 30-minute chat. This gives you the opportunity truly understand the project’s scope before you develop a proposal. Otherwise, you may include services that the customer really doesn’t want. The end result? The client may feel that you “don’t understand their needs” and look elsewhere for a provider.

Rule #3: Ask the prospect what he needs to see (and make sure that you deliver exactly what they ask for.) 

I’ve had (many) prospects tell me, “I don’t need anything fancy. Just a short email outlining the deliverables and deadlines is fine.” And that’s exactly what I give them.  Be warned:  don’t try to out-think your prospect and throw in a bunch of extra stuff that you’re “absolutely sure will seal the deal.”  You don’t want your prospect to think, “If she can’t follow directions now, what is she going to be like to work with later?”

Rule #4: Keep it simple and short.

This is a mistake that I made early in my career. I would sit down and create 20+ page proposals until my eyes bled. What I didn’t understand is that I was making my prospects’ eyes bleed as well. Think about how much time you have in your day. If you saw a 20-page proposal waiting for your review, would you hungrily tear into it? Or “accidentally” round file it? Yeah. Me too. Shorter proposals are definitely better.

Rule #5: Don’t forget to include benefit statements.  

Your prospect may be sold on why your services are so important. But remember, your proposal may be passed around to multiple team members – and they may not quite understand your brilliance. Don’t forget to clearly outline how your services can help your client boost her bottom line. While you’re including your benefit statements, don’t forget to…

Rule #6: Remind your prospect why they should hire you over your competition.

Don’t lose the sale because you didn’t make your unique sales proposition clear. A quick reminder of your expertise is a smart idea, especially for team members who aren’t familiar with you. You don’t have to send them your extended resume.  But a few statements like, “I’ve written for catalogs for over 15 years, and have increased conversion rates 67% or more. I’m confident that I can achieve the same results for your company” can go far.

Rule #7: Try to review your proposal with your client.

It’s tempting to push “send” on your proposal as soon as you finish. However, try scheduling an appointment with your prospect so you can review the proposal together. I learned this trick from Denny Graham (one of my instructors in my Copywriting Business Bootcamp,) and it’s increased my close rates tremendously.

What about you? What are your favorite proposal-writing tips?

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Do you feel like a fraud?

When people ask “What do you do,” do you find yourself making excuses?

“Well, I’m a writer…but I haven’t written anything that you’ve read.”

“I own a small business. ::quickly changing the topic:: What do you do?”

“I have a newsletter that I send out to a small list” (when your subscriber base is in the thousands.)

Chances are, you envy those folks who can “pull off” a fantastic, 30-second elevator pitch. You’ve tried to create your own so you can clearly explain what you do…but it never comes out right. Which makes  you wonder what’s wrong with you.”Everyone else sounds so polished and smart when they pitch their business. Why can’t I do that?”

Maybe it’s because…deep, deep down…you feel like a fraud.

Guess what. Every business owner, writer, and famous person has felt the exact same way.

Years ago, talking to big brand clients used to freak me out. I was convinced that everyone knew more than I did. What’s worse, I thought that someone would call me on my “you don’t know what you’re talking about” fear. It was almost guaranteed that I’d have a sleepless night before a big conference call or training gig.

Guess what? No one said, “Wow, why did we hire you again?” In fact, the emails I received after my presentation were exactly the opposite. People thanked me for helping them make more money, write better copy and finally being able to understand what the search engines were looking for.

So, nobody else thought I was a fraud…except for me.

This is a quirky issue that can hold you back in unexpected ways. When you feel like you don’t deserve your success, you…

– Don’t approach smart people who can help your career (what if they see right through me?)

– Don’t go for high-profile gigs that can make a lot of money (what if I mess up?)

– Don’t market your business effectively (I don’t have anything to say, so why bother.)

– Don’t spend money on things that could improve your business/life (I know that would help me, but I’m not sure where my next dollar is coming from. Better hold off.)

– Don’t let yourself out of your (very small) comfort zone (I’d love to try public speaking. But wow, I’m not ready yet…)

– Don’t feel good about your success, your business savvy or your craft (Well, yeah, I’m doing OK – but it was right place, right time.)

– You sabotage yourself financially.

(And all of these things spiral you right back into “I’m a fraud” mode.)

There’s a great post by Jodi Chapman that addresses the “fraud” feeling. Jodi said:

We are all simply playing the game. It’s a game that we are really good at – it’s a game that we know so well. Except, this game is truly exhausting, isn’t it?

Goodness, yes. It’s truly exhausting. And unnecessary.

So, next time you feel like a fraud, here’s what to do:

– Own it. Don’t ignore the emotion. Look at it – really look at it. Why do you feel like such a fraud? How real is the emotion?

– Read nice notes from happy clients. This helps you remember how good you really are.

– Remember that other people go through the same thing. You may think that they have it all together – but they don’t. They’re faking it too. :)

– Write down cool milestones and revel in your success. Starting a business is a BIG DEAL. Landing your first client is a BIG DEAL.

– Talk to someone about how you’re feeling. I know that this one is tough – it really is. But if you can share your insecurities, they’ll go away faster and help put things in perspective.

– Make a list  of what you are grateful for. Gratitude is a sure way to help drag yourself out of the “I’m a fraud” funk and ground you back into reality. (If it’s a Monday, you can tweet your grateful thought by using the #gratefulmonday hashtag).

– Refuse to let your feeling mess up your success.  You have come too far to sabotage yourself.

Remember that you deserve every drop of success. It’s not a “fluke” that you’re here. It’s not luck. It’s not right place, right time. It’s because you really are that damn good.

Isn’t it time to own it?


Photo gratitude to iJammin




Are you suffering behind the scenes?

Have you ever said, “If I have to write one more post about (something you’ve been writing about a lot) I’m going to go completely insane?”

Yeah, me too.

Once upon a time, it felt like I wrote copy for every cosmetic dentist in North America. At the drop of a hat, I could talk about veneers, teeth whitening and “laser gum surgery.”  Yeah, I was great fun at cocktail parties.

I was also bored too. So very, very bored.

I’ve seen this happen to in-house and freelance copywriters. Every day feels exactly like the day before. Your writing no longer energizes and excites you.  Everything you write starts to sound exactly the same.

If you’re being really honest with yourself, you know that your writing is starting to suck.

Here’s a reality check: This is very common.

And here’s another: You need to get a handle on this and stop suffering behind the scenes. Fast.

Here’s what to do:

Take some time off. Have you been working some heavy-duty deadlines? Is it hard to remember your last vacation? Your lack of creativity is a big red flag with “You’re burning out” in big, block letters. If you’re thinking, “I can’t afford the time. My clients/employer needs me,” consider this: They hired you for your writing ability. If your writing quality is dropping, you owe it to your client to take a break.

Give yourself some space.  Is a short-term holiday not possible right away? Start giving yourself “writing breaks.” I’ve found that scheduling one or two non-writing days during the week makes an incredible difference – and what I do write is sharp, flows easily and is even fun to write.

Take on a new challenge. Consider taking on a new client that’s not in your current niche. Or writing a short story just for fun. The key is to break out of your writing rut and stretch your wings. It’s amazing how focusing on something else for awhile can help us regain passion for our current gig.

Split up the work. Do you have 100 pages of personal injury law copy staring you in the face? Are you wondering how you’re going to write all those product descriptions without losing it? Sometimes, the best way to give yourself a break is by letting someone else do the work. If you’re still feeling the burnout blues, see if another writer can take some pages off of your plate. Not only will you get a break, but reading someone else’s copywriting approach may spark some new ideas.

Let it go. Does another type of writing (or client) excite you ? There’s no law that says that you have to keep working with the same niche group – or writing about the same topic. Slowly phase out the work that’s making you suffer and make room for your new profit center. Sometimes, a new direction is all it takes – and you’ll finally remember what you love about copywriting.

What about you? What do you do when you’re “suffering in silence?”

Do you have too much content to write, and no time to write it? My Certified SEO Copywriting team can write blog posts, product descriptions sales pages and more. Contact me for details – I’m happy to help!





Balancing SEO and copywriting best practices: a true story

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

I was working with one of my social SEO clients on their blog. My SEO company, Brick Marketing, was responsible for writing two blog posts each week, which we would then promote through the client’s various social networks as they went live.

We were specifically instructed to make sure the blog posts were “SEO friendly” and would do well in the search engines. However, before we even scheduled the blog posts I would send the new posts over to my client for their approval. If they had any changes or comments about the post, they just had to email me back and I would have my writing staff change the post as directed.

One day, they sent back a blog post with so many edits, changes and corrections that you could hardly discern the original article. When I asked them what they didn’t like about the original post, my client responded “Oh no, we really liked the post. We just didn’t understand why you had put those links in there. The blue text is really weird looking. And we thought we should only focus on the same keyword through the whole post, so we removed the variations so as to not confuse our readers.”

They essentially threw the SEO component of the blog post out the window!

I’ll be the first to say that any content, whether it is a blog post, article or webpage, should be written for the reader first and the search engines second. But even great content needs a little help getting found and read by your target audience. That’s where SEO and content optimization come into play.

Here are 4 ways to balance content optimization and traditional copywriting:

1. Don’t dumb it down.

Have a little faith in your readers. Writing generic and generalized content so you can target broad keywords won’t do anyone (you or your readers) any good. Don’t be afraid to target long-tail keywords that someone further along in their research process might be using to find related information. The most specific audience you can write your content for is the best chance you’ll have of earning their business.

2. Incorporate keyword variations.

Speaking of specific keywords, there is no rule that says you have to target the exact same keyword throughout the entire blog post. Obviously you want to stick with keywords that accurately reflect the theme and messaging of the content, but don’t be afraid to throw some variations in there. This not only makes your content much more natural sounding, it also helps your content appeal to more searches. Not everyone searches for the same thing in the same way, so variations help ensure you aren’t accidentally alienating a segment of your target audience.

3. Use anchor text to get the link.

Interlinking your blog posts is a great way to keep your readers engaged, educate them further on related topics and show off your industry savvy. No blog post is an island! Obviously you don’t want to pepper your blog posts with dozens of links (it can get a little distracting for your reader) but incorporating 2-3 links via anchor text is a great way to beef up your blog’s SEO! By using anchor text instead of the full URL to direct readers to another blog post (or even a page on your site) you are keeping the flow of your content intact and spreading the link juice from more popular posts across your blog, lending more value to other posts.

4. Write first, optimize second.

Getting the words down on paper is probably the hardest part about writing a blog post. Yet some site owners seem like gluttons for punishment and think that every word has be to perfect for SEO before they can move onto the next. You don’t have to sacrifice great content in order to make a blog “SEO friendly!” In fact, site owners should write the post first and THEN go back in and see how you can tweak it for SEO. If you can’t make a keyword fit, then don’t force it in. If you can’t find a reason to link, don’t bother. Trying to stuff SEO into a blog post is only going to ruin the integrity of the post.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO consultant and President of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

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Don’t assume your clients need you

Guest Author, Amy C. Teeple

You’ve most likely heard the saying, “Don’t assume because it makes an ass out of you and me.” When it comes to your business, assuming certain things can mostly just make an ass out of you … and send your clients elsewhere.

Tis the season

The holiday season is often a busy time for many product-based businesses. Even in this down economy, people still spend a bit extra on their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping – a bonus for retailers.

Many service providers see a jump in projects after the first of the year when new budgets go into effect. (Some even see an end-of-the-year jump as the budget for the current year needs to be completely used to ensure a similar budget next year.)

However, just because you had an influx of customers last year, don’t assume those customers will return automatically.

They sell milk across the street too

Having customers is not the same as keeping customers.

If you do not provide your clients with the products and services that they need and the level of service that they expect, there is a good chance they will look elsewhere.

For example, earlier this year I spent a long weekend at a timeshare in Big Bear, California. A short distance from the condo there was a Vons (one of the Safeway supermarket chains), which we went to buy food for our stay. When we arrived at the store, there were only a couple of open cashier lanes (all with long lines), the store was in disarray, the shelves were not well stocked, and the employees were irritable.

As I walked through the aisles, I heard many customers complain to each other and watched several leave the store without groceries – some just abandoning their full carts. Where were they headed? They simply went across the street to the Stater Bros. Market (part of a smaller grocery chain, but still a full-sized supermarket).

Vons may have been the better-known chain where customers went to first, but poor service and low inventory sent people across the street to its competitor. There is a good chance that they lost customers not only for the day, but also for return trips. Personally, I gave the Vons poor reviews on Foursquare and Yelp and, when I needed more groceries, I went to Stater Bros, where the staff was friendly and the shelves were stocked.

Is your business Vons or Stater Bros.?

Where does your business fall? Do you think your customers need you more than you need them? (Guess what, they typically don’t.)

As you hit your “busy time” of the year, don’t let the excess business cause you to lose sight of what brought your customers to you. “I’m too busy” is no excuse for poor service. Make the time to serve your customers now or you may find yourself with too much free time when unhappy clients look elsewhere.

If you are an online business, staying on your game is just as important – if not more so – as it is for brick-and-mortar stores. If customers left a grocery store mid-shopping because they were unhappy with their experience, you can bet that shoppers in a virtual store will leave too. Online customers are more likely to abandon a shopping cart or to hit the back button to find something better when they do not see what they want.

Banish assumptions and hedge your bets

Although it may be too late to change your behavior from your last “busy season,” you can still court those customers. Even happy customers may need a reminder about your business. Take the time to:

  • Send an email blast with a holiday greeting or a newsletter letting customers know what specials you are running or other important information.
  • Call those big clients (when feasible) with whom you haven’t touched base recently.
  • Send a coupon (electronically or using the postal service) for an item or service related to their past purchases.
  • Keep your website up-to-date and relevant
  • Stay current with your PPC (pay-per-click) and SEO campaigns – new and old customers should be able to easily find you.

You also need to make sure that when potential customers visit your website or brick-and-mortar location, they find what they need. Don’t give your customers a reason to leave.

In this down economy, you don’t have to be the cheapest option to get the sale, but you do need to be the best value.

When potential clients reach your website and/or contact you, be sure that they find:

  • Guaranteed products and services.
  • Amazing customer service.
  • An intuitive, easy-to-navigate website.
  • Information that applies to them and addresses their pain points and needs.
  • A referral service if you are unable to meet their needs – you’d be amazed how far a good referral can go. It’s better to have a happily referred person than an unhappy customer.

Eat, drink, and be merry

Keeping your clients happy will make your holiday season (or other busy season) a joyous occasion – especially when you see the boost to your bottom line. Remember, pass on the assumptions this year and just wow your customers.

May you all have happy and safe holidays and a very profitable busy season!

Amy C. Teeple is a proud graduate of Heather’s SEO copywriting certification program. As the owner and lead copywriter of ACT Web Consulting, she offers copywriting and social media services. A Jersey girl living in Southern California, Amy is also a dedicated 3-Day for the Cure walker and a sports lover. Follow her on Twitter: @ACTeeple.

Would you like to make more money as a freelance copywriter? Check into the SuccessWorks Turn Content Into Cash Copywriting Business Boot Camp. And if you’re interested in specializing in SEO, look into one of the SEO Copywriting Training program options!


How to Land More Clients with a Killer Freelance Copywriting Proposal

Guest Author, Derek Cromwell

Sometimes I look back on my career as a copywriter and content marketer… and I wonder how I even managed to feed my family and keep the bills paid in those early days. It’s a wonder I didn’t run off every single prospective client with the poor quality of my freelance copywriting “proposals.”

During the first year or so of chasing clients, every writing proposal I sent was typed up in an email in a direct response to a query for business.  I probably lost as many as I landed, if not more.  At the time I thought it was price, experience (or lack thereof) or some other factor.  The fact is a lot of it had to do with the proposal itself.

A good freelance copywriting proposal serves two purposes.  First, it explains the core concept of your service in a simple and logical way that it easy to understand, effectively communicating your services and what you’ll provide to the prospective client.

Second, it’s a sales tool; you’re showing the prospect how it will benefit them and why it’s in their best interest to hire you.  That means you have to be persuasive, compelling and the content has to be well written.

There’s that eye-tick that comes from having to write your own copy…

Keep these items in mind to help control the tick while putting together a winning proposal:

1. Focus on the “Wootness”

You’ll be hard-pressed to sell someone on something that is mediocre; people will see through the hype pretty quickly.  A good proposal is based on a great idea.  The core principal here is to show the prospective client that you recognize their problem, and then present to them a great idea worthy of a “Woot!”

2. Keep it Short

Always think like your clients are busier than you.  Develop proposals with brevity in mind and avoid being verbose.  I used to try telling stories to my mother as a teen and she would always cut me off with “10 words or less.”  It was annoying at the time but it taught me to get my point across.

3. Be Passionate

In conversation you can easily show people how passionate you are about your service.  Make sure your proposal communicates your passion in writing.  This is not a license to oversell so avoid the hype, but you still need to convince the client that you’re “it.”

4. Convention is Important

Without a doubt your proposal is unique to you and your business but I’ve discovered that convention helps me craft winning proposals. My most successful proposals contain a lot of the following:

  • The “Executive Summary” – Explain the basic idea of the project or requested services in a few paragraphs.  I try to keep it within a single page.
  • My Background – I like to include some background about myself in a proposal, tailored to the project and how it relates to their needs.  It shows that I’m not sending a cookie cutter proposal and injects my personality and personal touch into the proposal.  You’re not just selling your service; you’re selling your own brand of awesome sauce as well.
  • The Proposal – They’ve asked about a service and/or stated the problem and this is where the answer is.  This is the meat of it, detailing the requested services and what I can offer in relation to their problem.
  • The Benefits – Rather than just stating what I can offer, I include why.  I want them to know what kind of results they can get specific to their problem and what they’ll get out of our business relationship.
  • The Needs, Timeline and Cost – I outline what I need and what needs to happen for the project to start, continue and finish as well as the amount of time I’ll need.  Cost is always last.  When you ask someone to give you money, the prospect must have clearly seen why your idea is the winner.  After selling them on the benefits, selling them on cost is easy.
  • Conclusion – I close my proposals like I’m closing a letter to a friend, stating some of the most important benefits once more from a position of sincerity, and I always close with “sincerely”.

Do I still cut the occasional email proposal for small gigs?  Absolutely.  It has its merits but once I dove off the e-mail proposal train on “big fish” clients, and began crafting more professional proposals, I saw a noticeable increase in the number of prospects interested in gaining the benefit of my awesome sauce.

About the Author – Derek Cromwell

Derek Cromwell is a graduate of the Success Works SEO Copywriting Certification program and founder of Thunder Bay Media.  He fancies himself as a professional writer, peddling website copywriting and content marketing services to businesses around the globe.  He’s still trying to convince his family that he does more than sit at a computer playing Call of Duty all day, but they’re not buying it.

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Sell more stuff using the principle of scarcity

Are you looking for a way to prompt your prospects to “buy now?”

Maybe you should make your product or service less available.

In today’s “I can get anything I want anytime I want it world,” an approach like that seems counter-intuitive. Yet, the psychological principle of scarcity is alive and well online – and many top retailers are making lots of money from it every single day.

What’s the principle of scarcity? According to Robert Cialindi, author of Influence: Science and Practice, we are more sensitive to potential losses than potential gains.  That is, if an opportunity is less available to us, we want it much, much more.

(If you’ve ever turned down someone for a date – and then found that person more attractive when they started dating someone else –  surprise! That’s scarcity in action.)

Online retailers use this all the time. For instance, I was searching for comforters online. I surfed to Overstock and saw that they were featuring something similar to what I wanted! Joy! Here’s the picture:

Here’s what was going through my head the second I saw the picture: “Wow, this is only available for a limited time. Maybe I should snap it up now.”

I was primed to make a purchase even before I read the ad copy. Wow.

I almost fell for the principle of scarcity.

And yes, you fall for this too. Ever snap up a Groupon because buying it tomorrow would be too late? Or a pair of shoes from Zappos because there were only two pairs left in stock? Some retailer business-models, like and Wines Til Sold off, completely revolve around the principle of scarcity.

Now, let’s talk about how you can make it work for you.

  • Are you running a sale? Make sure that you clearly state the sale’s expiration date. This helps build a sense of urgency. Otherwise, your prospects may think, “Well, I’m not ready to buy now, but I will. Soon.” And they’ll completely forget.
  • Are you offering a Webinar with limited seating? Consider including something in your ad copy like, “Over 75% sold already! Sign up now so you don’t miss your spot.” You may even want to get more specific, and share that there are only “10 seats left.” Just make sure that you update the page to reflect the new signups.
  • Are you a popular consultant that offers very limited consulting hours? Mention that you only work with X consulting clients a week, and you’re already booked Y weeks in advance. When prospects read this, they’ll be more apt to sign up now – after all, for every day they wait, it could be another month before they get to talk to you.
  • Do you sell products?  Take a cue from Zappos and warn customers when there are just a few items left. If someone was on the fence about making a purchase, knowing that they may not be able to buy it at all can help them pull the trigger.


Your client is wrong. Now what?

Sometimes, it’s not so fun to be right.

Recently, Search Engine Watch ran a great post called, “How to Help SEO Customers Who Aren’t Always Right”.  If you’ve been working as an SEO consultant or SEO copywriter, you’ve come across this issue. Your client insists that you should do things one way. You know that it’s not a good idea. And suddenly, you’re faced with a dilemma – how can you burst your client’s SEO bubble and still keep the gig?

I’ve had clients insist on keyphrase density percentages, specific word counts (1,000 words for a product page…really? REALLY?) and poorly-designed site structures. A few people insisted that they were right because they “read about it in a forum” or “learned about it in a class.” Still others believed that they could somehow game Google with their sneakiness.  I still hear folks saying things like, “I just had this great idea. What if the text was the same color as the background”

It’s so tempting to say, “Hello, 1995 is calling and they want their SEO technique back.”

I don’t, though. I restrain myself from making snarky comments (which is always a challenge for me.) But I do address the issue. If you’re facing a similar challenge, here are some tips on how to handle it:

  • Treat your client like you would treat your partner or spouse. Would you tell your partner, “Not only are you wrong, but you are so incredibly wrong that I’m questioning your intelligence?” Sure, you may think it. You may mutter it to yourself. But (hopefully) you don’t say it.  Instead of popping off, take a deep breath and keep your mouth shut.
  • Let your client explain their strategy without interrupting I know. It’s really hard to keep quiet while your client waxes poetic about a 7.3% keyphrase density. Just let them talk. If you start interrupting them with “Yes, but,” and pointing out all the ways that they’re wrong, your client won’t feel heard and she’ll go on the defensive.
  • Listen for the real reason behind the stupid strategy. It could be something like, “We don’t want to change our code, and this strategy means that we don’t have to.” Or, “it’s going to cost a lot to do it your way. This way is cheaper.” Giving your client an opportunity to “talk it out” helps you figure out what to say next.
  • Acknowledge their real concern.  Saying something like, “I hear that you’re worried about the cost…” goes a long, long way. It helps the client feel “heard” – and it puts you and your client on the same page. Then, follow up your acknowledgement by…
  • ….showing your concern and providing a solution. This is when you can share how their strategy isn’t workable (but in a nice, friendly way.) You could say something such as, “I’m concerned about the keyphrase density percentage, as many sites lost their search rankings because of content like that – and it typically doesn’t convert well. I know that driving traffic is important to you. Here’s what we could do instead…”
  • Spend some time educating your client. If your client was set on a certain strategy, it will take some time before they’ll see the light. Take some time to explain Panda, best practices and solid strategies. Then, back up what you’re saying with articles and case studies. That way, the client understands why you’re suggesting an alternative and can learn more about your solution.

What should you do if your client insists on their suspect SEO strategy after you’ve tried to talk them out of it? You may want to walk away from the gig. Or, if the strategy isn’t too bad, you could still work the gig and do your best. The way you deal with it will depend on the client and the situation.  It’s never an easy decision to make – especially when you know that your options are “walk away” or “I’ll never be able to include this work in my client portfolio…”

What situations have you faced where the client’s SEO strategy was completely off base? What did you do?

Want to read more? There’s a similar discussion in the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group! Join the conversation (and the group, too!).

Target your web copy with an ideal customer profile

Guest Author, Courtney Ramirez

There’s something at the center of every great web copy page. It’s not keyword selection or the call to action, although those are both important factors. It’s the customer. Understanding the customer is at the heart of good copywriting – but to make truly great SEO copywriting you need to go one step further and create an ideal client profile.

In an Ideal World, Who Are You Doing Business With?

When you create an ideal customer profile, you’re basically answering this question. Who do you want to do business with? The biggest mistake I see clients make is that they assume that everyone needs their product or service. This happens with everyone from solopreneurs to large corporations. No matter what your size, you need to narrow your scope and find an ideal client. Your ideal client is uniquely suited to what you have to offer.

Does this mean that you’ll turn away consulting clients who don’t fit your exact ideal or set up your shopping cart so only certain people can make a purchase? Of course not. When you focus on marketing to your ideal client you’ll naturally get business from people who are “nearly ideal.” Not everyone you attract will be carbon copies of one another.

Creating web copy pages with an ideal client profile in mind will make the process a lot easier, and a lot more effective. It will help you reach out to those ideal and nearly ideal clients in a more precise way.

With an Ideal Client Profile, You’ll Benefit From:

  • Easier keyword selection – You can tap into the exact words that your clients would use to describe your product or service. By getting into their head, you can find keyword phrases that represent their research phase, their decision making phase and their buying phase.
  • More targeted copy – Writing to an audience that includes everyone and your grandma can really muck up your copy. By focusing on just one person, you’ll know exactly what type of language to use.
  • Clearer calls to action– The more you know about your ideal client and what motivates them, the better your conversion rates will be.

Now that you know about the gloriousness that can come from an ideal client profile, it’s time to piece one together.

Building Your Ideal Client Profile – A Few Rules

  • Your ideal client is not your target market. Your ideal client is part of your target market but they are different. Think of it this way – your target market is your vineyard and your ideal client is that one perfect bunch of grapes that is perfectly ripe. Your vineyard includes lots of perfectly fine bunches, but you want to pick the perfect one.
  • The more specific, the better. Don’t be afraid to get really specific with your ideal client profile. Many businesses resist this type of narrowcasting because they believe that it will put a cap on their profits. Not so! If you know your audience well, you’ll be converting your ideal clients and nearly ideal clients at a better rate than casting a wide net and trying to market to everyone.

Building Your Ideal Client Profile – 3 Steps

Step One – Demographics

The demographic characteristics of your ideal client will detail their age, income, location and other quantifiable factors.

For example, an inner wealth coach focuses on working with high income women in Los Angeles, between the ages of 35 and 65, who have more than $2 million in net worth. This demographic information is an important starting point because already we can tell that the copy will be geared toward a female reader and keywords should include location.

Step Two – Psychographics

Demographics were the tried and true way to research a target market but due in part to the Internet, they are not enough to zero in on an ideal client. Online demographic groups can mingle to create new groups based on motivations, interests and feelings. Psychographic information helps you zero in on the intangible similarities between the members of your target market. With it, you can get a clearer picture of your ideal client.

The same inner wealth coach has psychographic quantifiers for her ideal client. She mainly works with women from that demographic group who feel trapped in wealth and aren’t sure how to cope with the feelings of being extremely privileged. They are looking for something more than just a weekly shopping spree on Rodeo Drive. They want to find their purpose and use their wealth to create good in the world. These psychographic elements will affect how the copy will position this particular coach’s services and will create the tone for the web content pages.

Step Three – Fleshing Out the Persona

Finally, it’s time to put your creative writing cap on and flesh out your ideal client profile into a persona. Look over the demographic and psychographic characteristics and create a person to fit those details. Give the person a name. Tell their back story. Get really specific and you’ll be able to understand how to reach your audience better.

For example, Stacia is a 42-year-old woman who lives in Beverly Hills. She has been married for 18 years and has a 15 year old daughter and 12 year old son. She is married to Greg, who is the CEO of a major entertainment company. She believes that she can do more with her money. She worries about raising her children in affluence and making sure they come out with good values intact. She likes bargain shopping but doesn’t know if it’s “okay” for her to shop at Costco. She has several causes that she is interested in supporting but doesn’t know how to start supporting them in a real and lasting way beyond making financial donations.

Find a picture on Flickr to match your ideal client profile so you know who you’re writing for. Get as detailed as possible with your ideal client, especially with large websites where you’ll need a lot of copy. By taking the time to create a profile you’ll find your SEO copywriting will be much more effective and easier to write.

About Courtney Ramirez:

Courtney Ramirez is a certified SEO copywriter and content marketing consultant. As a student of search engine marketing, web usability and social media, she’s been able to craft a writing style that is both inviting to readers and ranking factors. After dabbling in print journalism, she’s written exclusively online since 2005 and manages a small team of excellent writers at Six Degrees Content. She and the team work with solopreneurs who are overwhelmed by content marketing, small businesses who need a website booster shot and marketing companies who want to offer content without the hassles of hiring writers and managing projects in house.

Courtney prides herself on excellent customer service and is semi-addicted to the Sims 3. When she’s not typing away at the keyboard, she is spending time with her husband, an author, and two daughters.


31 questions to ask your new copywriting client

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to ask a lot of questions….

Why? Because that’s how I learn. Whether I’m chatting with a new friend or a new client, I ask a bunch of questions. Then, I shut up and let them answer (yes, I know, this is more easily said that done sometimes!)

When you’re working with a new copywriting client, asking lots of question is the key to success. Sure, that means that you’ll be spending an hour (or more) on the phone. But just as you wouldn’t enter a marriage without a pretty solid “getting to know you” process, you shouldn’t start writing without a solid customer interview under your belt.

After all, how can you write specific, action-oriented content if you don’t have any specific information?

(As a side note: If you plan to work with a copywriter, but she doesn’t ask you any of these questions before she wants to start writing – find another copywriter. This is such a foundational step that she literally will not be able to write good copy without it.)

Here are 31 of my favorite questions to ask a new copywriting client – enjoy!

Reporting questions

  1. Can I review your analytics?
  2. Do you have any customer persona documents? Can I see them?
  3. Can I see reports outlining your SEO/content marketing success, to date?
  4. How are we measuring success? Conversions? Page positions? Social media love?
  5. Can I review your per-page keyphrase strategy?
  6. How did you arrive at your keyphrase choices?

Marketing questions

  1. Who is your online competition?
  2. What is your unique sales proposition?
  3. Why should a prospect purchase from you rather than your competition?
  4. What are your company benefit statements?
  5. What content approach has worked in the past?
  6. What approach has not worked – and we want to stay far away from?
  7. Do you like your site’s “voice” (how it reads and sounds.)
  8. If not, what’s an example of what you would prefer?
  9. How do you follow up with prospects?
  10. How do you follow up with current clients?
  11. Can I see your other marketing materials (autoresponder emails, print materials, etc.)
  12. Are there any keyphrases that you’re not currently positioning for – and you want to gain a stronger position?
  13. How do you currently promote new content (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  14. Who is your “perfect customer (s)”?
  15. What benefit statements are important to those customers?
  16. What customer profile would not be a good fit for your business?
  17. Can I review your customer testimonials (or better yet – can I chat with a few of your happy clients?).
  18. What are the most common questions that customer service answers? How do they answer them?
  19. What are the most common objections to overcome?
  20. Has your product/service been featured in a book, endorsed by an organization, etc.?

Process/procedure questions

  1. Who else will I be working with (for instance, an external SEO company.)
  2. Who is my main point of contact?
  3. Who will review the content?
  4. How long will it take for content to be approved?
  5. Is there a preferred way that the content is delivered?

What would you add?  Please “like” this post, and add your favorite customer question below – thanks!