The only ones who should wear pajamas outside are these guys.
This topic may cause you to dislike me. It might make me appear judgmental, snobbish, and holier-than-thou. I'm willing to take the risk because it's important.
"Who does she think she is," you might snarl as you wave your fist in the air, "to tell ME how my business looks? And anyway, these aren't pajamas~they're yoga pants!"
Let's Start with a Story...
I was enjoying an unexpected dinner out with my husband recently. As we sat in the steamy dining room of our favorite local Chinese restaurant, I watched the customers coming in. Upon arriving, they either nabbed an empty table or picked up paper sacks of food to take with them.
Even though I live in a rural area, I was surprised by how casually most were dressed. Jeans, yes. But sweatpants, yoga pants, plenty of flannel (not all of it clean looking) and more "relaxed" attire was the norm.
Call me old-school ('cause I am) but I was taught that when you leave the house, you get judged by how you look. In other words, holey, ripped clothes weren't allowed.
My mother and I once had a huge blowout fight about a pair of ripped jeans I wanted to wear to a concert as a teenager. I refused to take them off. She refused to take me while wearing them. Guess who won?
I spent the night writing angrily in my journal and blasting grunge music.
How We Write Matters to Our Business
As I watched people coming into the restaurant, it struck me: the way we dress is a form of communication. It tells the people around us something about us. Most of my fellow diners that night were saying, "comfort is more important to me than appearance". A couple were saying, "Stay away from me," and one was definitely shouting, "I love my pajamas and refuse to be constrained by public opinion!".
Have you ever considered how your business appears to others by the quality of its written content? As business owners, we wouldn't consider showing up at a meeting dressed in our Saturday-morning sweats. Why do the same thing with our website text, blog posts, newsletters or case studies?
The Case for an Expert Copywriter
"Oh, I don't need a writer." Many people over the past 12 years I've been writing professionally have told me this. "I'm working on a novel in my free time and I really like to write."
That may be. But writing is more than just getting words on paper (or a screen). It's about communicating efficiently and effectively with your audience. It takes more than the mechanical skill of being able to type. More than the practice of penning a novel or poetry in your free time.
Writing requires organization and the ability to curate and cull words and ideas. Very often it means doing a lot of research, then taking that research and creating a compelling narrative that draws readers in. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should. I can clean and bandage my son's finger after he stabs himself with a fondue skewer (which he did on Christmas--he's fine, thanks). Doesn't mean I'm a doctor or nurse.
Writing--like dress--communicates so much more about a business than many of us realize.
I've written before about writing effective content and whether it resembles more of a Snickers bar or a big pouf of cotton candy. I'm not here to tell you how to write or how to dress--it's a free country.
I would like to remind you though, of the importance of written communication in your business. If you're not saying the right thing at the right time, are you growing your business the way you want? Are you attracting the high-quality talent that you want?
Just like I don't trust myself to prepare my own income taxes, not everyone who can write, should.
This is why I love working with clients who "get it": those who already know the value that a professional copywriter offers and are ready to get started on the project--whether that's writing new website content, well-researched, SEO-rich blog posts, or sparkling clean newsletters to entice their clients.
I still don't leave the house without double-checking my appearance. For that I have my mother--and my mirror--to be grateful for.
What do you think? Am I putting too much emphasis on appearance? Do you believe that dressing--and writing--aren't as important as I believe? Please let me know in the comments.
Everyone wants to write content for their website that is effective, compelling, and connects with their audience. Maybe you're in a marketing position at a small company, a small business owner in Vermont or beyond, or work for a marketing agency. You know that creating shareable stories through your marketing is extremely important.
But how can you know for sure if your content writing is all of the above, or is what I call cotton candy writing? In Part I of the Effective Content Writing series, we discussed the basics of writing content and how to make it effective.
Now, let's break down the two most common types of content writing and determine which works best for you and your business.
Two Types of Content Writing: Cotton Candy and Snickers
Cotton candy writing: contrary to popular belief (mostly by academics and old school business owners who shiver at the thought of conversational writing appearing publicly), cotton candy writing does have it's place. Content writing at its core is made up of frequent posts--blogs, social media posts, case studies, and more--crafted with SEO terms and keywords and neatly packaged up online.
According to curata.com, "Original created content is the linchpin of any content marketing strategy."
Note the focus on original content writing. That's an important key and one we'll look at in a future post. Contrast cotton candy writing with Snickers writing.
Snickers writing: Snickers bills itself as the candy bar that "really satisfies". More recently, its marketing gurus have re-billed it as the candy bar that can help ravenous hunger pangs because, "you're not you when you're hungry".
Snickers really satisfied me as a kid. I was raised by two back-to-the-land parents who were into organic gardening, living like we starred on Little House on the Prairie, and of course, eschewing sugar in all its forms. When I got my sweaty little paws on Snickers bars at my grandparents house or on Halloween, you can bet I dove in with pure glee.
Snickers writing is heartier, meatier content writing. It's text that's carefully researched, thought out and planned ahead of time. It's often used in conjunction with an editorial calendar. The behind-the-scenes work is what makes this type of writing more interesting and effective. At its base, this type of content is fantastic storytelling.
I'm not here to tell you that one type of content writing is better for you or your business than another. As a writer, storyteller and formerly-trained journalist I'm drawn to Snickers writing. But in the past I've worked with clients focused solely on cotton candy writing. It worked for them and fit into their long-term goals.
If you're a business owner or marketing manager and are worried that your content appears like cotton candy when you're shooting for Snickers, here are three tips to help you differentiate.
Is Your Content Writing Fluffy Like Cotton Candy? 3 Ways to Tell
As a business owner or marketing director, you must decide: is the potential for higher rank online is a priority? Or is providing thoughtful, compelling content more important?
If you're worried that you're online content resembles cotton candy more than Snickers and would like a second opinion, please get in touch. I'd be happy to review your current online content and share my thoughts. Maybe we can split a Snickers and munch away while we chat.
Do you have a frenemy relationship in your business life: one you know it isn’t healthy, but which you can’t seem to let go?
Lots of small business owners do. This is a twisted kind of friendship where you wake late in the night wondering if you said the wrong thing or didn’t say enough at all. A relationship where you put in hours and hours of effort but sometimes (okay, often) have very little positive results to show for it. This friendship feels really one-sided...because it is. And unfortunately, it’s you who is making all the sacrifices and doing the bulk of the work.
This relationship is one that most small business owners have with...social media.
Social media is everywhere. Not only are there a huge number of options for “connecting with clients” online, but there are a lot of do’s and don’ts about how to use each platform successfully. We’ve become slaves to algorithms, status updates, and the cold, hard data that shows how we’re “performing,” not only day to day but hour to hour and minute to minute. Somewhere in engine search land, I picture a few hairy, sweaty middle-aged men laughing in an uproariously as they tweak algorithms and watch all of us poor schmucks deal with the fallout. As a small business owner, most of us have one most precious commodity: time. And social media can be like a giant drain where our time swirls away from us.
The Glitter of Social Media
I’ve attended a lot of meetings and conferences in my 11+ years as a professional writer. And one question that is bound to be posed in any event is: “Which social media platforms should I be using to find customers?” I too, used to feel a lot of angst about this. I would listen raptly as the keynote speaker or marketing expert would share all the “inside information” I needed to find my “tribe” online. And then, with pages of notes spread over my knees, I’d clutch my pen thinking, “I have to focus on this. This is top priority. I must be on at least three social media platforms three times a day in order to be relevant”.
So, I tried. For a long time I tried being everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Slack, Reddit. I blogged like a maniac and felt like I spent the better portion of my workday shouting ideas, inspiration, encouragement and questions out into the great black void of the internet.
And you know what happened?
Or at least, not much. And that was for three reasons:
1) I tried to be in too many places.
2) I didn’t go where my potential clients were.
3) I burned out.
Letting Go of Social Media
Things changed when I reassessed the craziness of my social media schedule and honed in what was actually working. This took a little time and distance. And yes, I’ll admit, it was scary. Letting go of Facebook where I’d built a small following (but wasn’t really seeing any results other than learning about people’s kids’ interests or what their pets were doing), was a little frightening. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) runs rampant, especially online. But finding more free time and more focus had definitely been worth it.
Through my social media analysis, I discovered some important information: for business writing, LinkedIn was where I needed to be. I still have an account on Twitter, but post/share/peruse it more rarely. I’ve let all the other platforms go (hello Facebook freedom!) and haven’t seen a decline in my business. If anything, I’ve had an increase in new clients probably because now I have time to actually build real connections, reach out to people one-on-one instead of en masse, and (gasp) do my priority work instead of dabbling on social media.
Is It Right for You?
Only you can decide if this is also the right choice for your own business. Looking at the data certainly helps. And while it’s difficult to pinpoint with accuracy what leads come through social media, it’s not as hard to track which posts/information/images got the most interaction. If you can find those, then look at other metrics like new client calls, online forms filled out on your website, newsletter subscribers, and more, around the same time and try to find where the two intersected.
That was too complicated for me. I went the simple route which was to drop accounts one by one and see what, if anything sales wise, changed. You may be surprised to see that your numbers don’t change all that much. Or that you find with the additional time you’ve freed up you have more energy to put toward sales calls, scheduling coffee meetups with potential clients or developing skills to boost your business overall. If nothing else, you’ll at least see which social media platforms really are important to your business and continue with those.
Joy Choquette has been writing professionally from her home office in northwestern Vermont (which is currently covered in snow) for the past 11 years. She helps small business owners to cut through the clutter online by creating shareable stories and memorable messages that motivate customers to action. She specializes in the areas of business, environmental and health and wellness issues. When she's not writing she loves being in the woods, drinking hot beverages and reading...just not all at the same time.
Joy Choquette has been writing professionally from her home office in northwestern Vermont for more than a decade. She helps small business owners to cut through the clutter online by creating shareable stories and memorable messages that motivate customers to action. She specializes in the areas of business, environmental and health and wellness issues.