Archive for October, 2014

Reasons to Write Your Business Book Now

Friday, October 31st, 2014

2401674702_8d2928ec1cMany professionals have enough expertise to write a book, and most are planning to do it…someday, when they have time. But why wait, when there are so many benefits of writing and publishing a business book?

If you’ve been looking for a reason to get started on your business book, here are ten of them:

1. Get quality leads without trying

A book is a powerful sales tool for your business. When you have a book published, you’re differentiated from the competition—and big name clients can find you. People who read your book are pre-sold on your business, making them more likely to hire you based on the reading.

2. Become a thought leader

When you have a business book out, you’re viewed as an industry expert or guru. In addition to your personal status boost, your entire company can be seen as a thought leader in your industry.

3. Have instant credentials

In any business, the experts bring in the best clients. When you’re the author of a business book, you have demonstrable expertise and extensive evidence to back up your claims—within your field, you “wrote the book.”

4. Generate unsolicited business

Having a book out can bring unexpected and positive results—such as when business leaders read your book, and then call you up to say how much they enjoyed it, and ask how much you charge. Suddenly, picking up clients becomes a lot easier.

5. Open more doors

Whoever you may be interested in talking to, whether it’s a fantastic prospective client, a powerful investor, or an industry expert who could help you further your business, the ability to send them a copy of your book can substantially increase your chances of arranging a meeting.

6. Close more deals

Service industries, consultancies, and other client-oriented business owners can take advantage of having authored a book during client negotiations. Your prospective clients are likely to ask why they should work with you—and you can answer by explaining that you wrote the book on your field of expertise. It gives you immediate credibility and helps close the sale.

7. Amplify your sales force

Although you will benefit directly from writing a business book, others in your company can also use your book as leverage. This is especially true for your sales team, who can hand out copies of the book to top clients and leads—which lets executives and VIPs view them as problem-solvers instead of money-grabbers.

8. Boost your client caliber

A business book can position you as an industry leader. When you’re viewed as the expert or the guru, you’ll find larger and more high profile businesses willing to work with you and benefit from your proven expertise.

9. Strengthen existing relationships

You can also use a business book to impress (and cross-sell to) your existing clients. There are many ways to do this, from offering a copy of the book as a bonus with the purchase of services, to sending out copies as gifts, to simply offering books for sale at client functions.

10. Make more money

Everyone wants to earn more and work less, and that’s what a business book helps you do. By positioning yourself as an in-demand expert with your business book, your clients will be willing to pay more—since they can clearly see the types of results you can achieve, spelled out in your book.

Business books are powerful tools for professionals in any industry. Have you started writing yours yet?

Secrets to Writing a Winning Intro

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Yofishing-99318_640u can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” –Jack London

Whether you’re writing a blog post, an article, or an entire book, sometimes the hardest part is getting started. You know your introduction needs to hook readers—after all, the job of your first sentence is to get people to read the next, and so on. A great headline will get people to click on your piece, but a great intro will convince them to actually read it.

How do you write an intro that hooks the reader, line and sinker? Fortunately, there is no single answer. When it comes to writing a winning introduction, there are plenty of effective approaches.

Lead with a relevant quote

Everyone loves a good quote, like the one that starts this blog post. When you open a writing piece with a quote, you’re borrowing the built-in authority of the source, while setting the tone for the information that follows.

Stuck for a good quote to use? BrainyQuote offers an extensive library of quotations, sorted by both topics and authors. There’s also a searchable database on The Quote Garden, and inspiring image-based quotes to browse on Pinterest.

Find something in common

Letting readers know that you have something in common can help them connect with you and what you’re saying. For example, if a freelance writer reads this blog post, he or she will most likely identify with the first sentence of the opening after the quote. We’ve all had trouble starting a writing project!

The second section of this blog posts also starts with a commonality: “Everyone loves a good quote.”

Tell a personal story

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a best-selling novelist. Sharing something personal, however briefly, enables readers to see you as a person. You don’t have to go back to your childhood in order to get personal with an introduction, either. Consider starting with a few lines about an experience, a professional challenge, or other life event that relates to the information you’re about to present.

Ask a question

Rhetorical, subjective, controversial, or thought-provoking questions can make great introductions to any piece. For example, this blog post could have started out by asking, “What’s the best way to grab a reader’s attention in 20 words or less?” And the response would be: Ask a question to which they want to know the answer, and then use the rest of your piece to respond.

State a powerful fact

The average attention span of a human has shortened to 8 seconds—which is less than the attention span of a goldfish. This fact is a very good reason to work on your introductions, because you don’t have much time to hook your readers. Opening with relevant facts or statistics is one of the most effective ways to set reader expectations and keep people interested.

What types of intros have you found effective in your own writing?

5 Simple Things Stopping You From Succeeding as a Freelance Writer (Before You Even Start)

Friday, October 10th, 2014

rejection copyIf you’re just getting started or thinking about becoming a freelance writer, the first step is identifying the ingredients for success. The obvious requirements are strong writing skills, a computer, and preferably a dedicated website for your freelance business. Throw in a LinkedIn profile for networking, some home office essentials, and maybe a few profiles on freelance job boards or message sites, and you have a solid foundation. But what else do you need?

The answer is…surprisingly little. Here are five things many aspiring freelance writers think they need in order to find success—that can actually hold them back from building a thriving freelance career.

Lots of free time

Many people hold off on entering the freelance writing industry under the assumption that they need to dedicate all of their time to succeed. Like any other venture, freelance writing is a business. But the great thing about freelancing is that you don’t have to take the full-time plunge immediately. In fact, it’s better to start out part-time and gradually build a portfolio that you can use to land more freelance gigs.

Most of the common excuses begin with “as soon as…” and end with “then I’ll start freelancing.” People fill in the blank with phrases like:

  • Quit my job
  • Cut my work hours
  • Save money to buy professional services (web designer, job board memberships, logo commission)
  • The kids start going to school

Starting right now, ignore these excuses. You can start freelancing any time, no matter how many or how few free hours you have—whether it’s getting busy writing articles you can sell, or sending pitches to publications or companies hiring freelance writers.

Full support from your family / friends

Some people stop short of launching a freelance writing career because of the disapproval (or imagined disapproval) of the people closest to them. You may believe your spouse will be upset when you’re spending time working instead of with him or her, or that your parents will nag you to get a “real job,” or that your best friend will think “freelance” means “you aren’t doing anything, so you should babysit my kids / run an errand / go to lunch or a movie with me.”

But you’re the only one who has to give yourself permission to be a freelance writer. It’s great to have support, but if there are some people who don’t understand what you’re doing, you don’t owe them anything. And their perceptions will likely change when all that hard work starts paying off.

Total mastery of all things freelance

As a fledgling freelance writer, you probably don’t know the secrets to writing the perfect pitch or query letter, or how to build a stunning freelance website, or the best prices to charge clients, or where to find the most lucrative gigs. And that’s okay.

Many aspiring freelance writers fritter away months or years researching the industry—when the best way to learn is to jump in and start doing it. Of course you’ll make mistakes along the way, but you’ll learn from them. Your skills will gradually increase, your professional network will grow, and you’ll reach your definition of success much faster than you would have by reading a stack of industry books.

Fear or hatred of rejection

This one should be a given—after all, no one likes being rejected. But when it comes to your freelance writing career, rejection is your friend. You will be successful only when you’re ready to embrace it.

Freelance writers who are getting rejections are sending their work out. If you’re not getting rejections, that means you’re not trying to sell your work—and you can’t make money in freelance writing by keeping your work to yourself.

Rejections can indicate whether or not you’re on the right path. Form rejections can tell you that your approach (or your writing) needs work. Warm rejections that invite you to submit future work say you’re getting close. And rejections with feedback mean you’re almost there, and may even be able to sell to the editor who rejected you, if you make the requested changes.

The need for perfection

When you’re writing a freelance assignment or something you’re going to query, you naturally want to craft the best possible piece of writing. But if you aim for perfection, you’ll never get to the query stage (or you’ll miss your deadline), making it impossible to earn money for that piece.

There is no such thing as perfect, especially in freelance writing. There is good enough, and sometimes there is great—but nothing will be perfect. And you don’t want perfection, anyway: you want solid, well-researched, and engaging content.

What’s holding you back from succeeding as a freelance writer?

Have You Fallen For These Sales Email Myths?

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

email-iconEmail marketing is one of the oldest tools still used by online sales pros—and it remains one of the most effective. You can find plenty of advice out there about writing a great sales email, from broad how-to suggestions right down to the optimal number of characters in the subject line and the best times of day to send a campaign … but not all of that advice holds true.

Here are three myths about marketing emails that you can feel free to purge from your sales writing rules to engage your email subscribers.

Myth #1: The subject line must state your deal

The point of a sales email is to sell, so many marketing pros believe that the subject line should always be what you’re offering—a discount, a freebie, a great deal on whatever. But while this approach can work, it’s not always the best approach.

The only cardinal rule for a sales email is to engage your audience. This means your subject line—as well as the contents of your sales email—should appeal to what your audience wants. If you’re operating a list that subscribers joined specifically to get discounts and freebies, it makes sense to advertise the deal in the subject line.

But if you’re selling to people who are already familiar with your products or services, a better approach is to address a pain point in the subject line, and then answer it within the body of the email. The opening tease, such as “Want to…?” or “Wish you could…?”, can increase click-through rates more than percentages or prices.

Myth #2: Your call-to-action must link to your sales page

The call-to-action is the golden rule of email marketing. If your subscribers don’t know what they’re supposed to do, they won’t do it. Therefore, it’s widely repeated that you should link your call-to-action directly to your sales page—so all a reader has to do is click through and make a purchase.

But the truth is that most of your audience is tech-savvy, and customers no longer need (or want) to be led by the nose to a checkout page. They want to learn more about you’re offering, whether it’s through reading your sales email or clicking a link to an informational page on your website. Informational links give subscribers the option to either read your sales pitch or click straight through to learn more—which they’ll do if they’re interested and likely to buy.

Myth #3: Scannable means using bold text and bullet points

“Scannability” is an important concept to email marketers. After all, no one’s going to read the entire email—so you need to make your main points stand out with bolded phrases and exclamatory bullet points. They won’t pay attention to the rest of the text…or will they?

It’s true that the most effective sales emails are scannable, and that bold subheadings and bullet points are valuable. But there are a few other areas of your message that deserve some extra attention:

  • Your opening: The first sentence, and even the first word, of your sales email should instantly engage your audience. Start with the strongest possible verb—for example, instead of leading with “Have you ever wanted to…?”, cut straight to the chase: “Want to…?”.
  • Your left margin: When reading in English, the eye is drawn to the left. Scannability is about short paragraphs and bullet points, but the important point is to begin each line with an attention-grabber, not simply to break up the text. Start each of those short paragraphs with a strong phrase, and you’ll see better results.
  • Beginnings and endings: People who are reading fast tend to skip the middle. This makes the end of your paragraphs and bullet points just as important as the beginning, so close out your statements with strong wording choices.

What sales email myths can you remove from your email marketing strategies?

Why the World is Tuning Out – and How You Can Get Them to Pay Attention

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

megaphoneThe digital age may seem to be in full swing, but the Internet revolution shows no signs of slowing down. What was once a flood of content is now a constant deluge, and people are increasingly tuning out to avoid the bombardment.

Just how much content does the average user take in, and how does it affect customer behavior? According to recent statistics from KISSmetrics:

  • There are 1.2 zettabytes of information online (a zettabyte is one billion terabytes; a terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). By 2020, there will by 35 zettabytes.
  • There are 5 billion mobile subscribers, with an estimated 50 billion by 2020.
  • There will be more data generated in the next 4 years than in the history of the world.
  • People see more than 34 billion bits of digital information every day—the equivalent of two books online.
  • People spend less than 6 minutes a day shopping—an amount of time that hasn’t changed in four decades—and less than 3 percent of waking hours actually buying.

Considering the sheer amount of exposure generated by this information explosion, it’s no wonder people are tuning out. Machines can transfer data at a rate of 2 million bits per second, but the human absorption rate is only 126 bits per second. For online marketers, the problem becomes: How do you get people to take in your information over all the other content that’s available?

Here are some tips on getting attention in an impossibly crowded online world.

1. Build a quality mailing list

Email marketing may be one of the oldest online strategies, but it’s still one of the most powerful and effective. With a high quality, permission-based email subscription list, you gain access to an established customer base that is already interested in what you have to say. Rather than trying to get your content noticed, you’ll attract people who are waiting for your content to arrive.

2. Publish only good content

This seems like a given, but many marketers still subscribe to the idea of quantity over quality. They may post the occasional piece of high quality, well-written or well-produced content, and then use not-so-great filler just to “keep the search engines happy” or ensure there’s something new to read. Or they may farm content out to the lowest bidder—and get exactly what they pay for.

The problem here is that if your visitors or social media followers keep getting poor quality or useless content, they’ll tune out fast.

Engaging, quality content is far more important, especially when there is so much competition. It’s a much more effective strategy to focus on producing one high quality piece of content per week, or investing in a skilled freelance copywriter to provide you with great content that will keep your audience coming back.

3. Write to your audience

There is a tendency among online marketers to go for broader appeal, whether that is writing on irrelevant yet interesting topics, or making weak (or even ridiculous) connections to trends or current events. This may get eyeballs on your content, but the majority of those viewers won’t translate into qualified leads who want to buy what you’re offering.

Rather than increasing page views, focus on increasing the appeal for your target audience. You need to have a strong understanding of your market demographics, and to know things like where they spend time online, what topics are important to them, and what kinds of problems your products or services can help them solve. Publishing targeted, relevant content is more effective than jumping on bandwagons.

4. Make it easy to share

Once you have a built-in audience that looks forward to reading your relevant, high quality content, you can enlist them in helping to spread the word. Online consumers place exponentially more trust in peer reviews and recommendations than marketing material—so the more customers you can get to generate positive conversation about your business online, the more people you’ll reach.

Make it easy for them by posting social share buttons (including email sharing links) with every piece of content you publish—whether it’s to your social networks, as a guest writer or blogger, or on your own blog posts and foundational web content.

You don’t need millions of followers and page views to get attention in today’s crowded online marketplace. With a targeted approach and a focus on what matters to your audience, you can gain higher quality views that lead to more sales.