Posts Tagged ‘web copy best practices’

What Have You Learned This Year? Five Questions to Help You Improve Your Marketing in 2013

Monday, December 31st, 2012

There’s plenty of advice out there about trends for 2013 and how to plan for the coming year. But before you look forward, it’s a good idea to take stock of the year drawing to a close.

If you’re like me, some of what you tried for your business worked well this year; other strategies were less successful. But mistakes are as valuable as successes. Both provide opportunities to learn and do even better next time.

So here are five questions to ask yourself as you reflect on 2012 and plan ahead:

1. Who is your ideal client—and whom are you actually helping? Are your present clients meeting your expectations?

All too often, especially when you’re starting out and don’t want to turn anyone away, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accepting clients who soak up your time but want to pay the minimum. Not worth it, especially as you’re trying to build your business. Look over your client list and determine who’s worth your time and who isn’t. Then let the sponges go.

2. What was your most successful marketing strategy? What did you do right to gain more qualified clients?

Note the adjective: qualified. You want to focus on the outreach you did that brought you more of those you want to help, not just more inquiries or more people who aren’t your target market. As you evaluate your success, think in terms of return on investment—not simply money spent, but time, as well. How can you expand on this effort during the coming year to build on your success?

3. Which marketing efforts failed to bring you desired results? Why? What went wrong?

Remember, this isn’t about banging your head against the wall. You want to identify what was a waste of time and money, and why. Maybe your concept was good, but the execution failed. Or maybe your execution was perfect, but you misunderstood your ideal client and how she would respond. Analyze your effort to figure out how you missed your target, what’s worth refining and repeating, and what to avoid in 2013.

4. How has your understanding of your work evolved? Is that reflected in your marketing messaging? Do you need to make refinements?

The more clients you help, the more you develop and refine your sense of your own capabilities and what you do best. Take some time to pat yourself on the back, note down your strengths and the words your best clients have used to describe you and how you’ve improved their lives. Look over your web content and other marketing materials to assess whether your content accurately reflects the true nature of your work—from your ideal client’s point of view—and your true abilities. Then make any necessary refinements.

5. Of all the marketing initiatives you tried this year, which one did you enjoy the most? Why?

Chances are that the marketing you enjoyed the most, you did the best. Maybe you discovered a passion for blogging, or you love the challenge of maximizing ROI from a Google AdWords campaign. Perhaps you found that you have a skill for teaching through workshops or webinars. Or maybe you’ve met some of your best customers by shmoozing in professional networking meetings or by helping others through LinkedIn forums.

We all thrive when we’re playing to our strengths. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new approaches that push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s always a good idea to make the most of the strategies you really enjoy. Not only will you excel at what you love, but you’ll learn more about yourself and new directions for your business.

As we enter 2013, use what you’ve learned from this exercise to plan for an even better, more successful year of promoting your great work. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous, fulfilling New Year!

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.

Holiday Grab Bag: How Not to Name Your Website, Free Guides to Better Web Copy and a Few Laughs

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Now that we’ve all survived the Mayan apocalypse-that-wasn’t, here are a collection of links for a few laughs about the year that was and some guidance for online marketing in 2013.

From PR Daily’s Alan Pearcy:
12 best of the 2012 ‘best ofs’
Books, video bloopers, smartphone autocorrects and more. Enjoy!

From Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger, this guest post by Rob Henry:
URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-Ranking Exact-match Domains
Bottom line: Gaming the system doesn’t work. Quality content does.

And to help you create that excellent, search-friendly content, here are three free resources for improving your website or blog copy and content marketing strategy:

Content Marketing Institute
Content Marketing White Paper Library
Help with better web forms, nurturing leads, creating webinars and more.

Copyblogger
Copywriting 101: How to Craft Compelling Copy
SEO Copywriting Tips, Secrets, and Strategies
If you want to learn how to write better web or blog copy this year, these two collections of blog posts will get you started, and then some.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and fulfilling New Year!

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.

 

 

The Solid Gold, No-fail Key to Marketing Success

Monday, August 20th, 2012

About 15 years ago, when I had just started as marketing director for a small New England college, I bumped into one of the faculty as we collected our mail. When I introduced myself, he balked. “So, you’re going to give us the Madison Avenue treatment,” he said, making no effort to hide his disdain.

We later became friends, but his remarks unnerved me. I was new to my job and had just been given the role of marketing head a short week after arriving to direct the college’s communications efforts. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and his comments made me feel like I was leading some tainted effort to snare potential students with sleazy sales pitches.

Marketing Must Be Authentic to Persuade
Of course, that’s a common misperception of marketing, with a basis in truth. Traditional advertising manipulates our emotions to get us to buy. But we’re long past the days when the Don Drapers of the world could push out one-way messaging without consumer push-back (unless, of course, the product was a total dud).

Marketing (which includes advertising), especially on today’s consumer-driven Internet frontier, has to be authentic to persuade. Messaging is no longer one-way. Consumers have many options to research products and services online; reviews, forums, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and more provide ample ways to confirm or deny marketing claims. Bad reviews spread with the speed of data transmission.

While the fear of someone sinking your business with a critique that goes viral may be enough motivation to be authentic, here’s a much better reason: Integrity is the key to effective marketing.

Be True to Yourself and Honest with Your Clients
Whether you’re creating content for your website, a blog post or a tweet, be true to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about making promises that you can’t fulfill even if you mean well, getting business under false pretenses, or overextending yourself and undercutting expectations.

I share this because marketing can seem such an overwhelming and unpleasant prospect, a necessary evil when you’re a small business owner who already has far too much to accomplish each day. It’s often the lowest priority on your to-do list, the tightest budget item. You know you have to do it to get business, but, like my former college colleague, you avoid it or hold your nose.

Discover Your Strengths to Reach Those You Help Most
So, consider this: Marketing is certainly challenging. It involves a lot of time and attention to detail and strategy and follow-through. But marketing is also one of the best ways I know to discover your strengths, the true value of your work and how you’re helping others. Developing a solid strategy forces you to think rigorously about your ideal client, the problems and mistakes she struggles with, and how you help her to find solutions. Telling your true story becomes a source of pride in all of your hard work and accomplishments, as well as a means to get the word out and find more great clients to help. Honest client feedback enables you to do even better.

While I was marketing director at that college, I made a solid commitment never to create any false advertising. Sometimes I had to rein in enthusiastic colleagues who wanted to oversell their programs. Sometimes I had to say no. I worked hard to find and tell honest stories, and the college attracted more qualified students.

The same will hold true for your business. Be authentic, serve with excellence, market with integrity, and your work with thrive.

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.

Five Reasons Why Your Website Content Isn’t Working—And How to Fix It

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

When was the last time you looked up a business in the Yellow Pages? I’m willing to bet, at best, maybe once in the last six months, assuming you can even find a copy of your phone book.

Now, when was the last time you looked up a business online? Probably yesterday, if not within the past few hours, right?

Effective Website Content Is Strategic
My point is this: If you have a business, you need a website. But having a website isn’t just about posting a few pictures and some general info about your work and contact info.

You need content that distinguishes you and your business from your competition, that clearly explains your product or service, and that gives your ideal client a compelling reason to contact you or make a purchase. And you need a website design that’s attractive and easy to navigate, that guides your reader to the information that’s most important.

Here are five of the biggest mistakes I see when asked why a client’s site doesn’t seem to be bringing in new business:

1) No Clear Statement of What Sets You Apart
All too often, websites spout a lot of generalities about a business, offering a summary about a profession on the homepage and overused descriptions of benefits (e.g., “we pride ourselves on great customer service”—well, everyone says that, and if you didn’t care about your customers, you shouldn’t be in business in the first place). It’s the gotta-put-something-up-there-now-that-I-have-a-website syndrome.

Web content, especially on the homepage, needs to clearly state what you do and what distinguishes your business from your competitors. To write this well, you need to understand the following:

  • Who is your ideal client, what problem she’s trying to solve and how your work will help her. More on this in #3.
  • Who else is out there doing the same work, how they present themselves, and how your approach is more effective for your ideal client.

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, check out Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. Work through his exercises to clarify your value proposition.

When you have your answers—and believe me, this takes time and a lot of thought, and evolves as you develop your business, so it’s worth revisiting—sit down and revise your homepage content, with your value proposition high on the page. You don’t want visitors to have to scroll too far to get the point.

2) Text Is Clunky, Rambling and Impersonal
Good web copy is like any good writing—clear, concise, using strong nouns and active verbs. It needs to be easy to skim, but substantive enough for the serious reader to learn more. These two posts will help you to write copy that meets those criteria:

One other point—we all respond to content that connects on a human, personal level. I don’t mean you need to spill your guts to your target audience. But don’t be afraid to be yourself! What do you care about? Why are you in this business? What do you love most about your work? Be sure to capture that essence in your web copy. One of the best places to get more real is in your About page. Here’s a blog post that will help you write a compelling personal profile for your site:

3) Content Is Written from Your Point of View, Rather Than Your Ideal Client’s
This ties to both of the above issues. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing all the stuff you think is great about your work. But what you think is important may not be what your client actually cares about. You need first to understand your ideal client, everything from economic status and lifestyle preferences to where she gets her purchasing information and what worries keep her up at night.

Then put yourself in her shoes and ask why she’s come to you. How do you help her solve a key problem or answer a pressing question? One way to get at this is to write yourself an email, as if you were your ideal client, inquiring about your business. Then revise your web content with her in mind. This exercise may be a tectonic plate shift for you—if so, good. You’re on your way to writing some compelling content for your site, from your ideal client’s point of view.

4) Design Works Against Easy Reading and Navigation
There are plenty of free templates out there to choose from, or maybe you asked your next-door neighbor’s kid to code your site to save money. But it’s critical to choose a quality design. Effective websites are based on some basic principles of usability—what makes a site easy to read and easy to navigate.

Headlines and subheads, color-blocking to break up text, short paragraphs and careful use of white space to make a site easier to skim, clear navigation with simple drop-down menus, quality graphic images that establish tone and focus attention (but not too many competing images on a page)—all of these are elements of good design. Here’s more to consider as you evaluate your website:

5) No Call-to-Action
This one may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many websites fail to include an effective call-to-action. What is the goal of your site? What do you want visitors to do when they finish reading? Be sure you can answer this question, and then be sure that your visitor can easily find your call-to-action on every page of your site.

At the very least, you want her to contact you for a free consult or other free service, to open a relationship with you. Or maybe you want to capture her contact information to build a quality email list for future product offers. In that case, you’ll need to create a free download of valuable information that’s relevant to your work and her needs, that your visitor will receive in exchange for her contact information.

While you’re at it, be sure to cover these basics in constructing your Contact page:

When you’re through evaluating and revising your site, test it on your best customers and friends who fit your ideal client profile. Ask if they can tell you what sets you apart and why they do business with you, or what would compel them to do so in the future. Their answers are your best indicator of whether your website content is effective and what you need to refine it further. Added bonus: you can use the positive feedback as testimonials.

And if you’d like a professional assessment of your website, please contact me. I offer a free half-hour consult to new clients, and I’d be glad to give you feedback on your website’s effectiveness.

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.

Contact Page Best Practices: Ask for Less Info, Get More Conversions

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Your web contact page is a key tool for converting visitors into customers. It’s not just a form that you tack onto your website. Think of your contact page as a personal invitation to connect with you.

So, if you were a new visitor to your site, how would you want to be greeted? What would encourage you to give up your name, email, possibly your phone number, and leave a message? What reassurance would you need that your information and query be kept confidential?

Keep these questions in mind as you determine what to include in your contact form. Here are some guidelines to remember:

Identify Your Goal
Why do you want visitors to contact you in the first place? Are you building an email list of qualified customers? Encouraging potential customers to speak to you in person? Asking for donations to your non-profit? Whatever your goal, be clear about what you want to accomplish. This defines what information you need to collect, how you’ll store and retrieve it, and how you’ll act on it.

Welcome Your Visitor With Friendly, Clear Directions
Forms are cold. Open your contact page with a few welcoming sentences that explain why you want the information you’re requesting, how it will be used and how you are ensuring confidentiality. Thank your visitor for contacting you. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Make Your Form Easy to Complete
Unless you have a really good reason, limit your required fields to name, email, an option for a phone number and best times to contact, and a short message. Most visitors won’t have the time or desire to give you any more information than that.

Give Your Visitor an Incentive to Complete the Form
If you’re offering helpful information or a free consult, let your visitor know how soon you’ll be in touch—within 24 hours or one business day, for example. Then exceed your promise. If you’re using a form to build an email list, provide some useful, free content as a download, such as an Ebook or white paper, in exchange for their contact information.

Auto-respond With a Thank You Confirmation
When your visitor clicks the submit button, use an automated response, either on the web page itself or as an email, thanking her for contacting you and confirming that her inquiry was received and you’ll be in touch soon.

Use a CAPTCHA Code to Avoid Spam
A CAPTCHA code is that jumble of distorted letters that your visitor must recognize and type into a field before submitting the form. This ensures that it’s a real person, not an Internet bot, who’s completing your contact form.

Include Your Contact Information
Not everyone wants to complete a form. Some people would rather call you or send you an email. Be sure to include your basic contact information: your name and title, mailing address (if appropriate—if you work out of your home, you may want to exclude this), phone, FAX and email. You may want to include a Google Map with links to directions, as well. For an office or store, add your business hours of operation.

These are just the basics. If you need to collect more information, be sure you have a good, strategic reason. For any information you gather through a contact form, be sure you have a efficient way to store and retrieve it.

Above all, keep the process of contacting you simple, pleasant and efficient, and you’ll improve your chances of building your inquiry pool of qualified customers.

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 Key to Effective Homepage Content: Focus, Focus, Focus

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Your website’s homepage is the most important page in your site. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? Your homepage is your storefront, the first thing visitors see when they arrive at your site. It establishes your professional image and, if it’s well-written and designed, draws readers deeper into your site to learn more about your work and why they should do business with you.

So why are so many homepages so cluttered? Because all too often, we try to cram every bit of important information we can think of into that one page, hoping that our visitor will find what she’s looking for. If we leave something out, she may miss it and move on, right?

Less is More
Not so, especially now that mobile devices are becoming such an important means of searching the web. You can’t fit much information on a smart phone screen, so it’s essential to focus on your key message and call to action. That goes for full screen views, as well. Too much information is distracting, confusing and will cause your visitor to click away.

When I’m writing website content, I always save the homepage for last. Once I’ve created text for an About page and Professional Services, answered FAQs, and developed Resources and any Case Studies or Testimonials, I have a much clearer sense of the core message.

Here are the key points to keep in mind as you craft your own homepage text:

What Is Your Business About?
When someone lands on your site, the first thing she wants to know is what you do. To answer that question, you need to understand why she’s come to your site. What is the key problem she’s trying to solve, and how do you provide the answer? Keep it short and tight—remember, this text has to fit on a smart phone.

What’s Your Call to Action?
What do you want your visitor to do before she leaves your site? Buy your lead product? Contact you for a free consult? Donate to your cause? Download your free e-book? Your call to action needs to be clear, prominent and above the fold (no scrolling) on both a mobile device and computer screen. It should appear on your homepage and on all pages deeper in your site (this can be accomplished with a sidebar widget).

Can Your Visitor Easily Find More Information?
It’s essential to have clear, user-friendly navigation. A helpful way to think about this is described by Steve Krug in Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. In this very accessible book, Krug emphasizes that different people have different ways of finding information. He uses the metaphor of entering a department store: Some people look at the signage to find the goods they want, some look at the floor map and some ask a sales clerk for directions.

As you create your navigation—using an excellent web template, such as StudioPress, or working with a good designer—keep this metaphor in mind. Be sure you have easy-to-read “signage” in your nav bar and redundant links in graphics and text, as well as a good search function to help your visitor find what she’s looking for in one or two clicks.

Can Repeat Clients Find What They Need Without Wasting Time?
This is an issue of design as much as content. You want your valued customer to get directly to the content she’s looking for without wading through basic information or waiting for a slide show to load.

Is Your Message Easy to Remember?
We’re bombarded with messages all day long. You want yours to be easy to digest and easy to recall. Keep your text clear and focused. Use headings and enough white space in your homepage layout to enable your visitor to skim for key points and read more by scrolling if she’s interested. Test your content by asking someone who fits your client profile to read your homepage and answer these five key questions.

Take the time needed to get your homepage right. Be clear on your goals for your visitors, test and revise until you get the response you’re looking for. For the most-viewed page in your site, it’s well worth the extra effort.

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.

 

Build Your Authority and Site Traffic With a Great Resources Page

Monday, May 14th, 2012

To find facts fast, search online, right? But online searches aren’t always that efficient. Often, it’s easy to get sidetracked down one alley of tangential references after another, only to look up and discover that an hour slipped by while you were trying to figure out cheap flights to San Francisco and you landed in the story of Al Capone at Alcatraz.

So, how about helping your potential clients search for answers more efficiently? You can build your authority as an approachable expert as well as attract qualified visitors to your website by developing excellent resources that solve your clients’ problems.

Be a Content Curator
One way to do this is to be a content curator in your field. For example, in Debbie Fins’s resource page for her geriatric care management website, we included a variety of links to help families of aging loved ones research their options for care management, assisted living, nursing homes, hospice care and elder law representation, as well as to learn more about various dementia-related diseases. Beneath each link is a blurb about the resource, to make it easier to skim the page and find the right information.

For Attorney Marcia Tannenbaum’s resources page, we collected links relevant to her specialties in divorce, mediation and collaborative practice. These included websites that describe Massachusetts divorce guidelines, downloadable forms needed to file for divorce in the Commonwealth, reading lists of books about divorce that Marcia has found helpful for her clients and their children, and professional resources and organizations that explain more about this form of dispute resolution.

In developing your professional resources page, think about the kinds of information you give out to your clients on a regular basis. If you’re an accountant, include a list of tips for preparing information to file your taxes. If you’re a doctor, share books about nutrition and exercise to improve patient wellness. If you’re a therapist, refer to readings about coping with anxiety or dealing with addictions.

Combine downloadable PDFs of tips and recommended books with links to websites that you rely on for accurate, easy-to-find, relevant information for your clients’ most-asked questions, and you have the foundation of a great resources page.

Blog About Answers to Your Ideal Clients’ Questions
Another approach is to blog about issues that your clients struggle with. You need to have a thorough understanding of your target audience and helpful, useful advice to answer their pressing questions. You also have to enjoy writing and be willing to stick to a regular publishing schedule, at least once a week.

I’ve chosen the blogging approach for my own website, because I like to write and teach, and blogging adds fresh content to my site each week, helping me to get noticed in the very crowded field of marketing consulting. If you skim through my blog posts, you’ll see that most of them are targeted toward helping service professionals and solo entrepreneurs to understand the basics of market research and how to create content for a solid professional website.

Blogging is an art and science, as well as a significant time commitment. Some excellent blogging resources include copyblogger.com and problogger.net.

Whichever approach you choose, you can point potential clients to your resources page or blog to help answer their questions as you cultivate a professional relationship. Once you’ve invested the time in developing quality content, you’ll reap the benefits with a ready set of useful, accessible information that helps to establish you as an approachable expert in your field.

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.