SCML11: A Website Content Coaching Session

Figuring out how to present your business on your website can be HARD! This is something I work with clients on all the time. And, in this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab, you’ll get to eavesdrop on a coaching session I recently had the pleasure of conducting with Tyler Inloes, owner of Five17Fitness.

During our session, we talk about things like:

  • The importance of getting the “hero” section of the home page right
  • Being clear about who your business is serving and what you’re offering
  • Describing the benefit of your lead magnet so that readers will be enticed to download it
  • Why you should have more uses of “you” rather than “me” or “us” or “we” in your website copy
  • Strategic use of video on a site
  • Talking about your offerings from a customer benefit perspective instead of a feature perspective
  • Addressing customer questions in ways that differentiate your business from competitors

It was a fun and interesting session, and–if you had a website for your biz–there are probably a few tips you can pick up from it. That’s my hope, anyway!

Take a listen and then let me know if you have any questions about your own site. Shoot me an email at michele@smarterwritinglab.com and we’ll set up a time to chat!

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SCML 08: A Content Marketing Love Story by Mutual Rescue

My animals and a great love story. Two things I adore. That’s why the short films produced by Mutual Rescue drew me in like a moth to a flame. They tell the stories of humans and the shelter animals they adopt. And they do it in such a beautiful and moving way. In my opinion, these films are content marketing at its very best. And here’s why:

  • At approximately six minutes each, they’re engaging from start to finish
  • They harness the power of storytelling so perfectly
  • They have a clear and meaningful message
  • They accomplish the marketing goal of the organization in such an authentic and effective way

The first of the films was “Eric and Peety.” According to Carol Novello, co-creator of Mutual Rescue and president of Human Society Silicon Valley,  it’s been viewed more than 88 million times since its release in 2016. Here it is:

After seeing this, I knew I had to find out what the thinking and strategy were behind this film and the others Mutual Rescue has produced. And, thanks to Carol Novello, I now know. And you can, too. Listen to the podcast to hear all about it. I hope you’ll be as inspired as I was.

To find out more about Mutual Rescue, connect with the organization here:

Website: http://mutualrescue.org/

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What Do Customers REALLY Want to Hear From You?

A couple of years ago, I was sitting out on the deck with some folks who had been invited over for dinner. I didn’t know them well at all. But—as we were waiting for the grill to heat up—everyone was chatting about this and that. One person sitting near me asked me what I did for a living.  I was about two sentences into my response when I realized that she seemed to be totally preoccupied with something else. So, guess what? I stopped talking. And as soon as I did, she jumped in and spent a good part of the night talking about herself.

For better or worse, right or wrong— I formed an opinion about her that evening: She wasn’t someone I wanted to invest time in. Why? Because the impression I came away with is that the thing that mattered most to her was—well—her. Again, maybe I was wrong about that. But that first impression was a lasting one. If I were to play amateur psychotherapist, my guess would be that she might have been a bit nervous that evening and felt a need to impress those of us who didn’t know her that well. And she tried to do that by talking about her job, her accolades, her qualifications.

Here’s my question to you: Is your business acting like the dinner guest that just can’t quit talking about himself or herself?

If you’re not sure, take a look at your marketing materials—your website, brochures, email campaigns, sales sheets, videos—and see if they do these things:

  • Focus primarily on the features of your product or service. (Things like “Our lawn mower has 5 cutting levels.” “Our law office gives you personalized attention.” “You’ll learn better time management in this seminar.”)
  • Loudly tout awards you’ve received or credentials you’ve earned.  (“I graduated summa cum laude from ABC University.” “We’re the #1 choice!!”)
  • Use words like “we”, “us”, “me”, “I”, “our” more than the word “you.”

If you’re doing any of these things, odds are you’re making a bad first impression on potential customers or clients who don’t know you or your business yet. And—just like I did with the dinner guest mentioned earlier—they very well may decide they don’t want to spend any more time trying to get to know you. But don’t worry. All isn’t lost. There are a couple of quick and easy things you can do to help you communicate about your business in a way that will entice potential customers to hang around and learn more about what you’re offering. And here they are:

  1. Focus on BENEFITS instead of features. People don’t buy toothpaste because it has whitening ingredients. That’s a feature. They buy that toothpaste because they want to feel more confident about their smile. They want to be more attractive. In other words, they’re buying the benefits of the whitening agents in the toothpaste. And that’s what needs to be communicated. You need to clearly explain how your product or service is going to benefit your customers. How is going to make their lives easier or better or more meaningful? If you’re only focusing on features, you’re losing sales.
  2. Show empathy and understanding by putting the customer at the center of all of your communications. If all you’re saying on your website or in your brochures or any other marketing materials are things like “we can” or “we are” or “I know” or “our solution”–you’re a bad dinner guest AND a bad communicator. People don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them. So, how do you fix it? Here’s a quick example:

BAD: I’m an attorney with 15 years of experience in handling divorces. So I know exactly what it takes to help you with matters including property distribution, custody and spousal support.

GOOD: Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. You have so many questions. How are you going to pay your bills? What will happen to your house? How are your children going to react? And you’re trying to figure all of this out while your entire world seems to be crumbling around you. This is where I come in. Together, we’ll find the solutions you’re looking for.

If you’re someone who’s looking for a divorce attorney and the only way you have to evaluate which attorney to use is by looking at law firm websites, which one would you choose?

In the end, it’s not so much about what customers want to hear. It’s about what human beings want to hear. If you want people to listen to you—to connect with you and buy from you—you have to connect with them. Pure and simple. And to do that, you have to show that you care about them, that you understand and empathize with their problem or challenge, and that you are listening to them. This alone will set you apart from many of your competitors. And it’s SO easy to do if you just think about it. When you keep your customers at the center of your communications, you’ll be the dinner party guest everyone wants to sit next to.

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You a Wallflower at Your Own Party?

WallflowerIf you ever went to a middle school or high school dance, you saw them. Or maybe you were one of them. The wallflowers. They literally seemed to melt into their surroundings. Maybe it was because they were afraid of being noticed. Or maybe they wanted to be noticed, but didn’t know how to get anyone’s attention. Or maybe they didn’t want to be there in the first place–but their parents made them “participate.” Whatever the reason, wallflowers were a mainstay of those dances–sitting or standing there in silence, watching everyone else having fun.

Here’s my question to you: What do you remember about the wallflowers at your school dances? Unless you made an effort to speak to them or to get to know them, my guess is that you probably don’t remember much–if anything–about them. In fact, I’m also guessing that you didn’t even see them. You were too busy having fun, talking with friends, meeting new people who brought something new to the party, and doing whatever kids did at that age during that time. Right?

So, as grown-ups who are entrepreneurs offering a service of any kind, what can we learn from thinking about the wallflowers of those school dances?

If you don’t differentiate your service offering in a clear, compelling way and if you just aren’t interesting, put your party dress away. Because NO ONE WILL NOTICE YOU!

If you offer a service–whether it’s writing or legal services or psychotherapy or plumbing or anything else–you’re selling something that’s completely invisible. People can’t see it. They can’t hold it. They can’t take a picture of it and post it on Pinterest or Facebook for all their friends to see. And that puts you and your business at a distinct disadvantage. But there’s a solution! It’s something I like to call Connection Communication.

A Mini-Case Study: My First Traffic Ticket

I can remember the very first traffic ticket I ever got. It was a cold, windy winter evening and I was on my way to a friend’s house for dinner. I had stopped at a red light and then turned right. Right on red. Right? Wrong. As soon as I did, I saw the blue lights behind me. I pulled over and the officer came to my window. He informed me that I had made an illegal turn at an intersection where right on red wasn’t allowed. I explained that I hadn’t seen the sign–probably because the wind was blowing everything around, including THAT SIGN. While I thought that was a good enough excuse to get out of a ticket, the officer didn’t. So, that was that. My parting gift was a pink sheet of paper with my name listed as “defendant” and the date and time I was scheduled to appear in traffic court. Totally sucked–particularly since I had always been a strict rule follower. In my mind, I imagined that the entire world would forever look at me as an outlaw. That was heavy stuff for a girl who wouldn’t even taste the grapes in the grocery store before buying them because she felt like that was stealing. (And–no–I still don’t taste the grapes.)

Within a couple of days after getting that ticket, I started receiving letter after letter from attorneys in the area who wanted to represent me in court. They all said the same things:

1. They knew I had gotten a ticket.

2. If I did nothing about the ticket and simply paid the fine, it could hurt my driver’s license and result in higher insurance premiums.

3. I could avoid this pain by simply hiring them to represent me in court.

4. All I had to do was call them to talk about my ticket over the phone.

I didn’t know who any of these attorneys were. I didn’t know nearly enough at that time to differentiate any of them from the others. None–that I can remember–acknowledged how I might feel about getting the ticket. None said anything that made me feel like they might be the right choice for me. And they all were going to cost me money.

So, what did I do? I did a little research about what I should do and went to court for myself. It all ended well–although I had to spend a good part of my morning waiting in a courtroom with about 150 fellow law breakers. I would have gladly paid to miss out on that–but I simply didn’t know who to trust.

 

The Lesson–and the Solution

Although I used the story of my traffic ticket to make a point, I’m not picking on attorneys. ( I am one, after all.) ANY service provider is at risk of blending in with all of his or her competitors. You become a wallflower in your own industry. That’s not good for you OR for your business. So, what can you do? Here are a few key things that make a huge difference when done correctly:

1. Know who your ideal customer is and what they need from you. If you don’t know what they need, ASK THEM! And then create solutions that will fulfill that need.

2. Know who your competition is and how they’re communicating to potential customers about their service offerings. You DON’T want to do it the same way they are. (Remember–NO WALLFLOWERS!!)

3. In all of your marketing communications–including sales letters, your website, emails, etc.–talk to your customers like human beings. And that means being conversational. Talk to them in a way that helps them see that you’re a human being, too–not just a business. Remember–people do business with people. In my traffic ticket example, all an attorney would have had to do to stand out from the crowd was to open his or her letter to me by saying something as simple as this: 

Dear Ms. Lashley, 

Getting a traffic ticket can certainly ruin your day (or your night). Believe me. I know. My name is Joe Attorney and I’d be honored if you’d allow me to take away the worry of dealing with your ticket and the court system. This is something I do every day for many other Anywhere County citizens and I’d also like to do it for you.

4. The About page on any website is typically the page that receives the most traffic. However, that’s the page that is so often the WORST page on businesses websites. People go there to find out who you are and what you can do for them. They don’t want to hear how AWESOME you are. They want hear how you can make their lives better.

5. Be clear about what you’re offering and explain it in a way that people will understand and that exudes empathy for the challenge they’re looking to you to resolve.

I’ll be talking about each of these in more depth during a series of blog posts that will be running in January. It’s not only important stuff–it’s absolutely necessary if you’re going to run a successful service-based business. And, if you’re a licensed or certified professional (like a psychotherapist, attorney, plumber, electrician, designer, trainer, etc.) interested in getting hands-on practice, direction and feedback regarding how to do all of this for your business, I’m going to be opening a pilot version of my new course, Connection Communication: Using the Power of Story to Attract (and Keep) Your Ideal Customers, within the next few weeks. You can get on the mailing list here to receive notification about when it opens. For the 5-week pilot course, I’ll be offering it at a WAY reduced rate (because you’ll be helping make this course FREAKIN’ AMAZING as we work through it) and I’ll only be taking 10 students for this first round. Why? Because we’ll be working together a LOT and I want to make sure I have enough time to spend with each person in the class to get their business “storified” for success!!

 

Hey, Writers! You Have Superpowers!

Superhero Writers
I spent most of summer 2015 watching the ENTIRE Marvel cinematic universe with my 13-year-old son. What does that look like? As of right now, that consists of 12 feature-length movies and 4 television/Netflix series (with multiple seasons). If I was good at math, I could tell you exactly how many hours, minutes and seconds that equates to. But I’m not. So I won’t. And I think I might actually cry if I knew.  (Yep. I’ve cleared a place on the mantle for that Mother of the Year Award. I freakin’ EARNED it!) 

To be perfectly honest, I actually liked the movies and television shows. Some more than others. But none of them had me looking at the clock to see how much longer I had to sit there in front of the TV or in the theater.

What dawned on me as I watched movie after movie and television show after Netflix episode is that, when we writers use our storytelling abilities, we actually have WAY cool superpowers. And that makes us at LEAST as awesome as Iron Man and Thor and Captain America.

 

Pretty Super Superpowers

As writers, we totally get how to write a good narrative. We know how to tap into emotions. And, most important, we understand what makes people tick. I’d go so far as to say that we know how to do these things better than anyone else in the world. So, when we put these gifts to work for our own brands and/or for the brands we serve, we have the power to:

Change Hearts and Minds

People make buying decisions based on emotions—not on facts. That’s not saying that facts aren’t important. They are. And they should be included in what we communicate. But how we feel about a product or service or the person doing the selling is typically the tipping factor. So, when we create communications for a brand, we absolutely have to remember that–and we have to be sure to include a strong emotional appeal that surrounds the hard data.

Let’s think about our own buying habits. For instance, let’s say we’re looking at two courses about how to make a marriage healthier—both of which offer basically the same information. The features–when looked at side by side in a spreadsheet–are almost identical. But the product story that authentically acknowledges the difficulties that all couples experience, that clearly shows us what’s possible for our own marriage, and demonstrates how this specific course is the solution that will work for us is the one that will drive our choice—even if that choice is more expensive.

 

Make Trust Magically Appear

Know. Like. Trust. Those things have to be in place before someone will buy from you. Particularly if you’re thinking about offering anything online. The hardest of these three things to come by? Trust. That’s where storytelling comes in.

The right story told at the right time can increase the trust current and potential customers have in you and what you offer. Stories about real customers. Stories about a brand doing something really nice for a customer–without any expectation of recognition or reward. Stories that provide value and help customer better understand their own world. Brand storytelling–when done well–helps consumers build trust in your brand, your product and YOU. And that’s what leads to better (and quicker) sales–as well as longer and richer customer relationships.

 

Transport People to Other Places

Have you ever noticed how quickly time goes by when you’re watching a great movie or reading a great book? Hours feel like minutes. Because, in our minds, we are dancing with kings, slaying dragons, saving the world, or going on grand adventures with characters we really, really like. Words and images work like a time machine, transporting us to other places. Brand communications can do that, too. Just take a look at this beautiful love story from Extra Gum.

What happens when we see brand stories that resonate? We want to become part of those stories. We want to find true love. We want to be in on the joke. We want to be that kind of dad or that kind of mom. And, to achieve that, we buy what the brand is offering.

 

Move People to Action

In their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck, Chip and Dan Heath talk about the power of stories to make people act. As the Heath brothers put it, they “act as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.” That might mean purchasing a good or service, contributing to a cause, voting for a candidate, changing how something is done at work. You name it. But the important takeaway is that we are wired for stories. We remember stories when they resonate with us–and we act on them.

 

So what happens when we apply our storytelling superpowers to communications we create for companies, organizations, causes or even ourselves? We provide value to customers. We build brands with meaning. And we make a difference. Not bad for a day’s work. Now–get to work superhero!

COMING UP NEXT: Connection Communication. What is it? Why does it matter? (DON’T MISS this if you have a product or service to sell!)

If you enjoyed this post, join The Page-Turner Mission community at www.smarterwritinglab.com where you’ll find all kinds of cool stuff about how to make a great living with your writing skills!

ARE YOU A LICENSED OR CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL (LAWYER, THERAPIST, PHYSICIAN, COACH, ETC.) WHO WANTS TO COMMUNICATE IN A WAY THAT WILL BRING IN MORE CLIENTS? I totally get it. As a licensed attorney, I know the unique challenges you face when it comes to marketing. And I can help. The first step? A no-obligation free 30-minute consultation. Email me at michele@smarterwritinglab.com to schedule a session.

HEY, WRITERS! INTERESTED IN ONE-ON-ONE COACHING THAT WILL GET YOU MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION WITH YOUR WRITING FAST? Let’s chat! I develop customized programs for each of my students. So email me at michele@smarterwritinglab.com to set up a free 30-minute consultation. (No strings. PROMISE!!)