Should I Blog? Why the Answer is YES!

If you had a low-cost tool to attract your most-qualified prospects directly to your website, wouldn’t you use it? I have great news for you: this tool already exists. It’s called blogging.

keyboard imageGet your blog on!

Blogging is one of the most effective ways to draw in your target audience, and there are compelling statistics to prove it. According to Hubspot, a company specializing in inbound marketing, companies that actively blog generate over 125% more leads than companies that aren’t blogging. Blogging companies have 55% more website visitors, 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages, all attributes that are critical to increasing a site’s search engine optimization (SEO, or the way that search engines determine which site will be listed first on the search results page).

You are an expert!

You may not realize it, but you are already an expert blogger. Congratulations!

People often say the reason they don’t blog is because they don’t have anything to blog about. Wrong! You are an expert on your business, on your product or service, and your target prospects are interested in learning more about what you do…what makes you different. So share your knowledge; your blog is a great channel for providing educational content to clients and prospects.

Do you rent or own your content?

For sale or rent signThink about an ad in a newspaper or on a webpage. This rented space is surrounded by others’ content, distracting potential customers and diluting your message. And ads generate no leads for your company after the ad expires…it’s like they never even existed.

Compare that to your blog. That content is yours; you own it…forever! An old blog entry can generate leads via search engines for months, even years, after it was first posted.

Need blog ideas?

Looking for a little inspiration to get your writing wheels turning? You’re in luck. Hubspot has a Blog Topic Generator tool that allows you to input keywords about your company or products, and it will give you a week’s worth of suggested blog posts.

And if you don’t feel like writing is your strong-suit, hiring a freelance writer can be well-worth the investment. Typically, a freelance writer will interview you to learn about the blog topic and then ghost-write a well-crafted post on your behalf. Learn more about my services »

So no more excuses! It’s time to resolve to start a blog for your business.

 

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Hit the Bullseye: Reaching Your Target Audience

binocularsPeople are looking for you. They are desperately in need of the service that you offer. Your product is at the top of their shopping list. These people are your target audience. The question is, do you know how to reach them?

Consumers in 2017 are different than they were a decade ago. Thanks to the internet, today’s buyer is well-informed; they have done their research and often know exactly what product or service they are looking to purchase. So now they just need to decide from whom they want to buy. How will they find you amid your competition? And why should they choose to work with you?

Here are a few important questions to ask yourself about your current marketing tactics:

  • Am I sharing my story?
    Thanks to a history of deceptive advertising (e.g., “Teach your baby to read!” or “Lose 30 pounds in one week!”), people today are immediately skeptical of advertising. As a result, authenticity goes a long way with your prospective buyers. Marketing today is less about selling what you do/produce; rather, it is about sharing the story of why you are in the line of business that you are in—being your authentic self with your prospective customers. A talented writer can help you tell that story to your prospects through your website and marketing materials.
  • Am I marketing to my prospects on their terms? 
    With technology like DVRs, caller ID, and anti-spam software, it is easier than ever to avoid unwanted marketing messages. As a result, you must reach prospects by providing them with valuable content that is of interest to them. To attain that trusted adviser status, consider shifting your tactics from pushing product to providing valuable information that your prospects are already looking for online. Share your expertise, and show them how you can provide a solution for their issue or need.
  • Is my website keyword-optimized?
    Again, your prospects are doing their research; they are looking online for information about solutions to their issue or need, be it a product or a service. Your website should be artfully-optimized using the keywords that people would be using to search for your product or service. Effective SEO (search engine optimization) tactics can help your website show up higher in the results of your prospects’ web searches.

If you can answer “yes” to each of these questions, good work!…you are on your way to attracting your target audience to your business! If you answered “no” to one or more of the above, you should consider reaching out to a marketing expert who can help you figure out the best ways to reach your audience. If you think you don’t want to spend money on marketing assistance, consider the money you are losing each day by not targeting the right prospects.

Ready to get started? Contact me, and let’s talk.

Four Common Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

In this era of instant communication, writing basics are often overlooked or simply ignored. But like it or not, your words define you, even when acronyms and hashtags are involved. So take note of these common mistakes…and avoid them in your writing.

  • Bullets vs. numbered lists: People often use bullets and numbers interchangeably, but they are different. Bullets should be used when the order of the list is arbitrary; numbers are used when a list’s order is of importance. So for example, this list of writing mistakes could be in any order, thus I used bullets. If I was telling you the steps to bake a cake, the list would be numbered because you can’t bake the cake before you mix the ingredients…the order of the list of steps is essential.
  • i.e. vs. e.g.: These are not interchangeable either, but this one is easy to remember… i.e.=that is to say; e.g.=for example.
  • I vs. me: This is a little more confusing, but important nonetheless. “I” and “me” are both personal pronouns, words that replace more specific nouns (like proper names). Use “I” when the pronoun is the subject of your sentence (also known as a subjective pronoun). I went to the store. OR Jane and I had coffee. When the pronoun is the object of the verb OR the object of a preposition, use “me.” Jane hugged me. (“Me” is the object of the verb “hugged.”) Grammar is important to me. (“Me” is the object of the preposition “to.”)

A trick I use to determine whether to use “I” or “me”: Take any additional nouns out of the sentence, and see if it sounds correct.
Jane and me had coffee…would you say, “Me had coffee”? Unless you are a caveman, I’m hoping you said no, so it should be, “Jane and I had coffee.”
Jane went to the movie with John and I…would you say, “Jane went to the movie with I”? Nope. So it should be, “Jane went to the movie with John and me.”

  • it’s vs. its: “It’s” is a contraction, short for “it is,” similar to “can’t,” “I’ll,” or “he’s.” “Its” is a possessive, meaning “belonging to it.” So, “It’s hot in the desert,” but “the leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

Understanding and applying these rules of grammar can instantly improve your writing. If you have a punctuation or grammar question, please leave a comment below!

 

Why Should I Hire a Freelancer? Let’s Count the Reasons!

There are many professions that lend themselves to the work style of the off-site independent contractor, and copywriter and copyeditor are high on that list.

Gone are the days when you had to be physically in a company’s office to work effectively. Thanks to the internet, cell phones, and email messages that travel around the world faster than the speed of light, a telecommuting freelance communications expert can be an extremely effective solution to your company’s needs.

So what are some of the top reasons you should consider hiring a freelancer to work on your next communications project?

  • Expertise: A freelance copywriter or freelance proofreader has a very specific set of skills—talents that you might not possess in-house at your company. And many freelancers have years, even decades, of experience in their field. Their niche services and expertise can be tremendous assets to your business, ensuring your communications are well-written and error-free.
  • Temporary needs: Another big benefit of hiring a freelancer in any field is the mutual understanding that the contract is for a limited term. Perhaps you need help with proofreading collateral or publications during your busy season; or maybe you are trying to build-up your website with fresh content and new blog entries. A freelancer may be the perfect option for you.
  • Convenience: With less paperwork and red tape to surmount than with a permanent hire, bringing on a freelance writer or editor can be a quick process (once you find the right person). Many contract workers can begin your project within a matter of days, versus the time-consuming process of advertising a job opening, interviewing candidates, and then waiting for the start date of the person you select.
  • sign-typoCost-effectiveness: One of the biggest advantages of using a freelance copywriter or proofreader is cost-savings, and those savings can be substantial. A contractor typically does not receive company benefits (insurance, matching 401(k), etc.), a large expense for most companies. Second, an off-site contract employee doesn’t use your office resources. Paper, electricity, Post-It notes…those things can really add up! A freelancer’s expertise can save you time and money, getting a writing or editing job done more efficiently and effectively than a less-experienced employee. And finally, consider the cost (reputational AND monetary) of sending a project to print that is poorly written, or worse, has an error. That freelance writer or proofreader just paid for herself!
  • Flexibility: Need that communication project done next week, or even tomorrow? Not a problem if you hire a freelancer. When your employees do not have the bandwidth to drop what they are working on and complete a writing or editing project, a freelancer can be the perfect solution.
  • Creativity: A fresh perspective and voice may be exactly what your company needs to revitalize your website and increase your visibility in the marketplace. And a fresh set of eyes can ensure that your communication or marketing collateral is the flawless representation of your business that you want it to be.
  • Passion: Freelancers are freelancers because they truly love what they do. Most people have parts of their job that they like more than other parts, but not a freelance writer or a freelance proofreader! I am passionate about punctuation and grammar, and I love looking for that needle-in-a-haystack typo in documents. Like many freelance writers and editors, my dedication to my “craft” is heartfelt.

The case for hiring a freelancer for your next copywriting or proofreading project is compelling! If you are convinced, and would like to learn more about how I can help your company, please review my services, and then contact me so we can discuss your specific needs.

Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude in Children

We are raising a generation of narcissists, says a recent study conducted by researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, the University of Southampton in England,  and The Ohio State University. [View the study here] In short, the study found that parents who “over-value” their children (i.e., believe their children are smarter and/or more special than others) have children who rate higher on the 10-item Child Narcissism Scale.

The study defined narcissists as individuals who “feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment.”

The problem with over-valuing children

While all young children are naturally a tad self-centered, the prospect that we, as parents, are nurturing ego-maniacs is concerning for our society. You might think: “Aren’t I just improving my child’s self-esteem when I tell him he is special and smarter than other kids?” Maybe, if done in moderation, but the study notes the nefarious side of narcissism:

When narcissists feel humiliated, they are prone to lash out aggressively or even violently. Narcissists are also at increased risk for mental health problems, including drug addiction, depression, and anxiety. Research shows that narcissism is higher in Western than non-Western countries, and suggests that narcissism levels have been steadily increasing among Western youth over the past few decades.”

Yikes.

Emphasizing gratefulness

While I’m certain that I’ll never be Mother of the Year, there is one particular quality that I strive to nurture in my children, and I’m proud of the results thus far: gratitude. Beyond “please” and “thank you,” my husband and I frequently remind Will (our 5-year-old) not that he is special or better than others, but that he is fortunate to have all that he does, and that there are people who are not as lucky as he.

We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”
—John O’Donohue, Irish poet & philosopher

One way we have driven this point home has been with no-gift birthday parties. Beginning with Will’s 4th birthday last year, we asked his friends to bring canned goods for the local food pantry instead of gifts. I initially worried that people would think I was the meanest mommy in town–depriving my child of a bevy of new toys–but to my pleasant surprise, the other parents were actually appreciative, not only for saving them a trip to the toy store, but also for allowing them a teaching moment with their own children on why we should help those in need.

Parents asked how we got Will on board with the no-gifts concept, but that was quite easy. I believe that children instinctively want to help others. We told Will that there are people in the world who don’t have enough food to eat…and reminded him that he already has a lot of toys to play with…so wouldn’t it be nice if we could use his birthday party to help the people who don’t have food? And he agreed.

5yoWillThis week, we celebrated Will’s 5th birthday, and once again, instead of gifts, he collected canned goods for the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council food pantry at his safari-themed party at The Children’s Museum at Saratoga. As we drove to drop-off the donated items, we talked about how lucky we are to have plenty of food to eat, and how nice it was for Will to think of others on this birthday. I looked at him in the rear-view mirror, buckled in his carseat, and I could see the pride in his face, knowing he was doing something good to help others. To me, that is how you build a child’s self-esteem.

4 Things I’ve Learned about Saratoga Springs

Downtown_Saratoga_SpringsI was born and raised in the South, and frankly, my dear, I always thought I would live below the Mason-Dixon Line. But life had other plans for me, and a year ago, my family and I moved to Saratoga Springs, New York.

More than once during the past 12 months, I have felt like a stranger in a strange land. When I attempt to order sweet tea, for example. But to my surprise, I have acclimated to this new environment with relative ease. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Here are a few observations from my first year in Saratoga Springs:

  • Snow, snow, and more snow
    hydrant2It was a warm, summer day in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York, and a woman visiting from the South was enjoying a stroll on Broadway. “Why do the fire hydrants have antennae?” asked the woman who had never seen a snowplow in real life, much less a five-foot-high snow bank…
    (P.S. Yeah, that was me.)
  • The Track
    Many places have four seasons, but in Saratoga Springs, there are five: fall, winter, spring, summer, and track season. For seven weeks each year, the entire town revolves around post times. Make no mistake about it: horses are big business in Saratoga Springs.
  • Potholes
    I remember my driver’s ed teacher telling us to always “drive ahead”–scan the road in the distance. But follow that advice in Upstate New York, and you will need to get thee to a repair shop for a wheel alignment. Thanks to the abuse doled out by snowplows, the potholes are epic and bountiful.
  • Peppermint Pigs
    peppermint pigBeing from the South, I am familiar with a wide array of pig products, from pickled pigs’ feet to chitlins (if you don’t know what they are, do NOT Google it!), but not until I lived in Saratoga Springs had I heard of a Peppermint Pig. Nothing says, “Happy holidays!” quite like pink swine candy.

Pigs, potholes, and ponies, oh my! I’m definitely not in ‘Bama anymore! Upstate New York may be a different world, but I have discovered that Saratoga Springs is a charming town chock-full of vibrant people, fantastic restaurants and stores, and intriguing history. Y’all get some sweet tea on the menu, and this place just might start to feel like home.

Are you a transplant to the Saratoga Springs area? What have you learned during your time here? Leave a comment below!