Tips for Essential Business Networking in 2017


photo care of the muse dot come

photo c/o themuse.com

“To be successful, you have to be able to relate to people; they have to be satisfied with your personality to be able to do business with you and to build a relationship with mutual trust.”

– George Ross

See more quotes on networking:

Sandy Jones-Kaminski, LinkedIn

Personal and Professional Growth Through Business Networking

Are you relying solely on your online content marketing and advertising as your primary methods of brand development and growth? Your results are less than promising and well below your expectations right? In this article, I’ll share why business networking has become an essential part of developing your startup business and building that business into a consistently growing and sustained entity in the marketplace today. 

Two of the most common approaches to professional business networking today involve face to face networking events or online networking through a variety of websites structured for connecting online with industry professionals. What’s the bottom line?

“Networking is about making good connections and building

new relationships with other business people.”

– tacklingyourdebt.com

 

Why Networking?

Professional networking is nothing new in the business world. In fact, networking right from the onset has been an essential part of reaching out to those individuals or groups of people who share the same business interests and overall objectives. Your primary objective during the networking process is to introduce yourself to business owners and managers, demonstrate to them that you have the best solutions for their needs and impress upon them that YOU and your solutions are unique in a way that will bring to them the greatest benefit over your competition offering similar products or services.

Networking is perhaps the most important aspect of brand introduction and recognition in your marketing arsenal. Often times you will connect faster and more effectively when conversing one on one or as a group presentation at a professional networking event. There is nothing more powerful or impressionable than meeting people in person. The challenge, of course, is the much lesser scale than you would realize through paid advertising where your targeted audience reach can be exponentially greater.

Not everyone is comfortable with the networking environment, especially the first few times attending such functions. It takes some advance preparation before the event to essentially rehearse or practice the networking process as you anticipate the event rolling out over the course of the evening.

Focus on relaxing. Be aware that every single business person attending the event, regardless of their level of professional confidence in their office environment and/or the successes they may have achieved will have arrived for the event with a level of their own nervousness or apprehension. Relax! You’re not alone. Have some fun with it! Networking events are not structured as hard-driving, pressure infused tinder box sessions of handshakes and chest pumping. You’re not going in there to stand off against heavy hitters in the industry who are your direct competition.

What you will find on arrival are a large group of individuals standing around, sipping on coffee, tea, perhaps a wine and most of them will have an expression of bewilderment or apprehension. They know the basic routine for such events but they are awkwardly glancing around to see who will make the first move. To stand back and observe can often be a humorous way to see where guests are at as the event gets under way.

Whether an industry event hosted by community organizers of such business venues or your local Chamber of Commerce there is usually a half-hour to an hour at the opening for relaxing one-on- one or small group greetings and conversation. Keep it light! Handshakes and a confident smile are a great way to reduce initial tensions and you will find that people relax in turn and conversation will flow freely as attendees start to feel and embrace the friendly, cordial atmosphere.

Networking must always be focused on the best interests of your prospective client or customer and NEVER all about you and your sales pitch!

If you walk in the door of a business networking event and holler out loud that you have arrived and fashion yourself THE topic of discussion and focus for the evening, you are in for rejection. Don’t ever work the crowd with the ‘buy me, buy me, buy me’ attitude. Every business person in the room is there for the same purpose so relax and allow the event to unfold as it will.

Remember that often times, being the first one to extend your hand to greet others leaves a positive and memorable impression. Don’t hang back shyly awaiting others to initiate conversation.

During your advance preparation for the event, jot down notes of the key points about your business that you would like to introduce or focus on. Plan what you will wear, your posture, your polished shoes, your hair grooming, your smile, and your friendly tone of conversation. If the opportunity does not present itself the first event you attend, don’t panic as there are usually regular monthly events and sometimes even more frequently. Chamber of Commerce events often reserve half of every event for meet and greet networking and the last portion of the event to include a guest speaker and final comments from your host about upcoming special events, organization announcements etc.

More Tips for Your Networking Event

  • Arrive at the Event Prepared with a Goal: Prepare in advance of arrival to the networking event by ensuring that you have established goals for the event. Going ‘empty-handed’ without a plan will ultimately cause you to go off track and waiver with signs of confusion or lack of confidence. Always have a Plan B in mind in case circumstances change. Decide ahead of time how many people you want to meet or perhaps a target of one new job or project. Go with purpose and demonstrate your focus and professionalism.
  • Wear Suitable Attire: You are going to a professional or business networking event. Don’t arrive with a tattered pair of cut-off shorts or blue jeans and a T-shirt. First impressions (and ongoing impressions too) are critical. Look the professional that you are. Be calm, cool and collected but not too casual in appearance. Your posture during the event is important too. Don’t slouch. Stand tall and look ready for business!
  • Business Cards: Take a good supply of business cards; ready for handout to those you feel will continue to be a contact. Those business cards do not come cheap so don’t toss them out to everyone who nods and says hello. Doing so can look desperate. Keep the business cards in the same place for each event; know which pocket they are in so that you don’t fumble around trying to find them…all impressions!
  • Your Introduction: Plan for a professional greeting that identifies your name and your business name along with a brief but confident handshake. Focus on the other person’s introduction as well and try to remember at least their first name and nature of their business for the next event. Do not try to overload your new acquaintances with exhaustive information about yourself and your business. Stick to the primary information and pass the conversation over to the others.
  • Start by Listening, Then Speak: Don’t be in a mad panic to speak first. By allowing the other person(s) to speak you gain valuable time to gain composure, listen carefully and relax for your turn to speak. People tend to be predisposed about their own interests and concerns so it tends to follow that the first person to speak will not have a fully attentive audience.
  • Be Sincere and Show Interest: People see through insincerity in a heartbeat. If you stand in front of them nodding and smiling continuously but your mind is on your own agenda, just wait until they stop talking and ask you a question; then you are left with the embarrassment of having not listened to a word they have said. That is extremely deflating in a networking conversation scenario. Your turn will come. Stay focused, hear what the other person is sharing with you and ask them relevant questions of genuine interest.
  • Be on Point: When speaking, avoid rambling on and on. Stay on point with clear and concise statements and pause for the person listening to absorb what you have said. Sum up what you do in two or three sentences…no more. People especially new to the networking environment will quickly feel overwhelmed if you relay to them the equivalent of a four-hundred-page novel manuscript. Be brief and to the point.
  • Note Taking: You can experience that information overload as well so take a notepad. Jot down important essentials in point form about anyone you meet who is of interest for future conversations. Those key points will cue you later on about further discussion, a follow-up phone call or email or plan a coffee out together to explore further.
  • Post-Event Follow-up: Within two or three days of the networking event, send those follow-up emails or make those calls and share that you would be pleased to continue to stay in touch. Compliment your previous or initial meeting with them and demonstrate your attentive recall by mentioning something you talked about that really interested you or made you curious to hear more.
  • Online Connection Invitations: Don’t send your new contacts a generic invitation to connect i.e. on LinkedIn or the social media platforms. Send them an email to keep it personalized. Let them know that you enjoyed your time with them at the networking event and would love to connect with them on the professional/social network platforms. When communicating online with them remember to always use their name when messaging, at least once if not more often. Make that critical, impressionable connection and develop a trusting, friendly relationship through value-added, genuine interest in the other person and they will most often pay it forward.
  • Remember: Stop the hard line sales pitch of ‘buy me, buy me’ and shift your focus to the person(s) of interest, their needs and how you can help them with a solution or refer them to someone who can; the payback will be exponential in return.

So much of the foregoing is merely common sense but all important points to focus on when networking. Once you have the process down to a routine it is much easier to relax and enjoy meeting new friends and potential clients or new business associations. Even in the absence of direct business, any one of those individuals could turn out to be a huge resource to you in terms of ongoing referrals, an influencer and beyond!

Building Trust

Your best possible approach to networking is to avoid dominating the conversation. Show interest in the other business persons you meet. Get to know them first, on a personal level, before jumping into the business conversation. Never favor conversation with males over females or vice versa. Professional respect is imperative.

Listen carefully to a conversation and absorb what these individuals are about in their personal and professional lives. That is how friendships and trust develop towards potential business associations and engagement. The same approach needs to be woven into marketing content today. It is all about trust building rather than the ‘buy me’ sales pitch that was prevalent for decades past.

Online Networking

The other side of the professional networking process is your online connection development. There are more and more professional business networking websites being introduced online. Developing a consistent process for your online networking activities is just as important as in-person networking.

Be consistent with your networking activity in either case. Be aware of the various social media platforms that you are on and the premise of their intended use. When on a site like Facebook, it is still principally a social platform. Set up a business, fan or author page separate from your personal page and keep the business separate. For those who are there strictly for social interaction, many resent the presence of business activity in the mix. You will find yourself an outcast in the social community rather quickly and in the process do your business more harm than good. Respect where the line is drawn.

LinkedIn continues to lead the pack in terms of professional networking websites. Its growth has been tremendous since its launch in May 2003. LinkedIn was developed as a professional networking site for business entrepreneurs, owners and new business start-up proprietors to connect with each other and explore business opportunities, hiring opportunities and new business associations. There has been an influx of individuals attempting to use LinkedIn for social purposes and that has caused contention among members. Best practice is to respect that professional business focus and save social interaction and engagement for the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar sites. Even in the social media platforms, as with Facebook, a business or professional element has been introduced to those sites but their primary focus remains one of a social nature.

Professional Networking Websites

As mentioned, LinkedIn is still the frontrunner among professional networking sites but there are quite a number of more recent newcomers that you may wish to check out:

  • LinkedIn: The world’s largest professional network with more than 500 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Their mission: to connect business professionals around the globe for economic prosperity through professional growth and new associations.
  • Alignable : A professional networking and referral site, their focus is primarily on small business and start-ups. The site has developed a system of helping new and small businesses to find, discover and interact with other small businesses including their local business community. In Alignable’s own words, the site is seeking to “reinvent the small business economy”. Small business has long been the backbone of towns, cities, and regions across nations. I have recently become involved in this site, well worth a look.
  • AngelList: This is the Canadian site for AngelList. The focus here is on investment in support of new business start-ups. There is also a professional networking element developing between business owners on this site. Jobs and projects are listed for these new start-ups as well.
  • Black Business Women Online: A blog and online community for black women who are entrepreneurs and professionals.
  • neext: This site has transitioned from the former Beyond.com and is now job searching and job alerts including employer hiring ads listings.
  • Meetup: This is a networking site for professionals to help them find like-minded groups and ‘meetup’ opportunities locally for a wide range of interests.

 

Benefits of Networking

The whole premise of a small business is networking, developing relationships and taking action on newly established connections and resources that help to establish and sustain a new business. There is a time dedication and a considerable amount of personal initiative required to establish a new business and keep it growing.

The new business owner of today needs to develop a network of friends and business associates. This network provides invaluable resources to draw information from, influence and the inspiration to persist with a business when the going gets tough. Associated with those who have a similar vision and ambition will inevitably stimulate positive forward movement in your business.

Additional key benefits of networking include:

Shared Knowledge and Resources

Networking is an empowering way to obtain input from area businesses, share business perspective, increase knowledge and more. In a group scenario, other business entrepreneurs have already been where you are in the startup process and will afford you the opportunity to learn how to avoid typical mistakes of trial and error in the operation of your business.

Build Connections

Exposure starts with direct interaction but will also expand to other business connections in the community as well. New business opportunities will develop through the networking and referrals process. Sharing details about businesses in your own network strengthen your new network relationships.

Increased Confidence

It takes discipline to stay on track with consistent networking. You need to push yourself to keep making new contacts and the more routine your network conversations become, the greater your confidence level will be. Business development depends on talking to people and continuously making those new connections.

Elevate Your Profile

The more visible you and your business are, on and offline, the greater benefit you will gain for the growth of your business. Attend regular business networking events, community social events, any public activity where you can share your business identity, especially where there is an interest of a relevant nature. The more opportunity to share your knowledge, experience and expertise, the greater the benefits to your business you will realize. Establish yourself as the go-to authority and watch your business grow!

Another benefit is increased lead generation. The greater the community awareness of your business, the greater the trust and recognition and the greater opportunities for referrals will be.

 

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Results Driven Customer Services Focus


Picture of a deeply inspired person focused on a starlit sky.photo c/o Steve Halama, Unsplash.com

Taking Your Content to the Next Level

↑  click heading for my brief customer focus presentation  ↑

When you have a special project that, first and foremost, absolutely must capture the attention of your targeted or intended audience, you want to make sure that your message does indeed reach that audience, right? How do you ensure that happens and once you have reached that audience, what next?

Marketing your content to reach the greatest potential number of your ideal audience online today is a complex and challenging prospect. On one hand, you feel that you have written exceptional content that millions will not only see but feel deeply compelled to click through to find out more. On the other hand, you feel that through your research on the subjects of ‘audience reach’ and ‘audience engagement’, you have mastered the technique of grabbing your readers’ attention. Still, you find that your results are minimal and perhaps even trailing behind your previous content publication.

So what on earth is going wrong? You’re frustrated that after endless hours of time and inspired effort you continue to struggle with reaching your audience, triggering their interactive responses to your content, clicking through to various pages on your website and advancing to the ‘shopping cart’ phase of purchasing what you have to offer.

Steps Toward Better Business Results

The process of marketing your business online today continues to be increasingly complex, challenging you every step of the way and you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Spending valuable hours of your business day focused on content marketing for the promotion of your business seems like a prudent and necessary activity right? It most certainly is important. 

Whether you have staff that can attend to effective website development and updates in conjunction with current day standards that must incorporate Google’s algorithm updates and web content standards, social media marketing, website blog content development, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid advertising copy (analytics data analysis, keyword research, ideal targeted audience demographics, and ongoing social media management),  or you are a one person operation and have to bring it all together on your own, be prepared for initial and ongoing research to make sure you stay abreast of best and preferred practices and schedule sufficient time to address those tasks.

This article is not intended to be exhaustive in terms of detail regarding each subject covered here. This will serve as an overview with touch points on key aspects of achieving greater audience reach, engagement and forward response to the purchase stages of your relationship.

Website Name, Registration & Development

Assuming that you have fully developed your ‘Brand Story’ and Business Plan in advance of your new business startup, determination of exactly who your targeted audience/customer/clients will be, and what financial resources you will have as startup capital to set up your business and get it launched, the next critical step is to set up your new website name and URL registration and plan for the physical development of the new website.

Website Name

  • Never decide on a website name in haste. Your business name must clearly define in a few well-placed words what you have to offer. The first instinct is often to come up with an artistic, catchy business name that may be unique and intriguing but does it immediately tell your potential audience/customers what product, services or cause you offer or represent? Don’t make people guess or you will lose them in a heartbeat; if in doubt, they click out! In advance, you need to determine what small group of core keywords represents your business.
  • While keeping your business name brief, make sure you incorporate a critical keyword or two which represent the primary service(s), product(s) or cause(s) of your focus. If you anticipate expanding your services, product line or cause focus, be sure to allow for that differential in your website name determination. 
  • Before formal registration of your business name and website, determine a second and third alternative business and website name as there is a possibility that your first choice may already be chosen and registered. Avoid potential legal challenges in future that may ensue because of a business or website name duplication with another legitimate business entity.
  • Research thoroughly in advance on best practices for the development of your business name. Draw from the experience of experts in this facet of your new business startup to ensure that your company name is effective in identifying what you have to offer and one that is unique to your competitors’ business names in a distinctive way. Your business name should also be easily remembered.

Website Registration

  • Once you have established your preferred website name, you need to secure that business name and website URL address as an exclusive business entity with sole rights to the chosen name/URL through official registration with the appropriate provincial, state or other local or regional authorities designated for legal website name and URL registration.
  • Do advance research to ensure that you understand critical issues and legalities surrounding the selection and registration of your new business website address/URL.
  • Website Domain:  Research the pros and cons of having an exclusive and primary website domain vs. a sub-domain. There is the argument that sub-domains will cause many to perceive your business as less professional/successful because you have not acquired your own domain. In the case of your own domain, you purchase the exclusive right to your own primary/proprietary domain. If you have a free hosted website platform where you have not purchased a domain, your website or blog URL will include the name of the site host in addition to your own chosen business/URL name. A sub-domain has a much longer/elongated URL address which is much more difficult for people to remember accurately.

Website Development

  • When looking at which website or blog hosting service you wish to acquire, pay particular attention to not only price (free/premium) but all conceivable aspects of functionality, what add-ons will be charged extra, domain stipulations, terms of use and so on. Also, check customer reviews in detail. Are there any highly negative comments that would cause you to raise a red flag? Be sure that in the event you wish to go to a different hosting service in future you are fully able to transfer your site content from the current to the new website.
  • Restrictive Functionality:  You will find that the level of site builder functionality varies between website hosting services. Are plugins included or are they a chargeable extra? What features are included (or not) i.e. shared or dedicated hosting, managed WordPress hosting, type of servers i.e. Windows/Linux, data storage and transfer limits, and more. Research hosting service reviews on sites like PCMag.com through searches i.e. “top website hosting services”.
  • Website Navigation: Plan for the website navigation menu and parent (primary) vs child (secondary/sub) pages in advance. Base your website pages and content on the purpose of your website and how it will best represent your company brand story development and core products, services or cause presentation and promotion. Assign easily recognizable web page names to avoid guessing or visitor navigational problems from occurring. If a visitor feels confused about where to go on a website and ends up struggling to find the desired page, they will click out in anger and never return.
  • Site Search Engine Optimization:  This aspect of website development remains an essential component and plays a critical role in how visible your website will be to search engines, how well-represented your core business focus is and the kind of content quality and user/informational value visitors will find when they arrive on your landing/home page. You should have determined your core set of keywords/keyword phrases in advance. 
  • Be sure to research in advance all current and relevant content requirements as defined by search engine algorithmic updates and related guidelines. Do NOT leave this to chance and attempt to determine on your own what is or is not critical in this regard. Google is by far the largest and most authoritative search engine on the internet today. Refer to Google Webmasters for support and tools/resources. Do NOT ignore the Google guidelines with respect to website content.
  • Take the critical time needed to research through industry experts like SiteProNews and Social Media Examiner to become aware and understanding of current SEO best practices. Google launches periodic and fairly frequent algorithmic updates and guidelines, therefore you cannot simply develop your new website or blog site based on guidelines at the time of your business website launch alone. Always stay up to date with frequency through research to avoid dismal website/page ranking and poor positioning in search engine results pages. If your site is placed beyond the first or second page of search results on the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask are currently the top 4) your site will be virtually invisible or ignored. Most people do not review sites listed beyond the second results page of their search.
  • Site Navigation:  Again, research expert articles regarding best practices for website development. Site navigation must be quick and easy for your site visitors. Statistically, new visitors to a website will spend no more than 7 or 8 seconds on the landing page to sum up in their mind whether they are on the right track for finding the information they want and need and if they cannot find that information fast they will click out and never return…another potential customer lost. Refrain from getting artistic about names you choose for your navigational (page title) tabs. If your visitors have to guess at which page tabs to click on and discover they have arrived at the wrong page, they will be frustrated and click out permanently.
  • ‘Responsive’ Website Design:  The number of internet browsers today are doing so via ‘mobile’ technology in addition to or instead of a desktop or laptop computer. The rising number of web browsers on mobile is staggering and increasing to eventually become the most common way to browse the internet while on the go. The portability of mobiles allows users to connect online wherever they are over the course of their day. As such, make doubly sure that your website is ‘mobile responsive’; critical to reaching a huge segment of the market who now opt for the portable online means to browse the internet.

Website Content

  • Once again, I cannot stress enough the importance of researching in advance to find best practices for your website content including your blog articles and your other primary pages where highly informative content tells your visitors/prospective customers exactly what services you provide or products you offer or what cause(s) you would like them to support.
  • Determine in advance how best to structure your page content, how much content is recommended, the type of visual elements that best represent what you offer and most relevant to the subject matter of each page, how to optimize images through “alt text”, best practices for search engine optimization in terms of content quality and practical usability, infusion of keywords and their density, the use of semantic wording, phrases and sentences vs keywords
  • Enhance user experience by linking from one of your website pages to another. Use ‘organic’ words and phrases that occur/read back naturally within the context of your content. This practice also helps to improve page/site ranking by the search engines. The more visitors click on such navigational linking, the longer they remain on your website, a key indicator of visitor engagement to the search engines.

Page Titles and Headline/Subheading Formatting/Tagging

  • As you can see from my article headlines and subheadings here, I have applied an alternative font color and font size in order that the headlines (or subheads when used) are readily visible. Stay as close to only two textual content colors only that tie in well with your website and logo theme colors. I have also formatted each of the primary article title (H1) and subheadings (H2) and by doing so, such formatting is a clear signal to search engines what the article entails as a whole and in part through the subheading and bulleted information throughout the article. This formatting of content supports the search engine bot scanning for page and site ranking and ultimate search engine results page (SERP) positioning. This type of formatting is a critical and powerful form of SEO that all website content writers need to implement to increase their overall site/page rank.

Website Content Quality & Informative Usefulness to Customers

As a business owner/administrator today who is reaching out to their potential/targeted audience for the purpose of attracting new customers, clients, or increased website traffic, engagement and purchase decisions, newsletter and blog subscribers, new leads generation, authority/expertise building and more, you MUST get away from pushing the sales element of your messaging to your reading/site visiting audience.

For years now, the consensus for web content best practices included heavy keyword and keyword phrase content (to the point of virtual keyword dumping or ‘spamming’). The major search engines no longer accept that type of black hat approach to website content development. Website browsers/users/searches are sick and tired of being constantly bombarded with nothing but heavy-handed sales pitches; “buy me, buy me, buy me”. 

Current expert consensus reveals that content marketers need to focus on what is best for their potential customers and develop their content accordingly. High-quality content that includes website content that is highly informative and immediately usable by our site visitors. Focus on your audience’ wants and needs through your content vs. that undesirable sales pitch.

Speak to your audience in a clear and concise content presentation that is easy to understand and identifies specific problems that your various customers experience, and identify how you and your products or services can solve those problems and make their life easier/better. Your readers should readily identify with the problems and solutions that you present as their own! Differentiate yourself from your competition by showing them why they should pick you or your products or services as the better choice, the better solution for them.

Specific Customer Problems & Solutions

To illustrate the foregoing, I will share with you who my typical and potential clients would be based on the services I provide and what solutions I offer that will help my clients realize best possible results with their textual content or copy. This is a general overview rather than an exhaustive itemization but the following will give you a sense of where your focus needs to be in terms of customer/client services or product development and sales and how you should represent them in your website content and online and offline marketing efforts accordingly.

Authors:

Whether a first-time publishing author or a seasoned pro in the publishing sphere, my author clients will approach me on several different fronts:

  • they want a solid start to their publishing endeavors right out of the gate with a clean, error-free, fluid, consistent, highly engaging and polished publication product that provides a first-rate reading experience for their potential customer market.
  • they want their readers to build in numbers through solid reviews, extensive sharing of their marketing copy and consistently growing readership through their product excellence, marketing and advertising efforts and consumer referrals.
  • they are experiencing difficulty producing unique and highly engaging content that differentiates them from competitor authors (of which the numbers of new authors has grown exponentially).
  • they have a general difficulty with the writing essentials of the English language including typos, spelling and syntax errors, incorrect grammatical applications, errors or oversights in capitalization, flagrant misuse of punctuation, poor structural/developmental or substantive content presentation that results in inconsistent, choppy, confusing storylines, inconsistent character development and more.
  • they have the drive and prolific writing dynamics which result in exceptional reader experiences and they have an unquenchable desire to reach the bestselling author distinction but need guidance in terms of how to achieve that desired and lofty level of publishing supremacy.

As a textual editor, proofreader, formatting and writing analyst, I provide the essential services which resolve the types of issues described above and/or help the author move ever closer to the bestseller circles through superior publications quality and reader experience. Be clear on this point: an editor or proofreading professional does NOT rewrite the author’s manuscript in part or whole. Our role is one of defining technical issues and suggested revisions to address those issues.

Editorial Services

Through a three to four-round content analysis process, it is my function to identify errors and omissions that are intermittently evident through my client’s book or novel manuscript and suggest correct applications and/or wording alternatives that would otherwise enhance the reader experience. The level of my participation in the overall editorial process depends on what my client is seeking as necessary from their perspective and/or my own perspective once I have had an opportunity to peruse the submitted manuscript copy.

In addition to the editorial aspects of publishing services I also provide manuscript formatting consultation and services to ensure that each manuscript submission is fully compliant with publisher guidelines. Where manuscripts are submitted with conflicting format issues that result in a poor reading experience, the publisher will reject the submission until such formatting issues have been fully resolved.

Copywriting Services

One of the critical elements of book or novel publishing is the ‘book description’ which is otherwise known in the publishing industry as a marketing tool known as a ‘sales pitch blurb’. This descriptive element on the author’s retail page is one of the first things a visiting consumer will review when determining whether to make a purchase. There is also opportunity within the ‘front matter’ and back cover for similar marketing copy which is designed to enhance and further the purchasing decision process. Where an author client does not feel they have sufficient skill in the marketing content writing side of publication, I provide copywriting services accordingly.

Business Professionals

Business professionals, whether a company owner or senior/marketing executive, will approach me to seek my advice and editorial/copywriting services for their communications and marketing content, advertising copy, website content, brand development, recognition, increased website traffic and engagement, enhanced marketing strategy for increased sales volume, optimized internal and external communications and more.

The challenges that business professionals faced can be multifaceted and not necessarily skills-related. Time restrictions for a company executive may ultimately be the biggest roadblock for them to effectively and efficiently produce the right type of copy presentation that drives business decisions, employee adherence to company models or guidelines, sensitive communications.

A business professional also needs to ensure that whether in-house or outsourced, the company’s marketing and advertising copy is exceptional in its delivery and revenues are enhanced as a result.

As a content/copy editor and writer/copywriter, I employ similar services as described above for author clients but more heavily focused on the textual content or copywriting disciplines to achieve mandated results for business professionals.

In closing, there are parallels to be drawn with my editorial and writing/content development services on behalf of clients. Each in their own way aspires to arrive at a superior product or service level which in turn helps them to achieve their own respective objectives in terms of product development and sales. 

Irrespective of overall project objectives, you will want to deliver the best possible product or services experience to your own clientele or customers. Maintain a clear focus on what the client wants and needs to resolve their problems whether specific to the individual or company you service or more industry centric as a whole. Develop your content, marketing and advertising copy and communications to the highest standard and presented to the client from their own perspective.

Effective Problem Solutions & Customer Trust

Offer highly relatable solutions to the problems specific to each client and you will see positive change in your overall customer experience and revenues. People respond to those product and service providers that they establish trust in and know will have their best interests at heart. Results driven customer services focus wins the day.

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© Don MacIver, Lasting Impressions Editing 2017; All Rights Reserved

Inspiration Fills the Inkwell; Finding Blog Post Topics


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Choosing a Business Blog Subject

 

As a businessperson today with a website where you present and promote your products, services or a cause such as a charity, one of the most important elements on your website menu is your ‘blog’ page. How many times have you opened up a new document file to start writing and you hit a wall? Sound familiar? You are not alone. Let us take a closer look.

Your business blog is an instrumental vehicle for demonstrating your authority level on subject matter that is highly relevant to your business and will be of the greatest possible interest to your targeted audience. You want to demonstrate your expertise, show off your chops and legitimize your business. Your blog is the perfect place to engage your audience by sharing highly informative, current information that will help them solve a problem they need to address quickly.

When deciding what subject you would like to address in each new blog post, consider what you offer through your business and what customer problems you resolve through your products or services. That question alone should raise a host of potential subjects to write about in your blog. Scan through your website for ideas to write informative content about. From that browsing, you may think of additional post ideas. Before you begin to write a new piece, do sufficient research and see how other industry professionals have covered the same or similar subject matter. Keep your approach fresh.

Content Management System (CMS): Still stuck on a subject to write about? Here is where organizational tools like content management systems (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal come into play. You may already have your own favorite CMS tool to work with so you are off to a great start. A CMS in simple terms and format is a file where you create an itemized series of data that will be used for the creation and scheduling of blog content.

On the surface that sounds complicated but you can keep it as simple as necessary for your own purposes. Even the use of an Excel file may suffice. The whole idea of CMS is to generate content in advance of posting dates in an organized system that gives you the foundation for your blog article content. At a more advanced level of CMS development, you can even populate a completed blog post directly into that CMS system integration or retrieval on the designated date(s) for posting.

The starting point for your CMS data fields will be your blog title draft. That drafted title will serve as a cue for the desired subject and posting date and you can always revise that title as desired for the final post. Once you have that title in place, you can begin to develop the blog content. To make the process more streamlined and less stressful as the posting date nears, add condensed content data or concepts to your additional CMS fields. When you are ready to write the blog, you have already established the main premise of the article and all the integral elements of information that will fill out the piece in an organized and highly informative way. Beyond the blog title, your organizational fields for each post may look something like this:

  • Blog Title
  • Paragraph subject matter
  • Resources for blog information
  • Secondary, relevant information
  • Closing paragraph content

The foregoing is a generalized overview but it gives you an idea of how to plan for your blog post development without the stress of starting from scratch as your post date draws near. Let us face it, whether you are a full-time businessperson or have an employer and running your business part-time until things get rolling, the less last minute panic you have to face the better.

Life is demanding and when you set firm deadlines for your blog posts (and newsletters), that organization goes a long way to helping ensure that you have clear, concise and well-presented content that your audience will thoroughly engage in.

 Where to Draw Your Blog Inspiration From

Now that you have your content management system in place, you need to populate it with an ongoing, calendarized succession of blog topic ideas. Set aside ample time to sit down without distraction and brainstorm blog subjects with special attention to the relevance of the subject to your business product, services or cause and the level of interest your targeted audience will have.

Initially, your brainstorming activity may bring up a lengthy list of potential subjects to share with your subscribers and new site visitors. That is a great start. You should plan for content at least two months ahead and ideally be looking even further ahead. As mentioned previously, you can always revise a subject as new ideas avail themselves.

Resources for Blog Post Ideas

When you have reached that proverbial block wall or writer’s block that is the time that you will likely need to look to outside resources to get ideas to spring forth a new flow of potential blog subjects. Those subject ideas may come in the form of generalized suggestions but that will most often influence and inspire the right blog content matter for your future posts.

When I need to find help to determine my next and future blog post subject matter I look to finding those ideas through search engine queries.

Semantic Search

Be aware that the search terms you use to find answers through search engines and what method you apply to finding those results are changing frequently depending on Google search algorithms and related updates.

The growing trend in 2017 is to apply “semantic search” terms in your queries. Google is now leaning very much toward looking for search results that are related meanings to semantic search terms. Keywords continue to have importance and relevance to search queries but plan to create semantic search terms to closer align with Google’s current priority and emphasis on search results geared towards increasing use of the semantic long form search terms.

I most often determine my own blog post ideas independently drawing from business-related experiences with clients and observing their interests based on issues they may be having. For the purpose of this article, I have drawn from two sources, Entrepreneur and Molly Green, both which list a host of blog ideas and are well worth a look.

Definition – What does Semantic Search mean?

“Semantic search is a data searching technique in a which a search query aims to not only find keywords but to determine the intent and contextual meaning of the words a person is using for search.

Semantic search provides more meaningful search results by evaluating and understanding the search phrase and finding the most relevant results in a website, database or any other data repository.

Techopedia explains Semantic Search

Semantic search works on the principles of language semantics. Unlike typical search algorithms, semantic search is based on the context, substance, intent, and concept of the searched phrase. Semantic search also incorporates location, synonyms of a term, current trends, word variations and other natural language elements as part of the search. Semantic search concepts are derived from various search algorithms and methodologies, including keyword-to-concept mapping, graph patterns, and fuzzy logic.”

Techopedia.com

Some of My Business Blog Topic Favorites:

From Entrepreneur.com:

  • Popular Blog Post Linking & Contribution: Seek out popular and relevant blog posts by other bloggers and industry professionals, share their perspective, add your perspective and link to the original blog post. This not only pays their efforts forward but also helps strengthen your own expertise or authority level. Notifying the blog post writer of the favorable mention and link back also helps to develop strong alliances between you and the blog host.
  • Link Roundups: Similarly, to the first topic shared above is to collect a multiple of external professional perspectives and include the links back to each source in your piece.
  • Current Trends: Sharing industry news that is trending or an otherwise hot topic not only helps to keep your subscribers informed but it also elevates your authority level. When I run my searches for my latest blog posts, I always include the current year in my search terms. That way, almost without fail you find new information that is fully current that your subscribers likely have not become aware of yet.
  • Discussing Plans: This feature blog is always a good one because ardent followers are anxious to know what is coming up in future blogs; your company events, awards you have received, changes in your company structure or perspective and much more.
  • Posting Industry Relevant Videos: Video has become such a powerful medium for website content. The better the quality of the video content, the better the chances of having that video (and your site in turn) shared to subscribers’ social media platforms and more.
  • Create Podcasts: Here is a terrific and powerfully engaging way to really attract new web traffic and enhance visitor engagement while reducing your site’s bounce rate (visitors clicking out after only viewing the linked landing page on your site.) You do not have to be a broadcasting expert to share valuable and helpful information with your site visitors.
  • Create Infographics: Yet another powerful way to engage your audience. Create graphics that illustrator statistical information and data. Your blog sharing will increase measurably!
  • Highlight Your Business Failures: Talk about your business endeavors that simply did not work, why, and how you turned that failure into a positive. You will be a hero to business entrepreneurs if you steer them clear of making the same mistakes themselves.
  • Regular Feature or Series Articles: Share relevant industry articles that you know will be a hit with your audience. Another great approach is to create a series; subscribers will love the progressive sharing of related information.
  • Personal Ambitions Features: Share your early beginnings with your business. Detail how the whole idea developed, what inspired you and what dreams you have for the business moving forward. People love to read inspiring content.

From Molly Greene, Author, and Writer:

  • Features; Writers & Industry Professionals: Share with your audience links to articles by people that inspire you greatly. Your subscribers will love to get to know something of what you love to engage in.
  • Who To Follow in Social Media: Another popular share of information. Share page links of prominent industry professions, especially as relevant to your business and audience’ interests. The ever-increasing daily use of social media platforms by people around the globe makes for a great opportunity for you to refer your audience to people you feel your audience will find valuable new connections and benefit from new perspectives.
  • General Interest Posts: This is a category with virtually limitless subject potential and people will engage readily to any number of current topics. Including subjects of relevance to your business and industry are important.
  • How-To Posts: This type of article or blog post continues to be a powerful draw for readers. People love to learn how to do things of interest, especially when that information is free! There is great article sharing potential with these posts as well.
  • Feature; Guest Interview Posts: This is also another extremely popular method of capturing audience attention. This type of post is often in textual or podcast formats. People love to listen to an expert perspective on podcasts and it is a great change of pace from the standard blog post or article.
  • List Posts: Again, here is yet another type of blog post or article that grabs people’s attention. These posts are often highlighted with bullet points, subtitles and the like which make it easy for the reader to scan for their preferred information or topics.
  • Opinions, Rebuttals, Trends, Debates, and Predictions: Again, a nice touch of spicing things up by sharing information from hot or trending topics that you know will be well-received by your readers. Who doesn’t like a little heated but constructive debate? This kind of posting affords you all kinds of variations on topical themes. Use discretion when it comes to controversial or sensitive subject nature. You may take a few hits of negative response.
  • Repurposed Articles: This is an effective way to periodically save yourself a great deal of research and writing time on a blog by revising an older post of yours with new updates to make that story even better than the original. Where a subject resurfaces as a trending topic what better way to participate and gain exposure than to repurpose some of your articles in this way!
  • Resources & Reviews: There is any number of ways to draw ideas from the latest resources and reviews that will help your readers gain perspective for their own endeavors. I often share news hot off the press with information on important aspects of self-publishing, related software, book reviews and more for my author clients. When I see highly informative research articles relevant to my business and clients, I am more than happy to share that information with links to the source files.
  • Social Media Posts:  
    • Mp3 files, podcasts – example: Blog Talk Radio interviews.
      Talks and/or roundtable discussions on Skype.
      Narrative videos (you need to be comfortable with the camera).
      PowerPoint presentation video + commentary as you talk viewers through the presentation.
      Videotaped interviews.

Google Hangout recordings – check out Fraser Cain’s Perfectionist’s Guide to Marketing Your Hangout on Air.

As you can see, there are so many different and interesting ways to add relevant and fascinating blog material, presented in fresh and different ways, to keep your audience tuned in! If you are still struggling at times with creating new and highly engaging content, run searches for trending topics and even topics that were covered some time ago. See how those subjects have been presented by industry professionals and develop your own version and perspective to each story that reinforces and promotes your brand and voice recognition.

Be sure to click through on the links provided above to see the full range of blog post ideas and bookmark them for future reference. By simply browsing through these lists, you will surely be inspired with other ideas at the same time!

 

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

How to Decide Between Self-Editing and Hiring a Professional Editor


Pen on white backgroundShould You Self-Edit or Hire a Professional?

As an author or writer, a business professional, marketing or advertising expert, you have created a book manuscript, document or promotional copy that will soon be published or otherwise distributed to its targeted audience. You have a daunting task: Do you perform the proofreading and/or editing exercise independently and release your content for public consumption/purchase or do you hire a professional textual editor/proofreader to execute this phase that will bring your content to its critical and polished best presentation?

Decision Factors

That is a loaded question and not one that you should take lightly. Consider these factors very carefully when making that decision:

  • Are you publishing your content for retail purposes?
  • Who is your targeted audience and does that audience include the potential for business revenue development?
  • Is this your first of such published/distributed materials or one of many and what has your audience response been so far? Has your content been response-driven? What is the metrics of reader response indicating to date? Have your documents or published materials performed as anticipated? Did your results meet or exceed your objectives?
  • Has your audience response in terms of actions taken been measurable and as intended? If not, what will you have to do to change your audience response?

When you are creating content for a company and/or client project or for direct revenue purposes, there is a considerable amount of pressure (internal/external) for optimum results in terms of the foregoing questions, how effective your content was in stimulating audience response and to what degree that response met or exceeded expectations.

Consider what is at stake if your content is not the best it can and needs to be. What efforts in terms of time, resources and investment have gone into the project? Has your return on investment (ROI) met and exceeded your expectations?

Objectivity

First, make sure that in making a decision your perspective is an objective one. Take an honest look at your content and be completely honest about self-assessing your capabilities with respect to your writing skills and equally as important, your level of knowledge and skills to effectively analyze and revise your work as necessary to bring it to a professional polish.

Seek an Outside Opinion

Have a colleague, family member, friend or other parties take your content for a test drive. Ask for their unbiased impressions of your work without any sugar coating thrown in…a straight up assessment or review, thumbs up or thumbs down! Avoid negative results by thoroughly examining your content before taking it to the next level. Beyond the surface level of the content and its delivery, are your reviewers finding a significant number of issues that require rewriting or correction?

Editing Decision Touch Points

The following is a series of keywords or phrases which need to be considered when deciding whether to engage a textual proofreader/editor for your content. These are the skills and expertise level indicators to consider as an expandable list (not all-inclusive) of the many elements of content development and revision that I do as a professional proofreader/editor:

authors               bibliography           book manuscript editing

bookmarks             border design          caption

change                markup charts          citations

clear formatting      cohesion               column orientation

columns insertion     content development    content layout

content sequence      copyediting            copywriting

cross-reference       developmental          document comparison

drop cap              editorial role         endnote

English editing       Flesch-Kincaid Standards

fluid progression     font face              font size

footnote              formatting             grammar

gridlines             headlines              hyperlinks

hyphenation           image alt text         image insertion

indentation           insert footer          insert header

line spacing          lower case             macro

margins               mark entry             mobile content

multiple page viewing outline level          page break

page breaks           page orientation       pagination

paragraph structure   postscript             problems

proofreading          publishing             punctuation

quick parts           readability           reader engagement      

reference navigation  references            review                 

reviewing pane        revision balloons     ruler                  

section breaks        sentence structure    signature line         

solutions             source management     special indents        

spelling              split window          storyline consistency

strikethrough         style guides          styles

subheads              subscript             substantive

symbols               table of authorities  tables

tables                text align            text box insertion

text wrap             thesaurus             track change review

trim size             typos                 upper case

watermark             web layout            word count

Common Misconceptions

A writer/author/creator’s greatest fear is that their content will be changed by the editor to the extent that their storyline, intent, meaning, and objectives could be seriously altered or compromised. Avoid such issues with a proofreader or editor before any editorial project gets under way.

The editor’s contract should clearly reflect that the integrity of their client’s work will be maintained during the process without clear and advance discussion and authorization from the client otherwise. The primary objective of the editor is to clarify any evident ambiguities or inconsistencies to content copy to enhance its delivery to the reader and to effect revisions that will correct typos, spelling errors, discrepancies in grammatical correctness, punctuation and sentence composition.

The ‘polish’ that an editor puts on a document, known as ‘proofreading‘ is meant to incorporate the correction of errors in spelling, grammatical and punctuation issues. More extensive ‘editing’ of a developmental or substantive nature is an analysis of the content through which to consult with the client to alert them that there are inconsistencies in the message delivery or storyline. The editor role does not incorporate re-writing of such content elements unless there has been an advance extension to the services agreement for the editor to do so. That kind of change, which involves greater involvement by the editor, will naturally add cost to the services agreement.

Good Story or Message Composition vs. Bad

As the writer, you need to be aware that if your storyline or copy content is mediocre in its development and does not pack the punch that it must have to achieve the desired results, resolving such issues is the responsibility of the author/writer/copywriter. I am writing this article for the various types of client projects I specialize in but the premise in this regard is the same. The writer of the content must develop their own individual skills in content development and delivery in order to realize the maximum possible success that they might achieve.

You may not possess the ultimate writing skills and technique to deliver that stellar content the first time around but if you are doing due diligence to do extensive research, studies and content refinement, your content quality and how it is received by your audience should improve as you gain experience. An editor or proofreader is NOT a ghostwriter. He or she will provide content analysis and revision. Writing better, more exciting or convincing/engaging content remains the job of the author/writer/copywriter.

Do Not Take Critique Personally

Repeatedly I have heard stories or, at times, experienced first-hand, that a client has taken an editorial comment as a personal affront. As the originator of that written content, own your responsibility as the content creator. Accept their role as editor for the objective analysis that they provide for the writer during the editing process. Do not allow that assessment to become personal or confrontational. The editor/proofreader is on your side! This seems a little off track for this article but the point is that you do not want to lose perspective to the extent that it dissuades you from engaging an editor for future projects. They are indeed there for a purpose.

Self-Editing Is Important

The first step to take once your content is completed, in a draft, is to set it aside for a few days, refresh and come back to your project to undertake a self-editing process. Take your time with this process. If you tear through the proofread at a break-neck pace only for the sake of meeting your publishing submission target date, the result is missed issues that require correction. Be very cautious about establishing hard deadlines for submission. Make sure that you have adequate time for the entire proofreading and editing process to be completed. That process is as important as the writing of the content itself.

Anticipate problems with the editing and polishing phases of your project. Base that anticipation of adequate time on the length and complexity of the project itself. Refer back to previous projects as a reference point and judge accordingly. If you do engage a professional editor to undertake the final analysis and revision process, establish a timeline that they anticipate they will require to do their part and wherever possible, keep your submission date a soft deadline.

I have seen clients get terribly anxious and stressed because they did not meet their original submission date. Maintain perspective on what is more important: a deadline for submission or the best possible quality content possible. In the case of a hard and fast deadline for submission in conjunction with a collaborative project involving a multiple of contributors, make sure that your advance lead time is more than sufficient for all of these processes to be performed thoroughly.

If issues of a more extensive nature arise such as storyline inconsistency, structural or copywriting revision is required, the time to do so is often greater than the original composition. Again, the priority has to be on the content quality first.

Multiple Round Editing Process

Be aware that the professional proofreading and editing processes involve several rounds of focus on specific elements of content analysis. Typically, that process, especially where the client elects both editing and proofreading services, are three or four separate rounds for complete, front to back content analysis and revision. The process is separated out into a multiple of rounds so that numerous elements of the analysis can be more effectively and efficiently addressed rather than an exhaustive all-in-one round which could result in issues being missed.

Type of Editing Services Needed

Editing can be considerably more extensive in the process that proofreading. They are two clearly defined and separate processes. Proofreading includes checking for typos, spelling errors, grammar, punctuation and sentence composition analysis. The author/writer needs to decide their writing strengths vs. what services they engage through an editor. If the author/writer were unsure of the extent of services required, the editor would most often seek a representative sample of the content to review in advance of starting a project. This advance review will give the editor some assurance that the content before him/her is consistent with the quality of content throughout the manuscript or document. Where the editor sees more than average issues in the sample they may ask for a larger sample or assess a greater fee structure that will reasonably meet the additional work that will ensue with the project.

If the author/writer were unsure of the extent of services required, the editor would most often seek a representative sample of the content to review in advance of starting a project. This advance review will give the editor some assurance that the content before him/her is consistent with the quality of content throughout the manuscript or document. Where the editor sees more than average issues in the sample they may ask for a larger sample or assess a greater fee structure that will reasonably meet the additional work that will ensue with the project.

Selection of an editor should be one of the first things the client determines so that they are comfortable with cost and can plan accordingly. There will still be a review of that representative sample to help alleviate any concerns on the part of the editor. It is not unheard of that extraordinary issues crop up well into a manuscript or document that was not evident in the initial review. In that case, there is usually a provision in the editor’s contract for a fee adjustment if deemed necessary.

Proofreaders and editors should always address any extraordinary issues as soon as they become evident by discussing those concerns with their client. The editor should never undertake to do extra work without first having obtained advance permission from their client to proceed. In doing so, the relationship between the editor and client does not become strained or compromised.

An author or writer can always obtain more than one content sample review before deciding on whom to engage if they feel the need to do so. Obtaining a referral from a fellow author or writer can also go a long way to minimizing any issues that might arise during the course of the editing process.

Research to Find Experienced and Highly Regarded Editing Professionals

Taking the time to locate successful and highly regarded proofreading and editorial professionals will pay huge dividends in the long run. Most often people conducting a search for products or services will seek to find local professionals, failing which they will expand their search. Remember that editing professionals provide their services for clients around the globe.

Essentially all services for document proofing and editing/publishing are currently completed electronically on a laptop or desktop computer, often including client communications by email or online video calls through Skype, Google Hangouts or Facebook Video Calling. When long distance separates the editor and their client, communication by telephone is much less frequent for obvious cost control.

Take advantage of resources that are typically found featured on editorial professionals sites. Familiarize yourself with these resources as a means to enjoy direct benefit when it comes to your content development, editing, marketing and where applicable optimizing for search visibility. There are many free and paid tools for writers and editors that greatly enhance organization, accuracy, innovation, presentation, formatting and much more.

Great examples of highly informative and resourceful editing professionals include An American Editor and Louise Harnby whose sites are richly enhanced through resource and industry links. Both of these seasoned editorial experts are outstanding writers whose on-site blogs are highly informative. They are well worth a visit to advance your practical knowledge base and writing/publishing objectives. Both editors have published as have I.

Self-Editing is an Important Phase of the Project

It is a highly recommended part of the writing and publishing process that the author becomes involved in the editing phase with every publication project. Developing improvement in your proofing and editing skills is important. It will actually help your writing process as you become more aware of your content quality as you write. To a degree, it will help reduce the extent of proofing and editing required by a professional. It will not necessarily result in dramatic savings though, especially if it is your first time working together.

Even when self-editing your work, it is highly recommended that you plan to engage a proofreader/editor for the final analysis. An external, professional analysis of your work helps to alleviate the possibility of issues occurring. Your objectivity can affect how well you proof and edit because the writer tends to be over-confident about their editing capability and thoroughness when self-editing. Your process can become a glaze over because of over-confidence and close familiarity with your work. At the end of a long writing project, the writer’s eyes will be fatigued and that ‘lazy eye syndrome’ results in skipping over content and missing important issues that require correction.

There is also the level of editorial knowledge and skill to consider. In addition, focus on what your overall objective is for your project. Keep in mind, too, that the publisher will also anticipate a quality content submission, as they will not publish inferior products to the buying public. Doing so affects their revenue stream as well as your own. If you begin to receive negative reviews about content quality, consider the valuable lost time to pull the project out of retail, go through another editing process, resubmission and further publisher review before the project goes is finally approved and goes live again for public purchase.

Effective self-editing and proofreading demand that you develop advanced knowledge and skills. The English language is complex and typical elementary and secondary school studies of the English language and grammar are not at the level that is required for content development. Take the time necessary well in advance of any content distribution at a professional or publishing level, especially when self-editing is the sole or only level of editing planned for your project.

My recommendation here insofar as hiring a professional editor reflects what this industry supports wholeheartedly and not in a self-serving way. Whether you are a publishing author, content writer or marketing, and advertising copywriter, if you do not have the in-house expertise, you will have to outsource your proofreading and editing needs. You have enormous competition out there vying for the same market share and anything short of the highest possible quality will fall well short in terms of your bottom line.

Testimonials and Reviews Speak Volumes

Seek out solid testimonials from any editing professional you are considering. Nothing is more powerful than the direct word of previous or ongoing clients of the professional editor under review. You can see examples of my own client testimonials which are featured on not only the Testimonials page but also the Home page. Be aware that even testimonials published online or in print may not be the real deal so be prudent in following up directly with the writer of such testimonials if at all in doubt. Editing professionals will usually be more than happy to seek the permission of their raving clients for prospective client contact provided their client’s wishes as to the means of contact is satisfied.

Not every editorial professional has a university degree in support of and relevant to his or her services. Through years of experience in various vocations, where they possess an exceptional command of the English language, they are solid candidates in their own right. To avoid frustration and disappointment, opt for personal and professional editing for optimum results. Editing takes tremendous commitment to ensure a consistent, painstaking focus and effective process. There is no room to leave your desired results open to chance.

My sincere best wishes go out to everyone in the pursuit of excellence; getting it right the first and every time will help make a significant difference in your bottom line.

Tips for Building Strong Client Relationships


michael-dam-258165Your clients are your business so it stands to reason that part of being a successful business person is building a healthy relationship.

Our associations are a two-way street where building, maintaining and strengthening our relationship is important. Frustration leads to disconnect. Preservation of relationships is good business sense and helps foster respect and the provision of referrals and even future business potential with the same client(s).

A solid relationship means a much more enjoyable process and is an essential component to success whether from a personal or professional perspective. The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Maintain perspective by placing yourself in your client’s shoes.

The Foundation for Client Relationship Building

  • Contract: Establish a clear and concise contract with your client. It is essential to any service provider/client relationship that a clear and concise awareness with each client is established to ensure that they understand what your role is and is not. Setting out a clear set of key service touch points is essential – define agreed upon services in advance and pinpoint any relevant limitations as to the extent of the services provided. A contract protects the interests of both parties and should automatically improve your relationship.
  • Get to know each other: Discover each other’s interests.
  • Ask Questions: Asking questions develops greater understanding and avoids problems later on; do not make assumptions. Ensure that clients are part of the process through their own observations.
  • Be Decisive: As the service provider, carefully and objectively weigh the various elements and scope of the work being considered; decide what is within your level of expertise and which areas extend beyond what you are comfortable with. Be honest about not having the qualification for a requested service…willing to say no when it is prudent to do so. Saying yes to those elements of the project that are comfortable will ensure that your client’s overall challenges are made easier, less complicated. The more services you can package the greater your overall value to the client will be.
  • Problem Solving: Invariably, challenges arise over the course of a contract; the unexpected occurs or becomes evident. We are hired to solve problems and the more issues we can resolve the better the experience will be for you and your client. As concerns arise, alert your client to those issues to seek their input. Offer to help resolve those issues. By virtue of the terms of the contractual agreement in place, you may already have a degree of flexibility to resolve such issues automatically, being careful, of course, where any additional cost factor is imminent.
  • Clearly Defined Role: Our value to our clients is enhanced the more we are able to help them solve problems but our role in the relationship must be clearly defined. Maintain professional boundaries that we are careful not to overstep so that the ongoing business relationship is not compromised.
  • Stay On Point: Maintain focus on the contract and all relevant deliverables and timelines. Doing so helps to solidify the relationship. Deliver what has been promised and then some. When the client has a sense of getting even more than was expected your relationship is all the stronger. That extra attention has to be tangible.
  • Initiative & Flexibility: There is often more than one way to approach services and related problems. Position yourself as a learner, open to new ways of addressing challenges. Each different project may have similarities in the process yet also present a number of variables that dynamics of the new client relationship will necessitate a different approach to resolving. Be mindful of such variances, explore them and be prepared to review them with your client in order that mutual agreement to solutions is obtained.
  • Work on Your Relationship: As with personal relationships, the business relationship with a client requires an ongoing process of development and enhancement. Avoidance of issues and enhancement of your relationship can be costly not only in terms of each other’s perspective but also whether you have a future business relationship.
  • Honesty & Integrity: Refrain from overstating the truth about your product or services. Be completely honest about those services that your business cannot provide for your client and they will appreciate that honesty; a strong foundation for a lasting relationship is developed as a result.
  • Remember That Clients are People: Be sure to focus on early conversations with your clients; their name, likes and dislikes, interests, things that your client has shared that are distinctive to them as a person. Be conscious of indicators through conversation that will help you serve the client’s needs.
  • Be Courteous, Professional, Friendly: How many times have you felt frustrated when you asked a clerk or manager about a product or service and their response was rude, assuming and standoffish. Do not allow a background negative issue to cloud your potential to help a potential new client. They had nothing to do with your past or present issues.
  • Negative Body Language: People will sense or outright recognize how you feel being around them. Maintain a professional and open posture when conversing; avoid crossing legs and arms, slouching, yawning, rolling of eyes, muttering as though irritated. Smile and maintain eye contact to assure your client that you are fully interested and engaged in their needs and that you want to help them resolve their need or problem. Because every person’s situation is in some way different or unique, treat them as such. Be yourself, be attentive and ask questions relevant to what the new client is saying. Don’t try to fast-track your conversation. Make a genuine connection and the rest will fall into place as it should.

Recognizing the Value of Each Client 

Developing solid footing with new clients and maintaining that relationship is critical to sustaining a healthy and growing business. We want to ensure the successful completion of every single client project and, where applicable, pave the wave for a healthy and ongoing relationship into subsequent projects or ongoing services.

Keeping Your Client Informed: Clients expect that they are kept well-informed throughout the process of their project services. They don’t want to be left in the dark, receive ambiguous reports that leave them unclear as to the project status or any issues that arise. Effective communications are essential to a strong working relationship. This has to be your top priority in serving your clients well. Provide regular updates and advise them regarding issues that arise.

Be Resourceful: Share information with your client that they will deem useful. Always seek ways to add value to the client services specific to each client’s own needs. On the other hand, avoid superfluous detail, irrelevant issues, gossip and stay clear of providing offers that you know will be of no interest to them. If you come across as opportunistic your clients will resist and develop a negative perspective of your motivations.

Anticipate Problems: Promptly advise your client when problematic issues arise that could compromise or otherwise negatively affect the project you have been hired to do on their behalf. Never attempt to sweep such problems under the rug and hope they will somehow quietly disappear. Being evasive with a client can be seen as defensive or unaccountable and may seriously compromise your relationship.

Recognize Client Loyalty: When fortunate to have established a long-term relationship with a client, recognize that ongoing business association as truly valued and exceptional. Never take such a valued relationship for granted and assume that will always be the case. Honor that exceptional relationship through client rewards; special attention and client benefits such as discounts or other benefits not extended to other clients. Develop new ways to extend your appreciation and thanks for their continued and valued association.

Realize that as your client relationship continues to nurture and grow, mutual respect and appreciation becomes the trusting binder that solidifies a relationship. You will become, in essence, a partner to their enterprise, an ambassador to their cause. Your relationship will continue to grow and their level of comfort recommending you to associates and business or industry partners will be more and more forthcoming.

Address Client Concerns Objectively: Be sure that you are aware of client concerns raised either about project process or direct concerns they have regarding your approach to a project issue. Don’t skate around the issue, don’t become defensive and don’t pass off your client’s concern(s) as irrelevant or insignificant to the success of their project. Examine client issues from their perspective as well as your own.

As an industry professional you have been approached by your client, or they have been referred to you, for the expert services you have to offer. You are indeed an industry professional and as such have a responsibility to your clients and to yourself to not only fulfill all aspects of your contract with them but to maintain your own professional integrity in the process.

Decision to Continue vs. Discontinue a Client Relationship

Decision Whether to Sever a Client Relationship: This is one area of being a business owner that can be especially difficult to deal with; on one hand, you may have an issue with your client’s perspective on a given concern with your services to them, while on the other hand, you may be putting off the inevitable solution. If you feel strongly that your client’s concern about any issue is not justified and more a matter of a perceptional issue, how long do you continue to fend off a major confrontation?

There are two sides to every issue of course; your client’s primary concern is to please absolutely everyone on this earth who may be a potential customer of their own. On the other hand, you, as the servicing business professional, approach client issues on the basis of which solution is best for your client. There are times when a client issue just will not go away for whatever reason. You have done your utmost to meet and exceed their expectations yet there is a perceived lingering issue that your client just cannot get past.

At some point as a business professional, you have to either come to a clear resolution to the problem at hand, failing which, after all reasonable attempts to find resolve are exhausted, you have to make a decision; to continue or discontinue your relationship with that client. The client needs to understand the extent of the impact their issue would have in terms of their overall project objectives and if their concern would appear ill-conceived in any way, perhaps closing off the relationship would better serve each party to the contract.

Such is the day no business professional wants to experience and it means the loss of business of a valued client yet to belabor an issue unnecessarily by either party is disruptive to the forward progress or continuity of the project. The consistent flow of the project is altered and the service provider/client relationship is perhaps irreparably compromised. At what point does one or the other party (or both mutually) decide that you are deadlocked over an unfortunate issue that defies reasonable solution to each party’s satisfaction? At some point, sooner than later, a decision has to be made.

When a Client Relationship Ends, Let it Go: Above all else, as a business professional, establish good business practices and principals, make carefully considered business decisions and stand by those decisions. Don’t waffle back and forth in attempts to regain a wayward client relationship. If either party to the contract steps away, then accept that decision and respectfully let it go.

As a business professional, you cannot become defensive or aggressive at a point of difference of opinion or perspective. Be flexible, be reasonable and accountable, but when the relationship is failing and would appear unsolvable, respect the other party and sever the relationship. Be courteous and appreciative even in this event because you never know when a former client will approach you again after a passage of time to reflect and reassess. “Don’t burn your bridges” by shooting arrows of frustration and anger. 

“We build too many walls

and not enough bridges.”

Isaac Newton

~

Photo c/o Michael Dam, Unsplash.com

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

 

Authors; How to Handle Negative Book Reviews


frustrated_writerAll authors publish their written works with every anticipation that many will see their work and that every single review of their book or novel will do nothing but lavish praise on the author and profess the reader’s unwavering devotion to the author as the reader’s first choice in personal reading. The reality is that authors need to anticipate negative reviews and keep things in perspective.

As an author, you check your book sales pages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your other various publishing platforms, eagerly anticipating increased number of sales and solid, supportive reviews that will further help to establish a positive credibility and reputation as an accomplished author.

The fear of receiving a negative review for your publication is on the mind of most authors and in most instances, publishers are not inclined to remove those negative reviews because they want to maintain a realistic balance when it comes to the potentially broad range of consumer response to your fictional or non-fiction masterpiece. If all reviews were strictly positive, would that not give the perception of unfair bias and potential manipulation or control of your market?

As an author, you want to reach out to your readers and encourage that they share their impressions of your latest publication. Reviews are a powerful means to building confidence in the browsing consumers who have landed on your sales page. Just seeing a multiple of four or five-star review ratings can stimulate consumer curiosity and draw them to the book description to find out more.

The frustration of seeing negative reviews and the fear of the ‘negative’ impression that those less than raving reviews will have on your sales activity is probably keeping you awake at night trying to rationalize the painful process of objective criticism. You are not alone!

As an author, it is essential that you maintain perspective when it comes to a negative review. Read those critical reviews carefully as in many cases the customer will have realistic issues whether it be typical editorial issues such as spelling, punctuation or grammatical issues or more in-depth structural issues such as confusing or conflicting storylines from one chapter to the next, character or location inconsistencies, story progression that lacks a fluid transition, lack of substance or anticipated excitement. The entire editing process that you exercise before the submission of your manuscript to the publisher should painstakingly weigh all of those issues to be sure that your story is sound and fulfilling in every possible way.

 Ways to Deal with Criticism

  • Consumer Exposure: On the plus side, when readers take the time to write a review they are providing you with public exposure. The mere fact that they are expressing an opinion about your book demonstrates sales activity on your publication. People possess their own individual perspective on what they read. How others will perceive their comments will be in direct contrast to what other consumers want to read. Consumers will develop their own opinions.
  • Establish Your Own List of Fears: It can be a most unnerving experience to publish a book, especially your first release. All kinds of questions and critique may come from readers that perhaps you did not anticipate. Did you put forward the best possible reading experience through your story? Your book goes live and all of a sudden your exhaustive writing process is out there for the world to see. Keep a list of potential (or actual) negative comments that might arise. Take criticism as valuable critique, address those issues in your manuscript that require revision or correction, republish the manuscript and get over the critiques…move on. 
  • Importance to You and Your Readers: Keep things in perspective. Do you have an ever-increasing readership tribe who thinks the world of your books? Are the vast majority of book reviews you receive highly positive in nature? What do you want to achieve with every manuscript you develop? Keep your own writing objectives in mind. If you allow insignificant or even blatantly incorrect criticism to overtake your focus on your writing you will not be able to produce an outstanding product through your subsequent publications. NEVER become obsessed or distressed by periodic negative reviews.
  • Focus on Positive Reviews: It is list time again! Make a list of all the positive comments you receive about your books from mere satisfaction for having read your story or more specific details about what the reader loved the most…and wants to see again! Are their positive perceptions as you had intended? Did you deliver best reader experience? Take the critical time to receive a good pat on the back for a job well done through those positive reviews; they are your core audience who will return for more repeatedly! Affirm in your own mind that you are indeed a gifted writer and have a solid grasp of how to engage your audience.
  • Every Author Gets Bad Reviews: What? Really? Even the most well-read authors, including bestseller authors, get negative reviews. When you get an ungracious response to your book through the issues the reader had are they relevant? Do they have merit? Decide how you can avoid that type of reaction in future books. Use those negative reviews to plan and structure your next novel in a way that would avoid such perspective. You should also keep in mind who the individual is and what bearing that has on their comments. There have been instances where a publisher has discovered that an author, even a very well-read author, had written bad reviews or hired someone else to do the same in an effort to discredit a competitor in their genre market. Legal action ensued and the publisher will no longer accept the offending author as their client.
  • Website & Social Media Commenting: Today’s publishing world quite naturally leaves an author vulnerable to public expression of their works. This can be a scary experience for some writers. In most online places like websites, blogs, and social media the public has the opportunity to post comments on virtually any subject including their impressions of your publication. Authors cannot cower, terrified about the potential for negative reviews. Most of your public audience will take negative reviews at face value and given the many more positive reviews, will want to experience a great read for them.

Perspective is Everything

Are Negative Book Reviews Constructive or Flaming?

When I received my first negative review it was on social media. At first, I felt sick that I should fall victim to a negative trashing of my written works. As an author, you really have to look at where that negativity is coming from.

First, is there any substance to the negative review that backs up what the person has stated? In that particular instance, the reviewer’s comments were generalized in nature and really made no reference to a specific issue with my content. I was confused and increasingly angered. How can anyone publicly put down an author’s content and neglect to substantiate what they were saying without backup through specific instances or points of reference in the book? Have they, in fact, read my book?

Do Not Respond in Anger!

Keep in mind that negative reviews are a matter of public visibility. In publishing/distributing sites such as Amazon.com, there is no option for deleting a negative review. There is merit to the question of whether an author should have that discretion but that issue is for another time and place.

It is critically important that you, the author, should never be angered by throwing down a harsh or angered response in return. By responding with anger, doing so will only serve to give readers the impression that you are acknowledging the harsh criticism by becoming defensive. We cannot expect every single review to be a raving two thumbs up nor should we ever suggest it publicly. Constructive criticism is a healthy aspect of learning, being more attentive and growing as a publishing author. The best response from an author is to produce an even better publication in future, the perfect opportunity to minimize readers’ opportunity to become critical.

Survey Bestseller Sales Pages

A great exercise to alleviate fears about negative reviews is to face those fears right up front even before you publish your first book. Do the following exercise with me:

At the very moment of this writing, I went directly to the homepage of Amazon.com whereupon I entered the search term ‘bestseller books 2017’ into the Amazon site search bar. At random, I clicked on bestseller author Sue Fortin’s ‘Sister, Sister’ publication. It is noteworthy that Fortin is a USA Today bestselling author. On the title and tagline at the very top of Ms. Fortin’s sales page for ‘Sister, Sister’ is an overall four-star customer rating. Right next to the star rating is a current count of 334 customer reviews.

Now, scroll down the sales page until you arrive at the section titled ‘Customer Reviews’. Here you will find a graphic illustration of the rating percentages as cast by reviewing readers ranging from one Star rating as (2%) of all ratings cast to four and five Star ratings by the vast majority of reviewing readers at between 29% – 53%.

If you then click on “See All Reviews” you will see a breakdown of ‘Top Positive Reviews (275) and to the right, you will see “Top Critical Reviews”. As a percentage of total reviews to date, that equates to 83% Positive Reviews over 17.66% Critical Reviews. Those are significant percentages and most importantly the percentages of positive customer reviews far outnumber the critical reviews. I have not referred to the one to three Star ratings here because they are substantially fewer in numbers and therefore of least impact to this comparison.

Start Reading A Sampling of Critical Reviews for ‘Sister, Sister’.

It really is interesting to engage in ‘Critical Reviews’. With all due respect to the individual reviewers (because their opinions about the publication certainly do count) read their comments carefully and consider the substance and specifics as they are articulated or the absence of it. Are the comments highly generalized or substantive in support of their rating chosen? Even in the case of a reviewer’s sole comment being “Spellbinding” their rating was only three Stars.

In another instance, a reviewer states “I haven’t read a book this bad in about 5 years.” This comment shared a one Star rating. Again, these review comments have significance and relevance from the reviewer’s perspective.

Now Engage in The Positive Reviews for ‘Sister, Sister’.

I will make no further direct reference to individual ratings and reviews as I believe it is important that you, the reader here, draw your own informed conclusions based on what you see throughout the body of the Reviews section of this author’s sales page.

I would encourage you to go back to the Reviews section of numerous authors, including ‘bestseller’ authors, through their respective sales pages and look very closely at what is said in the reviews and how their statements relate to their overall rating. It really is interesting to see the broad range of reviews and star ratings, whether for a newly published author or a seasoned pro that has made their way into the lofty ‘bestseller’ ranks.

Many authors share their perspective on negative reviews that they receive and how they handle them personally. A good many have stated that they ignore negative reviews completely and avoid destructive distress or distraction that would interfere with their writing process…period. They would also urge that in the end after all is said and done you will continue to write and publish. Reviews can be used in a positive way where an author feels that a critical look is constructively pointing out areas of writing which indeed do need the author’s attention.

Most importantly, re-read your positive reviews frequently and especially those that provide you with a detailed perspective that clearly illustrates the powerfully impactful ways your book has influenced their review comments and why they will continue to seek out your future publications. Use those positive reviews as an affirmation that you are a wonderfully capable author and keep writing. You obviously have something exceptional to share and have discovered the critical formulas for reader engagement!

© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

The Art of Successful Writing


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It’s All About the Reader Experience

From as far back as my childhood days in elementary school, I clearly recall my fascination with words. Our teachers would speak with determined reference to the ways in which we needed to express on any number of levels through the many complexities of the English language.

Of course, in our very early elementary school teachings, those lessons were fairly simple in terms of what children that age could reasonably understand, absorb and apply both orally and in writing. Our preliminary task was to learn to speak the language and learn how to print, neatly and with deliberate and neat penmanship. Those words that we related to the most and were most often used in our day to day conversation were an early focus in class.

With each passing year, the importance of learning how to speak, read and write the English language became of greater importance, more and more complex. Grasping the spelling and meaning of each word was increasingly important, as was an understanding of just how complex the language really was. And then came the revelations of thesaurus content wherein lay a whole other dimension of the language through synonyms.

Well into the mid-secondary school period, we became more and more deeply engaged with the language through our studies. Written assignments became a routine part of our daily learning experience. Our teachers used the assignment process as a means to gauge our individual knowledge, understanding, and application of the language. I remember very early on feeling a sense of wonderment for the language, our language that was used in every conceivable aspect of people’s lives whether for personal reading, eventual writing as a profession, vocational requirement or creative endeavor.

Once into my secondary school years, I became increasingly aware of just how complex the English language was. We began to study not only advanced spelling of much more complex words and sentence structures but also a more in-depth study of the grammatical aspects of the language. This was pretty heavy stuff and for many, English Literature was tedious, boring, confusing and confounding. Many of my friends would question why we needed to know all that stuff, to begin with.

Well, when we eventually delved into the study of historical masters of the language, both structurally and creatively speaking, even more of the class began to wander their attentions to idle scribbling in their notebooks and banal daydreaming to while away the hours. Many would frequently check the big clock on the classroom wall, counting the minutes down to recess, a break from all of the mundane study sessions.

I look back on those days with a clear recollection of my own curiosity, no, fascination, with learning the English language, reading assignments and writing book reviews. The first time I held a novel in my hands was a milestone I will never forget. It was like diving into deep, darkened waters to unchartered depths of exploration and discovery for me. I kept those thoughts to myself because, quite frankly, kids in the day thought that anyone who was engrossed in reading studies was a ‘geek’, unusual to say the least.

Early into my high school days I began to have a sense that, even though I did not have a clear idea of what career direction I wanted to take, somehow I envisioned it having a lot to do with writing, communications, anything along those lines that would be an essential part of how I would make a living.

The study of poetry was for many an abstract, a nonsensical journey into waters that most students felt that they would never ply. What application could there possibly be through the use of poetic verse in our daily lives, right? Yet soon, I would develop an inspired thirst for the study of poetry. It led me to an appreciation for uniquely creative word, phrase and sentence composition that took a tremendous amount of focus to write effectively. Years later I would develop a lifelong passion for writing poetry.

I soon developed an even greater appreciation of how content development, in general, would form the basis, the foundation for more comprehensive writing applications that I would use throughout my entire career. My parents recognized my innate sense of excitement reading, especially fictional novels that I brought home from the library. One day mom brought home a box set of Hardy Boys mystery novels, hardbound and engagingly illustrated on the front cover.

I quickly became hooked on those Hardy Boy classics and read them repeatedly. My home library collection grew with each new publication and soon I would be into Nancy Drew mysteries and more. I would be fixated hour after hour, consumed by the gripping storylines, the suspense and wondering at the final outcome of each story, not wanting to put the books down when called for dinner. I would often read late into the night on weekends.

I loved the way the author developed his or her characters; their unique appearance and personalities, their voice, beliefs, interests, likes and dislikes, and their role in the story. And then there were the physical settings that surrounded individual scenes which rounded out the story. It all played out in my mind as a cinematic scene in a motion picture at the town theatre.

I recall punctuation being one of the more challenging elements of writing that I found difficult to grasp. I had an uncle who was a well-known journalist in both the newsprint and radio media. He was an artist and created the most incredible sketches with a graphite pencil that I have seen to this day. I began to read his newspaper articles, primarily editorial and sports columns but he later ventured in the most impassioned way into the political commentary and critique arena. He had a tremendous thirst for stirring things up and politics was just the thing. He struck out with a more unconventional and often controversial voice that had many readers incensed but truly got their attention and response. Those were my early lessons in reader engagement.

The more I read Uncle Gord’s columns, the keener my interest for writing became. I was fascinated about how he developed his storylines, how he captured interest and attention through the words he fashioned, how he painted a picture through every story told. The tremendous power and effectiveness of his word and phrase use and his very sentence composition was a marvel. I even fascinated at how each and every paragraph transitioned so fluidly to the next.

As a teenager, I was beginning to have a strong sense of where my career direction was meant to be. I decided to go on to college and study journalism. My interest and apparent strength lay in the printed media. I would work for newspapers, reporting stories from out in the field about any number of interesting subjects. I would interview important and learned people in order to establish and support my storylines.

While my passion for writing continued to grow during my college studies, the romance with journalistic reporting lost its shine, its polish for me and I did not pursue completion of those studies nor that vocation in life. Still, I would eventually forge on to management roles with a Crown Corporation that would be the beginnings of a life-long career in property and facility management. It was during those thirty years as a professional in the real estate management industry that I would apply extensive written communications on a daily basis.

Once I experienced the managerial roles in the real property industry, it was then that I quickly became aware of just how important effective written, and oral, communications would be in the course of my daily management and reporting of property operations to our clients. I was required to communicate in a clear, concise, informative and persuasive way, with clients from all walks of life. I would address property issues through all matter of supportive external service providers of daily or periodic services to our clients from trades-related contractors to architects, engineers, lawyers and industry professionals.

The strict rule of thumb within that Crown Corporation and all of the subsequent private sector firms that I was engaged by was to provide factually sound, informative and engaging communications and written reports to all clients and stakeholders. My accuracy and effective ‘voice’ through my written communications had to be delivered with the utmost clarity, consultative expertise and meticulous in its execution every single time documents were distributed from my desk. Critical decision processes were imminent from my communications.

Anticipating the extent of my focus on the written word moving forward after secondary school, I undertook to study intense, in-depth elective and college courses in English, grammar, and business management and communications as a precursor to my successive management years in a career that truly demanded exceptional oral and written communications skills. There would be absolutely no room for contextual error when it came to professional communications whether oral or written.

I learned the fundamentals of a storyline and communications development right from the opening sentence to set the voice and tone of the piece and what the reader could expect throughout its message, to the main body of the content delivery and final paragraphs that drew informative recommendations and conclusions. The content that I wrote was very often extensive in nature and complexity and was ultimately eight to ten or more pages in length. Even at that length, I was to cover a high volume of information and client recommendations in a clear and concise manner. Brevity to the point of confusion was never an option on the table. A lot was at stake if my message was somehow misconstrued.

The Art of Reader Engagement

The strength in communicating in an ‘engaging’ way goes far beyond mere logistics and factually informative report writing. In addition to writing highly informative content, the reader’s attention easily becomes distracted, especially the longer the overall length and depth of a piece is. Writing in a conversational voice becomes an essential element of reader engagement more now than ever before.

People’s time is harried; condensed into split seconds of engagement or distraction. Get to the point and give the reader what they are looking for and the sooner the better. Cut out superfluous content that would otherwise be characterized as ‘fluff’. Cut to the chase and make your point, especially from a content marketing perspective! What people will engage in is informative content that identifies the very problem they are experiencing and how best to go about fixing that problem, making their lives better, easier, more efficient, more cost-effective and enjoyable.

We often view ‘art’ as an ‘expression’, a unique and creative oral, written or painted/sculpted delivery of one’s thoughts or ideas whether spoken, on paper or online, even physically formed in an artful way that brings a pleasurable, inspired audio or visual experience to its audience. The beauty of any art form is strictly in the eye of the beholder…or is it? Is the perception of art by design for the divine graces of the beholder or is it mere aggrandization of its creator?

The art of reader engagement is all about the reader experience.

Today, when appealing to the emotions of your intended reading audience in writing, the critical element that delivers ties that bind is forming a connection with our readers through their emotional response to our content. Speak to your audience in a conversational tone…share with your readers through your own voice rather than second or third person.

When you relay a story as part of your message delivery, infuse the human touches that your audience can directly relate to. Consider a love story unfolding in your novel. What is the lighting like? Is it overpowering, glaring, unromantic or gently subdued? Are your characters yelling out to each other from separate rooms or are they close, but a movement’s touching away? How are they breathing? What are they gazing at? Are they resisting or embracing the imminent connection? What is the tone of their voice in conversation? Is it a matter of fact, suggestive, evocative?

How do we know we are making that important connection?

As writers, much of what we write is intuitive, off the cuff, instinctive progressions of ideas and circumstance which tend to lead the story where it is willed to go. It may follow our intended path of logical direction and flow but it also may weave its own directions between points A to B as would feel most natural under the circumstances.

We are a curious lot as creatives. We write as it feels good to ourselves. We develop a smug reliance on our instincts for brilliant situational development and resolution. Nancy is falling in love with Tom and that is how the story will end…right? Well, not necessarily. Writing as creatives, we hunger for what lies outside the box, the surprise element, a long way from what may seem logical.

In the literal sense, an artist will begin their project with very little or no sense of what they are about to create and allow the construction to go where it will. Here is what I, as a creative, experience when writing poetry or prose:

  • I first develop a conceptual idea for each piece.
  • As with a storyline, I envision a beginning, middle and an end.
  • I begin to write my piece from that concept.
  • I always have that ending in mind yet most often new ideas form in my mind and the piece takes on an entirely different direction and meaning.
  • I structure or shape my ending, my close, based on a new and fluid conclusion to the piece as it has progressed.

During its writing, I read back every word, every line, and every stanza repeatedly. Is its progression fluid, is it clear and engaging? With each new line, I read back again, always repeating that analytical process. I am incessantly reading back through the eyes of my readers, always. It is the reader experience that is paramount. Am I evoking an emotional response? Is it appealing and compelling for its intended audience or would it better be expressed another way?

I obsess on whether the reader is tearing up or grinning from ear to ear. Am I just being a coy and manipulative ass or am I producing something truly meaningful and never self-serving? Now, self-serving is a whole other matter to address and even though one’s content should never be overtly that, there is a quiet sense, as a writer, of the desired self-fulfillment, always. Still, my content always aims to resonate with its intended reader…without exception.

Content Revisions

Regardless of the genre or intended audience, whether a fictional novel, a university dissertation, business communication, content marketing or advertising copy, the primary objective is to write content that fully resonates with the reader. It has to echo, in other words, the reader should be able to relate personally to the content. It should invoke an emotional response. Editing or revision of content brings that content to its most clear and concise delivery while still delivering an enriching experience for the reader. The ambiguous becomes more clear, more appealing and a more natural progression toward the conclusion of the chapter or piece overall.

Revision fine-tunes, makes greater sense, hones in on specifics, filtering out redundancy, superfluous wording, laying bare a truer and more assuming path for the reader to walk along. When describing an action or reaction, use specific description to clearly explain a character’s train of thought to substantiate their response.

As you write, place yourself squarely in the shoes of the character in the moment. Each of their actions or reactions must emulate their personality under a particular circumstance and how that might change during other extenuating circumstances. It has to fit. If your reader does a quick about face there is an immediate and confusing disconnect. As the architect of the story, we need to always be acutely aware of the logical action and reaction that fits each situation and its participants.

In the writing process, if I have done my job you should be sensing the emotions of the characters and in response, you may well feel emotions of your own whether empathy or sadness, supportive or standoffish. In the course of reading, we experience our own sense of emotional responses, some that are powerful enough that our general response to similar circumstances in real life may change in kind. If we are going to interject an out-of-character response in the story we better resolve that displaced response with reasoning accordingly.

What does a creative writer do?

When I say ‘creative writer’ I am doing so from a fictional perspective as well as in the sense of written communications business to business or other specific targeted audience. We are ‘creatives’ in the sense of how we develop our content or copy. We develop the words and message for our intended audience and purpose, right?

We create or write and then were reread over and over again. Then we revise our content or copy through a series of tweaks as we examine our words, under the microscope, from every angle. Does it suit? Does it appeal? Does it invoke the intended response? Does it compel the reader’s own response and/or desired action? We must always read through the eyes of our audience.

We must always be mindful that each and every reader has their own personality, their own belief structure, their own likes, dislikes and reactions to what they see, what they hear and feel when they are reading. Our content should always compliment the reader’s intelligence and innate sensibilities, their potential personality, sense of humor and logic, wit and fancy.

Revisions are for the benefit of the reader and rightly so. Anticipate the changes being made during the editing process and how that might alter the reactions and responses of your readers in kind. Anticipate your readers’ perspective from various angles. As a writer, gauge your own responses as you read back your content and ask yourself how your varied and diverse readership would react in kind.

Build on your story through anticipation

Whether writing your first novel, business communication or advertising copy, it is essential that you write and revise through the anticipation of what it is your readers will be anticipating as they read progressively through your content and how they will react or respond. From a content marketing and advertising copy perspective, register a problem that you know your targeted audience is experiencing, build on the emotions being felt about that problem and show your audience how you can help them overcome that problem.

The approach to writing your novel is not dissimilar. Build a problem into a situation or scene, carefully anticipate your readers’ potential reactions or emotional responses and move the story or message forward with a most logical conclusion or solution to that particular problem.

Write with purpose and direction but the flexibility to allow for change

As writers, we fashion ourselves as conductors of an orchestra; flapping our arms and hands as directional overtures that guide our individual and collective musicians to act and react in response to the intended course of the composition score. As the music plays out in response to our direction, sometimes a wayward yet keenly enthusiastic and artistic soul among the collective throws in their own sense of musical prowess. As a conductor with an acute sense of hearing, you sense an errant series of notes, subtly off course yet curiously intriguing to be sure.

So you strike out for the cessation of sound as you awkwardly collect your thoughts. Then and without undue fuss request that the wayward musician replay that series of notes, audacity aside! Much to your astonishment, you, the masterful conductor, suddenly experience the unexpected; an alternate yet surprisingly pleasing and well-suited interjection of background accompaniment that works even better than the original score. What follows would be a rather furious recording of the new and preferred enhancement of the musical score, with a discreet nod to your ‘co-writer’ as subtle approval and signal to the collective to repeat the overture accordingly.

We must read back our work with an open and receptive mind to change.

Regardless of the source, our intuition becomes imperative in the moment. Trust your instincts, gauge your reader response and go with the subtle nuances of revision as the story or message progresses and as we read back repeatedly during the editing process.

It is the allowance for unexpected change that will shape and reshape our story or message in the most meaningful ways. As in life, we experience many twists and turns in the journey and must adapt to those changes which, for the most part, are positive. We can always alter our course when anticipated changes are not the most suitable to the storyline, message and solution conveyed.

Have you ever sat bolt upright in bed, shocked out of a dead sleep only to groggily awake to brilliant notions for a piece you are writing? Has it caused you to laugh out loud in the triumphant glory that such a critical idea would somehow startle you out of dream state, about your writing project no less, and render your storyline or copy superbly better conveyed? Well, I certainly have experienced that flash of unexpected light and regardless its origin it had me scrambling for the light switch and my pen and writing pad to get it down before the thought drifted in tatters out the open window!

Never take for granted the subtleties of revision on the winds of change. Some things were just meant to be!

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

Essential Elements of Effective Writing; Plan, Draft, Revise, Proofread and Edit


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Avoiding Problems

Editing and proofreading are critical elements of the writing process but make sure that you give equal and unwavering priority to the writing process itself. Read on…

When writers make haste with any of the essential steps of content development the end result can be a document that lacks clarity, confuses the reader, will appear poorly conceived and lacking authority. At the proofreading stage, the task of going back after your content is completed to resolve such issues will add a substantial amount of work and frustration to the proofreading and editing stages.

Proofreading and editing must be an exacting exercise that examines your content right from the title or heading through to the closing sentence of your content. That goes for any content that is to be distributed in professional circles throughout your place of business, published to a website or other online location or a book manuscript published in print or electronic formats. It is a painstaking and absolutely necessary final step of ensuring your content is error-free, grammatically sound, structurally, substantively and stylistically consistent, fluid and solid in presentation and message delivery.

Unless you take the time and exacting effort to follow through on each and every one of the critical steps to the writing process you are running the risk of your readers questioning your professional standards, your expertise or authority level and the critical risk that your readers or targeted audience will not read through the content and never return to engage in your future publications.

Effective Writing and Editing Strategies

Sufficient Time Allocation

Be sure to allocate sufficient time for articulate, clear and concise content development, proofreading and editing. Create an advanced timeline on a calendar or content management system software that will ensure that you stay on track and on topic. Leave room for unanticipated delays.

Keep in mind that there is nothing worse than scheduling your work so tightly that if any unforeseen distractions or delays occur you are cornered into a stressful and frustrating situation, especially if hard deadlines for submission are on the table. Also, anticipate sufficient time at the conclusion of the project to fully execute the proofreading and editing stages AND time to go back for further revisions and an additional round(s) of proofreading if necessary. So much can be sacrificed by rushing content development only to submit your work before it is at its absolutely best form, presentation, and message delivery.

Brainstorming Your Content in Advance

Set down an advance chronological sequence of content layout, format and subject matter. If you don’t have a plan in place to achieve specific objectives with your content according to its intended audience, your distributed or published material will lack the relevant focus it needs to have the optimum impact on your reading audience. You will also find inconsistencies in your content flow or progression.

From a marketing standpoint, clearly envision ahead of time what problem you are addressing that your readers will typically be faced with and what the best solutions are for your readers or customers to implement to avoid problems and make their life better, smoother, more enjoyable and prosperous.

Research and Knowledge about Your Resources

You should have a solid grasp of essential grammatical and citation rules that apply to the type of content you are producing. If you are getting into unfamiliar territory with the proofreading and editing disciplines you should consider bringing someone into the process that is proficient with resolving spelling, grammar, punctuation and all that is entailed with proofreading and editing textual content.

Keep essential tools such as on or offline dictionaries, thesauruses, style guides, research documents and relevant articles, handbooks and more. Having a skilled and competent mentor available when you need clarification is also a valued asset to the process. At every step of the way, if in doubt refer to those resources rather than leaving the task for the proofing and editing phases which can become monumental works of their own.

Identify Your Vulnerabilities  

Set down on paper a list of those issues which you tend to make errors on; in doing so you will minimize the editing process later on. By following a list of your common challenges you become much more mindful of avoiding those various errors line by line through your content development stages.

The Proofreading and Editing Processes

Many writers elect to print out a hard copy of their content on paper as a preferred method of reading back their content for proofreading and editing purposes. Professional editors and proofreaders will often elect to print for their purposes as well. Errors are often harder to detect on a computer screen. A related practice is to use a straight edge i.e. a book, blank page or ruler to control the eye’s focus strictly on each line being examined to ensure that you are fully focused word by word on each line.

When reading large volumes of written content it is common for the reader to experience a ‘lazy eye’ or scanning/glazing over of textual content. As the author of such content it is easy to become over-confident in your own writing accuracy and the habit of quick scanning of content rather than deliberate, focused attention to every detail becomes a risk. As such, even with repeated rounds of proofreading, you can quite easily fall into this glazing over habit with repeated missed errors as a result.

After your written work has been completed plan some time to sit back and relax away from the project before sitting down for the proofreading and editing processes. Rest your eyes and your mind for a few days before returning to your content. Review with fresh eyes and clarity of mind! You will be much sharper in readiness for this critical phase of your writing.

As an early detection and issue identification process during the writing stages of your content, you may wish to implement software such as Grammarly.com’s online extension for grammar checks. Do not rely solely on any such software to fully identify and resolve the many English language issues that can arise during the writing process.

Read Content Back Aloud

A great way to help you maintain focus is to read back your content out loud. By doing so, you will audibly hear and detect obvious inconsistencies in content delivery, confusing wording or phrasing or material generally out of context with the subject matter. Reading aloud forces you to focus on the text itself rather than the theme or specific ideas being presented. Sentence fragments are a very common issue with many writers. They tend to write as they would speak however incomplete or fragmented sentences are not grammatically correct, read poorly and are often confusing for the reader.

Reading Content Backwards

You may be scratching your head right now at this suggestion but it is also a highly effective method of tighter focus on individual letters and words during the proofreading process. It forces the eyes to have an even narrower focus on individual words, their spelling, sentence completion and comprehension and overall cohesive flow of content from one paragraph to the next.

Have you ever found that in second or third rounds of proofreading you are still missing errors? The problem is very common and goes back to my reference earlier here of the author becoming over-confident in their own writing accuracy. With that over-confidence brings the bad habit of scanning or glazing over content rather than a strict focus on every single letter, word, phrase, and sentence throughout your content.

Think of editing this way: Clean, clear and concise content that informs, inspires, educates and/or entertains is critical. Just as critical is presenting error-free, grammatically correct content and that your ideas flow consistently. When readers and especially potential clients, business associates and influencers read your material, it is critical that they have an extremely positive, impressed and enthusiastic response to your content.

That being said, why would you risk losing that critical new audience, collectively or individually, through sloppy textual content that is riddled with the type of errors already raised here previously? The same goes for purchasing customers of your novels. Make your body of work the best it can possibly be.

thClosely Check Your Punctuation

Punctuation is one area of textual writing that is often overlooked. It is an area that demands advanced study and understanding and should never be second-guessed during the writing process. For anyone well-versed in proper punctuation, nothing looks worse than sloppy, haphazard or misplaced and incorrect use of punctuation.

The English language is highly complex. Unfortunately, the educational system typically glazes over proper grammatical practices. For anyone who aspires to become a published writer or in any way must produce accurate, informative and highly polished and professional content through their place of employment, their business or otherwise, taking appropriate courses in advance to gain that essential knowledge is a must.

Where you do not possess such knowledge you will need to hire a professional proofreader and/or editor to undertake the proofing and editing phases of your content development prior to its distribution or publication. You can utilize MS Word’s built-in spelling and grammar check software as a starting point to the process once your content is ready for proofing but we aware that such software, free or purchased, is not infallible. The software is not human and as such, even through extensive programming the software cannot and does not fully detect spelling and grammatical errors.

Because programming cannot fully address the detection of any and all types of textual content errors for issues such as correct proper name spelling, sentence fragmentation, every instance of proper punctuation and grammar applications, the final examination authority rests with human eyes. The technology just isn’t that far advanced that it is even close to being perfect at this point in time.

Run-on Sentences

Like many of us, it is very easy to find yourself writing elongated or “run-on” sentences. The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Standard was established by scholars years ago which address this issue in the overall presentation of textual content writing. I have focused on these various elements addressed by the standard in a previous article and will not cover that range in this article again today.

The Flesch-Kincaid Readability principles have become ever more critical in today’s world of huge demands on people’s time and focus. This has become statistically evident even more so online where effective content presentation is essential to content marketing and retaining our readers’ short attention span. In a time when online searches produce relevant content in a matter of seconds and the reader expects to determine in only seconds whether or not they are at the right location for the information, they are seeking, highly engaging content is all the more critical.

Once you have engaged readers in your content, on or offline, you must be constantly mindful that all content is well spaced, with easy to read and understand wording. Sentences need to be kept short and to the point and you should refrain from developing paragraphs that exceed three or four sentences maximum, on average, throughout your content body.

As such, well-spaced content that includes space between relatively short paragraphs gives the reader’s eyes a brief pause or rest before reading on and can actually provide critically brief moments to absorb what they have just read. In turn, this overall formula helps to maintain focus, interest, and perspective during that reading experience.

If that focus or interest begins to wander the reader is more inclined to click out or close the book without finishing the read to refer elsewhere for their reading purposes. In terms of published content like novels that translates to lost revenue and repeat customers for the writer.

Ensuring Proper Citation Presentation

Where you have content which requires reference to its original source for proper authority reference, you will need to ensure that you apply the appropriate format of citation and location (in-text). Also, ensure that the references are properly displayed and located i.e. either ‘footnotes’ for references located at the bottom of the same page where the citation is found or ‘endnotes’ which are located at the end or conclusion of a particular chapter or body of text that the citation is found in.

Proper Quotation Form

When you are providing a quotation of the written or verbalized statement of another, you must be sure to include the word for word content in its entirety. Make sure all quoted content is spelled and worded exactly as it was presented by the originator. The quotation should therefore not be altered in any way from its original content and form.

Obtain Content Feedback

Before going forward with your content distribution or publication, take the time to seek feedback from friends, acquaintances, work associates, industry professionals. As writers, we tend to be so closely attached to our written work that we lose a level of objectivity when it comes to the perceived quality of what we write. We are often less critical and effective when it comes to proofreading and editing our own content objectively.

By getting the opinions and early responses from those objective individuals you can get a better sense of how recipients of your content, whether through business or publication, will receive your work. Will they perceive you as an expert source of information or entertainment and want to obtain more of your future works or look to others for that desire or need?

That outside objectivity will help to identify weak spots in your content that contain an error in fact or are less engaging. Feedback will help identify areas of your content that is unclear or confusing, perhaps not fully consistent with the storyline or forward movement of idea flow.

Taking these steps will help you to ensure that your writing improves and is the best it can possibly be in advance of it going out to its intended audience.

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© Don MacIver 2017; All Rights Reserved

8 Copywriting Essentials to Master in 2017


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1st Rule of Engagement; Stop Selling Yourself & Focus on Customer Benefits!

What essential copywriting elements drive response?  Copywriting has been around for a long, long time and although the focus and perspective evolves to an extent over time as marketing and advertising professionals rethink and reshape, the core principle of copywriting today centers on how your prospective customer or client will benefit; what’s in it for them? Read on to find ways to zero in on best copy strategies for your market.

Lose sight of that focus on how you can help your customer acquire a less complicated, more enjoyable and problem-free life experience and conveying that very story at all times is key to capturing your targeted market’s attention and desire to keep reading what you have to say…and clicking through as directed to find out more and make that critical buy decision.

For as long as memory serves, the sole focus in marketing and advertising copy was centric to ‘Buy me, buy me, and yes, buy me.” Not anymore!

Regardless of ongoing innovations in digital marketing and PPC (pay per click) advertising, writing effective ad copy continues to be the essential factor in driving audience engagement and compelling them to want to find out more and ultimately may offer a prospective purchaser whether what you offer is a product line, services or causes and more.

Be aware that the platforms that we are using as marketing vehicles are in a constant state of flux. We must always stay current on the many changes those vehicles are undergoing. As equally important, the reasons for those changes and how we as marketers and business proponents need to adjust and take advantage of the new and improved version of those vehicles drives new potential in a fiercely competitive marketing arena.

Industry Tools

As demanding as research is in terms of our dedication of time and energy, we need to always be aware and intimately understanding of the many relevant tools and technologies that are developed to enhance our targeted audience reach and engagement. You cannot afford to allow your own strategy and techniques to fall short in terms of ad copy that is not on-point or all of your efforts will lose ground rapidly in terms of relevance and effect.

Master the Craft of Skilled Copywriting 

Take your craft of copywriting skills to the next level through ongoing research and development or your return on your efforts will fall well short of expectations. Be sure that you implement current standards as time passes to that end.

Keywords remain an important part of your copy strategy. Use your core keywords in your ads in accordance with current Google policy guidelines at all times. Never underestimate the critical importance of algorithmic and content ranking that comes with Google updates as they occur, at times twice or more within the same twelve-month period.

Lag behind in your awareness of what the major search engines expect to see in your content at any given time, especially Google, will prove harmful to your website and can result in critical loss of visibility to the extent that all your hard work to develop your hub presence online becomes virtually ineffective and your site ‘invisible’ to those searching for what you have to offer.

8 Copywriting Essentials

1) Write Your Copy to Meet User Needs & Objectives

›  Make sure that you anticipate what your targeted market/audience needs and/or wants to make their lives or businesses better. That takes research so take full advantage of all relevant articles and innovative new data analytics tools which help define who your audience reach includes (demographics) in terms of relevance, interests, geographical location, age, gender, education, vocation and more.

›  Phrase your ad copy very carefully to make sure you are capturing their attention and appealing directly to what those needs and desires are.

2) Use of Numbers or Statistics in Headlines

› Market prospects will often share what their purchase budget is in advance. By including pricing in your ad copy you will help with the consumer’s decision process when they are considering your ad vs the ads of your competitors and what they have to offer.

3) Appeal to Your Market’s Sense of Entitlement

› This area of marketing may be less familiar to you. People today have an acute sense of entitlement. They have strong and deeply personal perspective on what they should be able and are entitled to have in their life not only in terms of lifestyle but also personal belongings/possessions and more. Appeal to that sense of entitlement in terms of emotional response to your ads by your prospective customers.

4) Emotional Triggers

› When writing your brand story and ad copy draw on responsive emotions that will drive reaction and potential decision making motivation i.e. excitement, anger, disgust, fear, urgency. Statements of affirmation and humor also invoke response. Use careful and respectful wording when drawing on these type of emotions so as never to come across in an offensive way.

5) Write Unique, Keyword Rich Display URL’s

› Be aware that diplay URL’s are often of greater interest and relevance for ad copy. Design your ad copy to contain your top or core keywords. Remember that search engines pick up on keyword elements which help to identify what a particular article, blog or website is all about. That is essential to your placement and positioning in search results!

› Remember to always incorporate your core keywords into your website and blog/article headings and body text in addition to the ad copy you write. There should be a direct correlation between your various online presences accordingly.

6) Use of Punctuation to End the First Description Line

› End your first description line after your headline with a punctuation mark i.e. an exclamation mark (!). By doing so your ad may receive an ‘elongated headline‘ if that ad places in the top three search results. An ‘elongated’ or ‘extended’ headline means that the text from your first description line is moved up to the headline. The extended ad headline has the effect of increasing the CTR (click-through rate) of ads. 

7) Anticipate Common Objections with Well-Crafted Copy

› Read back your headline and ad copy repeatedly to make sure that it will have the desired affect on its intended audience. Before even writing that copy, make sure you have fully considered who your intended/targeted audience is and how they will react to your copy wording. Always remember that by staying focused on your ad copy wording you are creating a positive influence when it comes to the reader’s decision process between you and your competitors. When it comes to ad copy, first impressions are critical. There are rarely second chances in the marketing and advertising copy realm of thinking.

8) Focus Your Ad Copy on Benefits

› Last but certainly by no means least is this ad copy essential; regardless of past convention, do not sell yourself or your company by telling people how great you are! This is critical. Understand that they only care about how you can make their life easier or better for them. The consumer today is sick and tired of the age-old marketing and sales approach that is “Buy me, buy me.” They just don’t want to see, hear or otherwise embrace that tactic anymore. They know what advertising is purposed for. Still, their focus is strictly on how they alone will benefit from what you have to offer…so maintain the ad copy focus strictly on them!

Make absolutely sure that your ad copy is clear on what the reading consumer will gain for themselves by purchasing your product, service or cause. Lose sight of this critical convention and you have just wasted a lot of time, effort and advertising dollars (for yourself or your client) only to see your ad campaign fall flat on its face with lackluster results. After all, the ad IS all about the consumer!

For more information on copywriting take a look at this HubSpot.com list of Fantastic Copywriting.