SCML 06: Winning the Case for Content Marketing with a Law Firm’s Website

What type of content should a law firm’s website contain? That’s what we’ll be looking at in this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab. We’ll look at a law firm’s existing site and explore ways to add new, more dynamic content that will help this firm attract more of it’s ideal clients.

What You’ll Learn

We’ll look at several different areas of the website and discuss the following:

  • How to use the “hero” section of the home page more effectively–including how to make it a stronger navigational element for website visitors
  • The use of video to make an about page come alive
  • How to use a blog (or vlog), webinars, white papers, etc. to establish thought leadership status
  • Using imagery to communicate more clearly about who you are and what you do

Links to Cool Stuff

Here are the links to what was discussed during the show:

The law firm where Nick works

Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC™: LOVE the videos on this law firm’s “Our Team” page!

Also, be sure to connect with me at Michele@smarterwritinglab.com and at The Smarter Writing Lab. I’d love to hear from you!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

SCML 05: Jon Nastor, Host of the “Hack the Entrepreneur” Podcast

 

If you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast to help build an audience for your business–or even if you haven’t (yet)–then you’ll LOVE this week’s episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab! My guest is Jon Naster, host of the incredibly popular Hack the Entrepreneur podcast and co-host of The Showrunner podcast.

What You’ll Learn

Jon talks about a wide array of interesting topics, sharing things like how:

  • He came up with the engaging hook that has helped him EXPLODE the growth of his Hack the Entrepreneur podcast
  • He uses content marketing—including writing for various publications like Entrepreneur—to build his business and scale up his podcast
  • He’s using using content marketing to build trust with his audience and promote sales of his products
  • He balances podcasting and writing and product creation
  • The podcast is the reason he gets to write for such high-profile businesses and publications
  • The podcast has transformed his life
  • You have to be patient and consistent when it comes to building an audience
  • To get clear about the focus and purpose of your podcast before getting started
  • To repurpose content—and why you should do it
  • Entrepreneurs are using podcasts to funnel audiences into their businesses
  • To monetize a podcast directly and indirectly

He also describes the four things that are essential to building a successful podcast.

Links to Cool Stuff

Here are the links to what was discussed during the show:

Hack the Entrepreneur Podcast

The Showrunner Podcast

The 9-Step Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Podcast (FREE at The Showrunner)

The Showrunner Podcasting Course

Recite

Also, be sure to connect with me at Michele@smarterwritinglab.com and at The Smarter Writing Lab. I’d love to hear from you!

Save

Save

Save

Kevin Appleby: Building a Consulting Biz with Content Marketing

In this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab, we go to the lab to look at the website and content marketing for Kevin Appleby’s business–Appleby Consulting. We also take a look at Neil Patel’s post, 8 Content Marketing Tricks That Helped Dollar Shave Club Go Viral.

As always, drop me a line at michele@smarterwritinglab.com and visit me at The Smarter Writing Lab to learn more about how to write better to go further with your business.

FYI–Since this episode was recorded, Kevin contacted me and let me know that he’s in the process of making some fantastic changes that will optimize his main site–Applebyconsulting.co.uk.

 

PJ Aguilar: How The Yoga Biz Coach Uses Content Marketing to Position Herself for Success

In this episode, I talk about how to use content marketing to bring value to our current and potential customers. Because if we don’t do that, what’s the point–right? And I also take a look at what Yoga Biz Coach PJ Aguilar is doing with content marketing. (HINT: She’s ROCKIN’ it!!)

Here are the sites and resources mentioned in the podcast:

www.YogaBizCoach.com

The 30 Elements of Consumer Value (article from the Harvard Business Review)

The Copywriting Crash Course 

Shoot me an email at michele@smarterwritinglab.com and let me know what’s going on in your world.

And, as always, be sure to join me over at The Smarter Writing Lab for more info about writing smarter so you can go further!

Save

Save

Gareth Naylor: Painting a Brighter Future with Content Marketing

In this inaugural episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab Podcast, we’ll look at watercolor artist’s  Gareth Naylor’s website and give him some tips about how he can improve its content and maximize that content to help him accomplish his business goals.

I talk about specific things, including the site’s:

Home page structure

Lead magnet

About page

Blog

Gallery

I also provide some tips about ways to get the word out about the great work he’s doing.

 

Episode Takeaways

  1. Be sure your home page makes what your business is all about COMPLETELY CLEAR! Site visitors won’t work to figure out what you do or why they should care.
  2. Create a compelling about page–because this is often where people make the decision about whether to do business with you. But don’t just talk about you, you, you. Show how what you offer will positively impact your customers’ lives.
  3. If you’re selling something, make it easy for people to complete the purchasing process. And include interesting descriptions about products so that potential buyers will understand the value they deliver.
  4. Build your email list! Develop a lead magnet that provides enough value that people will want to give you their email address in order to get it.
  5. If you’re going to blog, then blog about things that captivate your audience’s attention And then PROMOTE YOUR POSTS. Push them out through social media and other venues so that people will find your content.

If you like this podcast, AWESOME! Be sure to check out more great content marketing tips and info at The Smarter Writing Lab!

Save

5 Signs You Might be a Marketing Scaredy Cat

"You're going to have to do things differently."

Hearing this is enough to send cold chills up the spines of many business owners. They want more customers. They want to be noticed. They want to increase sales. They want to make a difference. But they want to do it by marketing their businesses in one or more of the following (and very PREDICTABLE) ways:

  1. By being cautious so that they don't risk any negative perception.
  2. By going broad in an attempt to appeal to EVERYONE.
  3. By talking about EVERY. SINGLE. FEATURE. their product or service offers.
  4. By talking about what THEY do, what's important to THEM, what THEIR focus is and freakin' awesome THEY are.
  5. By doing what their competitors are doing.

Any of these sound like you? (Don't worry. No one's looking--so you can nod sheepishly to yourself.) If they do, then you (da-da-dum) might just be a marketing scaredy cat. And THAT can hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

Truth be told, most of us have been marketing scaredy cats at one time or another. It's hard to do things differently--because with that comes risk. Risk of missing out on perceived opportunities. Risk of the unknown. Risk of failure. But here's the thing:

Marketing courageously--daring to do it in ways that are more thought-provoking, more awe-inspiring, more head-turning--is what will get your business noticed in our very busy and very noisy world. And that will put you on the path to the success you're seeking.

If you don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe master marketer Steve Jobs. Check out this 1997 commercial that featured one of his most famous quotes about the power of thinking differently:

Approaching marketing differently doesn't mean that you do it without thinking or by ignoring proven fundamentals. That's not being a fearless marketer. That's being a careless one. Instead, the businesses out there who are ROCKIN' it are differentiating themselves and winning against companies MUCH bigger than they are by doing doing really smart things like this: 

  • Knowing what they stand for and not being afraid to go with it. Think Quest Nutrition. The protein bar industry is HUGE and packed full of major players. But this company--one that wants to make "clean eating fun" and whose focus is on ending obesity--is doing protein bars differently. Customers responded (in DROVES!), sales increased and now Quest is expanding its offerings to other food choices.  Check out the Quest story:
  • Focusing on serving a specific audience EXTRAORDINARILY well, instead of underserving an audience that's much too broad. Think Blue Apron. So, do you have any idea what the significance of the name "Blue Apron" is? Well, according to the company's website, "chefs around the world wear blue aprons while learning to cook." And that's PERFECT for this company, considering that it's mission is to "make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone." It's not trying to put itself out there as the food home delivery company for everyone no matter how well you can cook. Instead, it's focusing on those who probably aren't going to be hosting their own show on The Food Network anytime soon. Check out what some of their raving fans are saying:
  • Refusing to be like everyone else--and having fun in the process. Think Ben & Jerry's. When I was growing up, the most "out there" ice cream flavor was Rocky Road. And when you bought ice cream, well--you were just buying ice cream. But Ben & Jerry's changed all of that back in 1978 when they opened up their first scoop shop. They made buying ice cream an experience. Personalities were defined by what flavor you liked. Cherry Garcia®? (YES, thank you!) Phish Phood®? Chocolate Therapy®? And Ben & Jerry's also became known as a company with a conscience.
  • Avoid "feature fatigue." (Seriously. It's a thing. Check it out here.) Think Uber. Here's what Forbes had to say about it: "When the service launched, would anyone had cared if they had a slightly better taxi experience, but could also make deliveries? No, that would have just been them trying to do too much and, most likely, doing it all poorly. Instead, people care about Uber because it is way, way better and way, way more convenient than riding a taxi. Uber focused on one thing—being a great transportation app—and devoted all its resources into doing that one thing really, really well." The lesson here? Find your one thing and do it better than anyone else.

If you have a great product or service or cause to sell, don't shortchange it by being a marketing scaredy cat. Be brave. Be bold. And be willing to push beyond what feels comfortable. That's where you'll stand out from all of the noise--and that's where the world will be waiting for you.

START TELLING THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MORE EFFECTIVELY TODAY--FOR FREE!

Take the guesswork (and PAIN) out of writing great copy that sells what you're offering! Get this easy, step-by-step FREE guide that teaches you a simple and proven formula for writing copy that sells whatever you're offering. All the cool kids (and REALLY successful businesses) are using it! So get it today!

Are Your Words Lightning Bugs or Lightning Bolts?

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Mark Twain

We've all been there. We know what we're trying to say--but we just can't figure out how to say it. So, how do we go about finding those words--those lightning bolts--that make the hair stand up on the back of the reader's neck? That are so powerful they leave us awestruck? That elicit a desired emotion with surgical precision? And that--far too often--seem so very elusive?

I wish I had a magic something-or-other to give you that would be a foolproof way of grabbing the right word out of thin air every single time. But I don't. What I CAN do, though, is suggest two different--yet complementary--approaches. One is practical. And one is tactical. So, here goes:

PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

Explain It to a Kid (or Your Grandmother)

If you have a child or if you're around children for any length of time, then you're very familiar with questions like these:

"But, why??"

"What does that mean?"

"How does it work?"

If you're like me, these moments often leave you saying something incredibly intelligent. Something like, "Well, uh, you see, it's like--uh..." It's not that we don't KNOW the answer. (Well, at least we know it MOST of the time.) Instead, we find ourselves struggling to explain something that seems so obvious to us--but so mysterious to this curious child standing there looking to us for the answer. But just because something seems obvious doesn't mean we understand well enough to explain it. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says:

"You do not truly understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

Regardless of who said it, the big idea of the quote is true. Sometimes when I'm having trouble finding the right word, it's because ​I'm not fully understanding the concept I'm trying to write about. It's not clear enough in my mind. But, once I gain a better understanding of WHAT I'm writing about, then I become much more clear about HOW to write about it--including finding just the right words to do it. 

Write Like You Talk

One thing I see when working with writers is that they often try to write in ways that sound NOTHING like how they (or their audience) talk. So no wonder they struggle to find the right words (or ANY words, for that matter)! It's almost like they're writing in a foreign language that they can't speak and certainly don't understand. They use a word like "notwithstanding" instead of just saying "regardless." Or "furnish" instead of just plain ol' "give." Or they've picked some word out of a thesaurus that sounds smart--but they flub up the usage of it. (Remember--just because a word is listed as a synonym doesn't mean it conveys the meaning you're looking for.)

When you write like you or your audience talks, words start flowing much easier. Give it a try.

TACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

The following are some free online resources that can help you track down that lightning bolt of a word  you're searching for. Check them out. Play around with them. And see which of them works best for you.

Thesaurus.com

You probably already know about this resource. If you do--GREAT! Use it. It's pulled me out of some tough spots on many occasions. If you're not using it, USE IT! Why sit there struggling with how to say something when the answer might very well be right at your fingertips. ​

One Look Thesaurus

Although this is a thesaurus, you don't use it in the same way as you do a typical one. Instead, you type in the phrase that describes what you're trying to find a word for and it helps you find that word. Pretty cool stuff!​

RhymeZone

In addition to helping you find rhyming words, RhymeZone can also help you find things like descriptive words, lyrics that include the word you're researching, and even PICTURES that represent the word. All of these are incredibly helpful in getting the creative juices flowing when ​you're looking for just the right way to say something.

Lexical FreeNet

This tool is great for helping you find connections between words. For example, when I type in "football" (the American version of the game), it gives me connections like "quarterback", "league", "players", "coach" and--yes--"soccer." 🙂

alphaDictionary

When you're writing about something in a specific area--like food or construction or even dinosaurs--this tool provides easy access to dictionaries for these various topics. Need to know the lexicon of parrots? Terms used in folk dancing? ​The name of a dress style from the Baroque period? I'd start with alphaDictionary.

Words by Grammarly

I really like the interface of this tool. You not only get synonyms and definitions listed on the same page, but you can also see the WordScore--which gives you information about how often a synonym is used in comparison to others.

Power Thesaurus

This tool is SO cool! It's a crowdsourced thesaurus built by writers for writers. ​And our fellow wordsmiths are adding to it all the time, so it's a living, breathing resource. You can also see what words people are looking for in real time--which is a fun feature in and of itself if you're a word geek like me.

We're All Storm Chasers

As writers, we spend a lot of time chasing down the right word. Why? Because we know the power it has to make a difference in the impact our writing will have. It can be SUCH a frustrating search, though. We KNOW it's out there--but where?

Being a great writer--not merely a good writer--means that we have to accept that we'll always be storm chasers. We'll always be on the hunt for that lightning bolt that will transform our writing into something magical. Something that people don't just read--but actually feel. And it's up to each of us to figure out the best way to approach the hunt. But, regardless how how you hunt, the most important thing is to never stop searching.

It's okay to have some lightning bugs sprinkled through our writing. Because, after all, great writing has a rhythm to it. But for those certain parts --only a lightning bolt will do. It's out there. Go get it.

If you like this, then you'll like the other stuff we're doing over at The Smarter Writing Lab! So, join us!

What Can a PB&J Sandwich Teach You about Marketing?

The PB&J. It's a classic. And, with very few exceptions, one PB&J is pretty much like the other. So, with that said, let's do a little experiment.

I'm going to give you two descriptions of a PB&J as they might appear on a menu. Read both, and then choose the one that convinces you that you just HAVE to have that sandwich. (Share your answer in the comments!)

Option 1

PB & J Sandwich: Smooth or crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly on two slices of white or whole wheat bread. Served with chips. 

Option 2

The OMG!!! PB&J: Forget the traditional PB&J on white bread. BORING! We put the creamiest (or crunchiest--your decision) peanut butter and the most delectable Concord grape jelly between two light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes in just the right amounts. And THEN we sprinkle the top with a fine dusting of powdered sugar. From the very first bite you take, you'll experience layer after layer of pure deliciousness. And you'll notice how the flavors come together in a way that can only be described as "OMG!!!" (Seriously. We hear our customers saying this ALL. THE. TIME.) We'll give you extra napkins to wipe the jelly off as it runs down your chin and to dab the powdered sugar off your nose.

Okay. Which one would you order? For me--it's Option 2. Hands down. (If you want the recipe, here's where I found it. And thanks to The Huffington Post for turning me on to it!)

What Can This Teach Us About Marketing Our Products and Services?

If you have a product or a service that a lot of other people offer too, the classic PB&J is a great metaphor for you. So many businesses focus on the features of what they sell rather than how it will benefit the consumers or clients they serve. (See Option 1 above. Just the features, ma'am.) They also get a bit lazy when it comes to looking for ways to differentiate their service from competitors and how to communicate about it in a way that potential customers or clients will actually pay attention to.

What Option 2 represents is taking something that EVERYONE else offers and putting a spin on it that's uniquely your own. What something you can do--even it's a small thing--to differentiate the way you offer therapy services? Writing services? Legal services? Consulting services? SOMETHING so that you don't sound and look like everyone else in your field. 

Option 2 is also an example of how to communicate in a way that allows others to "see" how their lives can be improved by purchasing your product or service. It doesn't have to be a HUGE improvement. It can be as simple as giving them an unexpected twist on a PB&J. When you talk about your offering in the same way your competitors do, then you'll remain invisible. And that's no fun for anyone.

In a marketplace that's becoming noisier and noisier, you have to find a way to stand out. But you don't have to be a marketing expert to do that. You just have to understand what your potential customers are looking for and how you can connect with them in a way that gets you noticed. I'll be teaching students how to do that in my new course Connection Communication. And I'd LOVE to have you join us! Be sure to check out the details here.


ENROLLMENT IS OPEN NOW!

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!!