Having worked in a busy HR environment for almost twenty years, Liz Blount knows as well as any of us how tension and anxiety can impact people – and the wider workforce they’re part of. A firm believer in the need to give people space to unwind and deal with stress to promote wellness, Liz made the decision to retrain as a massage therapist.
‘My motivation is to help individuals take the time they need to allow their body and mind to relax, to deal with the stress they’re facing and help them manage their own health and well-being,’ says Liz.
Liz’s story encapsulates something really important about the best businesses: they exist to make the world a better place. Yes, they make money. But they do something brilliant too.
Of course, starting a new business brings challenges, not least of all the necessity to do things that you may have little previous experience of, from web design to book-keeping.
‘It’s always difficult when you’re setting up to decide what you’re going to spend money on and what you’ll do yourself,’ says Liz. ‘You can spend time on something and still not get a great end product.’
In some cases, it isn’t always such a stark choice between paying a professional and doing it yourself. There are some great resources online to help entrepreneurs get up and running with their website and with generated design elements. Services such as Looka and Canva provide an option for people who perhaps lack the skills to compose their own logo designs, or code and host their own website.
But when it comes to writing words, there really is no off-the-shelf equivalent. If you’ve little experience in writing for different purposes and audiences, producing content can be really difficult, and bad content will hinder – rather than help – you achieve your goals.
What are the essential things to get sorted early on when it comes to that all-important written content? Here are my top tips to help you get things right from the outset.
1. Establish what your brand feels like.
‘Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ Jeff Bezos, Amazon.
One of the first decisions most people make – after the initial recognition that they’ve got something they’d like to sell – is what they’d like to trade as and how they want to be recognised. In Liz Blount’s case, she spent six months – maybe longer – thinking about how she could brand her business. Your target audience is a factor that you should take into consideration from the beginning. It’s worth spending time thinking about who your ideal customer or client might be.
As well as thinking about demographic and geographic segmentation, it’s worth thinking about psychographic segmentation too – your ideal client’s personality traits, beliefs, values and interests. This will help you to establish your brand’s values and how you’ll relate to your customers.
When you’re thinking about how you’ll relate to your ideal client, the concept of brand archetypes is an extremely useful tool. It draws on Jungian theory to explain the appeal of brands – and the business that’s done behind them – to their customers. For example, some brands are characterised as heroic and assertive – think Nike or Under Armour – whereas others might be characterised as maverick, as outlaw – think Brewdog.
Even if you’re starting smaller – and most of us do – then having an understanding of your brand’s personality is very helpful. Liz advises that for people starting out in business, it’s worth getting some people on board who you can trust to be honest and constructively critical. It can take a while to move on from all those ideas you have about how to brand your business to actually making a decision. Often, instinct tells us when we’ve got there, as somehow, it feels right. It feels authentic.
A brand which is constructed to disingenuously lure clients is undoubtedly the wrong approach. Your brand must genuinely reflect you, the other people at the heart of your businesses and the values you share. Authenticity is everything. The most effective and successful businesses offer useful and innovative things to society. They’re not just about making money, although of course, they do that too.
2. Be clear about what your brand sounds like.
‘Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.’ Maya Angelou
When you’re writing for your business, it’s important to think carefully about tone of voice. What does your brand sound like? Depending on your brand’s values and the nature of your businesses, think about how you want to communicate with your customers. Is your brand respectful or irreverent? Is it formal or casual? Is it serious or funny? In between some of these polarisations are more nuanced profiles: calm or urgent; conformist or contrarian. Having established these values, how would you expect them to play out in words? Are you a ‘we’ or a ‘me’?
Those maverick brands like Brewdog have a voice that tells people exactly what their culture is. Their brand story is hewn with words like ‘bold’, ‘uncompromising’ and ‘revolution’. Innocent, maker of smoothies, are also known for their pitch perfect copy: ‘No bits. No rubbish. Our drinks and fruit tubes for kids are just the thing to keep your little ones’ lunch boxes nice and healthy. You’re welcome.’ The tone is honest, straightforward and a little bit quirky.
3. Get a website.
‘A website makes it real.’ Squarespace.
The website building and hosting service Squarespace really nailed it with this slogan. It’s a great value proposition that resonates with anyone who’s thinking about how to turn something they’re passionate about into a source of income.
At the very least, a business website needs to make it very clear exactly who you are. It must showcase what you’re selling. It must contain testimonials from people who’ve done business with you. It must have accessible contact information.
Even if you’re a local business, research shows us that only 8% of people don’t check out a business’s website before making a call or sending an email. A website is an investment in the future of your business – and it’s the words that do the heavy lifting.
Having created a website as a hub for your business, you must use it to attract leads and to convert those leads into prospective customers. Lead generation – the process of cultivating prospective customers – brings visitors to your hub. Some of these people will end up as clients – as long as the the words on the page assure them you’ve got a great value proposition and that they can trust you.
4. Create content that’s going to get people interested.
‘Content Marketing is all the marketing that’s left.’ Seth Godin
In 1923, Thomas Bell’s wholesale grocery business began distributing the Be-Ro book, a free pamphlet with recipes for low-income families. The book’s popularity led to Be-Ro flour becoming the best selling flour in the north of England. Although the term ‘content marketing’ is fairly recent, it’s been around for a long time. It’s exactly what Thomas Bell did back in 1923.
Good content is a real investment in the future of your business. In essence, content marketing is about creating useful or interesting content that will appeal to people in your brand’s target group. It might not contain a definite call to action, like advertising copy usually does, but it will create affinity for your brand and provide the reader with something helpful.
As well as creating genuine relationships with potential customers, good content will also help your SEO and site rankings. It will help you to get links back to your website, which of course, is a really important part of making sure you get noticed by search engines.
5. Deploy copy that’s going to convert and make sales.
‘All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.’ Bob Burg
The guy who says ‘I’ll maybe come for a massage sometime…’ is the potential customer that Liz Blount needs to convert into an actual customer. This is where great copy comes in. The reason Squarespace’s slogan works so well is because it offers a benefit that people can really get on board with, rather than just a feature. ‘Enjoy special time with your baby learning together and building your bond through loving touch,’ Liz tells prospective customers on her website, making sure her prospective clients know exactly what the benefits of baby massage are.
6. Engage people with social media.
‘To build a long-term, successful enterprise, when you don’t close a sale, open a relationship.’ Patricia Fripp
The right kind of social media engagement is really important. Facebook is great for local businesses because Facebook is primarily a form of personal social media. Facebook groups are really important for particular networks of people in the community, and as such, provide a great chance to establish trust – especially important if your business involves something people feel vulnerable about, such as their health, their children or their home. Being part of a Facebook group – or having a Facebook page that you can use as a hub can validate you and encourage people to find your business through what’s essentially digital word of mouth.
Think about how people are finding you. Know you you’re not targeting. This will help you to make sure your social media content and advertisements find the sweet spot. This strategy will also help you to build audience trust and engagement, as you’re genuinely offering something that’s going to improve their life quality.
7. Establish an email list.
Despite warnings that it’s a lame duck in the social media age, the truth is that email is still the best way to promote your business. 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email. 99% of consumers check their email every day. Capitalise on this by getting familiar with online tools to help promote your business, such as Mailchimp. This will allow you to really get to grips with prospective customers. Marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.
Many thanks to Liz Blount, of Nurture, who very kindly agreed to share her story. If you’d like to learn more about how great written content can help your business, don’t hesitate – drop me a line and ask away.