Ever struggled to define what you do, and who your target market is? If so, you may find the book Linkedin Riches extremely helpful — and you'll improve your Linkedin profile at the same time.
Lately I've been reflecting on how the two sides of my business (Writing for Councils as well as NZ Writing Services) can be presented in an integrated way. I juggle these dual business roles and target markets through two separate websites, and write different blogs/newsletters for these two audiences.
However, I knew I had to somehow reconcile these two aspects of my business on my LinkedIn profile, and this has led to a breakthrough. I can now see that my experience of marketing and writing copy for Writing for Councils is the basis for my copywriting work for other businesses.
Through my own experience, I know the type of marketing that has worked for my business and is therefore likely to work for other businesses offering some kind of technical expertise. The four things that work best for me are shown here — Back to Basics.
I only realised my two businesses were compatible rather than a confusing mixture when I rewrote the summary to my LinkedIn page following the format recommended by John Nemo, in Linkedin Riches.
He recommends taking a client-focused approach rather than just talking all about yourself. It’s a good reminder that people are far more interested in how you could solve their problems rather than all the minute details about your life experience.
He says summaries should include the following information (and provides templates that make this very easy to write on pages 42-43):
I’m not going to include more details from the book here, as I don’t want to steal John Nemo’s ideas. However, I highly recommend that you check out Linkedin Riches if you think you could make better use of LinkedIn to promote your business.
If you would like to see how I applied these content headings to the two aspects of my business, you can see my LinkedIn profile here.
Confession: I was all set to go with promoting my website audit service this month — but I just can’t do it! Here are five obstacles I have to find a way to hurdle before any of what I have prepared will see the light of day.
1. There’s more to learn
My 14 point website audit is based on what I learnt through the excellent Internet Entrepreneur course offered by NZIBS, and my own experience creating my websites and providing advice to my existing clients.
But I’m haunted by what I don’t yet know. I recently invested in a follow up resource called Site Audits Made Simple which would enable me to offer a lot of valuable, additional elements. However, it will take time to learn and integrate these elements with my existing system.
Ever since I purchased that course in January I have been asking myself whether I should postpone my website audit promotion until I have completed that course and updated my offering.
2. Putting myself out there as an expert
One of my ideas for my Facebook content marketing, as part of the website audit promotion, is to create a series of posts called ‘Anatomy of a Website’. These would all refer to aspects of my own Writing for Councils website to illustrate key points about successful websites.
But I am a whole lot better at writing than graphic design. What if people go to my website and think ‘bah — who is this person to be telling me how to improve my website?'
So, maybe I should wait until I have invested in professional graphic design before running this promotion.
3. Do people really want another free guide?
I’ve had a lot of client work on lately, and I’ve noticed my appetite for reading free guides has dimmed considerably, even for topics I genuinely want to know more about. Other business people are likely to be just as preoccupied with their own work — do they really need another five page guide on their desk?
Is it the lure I hoped it would be, or should I rethink this resource as a shorter checklist, or better yet, a webinar?
I have written a series of six follow up emails, providing additional information and making a special website audit offer, for people who download my free guide. Are these people going to find my emails intrusive or annoying?
Plus, I need to figure out the Mail Chimp automation to make this happen. This is do-able but, in my experience, setting up something new is never completely simple … I call this mini-obstacle 4B!
5. The big one
What if I do all this work and no one downloads the guide or requests a website audit, even at the special price? How silly will I feel if the response is overwhelming silence? How disappointed, and annoyed at myself will I be for spending all this (unpaid) time developing this offer?
Yep. This is the obstacle that drives all the rest. If I can unpick this fear of failure, the other hurdles get a whole lot easier. I can postpone for a bit to absorb the new website auditing knowledge and ensure my offering is as professional and complete as possible … but that doesn’t mean delaying until all conditions are perfect.
That’s because I won’t know if a lot of people actually want this service from me until I put it out there, to find out. If interest is limited, I will have wasted some time, but I will also now know my time, energy and money is better spent on different services rather than perfecting website auditing.
In the meantime, I am offering free website feedback (using my existing system) for people who request writing and editing work exceeding 2 hours. More details are available here.
Hats off to you
It’s not easy, is it?! That’s why I say hats off to you, fellow business people! And if you have a product or a service, a website, or a whole new business idea, that you’re continuing to dream about and to perfect … and can’t seem to get the wheels in motion to get it out into the world, it might just be that you can relate to my big obstacle 5!
I hope you will take heart and know that when you do put it out in the world, you will be no worse off even if no one picks it up. You’ll find out something you don’t yet know … whether the idea is something to continue to invest in and improve, or whether dropping it entirely and clearing the way for a new idea, product or service will serve you better.
Giving it a go is better than never giving your idea a chance to fly!
Thanks for visiting my part of the blog tour. I’d love you to visit the next stage by clicking on Infinity Marketing's blog to continue the tour!
My sister-in-law is leaving work to set up her own business … I know what she means when she says she is both scared and excited!
That’s exactly how I felt when I moved into self-employment in April 2014. Here are some of the things I mentioned to her, that I have learnt along the way.
1. Leverage your existing strengths, experience and contacts
Is there some work you could do for a previous employer?
Some kind of retainer, even five hours a week, can be a brilliant option. It takes the pressure off the rest of your time while you’re figuring out what you want to offer and finding out if it’s a goer.
2. Value your time – don’t take on low paid work even when you have no other work
I took on some low paid employment when I was one year into my business, at a time when I didn’t have much work. I quickly came to realise my mistake, when I had no time to invest in developing my business.
I was better off being paid nothing for those hours and spending that time on learning new skills and marketing.
3. Decide on your target market (or markets)
Choose a target market of people who can afford to pay you at a rate that will mean your business (and therefore your life/work balance) is sustainable.
That doesn’t mean you can’t branch out over time into other target markets with less financial certainty. However, when you have ongoing work at a reasonable rate, you’ll have a lot more fun exploring other options.
One issue with having two target markets is the need to maintain two different websites (which is what I do). This is more time consuming, but I feel it’s necessary in my case, given my two audiences are completely different (councils and small businesses).
An alternative is to clearly state your different target markets on the home page of your website, with links through to pages specifically written for those audiences.
4. People buy from people they know
I thought having my websites sorted would be the best way to get work, and at first spent most of my marketing effort on these, including publishing weekly blogs. But it has turned out that most of my work comes via people I already know, or from people I meet at networking events.
The websites are still essential, as are regular blogs to attract visitors to them. However, these strategies are most effective as a complement to personal connections and other networking, rather than as a stand-alone solution for gaining clients.
5. Consider what strategic alliances are possible with people who have different strengths or services
One of the best things to happen in my business in 2016 was meeting up with several people who could potentially have regarded themselves as competitors, but who instead chose to take a collaborative approach.
Collaboration (through referrals, or sharing ideas and war stories!) works really well with people who either have:
The awesome thing about being self-employed is expressing who you are through how you go about your business.
Be on the lookout for the kind of assistance and support that is a good fit for you and disregard the rest.
The best courses and books for me aren’t necessarily going to be the best ones for you. There’s a lot to be said for acting on your gut response when considering what’s available.
7. Allow time for catch ups with friends and exercise
I love working at home but when I find myself constantly checking my email, I know I’ve been home alone for too long! I aim for one or two catch ups each week for a walk or a coffee … it’s not always possible, but it does provide a good work-life balance.
It’s also ideal if these people are happy to hear about your business progress, want to discuss new ideas, and believe in your future success. Catching up with other self-employed people will make you feel more normal, especially if you (like me) have been an employee for most of your working life.
Finally, I used to feel a bit guilty being out and about on a work day, but I now know that being able to exercise and catch up with people during the day is part of what success looks like to me!
Now that I work from home I have an additional job as chief inspector of my husband’s paintings. Several times a day Dean will pop his head around the door and say can you come and have a look …
I’ll sit in his chair and look at his painting. Once it gets to the very detailed end stages I can’t see the difference between one fine line and another, but I’m actually pretty good in the earlier stages at seeing what’s working and what isn’t, what enhances the overall structure and what detracts.
It’s not working
It’s not easy sitting there, speaking my truth about Dean’s painting. He’s so deeply invested in it, it’s hard for him to hear that something he has slaved over isn’t working.
Yesterday I spent a lot of time in Dean’s painting shed. He’s moving in a new direction, with a more abstract form. It’s like nothing he’s done before so there’s nothing to draw on from what has worked in previous paintings.
He’s had an immense struggle to bring the outer circle of the work into a harmonious form. Now he’s working on the centre. He has drawn in multiple shapes over the past three days, and wants to show me the latest version.
And so I sit in that chair and have to say it’s still not working … we sit with it, and talk through why it’s not right. We talk about the need for the centre to somehow reflect the outer circle. To be less complex if it is to harmonise. Suddenly Dean is drawing charcoal lines across the circle. At that point I leave.
Later that day
I come back later and I know straight away it’s going to work now. I can tell by the tone of Dean’s voice he knows it too, even though he can still see lots to be done, to be improved, and still doesn’t know exactly how it’s going to come together.
It’s not easy but it’s a privilege to be part of this creative process. Last night Dean said this is a painting that wouldn’t have happened without my input. I feel really proud to have this role, even though it’s intense and uncomfortable in those times when neither of us know how to move the work forward.
A job application
I also love the co-creation involved in helping people with their copywriting. Last week I helped someone with a covering letter for a job application. All the parts of their story were there, but I could see how to bring all the different ideas together to write a more coherent and persuasive letter.
It's easy for me to do this because I’m not attached to the words in the way my client is. I can see what needs to be emphasised and what should be discarded.
Words can make the difference
Again, it is a privilege to be involved in someone else’s work, and to potentially make a significant difference to their success. It’s a fresh reminder to me that words can do serious heavy lifting to support someone’s success, whether that is a job application or website content for a business.
If you need a second pair of eyes on your draft copy, whether it’s a job application or website text, I am happy to help you. Email me at email@example.com or visit my website at www.nzwritingservices.com.
After many months focused on delivering a big project for a client, I was looking forward to having dedicated time to work on creation of new NZ Writing Services content. This should enable me to take a major step forward with my business.
Well, that time has arrived, and it's not without its challenges! The biggest one is giving myself permission to work just as hard on my own behalf as I would for someone else. It seems to be so much easier to meet other people's deadlines than to honour my own commitments to growing my business.
To help overcome this mental barrier I have created a 12 week plan. As I write this, I am in the middle of Week Two.
If you think a 12 week plan could help you, I highly recommend signing up for the three free lessons available at http://12weekyear.com/gsc/. It helped me to quickly:
The lessons mentioned above are based on the book, The Twelve Week Year, by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington.
"Can you do the speech?"
I have to say, I felt quite pale and cold when asked this question on the night before my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. Our family had travelled from Waihi, Auckland, Nelson and Brisbane to spend five days together to mark this milestone in beautiful Wanaka.
I'm not a natural public speaker, so even though this was a small family event in an informal setting, I was nervous. But it was fair that I should do it. My husband and my sister were sorting the food for the day, which is not my forte.
The three of us had brainstormed ideas for the speech so I had key points to mention. Less than an hour before everyone was due to arrive I ripped out some pages from an exercise book, pored over last night's shared notes, and just wrote.
I included aspects of Mum and Dad's life together that we could see had contributed to their happiness and stability as a couple. I added in real life examples, followed by some things we three children particularly appreciated about them as parents.
I read out the speech in a halting way, choked up with emotion and with tears blurring my view of the words. The presentation was far from perfect but I woke up next morning so pleased to have done it, and to have added to the celebration in that way.
As solo professionals, we can write and speak from the heart about who we are and the work we do. We can do this in a far more personal way than is possible for larger businesses. (Tears not required!)
This is our advantage - speaking with our unique voice is what will capture the attention of our ideal clients. Even though our presentations may not be as polished, large companies can't speak authentically from a personal voice in the way we naturally can.
So, next time you think about writing a blog, a newsletter or website content, and wonder if you've got anything original to say, or whether you're really enough of an expert to say anything at all, start with something that you've noticed or that has happened in your own life. Then link it to an insight related to your work, as I have done in this newsletter.
This newsletter/blog was inspired by listening to a presentation by Michael Katz (Blue Penguin Developments) on 'storytelling - how to create, use, tell and benefit from stories in your writing and marketing'.
Here are two examples of his newsletter, which link personal stories and information of interest to his readership (solo professionals who want to get better at marketing their services):
Over this past week we seem to have had more than the usual number of cold calls - insurance, electricity and others. The phone rings, you answer and there's that awful pause where you think 'here we go' and the spiel begins.
Businesses are increasingly moving away from this approach to marketing, and towards a softer style of content marketing which starts with giving people free, valuable information.
I signed up for a free five day facebook challenge last month, which gave me the opportunity to experience content marketing in action.
Last month I wrote about four levels of marketing:
- level 1, casual (eg reading a blog or a facebook post)
- level 2, connected (eg signing up for a workshop or an enewsletter)
- level 3, committed (eg paying for a service)
- level 4, convinced (eg ongoing work).
By signing up for the facebook challenge I was moving from a casual to a connected relationship with the training provider, by investing an hour each day to take part.
It was an excellent series of five live videos over the course of a week, complemented by a daily worksheet to help me apply the concepts to my own situation.
The combination of written exercises and videos suited my learning style, and the content had real substance to it, that I knew I could apply to my business. So by Friday morning (the fifth day of the challenge) I had pretty much decided to take up the training opportunity, provided it was within my budget and further research about the course confirmed its usefulness to me.
The course met my criteria and so I bought it.
I'm writing about this because it is a great example of level 2 communications providing a positive pathway through to level three (committed) in the marketing cycle.
I'm the first to admit I can improve my level 2 communications - creating quality resources which help people to decide if my services are a good match for them (it's on my to-do list for October to December).
Going through this process as a potential client gives me fresh inspiration to carry through on those plans. Freely offering something valuable in order to build credibility and confidence in your services is a win-win situation.
What free samples could you can offer, to grow your business?
Marketing is about helping our ideal customers get to know us – and not about frantically trying to get as many people as possible to buy our stuff.
People rarely buy the first time they hear of us, so content marketing is a good way to enable people to move through the cycle of getting to know, like and trust us, and if the time and circumstances are right for them, to try, buy, repeat and even refer.
I have found the ‘MOVES’ framework described in the book The Introvert Entrepreneur to be the most useful way to consider the different types of content you can create at four different stages in the marketing cycle. Here’s a description of the four stages, and some examples of the types of content that are a good fit for them
Description: No financial investment required by potential clients.
Examples: blogs, articles, and information on social media that people can access without making contact with you.
Description: Minimal investment required by potential clients. Access to targeted information in exchange for an email address or other contact details, or some of their time to attend a presentation for free or a small charge. This content is provided on a one-to-many basis, rather than one-to-one.
Examples: workshops, presentations, webinars, email newsletters, or accessing a free document from your website in exchange for their email address.
Description: Clients are paying for services you have developed, and you are likely to be customising these services to meet their needs. This content is provided on a one-to-one basis.
Examples: coaching, training or written documents
Description: Clients in this category are convinced that you and your business are the right fit for their needs over the long term. They are likely to recommend your services to others.
Examples: this will vary considerably, depending on your business, so it’s more difficult to provide examples. However, these will be your highest level of services, in terms of both quality and customisation.
The value in understanding these four levels of the marketing cycle is to consider which parts of your marketing cycle are working well, supported by excellent content, and which parts are less well supported at the moment.
It is helpful to look at how other businesses are applying this framework, to understand the options you can consider for your own business.
Beth Buelow, the author of The Introvert Entrepreneur has a clear MOVES framework on her website:
1. Listen to a podcast online.
2. One-to-many offerings include: her book is available for sale, as is her online ‘business selfie’ programme. Another option is to join one of her book clubs.
3. Beth is available for one-to-one coaching.
4. Beth has an ongoing partnership with the Northwest Entrepreneur Network to speak at their events.
Here’s a fictional example, to show how your marketing strategy doesn’t have to focus on written content. You can achieve the same outcomes through networking and speaking, if that is a better fit for you.
Making presentations and giving workshops can really give your business a boost, but many of us shy away from trying this. I asked Melanie Stanton for some advice on this subject.
At Red Ribbon Careers I design and implement workshops and training programmes for businesses, working with people’s strengths and passion to create successful personal and professional pathways. I love seeing people reconnect with their passion; it is so satisfying seeing someone going towards their ‘true north’.
What kinds of presentations and workshops do you give?
I have spoken to:
What’s the difference between a presentation and a workshop? Do you have a preference?
A presentation involves conveying information, with a question and answer time.
A workshop is interactive. People do stuff, have experiences and talk to their neighbours. I like workshops most because they challenge me. I am interacting on the spot, live, and I don’t know what’s coming. People could be arguing my points. If they do, I give them a high five for courage.
People are their own experts, so it’s good for them to express what they know.
How do you know when a presentation or workshop is going well?
I can sense the level of participation in the room – I can sense when I’ve lost people so I change tack.
Yawning is normally the biggest giveaway, especially when talking about legislation on a Friday afternoon!
What are some of the things people can do to give their presentation or workshop a good chance of being successful?
Know who their audience is and cater for that specific audience.
The best thing to do at the start of a workshop is to have an icebreaker, for example, ask the participants to tell you what they do, and follow up on the response.
In a presentation you need to create a relationship. In a bigger group talk about yourself a bit, and why you are speaking to this group in particular. Show you know who they are – research them so it’s sincere. And talk about the things that really light you up, genuinely.
Do you have any suggestions for someone (like me) who is more comfortable with writing than presenting?
Start small, and be generous to yourself by considering how to manage the focus being on you.
Powerpoint can be a good option because people will look at the screen. In a workshop, get the participants to do stuff. This also takes the spotlight off you, so you can have a breather. You can relax and interact with the group.
I do these tricks myself – I like being up there but it is uncomfortable, you are being seen. You can’t pause – it’s happening.
Two key things to remember:
I do lots of preparation. I think about the topic and I read books.
I occasionally go online, but I don’t do this first. There is too much information, it’s overwhelming, and you can feel like everyone’s already said everything about the topic. It is useful for filling gaps.
I think about how I want to present the topic and what I’m passionate about, while taking the audience into account.
It’s about finding your message, what you want to say and how do you want to say it –then the rest just falls into place.
Do you get nervous before a presentation? If so, how do you manage that?
I get nervous, but not anxious. The very first one I did, I put a vase on my presentation desk, with fragrant jasmine. I gave myself a whole lot of treats, to be kind to myself.
I also got there really early, to give myself time to set up, and to feel in control.
What sort of notes do you take with you?
I write a list of bullet points beforehand. But I don’t take it with me.
Notes are not helpful to me, and because it’s what I want to say, I don’t forget it. Some people do take bullet points into a presentation.
In a workshop situation, I provide workbooks, with the powerpoint slides printed out and space to write notes alongside.
Any comments about ‘death by powerpoint’? Is powerpoint a bad option or a valuable aid?
A bad powerpoint presentation is when you write everything up on that and read off it. It’s even worse if you read it, and then put the same words up for the audience to read.
Only put topics on the powerpoint, not details. For example, in my legislation presentation, I put up snippets of the legislation in a powerpoint to highlight key points, but I didn’t read them out.
Powerpoint should not be the presentation, it is an aid for you.
Any suggestions on using visuals or other techniques to make a presentation interesting?
YouTube clips are great – you can push play and walk away. They are popular.
Microbreaks are a good idea. Give people two minutes to talk to the person next to them or to write down any notes. This also provides a breather for the presenter.
Groups of three where people can talk about their experience work well. People love that because they have lots to say. Give specific times for these break out discussions. You can adjust it later if everyone is fully engaged.
You can ask other people to contribute but that’s slightly unpredictable.
Physical visuals are also useful. For example, I have used a jug of water and cups to talk about balancing what you are giving out and what you are getting back.
I enjoy listening to podcasts and webinars on the Internet … in what ways do you think these appeal to people and add more value than writing on the web?
They cater for lots of different learning styles. It sparks different parts of the brain – both visual and verbal.
It’s quicker – listening to spoken language is a lot quicker than reading. I think people write too much, and people don’t tend to say too much.
For people who are new to business, do you have any suggestions of ways to build up confidence with presenting, or ideal kinds of audiences to begin with?
Don’t try presenting to your most important audiences first (for example, significant potential clients).
Don’t present in front of friends either – they’re so unhelpful although they don’t mean to be. They’re likely to be too critical, compared to your average audience taking in your presentation for the first time.
Work out who your target audience is.
Express your passion – that’s what comes out beautifully. Talk about your real experiences. People aren’t so much wanting to hear what books say – they want to hear from you.
This type of presentation has a different quality. It’s about bringing stuff to life, and relating it specifically to them. When I’m speaking in this way I’m loving it, because it’s what I want to say.
Trying too hard to impress falls flat.
Finally, make sure the first workshop you give is to people who really want to be there (rather than people who have been required, or strongly encouraged by someone else, to attend). This makes a big difference.
How can small business owners free up the time to create content to promote their business, or to develop new skills, services or products?
One way to do this is to allocate time for it within your working week - and stick to that time commitment even if it means turning down some paid work.
A number of different people have modeled wise use of time to me recently. Here are the top five examples:
This article is an abbreviated version of my monthly newsletter (Wading In) which is for people who want to spread the word about their services. If you would like to receive this newsletter in future, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up via my website - www.nzwritingservices.com.