Finding Your Uniqueness as a Small Business Owner

Organizing your own production of some kind of metal or plastic things is a very expensive task. It is much cheaper to organize your own hairdresser or tattoo parlor – buying hair clippers or tattoo machines is not so difficult. But if you want to make any parts or figures, then you will need at least a laser cutting machine to make point cutting on the material. And managing it is not very easy. To do this, you need to either hire a professional, or study for a long time yourself. But such a business is easier to implement, because there will not be as many competitors as in other industries.

Many small business owners lack the courage to stick to their uniqueness, worrying about losing revenue or customers if they limit their business. For example, a yoga studio might worry about losing fitness-oriented customers if they stop offering cardio fitness classes. Year after year, business owners trundle along, trying to hold their place amidst a crowd of similar competitors. Unfortunately, they don’t realise that by emphasizing their own distinction – and building their own authentic brand – they can actually increase much more business than they’ll lose.

Adopt the middle road: a multi-faceted niche

I recall starting out as a copywriter and feeling unsure about ‘niching’ my services. The thought that buzzed around my head was ‘if I don’t offer everything to everyone, I won’t get enough clients.’ And even when I researched whether it was best to generalise or to adopt a niche in the copywriting world (e.g. specialising in health or finance or real estate) – there were conflicting opinions from many reputable copywriters and marketing professionals. It was all very confusing.

Luckily my business coach encouraged me to niche, or at least to focus on a specific industry that may encompass more than one interrelated niche. So I opted for the wellness market, which is actually a vast, rapidly growing industry, which encompasses yoga studios, wellness retreats, spas, events, self-development programs, products and publications. Of course, within all of these areas there are multiple types of copywriting, including SEO, website copy, blogs, articles, promotional material, press releases and so on.

To be honest, these days I could certainly refine my niche: e.g. just write website content for wellness events or SEO for websites. But I also enjoy a range of projects that I feel confident with – and a little variety is good for the soul, and keeps the mind sharp and creative. The danger comes when there’s too much blurring of the lines. That’s when people get confused about what it is that you actually do.

Find your uniqueness and build your business around it

Here are 4 helpful ways to help you identify your own uniqueness, called USP (unique selling point).

  1. List the features and benefits that are unique about your product or service. It can definitely be helpful to do a Google search and find out what your direct competitors are doing. Look at their USP points and then see how yours could differ, even just slightly. What would set you apart from them?
  2. List aspects of your product (or services) that your competitors cannot imitate. Note anything that cannot be easily duplicated, shared or reproduced by your competitors.
  3. List the emotional needs of your customer (from their perspective). Step into your customers’ shoes and think about their pain-points or emotional needs. How could your products or services help to solve or fulfill their needs? Remember: a customer always asks internally, ‘what’s in it for me?’
  4. Create concise phrases about your unique product or service. Ensure your phrases are short and clear. Simple sentences work best here. Your customer needs to easily understand your message.

If you can follow the above steps, you’ll have the right tools and insight to create a branding phrase that contains your USP message and sets you apart in some way. The following examples highlight a unique aspect of service:
Domino’s Pizza: ‘You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less … or it’s free.’
FedEx: ‘When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.’

In summary
Avoid being a sheep trying to blend in with everyone else in your business niche. It’s your uniqueness that sets you apart and creates a growing clientele. Don’t limit your business by being everything to everyone. Follow the easy 4 steps above to find your USP and start to build your business around that. That’s how all businesses forge ahead and create a distinction from other competing businesses.

Feel free to leave a comment below. I really enjoy getting feedback and questions.

One Quick and Effective Time Management Tweak

Time management has always been a topic close to my own heart. I generally review my week on a Friday evening to see where I’ve succeeded and where I’ve failed to meet my goals. I don’t beat myself up about my failures, but I do look to see what might have happened. Usually I’ve either tried to squeeze too much in, or simple tasks actually took a lot longer than anticipated, eating into my time. And with each week’s review, I learn something about my own limitations. I’m proud to say that I’m getting better at gauging the time needed for tasks now – and it’s been quite an evolving process.

I’m also interested in stress factors and how a successful time management process can actually eliminate stress triggers, resulting in a real sense of empowerment and increased energy. Successful time management can definitely lead to a natural ‘high’ and even change the whole direction of one’s life.

A simple, written step to mental freedom

Anything weighing on your mind means you’re not clear. You may become irritable and snappy for no obvious reason to those around you. There’s a major loss of mental and emotional freedom when you’re carrying a problem. So, a really helpful tool to free your mind is to write down a project or problem that’s creating pressure or stress. Clarify what it is about this project that’s bugging you, or causing procrastination. Maybe you feel it’s too much or you just don’t have the knowledge or expertise to complete the project. Whatever comes to mind, just write it down.

Now add another short sentence with your intended successful outcome for this problem or situation. For example, perhaps you need to re-design your website’s Home page. Ask yourself: what would you need to do to tick this off your ‘to do’ list? It could be as simple as: ‘Restructure my Home page.’

Now write down exactly what you need to physically do to set that in task motion. What specific action would you take? Imagine that it’s the only thing you need to do (i.e. you’re not multitasking). Would it be to draw an outline on paper of what you’d like your new Home page to look like? Or would it be to phone a web designer to do it for you? Make a decision and write it down.

Relax – take a deep breath… and exhale slowly… You’ve just achieved enhanced control and focus over your project. And even though nothing has actually happened as yet to push the project forward, you’re probably more motivated and less anxious.

So, what just happened? Well, you just acquired a much clearer definition of the outcome you desired and the direct action needed to create it.

And all you did was to think a little bit. Not much, just a little – enough grey cells working to solidify your goal and the resources needed to manifest it.

Try it now. I’m sure you’ve got at least one nagging task on your mind, sitting there, draining your brain and energy over time. I know I’ve got at about three to work on!

In a nutshell: how to approach a project or situation, and be quickly free from mental tension

  1. Write down your project (or type it)
  2. Write down all the things that are bugging you or stopping you from moving forward with this project
  3. Write down your intended successful outcome for this project
  4. Write down what action you need to take to get the wheels in motion

Now – do you feel lighter, freer, happier?

The Key to a Successful Business

You’ve got your business set up, including a website, blog and social media platforms. Perhaps you’ve even landed a great network of potential clients and lots of leads.

But without one key ingredient your website visitors won’t convert, and you’ll have serious problems selling your products or services online.

So, what’s this magic ingredient? What’s going to steer your business towards success?

Persuasive copywriting.

If someone lands on your site, what do they see? Usually some images, a few lines of text, often too much heavy text to scroll through. Maybe they see a product or service that is either just like everyone else’s or just plain vague.

To be honest, many websites I’ve visited clearly haven’t understood the essential ingredient of copywriting. As a result, website copy is often unfocused and doesn’t ‘speak’ to a prospective client. There’s no interaction between your business and the visitor.

Just think about it for a moment: if you visit a business or a shop, you usually interact with the salesperson – right? And that person is trained to guide you to make the right decisions about purchasing a service or product. That salesperson knows the product inside out – including all the features and benefits – as well as which product is best for you based upon your questions and needs. (I don’t mean a creepy, crooked salesperson, but a genuine one, who is able to see things from your viewpoint – who understands you.)

When someone visits your website, there’s no salesperson there for guidance – maybe just a ‘help’ or ‘FAQs’ dropdown. Sometimes your visitor will phone or email for further information. But if there is persuasive copywriting to guide your prospective buyer every step of the way towards making a decision to act, or buy – then your conversion rates will boom.

Just think: when you want to buy something online, what are you looking for? Maybe you’re not all that savvy about the psychology of sales, so here’s a list of important elements that you would probably look for, that need to go into your own web copy when you want to sell something:

1. Benefits
This area of benefits should encapsulate the ‘solution to a problem’ that people will immediately recognise through your product or service. It seems obvious, but too many ecommerce sites in particular have not addressed solutions to problems within their copy. For example: if you’re selling yoga mats, you need to make it clear that your mats are supportive, there is less likelihood of sore knees or spines, and they’re easy to wash, etc. After the benefits are outlined, then desirable elements, such as gorgeous colours, etc can be promoted.

2. Reviews
Reviews are still gold in 2019 – people definitely read them – and they do convert customers. (Don’t you read reviews too, before making decisions to buy?) Sprinkle reviews everywhere you can on your site. They’ll help other people choose a product and feel more secure about buying.

3. Images
Words aren’t always the whole story – it can be highly effective to support your persuasive copy with images that highlight your product or service in an inspiring way. Coming again to the example of yoga mats: you could have an image alongside the benefits of your brand of mats showing someone who’s clearly super comfortable, supported and practising yoga happily on your mat. Do take professional pictures wherever possible.

4. Research your product and forge a customer connection at the same time
Go into every single feature of your product or service – all the corners and edges, every nook and cranny! Know your product inside out. And at the same time, put yourself in your customers’ shoes: what concerns might they have, what questions, resistance, objections might they have about what you’re selling. Make a list, and then answer all these points in your copy (maybe a FAQs section about the product itself). Keep showing that you understand your readers’ point of view, that you understand their problems and worries. Keep forging that compassionate connection.

5. Help your customer to purchase at check-out (or take the action you want them to take)
Sounds obvious, but you need an easy check-out – and this check-out page should also include carefully written, optimised text. Hold your buyer’s hand. Make them feel secure. Offer them a discount, a special gift, maybe a 2-day fast delivery for a product. Or maybe a second item for half-price. If you’re selling a service, maybe you’ll give them a free ebook with their purchase. Whatever it is, don’t ignore the power of the check-out page. Use persuasive copywriting right up to the last moment.

Summary
Persuasive copywriting is the key to a successful business. You might have a great website and lots of leads, but without persuasive copy you will run into problems converting prospects to customers. Persuasive copywriting is not a mysterious realm, but an easily broken down system of steps: Benefits, Reviews, Images, Research, Easy Action.

Good luck and let me know how you go!

Simple tips for using keywords (without overstuffing)

Never ever stuff your web pages with keywords

This is basic advice these days, when Google and other search engines only rank quality copywriting on websites – not junk written specifically to rank high in keywords and keyword phrases. Long gone are the days where you could leverage this old hack! But it’s worth mentioning here to reinforce the importance of writing for the reader first, and search engines second.

A simple process for integrating keywords into web text

Placing keywords is an art, and their usage in website text is still important in getting search engines to notice you. Create a simple procedure for yourself, so that your approach is mapped out – then you won’t struggle every time you create web copy. Keep left brain and right brain decisions separate to start with. Tweak the keywords later and don’t worry about trying to insert them early on in the text. This is how to avoid writing clunky, boring web text that no one wants to read (even robots).

  1. Ask yourself: what problems might your target readers be trying to solve? Find a list of at least 10 keywords – both short and long phrases or tails – so that your copywriting can be of service to help solve those problems.
  2. Further to the above point: check popular online forums (e.g. Quora) where readers are trying to find solutions to their problems. Search for your service-related topics. Note what keywords these people are typing into their questions and make a list of possible keywords from this. It won’t take long at all and is the best research you can do.
  3. Don’t make your keywords the same for every page. Feature one or two unique keywords per page that work intelligently with the text.
  4. The title tag on your web page should include your keyword.
  5. The first sentence of the first paragraph should include your keyword.
  6. Mention your keyword 2-3 times in the next 3 sentences.
  7. Out of every 100 words of text on your web page, aim to include your keyword at least 3 times (but not more than 7).

Do you need to purchase Google ads or Pay Per Click (PPC)?

This is still a hotly debated topic in the marketing world, and it’s worthwhile and quite interesting to read up on the latest thoughts and trends around PPC (which is not so black and white as it may seem). If you’re interested to get a quick understanding, I found a short, but relevant, article here.

Summary

While this was a short post on keyword usage, it gives a simple, logical process to follow when you sit down to write for your website. There’s been a lot of flap and bother about keywords in the marketing world in recent months, but just aim to keep keyword usage relevant and targeted. Always look at writing web text that specifically addresses your readers’ problems and offers tangible solutions. Then you can’t fail.

Do let me know if this post has helped to solve any of your queries around keyword usage. I value your feedback.

Are Press Releases Good for Your Small Business?

In a nutshell, the answer is ‘yes!’ And press releases are still as popular today as they have been since 1906 (the year of the first press release). This is mostly because they’re inexpensive for all businesses, whether large or small. To write a press release and email it to editors costs nothing. The only investment you need to make is to get it written properly by a professional copywriter.

If an editor decides to print your press release, and also uses it as part of an article in a magazine, there’s no cost to your business – you get the space for free. That compares favourably to spending hundreds, or possibly thousands, on paid advertising. More on benefits here.

In addition to low cost, another major benefit of a press release is that the publicity it generates is credible and authentic. Most readers ignore (or are highly suspicious of) paid advertising. However, to see an article in print – without the ‘annoyance’ of advertising – rings true for the majority of readers. Furthermore, professionals in most fields will respect the written word of a reputable magazine or newspaper.

On the downside, there is no guarantee that a press release will be used by an editor, and even if it is used, it might not generate genuine interest or leads. This is the gamble. Some press releases are just ignored, whereas others can succeed on a truly spectacular level.

What makes a successful press release?

Editors look out for press releases that contain news (obviously!). The headline must attract attention (80% of your success is in the headline) and the article must be well-written, in a journalistic style. Another obvious point is that the press release must be targeted for a specific reader. If your business sells travel deals, then you need to write a press release that’s going to appeal to your ideal customers, that will engage your readers in some way and get them excited about what you do as a company and how you can benefit them.

However, there’s a fine line between what constitutes a press release and what is blatant self-promotion. If you’re a travel business trying to sell tours to volcanic islands for example, then your press release might accompany an article on ‘How to stay safe while trekking up an active volcano” – which might indeed make riveting reading for your target reader.

You can write a press release about numerous topics, including:

  • A new, old or improved product
  • An ‘iterated’ product
  • A new application of an existing produce
  • Publications, brochures or surveys
  • Speeches or presentations
  • Expert opinions
  • Awards and honours
  • New branches
  • A new website
  • Major achievements
  • Tips and ‘how to’ advice
  • Special events or programs
  • Charitable achievements or goals

The list goes on, but you can see from the above that most effective press releases will benefit the public in some way.

How to write your own press release (if you don’t have a professional writer)

If you just don’t want to hire a professional copywriter to put your press release together, then at least educate yourself on what constitutes a successful press release, otherwise you’ll be wasting your time.

Tips to writing a great press release:
The process and helpful templates
How to pitch your press release to the press
8 Tips

In summary
So, do press releases really help your small business these days? Yes. Although they might sound old-fashioned now, there are several benefits to using them. They’re cheap, reach thousands of readers, and earn respect and credibility (among other things). You can read more about these points here.

I really look forward to hearing your comments, so do feel free to get in touch.

Is Blogging Valuable for Your Small Business?

Blogging has been around for ages now, and really started to gather momentum from 2004 onward. At the time of writing this blog, I had a quick look at some statistics and it’s estimated that there are now more than 350 million blogs worldwide.

Whether or not you have a large readership (or any at all!) for your business blog, it’s still worthwhile blogging for the following reasons:

  1. Google likes to see regular, fresh content posted on your website, and this will improve your search engine rankings.
  2. Potentials clients might only skim through your site, but if they see that you have a regular blog, it will increase their trust levels.
  3. Your target prospects can immediately see that you have special knowledge of niche topics that may be important to them.
  4. Blogging can help you stay on top of current trends in your market (therefore it can be worth reading other people’s blogs as well, especially market leaders in your industry).

Blogging helps your customers to engage with your business on another level

While comments, shares and likes for your blog can be boosting to your confidence, they also show that your customers are engaging with your business or service. There’s the inevitable downside to this, of course, with possible negative or critical comments, but I think most customers are now fairly savvy with knowing that there will always be criticism (whether valid or not) and they’ll tend to go with the majority. Certainly I’ll read through several comments before purchasing a product to get an overall view of 5-10 comments before making a decision. And it’s often easy to spot the people who just want to pull a business down. It’s also easy to spot fake comments that are a bit too ‘glowing.’

Using blogs for strategic purposes

For many small business owners, you can actually test out your ideas for article or ebooks on blog topics. This is a great way to see whether there is enough interest in your topic before investing a lot of time. So if you have an idea, write a shortish blog around it (around 750-1500 words) outlining the key idea or theme, and then see what interest (if any) your blog generates.

Another insight is to look at your blog to see what comments or threads of conversation it has created. Then any questions or areas of interest can be integrated into your article or book. This is basically researching what your market is interested in – and it’s invaluable (and free).

Keep your blog within your website wherever possible

Some businesses blog using an external platform (such as blogger.com etc) and then link to their blog from their website. However, it’s strongly advised these days to integrate your blog into your own business website for search engine rankings and navigational ease.

Blogging tips:

  • Consider offering an ‘Estimated Time to Read’ (ETR) at the beginning of your blog if you feel it will benefit your readers (depending on the length of your content). ETR is a controversial point in the blogging and marketing world. You can read more about it here. 
  • Include useful links to support your blog for credibility, as well as giving your reader the opportunity to expand their knowledge on specific points. Do configure your links so that they open in a new tab! It’s so annoying for readers to back-pedal and they’ll often lose your blog once they start going down hyperlink rabbit-holes! If you do link, avoid just linking to the ‘big guys’ – aim to link to quality sites or other blogs that can bring value to your prospect as well – and don’t be afraid of competition!
  • Do include an image or two in your blog. I’m still surprised to see so many quality blogs that don’t do this. A page of text without even one image is off-putting. Just be sure to keep your image (or photo) relevant, of good quality and not distracting.

Summing up

So, the answer to whether or not blogging is valuable for your business is definitely YES! Just don’t get disheartened if you don’t have much of a readership. Keep plugging along. I rarely get comments for my blog, but it doesn’t worry or deter me, because when potential clients look at my site they see that I’m regular, I’m interested in my topics and I care enough to keep at it. That speaks volumes about my work ethic and reliability!