Tag Archives: Writing

Do You Suffer From Thought Blockage?

 

 

Don't Block A Thought-Nov. '08

Don't Block A Thought Again- Nov'08

 

In the past few days, things have been very busy around here, which is a good thing, but makes the idea well dry up quickly. I have looked though all my ideas and (gasp) discovered that I haven’t been able to brainstorm on fresh ideas for about 3 weeks. Not good. So when I was chatting the other day with a writer buddy, he mentioned a great book that I must recommend to anyone who has to have a quick, creative idea on demand.

 

The book is called The Writers Block-786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination,  Jason Rekulak’s book is fantastic!  And no, you don’t have to be a creative person to make this puppy work! Anyone can do it, it’s fun and best of all if you don’t like the creative prompt you see, all you have to do is turn the page. Check it out for yourself and see how it can help your business come up with some off-the-wall, innovative ideas to help support your business’ success. 

Share your thoughts with me and let me know how this works for you!

 

All the best in preventing thought blockage-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising, Business Development, copywriting, Marketing, Writing

Make Sure Your Writer Is Right

 

 

Old School Writing -08

Old School Writing -08

 

 

A few weeks ago I met a small business owner who had just hired a freelance copywriter and was worried about her decision. She had interviewed the writer and was so impressed by the writer’s personality that she decided to hire the writer on the spot. While we continued to talk I was starting to realize that she had made the decision to hire solely based on the fact that she liked the person she interviewed. The new writer was not meeting deadlines, didn’t have a good grasp of communicating with my friend’s marketing team and missed an important informational meeting with the client. Red flags were everywhere. She asked me to step in and help, which I was glad to do, but shared with her some of the following things she should have asked before getting into the situation at hand.

 

Here’s a list of important questions you should ask when hiring a freelance writer.

1) What are some of your most recent ad campaigns and how are they working?

This is where you ask to see examples of their work. To me, this is the most important part of the interview. Make sure they tell you why the campaign was developed, how the ideas came to fruition and what the response has been to the campaign

2) What kinds of writing do you do and what is your speciality? 

Many writers say they can write anything for you. This needs to be a red flag instantly. You want to hire someone who has experience writing the format you need. If your company wants to develop a website, make sure the writer you use knows something about keywords and how to make your website searchable. A website that is unsearchable is worthless. So don’t toss your advertising dollars out the window. 

3) What is your work style? 

It’s also equally important to know how your writer plans on working for you. Are they working from home? Do you expect them to come into the office? How do you plan to handle client/writer interactions? What additional resources will they need to get their work completed and done excellently? Setting forth your expectations in advance is key to creating a trusting, working relationship. 

4) Who are your top 3 references and what will they tell me about you?

Always ask for a reference no matter how well you like the writer. This is where the small business owner made her first mistake. You want to know that the writer has a good solid work ethic and that other professionals trust them with their business communications. You also want to ask the writer how those references will speak about their relationship with the writer. It’s good to have a confident writer and one that is well-respected in the industry. If no one has heard of them, that too should be a red flag. With the small business owner, she came to find out that the freelancer she had hired was more of a sales professional and was good at making up stories, not creating marketing messages that generated results.

5) What is your process for working with a new client and what steps do you take to get ready for a new project?

This is also a key question to ask and one that many small business owners don’t. When you bring up this question you are gleaming a wealth of vital information from the writer. This is a great time to talk about the cost of the project, see how organized the writer is with their projects and even determine if the writer is good brainstorming with clients/your team. 

It’s easy to find a writer to carry on a project. It’s much more difficult to find the writer that you want to create a business partnership with for the long haul. Think of it this way, if you are going through writers as

 often as people brush their teeth, you’re loosing a lot of revenue retraining new writers. Think about your choice. After all it’s your choice and it’s your decision. Make it a wise one.

 

All the best-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising, copywriting, Small Business Solutions, Writing

Does Your Business Stand Out in the Crowd?

 

Pumpkin Hunting Oct. 08

Pumpkin Hunting Oct. 08

 

This weekend my husband and I journeyed out with friends for the annual pumpkin patch expo. It’s something we have done for a few years now and it’s always a blast. Maybe it’s just being around dear friends or the fact that we drive golf carts in search of the perfect pumpkin, I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s interesting to see which pumpkins we award as the “perfect pumpkin to carve”.

One friends says she likes the warty pumpkins because they have character. Another likes pumpkins that are smooth and flat on one side as they are easier to carve. We like pumpkins that are oval. To us, that’s what a pumpkin “should” look like. 

So as we were in search for our perfect pumpkin I was reminded how crafting a marketing message to catch a customer’s attention can not only seem like a quest, but the message can also get lost in a sea of other everyone else is doing. Finding your business might be very similar to looking for the right pumpkin. There’s a million of them out there, but what really fits your needs?

Here’s how to stand out in the crowded market and make your marketing message the one customer’s find, remember and act upon.

  • Delve into what your competitors are doing. Know their message inside and out. Is it successful? If not, why?  How can you capitalize on their weaknesses? Are your competitors using flashy images? Should they be and if so, why aren’t you using eye-popping images to grab attention?
  • Use keywords and messaging that resonates with your audience. Know what your customer’s speak sounds like. What are terms that get their attention? Are you talking over their heads?
  • Define your target market and talk to them. If you haven’t had a chance to chat with the people who purchase your products/services you should. How can you effectively communicate your company’s message to them if you don’t know what challenges, goals or expectations your customers seek? It’s a good practice to set up focus groups and parade your advertising ideas in front of the people that will be purchasing your product/services. Gage your message’s effectiveness based on their comments. Revise if you need to. It’s much cheaper to revise than to pull the plug on a campaign that’s been running for a few weeks or months!
  • Try something new.  With the Web 2.0 boom, there are a lot of new vehicles that your company can use to get your message out there without spending a ton of ad dollars. Survey your solid client base. See if they know about Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or even MySpace. If they don’t, discover why they haven’t had a chance to learn about Web 2.0 and take it on as a new way to market yourself if it’s true to your target market, of course.
While you may not find a marketing vehicle that’s totally perfect, you can always fine-tune your ideas so that your customers are more willing to choose your product over the competition. With a little homework on your part, you can find the right messaging and and solid marketing platform. In the end, you create a more effective way to catch your customer’s eye.
All the best-

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising, copywriting, Marketing, Small Business Solutions, Writing

5 Reasons You Should Hire a Freelance Writer (Part 3 of a 3 part series)

 

Newburg, Oregon-June 08

Newburg, Oregon-June 08

Flowers come in all shapes, colors and sizes and I think that’s why I am always drawn to their beauty. No two are alike and they always surprise me. Intertwining with other flowers that complement their beauty. I think words often work in the same way.

When you begin to craft your message, you want a person who knows how to arrange and bend words in a fashion that catches attention, complements your your business ideals and produces outstanding results.

This brings us to the final 2 reasons why hiring a freelance writer is key to your messaging success.

4) Well-Crafted Copywriting Skills

When you set out to create a strong message that radiates with your clients, hire a freelance writer with a diverse background of skills.  Why you ask?

It’s been my experience that most of the time when you ask your employees to create the marketing message, they may already be involved with other facets of your company and may not have the time to focus on the messaging development. Furthermore, your employees are geared to get the job completed and on time. They may cut corners when it comes to researching the audience and knowing the competition.

Freelancers are also concerned about meeting deadlines, but this isn’t a primary focus. The number one focus for a freelancer is to be the best writer they can be. Make sure all the “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed, so to speak. After all, they are constantly competing against other writers for projects and at the end of the day, they want to ensure their client is generating the leads they need to grow their business. 

What’s more, if you don’t have a writer at your disposal able to craft headlines generating results for your company, your entire message could get missed. According to advertising great David Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising, Ogilvy says that five times as many people read headlines as read body copy. That’s huge. So what your headline says better be a solid first impression. (Look to these checkpoints for strong headline creation-How are your current headlines doing?)

Newburg, OR June 2008

Newburg, OR June 2008

 

 

5) A Full Staff of Writers In One Person-Multiple personalities mean multiple sales

Ask any freelance writer if they spend all of their time writing and you’ll get a unanimous “no”. What were else are the spending their time besides word manipulation? For most, they spend hours being their own editors, researchers and customer care representative. So when you want words that make an impact, yet do so with clarity and results, a freelancer is a solid option.

Many times a staff writer only has time to write, then the copy goes to someone else to proofread. Plus, the writer may have had to get a researcher involved in the process before words went to paper. This causes concern as the person who chose the research may not have the same interpretation of the “marketing objective” as the writer or even the editor. When you use one person, the message has more clarity and is crafted with one idea and not three different ideas. Having a clear and concise message means your customers will understand what you are selling and make your phone ring.

So as you can see, there’s many reasons to hire a freelancer. Maybe you just have extra workflow that your staff can’t get to, or you want a fresh perspective. No matter what your reason for hiring a freelancer it’s a good idea to ask a few questions, get to know their style and always ask to see examples of their work.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to interview a copywriter and some important questions you should have answered before they put pen to paper. 

Best of hiring-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

2 Comments

Filed under Advertising, copywriting, Marketing, Uncategorized, Writing

5 Reasons You Should Hire a Freelance Writer (Part 1 of a 3 part series)

 

Foro Romano-Rome Italy-May '07

Foro Romano-Rome, Italy-May 07

 

 

If you want your plantings to complement your house, you hire a landscaping artist. If you want a building to be constructed soundly, you hire an architect.  I believe results-driven writing works the same way. 

Often I am asked by potential clients, “Why should I hire a freelance writer instead of using someone I already have on staff or writing the piece on my own?’  That’s a good question and one that as a marketing manager, communications officer or small business owner you should always ask. If you don’t ask, you could be spinning your wheels and not generating a clear marketing message that grabs your customer’s attention and generates sales. When I hear this question, a few things come to mind 

First of all, have you ever thought that using in-house talent or even writing the message yourself could actually be costing you more than contracting a writing specialist? 

Here are 5 reasons you why you should hire a freelance writer.

(Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 …)

1) Unlimited Perspective – “Are You Talking To Me?”

Often your staff writers have one view and one view only – your company. I know what you’re thinking, that’s a good thing, right? Well it can be, but it can also be very limiting in the sense that a staff writer knows the product/service so well that they miss important messages. I like to call it “talking to ourselves”.  It’s easy to talk about a product/service you know well, but sometimes staff writers forget that their audience doesn’t know the product as well as they do and fail to reach the client because the messaging talks over their heads.

Contracting a freelance writer however, avoids this problem. This breed of writer takes on the project with a fresh perspective and writes with a clear direction. The contract writer doesn’t have a relationship already built with the product. As with all marketing writing, you as a marketing guru must impart messaging that’s direct and focused on their needs.  

 

  • Does your client understand how the product works? 
  • Have your described how the product is more beneficial to the user than say your competitor’s product?
  • Are the words you use within your messaging understandable or are the words empty, leaping over their heads?

 

Additionally, freelance writers work with a variety of clients, having greater exposure and often a more accurate view of what works for other clients, trends within the marketplace and proven results that have worked for their client base. A staff writer usually only knows the product in which the write for and may not have time to research proven tools, tricks and trends that work for other businesses or even your competitors. 
 

2) Brainy ROI-Ramp It Up

What’s Brainy ROI? Well for most company writers, your product’s ROI isn’t factored into their approach. However, freelance writers aren’t shielded from such a reality. As a freelance writer they are constantly competing on metrics and concentrating on bringing in the best ROI to you. After all, that’s what usually creates repeat business and generates a very happy client. Successful freelance writers aren’t looking for the “prettiest words”, they want to create a buzz for your company that is memorable and effective. So expert writers know where to splurge and where to save. That should be music to your ROI. Remember the golden marketing writer rule, “increase response, decrease cost”.

If you’re looking for ways to turn your company around and make a difference in your marketing efforts, stay tuned in for the rest of the top 5 reasons to hire a freelance writer. You won’t want to miss it.

All the best-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Advertising, copywriting, Marketing, Small Business Solutions, Writing

Dressmaker, Snow Cone Vendor or Archeologist-Are You Living Your Childhood Dream?

 

Dress Maker In Siena, Italy-May 07

Dressmaker In Siena, Italy-May 07

Often when I am looking for writing inspiration I turn to those old tried and true writing exercises we used in college. You know the ones:

  1. If you were on a deserted island what is the one thing you would take with you and why?
  2. Name 2 people that have made a difference in your life.
  3. If you could be any kind of animal what would you be? 

But one such question got me thinking today …

What profession did you want to go into when you were a child?  Did you attain that goal?

Did I attain that goal? Well the answer is yes and no. I wanted to be a lot of things just like many other kids. Here’s my list that I ran across one day when cleaning out a box of old things. I think I was about 10 when this was written. As as you can see, much like other kids, I didn’t really care what income one could make as long as it was fun and made me happy.

1) A vet

2) A shop lady selling pretty clothes

3) A person who writes the news

4) Snow cone vendor on the beach

5) An archeologist

So I guess #3 is pretty close to what I do. I actually did work at a TV station when I was fresh out of college and now I am a writer. Seems like I got close to one of my dreams. But that list still makes me wonder ….

How many of us go out and really achieve our dreams? Do those dreams change as we grow? Do we somehow loose our creativity and spontaneous nature we had as a child and retool ourselves to become what society terms as “responsible”?

In a recent national survey, adults were asked which jobs they felt held the most prestige. Interesting that as we get older, we look more to what others would think of us instead of what might be true to ourselves.

That’s why I feel like I must ask. Are you passionate about the work you do? What energizes you? How do you know if the job you currently do on a daily basis is the right fit for you?  

I must admit I am one of the lucky ones. I know that even though I am not selling snow cones on the beach, I honestly love what I do. Writing for some reason gives me a charge, it just feels right and when I am finished with my work, I can look in the mirror and honestly feel that I have been true to my passion for solving problems and connecting with people.  

My challenge to you … if you aren’t doing a job right now that is true to who you are,

 

  • What can you do to change it? Time for a career check-up?
  • Is there something within your company that’s a better fit for you? 
  • Challenge yourself, see where it leads you. 
  • Set some goals for yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to dream and then act upon it.

 

A child’s vision of the future may be steeped in fantasy, but is often truer to their core than where our adult logic takes us. 

Good luck on your journey-

Sarah @ Dog-Eared Pages

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising, Business Development, Marketing, Uncategorized, Writing

How To Stay Afloat In A Down Economy

 

Ships in the Harbor (Newport, OR June-08)

Ships in the Harbor (Newport, OR June-08)

 

Many people are watching the stock market closely. Down, down, down the line journeys. And up. up. up our temptation to panic grows.

So as small business owners, many of us are wondering how we can stay afloat during the downward spiral.

Here are some ideas to keep your business up and running in troubled times:

  •  Put together a company press kit: Talk yourself up. Include a bio of yourself and a brief overview of your company. (Shameless plug: I do this for a number of my clients and would be happy to provide advice on this subject)
  • Make a bigger marketing splash:Discover the power of a paid-search advertising. You can instantly see results and then channel the exact target market that is out there looking for you. 
  • Hire/Retain Employees Wisely: With so many companies laying off employees, highly-talented people are out there searching for new jobs. Take advantage of the talent pool and hire someone you might not have had a chance to employ before now. It doesn’t matter if you hire someone new or you retain your current workforce, bottom line, make sure you take an ample amount of time to train them.
Whatever your current situation, each one of us must think about our business in a different light and hold on tight. One thing is for sure, in an economy like this, things are going to change. It’s up to you to make sure it’s a positive change.
Best to all-

Leave a comment

Filed under Advertising, Business Development, copywriting, Marketing, Small Business Solutions