Fun, Easy Ways to Delight Your Customers

Oh, how I hate when my snark comes back to bite me — but here we are.

Remember the Peloton television ads that ran last year? The ads would show a beautiful person in an amazing condo with their incredible $2,500+ exercise equipment…

…while a voice over would define what a “Peloton person” did every day, for instance, enjoy a “hard 20 after a hard day.” 

(Here’s my snarky blog post if you want to read more.)

I may have mocked their commercials, but I had to commend their marketing savvy. Despite their gag-me-with-a-spoon ads, Peloton is laser-focused on their target audience.

They know exactly what buttons to push. They know what will make their customer get off the couch and buy an expensive treadmill. It’s brilliant.

At the same time, it’s not just about making the sale. Delighting your existing customers can turn them into evangelists for your brand — plus, increase the lifetime value of the people who buy from you.

And yet again, Peloton does this right.

How do I know?

Here’s where the confession comes in: I’ve been a paid subscriber to their streaming service for over three months. (I know, I know.) They were a great alternative while my gym was shut down, and I like having an instructor tell me what to do. 

Granted, I am in their “cheap” customer tier. I only spend $12.95 a month for streaming. Under the circumstances, I don’t expect much in terms of customer service.

But…

Last week, I received an email that surprised me. It congratulated me on my 200th workout, and offered me a free (Peloton-branded) t-shirt as a reward. No shipping charges. No hidden anything.

Just a free t-shirt in exchange for a lot of sweat.

Mind you, I have 1,000 other t-shirts. I don’t need a new one. But you can bet I filled out the form for my freebie.

The offer made my day. I was…delighted.

But more importantly for Peloton, it made me more loyal to their brand. I felt like I was part of their tribe (I know that sounds sad — but I work out at home by myself.) I told multiple friends that I was excited about my free t-shirt. 

Heck, I’m even writing about their strategy!

Considering the shirt + shipping probably costs them all of $3, that’s a pretty darn good word-of-mouth ROI.

I bring this up because I’m recommending “delight your customers after the sale” to ALL my clients. It’s amazing how a little recognition can go a long way — especially now. 

We all need a little recognition.

So, how can you delight your customers after the sale?

Easy!

Think about what you can offer your existing customers that’s high-value to them — and easy (and low-cost) for you.

For instance:

  • An exclusive, customer-only webinar where you share your projections for the coming quarter.
  • A customer-only Facebook group where people receive early notifications on new products or services.
  • A special guide or e-book.
  • A special mention on your site for reaching certain milestones.
  • A special “just because” card that you mail and send. I once received a Postable thank you note and was thrilled. 

Another reason I love this idea is because it drives me nuts how companies will discount their products or service to get business in the door…

…but existing customers are never afforded the same benefits. Have you ever called your cable company and been told that only “new subscribers” can get a special rate? (I’m looking at you, Comcast.)

This makes zero sense to me. Especially when the odds of selling to a new customer are only 5-20%.

The odds of converting an existing customer? 60-70%.

In fact, according to Khalid Saleh from Invesp, “Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more, when compared to new customers.”

Wow. That’s pretty telling.

During a time when new customers may be afraid to commit, why not see how you can re-connect with your current customers?

After all, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the customer conversion fence. Taking care of and delighting your current customers may net you greater financial rewards — and even more evangelists for your brand. 

And if nothing else, a little unexpected delight will probably brighten someone’s day. Especially now.

What do you think?

What’s your favorite “just because” company gift? Leave a reply in the comments and let me know!

Is Your Marketing Collateral Screwing Your Brand?

Question for you:

When’s the last time you reviewed your marketing collateral?

No, not your site copy. Your other marketing materials: Your customer emails, fax forms, customer service surveys, order receipts — anything you send to a client or prospect.

Guess what? Your collateral marketing material may be undoing all of your good content marketing work and hurting your brand.

To illustrate this point, let me tell a story…

I was unhappy with my current merchant processor. They weren’t a bad company. The customer service folks were nice. They just weren’t a good fit. It happens.

Canceling the account meant filling out a form. Not a big deal. The company requires a reason for closure and provides nine possible options to check.

(Mistake #1 – There was no room to write-in a comment. You had to choose one of the nine choices. So much for wanting useful customer feedback.)

I glanced at the reasons and saw the reasons you’d expect: “Out of business,” “new business ownership,” “chose different processor.”

And then one choice quickly jumped out at me: Misrepresentation.
And then I read: Poor service from bankcard.
And then I read: Poor service from sales representative.

So, what the company is telling me is – out of nine possible (and apparently common) reasons for closing the account, 1/3 of them is for poor service or misrepresentation?

Immediately, what was a brand-neutral experience (they weren’t a good fit for my business, so what) turned into a brand-killer. (Have they been lying to me all this time? Do I need to go back and check my statements?) I instantly distrusted them and would not recommend them.

All because of a one-page fax.

Their marketing collateral screwed their brand.

It happens with emails, too. Companies forget to review their autoresponder content all the time, so they may have “stuff” out there from five years ago.

And since it’s automatic and no-one really sees the email in-house, the mistake is sent over and over and over again.

Case in point: After every email received (every one,) a direct cremation company would automatically send a general “here’s how to contact us” email.”

The companies first error? They misspelled the first word in the email  (they wrote “thanks you for contacting us.”)

Yes, they misspelled the very first word.

Immediately after, the email listed a 800 number “if a death has just occurred,” and told the reader to “wait 24 hours for an email response.” There was nothing about “Sorry for your loss.” No mention of “We’re here to help you every step of the way.” No…nothing. I don’t think it was more than 25 poorly-written words. An email like that should have been written with the utmost care and compassion. Not as a fast one-off.

Tell me, would you trust your loved one to a company that misspells the first word of their email?

Again, the marketing collateral screwed their brand.

I urge you, please go through everything – your autresponders, your customer service scripts — everything and double-check it. You’re not just looking for the obvious mistakes (although if you find them, fix them fast!) You’re also looking for opportunity.

Can you transform your writing so it’s more customer-centered? Do your “old” materials reflect a different style than what’s on your site – and you forgot to update them? Is there a way you can transform a customer receipt into an upselling machine?

For most companies, reviewing the collateral will take a couple hours, max. Worst that happens is everything is on-track and you have the peace-of-mind knowing that things are A-OK. But chances are, you’ll find something you can make just a little bit better – and making it better can help you make more money (and help people embrace your brand rather than avoid it.) The opportunities are there. You just have to notice.

What’s Your ONE Content Marketing Thing?

Here’s a question…

What’s the ONE content marketing tactic that drives the majority of your revenue?

Is it blogging?

Webinars?

Teaching small classes?

Or, is your answer, “Hmm, I’m not quite sure, but does it really matter? After all, shouldn’t all my content efforts help?”

Well yes…and no.

Because, without knowing your one content marketing thing, you’re putting your revenue at risk.

Here’s why.

What’s the ONE Thing, anyway?

Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., coined the “ONE Thing” concept. His thought?

“What’s the ONE Thing I could do, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

For instance:

  • You may not be a “saver,” but you’ve found that automatic deductions from your checking account helps you build a robust safety net.
  • You’ve found a bedtime ritual helps you sleep a full 8-hours. You know you can fall asleep wherever you are, as long as you can maintain your ritual.
  • If you want to function before 9 a.m., you need a grande almond-milk latte (OK, maybe that’s just me!).

The thing is, we use this ONE Thing principal all the time – but we don’t think about it. It just…works.

But, somehow, the concept gets lost when it comes to our content marketing.

And bad things happen.

Instead of focusing your efforts on the thing that works, your efforts get scattered.

That’s not to say that experimenting with other content strategy tactics is a bad thing. But those “other things” should be in addition to your ONE Thing…not instead of it.

On the flip side, when you do know your ONE content marketing thing, everything else is easy.

Not sure what your one content marketing thing is? Here are some things to try:

  • Comb your analytics. Does a certain type of blog post (for instance, thought leadership posts,) pull in more leads?
  • Do all of your new leads say they found you the same way (for instance, your podcast or a guest post?)
  • Was there a day (or month) that saw a huge spike in sales? Does it correlate to a certain something that happened (for instance, a webinar series?)

Finding your ONE content marketing thing sounds so simple in concept – but pinpointing it may take some time. Plus, if you have multiple target audiences, you may have multiple “things.”

For instance, LinkedIn is my best bet to reach customized training clients. If I want to sell courses, webinars (and in-person seminars) are what moves the needle.

Guess how I spend most of my time now?

I’ve also found that my one content marketing thing has changed and morphed over time. Once upon a time, guest posting drove major leads. Today, I do it here and there — but the ROI never pans out. Twitter used to be great, and now it feels like noise.

You’ll go through the same process. That’s OK. It means you’re trying new things and measuring the results.

What’s your ONE content marketing thing?

Do you already know what your one content marketing thing is for your business? Or, are in you in the process of narrowing it down? Leave your comment below and let me know!

Write a (Good) Blog Post in 1 Hour — Here’s How!

Are you short on time and need to write a quality blog post – fast?

Sounds like it’s time for a quickie (blog post, that is!)

A quickie blog post is still high quality, informative and fun to read. The difference is, you’re writing your blog post fast and furious (and in one hour or less.).

Is it the ideal way to write? No. In a perfect world, you have hours to write, revise, and tweak. However, there are those times when carving out 60 minutes is the best you can do – and you need to write something engaging, intelligent and useful.

Here are some blog writing tips to consider:

– Write about something you enjoy. If you love your topic, it’s easier to write better blog posts – faster. I write motivational posts when time gets tight. They are fun to write, they come straight from the heart – and my fingers tend to fly over the computer keys.

– Narrow down your topic. This is not the time to write a highly-detailed 1,500 word post. Figure that you have between 300-500 words to work with – so choose your topic accordingly. Mini how-to articles or blog posts listing helpful tips are typically good for a blog post quickie.

– Gather everything you need in one place. Searching your desk for paperwork, surfing for source material and checking email wastes time you don’t have. Gather everything you’ll need to write your blog post before you start writing. This step alone will save you tons of time.

– Turn off distractions. There is nothing that will will break your flow faster than an email notification, a text coming through, or the phone ringing. Turn everything off while you write. If you have to, close down email and any browser tabs you don’t need. (I forgot to close my browser tabs, and Facebook is now notifying me that I have two messages. It’s taking me every ounce of willpower I have not to check them!)

– Spend 25 minutes (or so) writing your first draft. Get everything you can out on paper (or on the screen.) Don’t worry about editing. Don’t worry about tweaking that one sentence that’s not quite right. Just write. You can edit later.

(As a side note, I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique, and working in 25-minute chunks. It’s made me a more efficient writer, and it’s nice to know that I get a built-in break every half hour.)

– Get away from the computer. You wrote your blog post in less than 25 minutes? Awesome. Now put it down and take a break. You’ll be able to see your mistakes (and see writing opportunities) faster if you come back fresh.

– Edit your blog post multiple times. This is the time to quickly flesh out what didn’t quite “click” the first time and fix any typos. I will edit a document at least three times, with a break between each edit. When I think it’s almost there, I’ll print out the post one more time, make any final edits, and then schedule the post.

– Ask someone to proof the post before it goes live. Writing fast often means you’ll make some inadvertent boo-boos. A quick proof by another person can free your post from typos and save your bacon. That no-big-deal typo you didn’t see may be a big deal to your readers – and can possibly even lose you business.

What about you? What tips would you add to this list?

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. A Jersey girl living in Southern California, Amy is also a dedicated 3-Day for the Cure walker and a sports lover.

Quit Whining and Embrace Change

I am about to embark on a journey that most people dread.

I am moving (and in my world, that means both my home and my office.)

My family moved about 1,000 times when I was a kid. OK, maybe not 1,000 – but definitely over six times. There were times when I attended a different school every year. I have such a negative Pavlovian response around moving that my heart rate will increase if I even see a moving box. That’s why I’m the world’s best tenant – once I find a place that I like, I stay there for a long, long time.

This has caused some…um…discussions with my husband. I’ve been pointing out everything that I don’t like about the new place. It’s too far of a commute. It’s not walkable. I don’t know if I’ll like it. It’s in the suburbs. I’ll miss my gas range.

My dear hubby’s favorite line right now is, “Sweetie, not all change is bad.” I can’t print what my typical response is, but it’s along the lines of “&#(*^#%#.”

Finally, after two sleepless nights in a row, I had what Wayne Dyer calls a “satori” moment. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought. “All will be fine. Everything is on track.”

I decided to quit whining and embrace change.

Personal change is hard – very hard. Changes within an organization can be even harder. That’s because change is usually implemented (and managed) by committee. One person is typically gung-ho (the evangelist,) while the other team members are feeling various forms of “Meh.” Instead of jumping on board and embracing change, people start nit-picking the process.

For instance, you’ve probably heard variations on these statements…

“It’s a bad time financially to make this move. Let’s put it off another quarter.”

“I like everything about this change except for X. Maybe we should shelve the project until we figure it out.”

“We’ve hired someone before and it didn’t work out. Why should we trust someone new?”

“What kind of guarantees can we get? I don’t want to do this if it may not accomplish X (typically an impossible goal.)

“Why should we change? Things are working.”

Or, if you own your own business, you may think…

“Everyone else is doing so much better than I am. Why bother marketing?”

“I’d like to start offering X service, but I don’t think I know enough.”

See, it’s a lot easier to complain about change (or postpone it) than embrace it. Change means you have to do things differently. Work with different people. Be in new surroundings. Go through unknown frustrations. Or, in my case, live in the ‘burbs.

And yeah, when you’re burned out and tired – it doesn’t seem quite worth it, somehow. We may not love our progress, but we’re comfortable with how we got here – and mixing it up seems too damn hard. Or scary. Or complex.

We’re all like that. It’s OK.

The key is to recognize when your need for comfort is screwing up your opportunity for growth. If your content marketing campaign is suffering because you don’t have a plan – quit whining about being “too busy” and hire someone. If you aren’t seeing the results you need to see, quit whining and try something else. It’s hard to catch yourself in those whiny moments and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. But if you can, you’ll feel remarkably less stuck – and it will be easier to figure out a plan B.

Granted, your plan B may not work either. And that means trying plan C and plan D. The key is to keep on going until it does work – because it will, eventually. Change is messy, but growth is always guaranteed (from both a personal and business standpoint.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some boxes to pack.

Are You a Bad Guest Blogger?

Who doesn’t love guest blogging? You get to write about what you love. You can reach brand-spankin’ new readers. The exposure can’t be beat.

Not to mention, being asked to guest blog is an incredible honor. Someone is telling you, “I love your stuff so much that I want to share it with my readers.” What a huge compliment!

But you know how some folks take a compliment and throw it back in your face? There are some “bad bloggers” who (perhaps inadvertently) do the same thing. Because of their blogging missteps, they make themselves look bad, drive editors insane and cause all sorts of extra work (assuming the post runs at all.)

Here are 5 of the most common “bad guest blogger” types…

    1. The “My Muse took me in a different direction” guest blogger. It’s true that a writer’s Muse can be extremely fickle. One second, a post idea will sound absolutely fabulous. The next minute – not so much. It’s OK to be Muse-driven – but it’s not OK to switch gears and turn in a whole ‘nother post than what you discussed with the editor. Once you’ve decided on a post topic, you need to stick with that decision. Going in a different direction may seem like you’re “writing in the flow,” but the blog editor will see it as “changing your mind and messing up her editorial calendar.”
    2. The “nobody’s perfect” guest blogger.  Sure, we all make mistakes. Typos happen. But “making a mistake” doesn’t mean “turning in a blog post full of grammatical errors, disconnected thoughts and funky typos, costing the editor one hour of her life cleaning it up.” Just because you’re blogging for exposure doesn’t mean that you can turn in so-so work. If you know that your writing style can be a tad..challenging…hire an editor to check your work before you send it out. Or if you don’t have time to write a really good guest post, wait until you have the ability to focus and do it right. Besides, what would happen if the editor posted your article –  uncorrected –  just to teach you a lesson.  I wouldn’t take that chance…
    3. The “look at me” guest blogger. Don’t be too sexy for your own blog post. Like the slimy guy at the singles bar, every word this blogger writes is geared to gain attention…to his own stuff. There’s rarely a shred of useful information. Instead, it’s all about him – how smart he is. Who he knows. Other fantastic posts he’s written. The sad thing is that nobody really cares – and pushing a “look at me” post screams “I don’t have anything worth reading.” Here’s a tip – if your bio is longer than your blog post, you’re a “look at me” guest blogger. Dial it down, dude.
    4. The “share the love” guest blogger. This person thinks, “I’ve written such a fantastic blog post. Why shouldn’t I syndicate it everywhere I can, as soon as I can.” Yeah, that’s a bad idea. According to the super-smart Ann Smarty in her article, What Guest Posting Is Not: Getting It Right, “DON’T do it. You’ll just screw the relationships with powerful bloggers and influencers in your niche and achieve nothing.”
    5. The “deadline, what deadline” guest blogger.  This is the scariest type of blogger. This person promises “Yes, I’ll have your post by noon on Friday.” When noon on Friday rolls around, this same blogger is surprised that the blog editor is upset that there’s no post – and a big hole in her editorial calendar. If you’ve promised a blog post by X, treat it like you would treat a client gig and don’t miss the deadline. Remember, the industry is small – and people do talk. Missing deadlines is a sure way to mess up a valuable connection.

It’s easy to be a great guest blogger. Turn in your blog posts on time (or early, if you really want to impress an editor.) Slice the self-promotion. Write a fantastic article. With just a little work, I guarantee that you’ll have more guest posts that you can handle – and editors will love working with you.

8 Ways to Handle the Haters

I remember it like it was yesterday.

15 years ago, I was working for a small-press publisher. After months of begging, I finally got my chance to write my first back-jacket blurb – you know, the promo paragraphs designed to snare you into buying the book? What’s more, it was for a well-known author in the self-help field. Needless to say, I sweated and slaved over every word.

A week after I turned in the copy, the publisher called me into her office. Apparently, not only did the client NOT like the copy, he felt compelled to break down why he didn’t like it on a line-by-line basis. The letter ended with (and no, I’m not making this up,) “I don’t know who this Heather Lloyd-Martin woman thinks she is…”

I was devastated. Looking back, I’m amazed I stayed in the industry. But I did – and this experience taught me a lot.

The reality is, some clients are going to hate what you write. They won’t be satisfied. And they will tell you in no uncertain terms.  Here’s how to handle it:

  • Calm your heart rate. I don’t care how many years you’ve been in the business, reading “I’m not happy with the copy” sends ice shivers down your spine. Immediately, self-doubt kicks in. “Was the writing that bad? Did I totally miss the point? What’s wrong with me?” Or sometimes, all you feel is anger. “Do they realize what I went through to write it? Those &*##@*^.” The more you panic, the less you’ll be able to appropriately react. And react you must do, for the next step is to immediately…
  • Email the client. The best step you can take after receiving a nastygram is immediately respond to the client. Don’t explain, don’t defend, don’t sound angry. Just tell them that you received their email and appreciate their comments. Keep in mind that most clients don’t like sending nastygrams. It’s as hard on them to write as it is on you to read. When you ignore their email because you’re freaked out, the only message you’re sending is “I don’t care about your email.” And that’s the last message you want to send to an unhappy client.  Remember, how you handle the situation is incredibly important, and can mean the difference between keeping the account and letting it go – so this is no time to hide.
  • Schedule a time to talk on the phone. Scheduling a phone chat gives you two advantages. One is you can talk through the copy changes rather than relying on email back-and-forth. Many times, a 10 minute conversation is all it takes to give the client exactly what she wants.  The other reason for a phone conversation is to assess how unhappy the client really is. Email won’t tell you if you need to tease out additional objections and do additional damage control – but a phone call will.
  • Own your mistakes. Did the client catch a mistake and that’s what’s making them cranky? For goodness sake, just own it. Don’t try to explain why it happened, or talk about how many deadlines you’re juggling. Guess what – the client doesn’t care. All they want to know is how you will fix the problem. (As a side note, if it is the client’s fault, it does no good to point out, “Hey buddy, this is your hit, not mine.” Handle situations like that with extreme care.)
  • Send an email immediately outlining the changes you agreed upon. Yes, this is a CYA move. But this also helps prevent “scope creep.” A quick email outlining the changes – and insisting on the client’s written agreement before you proceed – will make your life easier. Otherwise, you run the risk of the client saying after the second draft, “Oh yes, we didn’t like this part either…I know we didn’t mention it before, but we need you to change this” – and you’re stuck in a constant editing spiral.
  • Make the changes immediately. This is the time to clear your schedule, make the fixes, and turn the copy around fast. Don’t schedule it for “when you have time.” Do it right away. Quick action will impress your client and show that you care about the account. Taking your sweet time to turn around the copy will do nothing but alienate them further.
  • Follow-up again by phone. Once your client has your second draft, there is nothing that will impress them more than a quick call making sure that all is well. And if it’s not well, make their changes and send the copy through again.
  • If it’s not clicking – and both parties have tried – let the client go. This rarely happens if you’ve really listened to your client’s needs – but it happens for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s just not a good copywriting “click” and nothing you write will make the client happy. Sometimes, the client is facing behind-the-scenes political pressures and that’s why nothing is working. It’s OK. It’s not fun, but it’s OK. Just give them their money back, refer them to other smart SEO copywriters and wish them well. I’ve had this situation happen three times in 12 years. Two of the clients eventually came back because they liked the way I handled the situation. And guess what – there were no future client issues.

Dealing with unhappy clients can be scary, frustrating and maddening. But remember, if you handle the situation quickly – and take the time to really hear your client’s needs – you can save the gig. Plus – like what happened to me 15 years ago – you may even get more work because the client likes the way you handled the situation. What a great way to transform a stressful problem into a profitable, happy client relationship!

Do You Really Need to Write for Google?

I talked to a prospect the other day who asked, “Do you have to include keyphrases and write for Google? Would it be cheaper if I asked for “regular” online writing services instead?”

And I thought, “‘Regular’ online writing services? In my mind, online writing and writing for search engines (otherwise known as SEO copywriting) are almost one and the same.” Hmm…

Here’s why I think that:

If you’re hunting around for online writing information, you’ll see a lot of forums, training classes and books promising to teach you how to “write for the online market” and “drive traffic to your web site.” That’s great – it really is. It’s important that copywriters and site owners understand the online writing basics, such as:

  • How to create scannable text that’s easy to skim and assimilate
  • How to ruthlessly edit your writing so you’re not saying more than you need to – and making your copy hard to read online
  • How to develop benefit-rich headlines and subheadlines that instantly capture your reader’s attention
  • Proven ways to tell a compelling story online
  • When to split your writing into multiple pages
  • How to use layout strategies, like bullet points, to break up lists and make them easier to read (oh, wait…) :)

But there’s more than just that (although “just that” already encompasses a lot of writing “stuff.”)  In short, if you want to be found when prospects are Googling for your specific products or services, that means “writing for search engines” – not just “online writing.”

Site owners and agencies requiring anything less than SEO copywriting are playing a dangerous game. What they’re asking for is for their writer to create a web page without any “signals” to help it be easily found in the search engines. They may think that this strategy allows them to save costs across the long-term. Or, they’ll go back and optimize the page later. But really, as my father would always say, they’re “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” It’s not a smart tactic.

I also think that some copywriters are guilty of offering a choice without explaining the pros and cons. They’ll tell their client that it’s $X for “regular” online writing and $Y for “SEO copywriting.” If a client doesn’t really know the difference between the two options (and really, who would unless they’re in the industry) which one are they going to choose? You got it – the cheaper one. Which is typically “regular” online writing.

What’s sad is that people may love the page when they hit it. But if the page wasn’t written with SEO copywriting best practices in mind, there are many, many folks who will never see the page. Instead of having a chance to position, the page will sit there, all lonely and dejected, in Google’s and Bing’s database. It will be like the wallflower at the dance – everyone else will be having a fun time, and no-one will notice the silent page sitting in the search engine corner.

There are three exceptions to this rule:

  • If you’re writing a long, direct-response sales page for a microsite – and the only goal is to to drive sales  – SEO copywriting won’t do you any good. You won’t have enough content “meat” with a one-to-five page site to get any search engine game. That’s fine.
  • Same if all you want are leads, and your page is a form geared to capture names, addresses and phone numbers – and that’s it. In that case, it’s more important to focus on direct response rather than SEO.
  • Finally, if your content is behind a password-protected firewall that the search engines can’t access (such as a membership site) writing for search engines is useless. In this case, consider writing abstracts that are keyphrase-rich and spiderable (that is, they appear in the “free” area of your site.) That way, folks can see what great content you offer for a fee – and will be more inclined to sign up.

The good news is – writing for search engines can snag you some social media love, too. A hot keyphrase-rich article can generate scads of incoming links. It can be commented upon in blogs and forums. It can have a life outside your Website.

But not if people can’t find your web page first.

What say you? Are there any other times when “writing for SEO/Google” is less than appropriate?

Here’s Why You Should Check Out Your Competition

Do you know what your competition is doing, right now?

“I don’t care,” you may say.  “I’m too focused on making money to worry about them.” And in a way, you have a point – you shouldn’t look to your competition as a way to determine your entire marketing strategy.

But — and here’s a reality check:  No matter how good you are, your prospects are checking out your competition. Every time they visit your website, they are measuring it against all the other competing sites they’ve seen.

If you don’t know what your competition is doing, how can you do it better?

Real-life example: As a reaction to the economy and competitor advertising, Starbucks Coffee Company changed their entire marketing campaign to focus on providing “value at a less expensive price.”  Now, Starbucks offers special “coffee and meal” pricing in an attempt to compete with McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. This helps them maintain their market share (and helps prevent people from going to a less-expensive competitor). Researching their competition and current trends helped them form their new pricing model.

Once upon a time, before the Internet, “research” meant time-consuming and grueling work. You’d have to call your competition, pose as a prospect and beg for a brochure (praying all the time that you wouldn’t be found out). The library would be your new best friend, as you spent days combing through trade journals, newspapers, and articles.

Now, much of that information is just a web search away. Instead of calling for a brochure, you can simply check out a website. Rather than heading to the library, you can do a Google News search. What took days now takes hours. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s how to do it.

Your first mission is to review your competitors’ websites. To get started, go to your favorite search engine and type in general search phrases that relate to your product or service.  Voila!  In less than a second, you can quickly review your top competition.

It’s not enough to notice the sites on the SERPs (search engine results pages.) Be prepared to spend some time clicking into the sites and making notes. Things to notice are:

  • Do you like the writing? Why or why not?
  • Would you want to buy from that company? Why or why not?
  • Who is their target market? Is it the same as yours?
  • What do they offer that you don’t? Conversely, what do you offer that they don’t?
  • Does the site “feel” authoritative? If so, why do you think that is?
  • Are there articles, blogs or product reviews?
  • Is the company profiled on review sites like Yelp? What are their customers saying?

Consider doing a quick SERP competition check ever six months – more if you’re in a fast-moving industry. The more you know about your competition (and how they’re changing their site,) the better you can strategize your ongoing content campaign.