Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Category: Writing (Page 1 of 3)

The deadly “shoulds” of blogging

Live a life free of the deadly “shoulds.”


 

Does blogging stress you out?

I’m a writer who loves nothing more than settling in at the keyboard, but sometimes blogging stresses me out.

 

What stresses me out most about blogging is the long, tired list of “shoulds” that plague my blogger’s conscience.

I *should* write more frequently.

I *should* write more regularly.

I *should* focus more on SEO.

I *should* pick a #@^$! niche and stick to it.

I *should* publish more list posts.

I *should* labor over my headlines.

I *should* seek out some guest post opportunities.

I *should* reorganize my categories and tags.

… and so on (and on, and on)

 

All these “shoulds” weigh heavy on my mind and heart.

They leave me feeling like I’m doing it wrong, like I don’t deserve blogging success.

I look at the blogs of other branding/marketing/writing folks that I admire, and I think, “Wow. They really have it together. How can I compete? I’ll never be like them.”

Have you done that, too?

Stop. Right. There.

 

As Jon Stewart says, “Meet me at camera 1.”

Hi. Let’s chat. Whether you’re a newbie  afraid to start blogging or an old hack feeling beaten down by years of less-than-stellar blogging results, I’d like to invite you to kick all your blogging shoulds to the curb. Seriously. They aren’t doing you any favors and you’ll be way better off without them.

The trouble with shoulds is that they suck all the joy out of a thing. They turn it from an adventure into an obligation. They kill your creative impulse and leave you with nothing but a husk of something that used to be a good idea but is now just you going through the motions.

Shoulds spring from the muck of comparison. Just think – if you weren’t comparing yourself to another person or some universal standard, would you have any idea what you “should” do? Nope. You wouldn’t. You’d just have to figure things out on your own – experiment, moodle, PLAY.

Playing is a good thing.

Strategy is a good thing, too; but play is better.

The myth of best practices tells us that there is only one way to do something right. It tells us how we should do a thing in order to do it correctly. But, the truth is that there are no best practices. What works for one person may not work for another. And what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

If blogging is stressing you out, find a way to make it fun again. Try something different. Forget the so-called rules. Stop trying to be someone else. Do what feels right to you. Relax. Play. Give yourself a break.

Ditch the shoulds and try out some “want to’s” instead. What do you want to do? How do you want to feel? What do you want to say? How do you want to say it?

Go with that and let me know how you make out.

 

 

Image Source: Pinterest

How to write an about page – 5 steps to get it right


Did you know that your About Page is probably one of the most frequently visited pages on your site?

It’s an especially popular destination for new visitors who are in the early stages of figuring out who you are and what you do. How do you make a good first impression? How do you keep them interested and engaged? Your About Page has an important job to do. Is it living up to the task?

 

Confession: This post is a little bit of a rant.

I have seen a lot of About Pages and way too many of them not only fail to do their job, but are a detriment to the individual or company they represent. Instead of creating more interest, building trust, and providing a path to deeper engagement, they create confusion, questions, and apathy.

Worst of all, they are dead ends. You don’t want dead ends on your website, do you?

So … how do you know you’re doing it right? It’s not as complicated as you might think. If you can follow these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an About Page that works.

 

Step 1: Remember that it’s never about you.

But, Jamie, isn’t that why people read an About Page – to find out about me and my business?

Yes … and, no (emphasis on the “no”).

 

People read your About Page to find out:

  1. What you can do for them
  2. Whether you’re qualified to do it
  3. Whether they’d enjoy working with you

It’s a subtle but very important difference and it’s all about context.

 

Common Mistake: About Pages that read like a resume

An About Page that is nothing more than a summary of your career or skills is a wasted opportunity. If someone wants to know about your work history and capabilities, they can visit LinkedIn. Also, most resumes focus on the first person, as in, “I did this and then that and then this other thing.” They don’t answer the visitor’s most pressing question, “What’s in it for me?” In other words, you can shout about your skills and accomplishments until the cows come home, but until you can make visitors understand why it should matter to them, you’ve got nothin’.

 

Solution: Your story … told in the context of their needs

Yes – your About Page should provide information about who you are and what you do, BUT it needs to do this in the context of the visitor’s needs.

Remember why people read your About Page and write a page that provides them with the answers they need:

What can you do for them? Tell them what you do, but also tell them who you do it for and why you do it. What’s the story behind your business? What got you started? Why do you do what you do – what drives you? Be really specific about who you work with. Use this opportunity to let visitors know that they have come to the right place. You know who they are and you understand what they need. Instead of a generic listing of products and services, share the benefits of what you do – how do you change lives, businesses, beliefs? Tell them a story that illustrates how you’ve helped others with their same need.

Are you qualified to do it? Don’t just give them a generic, unedited list of your credentials. Cherry-pick the experiences and areas of expertise that are most relevant to your audience. Again, focus on the benefits. In most cases, people won’t care what college you went to or who backed the company during a start-up phase – they want to know what you have accomplished for others. Name drop. Include supportive third-party content from mentors, customers, and/or industry pundits.

Would they enjoy working with you? Don’t disregard this question as too fluffy. Experience proves that people buy from people they like. Though logic and reason have their place in the psychology of buying, emotional responses carry at least as much weight. Are you projecting the kind of image that will be appealing to your audience?

 

 

 

Step 2: Include all the important information.

I can’t tell you how often I come across About Pages that are missing key information. There are few things that will frustrate your visitors more than being unable to locate the information they need quickly and easily.

 

Common Mistake: Assuming visitors know who you are

This mistake is one I see on solopreneur, author, and consultant sites all the time. I notice it because I am a rabid content curator (meaning that I read other peoples’ content and then share it with my audience via Twitter, Facebook, and my blogs). I am a stickler for accurate attribution (indicating who created the content I’m sharing) and frequently click to peoples’ About Pages to get their name and/or Twitter handle.

Unfortunately, many people forget to include this basic information on their About Page!

 

Solution:

Simple: if you are a solopreneur, author, or consultant make sure to include your name on your About Page. You can make your name the headline for the page. You can introduce yourself at the top of the page (“My name is _______.”). You can “sign” the page with your name and/or a graphic signature. Just get your name on there somewhere!

In addition to your name, it’s helpful to include links to your profiles on other sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – anywhere you’d like people to connect with you. Though people are usually pretty good about including social links on their home pages and blogs, they often overlook them on the About Page. Don’t miss this opportunity to make it easy for people to connect with you.

 

 

 

Step 3: Make it personal.

We already noted above that people tend to make buying decisions based at least as much on emotion as on logic. The bottom line is this: people are more apt to buy from you if they like you. It’s important that your About Page reflects your personality. People come to your About Page in part to get to know you better. Be yourself. Let them see the real you – not an uber-professional façade.

Use a conversational tone. Introduce some personal details. (Remember, all work and no play makes you dull and boring.) Also – if you are a one-person business – please don’t refer to yourself in the third person. You are trying to make a connection with the reader. Be human.

It’s important to note that even larger businesses can make their About Pages personal. Just because yours is a larger organization doesn’t mean you have to resort to corporate-speak and third-person descriptions of yourself. It’s okay to say “we.” It’s okay to have a sense of humor (and use it). Remember – the people you are selling to are still people, even if they are B2B buyers.

 

Common Mistake: Crossing the line into TMI-land

Unfortunately, sometimes an effort to be more personal and “authentic” results in a case of “TMI” (too much information). Don’t go there. Wandering too far off on random tangents dilutes your message and increases the chances that your visitor will click away.

 

Solution:

While expressing your unique personality and sharing some details about your life outside of work is a good thing, keep it brief and keep it relevant. Go ahead and add a few quirky details, but place them at the end of your page so they don’t distract from your primary messages. Try to tie the personal pieces to your work if you can. As with your professional credentials, pick and choose which things to share based on what will be of interest to your intended audience.

 

 

 

Step 4: Make it visual.

As a writer, I love words. I geek out for the right turn of phrase, the perfect headline, and the engaging story. I know, however, that most people prefer images to text. People just don’t like reading that much. Also, it’s true what they say about one picture being worth a thousand words.

 

Common Mistake: Using only one image, or – gasp! – none at all

You don’t need to turn your About Page into a photo essay, but it is the perfect place to showcase some images that help tell your story and/or your customers’ stories. A picture-less About Page is a sorry sight to see.

 

Solution:

Start with a great picture of you. In general, we respond to images of the human face more than any other type of image. Let people see you – give them a face to put to the name. And, don’t feel like you have to go with the standard profile picture. Have fun with it. For instance, choose a unique setting or use an action shot. Though it’s important to use an image that’s appropriately aligned with your brand, you are allowed to get creative.

Beyond your portrait, there are all kinds of images you can include to help tell your story. Think about what will resonate with your audience. If you sell handmade jewelry, you could share pictures of a work in progress. If you’re an author, you could share pictures of your writing desk or location shots of your book’s setting. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, shots of your store or you interacting with customers might work well. Accent images of your favorite hobbies or quotes can help give the page that personal touch.  There are hundreds of ways to bring a little extra life to your About Page with images – give it some thought and then get busy with those pictures.

 

 

 

Step 5: Show ‘em what’s next.

Each time someone visits your About Page represents a chance for you to connect with someone who is interested in you and your business. Don’t leave ‘em hanging.

 

Common Mistake: Leaving a dead end

If someone has made the effort to visit your site and click past your home page to your About Page, that person is clearly interested in potentially connecting with you or – at the least – exploring what else you have to offer. An About Page that just gives the facts and doesn’t invite the visitor to take any additional actions is a lost lead.

 

Solution:

Chances are that the people who visit your site have a problem and are hoping you can help them solve it.  Make sure your About Page includes some kind of CTA (call-to-action) that gives them a clear “next step” in solving their problem. For instance, you could:

  • Recommend they read your best/most popular blog posts
  • Direct them to your hottest new products
  • Invite them to download an ebook or other piece of content
  • Suggest they sign up for your mailing list
  • Ask them to subscribe to your blog
  • Encourage them to connect with you on other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Remember that whatever CTA you choose, it should be presented in the context of the visitor’s needs. Be helpful. Provide value. Make the offer about them, not you.

You can include multiple CTAs on your About Page, but offering choices can reduce visitor follow-though. Think about which action is most valuable to you, and then focus on that one. I usually recommend going for the email capture since growing your mailing list is one of the most important things you can do to build your business. You can capture email addresses by simply asking someone to sign up for your newsletter or by offering a free download (like an ebook) in exchange for the email address.

 

If you can follow these five steps – focus on the audience’s needs, include all the relevant information, make it personal, create a better experience via the strategic use of images, and give your visitors a next step – you will have an About Page that pulls its weight and helps you create new connections with your first-time visitors.

 

How about you? What have you noticed when you visit other peoples’ About Pages? What challenges have you faced when trying to create your own About Page? Do you have any pet peeves related to About Pages?

Love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments! As always, thanks for being here. 

 

Image Credit: Marc Falardeau

Do you know why you do what you do?

pinot_dots

Listen to this post:

 

Do you ever stop and wonder what the hell you’re doing, or – more importantly – why you’re doing it?

Do you ever find yourself suddenly struck dumb by the depth of the disconnect between the thing that consumes most of your waking hours (for most of us, our work) and the thing that is truly “you?”

I do.

 

I lie awake in bed and my brain does somersaults in the dark – flip, turn, roll, flip, turn, roll.  I go over the day’s events and tomorrow’s plans. I think back to when I was a kid and I wonder what it will be like when I’m old and near the end of my days. My mind flies back and forth along the continuum that is my life, weaving random thoughts together like the shuttle on a loom.

I try to connect the dots. I look for patterns and meaning. I wonder what kind of hole I will leave in the world.

 

 ________________________________________

 

When I drove my daughter home from school yesterday, it was an exceptionally beautiful day. I was high on sunshine and the frisky wind that cavorted through bright, new foliage. I was singing along to track 10 on KT Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope album – Stoppin’ the Love.

“Mom, stop it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want to be one of those people other people can hear outside the car!”

 

 ________________________________________

 

Kaarina Dillabough wrote a post called Why Are You Doing It? She encouraged readers to ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing resulting in results? Is it productive? Does it create something meaningful, beneficial, profitable, or necessary?” She then asked, “If not…why are you doing it?”

Good question, Kaarina. Good question.

________________________________________

 

Craig McBreen wrote a post called  Do you want to be remembered? Do this. He wrote about being the spark, making a difference, and realizing your full capabilities. He asked, “So, why not wear a little chunk of your heart on your sleeve?”

When I originally read the post, I had been moved to comment. This is part of what I wrote:

People talk about “voice” and “authenticity” all the time, but I think what truly magnetizes a brand is more about enthusiasm – about being SO excited that you can’t contain yourself, about letting your love or passion for something spill over and out and into the world, about being SO zealous that you don’t care if you look like a fool. You will dance in the streets, scream from the rooftops, say the thing no one else will say, admit you’re wrong, sing, write poetry, stand up in the boardroom and tell it like it is … because you believe with all your heart, because your excitement compels you to take action, to speak out loud.

 

People who can capture and share this kind of unbridled enthusiasm will be remembered. They will be remembered because, in the words of Maya Angelou, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

________________________________________

 

Connecting the dots. Click. Click. Click.

________________________________________

 

Do you know what makes your heart sing? What inspires you to surrender, to drop your guard, to let your unbridled joy shine out? What is it that unleashes your inner geek? For what cause, belief, or love will you willingly be a fool?

Have you forgotten? Have you lost your way? Are you afraid or ashamed to admit the source of your passion?

Why?

Why have you forgotten why you do what you do, why you’re here?

This thing – whatever it is – this thing that brings you such joy and strips away all the extraneous layers, this is your purpose. It’s what gives your work meaning. It’s what gives your work value.

Don’t just sing in the shower. Don’t just sing in the car with the windows rolled up and the world whipping anonymously past the windows. Sing out loud. In the world. For other people.

Whatever your passion is, if you let it out it will infect others. Your enthusiasm and excitement will spread like a beautiful virus. It will attract attention, draw people in, and fascinate them.

And the best part? Your willingness to proclaim your love will give others permission to proclaim theirs.

 

 

Image Credit: Pinot W. Ichwandardi (freeze frame from one of his awesome Vine videos)

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