We all know to buy local produce to support family-owned farms and get the freshest tomatoes, but do you know that by hiring local talent, you can get the best services? Whether it's a copywriter or graphic designer, local talent is always the best choice.
- You can meet in person. It's tempting to hire someone inexpensively located halfway across the world, but you can't meet over coffee or in your office to discuss the direction of your marketing materials.
- You share a language and culture. Going back to hiring someone halfway across the world, there are language barriers to overcome, as well as cultural barriers. Not only does someone local speak your language and understand your culture, she also understands what you're trying to say if you're targeting people in your local market and what drives your local customers.
Allison and I also offer a white paper and special report service that means a professional-looking ebook, white paper, or special report to distribute to clients. Contact me for more details
There are plenty of reasons to hire local, and the quality work, communication, and expertise of someone in your backyard makes for stunning, appealing marketing materials that speak directly
to your target market.
I always enjoy finding interesting ways to describe my clients’ services, particularly when I’m not familiar with the types of services my client offers. Earlier this year, Jared Haworth of Alloy Code
contacted me to write the copy for his website, which was being relaunched. Alloy Code is a Ruby on Rails development firm, and at the time Jared contacted me, I only knew that Ruby on Rails was a programming language used to create web applications. I didn’t know anything about the language itself, how to program in Ruby on Rails, or what iterative
meant. But I’m very well-versed in research, which makes it easy to get up to speed enough to provide cohesive copy.
I went through several steps before I started writing the copy, which was to be descriptive and use industry-standard terminology. My first step was to be honest with my client before he sent me a deposit. I told Jared exactly what I did know and what I didn’t know, and I advised him that I would have questions as I went along. I then did a lot of research on Ruby on Rails: what methodologies are used, what kind of programming comes from it, and what terms are commonly used when describing finished products. I visited a few websites that use Ruby on Rails on the back end as well. Then, I asked my client a few things that needed clarification regarding the programming language. This technical knowledge allowed me to better describe the services, using industry-standard terminology.
In the meantime, we discussed how he came up with the name Alloy Code. At the suggestion of his good friend and long-time collaborator Keith Medlin, Jared came up with Alloy Code because alloys fuse metals to create even stronger materials, and Alloy Code fuses different technologies to develop strong applications. I looked at other areas where I could use an alloy metaphor and wove it into the “About” and “People” pages, since Alloy Code consists of two very strong programmers. We also used it as a tagline that appears at the top of every page.
I also wanted to play a bit with the name of the language itself, Ruby on Rails, without going overboard and being obvious. For one of the services, I was able to use a subtle play on words to emphasize how a backup service prevents the application from being “derailed.” Again, obvious metaphors seem lazy to me, so I kept it to a minimum and instead described the problem each service solved while only using the play on words once in the copy.
Finally, the client wanted a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek feel to the “People” page, which allowed me to show some of the personality of the Alloy Code developers. I teased out some information from Jared and his partner on their hobbies and used creative ways to describe how they spend their time when they’re not coding. I also listened to their suggestions – on my first pass with one of the bios, I used terminology that wasn’t familiar to the subject. We figured that if he hadn’t heard of it, the ideal client wouldn’t, either, so I reworked the bio to remove the terminology but preserve the tongue-in-cheek feel.
Jared tells me that he gets inquiries through the website and has all the work he can handle currently (but is always looking forward!) I’m proud to have been a part of this key component of Alloy Code’s marketing, and at the end, it was about more than just creating great website copy. We forged our own strong marketing piece through communication, blending a talented Ruby on Rails engineer with a hard-working copywriter for an even stronger website.*
*Lucid Designs was the website’s designer.
At today's Easthampton Don't Eat Lunch Alone, I sat at a section of the table with a graphic designer (Lisa Hoag
) and a software developer who does website programming (Tom Novelli
) - a potent triple-threat combination. Rounding out our group was a small business owner, and we discussed the three components of a successful website:
- Great design. The first thing that catches a visitor's eye is the design. Choose a graphic designer that has a portfolio you like to design your logo and graphics.
- A back end system so that you can easily update your website. Whether it's WordPress or a custom content management system, make sure that you can easily add blog posts or special offers to your site without having to call your website designer or other techie.
- Great copy. Writing your own website copy doesn't work. You're just too close to your own business and will end up spending too much time writing copy that may not result in the sales you expected. To truly boost your sales, your website copy should be written by a professional copywriter who can speak to your target market.
These three prongs are what make a website a successful component of your marketing. Choose professionals that can do what you need, whether it's a splashy graphic design, a simple content management system for keeping your blog or special sales up to date, or a copywriter who can craft snappy, grammatically correct copy that enhances your credibility. Then watch your sales increase.
Most companies, especially small businesses, commission a web designer to create or update their website, but they forget about the copywriting aspect. When the designer comes back to the contact person and asks for copy, someone will throw together a quick paragraph or two for each page, but it won’t generate the results that the business had expected.
It’s tempting for small businesses to save money by doing the web copywriting themselves, but here’s why it doesn’t work:
- The writer is too close to the business. There’s something to be said about knowing the business, but if the writer is too close and entrenched in it, he doesn’t see the benefits of his services or products as easily. A copywriter is distanced enough where she can extract the benefits from the features.
- The writer isn’t skilled at marketing copy. A good copywriter is and can write in a way that will engage potential customers and encourage them to act.
- The writing just isn't up to par. This is the biggest problem for most small business websites. The business owner is great at what she does: personal training, healthcare consulting, IT consulting, interior design, etc. But she’s not a skilled writer, and she can’t find the right words. If she tries to write her website copy herself, it comes out stilted and doesn’t convey what she wants. A copywriter can extract the information and present it in a coherent way to prospective clients.
- The writing isn’t grammatically correct. A good copywriter is a trained writer who knows the mechanics of writing. She is committed to the written word and produces well-written, grammatically correct copy that increases the business’s credibility. When a business is looking to hire a copywriter, it’s always a good idea to ask if she uses any particular style guides or reference manuals (AP, Chicago, Strunk & White, even Yahoo!).
- The keywords aren't placed correctly. Most websites should be SEO-optimized, and a good copywriter can seamlessly weave the keywords into the copy. It goes back to "The writing just isn't up to par" - as good as the keywords are, they should seem to be organically ingrained into the website copy, not stuffed in strictly for SEO purposes.
The investment in good website copy pays for itself in a few clients. Instead of trying to write copy themselves for the bulk of the website, businesses can benefit from engaging the services of a professional copywriter. Read what my satisfied clients have to say
about the copywriting I’ve provided, or contact me for a complimentary consultation
to learn what I can do for your business website.
(And to save time, I have all four style guides and reference manuals at my fingertips!)
At the recent Connecticut Business Expo, I noticed something all over the exhibit hall and the venue: Quick Response (QR) codes. These black and white codes were being snapped by smartphones around the room, and attendees were able to receive instant information just by scanning the codes.
QR codes, created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, are one of the most popular types of two-dimensional bar codes. They’re popping up everywhere: on brochures, in ads, on vending machines, and even in magazine articles. Marketers love QR codes because they’re an easy way to link offline information with online information. Snap a picture with a smartphone’s QR reader, and you’re instantly linked to a website that delivers more information on the product or service without having to type in a URL.
Generating QR codes is as easy as snapping a picture (well, almost). Two sites that will generate codes for free are qrcode.kaywa.com
. When you’re generating a code, use a shortened URL so the code will be easier to read. You can shorten your URLs at bit.ly
, or goo.gl
Want to jump on the QR bandwagon? If you’re in Western Massachusetts, you’re in luck: attend Tortus Technologies’s QR code seminar on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. More information is at http://tortus.com/seminars/how_to_create_and_apply
Most small businesses, particularly in less-populated markets, rely on a few standbys: a yellow pages listing, word-of-mouth, and maybe a website. Some advertise in the local paper. But that's the extent of it, and in smaller markets, small businesses should look at other tools that can drive sales.Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is also known as search engine optimization (SEO). If you do not have a website, get one now. Hire a designer
who can build either a simple, static website or a WordPress-based site
that can be updated regularly. Then, start thinking about your keywords. How are your customers searching for you? "Landscaper in West Springfield" or "personal trainer in Longmeadow"? Google AdSense can list keywords and key phrases that customers will use.Email
Email newsletters sent no more than every month, with maybe a quick supplementary message in between newsletters (you don't want to be known as an annoying spammer!), can also drive sales. Be creative with your newsletter; don't just include your sales or specials. What useful information could you send to your clients? A contractor could send seasonal tips for household maintenance; a gift shop or florist could include ideas for wedding gifts in June or back-to-school gifts in September. Collect email addresses via simple sign-up sheets in your shop or by asking for them when you bid on a job.Social Media
It's not just for the kids. If you don't have a Facebook page for your business, get one. They're very easy to set up, although if you want a more robust environment, hire a marketing agency
. Post your specials, ask for customer feedback, and encourage your customers to post as well. If you have a mobile business, such as a catering truck, consider setting up a Twitter feed that links to your Facebook page and broadcasts your location. Include pictures: the inside of your restaurant, signature dishes, popular products, samples of your work.
According to eMarketer.com
, 77% of people search for information on branded products by going online. Seventy-seven percent
of people are firing up their computers and searching for answers by reading information provided on the Internet. Of those, 20% start with the brand's website because they believe the site will have the most complete and reliable information.
Does your website have the most complete and reliable information on your brand? If someone is researching your company's products and services, can they easily find the information they need to make an informed decision?
Take a good look at your site. If your products and services aren't clearly explained, the potential customer may go elsewhere for information - and may choose a competitor's product. The copy on your website, more than the flashy graphics, are what keep potential customers interested. If it's not well-written, if it doesn't clearly explain the benefit to the customer, you've already lost a sale. Keep customers engaged with clear prose that provides information to the customer, and make sure it is complete and reliable. Update your website periodically to reflect product or service changes.
Above all, make sure your website is well-written. The copy on your website reflects your business, and it should be as interesting, clear, and beneficial as the products and services you provide.