Getting Your Customers To Gossip About You!

This guest post comes to us via Maria Ross, chief brand strategist and creator of Red Slice, a digital elixir of stories and strategies to boost your business, your brand, and your brain.

“Did you hear about So-and-so?  They just launched a new line and it sold out in a day.  Yes, really!  And if anybody deserves it it’s her.  I love her stuff.  Did you know it’s all made in America?  Truth.  Also: her dresses make me look capital h HOT. “

Obviously, you want your customers talking about you + your products.  And it would be great if they were saying exactly The Right Things.  While you can’t control the words that come out of your clients’ mouths,  you can make it much more likely that they’re saying good things if you create a  customer script.

Oh, you didn’t know they needed one?

If brand is all about reputation, than nothing beats it when that reputation spreads organically through word of mouth. You can’t be all places at once, so it pays to turn your customers into your own private evangelist army.

Many big  brands revel in the fact that customers love them so much, those fans will generate content on their own accord – without pay – that promotes the company. Virgin America enjoys YouTube videos created by their happy passengers. Local businesses love seeing hundreds of stellar Yelp reviews from fans.

But you also want those messages to highlight the right things for your brand. Meaning, you have to give your customers a script – or the main talking points – so that the messages they spread are aligned with the ones you want out in the world. Do you want people to talk about your low prices or your artisan craftsmanship? Do you want the first thing they talk about to be your generous return policy or your quirky and fun email newsletter?

What do you want to be known for? What is most important? One way to ensure customers know the script is to ensure that YOU do.

1) Know your benefits
I work with clients to build brand strategies and messaging platforms. Messaging platforms are internal tools designed to keep all your marketing on script for the three main messages you want to communicate about your brand. Make sure you’re crystal clear in your communications about your top three benefits, rather than rattling off a laundry list no one can possibly remember.

2) Know your differentiators
Make sure people understand why you’re different - and more importantly - better than your competition. Call out the competition if you’re strong where they’re weak. Connect the dots for people - don’t just assume they’ll figure it out for themselves. You know your business intimately and may think something is common knowledge, but people might not know you offer a free trial or donate 10% of your proceeds to the ASPCA. Choose your key differentiators wisely and try to map them to your mission or benefits when you can.

3) Know your brand voice
How does your company “talk?” Are you formal and elegant? Are you sassy and slangy? Whatever voice you choose, ensure that it’s authentic, attracts your target audience, and that you use it consistently. If they are not sure what to make of you, they won’t be able to describe you well to others.

Think about a conversation between a customer and a friend. What do you want them to say about you? What do you want the headline to be? Craft your messaging to ensure your top benefits are conveyed everywhere - your website, presentations, social media, ads. This way, you’re arming your customers with the right script to share with others.

In order to control the external message as much as you can, you need to clarify the message internally first. Don’t just hope your customers will say the right things. Craft your messaging platform based on your brand and your authentic strengths and then bang the drum around those main messages over and over again. Pretty soon, your customers will know the script by heart.

Maria’s just unveiled a killer Indie Brand Bootcamp that helps you create an irresistible brand so you attract more of the right people with less wasted effort.  Use code YESPLEASE for an additional $50 off.

photo (without text on top) by coolio-claire

How To Juggle A Day Job + Freelance Work + A Blog + Life

how to juggle day job freelance

Dear Sarah,
I am right now working on my own website and trying to cobble together a little freelance writing business. I was just wondering if you could speak to HOW YOU DO ALL THE THINGS? And HOW YOU DID ALL THOSE THINGS WHILE ALSO WORKING FULL-TIME?  I frequently look over my To Do List and there’s like eleventy jillion things on it. I mean, writing that list is exhausting enough. And then DOING it? And THEN trying to get clients to find me, let alone HIRE ME?!
- Lauren

Oh, girl.  I hear you.  For those of you who don’t know, when I first started Yes and Yes, I worked full time as an ESL teacher. Back then I taught, blogged seven days a week, and took freelance clients. Now I ‘just’ blog seven days a week and take freelance clients.  It’s way easier.

Here are nine things I’ve learned about how to juggle a day job, freelance work, and everything else.

1. Opt for quality over quantity

You probably knew that already, right? But it bears repeating.

It’s better to have two amazing freelance clients, who are a joy to work with, whose work you can proudly include in your portfolio than 10 clients who hassle you.

It’s better to write one perfectly optimized, SEO-ed, lead-generating post per week than five “I just need to get something up!” posts. It’s better to learn how to navigate one or two social media platforms really, really well - rather than fumbling your way through all of them.

If you're looking for permission to do less and to do it well, this is it, <3 Click To Tweet

2. Write less, promote more

I blog seven days a week because I have So Many Things To Talk About, but you totally don’t need to! Create an editorial calendar (Tuesday and Thursdays at 6 am, for example) and stick to it. Write two great blog posts each week and then promote the sweet bejesus out of them.

Because of how we use social media, it’s possible to tweet about something seven times over the course of a week without anyone really noticing or getting annoyed.  I would suggest writing different tweets each time or using different images for Facebook updates.  This will keep things fresh and attract different people.

3. Stop writing everything on your blog yourself

On Yes and Yes, I have four post series that I don’t write myself - True Story interviews, Real Life Style Icons, Mini Travel Guides, and the occasional guest post.  On this blog, I host bring in experts to write about topics I know nothing about.  These posts cross pollinate my readers with my guest posters’ readers, bring in fresh content, and save me tons and tons of time.

4. Schedule everything

Devote a few hours at the beginning of the month to scheduling. Take yourself on a DIY writing retreat and write all your content for the coming month. Schedule client invoices. Use Hootsuite to schedule Twitter and Facebook updates.  Use Boomerang to schedule emails.  I love being able to schedule things months into the future and then forget about them!Life changing.

5. Lovingly and diplomatically establish boundaries

If you live with roommates or have a partner, make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your freelance career.  Don’t let them guilt trip you into a night out when you’ve got a deadline.  Don’t tolerate any “You’re no fuuuuuunnn!” BS.

Before you sign a client, share your ‘collaboration guidelines.’  If you’re months into a professional relationship that’s not working, take a look at these great scripts that will help get things back on track. 

6. Get seriously productive

Make lists, use the Pomodoro technique, download Leechblock.  Turn off your phone and gchat.  If you remember an important task and it’ll take less than five minutes, just do it now.  It’s worth freeing up that brain space so you can stop thinking “Oh, right!  I have to remember to send a follow-up email to that editor!”

7. Realize you’ll have to make sacrifices

Know that in order to make this happen, you’ll have to miss some parties.  You might have to pull some all-nighters.  Maybe you’ll have to give up your $5 coffees.

For the first two years of Yes and Yes, I spent every lunch hour, every weekday, networking with other bloggers.  That’s 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years.   If my math is right, that’s 375 hours that I did NOT spend picnicing in the park or trying the good Thai place down the street. But now I get to picnic all I want!

8. Cut a few corners now and then

You’re going to be really busy getting your career going.  That doesn’t mean you should drop out of the rest of your life, but it does mean you might have to cut some corners.  Buy something at the deli to bring to the potluck, buy gift cards in bulk for Christmas, buy a case of wine so you won’t have to stop at the liquor store every time you’re invited to a dinner party.  Resist the urge to drink all the wine yourself.

9. Remember that you have a life outside of work - and your work will probably suffer if you drop out of your life

As busy as you are, make time for your friends, family, and partner. Get outside. Unplug. Go to art galleries and concerts and costume parties and stupid movies.  If you don’t give yourself a chance to recharge, you won’t have any energy to take over the world.

How do you guys juggle it all?  Any apps/platforms/techniques I’m missing?

P.S. How to enjoy work (even when you’re busy and kind of overwhelmed) 

5 (pretty easy) Things To Do Before You Launch Your Blog

If you’re looking to launch a sweet, personal blog in which you post photos of your cat and cocktail recipes
a) please send me the link so I can read it
b) disregard this post because this ish is for Serious Small Business Blogs

With that said, here are five things you can do to make sure your business’s blog launch goes off without a hitch, gets lots of return traffic, and is professional + polished like whoa.

Before you launch your blog: create a backlog of content 

Because you know that posting consistently is really important, you decided you’ll be posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 6 am.  Before you even tell anyone about your blog, you should create the equivalent of a month’s worth of posts and backdate them appropriately.  In this case, you’d write eight blog posts and backdate them for the previous Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Why?  Once you announce to your friends + family + customers that you have a blog you’ll have a big ol’ traffic spike as everyone pokes around your site.  And you want to make sure that there’s plenty of content for them to read.  And you want them to think “My goodness but she is a reliable + professional individual!  I bet if I hired her, she’d do a great job!”

Before your launch your blog: schedule a few week’s worth of content

Life happens.  You might get busy or uninspired and you’ll feel so better if you know you have a bit of editorial buffer.  And you want to retain the trust you’ve built with your readers by continuing to post regularly.

Before you launch your blog: make your social media profiles awesome

When you tell everyone about your blog, you’ll inevitably get new social media followers as well. Which is great! But you want to make sure you profiles are polished and professional before you point a bunch of traffic, readers, and potential clients in their direction.

A tiny checklist for you:

  • Make sure all your social media handles match.
  • Make sure you’re using the same headshot in all your social media profiles.
  • Have the same (or similar) bio on all your social media profiles.
  • Fill in the About section of your Facebook page.
  • Claim your ‘vanity’ URL on Facebook (so you get not .
  • Have a few weeks of tweets, photos, and updates up and ready before you launch - you want to give people something to look at!
  • P.S. You don’t need to be on every social media platform. It’s better to be amazing at one thing than mediocre at eight.

Before you launch your blog: introduce it to people you already know

I know it’s hard to resist the siren song of ‘BCC all’ but this is a situation where personalized emails work wonders.  At the very, very, very least create a different email template for your friends + family, for professional peers, and for present/former clients.  Alex Franzen includes a great script for launches in her (free!) Five Scripts To Fill Your Client Docket ebook.

Before you launch your blog: make sure your professional goals are reflected in your blog content

Well, that’s a big one, isn’t it?  Before you started on this road to bloggery, surely you had a big think about what you wanted to accomplish, right? RIGHT?  If you want to sell more products, write promotional posts that don’t feel gross.   If you want to get hired for speaking gigs, post vlogs in which you are painfully articulate and clever.  If you want to be viewed as an expert in your field, write crazy helpful tutorials.

Extra credit! Set up an email list/newsletter + entice people into signing up

You know you need a newsletter, right? It’s helps you stay in touch with prospective clients, establishes you as an expert, and if you sell infoproducts, your subscribers are exponentially more likely to buy. You get people to sign up for your newsletter by giving them something awesome in exchange for their email address.  In the marketing world, we call these enticing bribes ‘opt-ins.’

A few ‘opt-in’ ideas for you:

  • An ebook of extra content, journaling prompts, and checklists
  • A one-time discount on their first purchase
  • Free shipping
  • A short video series
  • Tiny bits of customized advice (I used to do this!)
  • Freebies + discounts
  • Newsletter-only content

Whew! I know that feels a bit overwhelming, but I totally have faith in you!

What did you do before you launched your blog? Tell us in the comments - let’s build this list!

P.S. If you’re trying to start a blog while working full time + freelancing, this post is for you

photo by jens kreuter // cc

How To Find Your Writing Voice (and not sound like a robot)

find your writing voice
This guest post comes to us via Tara Swiger, author, maker and Starship Captain. She leads creatives on explorations on her site and squeals about geekery, vegan pies, and hot pink on Twitter.

So you’ve heard that you need a ‘writing voice’ - but where does one find such a thing?

And if you can’t find your writing voice, does that mean you’re not a good writer? Or that you can’t write?

Not at all! It’s not that you don’t know how to write. It’s that you’re uncomfortable. If you can get comfortable, you can get flowing, friendly posts written. I promise.

Here’s how to find your writing voice (and actually like what comes out)

1. Find your writing voice by talking TO a real person

Instead of thinking of your “audience”, pick just one person. If you have a passel of friendly clients, pick one that really gets you and what you do. Now write your post like you’re having a conversation with her.

If you don’t have any clients (yet), picture your ideal client. Why does she come to you? What do you help her with? Spend a few minutes writing a loving description of your new best friend, and then write a post as if she already loves you, and you’re talking to her.

2. Find your writing voice by writing in your zone

Kelly Parkinson has this awesome (free) assessment to figure out where your zone is. Do you like thinking about systems and applying logic? Or are you a big dreamer and picture-painter? No matter what your zone is, you can find a way to write in it…even if it means you don’t write.

You can get that content out in a zillion ways: “write” via voice memos in your phone (and transcribe them later), have someone interview you, record a video or a podcast, take photos. Find your most comfortable way of communicating, and blog with it.

3. When you’re finding your voice, check yourself, before you wreck yourself*

Once you’ve got some words on the screen, don’t hit publish just yet. Let it sit, and come back to it. Writers insist that writing is rewriting.

Even the most jumbled ideas can be edited into a clear, concise  friendly blog post with some patient editing. While you’re editing, check your language. Are you using words your customer understands? Even if they’re in your field, skip the industry-speak and go straight to the point. Use words you use in actual conversations. Use words they use in actual conversations about your product.

Hey, look at that! You sound like a real person!

Congratulations!  Do you feel stilted and awkward when you write? How do you find a human voice for your blog posts?

P.S. 5 super easy ways to improve your writing

*Just like Ice Cube taught us

Three Ways To Get People To Sign Up For Your Email Newsletter

We’ve talked about why you need an email newsletter (keep in touch with prospects! share important updates!  build trust!) but how do you get people to sign up for said newsletter?

Friends, here are three ways to entice readers and potential clients to invite you into their inboxes.

1) Give them something free + awesome in exchange for signing up for the newsletter.
An ebook!  A downloadable workbook!  A podcast!  A collection of videos!  The important thing here is that this freebie?  It’s so awesome and valuable that they can’t wait to get their hands on it.

This is also a great opportunity to showcase your expertise.  If you’re a stylist, give them a downloadable workbook about organizing their closet.  If you’re a dance studio, your readers might like a collection of videos on mastering complicated moves.  Online shoe retailer?  Maybe an ebook about pairing different flats/boots/heels with different outfits?

Examples of great freebies: Michelle Ward gives you access to her whooooole VIP library when you sign up.  Amy Schmittaur gives you a great Ultimate Twitter Guide.  Danielle Dowling gives you a blueprint to get anything you want in life (!).

You can sign up for my small business newsletter over on the sidebar and get the above ebook for $0.  Just sayin.’

2) Give them a discount code for signing up
This is particularly useful if you’re selling something that’s a bit expensive.  Who wouldn’t want a 15% discount on a $200 dress?  Crazy people, that’s who.  Set up your auto-responder to include a discount code that they can use on one purchase.  You can also set up Twitter auto-responders to offer discount codes to new followers!

Examples of people/companies who use discount codes: H&M give you 20% when you sign up, American Apparel gives you 15% off,  Blowfish Shoes gives  you 10% off.

3) Unique, not-on-the-blog content
If you write and post almost exclusively about your area of professional expertise, or don’t share much personal information, your readers might like a peek behind the proverbial curtain.  If you usually write in a super polished, professional tone, they might like hearing your ‘real’ voice.  Or if you’ve got some content or ideas you’re not ready to share with the world wide web, test ’em out on your most devoted fans.

Examples of not-on-the-blog newslettersKathleen Shannon sends out her Letters for Creative Entrepreneurs.  Amanda Genther includes unique content in most of her email newsletters.

And if you’re feeling reaaaaally ambitious (and generous) you could do all three!

Do you have an email newsletter?  How do you get people to sign up for it?  How often do you send it?

7 Posts You Should Read If You Take Your Blog Seriously

One of the things I tell my clients on the regular is “OMG link round ups should be part of your blogging plan.”  Also: “Fortheloveofpete, please change your Twitter background.”

Yes, link roundups can be a bit time consuming to assemble.  And, yes, if you’re a greedy traffic hoarder it can seem a bit counter intuitive to be directing your readers elsewhere.

But here’s the thing.  Link round ups:
a) are insanely popular with readers
b) provide helpful information to your readers and customers whom you love
c) help build relationships between you and the people you’re linking to

That’s a win/win/win.

With that said, here are seven super helpful posts that will help you (and your business and blog) kick ass.

If you’re building your own site, attempting your own branding, designing your own ebook, y’all need a nice color palette.   Here are 19 (!) color palette generators that will help you design like a pro.

Writing an ebook?  Here are 100 ways to make it more awesome.  (But don’t do all of them!)

Just doing one little thing every day can have a huge impact on your business and blog.  Just one thing!

Do you have the new Twitter layout yet?  I do.  Here’s how to get it.

30 Ways To Promote Your Blog Posts (again, don’t do all of these!)

Do you (or your business) use Instagram?  Here’s how to tell your story and take great, engaging photos.

An incredibly useful (and super cheap) set of scripts to fill your client docket.  There are five scripts here - they’ll help you launch your blog/business, pitch for guest posts, get testimonials from clients, and donate your time to an organization you’d like to work with later.  For $15!

If you’ve encountered any particularly helpful apps/platforms/posts/blogs lately, leave links in the comments!

original image (without the text on top) by a bit of whimsy, for sale here.