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Content Essentials

You can have fun with your blog - BlogHere’s the thing: we like to make business hard.

Harder than it probably needs to be. There are plenty of things about running a company of any size that are hard enough as it is. Taxes come to mind. Also, deciding whether and how to scale. And maybe deciding on your brand’s color palette, if you are a person who loves ALL THE COLOR.

The creatively entrepreneurial mind likes to complicate that which doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. Partly, that’s because you’re gifted: you recognize the beauty of complexity, you appreciate nuance, you want to hold hands with context always and forever. These are traits that make you a natural born business owner, especially one that’s The Voice Bureau’s type of Right Person.

One thing that, perhaps surprisingly, should NOT be hard is figuring out what to write on your blog.

And how it connects to the big picture of what you do, why you do it, and who you’re doing it for. Yes, seriously.

Your blog should be like the (not so) secret diary of your business’s brain, heart, and spirit. It should tell your Right Person exactly what they want to know (but maybe didn’t know they wanted to know) about the very thing you do, believe, offer, value, create, sell. It should answer questions they didn’t even know they had, but really, the answers to these question are everything for them.

This may all sound intimidating, but the truth is, everything I just said in the paragraph above is already encoded into the DNA of your business. And you, my friend, made that DNA. You know it. You are it.

When you trust your business’s DNA — when you trust yourself — then blogging becomes fun (again. or maybe for the first time ever.).

If you follow what’s in your business’s DNA, blogging stops being hard. And it becomes more effective, because you’re catering to your actual Right Person, not some idealized version of who you think that is or who you want it to be.

We all enjoy conversations about our favorite themes and topics. You know that friend you just can’t wait to get together with because you get to indulge in your favorite discussions, AND you feel seen, met, heard, witnessed, and responded to? That’s how blogging can (and should!) feel, and that’s also how your Right Person feels when he or she reads your best and most DNA-aligned stuff: seen, met, heard, witnessed, and responded to.

Good blogging from a connected and aligned place is a form of delight. And delight is FUN.

Good blogging — FUN blogging — can and should be planful and purposeful, too. It’s all part of the same motion. When you own that your business’ DNA is exactly what your Right Person connects with, and when you stop fighting it and allow yourself to develop a plan that caters to who YOU really are, blogging is going to be easier, more fun, and more effective.

Our latest course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, is designed to help you put a content strategy in place that honors your business DNA and makes blogging fun — for you, and for your readers. Enrollment is open through February 5, 2017. We’d love to have you with us in this 4-week, step-by-step, build-your-content-strategy-and-let’s-get-to-the-fun-already experience.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Is blogging fun yet? If not, what seems to be standing in your way?

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Copywriter Heal Thyself - Blog

When I’m talking to new business owners, one of my first pieces of advice is simply, “Get yourself out there.”

If you’re not tweeting or posting to Facebook or blogging or talking up your products and services on a milk crate out on the corner, no one is going to have a clue what you’re doing. And I don’t care if you’re the best darned financial-planner-who-maps-investment-strategies-using-astrological-charts on the market, if your Right Person hasn’t heard of you, your Right Person isn’t hiring you.

Almost five years ago, when I started working for myself (and, soon after, with Abby here at The Voice Bureau), I had great intentions. I would work 12 hours a day! I would have a gorgeous website, packed with interesting material! I would have signature offerings! I would blog every week! My social media presence would be consistent and clever and engaging!

I started off okay. Pretty soon, though, life happened.

 

A few months after I began working for myself, while I was still getting things off the ground, I accepted a temporary contract position at the Home Shopping Network as a digital content producer. And about three weeks after I started at HSN, I got pregnant. Suddenly, I found myself working a full-time job, writing and editing for a growing client base, and so freaking tired I could barely keep my eyes open for my twice-hourly trips to the bathroom. Fortunately, I managed to sidestep the morning sickness I’d heard so many horror stories about — though I did develop a sudden and powerful aversion to bananas for a few months — but even without puking my guts up, pregnancy wasn’t exactly the minor adjustment I’d hoped it would be.

When faced with an overwhelmingly large to-do list and rapidly decreasing energy reserves, I did what seemed the most rational: I evaluated my list and cut out anything that seemed unnecessary. Cooking? Eh, my husband is an excellent cook, and he didn’t retch at the smell of browning meat. Housework? That’s an easy one; I wasn’t supposed to touch most cleaning products anyway. Promoting my business? While I was certainly open for business, adding more clients to my shrinking schedule wasn’t exactly top priority.

Fast forward to today. I now have two amazing little girls who keep me up all night. I’m at the helm of The Voice Bureau. I’m still tired, but it’s just sort of who I am now. Check back in 18 years.

This is the part where I promise to blog more, where I take my own advice, get back on that horse, and tell the world via a weekly missive just how much I love good SEO, what tired buzzwords you should cut from your vocabulary, what one simple marketing tip will cut inches from your waistline and add inches to your wallet.

Copywriter, heal thyself. Or don’t.

Because you know what? While I may intend to share my thoughts more regularly, I don’t want to feel guilty when a surprisingly engrossing client project or a crying baby keeps me away from blogging. Sometimes, I just want to do the work.

So what’s a writer to do? Well, I’ll tell you.

Sometimes — just sometimes — you skip the blog post. You find other ways to connect, and you make it work, and you try again next week.

Maybe you focus on networking for a little.

Okay, I am the introvertiest introvert who ever introverted. The idea of attending one of those schmooze-and-drink mixers literally makes me want to close up shop and get a day job that involves never seeing a human during business hours again. Rare jungle animal researcher. Desert island cartographer.  Professional hermit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t value human connection.

I really love our clients. They (you) are awesome. And they know people who are awesome, too. That’s why referrals are literally the best.

Try reaching out to your previous clients from time to time (or, better yet, stay in touch). You never know which amazing client has an amazing friend who needs you.

And don’t underestimate the power of testimonials. It’s like having a wingwoman on hand at all times. “Oh, The Voice Bureau? They’re great. You should go out sometime.” (I’ll be taking my own advice on this with a new page soon, I swear.)

Or maybe it’s time to try a different medium.

So maybe I’m feeling burned out on the blog format.

Okay, what about speaking engagements? I played Flight of the Bumblebee backed by a combined group of every band in my high school. I laugh at stage fright. Bring it. Podcasts? Why not? Video series? An excuse to brush my hair on a weekday? Look how fancy I am!

Think outside the blog. There are other ways to get your message out there.  Like social media.

(Before you get too excited, you probably shouldn’t ditch your blog for Pinterest.)

 

But when you’re just not feeling up to writing out that long blog post, maybe a few pins, a handful of tweets, a catchy Instagram meme, and a mini Facebook rant would be more your speed.  Nurture those audiences, and when the day comes that you cannot blog another blog, they’ll be happy connect with you where you are.

A note to remember: social media is great for growing your audience and connecting in bite-sized pieces, but it brings the added challenge of inviting readers back to your place afterwards, and it doesn’t help establish your website’s search rankings. Podcasts and videos can help, assuming your Right Person likes those (and you’re hosting them on your own site), but if they’re looking for a good read on their lunch break, they may not be interested in something they have to listen to.

However you decide to get around it, though, you can’t ignore your blog forever.

Maybe you take a week off and try something new. Maybe it’s easier the following week. Or maybe one day you look up and realize you haven’t blogged in six months, and Instagram isn’t doing crap for your SEO.

If you don’t feel like you can get back on track on your own, you might want to get some help.

So where are you feeling stuck? Are you not blogging because you’re too busy with admin work? Maybe it’s time to hire a VA.

Having a hard time organizing your thoughts? A copywriter can help with that. (No, it’s not cheating. Yes, getting help with one or two posts might be all you need to get the process down. Yes, we do offer this.)

Not enough hours in the day? Maybe you need a housekeeper or a nanny or a dog walker or a grocery delivery service. Sometimes, you’re stuck because all you’ve done since your last blog post is work. Get someone else to pick up the slack and go get yourself some ice cream or go for a bike ride or play a video game. A change of scenery might just be the spark you need to figure out what you want to say.

Of course, this is a good time to mention that a solid content strategy — one that takes into account who you are and how you like to work — will make blogging a whole lot easier.

If you are super clear on what you’re saying and to whom you’re saying it, that blank Word doc is a lot less overwhelming. Your editorial calendar should have built-in failsafes so you’re not stuck blogging when you’re not feeling it. You should even be able to batch-write some posts so you’ve always got one ready to go.

That’s what Run Your Business Like a Magazine is good for. It’s happening soon, and I’ve cut the price pretty dramatically (just this once) because I really want you to check it out. Because great content attracts great clients. And great clients make all of this craziness worthwhile (sleepless nights and everything).

 

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What do you do when you’re feeling stuck on a blog post? Do you just skip it and hope for the best the following week (or month)? Do you find some other way to connect?

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Why Your Blog Isnt Making You Money - blog

So you sit down at your laptop, latte in hand, brilliant idea burning in your brain.

You’ve got your focusing candle, you’ve done your breathing exercises, you’re wearing your lucky underpants. You know just what to do.

Step One: Write a great blog post.

Step Two: Hit “Publish.”

Step Three: Profit.

 

That’s what’s supposed to happen, right?

I mean, if blog posts didn’t bring in sales, why would we write them? It’s an awful lot of time (and, let’s face it, sometimes quite a bit of angst) to write something just for the sake of writing. If I was spending a couple hours every week writing for fun, I might actually finish that novel I started back in 2011. (Don’t judge, I’ll get there.)

So why is it that you can blog and blog and blog your little heart out and not see an uptick in people buying what you have to sell? Well, there are a few things you might want to consider.

 

1st: Who are you writing for?

You might get hundreds of views every time you write a new post, dozens of insightful comments, a bevvy of newsletter sign-ups. But your sales page? Crickets.

This can be a tough one to reconcile, because it seems like you’re doing everything right. But your Right Person reader and your Right Person client…may not be the same person.

At The Voice Bureau, we have three main ways of working with our clients: through done-for-you copywriting, deep brand voice consulting, and info-packed courses that cater to the DIY set. This opens us up to a few different types of clients, and we can meet them where they are.

But what if we didn’t offer those DIY courses?

If we were blogging about tips for writing great copy, we could get hundreds — thousands — of views…but then what? If you want to learn about how to write great copy, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not looking to hire someone to write it for you. Our blog would be a great resource, and we could see fantastic traffic, but if we’re not selling something to the DIYers, writing for them doesn’t translate into sales. Obviously.

The Fix:

This is really an opportunity in disguise. You’ve got tons of DIY readers but no products for them? Make them some products. Not your jam? Then start writing for the people who do buy from you.

 

2nd: What are you writing?

This is sort of an extension of the first question, but it goes a bit further. Are you writing something that interests you, rather than something that relates to your business? You may have the best damned chocolate chip recipe on the planet, but if you’re a tarot reader, your blog isn’t reaching the people it needs to reach, and it’s not buying you credibility in your field.

That’s not to say the occasional post-because-you-love-it is a bad thing — giving a little hint of who you are is a great way to develop a human connection with your readers, both for the purposes of sales and, less cynically, in order to build a community. But if every post is off-topic when it comes to your business, you might as well be working on that novel.

The Fix:

Not to harp on the editorial calendar…but get one. At the very least, make a record of your posts and try to flag every time you’re writing something that’s not related to what you do with your business. Every post doesn’t have to explicitly tie in to a product that’s for sale, but most of them should be supporting the idea that you, as a brand, know what you’re talking about in your field. Otherwise, get yourself a lifestyle blog and tell us all about those cookies. (My secret is a sprinkle of smoked sea salt on top after they’re done baking. You?)

 

3rd: Where are you writing?

Of course, there’s another thing to consider: What if your Right Person client doesn’t read blogs? You could be saying all the right things, but the people listening aren’t who you need to talk to. In that case, you need to figure out where they are. Does she listen to podcasts on her way into work? Is he addicted to Facebook? Is she a Pinner?

Or does she love blog posts, but hasn’t found you yet?

The Fix:

If your Right Person isn’t making it to you, you need to go to them. Try a variety of approaches: Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, podcasts, in-person networking events, speaking, guest posting or cross-posting with sites that have a broader reach. Either you’ll find your audience (and a new medium) or they’ll find you.

 

4th: Have you given it enough time?

This is tough, because it’s hard to find the line between waiting it out and spinning your wheels, especially early on. And even if you’ve been at the grind for years, there’s a good chance you’re not going to see a spike in sales every time you publish a new blog post.

So how long do you wait to see results?

The Fix:

Put on your scientist hat. There are lots of things to try (see #1-3, above), and all sorts of possible variations. But the more you try, the more you’ll know about your Right Person client, and the more directly you can speak to her. There is no “magic number” for how many posts you need to put out there before you start getting traction, but if you’ve been at it for months without a single inquiry, maybe it’s time to mix it up a bit and try something new. 

 

We’ll be opening sales soon for the upcoming cohort of Run Your Business Like a Magazine: our four-week online course where we’ll dive deeper into discovering your Right Person, where to find her, and how to create an editorial calendar that speaks directly to her (and encourages her to buy from you). If you’re interested in exploring how you can turn your content plan into sales, make sure you’re on our mailing list to be notified when registration opens. To celebrate the start of a new year and my new role at the helm of The Voice Bureau, we’ll be offering a special discounted rate for this round — you don’t want to miss out!

 

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Do you see a direct tie between your blog posts and your sales? If not, where do you think you’re getting stuck?

 

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Think like an editor about your own brand

This post is a sample of the intro content from our NEW, 4-week course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine. Enrollment for the first live round closes the evening of Sunday, April 17th. Join us!

What is Content Strategy?

So here’s the thing: in this creative business realm we’re swimming in, we see terms like ‘content strategy’ fly by on Twitter and we think to ourselves, Yeah, I probably should have one of those.

Or our eyes glaze over when we see yet another jam-packed blog post on Pinterest from some software company full of tech bros dressed in content marketers’ clothes telling us why we need to be writing what our ideal clients and customers want to read, awing us with their brightly colored infographics all the while.

Content strategy. It’s a buzzphrase.

It’s important. It’s essential. It  . . . sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it?

The word ‘content’ just sounds so dry.

The word ‘strategy’ just sounds so . . . strategic, maybe even in a game-y sort of way. And gaming your Right People is exactly what you don’t want to do.

And yet, our attention, as industrious creatives, keeps landing again and again on this idea of having a content strategy. Our curiosity is piqued — because we know we need it. We sense that if we could just wrap our mind around how a content strategy could work for us, in our own brand, with our own intrinsic style applied, it could change everything we’re doing in the realm of words and work.

If you’re thinking along these lines — you are right.

A pragmatic yet inspired content strategy can cause the stars to align in your business and brand.

When you’re writing about what you love and feel deeply inspired by, in a way that scaffolds your Right People’s journey with you — not only their buying journey but their internal journey as a human being — you can rest assured that you are Doing It Right. You’re HELPING people, all the while doing work you find meaningful — and you’re writing about it, or photographing it, or making videos or podcasts about it!

A content strategy is nothing more & nothing less than a really cool roadmap for the journey on which you want to accompany your Right Person reader, client, or customer.

The course we just made, which starts its first live round on Monday, April 18th, will teach you what the world’s great magazine editors have always known: how to craft a compelling roadmap that turns ambivalent passengers into fully awake and aware drivers on the road to becoming your buyer and your lifelong brand ambassador.

Do you want that for your business? If not now, then when?

Now let’s talk for a moment about the editorial mindset.

The Editorial Mindset

The editorial mindset is the perspective on content and audience engagement that an editor has.

Yep, some people are just born with a keen editorial eye — they’re naturally able to spot trends, to predict what will be hot next Fall, and to perceive whose star is on the rise before THAT PERSON even knows.

But if you’re not born with this gift, you can cultivate the skill set within yourself.

This course will teach you how to cultivate the skill set of thinking like an editor about your own content.

When you hone your editorial mindset, you learn how to be be selective, be discerning, develop your intuition, follow your hunches, take risks, do more of what works, kill what isn’t and doesn’t, get the best work out of your writers (even when your only writer is you), and hold people accountable (including, yep, yourself).

If you want a keen content strategy that defines your brand’s point of view in the marketplace and turns your Right People’s brights ON, not off, every time they see a headline of yours fly by on social media, Run Your Business Like a Magazine is made for you.

If you want to think like a magazine editor and rely on a dangerously effective balance of strategy and intuition to create a great product ‘issue after issue,’ Run Your Business Like a Magazine is made for you.

The only question now is: will you join us?

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What’s your relationship to your the editorial mindset? Do you feel like you were ‘born with it’ or is a skill set you’ve developed or would like to develop?

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Katie Mehas Voice Bureau Creative Director[Hey there, it’s Katie, taking over the blog for today to share a few of my thoughts on content strategy. And grasshoppers. Keep reading, we’ll get there.]

content strategy is business strategy

Last night, my daughter asked me to read “The Ants and the Grasshopper” to her before bed.

If you’re not familiar with the story, pull up a chair.

So basically, there’s this grasshopper, and he’s having an awesome summer. Going swimming, dancing, having margaritas (I may be embellishing a little here). Basically, living the life. Good for him! But all the while, he keeps seeing these ants, working like a bunch of suckers. He manages to convince an ant to call in sick and take a beach day, but he gets caught by the boss and ends up back at work. Rough summer for the ants.

Then autumn comes, and the grasshopper breaks out his favorite sweaters, spends a weekend upstate doing one of those fall foliage walks, drinks some cider, plans a big Halloween party. None of the ants can make it though, because, as usual, they’re working through the weekend. Again.

Then winter shows up. It’s nice at first, I assume, because winter usually is. First snow, nice and white, icicles glistening. But before long, the grasshopper realizes he may have made a mistake. It’s a lot colder than he figured it was going to be, and he forgot to stock up on milk and bread and now the store is out of everything but that weird sprouted stuff that you could build a wolf-proof house out of, if you were in a different fairy tale.

So he goes to see the ants, and they’re having the party of their lives. Huge feast, probably a little too much drinking, big fire going in the ant-sized fireplace. Because this was the Disney version we read, the ants decide to take pity on the grasshopper and let him stay there for a few months in exchange for playing his fiddle and keeping the party going. Aesop is probably spinning in his sarcophagus over the kinder, gentler ending, but I’m glad I don’t have to explain to my daughter what happens to grasshoppers when they freeze to death.

The moral of the story, of course, is simple: If you don’t plan for winter, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Anyone who’s been self-employed for any amount of time knows that business is cyclical. (If you’re new to the party, welcome! Lesson One: Business is cyclical.) Generally speaking, most online businesses, especially service-based businesses, find that the summer is pretty quiet, and things pick up again in the fall.

Maybe it’s because the kids are back in school and you can actually get things done without someone spilling orange juice on your laptop or dangling from your sleeve or asking, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Can I go [insert the thing they can totally do, later, once you’ve finished sending this one email seriously please go entertain yourself for five minutes]?” Maybe it’s just the natural progression of the year. Either way, summer = quiet, fall = suddenly not (generally speaking).

So why on earth did we choose to launch our new course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, in mid-April, just as we’re heading into summer?

Good question.

Producing interesting, informative, entertaining content on the regular is an amazing way to connect with your Right Person (that’s the person who loves what you do, who advocates for you, who buys your services and is a joy to work with).

By giving them something worthwhile to read, you’re not just saying, “Here’s something to think about,” you’re saying, “…and think about me every time this crosses your mind.”

Figuring out what YOU love to write about, what interests you and is relevant to your brand conversation, what your Right People readers want to hear — that is how you set yourself up for success. It gives you the foundation and the framework to write and write and write, all year long, without it feeling like work, and it gives your readers something to look forward to. To bookmark. To share online. It creates a bond between you and your audience — a community. And when it’s time for them to dust off their credit card come those first red leaves of fall? You’re the one they’re thinking of — the expert who entertained them all summer as they sat on the beach with their margaritas, the virtual friend they’ve connected with and want to know better.

As a magazine editor, I had to come up with a lot of content every year, and there were days when I definitely felt like an ant with the worst job in the world while my grasshopper friends were relaxing at the beach. Right around press time, I worked a lot of late nights and weekends. I won’t lie, sometimes it sucked.

But in the end, creating a solid editorial calendar allowed me to gather a lot of really amazing content over the course of the year without scrambling every month.

I got great reviews. My sales went up. People started recognizing me at car shows. (Okay, not super exciting as a non-car-person, but still pretty cool.) Friends and relatives all over the country would find my magazines on the racks at Borders (R.I.P.) and text me pictures. I felt like a celebrity. I mean, not Anna Wintour or anything, but still. And I owed it all to putting out really good magazines, month after month, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring.

Creating a content plan is even more important if you’re in the midst of shifting your brand conversation.

This might be tied to a new direction in who you’re serving, how you’re serving them, or how you’re presenting yourself — basically, if you sit down at your computer (or your workbench or your phone) and aren’t jumping for joy at the prospect of another day of work, there’s a pretty good chance a rebrand is churning around in the back of your mind. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, even if you haven’t admitted it out loud yet. But there is something out there that will light you up again, and figuring out what that is and how to start talking about it is the first step in changing your brand conversation.

Planning how to talk about it regularly is what’s going to build the bridge from where you are now to where you want to be — and make sure your Right People (either the ones who already know you or the ones who are about to discover you) can follow.

Don’t get me wrong, Run Your Business Like a Magazine — or any content strategy planning — takes some effort on your part.

If you want a content plan that you’re going to love in a few months, you need to put some thought into what that will look like. But we’re talking red ink, not blood — this doesn’t have to be painful. And it doesn’t have to keep you from having a nice, relaxing summer. In fact, you’ll probably have a better time if you spend the next few months connecting with your clients over something you really want to be talking about than if you try to muster up enthusiasm for something that’s run its course.

Imagine you’re sitting on your porch, soaking up some sun with a glass of water…but what you really want is an icy-cold glass of mint tea (or that margarita we’ve been talking about — can you tell I’m seven months pregnant and craving something I can’t have?). Yeah, you have to go all the way inside to get some from the fridge, but won’t you be glad you did?

Your content determines your conversation, and your conversation determines your clients. If you want to be intentional about the work you do — whether that’s something new or just more of what you’re doing now — you can’t just put yourself out there and hope for the best.

A content strategy is a business strategy.

I guess if you’re a really great fiddle player and don’t mind low ceilings for a few months, you can cross your fingers and hope the ants have a spare room. But if you want to build your own place, you have to be willing to put in a little work when things are slow and the beach is calling. And right now, heading into the quiet season, is a great time to do it. You can establish what’s really lighting you up, make an easy, actionable plan to talk about it on a regular basis, and build your community. And then, when the cycle shifts, you’re not frantically searching for your next client, because here they are, right here, talking to you on Facebook, checking your site, waiting for your next blog post — or product launch.

Run Your Business Like a Magazine kicks off on Monday, April 18th. We’d love to have you join us. (Margaritas are up to you.)

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What’s YOUR relationship with content creation — do you wing it or plan ahead? Have you seen a change in your business’s cycle based on how you communicate with your readers?

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