Why you should write the story behind your personal brand

Have you noticed that more business owners are sharing their personal story as part of their business branding?

I think it’s great. It’s an opportunity to get to know the business owner and understand why they do what they do.

People buy from people!

But some business owners are uncomfortable with the idea and prefer to keep their business and personal lives separate.

Read on for some tips on how you can tell your story without selling out, invading your own privacy or alienating colleagues and friends.

Have you heard of the late author Nora Ephron (who wrote the script for the film When Harry met Sally, as well as many books and articles)?

About a year ago, I watched a documentary about Nora and learnt that she was famous for the phrase: Everything is copy. 

Basically, she felt that anything that happened in her life was fair game and it was okay to write about it (and she did, ruffling a few feathers along the way!)

I think Nora was ahead of her time, because I’m Generation X (born in the ’70s) and I was definitely raised to believe that you don’t wash your dirty laundry in public!

But things are changing.

I don’t agree with categorising age groups – we’re all just people – but the increase in blogging and influencer marketing, arguably dominated by millennials, shows a massive shift towards people sharing their personal story as part of their business brand.

And the trend for content and social media marketing is very much geared towards sharing valuable content and storytelling, with the mindset that people buy from people.  

So how can you share your story as part of your brand in an *buzzword alert* authentic way? 

The simple answer is by being you. 

Because being you is your business’s USP.

Let’s be honest – there are thousands of people offering the same product or service – but they’re not you. 

It all goes back to your why.

Why did you start your business? What life events led you to your industry? And how have your personal experiences shaped the way that you work?

You can tell your story in several ways:

  • Choose a business name or logo that has a deep meaning connected to your story (you’ll need a professional designer for this).
  • Publish your story on your About page on your website (keep it separate from your home page though, that does need to focus on your customer).
  • Write relatable blogs that link your personal story with your business. 
  • Guest blog on other people’s websites or pitch to appear on their podcast.
  • Refer to your story on your social media posts and make connections with people who have had similar experiences.
  • Use tools such as Instagram stories to chat about your daily life and show what goes on behind the scenes of your business. 

If, like me, you’re a private person, it doesn’t mean you have to disclose every tiny detail of your life. It’s up to you how much you share. 

And your story doesn’t have to be tragic or unusual.

It may be as simple as wanting to work from home to be there for your children (in which case you’re part of a huge community).

Or maybe you have a fitness or educational goal that you want to share with the world. 

If your story does have an element of tragedy, trauma or sadness, you don’t have to alienate friends, family and  colleagues to tell it in an authentic way.

For example, if you started your business because you were made redundant, don’t word it in such a way that you sound bitter or critical of your previous employers (however tempting). 

If you became self-employed after a relationship breakdown, don’t waste your time and energy slating your ex.

Focus instead on the positives and how you turned a difficult situation around to create a better life. 

People love to see someone pull through difficult times. It gives them hope.

After all, if you’ve pulled through a low point in your life to build a business, maybe they can too.

If you come across as bitter or angry, it might work against you – use words to inspire people. 

Ultimately, it’s all about communicating your true self in a way that isn’t fake.

Don’t be tempted to make something up – it doesn’t matter if your story isn’t out of the ordinary.

If it’s true, you can weave it through all the strands of your marketing and social media engagement, showing prospective customers the real person behind the business. 

What do you think?

Are you drawn to business owners who let their guard down?

Or do you prefer clear boundaries between professional and personal  lives? 

I’d love to hear your comments.

Enjoy this blog? I do hope you found it enjoyable and valuable. Please feel free to share with your friends and colleagues.

Further reading. If you’re keen to tell your business story you may enjoy my blog Write as you speak – your readers will love you for it where you’ll be pleased to find out you don’t have to swallow a thesaurus to write good copy.

About me I’m Alison, a Freelance Copywriter living and working in Milton Keynes. The experiences of raising a child with autism and losing a parent to dementia remind me to value the power of words and communication. I believe in writing  clear, conversational copy that everyday people can relate to. 

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to work with me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How formulas can help you write better copy

Can’t find time to write copy for your marketing materials?

Don’t know where to start?

Read on for part one of my three-part series on copywriting formulas that will time and help you write effective copy.

Image credit: Pixabay

Something I often hear from business owners is that they can’t find the time to write copy and blog posts for their website and marketing materials. And even if they can find the time, they have no idea where to start.

I get it.

Writing effective copy and content does take time. I love it but I still find it draining and I’m always shocked at how much faster the clock ticks when I’m copywriting.

And I know only too well how easy it is to start writing and lose direction.

Like most things, it’s all in the planning and in this three-part series I’m going to share some copywriting formulas that will not only save you time but help you get organised and write copy that packs a punch.

I’m going to start with an oldie but goodie: AIDA.

If you’re a copywriter or marketing type, you’ve almost certainly heard of this one. It’s the first copywriting formula I learned when studying The Complete Copywriter with the Writer’s Bureau. (I later went on to study Breakthrough Copywriting with The Copywriting Academy and Hubspot Inbound Marketing).

What does AIDA stand for?

Attention
Interest
Desire
Action

“Okay” you’re thinking “But what does that actually mean?”

Here’s a breakdown:

Attention pretty much speaks for itself.

It’s the first opportunity you have to get the reader/potential customer’s attention, so it has to be good.

Usually, the headline is the first thing to catch attention, although increasingly superb imagery is needed too, particularly for on-line copy.

Avoid click-bait headlines that don’t deliver on their promise. Probably the best way to get the reader’s attention is to think about what your ideal customer wants to know, so that your headline offers help.

There’s nothing wrong with a headline that ‘does what it says on the tin’. At least your reader knows what they’re getting from the off.

You may choose to be controversial or humorous, but think carefully about how this will translate to the reader. Shock-tactics might get you the wrong sort of attention and do your business more damage than good.

Interest

So the reader needs to have a reason to keep reading. The mistake many people make is to instantly start talking about themselves and what they do.

Bit of a turn-off, yes? But easily done.

A better strategy is turn the attention round to the reader and work out why they should keep reading.

Look for their point of paIn. What problems are they having? What impact is this having on them emotionally, physically, financially? What are their fears? Hopes? Dreams?

You will need to have a pretty good idea of who your ideal customer is to be able to tap into these emotions. If you’re unclear about who you’re trying to attract, you might want to take a step back and get really clear on who you’re writing for first.

copywriting formula ideal customer

Be clear on your ideal customer. Who are they?

Desire This is the point at which you influence your reader to want what you are offering.

Again it’s easy to start talking about what you do. Of course your reader does need to know what you have to offer, but you need to move swiftly on to what your product/service is going to do for them – how it will benefit them.

You want your reader to spend their hard-earned money on your product or service.

Think about this from their point of view.

Why should they?

What’s in for them?

For example, if you’re a massage therapist, don’t just tell them you offer great massage therapies and waffle on about all your massage qualifications. (You can always do this on a separate About page).

Help them visualise why they should get a massage. What are the benefits of having a massage? How are they going to feel after?

Avoid words such as ‘amazing’ and ‘brilliant’ to describe what you offer (if it is, they will tell you in reviews and testimonials).

Instead, paint a picture of how it will improve your customer’s life.

For example:

  • Get a great night’s sleep
  • Feel less anxious or depressed
  • Get relief from back or shoulder pain
  • Feel more confident and focused
  • Enjoy some time and space away from their responsibilities  
  • Feel happier and healthier

And finally, Action. 

This relates to Call to Action and it’s super important because if your reader has decided they do want to get in touch, you need to make it easy for them to do so.

Make sure your contact details, preferably a telephone number, are clearly see on every page of your website, not just the contacts page. And make sure they are clear and easy to read.

If you have a contact form, make sure it’s right there in front of them. (I’m going to write more detailed blog posts about calls to action in the coming months so look out for those.)

AIDA is probably the most well-known copywriting formula around. Some consider it old-fashioned and cumbersome.

I think it’s pretty good but in my quest to consume as much copywriting know-how as I can, I’ve discovered some other formulas which I believe to be easier and more effective than AIDA.

I‘m going to share these with you in parts two and three of this series – coming soon.

Until next time.

Alison x

I do hope you found this blog post valuable.

I’m always open to constructive feedback so please get in touch if you want to discuss. And feel free to share with your friends, contacts and social media.

Want to hand over all that time-consuming copy to someone else? Drop me a line: alisonbcopywriter@gmail.com or complete the simple form below and tell me about your project.

I’d love to work with you.

 

 

 

How to write your About page without being too me, me, me…

Some experts will tell you that you shouldn’t write about yourself, it’s all about the customer. And only the cutomer.

But how do you build a rapport with your reader and show them you’re someone they can trust?

me me meImage credit: Pixabay

Your About page is one of the hardest pages to write and many experts will tell you that you should focus purely on the customer and not write about yourself.

It’s a bummer really. You’ve spent years getting to where you are, sweating blood and tears, training, retraining, making mistakes, learning from mistakes…

So the suggestion that your reader doesn’t want to know about you is disappointing.  

Traditional copywriting advice recommends that you focus on the reader and how your product or service can benefit them. And when it comes to writing blog content the focus is on giving value to the reader.

I think rules are there to be broken and so, in my view, you can tell your story without losing the interest of the reader. 

And in some cases, I believe that doing so can help you build more of a rapport with your audience.

When people refer to your About page, they often mean the first page a visitor lands on when they visit your website (the home page). 

Arguably, this is the most important page and its job is to attract attention and guide the reader to take action.

This page needs to hook your reader and make it super clear what you do and what’s in it for them. They should be in no doubt how they can get hold of you, so a visible call to action (such as a contact form or telephone number) is vital.

Your home page isn’t the place to ramble about yourself. You’ve got a short window of opportunity to interest the reader. And so the focus needs to be on them.

But… there’s nothing to stop you having a second page where the reader can find out more about you.

To avoid confusion you can call it something more interesting than “About”. Here are some suggestions:

Who I am
My story
Why I became a copywriter/plumber/therapist

As a consumer, I do want to know who I’m working with before I part with my money.

If you’re a plumber, I want to know about your training and experience, so I can be sure my loo is going to work properly. And if you’re going to teach my children to play a musical instrument or help them with maths tutoring, I want to know more about your background.

On my Who am I? page, the first thing I do is give the reader the opportunity to opt out and go straight to my services page.  I give a short, bulleted version for those who just want a quick overview. And for the nosey types (like me) I suggest they settle down with a cuppa so they know they’re in for a longer read.

There’s a big focus on storytelling right now and I think your story, if relevant to your product or service, can play a key part in promoting your business and building trust with your client.

So I think it’s okay to get more personal in your About page, but remember to keep the Home page focused on the customer. Win win.

Until next time. Happy writing.

Alison x


I do hope you found this blog post valuable. I’m always open to constructive feedback so please get in touch if you want to discuss. And feel free to share with your friends, contacts and social media.

Want to work with me? Drop me a line: alisonbcopywriter@gmail.com or there’s a simple form on my contacts page.

The so what test – what it is and how it can improve your copywriting

Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to explain the benefits of your product or service to your potential customers.

Here’s a fun way to drill down into the detail and uncover new selling points.

If you’re struggling to explain your services in words on your website, blog posts or social media updates, try the so what test to challenge yourself and find inspiration for new ideas.

I’m not sure where it originates from (if you do know, please should and I’ll include a reference) but it’s a really useful tool for drilling down into the detail of what you actually do and how you can communicate it to your customers in the written word.

Before I explain how to do the ‘so what test’, something to bear in mind is that when you’re writing content you should be thinking about the benefits of your product/service as well as the features.

There’s a theory that your writing should be all about the benefits – meaning, what’s in it for the customer. (I’m not 100% convinced about this, but I’ll tackle that another time.)

So, if you run a decorating service you don’t just use the best paint (feature), you save the customer from committing crimes to DIY, you free up their weekend, you take away the stress and mess of painting, you save their marriage from the effects of yet another DIY disaster. These are benefits.

With me so far?

The so what test can help you really think about your business, what you offer, what’s in it for the customer and why they should choose you.

If you have a trusted friend or colleague, you might want to rope them in to help you with the test. You could even record it if you fancy a laugh.

I’m going to demonstrate the test here using my role as a copywriter and an imaginary friend:

Me: “I’m a copywriter”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “I write copy for websites and content for business blogs.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So that when customers visit the client’s website they read clear, persuasive copy that explains the purpose of the business.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they can understand how that service/product will benefit them.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they can read blogs about the business and find helpful tips that might help them.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they can get to know the business and start to trust them.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they visit that website again or recommend to their friends.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

“Me: “So when they’re ready to buy a product or invest in a service, they’re more like to choose that business”.

So that’s a pretty short example. The longer you go on, the more you will uncover about what you do.

My imaginary conversation could have gone off at several tangents. I could have talked about the benefits of high quality content for SEO, using appropriate keywords, optimising paragraphs and images to accurate spelling and eye-pleasing layout.

Instead, I focused on the importance of clear, persuasive copy and helpful content that builds trust with the prospective client.

Your turn now.

Just keep going and really drilling down into the detail of what you do and then think about how you can use that information to write great content for your website and marketing materials.

I’d love to hear how you get on. Did you uncover any selling points that you hadn’t previously thought about or used?

Alison

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and with anyone you know who would find it useful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

Write As You Speak – your readers will love you for it

Why plain English and your own tone of voice are better than long words and jargon.

In this article you will learn about the copywriting formula WAYS which stands for write as you speak.

Do you find the prospect of writing your own copy scary? Do you still have nightmares about that prim and proper English teacher who was only too happy to scribble across your homework in red ink?

Forget about them!

If you’re one of those business owners who thinks that your English language skills are not good enough to write content and blogs for your business, I have good news for you:

You don’t have to swallow a thesaurus to write good copy.

Think about your reasons for writing in the first place.

You probably want to sell, yes. But more importantly, you want to communicate your business message clearly to your target audience.

Before anyone is going to buy from you, you need to gain their trust and your content strategy (relax, I just mean your blog) goes a long way in helping your achieve that.

Clear, concise copy in plain English is more likely to resonate with your audience (any audience) than stiff, formal  language stuffed full of pretentious words.

And the easiest way to achieve this is to use a copywriting technique called WAYS:

Write
As
You
Speak

So what do I mean by Write As You Speak?

When writing, imagine you are having a conversation with your reader.

Think of it as talking to them, rather than writing for them.

If you suffer from writer’s block, you can record your message and then you can translate it to truly write as you speak (and you edit out the ‘umms’ and ‘ahs’ if you speak like I do!)

Here are some further tips to help you achieve this less formal style of writing:

  • Don’t use long words and jargon that nobody understands.
  • Write in short, simple sentences.
  • Keep paragraphs short  – lots of white space is visually appealing to readers.
  • Don’t be afraid to start sentences with “And” and “But” (Shakespeare did it, and so can you).
  • Describe your product or service in a factual, honest manner. Explain to the reader what it is and how it will benefit them.
  • Don’t tell the reader your offer is “fantastic” or “amazing” –  if it is, they can tell you when  they come to review it.
  • Use simple punctuation and break up your copy with bullet-points.
  • Keep in mind the saying “Humour doesn’t translate”. Tread carefully with the funny talk and consider your audience.
  • There’s a train of thought that it’s good to be controversial – it’s a quick way to attract attention. It’s your call, but personally I think life’s too short for trolls and hassle. There are better ways to get attention than being deliberately provocative.

Finally, remember the importance of focussing on the reader – don’t constantly talk about yourself (trust me, I know how difficult this is).

Think about your reader’s problems and needs, and what you can do to help.

Some examples:

Instead of: “With 10 years experience, I can write content and copy to a high standard.”
Try:  “Boost your site with engaging copy, optimised to increase your chances of being found on search engines”

Instead of: “I pride myself on taking amazing photographs.”
Try: “Breathtaking imagery to bring your site to life.”  

A good rule of thumb is one “I” for every three “yous” but don’t take this too literally! Just make sure the focus is on the reader and/or their business.

You are there to provide value to them, not tell them how great you are (hopefully they will do this for you soon enough).

Feel free to give feedback and add further suggestions.

Happy writing.

Alison

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and anyone you know who would find it helpful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

Our autism friendly holiday in Wales

In a parallel universe…

An autism friendly holiday isn’t on my radar. Instead, I’ve just come home from a holiday in the sun, where I drank ice cold beer and dined on garlic prawns by the seafront.

I took long, lazy naps every afternoon, after a morning sunbathing by the pool, and sipped cocktails on the balcony in the evening.

I read books and bartered with the locals in backstreet markets.

Actually, I did none of this.

I’ve just got home from a week in Wales. The beach was wet and windy, we ate fish and chips and I listened to my instincts that were telling me bartering with the checkout man in Tesco was not socially acceptable…

Our 2017 break was our fifth trip to Wales in 5 years.

And we loved it.

Before our children were born, I hadn’t envisaged going to Wales every year. I always thought I would take country breaks in the UK – when I was 70.

But our family holidays – I imagined we would go overseas – probably the Canary or Balearic islands, where I  holidayed as a child.

Our altered reality

But life has a habit of getting in the way of plans, and when it became apparent that our younger son’s difficulties were more than a delay (or, as one lovely person put it, just required a clip round the ear)  holiday destinations were the last thing on our mind.

By the time he was diagnosed at the age of 5, we had already been on several problematic UK breaks. There was that time he bounced off the walls in a Travel Lodge room until midnight (at which point my husband took him for a drive in the pouring rain to calm him down).

That first day at a caravan park when he freaked out at the sight of caravans and attempted to run away from us as we unpacked the car.

And the time we had stupidly shown him photographs of the pool and waterslide, only to find out he wasn’t allowed to go down it. I can hardly bear to think of the meltdown that followed and the crushing realisation that we had done completely the wrong thing. Epic fail.

But you see, autism creeps up on you. In the beginning, as the problems begin to surface, you suspect your child may have autism but you don’t really know what this means. And you certainly don’t know how to prepare your child for different situations, especially holidays. You have to learn this stuff (which we eventually did at a 10 week NAS course).

That year we got it all wrong (2012)

The heartbreaking pool incident happened during our first trip to Wales in 2012. We hadn’t prepared him properly and he was so anxious that we ended up stuck in a rigid routine of doing exactly the same things every day, and even then the slightest deviation from his self-imposed schedule resulted in tears and meltdowns.

His anxiety levels steadily rose throughout the week, but one good thing came out of it.

We discovered Welsh beaches.  Vast, open beaches. No pier, no ice-cream vans, no novelty shops or noisy beachside bars. Just sand, sea and the occasional dog walker.

In short, no distractions.

Perfect for an autistic child.

Yes, it was wet. Yes, it was windy. And then some.

But as our son ran along that beach, the loud noises and echolalia that had attracted so many stares in our everyday life at home in Milton Keynes were like whispers against the crashing waves and howling wind.

He could be as noisy as he liked.

There was hardly anybody around and those that were couldn’t hear him anyway.

The point is he should be able to make any noise he damn well likes anyway. And we shouldn’t give a toss about people’s reactions.

But fellow autism parents will understand how liberating this was for us.

I knew that we had finally got one thing right. We needed to get our shit together and learn how to prepare him for future holidays, but Wales was the right destination for us.

autism friendly holiday in wales borth
By the beach in Borth, not far from Aberystwyth. Our first trip to Wales – we made so many mistakes but he loved the beach.

THE HEALING YEAR (2013)

The following year, 2013, I booked a week in a country cottage in the area of Dunvant, near the Gower peninsular.

Everything had changed in that year. Our son had been formally diagnosed with autism, learning difficulties and dyspraxia. We’d secured a Statement of Educational needs and he was due to start at a special school for autistic children in the coming September. And  during this whole foggy period, my dad had died from a 5 year battle with dementia.

I felt like I’d been run over by a train. I wanted to disappear, far away from home and see nobody, apart from my little family.

So I found a property in Dunvant, outside Swansea and close to the Gower Peninsula. It couldn’t have been more different to the busy caravan park where my son had struggled so much.

It was a huge 4 bedroom cottage nestled in several acres of land, with a massive garden and a trampoline for the kids.  Far too big for a small family of 4 but I didn’t care. My son needed this. And so did I.

As soon as we arrived in Dunvant, both our sons settled in straight away. They were 6 and 9, so totally unimpressed by the size and status of the place (unlike us, we ran round shrieking, “Oh my god!”)

But there was something about this older, very solid and tranquil property that seemed to make our younger son feel secure. I think it’s a sensory thing – he seems more at peace on older properties (maybe they absorb sound better?). Whatever the reason, he relaxed and so did we.

And the icing on the cake? The arrival of the Tesco delivery van, bringing all his familiar foods and treats.

In that huge garden, I could sip my coffee and watch him having fun without experiencing that familiar feeling that creeps over me when a stranger’s heard turns to look at my son. I didn’t have to explain the thing that I shouldn’t have to expain: He’s autistic.  

And once again, the unspoilt beauty of the Welsh beaches and their calming effect on him confirmed that Wales was rapidly becoming our place.

We had a lovely, relaxing time, enjoying the scenery as we drove to Oxwich Bay, listening to the Stereophonics (he now insists that we listen to Stereophonics on Wales trips, but only Wales trips).

autism friendly week in wales

Around this time Rhossili Beach was receiving a lot of attention as it had received a best beach award (in fact, a quick Google search shows that it’s constantly receiving awards).

Our secret was out! The Gower was officially the best place in the Universe and suddenly everyone was going there.

Getting closer (2014/2016)

So the next couple of years we stayed in a converted barn in the less famous village of Brook, in Camarthenshire.

We were just a short drive from Pendine sands, a gorgeous 7 miles stretch of sandy beach. Another winner.

IMG_1078
We all loved the cottage in Brook, but having been there twice we felt that our son needed to experience different environments.

We encountered some difficulties on the first trip, but tried again a year or so later with better results. You can read about this in a blog I wrote for the charity Ambitious About Autism last year.

Here’s a link to that article: Sun, sea, cows and autism

brook wales holiday cottage autism friendly
2016 in Brook, near Pendine Sands. His cheeky face says it all. Happy boy.

GETTING IT RIGHT (2017)

Having had two successful visits to the barn in Brook, we had a dilemma. Did we play it safe and go there again or try somewhere different?

Professionals and various public figures will always stress how important it is to push your child with autism out of their comfort zone (easy for them to say!)

As a parent – and someone who recognises that nobody actually really knows what this thing called autism is – I agree, up to a point.  And yet … routine, stability, reassurance – these are what our son needs. And when he doesn’t get them, we all suffer.

As parents, we need to encourage him, yes. But we also need to be well enough, mentally and physically to care for him. So sometimes the easier option is the happier option.

It was very tempting to take a third trip to the barn in Brook. It was a lovely property and we all felt happy there. A low risk option if you like. But I knew it was unwise to let him get too used to the same property. He needs to experience change, however small, to prepare him for the fact that nothing stays the same forever.

So, we booked a new cottage and prepared him carefully for the holiday (something that we’ve got better at over the years).

He wasn’t happy  at the thought initially:

“I want to go to the old cottage. The new cottage is garbage!” he cried.

We were able to overcome his resistance with a few promises:

  • We would still cross the Severn Bridge
  • We would book tickets for The Blue Lagoon, a waterpark in Bluestone he’s been to several times now
  • Tesco would deliver his favourite foods to our door
  • He could still get his favourite Happy Meal from McDonalds
  • We would take him to the seaside
  • The cottage had Wifi (risky this one, as you’re never sure until you get there but it’s a major bargaining tool)

I prepared a number of visual schedules and pictures to help prepare him for the trip ahead (which took 6 hours on the day).

This year’s cottage, situated in Tiers Cross (a rural area near Haverfordwest),  was similar to the one we visited in Dunvant back in 2014. Huge. And not another human being in sight!

img_0628.jpg

The property and grounds were smaller, but it was still a spacious, 4 bedroom cottage in a quiet location. There were no neighbours – just a few cows in the next field and a family of Pipistrelle bats!

He loved it. Especially the roll-top bath with built-in Jacuzzi:

“It’s making a FART noise” he said blissfully.

IMG_0704

He felt safe there. And so did we.

Safe from anxiety, prying eyes and the judgement of other holidaymakers who live in blissful ignorance of the difficult situations families like ours are faced with every day.

It’s fair to say our holidays to Wales are unusual. We have to micro-manage them.

And while other tourists may be researching the local history, restaurants and scenery, our priorities are more basic: McDonald’s, Tescos and accessible seaside, meaning not too many distractions, parking and a loo.

We spend a lot more  time in our cottage than the average traveller, so luxury and peace/tranquillity are important to us. Our son’s needs come first, but it’s our holiday too. We work hard and we want to relax, just like any other family.

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Our days out have to be planned, timed and spaced out (our son was bouncing off the walls, shouting and displaying high anxiety symptoms for several hours after our successful Blue Lagoon visit).

In the past we’ve made the mistake of not giving him the time and space to process exciting experiences, resulting in meltdowns which are horrid for him and us.

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 Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire. We had a fantastic time but have learnt the hard way that our son needs time to process days out.

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I may have been freezing while holding the bags on Newgale sands this year, but the sight of my two boys having a blast in the sea made it worthwhile.

And nobody in the ice-cream van queue seemed to mind a little boy wearing his mum’s towelling robe introducing himself to each and every one of them.

Once again, we’d managed a successful trip and, although it was touch and go at times, happy memories were made. That’s what counts.

Alison x

 

With thanks to Pixabay for Welsh flag and Gower coastline images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why inbound beats ‘in your face’ marketing

You’ve heard of inbound marketing but don’t know what it means for you.

And everyone keeps telling you should be blogging, but you still don’t know why.

Stick around and I’ll get you up-to-speed.

Whereas in the past, attracting customers was all about selling your business through traditional practices such as paid adverts, cold-calling and face-to-face selling, inbound marketing is about using content to attract potential customers through building positive relationships with them and establishing trust.

The goal is to make yourself helpful and valuable to people, so they’re more likely to choose you when they’re ready to invest in a product or service.

At the heart of your inbound strategy should be a commitment to treat people well, at every single stage of your business relationship with them.

And this doesn’t just apply to paying customers. You can use your inbound strategy to network and build meaningful relationships and mutual trust with other professionals in your field.

How can blogging help your inbound strategy?

Blogging can form a big part of your inbound strategy. If you already have a live website and you’re active on a few social media channels, then blogging is a brilliant way to engage with your readers and encourage traffic to your website.

It will also help you stand out as a professional in your field. Scroll through any social media feed and you’ll see many posts advertising the same services that you offer.

The chances are most people will scroll straight past them, writing them off as just another advert.

But give them a reason to visit your site and you’re one step ahead.

What are the benefits of blogging?

  • Adding regular fresh content to your website will make it more visible to search engines, so you’re more likely to be found on-line when people search for your service or product.
  • Visitors to your website are more likely to come back if they find interesting content that help them to solve their problems.
  • You can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge through your blog, effectively proving that you know what you’re talking about.
  • Sharing your blogs on social media gives people a reason to visit your website and come back.
  • You can use calls to action on your blog to encourage further engagement with your reader.
  • You can share knowledge and information with other professionals in your field, building meaningful relationships.

 

why blogging beats in your face marketing

What on earth can I blog about?  

The trick is to be helpful to your readers. So think about what problems they might have and how you can help them to resolve them.

Primarily, you will want to write articles that are interesting to your potential customers.

But don’t rule out writing for other professionals in your field. By doing this, you can demonstrate the level of skill and knowledge that you have.

It helps you to build mutual trust with other professionals and this, in turn, shows potential customers that you have integrity as well as ability.

You might find it useful to read my earlier article: Seven blogging tips for start-ups.

Where does social media fit in?

Social media is a fantastic tool for sharing your content on-line to your target audience.

A common mistake is to use it as a selling platform. This can be annoying for readers and even come across a bit desperate.

But sharing your blog is a brilliant way to engage with readers and an opportunity to show them that there’s more to you than empty sales patter.

So rather than publish a slightly desperate sounding message asking for work, share a blog post that will actually interest the reader and demonstrate that you’re the real deal.

SOCIAL MEDIA IMAGE INBOUND ARTICLE PIXABAY

It’s perfectly okay to share blogs and content from other professionals in your field, as long as you don’t pass it off as your own work.

Credit them and you’ll probably find they do the same for you. Again, it’s all about building good relationships.

I hope you’ve found this overview of inbound marketing and blogging useful.  If you’re a small business owner or start-up,

I’d love to hear your feedback on this article. Just drop me a line alison@mkwordstudio.co.uk and tell me what you think! (There’s also a contact form below).

Until next time.

Alison x

Credit: Thanks to Pixabay for images.

 

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and with anyone you know who would find it useful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

Complete the simple form on my Get in touch page or call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to brief your copywriter

As a small or medium business owner, you may be thinking about hiring a copywriter for the first time.

Read on to find out about how you can brief your copywriter to get the results you want from your copy.

If you’re a small business owner and you’ve approached a copywriter to write clear, conversational copy for your business, one of the first things they will do is ask for your brief.

What is a brief?

It all sounds terribly formal, but in truth your brief is a set of clear instructions about what you want your copywriter to write for you. It’s important but not something to be afraid of.

In an ideal world, you’ll already be very clear about what you want.

But this is real life and most copywriters will be prepared for the fact that you may not be 100% sure what you want at the beginning of a project.

If this is the case, your copywriter will probably already have a brief questionnaire template for you to complete.

This will be a form, probably in a Word document or similar, that asks all the relevant questions.

Alternatively, they may prefer to interview you over the phone, or in person, to get to the bottom of what you need.

Why is the briefing stage so important?

I can’t stress enough how important the briefing stage is.

Understandably you may feel that you’re too busy and just want the copywriter to get on with the writing.

You may even feel a bit aggrieved that so much is expected from you when you’re paying them to write.  But without a good brief, your copywriter is unlikely to deliver what you want.

You might be surprised to hear that the actual writing stage is only a small part of a copywriting project.

They will carry out loads of research and planning before they start writing.

The more information you provide, the more successful this research and planning phase will be.

Some copywriters will share their plan with you before writing (or once they’ve written a short section) so you can see if their interpretation of your brief works for you.

At that stage, if you’re not happy with the writing style or direction the copy is taking, you have an opportunity to speak up at an early stage.

But I don’t know how to brief a copywriter!

Don’t worry. Your copywriter will know all the right questions to ask (and if they don’t ask questions, don’t hire them).

If they ask you lots of questions, think of this as a good thing. It means they’re taking the time to understand your business and client-base, so they can write something that works.

Here’s a list of things they are likely to ask you, so you can be prepared:

  • Nature of your business
  • Number of employees (if any)
  • The story behind your business (your why)
  • Information about your product/service (what are you selling?)
  • Your target audience (who are you writing for?)
  • Your USP and why customers should choose you over your competitors (what’s special about you?)  
  • Benefits of your product/service (what’s in it for the customer – this is a crucial element and your copywriter will be able to help you with this)
  • Your desired tone of voice (friendly, formal, casual etc)
  • Keywords you want included in the content (for SEO) 
  • Word count
  • Your call to action (what do you want to happen next, ie email, call, form etc)

If your copywriter does ask you to complete a brief questionnaire, be prepared for them to ask even more questions once they’ve received it.

Think of this as a good thing – it means your copywriter has engaged with your project and cares about doing a good job for your business.

And so they should – that’s what you’re paying them for.

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A detailed brief will give your copywriter the tools they need to write copy that works for your business

I didn’t realise there was so much to briefing a copywriter! I thought they’d just get on with it

It does seem like a lot of work. And that’s because it is. Forget the notion that anyone can write – a professional copywriter will do everything they can to understand your business first.

Think of your copywriter as a new business friend – not just someone who can string a few sentences together.

If you engage fully with the process yourself, you’ll get a better service from them, and content that gets you results. 

Until next time.

Alison

I do hope you found this blog useful. I’d love to know if you feel more confident and knowledgeable about the process of briefing a copywriter? Do you like the idea of someone writing for your business? Or would you prefer to do it yourself?

Feel free to drop me a line – I welcome constructive feedback. Here’s a link to my contacts page.

 

About me: I’m Alison, a Freelance Copywriter living and working in Milton Keynes. The experiences of raising a child with autism and losing a parent to dementia remind me to value the power of words and communication every day. I believe in writing  clear, conversational copy that people can relate to. 

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to work with me. 

 

 

 

Is proofreading important?

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Dull, but necessary. Proofreading is important. Coffee might help. I recommend chocolate too. ?

Do I really need to proofread?

Yes. Proofreading is important!

I know it’s dull.

But you just have to do it anyway (or pay someone else to). 

Even if you’re the best at what you do, your website and other marketing materials send out a big clue about how you run your business.

Taking care to publish clear, error-free copy shows that you’re serious about doing a good job in every area of your business.

It’s another way to build trust with your prospective clients.

Okay, not everyone will notice if your website is full of spelling and punctuation errors. And many people won’t care.

But some will. 

And that could affect their decision about whether to buy your product or service. Or someone else’s. 

It’s that simple.

The good news is that you don’t have to write as if you’re taking your English A Level. Copywriters break lots of grammar rules to create more of an impact.

Basic proofreading tips

  • Check for obvious typos and punctuation mistakes.
  • Use a consistent layout and make sure that your paragraphs and sentences aren’t too long.
  • Look for duplicated or missing words (reading your copy out loud can help you to identify these).
  • Use spellchecker but don’t rely on it to pick up every single mistake. It won’t necessarily pick up words  that are used in the wrong context.
  • Allow some time between writing your content and publishing it, so you can review it with fresh eyes.
  • If you can’t stretch to using a professional proofreader or copywriter, ask a colleague or geeky friend to help you out.
  • If you do notice a mistake after you’ve published your page, don’t beat yourself up about it.

    What if I miss something?

There’s a huge difference between a sloppy piece of work littered with mistakes and a readable, researched article where one typo has slipped through.

Just correct it quickly. Then forgive yourself and move on. 

Until next time.

Alison


Alison is a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. For more information about Alison, click here.

Easy layout tips for your blog

By: Alison R Bowyer   Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes

As a Freelance Copywriter, I’m the first to say that words are even more important than design.

But I’m not going to deny that the visual appeal of your website is super important in the digital age.

If you’re a small business owner, the chances are you’re building and updating your own website to keep costs down. But just because you haven’t paid out for a swanky designer-built website (yet), that doesn’t mean yours can’t look good.

So when it comes to writing your blogs (you’re blogging, right?), there are a few easy steps you can take to make your blog look good.

  1. Consistent heading style

    There’s no right or wrong way to display a heading.Some people prefer Title Case, Where Every Word Begins With A Capital Letter whereas many prefer Sentence case where only the first word begins with a capital.

    Examples below:

    How To Clean Your Oven   Title Case
    How to clean your oven  Sentence caseThere are people out there who have the time and inclination to argue about which is the correct approach.

    I don’t think it matters.
    The important thing is that your heading style is consistent. So if you prefer sentence case (me too!) then stick with that style for every heading you use.

    It’s all about the detail and creating a visual effect that is pleasing to the eye. Not everyone will notice inconsistencies, but those that do will be distracted away from your content.

    This is the point where you risk losing their interest, so it’s worth choosing one style and sticking with it, so the reader can focus on your message rather than the style.

  2. Inject some colour

    Despite all the funky colour options on my website builder, the slightly disappointing truth is that it’s easier for most people to read black text on a white background.  I don’t want to alienate potential clients who may struggle to read my content, so black on white it is.

    However, changing the colour of headings, quotes, statistics or short chunks of text can make the content more visually appealing and it’s a good way to make key messages stand out.

    I keep it simple, choosing purple for my name, introductory paragraph, key messages and call to action.

  3. People love pictures

    Using an image that is pleasing on the eye helps to illustrate a point to your readers and breaks up the text. People love pictures; why fight it?

    Depending on the nature of your business, you may use your own photography or hire a photographer.

    If this isn’t for you, there are plenty of good websites for stock images. And the good news is that some of them are free.

    I use pixabay.com – it’s easy to use and the images are free, with no attributions (although there is the option to make a donation if you’re able to).

    tips-for-small-biz-blogs
    If you’re using a stock photo, use one that reflects your message. Top tip: avoid the ‘businessman standing in an office looking through venetian blinds’ style image. It’s meaningless and everyone’s seen it a thousand times!

    Copyright is an important issue, so don’t be tempted to copy an image from another site. This is a big no-no and could land you in hot water.

    The same principle goes for copying written content; just don’t. It’s okay to get inspiration from other sites, but the content needs to be in your own words and style, with your own spin on it. Be original.
     

  4. Use short paragraphs

    Some people believe that humans actually have shorter attention spans now, due to the all the time they spend looking at screens. It may be true; who knows?

    But I think the design and layout of the content has a huge part to play in the length of time the reader keeps reading.

    So breaking up the content into shorter paragraphs is just another way of making the content pleasing on the eye; and accessible and digestible to the reader.

    So they keep reading.

  5. Now read the same message again, with no paragraph spaces:

    Some people believe that humans actually have shorter attention spans due to the rapid development of the digital world. It may be true; who knows? But I have a hunch that the design and layout of the content has a huge part to play in the length of time the reader keeps reading. So breaking up the content into shorter paragraphs is just another way of making the content pleasing on the eye, accessible and digestible to the reader. So they keep reading.

    This is still quite a short paragraph but, at first glance, it’s unappealing; just a big block of boring text.

    Imagine a chunk of content 3 or 4 times longer with no breaks, images or colour changes. How long would you last reading that? I’m not sure I would even bother to try.
     

  6. Don’t forget your call to action

    Remember, the purpose of your blog is to build trust and rapport with your potential clients and professional network. Be helpful. It’s not a selling platform. Save that for your Home page.

    But… if your reader likes what they read and they’re already thinking they might like to contact you some time, make it easy for them. It doesn’t have to be too long or clever, just a short description of who you are, what you do and how you can be contacted.

    You can see mine below, just after my name! 😉
    Alison

    Alison is a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. She specialises in web content and business blogging. For more information about Alison, click here.