OMG. Do you really need those TLAs?

Stop using TLAs

Imagine the scene, it’s my second ever board meeting and someone says with a totally straight face – I think there are too many TLAs in that report.

He was right, there were too many TLAs*, but with classic unself-awareness (is that a word?) he’d missed the point that he’d also slipped into the murky world of TLAs.

As a writer who is often working on technical or finance subjects, TLAs are the bane of my life, but in some cases I have to use them.

Of course, TLA’s don’t need to be three letters IMHO2, in fact, they can be any number of letters but sometimes they can be really confusing and not helpful at all.

Why do people use TLAs?

So why do we use them?

Well there are a number of reasons.

The most obvious is to shorten a phrase when speaking or to make typing quicker.
They are very useful for text messages although in general people tend to use txt spk most of the time.

But there are a couple of other reasons why people use them.

The first is a defence mechanism. When they are feeling under attack or that they don’t have the requisite knowledge then it is a safe haven.

In most cases IMO, this is down to imposter syndrome and lack of confidence. It’s true to say that people can use them as a way of showing off a bit, which is fine in moderation.

Where TLAs become malignant

My own industry is riddled with TLRs like TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read), SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SERPs ( Search Engine Results Pages).

I often think these are a way of creating a mystique around what we do and if people really understood what some of these professionals did then the price would go down!

But sometimes people can use TLAs like a big stick. I once worked at a company where one of the executives wasn’t the sort of guy you’d want to have a drink with.

In fact he was a misogynist bully.

He used TLAs as a weapon, dropping in obscure acronyms to intimidate people who he thought were below him and laughing at them when they asked what he meant. Usually the women.

Oddly, the organisation was owned by a woman, and the majority of senior managers were women but no one called him out on his behaviour (he did a lot of other stuff besides) and which I don’t think would be tolerated today.

I’ve also seen this and a version of it in academia where very senior doctors, professors and lecturers would sit in the bar and play a game of TLA scrabble to try to assert their authority.

It was a bit like watching a bunch of silverback gorillas throwing feces at each other.

And that’s the problem with weaponising TLAs; they make you feel like you’re powerful at the time but you still end up looking stupid and covered in brown stuff afterwards.

(Mis)Using TLAs isn’t big and it isn’t clever.

When TLAs are good

There are some places where an acronym is perfectly acceptable or indeed helpful.

I’m not a TLA nazi after all!

It’s perfectly acceptable to use the standard signifier for a currency for example. So Great Britain Pound becomes GBP.

This is helpful because not all keyboards have all the symbols for all the currencies (obvs) and using the TLA is in fact better.

In some cases I can accept using the IATA airport code. For example most people I think would know that LAX is LA airport. Some, especially UK citizens would know that LGW is London Gatwick and LHR is London Heathrow.

You may be able to work out that AMS is Amsterdam but how many would know what FNC stood for3?

For technical subjects, TLAs are really good for shortening phrases that would otherwise make the text less understandable – but when you use them you should always make sure that you write out the phrase the first time you use it and then put the TLA in brackets afterwards = Not For Profit (NFP).

And of course brand recognition is awesome for some TLAs. Think NHS, RSPCA or RNLI.

But in general, I’m with the Campaign for Plain English on this. Text should be easy to read and understandable and sometimes TLAs don’t help at all.

When TLA’s are bad

OK so I am going to admit that sometimes a handy TLA really helps.

But a lot of the time Three Letter Acronyms are simply the effect of someone being lazy, mischievous or downright rude!

Remember also that TLAs may be well known within your industry or even at a company level, but outside users can find that they haven’t got an idea what you are talking about.

I once worked in an organisation where I was promised PIN4 so that I could start off a project. I spent the next few days wondering where I would be entering my PIN until the answer arrived in the internal mail.

And TLAs may be perfectly understandable to an English speaker, but confusing for people who have English as a second language.

So what can you do about it?

Well the first thing you can do is to become an island of plain English in your organisation.

Reject confusing jargon and the overuse of TLAs. Ask yourself if your text is really helped or hindered by the use of acronyms for the ordinary user.

As I got more senior in my career, I began to ask stupid questions. So whenever someone used a TLA I would aske them what it stood for.

Some of the time they eventually got bored an astopped using them, but some of the time they didn’t know!

More than once I have been in a meeting where no one knew what a TLA stood for when they had been throwing it about for years!

So call it out.

Reject documents that don’t explain TLA’s and refuse to use them yourself.

Ask people what they mean.

Tell people you hate TLAs

Declare TLA freedom day and fine people for using them, giving the money to your favourite charity.

I know we’re not going to get rid of TLAs altogether, after all, they are useful, but we can at least stop overusing them IMHO!


*TLA = Three-Letter Acronym

2= In My Humble Opinion

3 = It’s Madeira airport. FNC stands for Funchal, in Portugal. Portugal is lovely IMO.

4= Project Initiation Note

Does content marketing work for accountants?

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

What’s the truth about content marketing? Does it really work for accountants?

You can spend a fortune on content marketing and it is easy to get swayed by the bold claims that marketers make (after all they are in marketing!).

But if you spend your money will you get bang for your buck or is there a better way to bring in new clients?

In this post, I am looking at the real-world issues with content marketing and at the end, I promise I’ll give you my opinion (it might not be what you think).

In this post:

  • What is content marketing?
  • Why accountants?
  • The problems with content marketing
  • Why you may not get the return you expect from your content marketing
  • Doing content marketing right
  • The ROI of content marketing for accountants
  • Opinion: does content marketing work for accountants?

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the process of providing things of value for potential customers in the expectation that they will love you and buy your services.

Content can include;

  • Blogs
  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Video explainers
  • How-to guides
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts and webinars

Most of the stuff is given away for free but some may require an email address if you are trying to build a list (and you should be).

Why accountants?

Because getting clients for accountants is all about two things;

  • Showing them that you know what you are talking about and;
  • Showing them that you are their kind of person

And content marketing is ideal in this respect as it is the perfect way to build your credibility by writing authoritatively about a particular subject.

If you produce podcasts, webinars or videos then people will also get to see your personality and winning charm.

I can guarantee that whatever method your potential clients use to find out about you, they check out your website before they call or email.

Be fair, you do it yourself.

The problems with content marketing

Content marketing isn’t rocket surgery or brain science and I’d argue that anyone can do it, even us accountants.

There’s one massive problem with content marketing for accountants though and some little ones too.

The massive problem is that it takes time and effort and if I know accountants (and I do) they are invariably very busy and time-poor.

Who has time to sit down and write 1000 words on IR35 or record a video about super deductions for capital expenditure? ( I have a cure for this).

One little problem is knowing what you should write about. You can get someone to work this out for you or you can check out my post on the subject here.

Another problem is that you need to have a website with blogging capabilities. Most forms of Content Management Systems (CMS or a posh word for WordPress) have this and sometimes it’s just a case of turning it on.

Why you may not get the return you expect from your content marketing

Many people end up being really disappointed with the return they get from their content marketing and the reason for this isn’t hard to see.

Often people write a post and then publish it to their website and then wait.

and wait

and wait

It’s a bit like going to a networking event and sitting in your car the whole time, wondering why people aren’t talking to you.

You see most people don’t bother to publicise their posts which means that people don’t find out about them which in turn means that people don’t read them.

Typically they get into the cycle of despair and their blog withers on the vine, they stop doing videos and then they believe that content marketing doesn’t work.

Bummer.


Want to find out what the cycle of despair is? Click on the image and download my free accountant’s guide to content marketing

free guide to content marketing for accountants

But content marketing does work… if you do it right.

Doing content marketing right

There is a simple step by step process for doing content marketing right.

  1. Understand what questions your customers are asking (try using Answer the public)
  2. Work out how you will answer them (blogs, videos etc.)
  3. Work out how you’ll develop hero content (see this post)
  4. Get a list building form sorted out
  5. Work out your keywords based on your subjects
  6. Set up a content plan
  7. Write your content
  8. Publish and then put out publicity posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else
  9. Tell your clients
  10. Rinse and repeat

Number 10 is really important because just doing one post won’t do anything. Putting out 10 posts is great but putting out 100 is epic.

BTW don’t do 100 posts all at the same time. Do them one a week for two years and watch what happens.

The ROI of content marketing for accountants

The good news is that for most accountants you only need to bring in one or two good clients to make your content marketing worthwhile.

You’ll already know the value of a client so if each client is worth say £2000k per year you probably only need to bring in 2 strong leads to make your entire year’s worth of content worthwhile.

But remember, the more you do, the better it works.

One post won’t earn you anything.

Opinion: does content marketing work for accountants?

No it doesn’t.

Shocked that a content marketer should say that?

Of course you are, because the world is full of lying liars who constantly tell lies and when someone tells you the truth it’s like getting a bucket of frozen eels down the back of your shirt.

But let me explain.

Content marketing doesn’t work for accountants because most accountants don’t work their content marketing.

They don’t focus on a tight target market.

They don’t work out a content plan.

They don’t work the plan.

And they don’t tell people what they have written.

So it fails miserably.

But there’s some really good news here – they are your competition.

Which means that you have a really good opportunity to set yourself apart and do it properly.

So content marketing can work, you just have to pick that low-hanging fruit off the tree.

Need help?

Dude – would you expect someone to be able to reconcile a bank account when they’ve had no training whatsoever?

Of course you wouldn’t.

So give yourself a break, let’s have a chat and let me show you how I can help.


Book a call now

How to build TLDR into your blog posts

Writing a TLDR blog works really well - Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

A TLDR blog post will improve readability for your customers so the big questions are: what is TLDR and how do you use it?

In this article I’m looking at the whole concept of TLDR; what it means, why you need it and how you should build your blog posts to make the most of this simple to understand concept.

In this article:

What is TLDR?

TLDR stands for ‘Too Long Didn’t Read’ and it’s almost morphed into a derogatory statement about modern attention spans.

I’ll be honest if I see big expanses of text then I tend to switch off so seeing a blog that understands TLDR and is sensibly structured makes me much more likely to read the whole thing.

I know I shouldn’t say that given that I am a writer and all, but my attention span has turned really short and the statistics say that I am not alone.

Essentially what TLDR is saying is that your reader needs to get information quickly and a TLDR post is a method of providing that.

“seeing a blog that understands TLDR and is sensibly structured makes me much more likely to read the whole thing”

Why you should care about TLDR

The very first reason you should care is that if you are at all bothered about the quality of your content, you’ll know that you need to provide information in the way that your potential customers want.

So a big rambling post does two things; it really annoys most people and it discourages them from reading on or clicking to read more of your material.

The second reason you should care is that Google rewards sites that are interesting to users.

The great god of Google looks at your site and assesses how many of the people who visit read for a long time and how many read other articles.

It also looks at their behaviour after they have clicked on the search result. If they quickly click back to the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs), then it tells the god that your page doesn’t have the information you need.

Or more pertinently, it may have the information but they couldn’t find it.

So if you have a lot of people who don’t read more than one article and don’t stay on the site for a long time then you will get penalised.

How TLDR helps your blog

What TLDR does is to tell people what information is in your post and where to find it.

This may seem counter-intuitive because if you are wanting people to stick around then you would expect that making them sift through acres of text would do just that but in fact the opposite is true.

In reality, users do a quick scan to see if the post is likely to yield the results that they are looking for and if it doesn’t then they click away to a new site.

“What TLDR does is to tell people what information is in your post and where to find it”

The evidence shows that in 2021, users have become much smarter about the information they see.

So TLDR is a way of showing users that they will be rewarded with the information they seek if they invest a little time in reading further.

It also has a way of surreptitiously showing them that if they click on to another post they are likely to find more information of use very quickly.

How to structure your TLDR blog post

Structuring your blog for the TLDR readership is really easy and I can promise you that after a short while it will become like second nature.

I wrote a longer piece on some of the finer detail of TLDR here

Have a read through this post and see if you can spot any of the TLDR blog items that you need to include.

The first one is to answer the question your reader is asking in the first couple of paragraphs.

This tells people what they are going to read right up front and is a way of reinforcing the pay off for continued attention.

Second have what I like to call a ‘TLDR block’ very early on.

This is a list of the headings in your post that give people an understanding of what information is included and where they can find it.

You’d think that people would simply navigate to the section, read what they want to read and then go away but actually that’s not what happens.

In fact they tend to read what they want to read, then go to other parts of the post to understand more or even better, they check out your other posts to get more in depth information.

Make sure you have internal links on all the headings in your list so people can quickly click straight through to your sections.

Need help with your content?

OK so producing content isn’t for everyone so why not give the headache to someone who actually enjoys the process?

I’m a professional business writer and i produce TLDR blogs for a living.

Getting me to write your content means that you get time back to do stuff you really enjoy.

Get in touch now and let’s have an e-coffee



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!

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!

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.

A practical example of how great content helps your business

The impact of great content

There’s any amount of theory out there that will tell you that filling your site with content will get you more hits

And as we know…

More hits = more business

But many people may be sceptical and frankly, in my humble opinion, they are right to be.

The problem is that there are lots of people out there that will tell you something with absolute certainty that turns out not to be true.

It turns out that they are just great salespeople and not great content creators.

Who’da thought it?

So I wanted to give you a real-life example of a recent client that I have helped and show you what happened.

The real-life client

Most of my content is written ‘white label’. This means that to all intents and purposes the posts on the client’s page is written by them.

So naturally, they wouldn’t be happy if I blew the whole thing by telling people that it was actually me that wrote their stuff – but it was.

So I’ve anonymised the client concerned but I can give you some clues.

They have formed a newish company (back in 2018) and have developed an app for customers.

It’s a pretty good app, but there are competitors out there, so they don’t have the field to themselves.

Naturally, they have a website but it really wasn’t doing anything and it certainly wasn’t ranking on Google for any keywords.

So the brief was to start telling people about their service and how it could help.

So here’s the first graph.

The impact of great content

It’s a bit difficult to see but the story is fairly simple, they started off in April with no hits.

I got involved with them halfway through May and started writing content to an agreed plan.

2 posts a week. 500-1000 words each.

By November this had happened

The impact of great content

By August they had 5 keywords ranking in position 1-3 and as anyone will tell you these are like gold.

They had 10 keywords in position 4-10. Not exactly gold but still appearing on page 1.

And another 275 that appeared lower down than 11.

Although the latter may seem pointless what they are telling Google is that this is a useful site that has a lot of information around the client’s particular niche.


How great content can boost your SMEs sales
Want to know what to write about? Click the image abvove

So what does that look like a year on from the start?

The important thing to remember is that this client kept on doing it.

They didn’t do anything whacky, they just kept producing a couple of blog posts a week (or at least I did).

And this is what the graph looked like after 14 months.

You can see that it takes time to get going – so don’t lose heart.

We started the project in May and we had some good early success. Admittedly the business is a bit seasonal so there was a downturn in Dec/Jan and then in February, 9 months after starting they began to get a ton of hits.

Now for the reality check

So if I was just trying to sell you then I’d gloss over the actual numbers.

But I’m not interested in conning people so I need to give you a bit of a reality check here.

Because just posting a lot of stuff will get you a result a bit like my client got.

They didn’t have a lot of money to spend on outreach and they were working in a very small niche but even so they got to the point after a couple of months where they were getting 90 hits a month.

Now it’s worth saying here that 90 hits in a tiny niche is pretty good. Very niche subject areas don’t get a lot of hits, but they do convert to sales well.

By June this year they were receiving 290 hits, which is even better.

If it was about Premier League football or Elton John or the NFL then it would be much easier to get a shed load of hits.

And this is where it really is down to you.

You see the journey from content to hits to conversions is down to getting your content out there using postings, advertising and outreach to people like bloggers in your area.

The conversion from the 90 hits to actual sales is down to how slick your ‘customer journey’ is.

So although people may tell you that all you have to do is get your conversion right. or that you just need to do outreach, or that you only need to have a great looking website, they are all lying to you!

The truth is that it is a combination of things.

You need a website that looks good and works properly.

You need great content that is actually about what you do.

You need to push that content out to get noticed.

Finally, when you get hits you need to convert them to sales.

It’s a simple process but it is amazing how so many snake oil salesmen will pretend that it is only their thing that will provide you with a billion leads.

So what’s the next step?

Well let’s assume that your website works fine but you just don’t have enough content or it’s not finely tuned enough.

Your next step is to sort out a content plan around the keywords you want to hit.

Then get your content written

Then tell people you’ve written it.

Again, this is a simple process that anyone can do.


Your quick digital marketing guide
Want a guide to digital marketing – click the image

How Yellow Tomato can help

It’s distinctly possible that you don’t have the time to sit down and write a load of articles or you may not be confident in making your content plan.

That’s where I can help.

I can help you work through what you do and what content is likely to have the most impact.

I can write the content and, if you don’t know how to I can even upload it to your site.

And I’m pretty cheap as content writers go!

Get in touch now and let’s have a chat about how I can help you drive more sales.

Update: Nov 2020

So it’s been a few months since I wrote this article and I thought I’d do an update.

I logged on to the customer’s analytics and this is what I found.

What you are seeing there is the exponential growth of content.

One piece gets you a little bit of notice and 3 pieces gets you 10 times more.

Needless to say the customer is very happy indeed!

From copywriting to SEO – the steps you need to set up an accountancy website

An accountant who needs copywriting

Copywriting, domains,hosting, building an accountancy website can be confusing.

If you are brand new to digital marketing then there are an array of terms that you need to get to understand.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a guide for what to do and when, until now.

This is that quick guide. The steps you need to get your accountancy website up and running.

Step 1 Choose your domain name.

Imagine this like the plot to build your house on. You can’t build your house until you have a plot of land and your domain is like the house.

Domains have a name and a suffix, sometimes called a level.

For example, a .com domain is a top-level, whereas with a .co.uk domain the .co is the top level and the .uk is the second level.

There are all sorts of different types with .com being an almost universal signifier generally denoting US based businesses.

You can go for a country (like .co.uk) or you can go for an industry type suffix like .biz, .photo, or .online

Step 2 Sort out a host

To use an other simile, hosting is a bit like renting a desk in a coworking space. You rent small to start with and often there will be a package deal with a certain amount of space and you can get your mail sent there.

With hosting you point your domain to the host, your email will come through the host’s servers and when you need more space or services then you just buy them.

Step 3 Set up your website.

I always use WordPress to produce a website. In yet another simile WordPress is like excel.

You use excel to produce a spreadsheet but all it does is produce a blank sheet, you have to sort out the numbers yourself.

Now you can use a template for excel which will make your numbers look pretty but again, you still have to produce the numbers.

In the same way you can use a selection of free or paid for templates that will make your site look cool or professional, but you have to sort out the words, images and videos.

Step 4 Sort out the content

The starting point is to produce the ‘pages’ for your site. These are the general pages that tell people about you, how to get in touch etc.

Generally speaking, I suggest to my customers that the minimum you need are Home, Services, About and Contact pages.

These will give you the bare minimum.

Then you look to produce content in ‘posts’.

They look very similar to pages to the reader but you can think of these like the individual pages of a magazine, each will have a subject and together they go together to produce the magazine.

You should use a marketing plan to decide what to write in your posts.


How great content can boost your SMEs sales
How to choose your blog subjects – click on the image

Step 5 – organise your SEO

There are two types of SEO:- on-page and off-page.

On page SEO is all about making sure your keywords are properly presented in your writing, that the text is presented in a style that is friendly for search engines and that the content is engaging for the reader.

Off-page SEO is all done in the back end. It’s not visible to the viewer but Google loves it.

Off-page SEO covers things like making sure your site loads quickly, is good for mobile, tablets and desktops and has the structural aspects needed to please search engines.

Step 6 – publicise your site

Imagine opening a shop and not bothing to put a sign up outside and not telling anyone you were open.

This is the big mistake people make with websites – they think that it is enough to get a well SEO’d site sorted and then people will flock to it.

This is not the case.

You need to get the word out by telling people what is going on.

This is done by building links to different sites, by advertising and py putting links to your posts on social media like LinkedIn.

Step 7 – Keeping it up

Step 7 is simple, it’s about keeping the content production going.

Producing regular, interesting and useful content will help your site rise through the ranking and, in turn, attract more visitors.

Doing 6 posts and stopping is pretty pointless and looks really bad.

Set up an agreement with a content producer (me) to get regular posts on your site so that you start to hit your important keywords.

Digital marketing for accountants is relatively easy

Digital marketing for accountants isn’t rocket surgery but it does take application and effort.

I’ve produced a free guide you can download that gives you all the information you need to set up your digital marketing process for your accountancy practice and you can find it here.


free guide to content marketing for accountants
Get your free guide to digital marketing for accountants – click the image

Contact me if you need help

I’m a digital marketing bod and I specialise in working with accountants and professional services.

I can set up your site, write the content and make sure it is SEO compliant.

Give me a shout and let’s have a chat about getting you more clients.

The secret they won’t tell you about digital marketing

The big digital marketing secret

There’s a secret about digital marketing out there that people aren’t sharing and I think I know why.

I know why it’s not being shared and I also know why it is counter-productive.

It’s a secret that digital marketers and content producers know full well or, if they don’t then they ought to.

And it’s a secret that anyone embarking on digital marketing, whether it’s just for their own site or for someone else’s should know.

Marketers are great…

…at selling the sizzle.

It’s what we do.

We tell you how great things are going to be when you use our services and we let you believe that you’ll get instant results.

How often have you watched a video or read an article that leaves you with the impression that this is all dead easy and you can have amazing results really quickly?

The problem is that marketing has something called the ‘golden triangle’ which is something that project managers have known about for years.

If you want hits then you can have them cheap, quick or good but you can’t have all three.

So for instance you can get a huge number of hits by paying to always be top of the google rankings. They’ll probably be good hits and you’ll get them quickly but it won’t be cheap.

Or you can pay a link farm to get you tons of links. It will be cheap and fast but the sort of links you get won’t be particularly good.


Your quick digital marketing guide
Check out my 5 minute guide to digital marketing here

Here’s the secret to digital marketing

It takes time.

Yep that’s it.

It’s not earth shattering but it is important to know because if you think you will get overnight results and a billion hits from your single blog post then I’m sorry to say that you are going to be disappointed.

It takes time to understand your marketplace.

It takes time to find a strategy that works for you

It takes time to build up a site that has valuable content that really works for your potential clients.

You’d think this was a bad thing for someone in the industry to say right?

Well personally I prefer my clients to be properly informed from the start.

There’s no point in me promising you something that you can’t have only for you to be really disappointed this time next week when a billion hits haven’t magically appeared.

I prefer honesty.

Why don’t marketers tell clients this?

Because it’s nice to have some one tell you with absolute certainty that life is going to be wonderful and easy and that you don’t even need to think about it.

But the truth is always a bit more complicated than that.


Want a totally free guide to digital marketing for accountants?
Want a totally free guide to digital marketing for accountants? (it works for other industries too!) Click the image for you free resource

The truth about digital marketing

The truth is that anything worthwhile is worth doing well.

Like a good wine, a marketing strategy is worth taking a little time over.

Taking time to understand your clients, your market and your offer is rarely wasted.

Producing useful, good quality content, little and often is always better than paying someone to set up a big bunch of dubious links.

And making sure that your content is optimised for SEO and then shared with a relevant audience is priceless.

Take time over your digital marketing and you’ll find that it pays dividends with a sustainable community of people who like your stuff and consistently high rankings on the search engines that doesn’t drop off the moment you stop paying for advertising.

How I can help

I admit that for most people producing quality content regularly just isn’t possible and this is where Yellow Tomato comes in.

I can do a site audit and let you know where you marketing is letting you down.

I can produce a marketing plan that will show you how to start moving up the rankings

and I can write the content that will get your target market engaged.

Give me a call or email me and let’s talk.