Start a business – the 5 marketing things to do first

You’re good at what you do, you’ve got a bit of cash put by and you’ve got a hunger to start a business – so what’s stopping you?

Talking to many people in the same situation it’s clear that marketing is a significant blocker to people starting a new business.

The problem is that there are so many people out there trying to sell you stuff it’s difficult to know what to do first.

So here’s a sales pitch-free blog post that tells you the things I would do if I was starting a business from scratch.

#1 – Decide what you do (and who for)

This may sounds stupid but it is absolutely the key and you need to do this BEFORE you do anything else.

Deciding what you do and who you do it for will drive your marketing output and define which channels you use to communicate your offer so don’t neglect this step or it could be costly.

The first step is to work on your 10 second elevator pitch.

This needs to be clear and concise and frankly if you can’t tell people what you do in 10 seconds then you haven’t got a hope in hell of marketing your business in any cost-effective manner.

You need to focus your approach too.

Work out exactly who you are going to be selling to; and I mean EXACTLY.

When you first start up in business it is tempting to think that you can help everyone but marketing to the whole world just means that your message becomes diffused and gets ignored.

For example “I sell specialist insurance for plumbers” works a lot better than “I sell insurance for everybody”.

See my post on focus here (don’t worry that it’s for accountants, the principles are the same.

#2 – Build your network

Do this well before you start up in business.

Your network is like gold and will bring you sales, publicity and suppliers.

Businesses that have a large and active network always do better than closed, insular companies.

Be selective though, choose a networking group that has people who look like your target customers rather than a big bunch of randoms that won’t ever buy from you.

If you provide professional grade practice management software then you’re probably going to be wasting your time on mumsnet, for example.

#3 – Get your website up and running

Again you can do this before you even start and with the number of easy website builders out there you have no reason not to have a go yourself.

That having been said, you can find really good professional builders on sites like Fiverr, people per hour and Upwork who will build you a perfectly acceptable site at a low cost.

As you build your network you’ll realise that everyone you meet will be checking out your website to see if you are credible.

Your site doesn’t need to be sophisticated or snazzy, just professional and you can get away with a homepage, about, services and contact pages and then develop it later.

Just make sure your about page has a good story on it.

#4 Get your blog up and running

If you are hoping to attract customers using searches then you need to get your SEO right.

It’s not a matter of writing a blog post and then Google picks you up the next day, you need to have a history of posts.

Even if you don’t expect to pick customers up this way then your new business needs to build up a credible looking site so get your blog up and running and look to post once a week with some valuable information about your sector.

Don’t worry too much about driving sales or hitting specific keywords at this point (that comes later), concentrate on getting into the groove of posting regularly.

You can find out more about digital marketing here.

#5 Plan your marketing

Having a marketing plan before you start your business makes so much sense it is amazing that so few people do it.

Amazing but nonetheless true.

A marketing plan is a great idea because it forces you to think about what you are going to do, when and how much it is going to cost.

Most new businesses have a limited marketing budget so it’s a good idea to think about where you are going to spend it and then analyse the results afterwards to see what is working and what isn’t.

That way you’ll only spend money where you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Start a business – become a marketer

When you start a business you’ll find that you are doing more jobs than ever before.

You’ll become the janitor, the CFO, the Chief exec and the head of marketing!

Just like the operational tasks you need to take marketing seriously, after all if you don’t you won’t have any customers to help!

So make sure that you get your marketing head on and if it all seems like a bit too much, then find someone who can help (cough).

Good luck with starting your new business!

Show you are different – marketing differentiation

Trying to be different? Marketing differentiation. Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

If you are trying to attract more customers then there are 6 tried and tested ways of using marketing differentiation to show why people should buy from you.

In an ideal world, your business, product or service would have all of these but actually many companies do very well by using just one and in this post I’m going to explain what marketing differentiation is and how you can use it.

In this post;

What is differentiation?

Differentiation in marketing terms is simply the process of showing how you are different from the competition.

There are a whole load of ways that these differences can manifest themselves but they will be positive attributes of the company that are important to their target group of customers.

Sometimes the difference is real but in the worst cases it is merely fluff, and I’d argue that businesses that are sustainable have real factors that make them stand out from their peers and don’t engage in dishonest marketing.

I genuinely think that consumers can see through fluff and with the advent of social media the news spreads very rapidly indeed.

Most companies that are finding that their marketing isn’t working actually have the differentiation factors already, it’s just that their marketing doesn’t reflect it. In other words they are hiding their light under a bushel.

So what are these differentiators and how can you spot and use them in your marketing?

Product

This is possibly the most obvious and easiest to spot.

Product differentiation is when a company has a product and service that is so different from the competition that it makes them stand out on their own.

Possibly the best example of this would be the iPhone.

marketing differentiation  - the original iPhone

Back in 2007 there really wasn’t anything like it on the market.

Sure there were phones, but the iPhone was so radically different that it changed the device market entirely and indirectly led to the destruction of the biggest phone manufacturer of the time, Nokia.

Now if you are lucky enough to have a product or service that is so radically different that it is going to totally change the sector you work in then that’s great news but beware…

Look at the phone market now and you’ll see that it is totally flooded with ‘me too’ products that do exactly what the iPhone does, but cheaper or better.

So if your marketing is built on the shifting sands of a product then be aware that you have a limited amount of time before your competitors catch up.

But the good news is that if you have a product that stands out in one or two ways then you can use that as a basis for a marketing campaign.

A good example of this is the way that BT sells it’s internet services. BT majors on the fact that it can give you the fastest domestic broadband and ties all of its marketing to this, showing the way that your life would be better if you have faster internet access.

Naturally it glosses over the fact that it is more expensive then the competition!

So picking out one or two stand out features of your product or service and then going big on them in your marketing is a real winner.

marketing differentiation  - using product features

Service

Think about all the companies you use as a consumer or as a business owner.

Is there one that charges a little more but you keep using because the service they offer is stunning?

When I take my car or more importantly my motorbike for an MOT I always go to Joe’s MOT near me in Bournemouth.

I know for a fact that there are MOT stations closer than them, and some that offer cut-price MOT’s to get the business in. I can even get free MOT’s as part of the package that comes with other products I buy like car insurance or my accountancy institute fees.

marketing differentiation  - great service always sells

But despite the disparity in cost, I take my vehicle to these guys because they are great to work with and that’s important to me.

Service is a great way to counter competitors who are selling at cut-price, because there has to be a very significant reduction in value for a consumer to walk away from great service.

Channels of distribution

If you have seen the 7 P’s of marketing then you’ll know this as ‘Place’ and the channel of distribution really describes the way that you get your product or service to the customer.

There’s a prosperous town near me that doesn’t have a fishmonger (not many do nowadays) and once a week a chap turns up with a little van and sets up a wet fish stall in the centre.

He’s spotted that there’s a gap in the market and has delivered his product in a place that is convenient for his customers.

Now he has a bunch of regular customers that know that he will turn up on a specific day of the week and who visit the town centre just to see him.

Delivering your service using the channel that your customers like and feel comfortable with is a great way to show how you are different from the competition.

It works particularly well when a channel is new. For example in the early days of Facebook there weren’t many people selling on the platform and yet it had a very defined audience.

If you look at any new distribution channel like Instagram or TikTok then you’ll see that companies can develop a new customer base very quickly if they are first adopters but just like ‘Product’, it can start to get crowded very quickly so don’t base your entire marketing strategy on this!

Relationships

There’s an old saying: ‘people buy from people’ and when you want to differentiate your marketing this is an excellent thing to remember.

This really is all about building relationships with people rather than seeing them as a number and whilst it is a natural state for a smaller business, larger companies can use it as well.

When they set up their business in 2017, Blue Motor Finance decided to go traditional and use business relationship style salespeople who personally visited car dealers to introduce the service with no hard sell.

They took time to get to know their customers, their business and who they were selling to and designed a product to fit. Blue incentivised its people based on relationship building and how many times they visited their potential customers rather than just sales figures.

The result was that by 2019 Blue was the fastest growing business in Europe and the company continues to go from strength to strength.

You usually find that a relationship approach goes hand in hand with service marketing and if your business has great relationships with its customer then look at using service as an additional feature in your marketing.

Reputation/image

Reputation is something that has really come to the fore, especially since around 2010.

It used to be that reputation was everything and back in the day companies worked very hard to build up their name in their industry and equally hard to retain it.

Somewhere along the way, we lost that and companies were happy to treat customers, suppliers and staff badly, just as long as their products were cheaper than everyone else’s!

The problem with this approach is that there’s always someone who can do it cheaper or quicker and so competing on price can be a slippery slope.

There are also sectors where having a bad reputation is a complete disaster. Imagine a bank that had an awful reputation for security or a cosmetic surgeon who was known to only have a 50% hit rate!

That’s why for many companies image and reputation are vital parts of their marketing mix.

Think about the marketing differentiation of the Body Shop, Virgin or British Airways.

Trust is important in marketing differentiation  -

All of these have a very specific image and a good reputation in their niche.

Today you can find any number of sites like Trustpilot that will even collate reputation scores and so if your customers love you then you are on to a winner.

Reputation works well when trust is important and although I wouldn’t suggest necessarily building an entire marketing campaign around the fact that you don’t rip people off (because it introduces into customers minds that they could be ripped off!) it is a great differentiator when you have two offerings that are very similar.

Price

I never compete on price, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid marketing tool.

So for example I would never try and win business by undercutting a competitor because I know how long it will take to do a good job and when you start cutting your prices then customers expect that you will always give them a discount.

But you can use price as a marketing differentiator to point to other features of your product.

I had a conversation with a client who decided to go to a cheaper copywriter.

OK so that was annoying but around three months later he came back and commissioned work at the original price because he found that paying less for something meant that he got worse quality and that in the end he spent longer correcting the mistakes that a cheap copywriter makes.

I even wrote a blog post about what happened when I tested out some cheap copywriters.

So using the example above you can show why your price is higher and weave in some of the other aspects such as reputation and service to make your case.

Of course, many companies have been using their high price as a badge of exclusivity for years like Stella Artois, whose ‘reassuringly expensive’ tagline has served well since 1992.

The use of price doesn't always mean trying to sell at the lowest price

Your next steps

If I were running your marketing I’d start by looking at your customers. What things are important to them?

Exclusivity?

Convenience?

Trust?

Then I’d look at your product or service. What things would be important if I were buying it?

Then I’d look to see what positive attributes your business, your staff and your product have and then begin to weave them into a narrative.

When you have done all that, you need to make sure that all of your marketing output majors on the one or two aspects you have chosen.

Need some help with marketing differentiation?

Come on guys you know the drill. If you’d like to work with someone who is incredibly sarcastic but deep down a nice guy then click on the link!

11 examples of tone of voice

I wanted to give you some examples of tone of voice as a companion piece to my post on types of tone of voice.

In this post I’m highlighting some very different types to hopefully give you some inspiration and show how your tone of voice can be different, even if you are in the same industry.

Crunch.co.uk

I chose accountants as they get a pretty bad rep for communication generally.

I think sometimes this is fair, but there are some accountants out there that really spend a lot of time on their marketing and communication so I wanted to celebrate a couple here.

Crunch is an online accountancy practice that specialises in working with smaller businesses.

They get my vote because they have put a lot of effort into their marketing with a bright and cheery site, not too many long words and no jargon.

It’s easy to find what you want and understand the language when you get there.

Their tone of voice is cheery, helpful, friendly and is designed to give people a sense of an approachable business.

Crunch accounting

Deloitte

Deloitte is the other end of the scale entirely.

They work with very large companies and government departments and look how their use of language differs.

There’s a fair bit of corporate speak in there with words like ecosystem, illuminate, perspective, divestiture.

They are speaking in the way that their customers expect and the whole tone of voice in this example is designed to show that they are ultra professional and serious people.

Deloitte website

Rolls Royce cars

Check out the Rolls Royce website for a great example of tone of voice.

RR have decided that less is definitely more and you’ll struggle to find much in the way of copy on the site.

Why?

Because it’s all about brand perception.

People who visit the site are looking for a dream car and frankly they don’t need you to tell them about MPG or CO2 emissions.

I love this site because of the minimalist approach they have taken, I just hope that the copywriter wasn’t paid by the word!

Rolls Royce cars

Ford

In contrast, Ford has taken the view that its customers need to know exactly how much value they are getting for their money.
There’s lots of information about the cars and it’s presented in an easy to read and accessible style.

This illustrates one of the things about tone of voice that many people forget. Sometimes it’s not about what you do say (Ford) but what you don’t say (RR).

Ford torneo

Virgin wines

In this example I wanted to show how the tone of voice can extend across a whole brand.

Virgin wines uses very youthful, fun, enjoyable language to entice the buyer into their club.

But it is interesting how the same tone of voice is used across the whole virgin brand from wines to mobile phones to airlines.

What is interesting is that not all of the virgin companies are still owned by the group but they continue to use the same type of tone of voice.

Virign wines example tone of voce

Even the main group websites uses the same tone of voice!

Virgin group example tone of voice

Berry Bros & Rudd

Berry Bros & Rudd are reputed to be the UK’s oldest wine merchant and their website is set up for serious wine buffs.

Sure they have selection cases just like Virgin, but the way they describe their wines is totally different.

You’ll find a lot more detailed information on the site too, as this is what serious wine people want and the language is more sober (if you’ll forgive the pun) and speaks to people who are often wanting wine as an investment and not for their Friday night dinner party.

Berry bros & Rudd tone of voice example

Amigo loans

Held up as a disruptor in the personal loans space in the UK I’ve always been impressed with the tone of voice that Amigo adopted.

Bear in mind that when they started out the loan market in the UK was pretty ‘fuddy duddy’ and the traditional banks spoke to people as though they were something that the cat dragged in.

Amigo pioneered the straight-talking, accessible language that we see on so many finance sites nowadays.

This is a good example because it shows how accessible language can be used to make complex subjects easy.

The site is professional but friendly and across the pages it makes it clear that borrowers can always call in and talk to a person.

Example of Amigo Loans tone of voice

Royal Bank of Scotland

RBS takes an entirely different approach.

No messing about trying to become your friend for these guys – they are right in there with the APR and their copy ‘above the fold’ reads like an extract from the little legal bit they have to put at the bottom of their print output.

I’ll be honest, I hate this.

OK so it is compliant with FCA regulations but guys, c’mon. It’s 2020.

Buy me a drink before you ask to take me home!

RBS tone of voice

Lush

OK so I used this one in my post on types of tone of voice and I make no apologies for including it here.

Own up time: I worked at Lush in the early days and I remember how much effort went into developing the tone of voice and look of the site.

Personally I think they have got it spot on and not because I worked there. I’m most certainly not in their target demographic!

If you want to see a really individual tone of voice then check out their product descriptions or read their blog.

Lush tone of voice example

Yves Saint-Laurent

Ok so sometimes it’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it (see Rolls Royce) but sometimes…

When I started searching for examples of tone of voice I found some that I didn’t and YSl is in that category.

I’m including the YSL site here because it shows something really interesting.

On the corporate site YSL badges itself as ‘The most subversive Parisian luxury beauty brand’

However when you come to read the product descriptions they are anything but subversive.

In fact, it’s almost like someone forgot to tell the copywriter what tone of voice they were going for!

This is a good example of what not to do.

Don’t set out your stall as one thing and then choose a tone of voice that is completely at odds with your mission, goals or marketing themes.

Take a look at the wording below and think ‘subversive’. Not really is it?

Are subversive people really worried about the colour of the bottle that their Eau De Parfum arrives in?

YSL tone of voice

Boots

In contrast I really like the site of UK High Street giant Boots.

OK so it’s not as funky as the Lush site but they are going for a different demographic (me maybe).

Their fragrance descriptions are well written, clear, accessible and enticing.

They are even formatted a little like wine descriptions.

Personally I think they have done a good job here and it shows how you can use different language in simple product descriptions to speak to your audience.

Examples of tone of voice – now find yours

So I’ve given you some examples of tone of voice to get you thinking about how different companies use language to communicate their brand values.

Some I liked and some I didn’t but what I think doesn’t matter.

It’s what your customers think that is important.

My best advice is to keep a note of sites you visit where you like how they communicate and then ask yourself whether that would work with your customers.

Then try it on for size.

Write some product descriptions or a blog post in that tone of voice and decide whether it fits or not.

Sometimes gut feeling is better than scientific analysis!


Give me a shout

If you’d like help developing your tone of voice then why not contact me by pressing the big blue button?

Types of tone of voice – how to choose yours

choose the right types of tone of voice

There are many different types of tone of voice and for most of the websites you visit you probably won’t even have noticed that they are using one.

A company that chooses the right tone of voice immediately falls into synch with their customers and this means that the tone of voice doesn’t stand out.

The only times you do notice a tone of voice is when it clearly isn’t right for the brand or when you are specifically looking at how language is being used – like in this article!

TL:DR Tone of voice

What is tone of voice?

The tone of voice is the language, grammar and even the types of slang and Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) you use.

In short, it’s what you say and how you say it.

Vocabulary.com define it as the ‘quality of a person’s voice’ and this I reckon that this is a pretty accurate description.

Because quality is an incredibly important part of deciding on how you want to sound to your customers.

A smart brand will have a tone of voice that they use across all of their media, whether it be spoken tone of voice in videos and podcasts or written tone of voice in their blog posts, white papers, and even their advertising materials.

The key is to make sure that you are using the same tone of voice across all of your output, otherwise things start to jar and your brand can even start to look unauthentic.

Why tone of voice matters

So why on earth should you care about tone of voice?

Well the first reason is that your tone of voice can be used as a form of filter.

You are looking to attract customers who will buy into your company and what you are offering right?

So for example, if you have a funky cosmetics brand like Lush then you’ll want to make people feel like they are part of the gang, that they belong and that life is fun.

The tone of voice that Lush use across all of their stuff means that users instantly connect with the brand but if you’re not into that then you’ll be turned off and will probably move away.

This is fine because you’re not in the target market and probably wouldn’t buy anyway.

So developing an effective tone of voice strengthens the bond with your target market and to an extent makes it clear to your non-targets that this isn’t the place for them.

Types of tone of voice

So here’s the fun stuff – looking at different types of tone of voice.

For my tone of voice I am looking to provide a friendly and informative post. My website is generally written in the first person (“I” rather than “we”) and I will use slang and the occasional bit of humour to break up what can after all be some fairly detailed and technical subjects.

I’m also using my tone of voice as a filter.

I love working with people, small businesses, entrepenuers.

I hate working with corporates

So the moment you start reading my output you realise that I am not a big agency. You’re not paying fancy prices for things you don’t need.

That’s attractive to smaller companies but corporates get really nervous unless they are being charged ridiculous money so they go away.

Result!

So let’s look at some examples

I’ve already mentioned cosmetics firm Lush (secret: I used to work with them when they first developed their tone of voice) and they are an excellent example of a tone of voice.

Check out this product and the accompanying copy “Spritz yourself with a little bit of magic and wrap yourself in a cloak of candy floss and bubblegum”

It’s flowery, often funny and light, fitting in perfectly with their demographic.

Now check out retirement home builder McCarthy and Stone.

The tone of voice is completely different.

When people are thinking about buying a retirement property they want safety, security and sensible businesses. They aren’t wanting someone to spray them with fairy dust!

And so the TOV is completely different.

If you want to see the effect it can have then re-read the McCarthy and Stone website but switch it to the Lush use of language and see how that jars.

Another good example is Zero Motorcycles.

Their customers are clearly looking to the future and are already on board with the move to electric so the Zero copy capitalises on that with;

Zero are using a tone of voice that captures the move towards the future, identifying the transformational nature of the experience.

However try the Aston Martin website (particularly the brand stories section).

The language is totally different and they major on the heritage and quality of their design with phrases like;

How to choose your tone of voice

I wrote a longer article on the process of choosing your own tone of voice here but there are some simple steps you can take to make the process easier.

The first thing is to define your customer. You have decided on your target market right?

Then check out the places that they hang out. Look at message boards, Facebook groups, insta posts and learn the language that they use.

This will give you a better idea of the sort of language that is attractive to the people you want to talk to.

Then have a look around for websites you like and that fit in with this form of tone of voice.

See what they say, how they say it and what tricks they use to personalise their site.

Think about your values – are you a friendly company? Do you provide safety and security? Do you believe in being a trendsetter?

This last point is important because if you are a trendsetter in your industry then you don’t want to be using exactly the same tone of voice as all of your competitors for example.

Think also about the types of rhythm you like. Will you use rhymes, alliteration, lists.

What age are your target customers?

Do you need to include street-slang or are your people technicians who really like the odd TLA thrown in to show that you understand the subject matter?

Here’s a great tip for working out where you want to be.

Boil down your brand and mission into a few words (no more than six).

For example Aston Martin might be “quality, speed, technology, heritage”.

This will give you a steer as to the direction you need to be moving (pun intended).

Finally the best way to decide on your tone of voice is to try it on and see if it fits.

Get a copywriter to write product or service descriptions in several different types of TOV and just see what feels right.

So often our gut feeling turns out to be the right one.

Good luck with deciding on your tone of voice and if you need any copy or marketing help then you know where I am!

How much does copywriting cost?

How much does copywriting cost

If you are looking to spend some money on your marketing then you are going to need a copywriter and that leads you to the question “How much does copywriting cost?”

You can find copywriters that will range from $8 up to $2000 per thousand words but you have to ask what you are getting for your money.

So why would you pay $2000 when you can get the same number of words for $8?

Read on friend and find out…

You get what you pay for (mostly)

The truth is that you wouldn’t need to try very hard to find someone somewhere in the world who would be happy to know out a thousand words for $8.

But the work you would get would be awful.

Don’t believe me? Check out what happened when I bought some cheap writing here

The problem is that when you buy a number of words for a very low price what you will get is exactly that – a number of words.

They won’t necessarily be connected to one another in a way that we’d think makes sense and they won’t be specially designed to impress your reader.

There are two different way you can get copywriting done cheaply; a copy farm or buying from somewhere that human work is cheap.

In the first one you’ll get given something that has been produced using a computer and some version of an algorithm or what they may call AI.

What will come out of the end is something that reads a bit like those chat boxes that you sometimes get when you are looking for help from your utility supplier.

The words are there alright but they aren’t quite right. There’s something a little odd.

Now you have to ask yourself if you are happy with giving your customers the impression that there’s something not quite right about your business!

In the second case you’ll be buying from someone who has English as a second, third (or more) language.

They are cheap but you do need to be aware that you’ll probably spend more time spellchecking and reorganising the grammar that you would have spent writing the thing yourself!

It’s not worth the hassle.

When you are asking “How much does copywriting cost?” you actually need to also ask what the output will be.

So it’s worth spending as much as you possibly can on copywriting?

Well maybe.

You see copywriters are a little bit like cars in this respect.

You can buy a Bentley or you can buy a Ssangyong, they both have four wheels and get you from A to B.

So it’s not really “How much does copywriting cost?” but how much style do you want to travel in?

In the world of copywriting you can go to one of the big agencies and pay an absolute fortune for a copywriter (and their account director and their assistant account director) and you will definitely get some good stuff.

Or you can get someone who hasn’t really done any writing before but will have a bit of a go for £20 and a packet of malteasers.

Then in the middle, there’s a whole swathe of people from freelancers, to people who work for agencies that will do you a bang-up job for the equivalent of a BMW.

How much does a copywriter cost?

Well the answer to that question is up to you.

You can check out the average prices here based on London freelancers or you could just give me a call and I’ll tell you how good value I am!

Haven’t touched your blog since June 2019? Here are 7 different types of posts you have to make now

Freelance financial copywriter

OK so we’ve all been there, the blog sits on the to-do list, never getting ticked, just glaring at you.

You’ve been putting it off, I know you have.

So look you know that writing your blog regularly is the best way to get your site to creep up the rankings (higher rankings=more hits=more business) but you haven’t got the time.

What you need is either; an amazing financial copywriter (cough) or an injection of enthusiasm.

Well let’s assume you can’t find an amazing financial copywriter no matter how hard you look so this post is here to give you some ideas as to the type of blogs you can write for your business.

A blog about you

Yawn.

Yes you could, but unless it is incredibly engaging then nobody wants to know about you.

Sorry but thems the breaks.

Since we were little we have been told we’re special but the truth is that in business terms we’re not. So avoid writing about yourself wherever possible unless you are the Olympic champion carpet fitter or something.

A clickbaity blog

You know the sort of stuff

14 things you can do with a porcupine (you won’t believe number 6)

Ok so sometimes they do work otherwise people wouldn’t use them but generally avoid unless you have 21 pictures of Meghan Markel one of which I won’t believe.

Blogs about issues in your industry

Again, you CAN do this if you want and to be fair a blog about your own industry issues will often be very good for SEO purposes.

They can also work where your industry issues are your clients’ issues.

For example, if you are an accountant writing about IR35, well that’s an issue in your industry and will also affect your clients.

So go for it.


More resources
Wondering what to write about? Find out how to choose your blog subjects here

Blogs that answer questions about your product

Now I particularly like this one.

A blog that answers questions that your clients may have about your products is useful for three reasons;

  1. SEO. A blog about your product is going to include a lot of searchable terms
  2. It answers the questions that your clients are asking and gives them a warm feeling about you
  3. A good answer blog is very shareable, and we like shares.

In fact I would go so far as to argue that any company should have a good selection of posts that answer these sort of questions in detail.

For example let’s imagine you are a finance broker, then you need to make sure you are writing up blogs about the application process, features of different products, compare and contrast products or reviews.

Blogs that answer questions about something your product can be used for

This is different to the above.

So in the above section you are answering questions specifically about the product itself.

In this one you are answering questions about the uses to which you can put a product.

Can I use this finance to buy a house at auction?

Can I use this SaaS software to manage my practice?

Can I sell this software to my clients?

What you are trying to do is to answer questions that your customers may have but at the same time give them ideas about other ways that they can use your product or service.

Also these are answers to questions and Google loves that, it really really loves that.

Blogs about issues that affect your clients

Now we’re getting to the epic stuff.

Answering questions about things that affect your clients is a great way to get your service/product in front of them.

So for example, let’s imagine that you provide recruitment industry finance.

You write blogs about cash flow in the recruitment industry, 5 things to think about when you start your recruitment business, how to finance your payroll.

Naturally each of them do mention invoice finance but not in a salesy, in your face kind of way.

Your blogs are pointed towards people who may not even know that invoice finance exists or what it is.

Blogs about issues that affect your client’s clients

You wouldn’t believe it but this is an excellent way to publicise your business and it’s one that service providers use all the time.

I write content for software providers, often in the financial services industries and one of their favourite subjects is to write helpful posts about problems that their clients’ clients are having.

So I have a few software SaaS companies that provide software for accountants.

They write posts about specific industries that their clients market to.

For example they may write about changes to the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

They post the article and then (and this is the important bit) they publicise it to their accountants telling them that it is a good resource to share with their clients.

That way not only do the accountants read it, they also share it because it is some free resource that they can pass on that makes them look good in the eyes of their own clients!

C’mon dude, get that blog up and running

Right look, blogs are brilliant for SEO and they are awesome at giving potential customers a warm feeling about you.

Nobody likes seeing a website that has cobwebs growing in the corner so get to it and write a blog today, you’ll feel better about yourself, promise.

Haven’t got the time?

Course you haven’t, that’s why I’m here.

I’m that annoying guy that sits in the corner of your coworking location tapping away on his keyboard all day muttering to himself and letting out an occasional unnerving chuckle.

But I’m not bad at writing.

I can sort out your keywords, write your blog, post it on your site and do all that SEO stuff that you’ve never quite got your head around.

My mum will tell you that I’m a nice guy so get in touch now and let’s have a chat about how I can stop your website looking like the room that the Addams family are scared to go into.


7 attributes of great financial copywriters

A great financial copywriter

Financial copywriters are a specialist breed and you need to make sure you are hiring the right one.

Some of the attributes you’ll be looking for from your financial copywriter are obvious, some not so and may surprise you.

But all of the things in this post are important to consider if you are about to trust your brand to a writer.

Copywriting experience

Well it goes without saying right?

But really, if you are looking for a copywriter then hire a copywriter, don’t think that someone from the office can do it because ‘it’s only a few words’.

Copywriting takes skill and is harder than it looks.

You might want to find someone who understands SEO or who has experience writing for an insurance company or someone who is really good at making techincal subjects accessible.

But whatever you want you’ll need a copywriter

Financial experience

This is always helpful.

OK so some financial copywriters are amazing even though they have never worked in financial services but not many.

Frankly if you want someone to write about your accountancy software or your B2C loans or your whizzy new fintech app then it’s going to be a lot easier if the person understands a chart of accounts and APR calculations.

It saves you a lot of time explaining things too!


Financial copywriter at his desk
5 ways a financial copywriter can help your business

Something to add

What’s the difference between a good financial copywriter and a great one?

No it’s not a joke.

Genuinely, the difference is that a great financial copywriter will add something to your business.

They’ll come with ideas, tips and tricks to make your copy stand out.

They’ll have something to add to the conversation and it might even be totally unrelated to the copy they are writing.

Good standard of English

You might think that this is a given in the copywriting industry but you’d be wrong.

I’m always amazed when I see work from other writers that just doesn’t make sense.

Or has speeling errors (just my little joke).

Or has clearly been written by AI.

If that spelling error is annoying you then think what it will do to your clients.

Attention to detail

This isn’t just the details that go along with copywriting; it’s the detail that goes along with the gig.

Answering emails

Asking questions is they don;t understand

Making sure their copy is accurate

Delivering on time.

This is one thing that gets my goat. You have a deadline and I’d expect to deliver my copy by then if not before.

Some copywriters just don’t bother.

They get you

This is one of those ‘soft’ things that can’t be quantified but it is absolutely imperative.

They have to get you.

They have to get your company.

They have to understand your tone of voice.

If there’s a mismatch then it’s likely that the copy they provide, whilst great, doesn’t quite do what you want it to.

A great financial copywriter will understand what you are about and how to add real value to your team.

You like them

People laugh when I say this but one of the reasons that I went freelance is that I wanted the freedom to work with people I like.

And you should like your copywriter too.

Life is too short for tetchy meetings and awkward email exchanges.

It’s Friday PM and you want to talk about your campaign but you don’t mind having a little bit of a laugh too.

You have to like the people you are working with, otherwise the time passes very slowly indeed.

Financial copywriters are a different breed

We work differently and we think differently but we’re not that odd!

Someone who has worked in finance for any length of time will understand that there are some things you can say and some you can’t.

They’ll be as invested in the work as you are.

And they’ll add to the project by bringing their knowledge and experience to bear.

If you’d like to have a chat and find out how I can help your business then click the button and let’s talk.

5 items of content marketing that every accountant must use

Two accountants content marketing discussion

For go-ahead accountants content marketing is the way to go.

If you are looking to grow your practice, or if you just want to make sure your current clients are more engaged and understand all the services that you offer, then you need to be producing content.

And there are some bits of content that are absolutely essential for your content marketing.

So here’s my list of the top 5 things you need to be doing to make sure your accountancy firm stays ahead of the game with its marketing.

#1 – Blog posts

You have got a blog haven’t you?

This the absolute number 1 thing you need.

Firstly it shows your clients that you are an up to date, current practice rather than a firm that put a website up just because it was the done thing.

Make sure you are producing useful stuff though, and make sure its relevant to your focused target market.

And if you don’t have the time then pay me to do it.


Yellow tomato - content advice for accountants
Find out why choosing your focus is so important here

#2 – Technical updates

OK so I’m not talking about technical updates in the way that you or I understand them.

What I am talking about is a digest of a technical development but presented in an easy to understand format.

The aim here is to inform your clients about changes like MTD or RTS but in a way that makes is accessible for them.

Essentially you are saying “here’s a problem, here’s how we can solve it for you.”

#3 – Videos

OK so I know you don’t like to see yourself on the screen and you hate the sound of your own voice but 82% of Twitter users for instance consume video content.

But don’t worry. It’s perfectly acceptable to employ an actor to voice or present your videos and they can be surprisingly cheap.

You can also use things like Powtoon to produce an animated video that doesn’t even need to feature you as a talking head.

#4 – Webinars

Remember that you aren’t really selling anything on your site, as a professional what you are looking to do is to increase your credibility in the mind of the client.

Webinars on specific subjects of interest to your clients are a great way to do this.

Look at linking up with other professionals who may have more experience and pool your resources and this can be a very cheap way of driving traffic.

Just make sure you record it so that users can watch it later on.

#5 – Expert reports, white papers or eBooks

One of the first questions that academics get asked when they are looking for a job is “what have you published”.

It’s a way of potential employers understanding how much of an expert the professor or researcher actually is.

So that’s my question for you – “what have you published”?

Producing a meaty piece of content that explores a subject in depth and cements your reputation as a subject matter expert is perfect.

It’s also great for using in an advertising or link building campaign.

Use content marketing for your accountants to grow your firm

Content marketing has a great ROI and done properly it can be long lived and very cost effective.

There are tens, maybe hundreds of types of content marketing that accountants can use but you MUST have these five.

Admittedly this takes time and may need a bit of expert advice and that’s where I come in.

call now or drop me a message and let’s talk about how I can help you boost your practice marketing.

What is Bounce rate?

bounce rate image

Bounce rate is a measure used to work out how useful your site is to visitors.

Bounce is one of those things that people will tell you is massively important whilst others will tell you it doesn’t matter at all.

In fact, the likelihood is that it is somewhere in between and, together with lots of other metrics go to show search engines that yours is a good site.

So how is bounce rate worked out?

Bounce rate is fairly simple to work out. It is just a percentage score of how many visitors consume your initial content and then go on and read something else – or more accurately don’t!


Check out the vid about bounce rate!


In general terms zero bounce is good, 100% bounce is bad.

So if your visitor reads a second piece of content then it reduces your rate which is a good thing.

But…

Low bouncing isn’t necessarily good (and a high one isn’t necessarily bad)

It really depends upon what sort of site you have.

So a shop site would expect a very low bounce rate whilst a site that is all about getting people to sign up to a mailing list would be fine with a high one.

And that’s the problem with looking at this in isolation – it ignores what your site is for.

If you have a mature site and your bounce rate is ridiculously low (say 20% or lower) then it kind of suggests that something is wrong with your analytics.

If you have a brand new site and you are at 100% then that’s absolutely fine because it takes time to get a wealth of information on your site so that people have something else to read.

In general services type sites are good if they are in the 50% range and shop sites need to be under this but again, a shop site with a bounce rate that is 50% but converts 5% of visitors to customers is better than one with a 30% bounce that converts 2%.


More resources
Want more resources to help with your website? Click the image

What can you do about your bounce rate?

The first and most important thing is to have good, relevant content on your site.

The more content you have then the more likely it is that people will read more than one page.

Reduce the size of your pages too.

People may not want to read 2,500 words but they would happily read three posts of 800 words each.

Also make sure it’s easy to navigate round your site.



Split your content into chunks so that people read one and then naturally follow to another page to read the next part of the story.

You can also make sure that you point people to related pages. After all, someone who reads one post about SEO is clearly interested in the subject so may like to check out more of your SEO posts.

And finally give people more value if they read more pages.

So have a page that is an introductory part of a subject then follow that up with more in-depth pieces and finally a really useful downloadable.

You can find a more technical explanation of bounce rate from Google here.

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Need marketing help?

I’m a specialist in writing copy for financial and professional services companies so if you would like to get your bounce rate down then get in touch and let’s talk.

What is TLDR and why you should care

TLDR (or TL;DR as it used to be known) means ‘Too Long;Didn’t Read’.

Simple.

So why should you care?

Well TLDR is really important when you are composing your blog posts and web content and I’m about to tell you why.

In this post;

Truth is no-one likes a wall of text

Have you ever been faced with a wall of text and just decided that life’s too short?

That’s TLDR in action.

A massive wall of text on a webpage is offputting.

Sure if you are sitting in the garden with a white wine spritzer and a copy of catch-22 then you can spend some time enjoying the experience of reading, but if you just want to find a recruitment consultant then you haven’t got enough life left to make it worth while.

Research has shown that our attention span reduced from 12.5 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015 and the trend is continuing.

This means that as a blog writer you need to make sure your posts are snappy and to the point.

Otherwise your readers will drift away

person drifting away from a boat
If you’re not smart your users will drift away

Split up your text

So what can you do about it?

Well for a start you can practice writing in short, snappy sentences.

Long paragraphs of text aren’t attractive at all so you need to avoid them and make sure you use easily accessible language because the average reader won’t be wanting to read acres of jargon.

Make sure you break up your text with relevant images too that illustrate your point.

Text for your homepage

So here’s the thing – Google says you need plenty of text on your homepage to tell it what it’s about but in reality your users won’t read it. So what do you do?

You start off by getting to the point above the fold.

Above the fold means the bit you can see without scrolling.

If you check out my homepage it says quite clearly above the fold – expert professional services marketing.

If you’ve come to the wrong place then you’ll know straight away but if you have come to the right place then you’ll scroll to…

Telling people what problems you solve

Look, we don’t want to read a page full of jargon, we just want to know what you are going to do for us.

So get to the point as quick as you can, the problem, the solution, who it’s for.

So don’t dance around your handbags for half an hour before getting to the point because your TLDR readers have already left the building.

I’d suggest that above the fold you go for your most important services.

Then as the users crolls down you provide more detail.

And when they click onto another page you give can expand your thought process.

TLDR for blog posts

Have you noticed that I answered the question right at the top of the post?

I did this for two reasons.

The first is for the TLDR people. They don’t have to read any further than line 1.

That’s fine.

If you are going to buy from me then you probably want to know much more than just the simple answer to the question.

So I am happy to give TLDR people the answer to their question because I know that they probably aren’t going to engage with me anyway.

The second reason is for Google.

Google likes posts that answer questions, and it likes to use the answers on it’s featured snippets panels.

So if you answer the question that people are asking quickly and succinctly in the first sentence then you are much more likely to be highly placed.


Free resources to help with your copywriting and SEO
Want free resources to help with your blog content and website SEO? Click the image for more

Chuck in a bulleted list

Did you see at the start of the article that there was a bulleted list?

This is designed to help readers get to the bit they want to read without scrolling or reading through the rest of the article.

Seriously though, with so much great information available why would people scroll past?

But they do!

Oh and set up page anchors so if you click on the item it takes you to the relevant section. Find out how to do page anchors here.

TLDR is important to keep readers engaged

So in summary then the principle of TLDR is important if you want to keep readers engaged in your blog and if you want site visitors to read more on your site.

On your home page make sure you get to the point right away and make it above the fold.

For blog posts, answer the question your readers are asking straight away as this will help engagement and will also boost your SEO score for the page.

And make sure you split your text up into manageable chinks and include the odd image here and there.

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If you’d like help with your site, whether it be copywriting, marketing or anything else then give me a shout and let’s chat.