9 tips to get mobile optimised content

9 tips to get mobile optimised - Wendy Woodhead copywriter

What the hell is mobile optimised content? Well, in 2016, Google announced that mobile had finally overtaken desktop with over 51% of searches performed on tablets and smartphones.

What does that mean for your website? Simply: that it needs an overhaul to ensure you aren’t unwittingly deterring potential customers.

Picture the scene

You’ve spent hours fine-tuning your web copy. You’ve enlisted the help of copywriters and web designers. You’ve plumbed money into a full SEO and PPC campaign.

But all of a sudden, your visitor numbers are dropping off and you’re failing to register on the first page of a Google search for your top keyword.

What’s happened? Many business owners are asking themselves the same thing.

Mobile-first indexing

Google recently launched their mobile-first indexing, prioritising those websites which in turn prioritise their mobile customers. To ensure you don’t lose out to your competition, it’s vital you learn how to optimise your copy for mobile.

Here’s how to get mobile-optimised content:

1. Ensure your web design is responsive

That means it has both a desktop and a mobile version. This might be a matter for your web designer, but if you use WordPress, there are plenty of themes that embrace this.

2. Use short sentences and paragraphs

Imagine browsing a website on your smartphone and seeing a full screen of text. Are you going to read it? Unlikely.

White space is key so break up longer paragraphs into smaller chunks: 2-3 sentences, 26 words per sentence. It wouldn’t hurt to familiarise yourself with your Flesch readability score either.

3. Encourage scrolling

Mobile users have a tendency to scroll more, so long-form copy works to your advantage – but only if it’s of value.

Use this opportunity to give customers insight, advice, facts and sell the benefits of your service, breaking it up with good-quality images. You also have more chance to use a variety of keywords.

4. Have a purpose…and sell it

Just because you can get away with more copy, don’t lose sight of your mission: to sell. The benefits – as always – should be right up at the top.

However, you can spread calls to action throughout your content, so that readers can move on when they feel sufficiently persuaded.

5. Speed up your loading time

Any longer than 3 seconds to load and a customer loses interest, clicking away. Your bounce rate might increase but not your conversions.

You can improve your loading time by decluttering and keeping image and graphics sizes low yet still good quality.

6. Feature videos

43% of consumers want to see more video content online. Since Google owns YouTube, featuring videos is crucial to score highly.

You don’t necessarily need to produce these yourself, even sharing video content from YouTube will help.

7. Format, format, format

Bullet points, indents, lists, colours that emphasise key sections, bold, subheadings – all help to sustain interest.

8. Clean up your links

Google will penalise you for spam or broken links so ensure they’re all in good working order and include a mix of internal and external reputable pages.

9. Ensure your copy is polished

Writing concise content that speaks directly to your demographic telling them what they want to know is crucial. Otherwise, despite your best efforts, you’ll lose them before they click ‘buy’.

Long-form copy is a bonus of easy scrolling, but since mobile users bounce in a third of the time a desktop user does, your content must be spot on.

It’s also vital your mobile copy is proofed and error-free as mistakes will stand out a mile on a small screen.

Get mobile-optimised copy

Producing mobile optimised copy can be time-consuming. Where is the fold, do you have strong calls to action, is your content scannable?

Ready to get snag those mobile customers? Contact me today to discuss your mobile optimised copy needs.

What your content marketing can learn from Brexit and the US election

At the start of 2016, we didn’t know that the UK would vote to leave the European Union and the US would vote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton as their new president. But it’s happened, despite these two causes apparently being the rank outsiders. So what can your content marketing learn from their campaign techniques?

The promise

When you start a campaign, your promise is central to your advertising. With the US election and the EU Referendum, this is the slogan – the chief message. It’s not only what you’re promising your ‘customer’ (or voter), it’s your lead benefit, your call to action, and if you want to know how to construct an effective call to action simply look at these two examples:

  • ‘Make America great again’ (Trump)

  • ‘Take back control’ (Leave campaign)

These slogans worked because they’re full of active, passionate, emotive language. They include the reader and they tell the reader to do something. ‘Hillary for America’, ‘Stronger together’ (Hillary Clinton) and ‘Stronger in’ (Remain) try for the same inclusivity but they just don’t have the driving will.

It’s easier to fight for change

This brings us onto the fact that it’s easier when you’re the underdog – that’s the same whether you’re a football team, a political party or a small business. You might think you’re on the losing side, but if you have the character and the initiative, you’re in luck – people’s innate instinct is to stick up for the little guy (as far as we can reasonably believe that a billionaire counts as a little guy).

Fighting for change, as opposed to preserving the status quo, has a fierce rebellious side that appeals to people’s latent sense of adventure. What will it be like? You’ll never know unless you vote Leave or vote for Trump… If you own a small business, it’s important to play up your underdog status by focusing on what you do differently to the big businesses. Handcrafted, artisanal products are huge USPs here.

Address a problem

The best way to construct your message is to start with the dichotomy of

problem : solution

Unfortunately, for the Remain campaign, they weren’t advocating change as such. Without a problem to rally against, it’s hard to drive an effective marketing campaign. It’s like trying to sell someone the current house they live in, where the owner knows all the faults, over the new flashy one they’ve only ever seen from the street, with the high-security gates and swimming pool (you’re sure you glimpsed a pool). Instead, the Remainers had to focus on preserving the same quality of life – it’s just not as exciting.

On the other hand, the Leave campaign identified a clear problem (immigration) and a clear solution (strengthen the borders – take back control). That’s not to say effective marketing should focus exclusively on negativity, but it can help to relate to your customer’s fears before knowing what the product is that they’ve been waiting for all these years – the product of their dreams that undoes all those fears. And remember, allowing your customer the chance to dream of a better future is a powerful marketing tool.

Use the language of the common people

Were you bogged down in the arguments, facts and stats of the EU Referendum? A handy fact is a great tool to persuade a buyer to purchase, but when your customer can’t see anything but complex arguments, they’re inclined to turn away.

This happened on both sides of the camp in the referendum, and Hillary Clinton has fallen prey to it in the US presidential election. We’ve heard lots of information from Hillary because, let’s face it, she’s the most experienced for the job. Yet Trump won. Have you ever heard Donald Trump utter a fact? No. He doesn’t have to because he can rely on simple, straight-forward, effective statements. And, if you don’t use facts, you don’t have to worry about being proven wrong.

‘You’ doesn’t work all the time

We’re often told in content marketing that appealing to ‘you’ is vital. Whether you’re writing a blog post or an advert – prioritise the reader. This is something the Remain campaign focused on a lot through their emphasis on better jobs.

But the exception to the rule is when you’re trying to activate the masses. Yes ‘you’ helps appeal to the individual, which is why it works well in text, where there is that intimate space between word and reader. But if you’re trying to instigate mass rebellion (or in the business sense, convert a lot of people away from a competitor and towards a new product, company or service) ‘we’ and ‘our’ is much more powerful.

Utilise social media

The Republican and the Leave campaigns have been phenomenal on social media because their simple messages can garner (often anonymous) widespread support quickly. And if they can gather it in huge swathes, people no longer have to feel like they have anything to hide, prompting more supporters to come out of the woodwork and giving credence to the cause.

For politics, social media is an easy way to reach the working classes and younger voters, but for any business, it’s a good way to connect with their customer and get a handle on their core demographic. Social media is an excellent way to distribute viral (shareable) media such as memes, videos, infographics – all of which can be used to promote the cause/business/key message of your campaign.

Always offer a softer middle ground

In all the debate over the EU Referendum and the US election, there have been many, many people expressing dissatisfaction at the lack of a third way. In this age of excess choice, people do not take kindly to having to choose between one thing or another. There is always that feeling of losing out.

In fact, when it comes to voting, many choose to express the third way by spoiling their ballot papers or simply not choosing to vote. In the EU Referendum, turnout was 72% which means roughly one-third of people chose neither to Leave nor Remain.

When you’re giving your customer a choice, such as with a subscription/membership or an offer of some kind, always make sure you provide a third option. This should be a best of both worlds – you will often find the middle choice gets the best results.

Hire a content writer

When you’re planning your next advertising campaign, bear these lessons in mind. Or hire a freelance content writer to take the burden off your hands and write your blog posts, print, social media – or other content – for you. Contact me today for your free quote and follow me on Twitter for the latest insight and offers.

How to use Halloween in your marketing

Hoping for huge sales this Christmas? Then your marketing copy better be ready for Halloween.

Halloween officially marks the start of the spending season. Research by Yesmail Interactive suggests 38% of people start Christmas shopping before November. According to the Daily Mail, 24 October is the day most people start their Christmas shopping. That means many of your customers are thinking about Christmas already – and have been for some time.

Parents are one such category, with half-term holidays at the end of October giving them the opportunity to hit the shops. It’s also the time savvy shoppers start planning for huge retail days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as an opportunity to buy cut-price Christmas presents early.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, Halloween itself has a lot to offer your business when it comes to marketing. Since this holiday is becoming bigger year on year in the UK, your customers will expect to see you reacting to it. Here are some ways you can use Halloween in your business.

Get creative with Halloween marketing

Halloween provides an opportunity for you to get reacquainted with your products in a unique, distinctive and creative way. Anything which makes you look at your usual wares or services in a new light is a great way to get to know your products’ USPs inside and out and what your customers respond to.

Whether you sell DIY products, bespoke jewellery or kitchen wares, you can market your product for Halloween with just a little thought.

Don’t neglect your visuals too. Why not create a spooky banner for your homepage and email marketing, create a special Halloween page displaying all your themed products, or even set up a promotion for the holiday?

Tap into hashtags

Social media is awash with Halloween-themed stories, posts, news, ideas and more. Get in on the action proving yourself an invaluable tool to your customers.

You can do this by creating a Pinterest site with great tips and advice on costumes, home decorating and recipe ideas. Or feature polls on Twitter to get insight on what your customers are up to and which of your products they like/need/want most. You can even give your Facebook followers #HalloweenTips to get them using your products this Halloween. Some of the best Halloween hashtags are: #HalloweenMakeup #pumpkin #creepy #spooky #monster #costume #zombie #Halloween

You can also tie your Halloween marketing in with autumnal and harvest trends, which is a desirable marketing point if you’re selling things like staycations, family days out, homewares, gourmet foods, DIY and craft supplies. Popular autumn hashtags include: #home #comfort #autumn #fall #outdoors #cosy

Engage your customers

Your customers are busy people – they’re doing a lot this Halloween. Whether they’re going to adult parties, putting together a costume for their little ones, or busy defending themselves against the onslaught of trick or treaters – they know Halloween is coming and they’re all reacting to it differently.

Consider running contests or taking the time to browse through some of your followers’ profiles and see what they’re up to. Asking your community to tweet photos of their Halloween outfits and decorated homes or even asking for their quirky tips on how to deter trick or treaters is a great way to let your customers know you’re interested in them. And if you can throw in a prize too for the best submissions, you’ll endear yourself even more.

Be part of a bigger narrative

Seasonal marketing campaigns don’t have to be separate entities. In fact, your overall aim should be to create a bigger narrative through your seasonal campaigns which unite your business’ ethos.

With Halloween getting bigger every year in the UK, your Halloween campaign is actually the perfect opportunity to kickstart your Christmas campaign, as crazy as that sounds.

Use the sinister side of Halloween to create mystery and initiate a story you will continue to unravel throughout November and December advertisements, print marketing or radio jingles. Narrative works especially well through the medium of copywriting, so hire a copywriter to help you firm up the details.

If you sell toys, perhaps the most wanted children’s toy this Christmas has been stolen by angry witches. Through a gruesome retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story, the children might go in search of the toys to a haunted mansion. With a ‘To be continued’ ending, you can leave the customer in suspense.

As Christmas approaches, pick that story back up. The children are in peril, but perhaps they realise the haunted house is made out of gingerbread? They might rescue the toy and themselves by eating through the house.

All stories have light and dark to them, and most have a happy ending, meaning it’s not too difficult to weave a story through Halloween, ending at Christmas. Your customers will also enjoy the clever technique, feeling that they’re following something through to the end and feel closer to your brand as a result.

Get started on your Halloween marketing copy

It’s not too late to implement some of these Halloween marketing techniques. The easiest and fastest way is to get online and start tweeting your followers. Or if you want to be one step ahead of the holiday next year, remember to schedule a reminder to start working on your Halloween campaign around July.

If you plan in advance, you can hire a copywriter or marketing consultant to help get your campaign in perfect shape so there are no spooky surprises come October.

Is your business ready for Christmas?

It might only be September, but this is the most important time of the year for most businesses.

Autumn is the time when everyone officially starts planning for Christmas and New Year. But before then there’s Halloween, Bonfire Night and Black Friday to get out of the way.

Thinking about your website and marketing strategy now is important. It will save you time and help spread your budget. Plus, the sooner your hire a copywriter, the more time you have to get it right, which means less stress.

Here are just a few things you might need to consider hiring a copywriter for over the next 4 months…

  1. Press releases

Is your business going all out for Halloween or are you looking to entice shoppers with an earlybird Christmas offer? Perhaps you’re running a completely different kind of Black Friday promotion this November? Whatever your activity, a press release can make sure it reaches a wider audience.

Local press loves covering topical stories, and a well-written press release could get you featured on local radio and in the regional magazines and newspapers. If you sell online, a good press release could get your business or product reviewed by bloggers and vloggers or picked up by specialist publications in your area.

  1. Promotional copy

Perhaps you’re running a special pre-holiday spa retreat for stressed out shoppers. Or you want to promote that stunning new range you’re getting in especially for Christmas. You could even have a special offer you want to give your most loyal customers.

Whether it’s leaflet or email copy you’re after, a copywriter can make your words all the more enticing.

  1. Brochure content

A new year, a new start. Many businesses want to showcase their new services, collections and events around Christmas when their traffic is at its peak. From product descriptions to welcome pages and featured items, having a copywriter craft the words for your new brochure or programme will give you a professional edge.

  1. Social media content

In the run up to the biggest shopping days of the year, having a presence on social media is a must. Many shoppers flock to a company’s Twitter and Facebook streams ahead of their physical outlets to see if they can get their hands on the latest products, competitions or time-limited discounts.

Your Twitter and Facebook accounts need to be on red alert right from October. A copywriter who is social media savvy can help compile content for your marketing strategy, making your online presence easier to manage.

  1. Web copy

If you have a website and offer any kind of service, chances are your traffic will be booming in the final months of the year. Or at least it should be.

Enticing your customers with seasonal messages and news, promotions, and well-written content is crucial to securing that all-important transaction. At the end of the day, if your content isn’t up-to-date, accurate and reassuring, your customer will have doubts about parting with their money. Think about overhauling your homepage or landing page copy and increasing your traffic with useful blog posts or strategically placed SEO articles.

September through December are the most important months of the year for almost all businesses. Start planning how you’re going to make the most of the holiday rush and hire a copywriter who can afford to spend the time crafting quality content that does the hard work for you. Contact me today for your free and informal consultation.

Does your business need a press release?

What’s the point of a press release? Many businesses know publicity is crucial to their success, but they don’t always realise a well-written press release is behind it.

Do you need a press release?

Alongside the free publicity, there could be a range of reasons your business might need a press release writing:

  • Advertising a new service or product that is unique to you
  • Raising awareness of community or charity work you sponsor
  • Alerting customers to a change of location or management
  • Promoting your business with a human interest story about you or your staff
  • Publicising your business by tying your services in with a holiday, event or craze
  • PR crisis management in the case of a bad news story

How can a press release help your business?

A press release not only gives free publicity, it is your chance to put across your best face to the wider community who make up your potential customers.

When well written, a press release will appeal to a journalist (and not be salesy), make a potentially interesting story which would fit their publication, be of benefit to their readers, be positive, give a new take on a familiar angle, and tie in with community or national events.

Should you hire a copywriter to write a press release?

Yes.

The odds of getting your press release picked up increase when you use a copywriter – someone who knows how to put together a release that a journalist or editor wants to see (and can use).

How will a copywriter write your press release?

When you hire a copywriter to write your press release, the process should go as follows:

1, A copywriter will discuss with you the message you want to get across and find out about your company

2, They might suggest tweaking or reframing the story in order to pique a journalist’s interest and make it relevant. Remember, journalists are bombarded with press releases from all segments of business and community daily. Yours has to stand out to be featured.

3, A great copywriter will (with your help) craft a quote that fits perfectly with the message you are putting across.

4, A copywriter will mould the press release into a professional, readable and informative piece that has everything the journalist will need to run the story without needing a follow-up enquiry.

5, If you intend to send a press release to a number of different newspapers, magazines or websites, a copywriter will tailor the release to each publication and target reader.

Will a copywriter send out your press release?

Generally speaking, a copywriter is employed to write your press release. However, if you only want to target a handful of publications, this can usually be arranged for an additional fee. Sending out a press release and targeting, chasing and following up – as well as large media campaigns – are usually the role of a PR company.

Hire me to write your press release

If you hire me, you will get all of the above. I’ve been writing press releases since I worked in theatre marketing. I know the structure, the content and the approach to writing successful press releases, and I also know the best way to put your business across.

Don’t put off that free publicity, contact me today.

What your business can learn from Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO is everywhere. Even if you think it hasn’t touched your life, you’re wrong.

Wherever you see people hunched over or blindly following their phones down the street, you’re witnessing the craze in action.

If you’re a business owner, then you’d do better than to turn your nose up at it. The success of this app-based game has many lessons to teach us about what makes an advertising campaign work.

  1. Sell the benefits

The obvious benefit of gaming is fun – and Pokémon GO certainly captures that with its cute collectable Pokémon (pocket monsters). But there’s another major USP for this app and the clue is in the name. That’s right, this app gets you, your kids, your elderly parents out walking…and enjoying themselves while they do it.

Successful advertising copy starts with – and reiterates throughout – the benefits of your product.

  1. Have a niche

The obvious niche for Pokémon GO is it’s novel approach of fusing gaming with exercise. It turns expectations on their head, i.e. that gaming is unsociable and unhealthy.

This niche doesn’t just set the app apart from its competitors, it endorses the app to families and schools. With new advocates and audiences on board, there is potential for spin-off activities, events or promotions.

  1. Cultivate a loyal base

Pokémon GO works because it has a loyal fan base. They’re the guys who were playing this back in the ‘90s and who climb into their Pikachu onesies every night.

If you have a core of customers that respect you, have an emotional bond with you, and show brand allegiance to you, then you have a better chance of success with new products. They will carry your message through word of mouth and become your advocate. Reward them with newsletters and discounts – in essence, keep them in the loop.

  1. Have broad appeal

Complicated isn’t always better. The original Gameboy version of Pokémon has been made more universally user-friendly with this app to encourage mass participation. The concept is simple and means it can be enjoyed by all ages, regardless of whether they have any prior knowledge of the game. Plus, by making this game available via smartphones, one of the most common devices, Nintendo has made it more accessible.

  1. Reinvent

Don’t be afraid to reinvent a classic. That’s what Nintendo did with Pokémon GO, making it relevant to an age of socially reclusive gamers and our health-conscious culture.

Ask yourself, how can this product appeal to the modern-day buyer? Is there a way I can turn it on its head? Can I create need for what is essentially a desirable product? Can I make something unhealthy, healthy?

  1. Sell ‘the game’

Gamification is the concept of making mundane, outdated or difficult tasks fun. It’s the act of rewarding ‘players’ with points, discounts, promotions and events. Think: your favourite store card or coffee shop loyalty card.

Well, Pokémon GO does this with exercise by turning it into an interactive hunt and rewarding persistence with advancement through the levels. When you get out of the house, you can find new monsters; when you walk 2km, 5km or 10km, you hatch an egg (and the bigger the effort, the better the return).

  1. Bring people together

The game channels interactivity, both with the app but also with the offline real world in the form of visiting landmarks and chance encounters with fellow players. When something brings people together in this way to bond over their nostalgia and passion for a brand, then their emotional ties grow even more.

How can you bring your customers together? Perhaps if you’re in gourmet foods, you could hold regular wine or chocolate-tasting evenings for your loyalty card members.

The success of Pokémon GO is certainly giving businesses and advertisers food for thought when it comes to future campaigns. But even if your business isn’t quite at the point of app-based gaming or GPS targeted marketing, you can still learn about what creates loyalty among your customers. And a lot of that starts with how you communicate with them through your content – both online and off.

If you want to take your copy to the next level, get in touch with me today and I’ll help you score points with your customers.

How to write your ideal customer profile

If you’re just starting out your copywriting business, it’s a good idea to write an ideal customer profile which helps you define whose business you want to attract.

Copywriters usually offer a b2b service. Since that ideal ‘customer’ is actually another business, your profile should be built around your perfect imaginary business client.

There’s no special formula to writing your ideal customer profile, but here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.

  1. Describe what you are selling as though to a child.
  2. Do you have any USPs?
  3. Who might benefit from your particular skills? Think about businesses in a certain industry you might have expertise in, your local area, or perhaps even certain members of the public such as educational providers, academics or students.
  4. Can you define a single ideal client? Do you have any conflictions between businesses? If so, write up the pros and cons of each and think about which business would benefit you most. Narrow down your profile to suit them.
  5. What are the benefits for them of using your product?
  6. What do they sell?
  7. Is their product considered a luxury or a necessity?
  8. If a luxury, how would you encourage their potential customers to part with their money? If a necessity, how can you make their product exciting, new and tempting?
  9. Does this business overlap a couple of industries – could it lead to more contacts?
  10. What scale is this business? How many people do they employ? Do they make a modest or a healthy profit?
  11. Does this business need you? Or do they likely already have a marketing department or not realistically have a budget to accommodate hiring a copywriter? How could you tailor your services to their needs and budget?
  12. What are their potential content needs?
  13. What problems does this business face now and in the future? Consider issues such as the economy, skills shortages, changes to the law, environmental pressures, an aging customer base.
  14. How can your skills help them overcome these problems?
  15. What are the benefits for you of working with this business?
  16. Where are they located (what area of the country and are the in the town centre or on the outskirts)?
  17. Describe that business’ ideal customer (remember, your income depends on appealing to their customers’ needs). Are they male/female, what is their age, why do they use this product, where do they live, what is their income?
  18. Think of people you know that might buy from this business.
  19. How long has this company been in business? Are they new and fresh or do they have heritage you can play on?
  20. Are they selling a contemporary service which appeals to a younger audience or a traditional product with an older demographic?
  21. How do they promote themselves and communicate with their customers?
  22. What kind of language do they use?
  23. What are the business’ values? Is it being cutting edge, is it providing a service no one else can, is it providing quality for money?
  24. Can your content help them reach new audiences?
  25. Is there an angle to this business that interests you? Such as its ethical policy, its affiliations, its work in the community. These all make great narratives for copy and press releases.

There are plenty more questions you can ask yourself, and if you wish you can begin another thread relating directly to that business’ customers.

However, you don’t want to get in too deep, but the more you begin to narrow down your ideal customer, the closer you will be to spotting the companies that could use your skills. Once you can show you are close in tone of voice and ideals, you will be in a firm position when you begin approaching these businesses for work.

Looking back or moving forward? Mrs M&S and The Co-op

If you keep your eyes on the brands, you might have noticed that both Marks and Spencer and The Co-operative have decided to shake-up their marketing. But what’s behind it?

Well, when known and loved brands come out and overhaul their branding, it’s usually for two main reasons:

1, There’s a past to be buried

2, They’re failing to reach out to customers old and new

We all know The Co-operative has been through turbulent times over the past few years and M&S profits have been falling – but how can a change of branding help?

In short, it’s all about perception. The Co-op has reverted back to its 1960s’ clover-leaf logo, doing away with the long-form handle and its suffixes: The Co-operative Food, –Bank, –Funeral. This might have something to do with the fact that they’ve shed quite a few of their franchises.

But undoubtedly this reversion to an old and nostalgic logo is intended to win back former shoppers. It radiates heritage, it’s friendly and informal and less institutional that the long-form branding was. In essence, it wants the customer to know it’s getting back to its ethical roots at the same time as unveiling its reward scheme – further showing how the business is less profits-oriented and more about giving back to the community.

Meanwhile, M&S CEO Steve Rowe recently announced the retailer was setting out to win back its own once-loyal customers, customers he feels have been neglected. And the chain believes it knows just who they are: a certain ‘Mrs M&S’.

While both tactics aim to look back before moving forward – seizing on past success and moulding it for the future – have they got it right? Only time will tell. Yet is strikes me there is a fundamental difference between the two.

The Co-op, on the one hand, seem to be using their new (or old) branding as a way of pretending the difficult few years of late never happened, and focusing instead on their new policies and systems. Their message is positive, even if it does hinge on nostalgia.

Yet M&S seem to be using this ideal shopper, the seemingly innocuous ‘Mrs M&S’, as the font of their future success. Although Steve Rowe assured customers they would be implementing some changes alongside this new marketing strategy, these minor revolutions to slash prices and become less fashion/more contemporary-casual oriented seem to be something of a regression for the retailer, not to mention inconsistent with their recent decisions.

It’s unsurprising that some shoppers were offended by this portrait of Mrs M&S. For starters, it’s not a great idea to come out and tell your potential customers how you’re pigeon-holing them. Moreover, in the 21st century, fewer women are choosing to get married, so this title carries less importance than it once would have done. The Mrs M&S of their profiling seems more like a profile of their ideal customer thirty or forty years ago than today. And in being slow to realise this, M&S bosses have overlooked another massive cultural shift that has happened. Our shopping habits. We were once very brand-loyal, but with the advent of internet shopping, our new loyalties lie most with one-stop-shops like eBay and Amazon. In essence, the cheaper, the better.

Something else that Mrs M&S doesn’t seem to account for is that women have become less focused on their age. While some might be content to sidle into a pair of elasticated slacks from the Limited Collection, most others have got their eyes on the latest magazine styles and don’t want to look like a conventional 50-something from a newspaper insert. In fact, they’re just as likely to order a few staples from ASOS as their children are. But if M&S is moving away from fashion just as cheaper sources of clothing and the digital revolution open up the latest styles to more and more people – not to mention after appointing Alexa Chung (one of the biggest fashionistas of the moment) to curate a new collection – then forgive me, but doesn’t that way confusion lie?

It strikes me that it’s not necessarily M&S that has let the customers down – the customers have let the store down, as is their wont in the age of Primark and internet shopping. Today, it is impossible to have one dominant high-street retailer the way there was fifty years ago. But not only has M&S been too slow to react, it also doesn’t seem to understand what the 21st-century woman is looking for, never mind what it is prepared to offer her.

Regardless of whether M&S has got it right, establishing a profile of your ideal customer is one of the first things you should do when you set up business. It helps you define who you are marketing at and helps you keep your selling strategy clear, succinct and powerful.

But how do you get started? What questions do you need to ask yourself and how do you know your ideal customer is attainable? All this and more will be answered next week when I’ll show you: how to identify your perfect customer.

How to write a business strategy

Writing a business and marketing strategy when you’re a freelance copywriter might sound overwhelming. It might even sound unnecessary. Believe me, it is both simple and necessary!

Why do you need a business strategy? Because with the best intents and purposes, getting your foot on the copywriting ladder can be a bit difficult.

To make the best impact and not become dispirited, it’s good to implement several different tactics at once. Having a plan will help you stand back, look at the overall direction you want to head in, and start moving.

Before we begin

Jot down all your ideas in a notepad for establishing your routine and marketing your services. Once you’ve got an outline, you can type them up in Word.

There’s no set formula but I use a basic table with 3 columns (first column for publications/activities; second for detail; third for deadlines). You can tweak what I suggest to make it work for you and your business – that’s fine!

Content

Your content is the most important thing to your business. But writing to promote your own cause when you’re probably not being ‘paid’ for it can make you likely to waver. By creating a regular plan detailing which days you write for what publications makes it much more likely you’ll stick to it.

Make a table with three columns. In the first, list publications you write for and then list those you would like to write for (there’s a really good article here about planning to approach new publications). In the next column you can go into more detail such as genres/article types. In the final column list the timeframe, such as when you will publish this content or, if you plan to approach a new publication, the deadline you will set to do that by.

Remember, by publications and businesses I mean those you write for under your own name. This plan is about getting your name out there – not any clients that pay you to write their articles anonymously. At present you might only be writing for your blog. Look for websites that take contributions. Even if it’s unpaid, you’ll be getting your name out there and earning lots of experience.

Digital activity and social media

This includes promoting your articles through social media and e-newsletters etc. On your table, detail which digital avenues you work with (e.g. Reddit, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, your online portfolio…) and next to each one write the days of the week you will promote certain links/campaigns/others’ posts through these avenues.

Try to have something to promote each day (Mon-Fri). For the days when you don’t have original content of your own, ensure you’re reading others’ work and retweeting/sharing. This earns followers and you can highlight the causes/topics you’re interested in.

Remember to use the social media ‘forum’ with respect: interact with other users and post observations. You could even start a regular segment such as your favourite blog or app of the week that you always run on a Friday. It is more engaging for your followers than merely seeing a series of links coming from your account!

And what about starting a monthly e-newsletter through your website? Setting one up is easy with free tools like MailChimp and gives you something free to ‘sell’ to your followers. You can use it to collate your articles from various different publications or even entice followers with articles solely published in your newsletter. Plus you can update your followers with tips, news and offers.

Advertising and promotion

Your copywriting is still a business that can benefit from promotion and advertising. This encompasses print/digital ads, direct mail, sending out a press release

Think about who needs your service. It’ll mostly be other businesses, so where might they find out about you? In your table, list possible publications (e.g. trade magazines, local paper) to advertise in or approach with a press release, as well as businesses you could approach directly with a sales letter, etc.

Then spend an afternoon getting quotes, contacts and artwork deadlines. If you’re going to attend networking events or conferences you’ll need business cards. These are also useful for dropping off in venues where customers can pick them up, such as restaurants, exhibition centres and libraries.

Events

Freelancing can also be a lonely business, so it’s refreshing to make a network of contacts through digital or in-person events. Scour Google for virtual conferences and webinars, and sign up to copywriting websites such as the Pro Copywriter’s Network and Copyblogger, a great way to get information on events. Hootsuite also often has virtual learning sessions helping you learn while connecting with others in your field.

Physical events are also ideal to get you out of the house. A site like Meet Up can help you discover what’s going on in your area that ties in with your interests. List these events under the first column in your table including any dates and activity/materials you want to have completed (i.e. business cards) in advance of them.

Bringing it together

You’ll notice how each field begins to overlap. This is good because you’re drawing connections between your activities. So long as all activities have the same end goal – to bring you more business – they will strengthen each other and, in turn, your brand. It also helps when setting yourself deadlines since one thing usually depends on another.

Next is buying or creating a calendar in Word. Detail everything (so make sure it’s a biggie!). Jot down the days you’re writing for which publications. Then the days you’ll spend devoted to finding new followers, for example, followed by the days you have any events, as well as print deadlines. And so on…

Tip: Use colour-coded keys and back up your calendar with a simple Excel planner like these templates from Hootsuite for more in-depth info on what you’ll be writing each week. That way your main calendar remains like an easy-to-read overview.

From here

Now your strategy is all typed up, scheduled and ready to go, it’s time to implement it. Write down the immediate action points that have arisen from your plan. Use these to inform your workload for the next week or two, to ensure you meet your deadlines.

Don’t forget that your business strategy will evolve over time and regularly need updating.  Depending on how quickly you work, set aside time to update it – every month…or three – whatever helps it stay relevant and progressive for your business.

Finally, good luck! If you have any questions, drop me a comment, I’d be glad to try and answer them.

Next week: I’ll show you how to find your first copywriting clients

Should I join a content mill?

Whether you’re just starting out as a freelance copywriter or you’re a seasoned pro looking for a side gig, you might be wondering if joining a content mill could work for you.

What is a content mill?

A content mill works like a digital noticeboard for freelancers. Businesses list any web copy jobs they need doing – from blog posts to product descriptions, one-off jobs to full projects.

There are two main kinds:

  • Free-for-all platform (where you may be ranked according to your quality – e.g. between 1 to 5 stars – and jobs are posted on a forum on a first-come-first-served basis)
  • Bidding platforms (where clients list their brief and freelancers bid what they’re willing to work for; or the client sets a fee and freelancers pitch to win the contract)

Content mills aren’t for everyone. They don’t pay well and they aren’t a substitute for networking and getting to know clients on a one-to-one basis. However, they work well to get you started if you have zero experience and/or need a little short-term cash.

Pros of content mills

  • A good way to build a portfolio when you’re starting out
  • A crash course in working to a client’s brief (including familiarity with language, keyword requests, and formatting)
  • Flexibility over when you work and what work you accept
  • Casual earnings when you need it

Cons of content mills

  • Compared to working directly with clients, content mills are very poorly paid (typically as little as a penny a word)
  • On bidding platforms, you run the risk of wasting your time and not being picked for jobs
  • There can be a wait to receive payment 
  • Work is not guaranteed – sometimes mills can run dry
  • They can be a dead end in terms of networking and finding prospective clients

Some sites to check out

Because of the potential for ripping off naïve and earnest writers, there are a lot of scams out there. When you’re looking to join a mill, run a Google search and see what others have to say about it. In the meantime, here are my top content mills:

  1. Great Content
    The best content mill in my experience. You submit a short 2-300 word article to register and they grade you on that. Your rating will improve the more you write and the more positive feedback you get.This mill gets a lot of good and regular clients. I have written for an international fashion website, a cosmetics company, and online opticians to name just a few. Clients often add you to a group of similar writers if they have jobs coming up they’d like to work with you on, and group orders pay better. I’ve also had a number of even better-paid direct orders (you set your own fee) and bonuses for working on long-term projects. It’s a good, friendly platform to help get your portfolio off the ground.
  1. Copify
    Jobs posted on this first-come-first-served (FCFS) board range from articles on marketing, fashion and legal topics to landing page content for boiler repairs. Pay is no less than £0.01 per word and sometimes more. However, deadlines are often the same day and it can take up to 30 days for your work to be approved and you to get paid.
  1. Textbroker
    This platform was one of the big names in FCFS content mills but has failed to keep progressing. It’s pretty badly paid and again you will submit a piece to be graded. There’s the possibility of moving up the ladder but I eventually gave up on it. There’s also a LOT of competition for those lower-graded jobs (which are also lower paid) because everyone usually starts out as a level 3 writer before being upgraded.
  1. Pure Content
    Pure Content is a little different to the standard models. You can register as a writer and/or editor and the company email out jobs for your taking on a first-come-first-served basis (meaning smartphone notifications are essential regularly). Jobs can be few and far between (and pay terribly). The writing jobs aren’t worth the effort in my opinion, but the editing ones are quite quick to get through.
  1. Contently
    OK, so this isn’t a content mill. However, it’s a great place to set up a free portfolio where you can post any work you’ve done, list your specialisms and include your contact info. When businesses go to Contently for help finding a freelancer, they assign them to one of the writers on their database, so it’s a good way to get noticed and is especially useful for journalists.

Make content platforms work for you

Starting out, a content mill or platform is an easy way to get a bit of experience. But don’t become complacent.

True, you need to stick at them to maximise your return (such as getting better grading, pay and more repeat work) but use them as a go-to, a little something on the side. If you’re serious about getting into copywriting, they should not be come your sole earner. Keep your eye on the prize and always work towards a clear plan for building your freelance copywriting career.

Next week: I’ll show you how to write a business strategy.