Posts Tagged ‘professional services web content’

Boost Your Blog with a Strategic Publication Plan: 5 Steps to Managing Your Time and Content

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you enjoy writing, blogging is a great way to reach out and build connections with people who share your interests and who can benefit from your services. It’s also a great way to add fresh, search optimized content to your professional website and attract qualified inbound links, which improve your rankings

But it’s also a serious commitment. If you want to develop a following, you need to come up with a topic at least once a week, on schedule. You need to find time to research, write, revise and post. You need to stay on top of trends in your field and find an original angle. You need to understand your audience and what questions they’re asking.

It can seem easy at first, especially when you’re excited about launching your new blog, to find something good to write about. Without a publication plan, however, it’s also easy to run out of steam.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients who want a blog as part of their new professional websites. They’ll write a few posts, maybe even for a month or two. But soon, other commitments and demands of a busy schedule squeeze out the blogging, and it becomes a dated, dead-end section of their websites.

The best way to avoid that trap and keep your blog fresh and compelling is to develop a strategic publication plan. Here are the basic steps:

1. Identify your ideal client’s top questions.

What are your target audience’s biggest concerns that you can help solve? What are the questions you’re asked most often? This is the starting point for a series of blog posts. Write down the questions and group them into several main categories.

2. Develop a list of keywords that tie to your main blog categories.

You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool, if you’re on a budget, or a good paid service, like Wordtracker. You can find a lot of excellent free guidance about how to select keywords and phrases on Wordtracker.com. Keep this list handy as you develop keyword tags and headlines for your posts.

3. Plan out a series of post topics, one per week to start, for two to three months at a time.

Keep it manageable, based on a realistic assessment of your availability to write. As you plan, try to rotate your topics so that you cover the range of your main categories over a month or six weeks. I like to set this up as a table, with a column each for the post topic, the category, who’s writing the post (if you work with a team) and when the post is scheduled to publish.

4. Plan your time for research and writing.

You can tackle this in a variety of ways. If you work best on a weekly basis, set aside time for research and writing the first draft several days ahead of the publication date, so you have time to review and revise. Another approach is to set aside a day each month to focus on your blog, do all the research and first drafts, then take a few hours later that week to revise and set up a series of four scheduled posts, one for each of the next four weeks.

5. Track your traffic.

Review your blog stats to see which posts were most popular and got the most comments. Be sure to keep up with any comments in a timely fashion, to encourage interaction. Evaluate your publication strategy based on this feedback and develop your schedule for the next three months.

While some people favor writing several times a week, and even daily, to build a following, my preference is to write well, consistently, once a week. We’re all inundated with too much information every day, every hour, online. If you write something worth reading that your followers can look forward to on schedule each week, chances are they’ll read it and pass it along. And you’ll have more time to focus on the work you love most.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Why Bother with a Website If You Have Good Word-of-Mouth?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I know a small business owner, a specialist in computer repair and Internet security, who doesn’t have a website. Ironic, he admits, to be in the business of helping others have safe and effective communication online while lacking an on-line presence. But he does great work and has an excellent network of person-to-person referrals, and he’s been very busy.

The problem is this: Last year, someone across the globe pushed a scam over the Internet using the name of his company. If a potential customer looks up his business online, the first thing they find is the thread of warnings about the scam. You have to know him and type in his name to get to the real information about his business on his LinkedIn profile. Last time we spoke, he was planning to create his own website, but I have yet to see one.

Maintain Control of Your Message

Now, just because you don’t have a website for your business doesn’t mean you’ll end up with this kind of dilemma about your good name. But the point is, just about everyone checks you out online these days before they try to contact you to do business. And you want to be sure to have the upper hand in controlling what they read about you when they do.

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. So if you’re relying on word-of-mouth for your business, like my friend, chances are you have a clientele that is primarily local and possibly regional. If people hear about you from trusted sources, they may call, but they probably will look you up, too. If they don’t find you online, this is what can happen:

  • They won’t fully understand your work and the range of options you offer for helping them solve the problem that’s brought them to you in the first place.
  • They may make assumptions about your qualifications that aren’t true.
  • They may make assumptions about your pricing that aren’t true.
  • They may wonder if you take your work seriously.

At the least, answering any of these questions or doubts can cost you time, having to explain yourself and your work in detail whenever you get an inquiry. At most, your lack of a web presence can cost you more business.

Expand Your Referral Network

While it’s wonderful to have a strong word-of-mouth network, you expand your odds of getting more business through your website. As any solopreneur soon learns, there are unpredictable cycles of feast or famine. If you’re just relying on a local personal network for business, you can find yourself without work at the most inopportune moment. Building a strong referral network online begins with a solid web presence that is your main reference point.

Clarify What You Do and Why

One of the great benefits of creating a website for your business is that it forces you to clarify for yourself what you do, the value of your work and why you do it. You may already have good answers for all of the above, but until you sit down to put it into words, you won’t realize what you’re missing from your pitch and how you could make it better.

Simply put, even if you have a strong personal referral network, a professional website that presents you and your great work in a way that resonates with those you hope to reach is well worth the time and investment to ensure you that you’ll continue to have all the business you need.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

How to Be Yourself and Stop Hiding Behind Your Website Content

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I read a lot of websites. Market research for clients, competitor analysis, my own information search—it all adds up to a lot of words on screen. And quite frankly, much of it is, well, garbage, to be polite.

It’s not that the content isn’t informative. It’s not that it doesn’t answer my questions. It’s just hard to read. And I’m not talking about lack of good grammar, though there’s plenty of reason to gripe about that.

Don’t Sound Like a Robot
What bothers me most about many web sites, especially sites for professional services, is that they seem to be written by automatons. The language is stiff, formal, like content you’d find in a term paper. In an effort to sound professional, the writer comes off sounding aloof—not someone I’d want to spend time with.

It’s a pitfall in all forms of business writing—using complicated sentences and big words to sound intelligent. But really, what we all want is to deal with a warm-blooded person on the other end of the website, someone we can identify with, someone we’d enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee for a good conversation and help solving a problem.

Keep It Conversational
I know how hard it is just to be yourself online. It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you put yourself out there. We all need boundaries to protect our privacy, especially on the Internet.

At the same time, to connect with your ideal client, you really need to push past any urge to spiff up your web content with lots of long phrases, fancy terms and—please, no—business jargon. No one really talks like that unless she’s trying too hard to impress. And it shows.

So here are a few ways to keep your web content down-to-earth and personal:

  1. Choose strong nouns and active verbs. They always beat overwrought vocabulary and circuitous sentence structure, no matter what the genre. It’s fine to use unusual, interesting words—as long as your target audience speaks that way, too.
  2. Use the second person, you, to speak directly to your audience, as you would in a conversation. Don’t feel you need to use third person he/she/they to be polite or more appropriate. That will only distance you from your reader.
  3. Capture your natural voice in your writing. How would you explain this topic to a good friend? That’s the tone you want to emulate online. The best way to test your content for conversational tone is to read it out loud when you’re through writing. If you hesitate because the sentences are confusing, get stuck on pronouncing big words or get bored listening to yourself, it’s time to revise.
  4. Anticipate your reader’s questions and answer them in a logical sequence. This achieves two goals: Your copy will be easy to read, and your reader will feel understood and keep reading.
  5. Avoid foul language. This is an exception to the point about capturing your natural voice—if you tend to curse a lot, that’s your business, but it doesn’t belong on your professional website. Even today when just about anything goes, many readers will be turned off by words that get bleeped on most TV shows. Occasionally, cursing in context can be very effective, but it should be used with full intention, not carelessly.

For more suggestions on how to write web copy that works, check out this post: Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—and How to Fix It.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

 

Getting Unstuck: What to Do When You Have a Great Website but Nobody’s Buying

Monday, August 13th, 2012

You have a great website for your product or service, but for some reason, nobody’s buying. Potential clients find you online, and you can tell from your web analytics that they’re reading into your site. But not clicking on your call-to-action. What gives?

Before you change any aspect of your marketing message, and especially before you lower your pricing—the obvious target if you’re nervous about customers and cash flow—it’s well worth your time to find out the actual points of resistance.

Research to Discover Points of Resistance
If you’ve been able to capture emails through free downloads of quality content or  subscriptions to your blog or e-newsletter, you can create a survey through tools like Survey Monkey and query your potential client base. How do they make decisions about purchasing a product or service like yours? How much are they willing to spend? What are the key factors they require? What are the deal-breakers?

In addition, or as an alternative if you don’t have a qualified list, attend a networking meeting of people who fit the profile of your potential clients and see what you can learn in conversations (yes, in person!) about their decision process. Your best research prospects are people who show some interest, then back off. Without getting defensive or pressuring, try to draw them out about what may not be working for them.

A third research tactic is to use social media to network with practitioners in your field and find out what points of resistance they experience. LinkedIn, for example, has discussion groups for just about any professional field, and if you don’t find what you need, you can create a group. Fellow professionals, especially beyond your geographic region, are often more than willing to share their experiences and struggles with building a client base.

Anticipate and Address Purchaser Concerns in Your Web Copy
What you discover may surprise you. Price may not be the issue at all. Time can be a key factor, for example. If your product or service appears to demand more time than potential clients have to spare, they’ll search elsewhere. Complexity can be another stumbling block—if the mechanics of your work are too difficult to understand or the benefits too hard to decipher, you’ll lose customers, as well.

Once you’ve determined the true points of resistance, then it’s time to figure out the solution. If you have to rework your product or suffer from lousy customer service, you have a bigger project on your hands. But often it’s just a matter of anticipating and addressing customer purchasing concerns in your web copy. The trick is to answer the concern without raising it directly.

For example, if implementation time is an issue, feature the five easy steps to using your product or how your service saves time in other key aspects of your client’s life. If complexity is a concern, promote your 24/7 help line. And if price is the real stumbling block, but you know your pricing is accurate, then detail all of the true benefits that make your product or service worth the investment.

It all comes down to understanding your ideal client, the steps she goes through in making a purchasing decision and the deal-killers in her mind. As with all good writing, stage your content in a logical sequence that anticipates and answers your reader’s questions. You’ll establish your expertise, build trust in your understanding of your client’s needs and improve your chances of making that sale.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Going for the Gold: Four Lessons from Olympic Athletes about Building Your Online Presence

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Whatever you think of the logo, the mascots, the opening ceremony, the controversy over security staffing, Mitt Romney’s pre-game gaffs or Mayor Boris Johnson’s haircut, the London Olympics are now in full swing. I’m looking forward to the gymnastics and diving competition and some of the lesser-viewed sports, like trampoline and taekwondo. And, of course, the canoe slalom.

Whatever your favorite Olympic sport, the athletes who’ve made the cut have some important lessons to teach about what it takes to succeed. Well worth remembering, as you build an online presence for your own good work.

Lesson 1: Maintain Focus
When you’re training to be an Olympian, you need to be very clear about your goal and stay focused. Everything you do is geared toward becoming your best at your sport.

In building your online presence, the same holds. You need to know what your goal is for your business and your website, who is your ideal client, and how you can best meet her needs.

All of your content, all of your social media networking, all of your collateral marketing materials must maintain that clear focus and message. Don’t get sidetracked with the latest social media sensation or technological gizmo. Keep your sights on your goal.

Lesson 2: Train with Experts
Every Olympic athlete invests time, money and energy in getting the best training possible. No one earns a gold medal by skimping on trainers, equipment or training facilities. And no one becomes an Olympian in isolation.

As you develop your website and marketing strategy, learn from and engage the best experts you can afford. Many small business professionals try to save money by spending the minimum on marketing, using free web platforms or a best friend’s recent college grad who knows some code to build a site. But having a website, any website, is not the way to get found online.

Even if you have to start small, be sure to understand the fundamentals of quality web content and design, and choose consultants on the basis of experience and proven results, not by lowest project fee. Remember: You get what you pay for.

Lesson 3: Practice, Practice, Practice
Olympians work hard, every day, to develop their athletic skills. The practice can get tedious, boring and frustrating. But repetition, learning to refine skills, learning from experience how to make adjustments that distinguish a medalist from the rest of the pack—all are essential to winning.

Building an online presence requires daily focus and discipline, as well. You need to read about trends in your field, adopt and refine best practices for your specialty, and keep abreast of your online competition. You need to keep your site content fresh, blog on topic and on schedule, even when you don’t feel inspired.

You also need to monitor social media and build your social network, one blog comment or Facebook post or Tweet at a time. Even if it seems like you’re not making progress day to day, all of this work builds over time to put you ahead of your competitors.

Lesson 4: Learn from Losing
No athlete wins every competition. Everyone loses at some point. Olympians don’t give up. They take risks, learn from failures and go on to win the next meet.

Building an online presence is hard work and takes a lot of persistence. It also takes a willingness to take risks, experiment, mess up and learn how to improve. One of the great things about websites and the Internet is that there is so much room for experimentation, tracking results, getting feedback quickly and figuring out a better way to share your expertise.

So even if your current website isn’t working or your social media strategy is a flop, don’t give up. There’s always room and opportunity to improve and get the results you’re looking for.

Hope you enjoy the Summer Olympics! And take stock of your own accomplishments with your online marketing—then go yourself one better.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

10 Things You Should Know About Your Ideal Client

Monday, July 9th, 2012

To have an effective marketing strategy, you need to know whom you’re selling to. That seems pretty obvious, but it’s a step all too often missed when we have a product or service we think is really great and put all our effort into talking it up, rather than communicating from the point of view of those we hope to attract.

For a website to work, you need content that solves a problem or answers a pressing question for your ideal client. It’s all about providing useful information that she’s already seeking.

To Understand Your Ideal Client, Get Inside Her Head
So, how do you know what your ideal client wants? Even before doing surveys, focus groups or other research, the first step is to get a clear handle on whom you want to sell to. Here are 10 basic questions (and related details) to ask yourself about your ideal client. You can draw on what you know of your existing client base or imagine whom you’d really like to attract to your business.

Some of these may require you to stretch your imagination, but if you work through this exercise, you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of person you’re actually trying to reach:

  1. How old is your ideal client? What gender? Ethnicity? (For the sake of simplicity, I’m using female pronouns here.)
  2. Is she employed? What’s her annual income?
  3. What’s the highest level of education she’s completed?
  4. What’s her relationship status?
  5. Does she have children? How old? What kind of school do they attend?
  6. What’s her life style? Does she walk, drive or use public transit to get around? If she drives, what kind of car? What kind of home and community does she live in? Where does she buy her clothes? What community organizations doe she volunteer for, if any? What does she do for a vacation? Is she involved in a religious community? Politics?
  7. What does she do for fun?
  8. What’s her news source? What books and magazines does she read? What blogs does she follow?
  9. Is she active on Facebook? Twitter? Other social media? Or does she find the idea of social networking online a waste of time, intimidating or an invasion of privacy?
  10. What wakes her up in the middle of the night? What’s the biggest challenge she’s facing right now?

Your answers will help you to develop an avatar of your ideal client. You can even go so far as to give her a name and find a picture in a magazine that fits her description, to help you visualize.

Keep this profile front and center in your mind whenever you’re developing a new marketing strategy or writing new content for your website or blog. If you can really get inside your ideal client’s head, you’ll better understand her motivations, what’s driving her to seek out your help through your business—and how you can better provide the solutions she needs.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Keywords v. Brand: How to Choose Your Business URL for Best Search Results

Monday, June 25th, 2012

One of the first question’s I’m asked by clients who are building their first professional website is this:

Should I use myname.com, or a title for my business that includes relevant keywords (primarycaremd.com), or another title that’s my brand but may not have any keywords in it (coolbrandname.com)?

The answer: It all depends on name recognition and whether your brand is memorable. If you have equity in your name—say, you’re a lawyer or doctor with an established local practice and a great reputation—then it’s valuable to put your name in your website url, because people will search for you that way.

Alternatively, you can choose a title for your practice that’s easy to remember (and spell!), and include your name in your title tag (the phrase that shows up on a search engine result page, or SERP ) as well as a keyword-rich description of what you do.

Here’s a good explanation of how title tags work in search by Jill Whalen, CEO if High Rankings in Boston.

If you’re choosing between a keyword-rich domain and a brand domain that’s easy to recall, it’s a toss-up for search rankings—but a memorable brand in a crowded field of experts on the same topic, instead of a keyword-laden domain, probably works best.

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, explains in this short video:

A strong, memorable domain name and relevant keywords are critical for good search results. But remember—the most important element of effective search is excellent content in your site. And it’s much easier to figure out the right domain name and keywords after you’ve done the research to identify your target market and created client-centered content that speaks to their needs and concerns.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

The 2 Biggest Traps to Avoid on Your Professional Services Web Page

Monday, May 7th, 2012

One of the most-read pages of your website is the section that describes your professional services. It’s the heart of your site, the content that explains exactly what you’re offering and how your ideal client will benefit.

It’s only natural to want to impress potential clients with your professional prowess and describe every detail of your areas of expertise. But all too often, in your effort to promote yourself and your services, you can turn off the very people you need to attract.

Here are the two biggest traps to avoid and the most important things to remember when you develop content for your professional services page:

Avoid Professional Jargon—Use Clear, Understandable Prose
When describing your professional services in your website, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using professional jargon. You want to sound like an authority, so you write to impress your peers.

But unless you’re an expert in your professional sphere and your peers are your customers, you need to adjust your language to appeal to the people you’re actually trying to serve. (And even if your peers are your customers, avoid jargon anyway—clear, direct prose sets you apart as a strong communicator who isn’t hiding behind insider speak to get your message across.)

Case in point: When I worked with the general law practice of Mountain Dearborn in Worcester, Mass., to create their website, I described their various professional services—estate planning and trusts, family law and probate, business and corporate law, banking and commercial law, real estate and land use, and litigation—with language that speaks to their potential clients, who may or may not be well-versed in legalities.

The tone is clear, personal and professional, presenting relevant legal concepts within the context of problems that clients need to solve. I developed this content with help from one of the firm’s partners, who gave me a crash course in the various legal specialties. Each section was vetted by the lawyers who specialized in that particular field, but we weeded from the final copy any rewrites that injected legalize.

Don’t Describe Everything You Do—Explain How You Solve Your Client’s Problem
As you develop your professional services content, you also don’t want to fall into the trap of creating an exhaustive description of what you do, while forgetting about your ideal client’s needs. Many websites bog down with laundry lists and detailed descriptions of all aspects of services provided.

Detail, staged properly in digestible chunks of information, is valuable. But it won’t convert to new business unless you address these key issues:

  • What problems do you help your clients solve?
  • How do help them?
  • How does your service provide a better solution than other options available to your client?

Test Your Content on Potential Clients—Revise Until They Get Your Message
To check the effectiveness of your professional services content, it’s a good idea to ask a few people who fit your ideal client profile to read it over for you and give you constructive feedback. Ask if they can answer the above three key questions. If they can, congratulations—you’re ready to post. If not, address any points of confusion and rewrite until your readers can clearly and accurately express your message in their own words.

And jot down those words. They’ll come in handy as you refine your pitch to new clients.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.