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Lauren Jefferson

Lauren Jefferson is the Co-Founder and CEO of FocusCopy – a full-service copywriting agency. She loves everything copy, digital marketing, and coffee!

Before You Hire a Ghostwriter

5 Questions You Need to Answer Before Hiring a Ghostwriter

Writing is not always a natural skill for people in business. Like public speaking, you can put time and effort to improve your skills, but that takes time and energy away from other tasks. 

Your prospective customers may expect that you publish content on a regular basis.  You can either spend your valuable time writing to fill your sales pipeline or outsource content development to a ghostwriter, which could be less than your hourly rate. Meanwhile, you can spend time and work on other revenue generating activities. 

In this blog, we’re going to define what a ghostwriter is, discuss the benefits, and present the 5 questions you need to answer before hiring a ghostwriter.

What is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter creates a written piece under the name who hired them. No one knows that the “author” of a piece didn’t actually write it, except for the ghostwriter and themself. Ghostwriters cannot claim that work as their own – hence the “ghost” aspect.

Ghostwriting is an extremely common practice when influencers or executives want to write a book but do not have enough time or lack the skill set to write good copy. Ghostwriters work closely with the intended author to craft something that represents and captures the author’s voice. 

Freelance Ghostwriters vs Ghostwriting Companies

There are two options to consider when hiring a ghostwriter: freelance ghostwriters and ghostwriting companies. Let’s take a look at the difference. 

Freelance ghostwriters are typically free agents. They play the feast and famine game, so their flexibility in being able to commit to your project is largely dependent on which season they are operating in. High-demand freelance ghostwriters may have a long waitlist to start your project. They are usually cheaper, and you as the client only work with one person – the freelancer. It may be simpler; however, they may lack the business sophistication you may prefer.

Ghostwriting companies, in comparison, might be more expensive and not have the touch you’d like for your project. They may have more than one ghostwriter on your project to cover any gaps in leave, make sure the quality is at 110%, and fulfill your every need. 

Like all things, there are pros and cons to hiring a ghostwriter. While I won’t divulge into why we think FocusCopy is the right balance between the two options (at least right now 😉), let’s take a look at some of the benefits of hiring a ghostwriter and 5 questions you should ask before your hire a ghostwriter. 

Benefits of Hiring a Ghostwriter

Hiring a Ghostwriter

Hiring a ghostwriter is a big decision. Let’s take a look at some benefits of hiring a ghostwriter…

First, it will actually get done! How long have you been saying… “I’m going to write that book!” Or to your marketing team, “I’ll have that blog to you by midnight”? I have heard so many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners say a variation of those excuses. When you hire a ghostwriter, that blog, book, or other writing project will actually get done. 

Then, it will get done faster. Ever wanted to write a book? How long have you wanted to write that book? For many, it takes years before they take any action to write that book. Hiring a ghostwriter is pulling the trigger to make it happen. 

Additionally, you don’t need to learn the mechanics of blogging or writing a book. There are so many methods, strategies, and formulas associated with each medium. It will take time, ample amounts of research, and learning from mistakes to get it right. At that point, you’ve already spent 3-4x the time a ghostwriter would spend AND that’s before editing. 

Finally, you’ll have more time to focus on other higher priority tasks. While you do have to invest some time with the ghostwriter so they can develop content that is aligned with your voice, you have so much more free time to work on revenue generating activities while it’s being written. 

5 Questions You Need to Answer Before Hiring a Ghostwriter

Before you hire a ghostwriter and commit to weeks or months with that writer, you need to answer these 5 questions. 

1. Why am I interested in hiring a ghostwriter?

First, you need to figure out why you are interested in hiring a ghostwriter. Is it because…?

  • You want to finally publish that book that you’ve been wanting to write for over a year
  • You want to stay in front of your audience by publishing timely content

Types of Ghostwriter Projects

The next step is assessing the project that you are looking to complete. It could be a one-off publication or an ongoing engagement. Keep in mind that some ghostwriters only work on book engagements. Other ghostwriters might only write blogs.. 

Here are some examples of what a ghostwriter can do:

  • Write a book
  • Create blogs
  • Develop an ebook
  • Guest post on another blog

2. Do I have a branded voice that I want to continue or am I recreating one?

Whether you are a new brand, a long-time authority holder, or a reinvented house-hold name, you must know the voice of your brand. Your brand voice is the basis of the writing and takes time to develop and change. Your customer is attached to the voice of your message because it elicits an emotional response.

“People like to do business with people they like, trust, and know.“

3. What kind of experience do I expect my ghostwriter to have?

Another reasonable question to ask is “what kind of experience do I expect of my ghostwriter?“. For example, you may be in a super-technical environment that requires a writer to be knowledgeable of the technicalities. There are writers that are well-versed in medical or legal terms. 

On the other hand, you may want someone who is unfamiliar with your topic, giving a fresh perspective. In addition, they may be able to communicate your complex or technical information in a way that every reader can understand.

4. What will the ghostwriter be writing? How often?

It is also important to define the scope of what your ghostwriting project. You also need to set expectations on how often you would like to use a ghostwriter (weekly, monthly, one-time, etc.) and what type of content you want. 

Here are some examples of content and their approximate word counts:

  • Weekly blogs (1000-2500 words)
  • One-off guest blog (1000-2500 words)
  • Ebook (30-150 pages)
  • Book (150-300 pages)

5. What is the ROI for hiring a ghostwriter?

Finally, you need to determine if you will see a return on investment. Ultimately, hiring a ghostwriter should improve your bottom line. Look at the following factors that impact bottom line:

  • Your time savings
  • What you’re doing with your free time (those revenue-generating activities we talked about previously)
  • The leads from the blogs (look at our lead generation services)
  • Consistent content for your customers
  • Sales from the ebook or book

Where to Find Your Ghostwriter

Finally, it’s time to find your ghostwriter. You can find them through freelance sites like UpWork, search on LinkedIn, go to a marketing agency that offers ghostwriting, or finally go to firm that writes for a living – like FocusCopy. 

I promised I wouldn’t talk about how we’re a perfect option for someone who wants a combo of ghostwriting companies and freelance ghostwriter (until later). And I’ve kept that promise! 

Our in-house copywriters and ghostwriters keep in constant contact and make sure that our writing is consistent with our client’s needs. We’re professionalized freelance ghostwriters – giving you the relationship you need to express yourself with the sophistication of a ghostwriting company. You can learn more about our ghostwriting services here. 

If you’ve answered all these questions and are ready to say “yes”, click here to connect with our team.

Hiring a Ghostwriter

Proofreading Tips From Pro Copywriters

Is there anything worse than when you catch grammar mistakes on websites, social media posts, or worse… printed material?

Personally, when I find a grammar mistake, I become so fixated on that mistake that I go on a treasure hunt to find more mistakes. If the author of that piece of copy only knew… Phew! I sure am not taking the intended action on that page.

In this blog, I’m revealing all my proofreading tips that we use to dramatically improve our client’s existing copy and make it easier for their target audience to want to take the next step in the customer journey.

While there is a stark difference between editing and proofreading, we think it’s important that both of them happen. Editing is working on the messaging and the actual content itself. This is a much larger undertaking than its opponent. Proofreading focuses more on the flow, typos, and grammar mistakes. When we talk about proofing in a general sense, we also include editing into that. 

Every Piece of Copy Needs to Be Proofed & Edited

Plain and simple… Every piece of copy needs to be proofed. When copy or content is not proofed and there are mistakes littered throughout, you risk losing credibility, customers, etc.

Imagine this… Your all-star client sends you an email letting you know about a typo in your latest blog. 

Ouch.

It not only hurts to hear that from that client, but think about these two things…

  1. Other prospects aren’t as kind or forgiving as your all-star client. They’ll click to the next company because they don’t want to waste time with a company who doesn’t care enough to actually proof their copy. Potential revenue… Gone. Your competitors are benefitting from your careless mistakes.
  2. If your company cannot do something as simple as writing without grammar mistakes, then what other areas of quality are you skipping? Product manufacturing, quality control, product delivery, etc.?

Proofreading Tips From Pro Copywriters

As copywriters, we must be in the business of proofing too. In fact, we spend just as much, or even more, time proofreading and editing than it takes to write the entire piece of copy

Here are our 3 proofreading tips that every person writing content or copy should follow. This includes any emails going out to clients from the CEO to customer support and everyone in between.

1. Print It Out – Then Recycle

There is nothing like putting a pen to paper and ripping the content apart. It’s personal and keeps you connected to the art of writing. Some people claim they can do it on screen, but we’ve found it requires less effort and results in fewer errors when marking up the printed copy! Think about it… You read it, mark it up, then you re-read it as you edit your live copy. That’s 2 whole rounds of proofing, not just one (as it would be if you proof on-screen)!

So print out the copy (2-sided), and start marking it up. I’ll share a few of my editing marks later in this blog.

Proofreading Tips

Another alternative to printing it out is to switch on the Editing or Suggesting mode in your document provider (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.).

2. Read It Out Loud

While you have it printed out, read it out loud. 

Every last word. 

Why? Because it should flow easily and sound natural. 

If you find yourself stumbling over a sentence or a phrase, reorganize the sentence while you’re reading through it. Then read it back out loud. Repeat until it sounds natural. If you don’t read it out loud, then you actually start to read what you think you wrote, not what you actually wrote. Verbalizing it eliminates this human trait.

Another thing that we do – especially when we are in the thick of editing – is to read it out to another person. They will be able to help you to catch all the errors, syntax issues, and content issues. This works especially well for large or complex pieces of copy. Yes, it burns the other person’s time, but it ultimately saves time, and therefore money every time.

3. Mark It Up

Finally, mark it up. Here are some short hand notations you can use while you edit. 

Proofreading Tips

You can read other proofreaders’ marks in the Chicago Manual of Style.

Proofreading Tips

Don’t have access to a printer? Or don’t want to waste paper? Many document providers like Microsoft Word or Google Docs has a suggesting tool where you can market it all up. Then you have the right to refuse or suggest the edits. They are good, but often you can do better with pen and paper.

Things to Look For When Proofreading

Now that you have a system, it’s time to figure out what you’re looking for. One thing that we commonly do is attack the entire copy with one perspective (i.e. spelling then flow) at a time then move onto the next. It helps you keep focused on the task at hand. 

Clarity of Message

First things first… Is the message you are writing about as clear as possible? Now, this isn’t a true and hard science. It’s helpful to put the copy in front of someone who has no clue what your writing about or who you are writing for. This is extremely helpful when explaining something technical or complicated. They will be able to indicate if your message is clear and universally understandable. 

Read more about our CFE Framework where the first step is bringing clarity to the topic. 

Focused Message

After you have deemed the message clear, it’s time to determine if it’s focused. In other words, this is where you cut the fluff, extra embellishments, and filler words or phrases (e.g. “like”, “as such”, “in order to:, etc.) that add to the word count but not to the effectiveness of the copy.

Spelling Mistakes

The most obvious thing to look for when proofing is spelling mistakes. While spell check has made it extremely easy to catch spelling mistakes, there are so many words that are used interchangeably wrongly. 

For example:

  • Except vs. Accept
  • Too vs. To
  • Their vs. They’re vs There
  • Your vs. You’re
  • Loose vs. Lose
  • Insure vs. Ensure

Sometimes, spell check corrects your misspelt word to a word with a completely different meaning. It now says there are no spelling mistakes, but some sentences may have completely different meanings or simply don’t make sense. This is where proofing comes in!

Syntax / Flow

The next thing to look at is the syntax or flow of your content or copy. Syntax is the set of rules, principles, and/or processes that determine sentence structure, usually including word order. Does it sound natural? Not clunky?

A great way to check for the flow is always to read it out loud. I know we’ve said this before, but it’s really important not to skip over.

Brand Voice

Another thing to take a look at is your brand voice. Is the piece of content or copy synonymous with your brand voice? You need it to sound consistent with the rest of the content on your website or your copy.

Readability

Finally, a good test of readable content is to check its readability score. There are two tests that we use frequently with our copy…

  • Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
  • Gunning Fog Index

There are many readability tests online where you can paste your copy into their test and it will rate it. 

Proofreading Tips

The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score was originally developed to determine the ease of military processes and procedures. Business writing needs to be around a 65; however, anything between 60 and 80 is considered a good score. 

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is similar to the readability score; however, it determines the grade level the text is catered to. Most business writing targets the grade-level 7.5; it used to be 8th grade but it has since been changed. Writing at this level means the copy is complex enough to engage interest but simple enough not to strain the brain. Writing at 20th grade (which some writers do) is only intelligible to post-graduates with three or more degrees. While my co-founder Stuart Broderick may be able to understand that language with his Ph.D. in physics, the rest of us will pass. 

Both measurements focus on word length (syllables) and sentence length. For example, if there are too many sentences with over 20 words in them, then you risk reducing your readability score. 

Finally, there is the Gunning Fog Index. Its scoring mechanism is based on the grade level of which the text is appropriate for. For example, a 12 would be suitable for seniors in high school or 18-year olds. Most text should be at or below a 12 if you are in a B2B setting. If your intended audience is extremely wide, it is best to aim for 7th or 8th grade. 

There are many other readability scores or grade level scoring indexes, but they all focus on the same thing – how easy it is to read a piece of content.

Avoiding Proofreading All Together

There is one sure way of avoiding proofreading all together. 

Hire professional copywriters or retain a copywriting firm.

This only applies when you hire professional copywriters that are obsessed with quality. At FocusCopy, we have quality controls to ensure that a single piece of copy does not leave our office without being proofed by at least 2 people. Why? Because the value is in the copy and the value can be immediately lost if there are grammar or flow issues. 

Have any other proofreading tips? Let us know about them in the comments below. 

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

Copywriting vs SEO Writing: What’s the Difference?

It’s no secret that copywriting and SEO writing is becoming increasingly critical to marketing strategies. The digital landscape is cluttered with both valuable content and junk. A keyword a year ago might have had a few million results but now has hundreds of millions of results. That makes life as a digital marketer and entrepreneur both terrifying and exhilarating. So let’s take a look at which you should invest in: copywriting vs SEO writing.

What’s the Difference Between Copywriting vs SEO Writing?

First, let’s analyze the difference between copywriting vs SEO writing. Although they are both technically writing and can be intertwined, they serve two different purposes. 

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the act of writing text to persuade the reader to take a requested action – usually found in advertising and promotions. The product sold by copywriters is called copy. It’s only purpose is to convert the reader to opt-in, buy, or schedule a call. 

What is SEO Writing?

In comparison,  SEO writing is the act of writing content that ranks well on search engines (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Bing). The content is usually informative and/or expressive, rather than persuasive. SEO writing contains keywords that ranks the page on search engines. SEO writing can be in the form of web pages or blogs. 

Good SEO writing should be fluid, easy to read without noticing the interspersing of keywords. Remember, people do business with people, NOT keywords or robotic sounding content. It’s better to write like a human than to meet all SEO requirements. 

When Copywriting & SEO Writing Fuse Together

One thing I – among many other copywriters – love is when you can fuse copywriting and SEO writing together. What do I mean by this? 

Good content is searchable, easy-to-read, and informative in some capacity. More than that, good content will include persuasive call to actions to some next step in the customer journey. For example, a blog post can offer a lead magnet or a trial offer to a premium offer.

Here are some examples of how you can infuse copywriting into your search optimized piece of content.

DigitalMarketer is really good at this… They break up their blogs with timely call to actions about free lead magnets, such as their 15-Point Landing Page Audit. In addition to the written copy with a hyperlink to a landing page, they also include an image with copy embedded. 

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

This next example is from GoLive. One thing that I really appreciate about their blog is the subtle call the action. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may even miss it… And that’s a good thing for content marketing and SEO writing! If your content is always sell, sell, sell, you are not adding value to your customer before they give you their credit card. It’s important to offer value up-front.

 Notice when you click on the “Squarespace Website Template” link, it sends you straight to their shop. 

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

Moz is great at producing blogs about SEO; however, they do not actively present their product until the very end after the conclusion and after popular posts. This is another way to fuse SEO writing and copywriting together.

Copywriting vs SEO Writing

Reasons to Invest in Both

To create a sound digital marketing strategy, you need both copywriting and SEO writing. Here are some reasons why you need to invest in both.

Your Prospects Need To Find You

You could have the greatest product, innovative technology, or coaching program that changes lives… BUT if your prospect cannot find you, you will unfortunately never make it. While there are many ways to reach your customers, every decision maker in a company has a smartphone, a tablet, and/or a computer in their hand. As a business owner, if I need to know something and I can’t think of a person to call to answer my question… COMMAND+T. I’m googling it. 

(You’re welcome for my favorite Apple keyboard shortcut!)

That’s why SEO copywriting should be a critical part of your marketing strategy.

Creating a sound SEO writing and content marketing strategy doesn’t always come easy. It can be time-consuming and draining as you learn the nuances. That’s where we come in! Contact us today to explore what opportunities are in your business.

Your Prospects Need To Feel Confident In Buying From You

Another reason to invest in your copywriting and SEO writing strategy is to make your prospects feel confident in their buying decision. 

SEO writing makes you an authority; it helps you gain respect because you have displayed that you know what you’re talking about. 

But copywriting takes you to a deeper level with your prospect with emotional persuasion. Once the prospect believes that they buying decision is logical and truly believes that they need that product or service to solve x, y, and z, then they are highly likely to buy. In addition, copy that creates an emotional connection creates loyal followers, lifers, repeat customers.

Again, there are thousands of options customers may pick from other than your company! We think you’re still special though. 

So how are you going to set yourself apart from the competition and make your prospect feel confident in choosing you?

Your Prospects Want a Company They Can Trust and Believe In

Where do you buy groceries – HEB or Kroger? Which social media platform do you like better – Instagram or Snapchat? Do you buy directly from a company’s site or go straight to Amazon? Ultimately, every person has their preferences. Because there are so many options to choose from, your prospects subconsciously want to buy from a company they can trust to do the job right, delivering above and beyond AND believe in because they just get you. 

For example, we at FocusCopy have made it our mission to be our client’s strategic partner in all their business communications. We truly believe that. We cheer on our clients and celebrate their victories, even if it had nothing to do with us! Additionally, we connect them with resources and potential customers. Being a strategic partner goes beyond just copywriting services. At the end of the day, we believe in our clients. It’s our hope that our prospective clients see our internal guiding beliefs in everything we write… And ultimately trust and believe in us.

Let’s take another angle! Think about romantic relationships. When a couple first meets, what do they look at? Their eyes and maybe lips (while they’re talking). Attraction. Then they listen to what they have to say, leaning in a little more to make that first impression judgement. Are they intelligent, genuine, and kind? Or Are they clueless, rude, and lack depth? Because who doesn’t like a good story, let’s say this couple makes the first judgement – we’re good to go! They then start to build an emotional connection with that other person as time goes on. Eventually, a meet-cute turns into a date, which becomes a relationship and then engagement, and finally marriage. 

The same is true of B2B copywriting. People form connections with people. So a business must understand and communicate like humans. This is why influencers on social media have become so big. People feel a connection with the person behind the screen because those influencers have opened their lives up to them.

The Final Decision: Copywriting vs SEO Writing

If you have a limited budget and had to make a decision on what to invest in first, we always suggest doing what will make money first… In that case, it’s always copywriting. You can drive more traffic all day. BUT if your copy does not convert, then that traffic is going to go elsewhere to find what they are looking for. 

Good SEO simply makes it easier to find your great copy, and hopefully convince them to buy from you.

In conclusion, it’s more important than ever before to evaluate your website’s SEO and copywriting. The competitive landscape is ever changing as algorithms change, prospects demand more free content, and the cost to acquire a customer is increasing. Contact us to explore how FocusCopy can build a competitive content and copywriting strategy and ultimately reduce the cost of customer acquisition.

Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

Business communication is now more important than ever. Scandals, success, missed opportunities, synergy… How you shape the story is critical to business success. It’s becoming more important for companies to focus on their communication pieces by the second – not minutes or hours.

Information Collection Taken To The Next Level

We are living in a world of information collectors and hoarders. It is estimated that data created next year will be greater than all material generated since people started recording information thousands of years ago. (Check out some cool big data facts here.)

Many people shy away from using libraries and dictionaries. Instead, they use Google or other search engines as their main source of information. Why? We created a world that craves instant gratification for everything we could possibly want to learn.

Greater than our external need for information, organizations use online storage tools, intranets, wikis, and other real-time internal search engines to locate information related to their employer, industry, and numerous other topics. It’s quicker than flipping through a dated binder of SOPs.

In 2020, companies must focus on their copy in all areas of their business – sales copy, content strategy, and internal communications. Your prospective customer can subconsciously spot good copy from bad and will immediately click to another page that is better. It’s critical to fight for the top spots on the results page.

Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

In this world of overwhelming information, your customers want to get what they want, now. As a result, companies need to accelerate their copy production and improvement to meet demands. 

So, what does this mean for business to business communication? And how should we create and publish copy in a prioritized manner?

Copy Needs To Be Fresh

First, your copy must be fresh, original, crisp, focused, and contain only essential information. More detailed voluminous materials should be included in a referenced document that the user can open by clicking “for more information”.

One tip that we give our clients is to strip out all the fluff or embellishment. Sure, those extra words may paint a picture more delicately, but are those extra words getting in the way of the big picture? Quite simply, more words take more time to read and the value from these extra words often provide little or no extra value to the reader.

Keep it fresh.

Copy Needs To Be Focused

Second, the copy must focus on what impact it will have on your prospect. What’s the Big Benefit? People, in general, have become very self-focused. If the copy they read doesn’t impact them directly or require their action, they start to question why they are reading it in the first place.

Click.

They’ve moved on. That is why it’s so important to evaluate if your company’s existing copy is focused.

Even worse… Your prospect may subconsciously record the sender’s identity (i.e. your company’s brand) and skip future communications from you.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at your email inbox. If you’re like most, you have many unread emails from people that are sending you content, sales pitches, promotions, and more. The thing is… Internet Service Providers (ISP) and email service providers (like Gmail) will start to learn your habits and stick the emails your to dreaded spam filter. That means more than just your prospects not opening emails… It will also hurt your deliverability for future prospects that actually want to receive your emails. 

SEO Best Practices May Have Changed

Finally, Google reputedly makes over 500 adjustments to their SEO algorithm every year. That means within 2-3 years, SEO is completely different. That’s also one of the reasons why I fell in love with digital marketing… It will always be a new day with new challenges. How does that impact you? What your company did for SEO a year ago may not work as effectively in 2020. It’s important that as we enter Q4 of 2019, you need to reassess your weak points in SEO and to improve your SEO. 

So how does your website copy rank in terms of search-ability and ease of finding information? Does the information about your new product, service, update, or landing pages rank as #1 of 230,000 hits or #250? Guess which site your potential customers will look at? It’s the #1 result… Maybe if you’re lucky, they will go down to result #5. 

Here’s the kicker… A decade ago, users were okay with spending 15, maybe 30 seconds searching for relevant content. Now, they spend only 5-8 seconds searching! That means your information must rank in the top 5 hits when they search your keyword. Assuming they find your page, they want the core information in no more than 10 seconds! 

Some areas to look at include: 

  • How your content is categorized and organized
  • Your inbound and outbound links
  • Readability scores
  • Keywords (might want to check how many results your best keywords have; competition is tight)
Why Companies Need to Focus on Their Copy in 2020

Up Your Business Game By Focusing On Your Copy in 2020

So, how should a business ”up its game” and provide copy that its target audience wants to and needs to read? There are formulas for this, but these formulas only work if you know exactly what you want to write, who will read it, and what you want them to get out of it.

There are two things that you can do… Reassess how your existing copy is being used and apply our CFE Framework to future copywriting and content creation.

Reassess How You Use Your Copy

If the copy doesn’t support anything your prospect needs to do their job and support their buying decision – what VALUE is it to you? It’s wasting valuable real estate on your website, email campaigns, etc. 

It’s important to understand and audit how your copy is working for you and against you. Junk? Delete it. It may be tempting to fill that blank space with other content, but if it’s not valuable, do not add it. 

CFE Framework

Our CFE Framework shows you exactly how to get clarity and focus around your copy before you execute the creation and publication of the copy. If your business takes the time and effort to clarify exactly what they need and focus on its creation, publication, distribution, and search-ability, then your business will definitely benefit… Your prospects will read your copy more frequently and better understand your offer… Thus, increasing the likelihood that that prospect will convert into a buy.

Need help preparing for 2020? We are standing by. Click here to explore how to you can surpass your competition with copy improvements.

What Happens When Your Company Doesn't Have SOPs

What Happens When Your Company Doesn’t Have SOPs

Companies in all industries, big and small struggle with SOPs. Many people see Standard Operating Procedures as monotonous documents that do not add real value to the company. I only discovered the value of SOPs after something BIG happened in a company that didn’t have SOPs.

What Happened When My Company Didn’t Have SOPs

My first full-time job out of college was at a financial consulting and advisory firm. The owner and founder of the company was my professor and mentor. Although we were a small company (3-4 employees with multiple consultants), we were innovative. We created training and resource platforms for the CFO. We coached CFOs to be financial leaders. Our website moved mountains and connected customers from over 20 countries together. We had a lot of momentum, and we were just getting started. However, the majority of our business processes were not written down and were stored in our owner Jim’s brain. 

Then the unthinkable happened… It was a Thursday morning. We had a meeting scheduled to take our coaching program to the next level. 

My phone rang…

“Lauren, Jim passed away last night.”

After the shock of losing a friend, valued boss, and former professor subsided, I said these words… “His brain. All the information is gone.”

25 + years of experience, ideas, strategies, processes, and memories… Gone.

And unfortunately, we had not recorded or documented internal processes making it very difficult to operate without the expert.

While it is difficult to anticipate the loss of the brains behind a company, especially at the young age of 60, you need to be prepared by documenting day to day operations, and long term plans and goals. 

What Happens When Your Company Doesn’t Have SOPs

When a business has and uses Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), it is usually a sign that they have defined business strategy and can articulate how they want their business to evolve and grow. It also indicates that the company is sophisticated or at least anticipating becoming more sophisticated. SOPs act like the keel and rudder of a boat which keep the boat or ship sailing in the desired direction.

Companies Become Coracles

Companies become coracles.

What are coracles? And what has it got to do with SOPs?

To answer this question, have you ever seen a boat without a keel or rudder (check out a cwrwgl or Welsh Coracle)? Coracles – an ancient watercraft – are round, flat-bottomed boats with no keel or rudder. They may be fun for playing on a river or catching salmon, but they never or rarely carry more than one person. They are also difficult to paddle in a straight line (some say impossible) – which is always the shortest path between two points.

Business operations without SOPs are modeled after a coracle. They may operate well so long as the person running the company (paddling the coracle) is always there. But if they become ill, die, or simply quit the company, then what happens?

No one else in the company can paddle the coracle.

Many will try. Most, if not all, will fail because it requires a special skill – one that isn’t written down. So the business, just like a coracle without a skilled paddler, will lose direction. Perhaps even go around in circles, until someone grabs a rudder and shouts “enough!”.

Ultimately, we need to define and document how we work, where we are going, and how we will get there.

Companies Don’t Fire The Sacred Cow

Another thing that happens when your company doesn’t have SOPs is that you might have a difficult time firing employees that do not meet certain standards. These employees manage to stick around because they…

  • Have been around forever (or at least it feels that way)
  • Possess knowledge about essential processes and are often reluctant to share it
  • Retain key information about clients and products

Can you picture that person? We like to call them the Sacred Cow. They run havoc in the company because they manifest all the processes and are unwilling to share.

As a result, these individuals often hold what they know over the company’s heads, which makes it difficult to fire that employee.

Silos Form Between Departments

Companies often use SOPs to facilitate cross-department training. Different departments understand how others work and what they need from them. It helps create transparency inside of the business therefore, breaking down the invisible walls in the company. 

But when a company doesn’t have SOPs written and a part of the culture, silos form.

Why are silos in companies bad? Silos create division, make it easy to hide inefficiencies, and make it incredibly difficult to make any meaningful change in the company. 

For example, I once worked with a company who had multiple offices that needed to be on the same page with their processes and systems. Without SOPS, there was inefficiency in how they conducted business and allowed for operational vulnerabilities that might have major effects. 

Operations Stop When Key Employees Are Out

Sick days, vacation days, and life events happen. It’s a natural part of company operation. Without SOPs, operations stop when those key employees are out.

A couple sick days may not hurt your operation. However, 6 months of medical leave, maternity/paternity leave, or winning the lottery and disappearing to an island will have serious consequences on your operation. 

Company Disasters Can and Do Happen

When your company doesn’t have SOPs, it creates an opportunity for disaster to occur – some of which are irrecoverable.  Although unpleasant to think about, think about companies that were in the path of a natural disaster… Whatever the disaster, if those affected companies didn’t have SOPs to respond to the disaster, then it would be highly unlikely that they would last more than 6 months to a year… If that. Even if in these disasters, no one was hurt (or even died), the likelihood of survival after disasters without SOPS is unlikely.

Company “Innovation” Isn’t Innovating Anything

When you don’t have anything written down, any innovation you try to enact doesn’t really innovate anything. Instead, it’s often reinventing the wheel (and makes more work for yourself). It’s difficult to see what needs improvement. An innovation that isn’t documented rarely gets into production and even more rarely becomes your most successful…

If you innovate something but can’t reproduce it because you didn’t document what you did and how, is that an innovation or a disaster? Only you can decide. That innovation could have been your first, or next million dollar product. But if you can’t recreate it, then it has a business value of exactly $0. Think about it… You may not like to create documentation. You may not even be good at it. But if you don’t do it and don’t create SOPs, then it could be a very costly mistake. To help, we’ve created the Easy-To-Implement Scalable SOP Framework that you can access for free.

When your company doesn’t have SOPs, it creates an opportunity for disaster to occur. If you need help writing your company’s SOPs, reach out to us today

Implement Our Scalable SOP Framework & Scale Your Business Processes With Ease

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What Happens When Your Company Doesn’t Have SOPs
Difference Between Copywriting and Content Marketing

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Marketing

English is an incredibly powerful and often complex language. It’s estimated that the average number of English words a person knows is 10,000-20,000. To put that into perspective, there’s over 470,000 English words. That means most English speakers only use and/or know only 5% of the English language.

Then beyond just the numbers, there are different dialects of English. While I grew up in Texas, I also grew up as a European. You see, my parents are British and raised us up with the British dialect. You can imagine mixing the Queen’s English, American English, and a Texan twang. One thing that I learned growing up is that words – when strung together strategically – can be incredibly effective at convincing someone to do something.

Whether it’s convincing someone to click the button to buy or creating an emotional connection…

WORDS HAVE POWER.

One thing that many people mistakenly use interchangeably is copy and content. So… I’d like to share the difference between copywriting and content marketing AND why your company needs to have two separate strategies.

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Marketing

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Marketing

The main difference between copywriting and content marketing is the answer to this question… 

“Is my purpose to sell?” 

If the answer is “yes”, then it’s copywriting. 

If the answer is “no”, then its content marketing

Ideally, all content marketing would also be copywriting

Not all copywriting is content marketing though.

Definition of Copywriting

The definition of copywriting is… “the act of writing material (copy) to persuade the intended audience to take a requested action”. In other words, copywriting is persuasive writing. Typically, its goal is to sell something or to take a specific transactional step; however, it could also be to convince (i.e. pitch and sell to) your employees to buy-in to your vision and brand.

Copywriting is unique in that is does not always have to be presented in a written text. It could be behind a video sales letter, a webinar, commercial, or an image.

In addition, copywriting focuses solely on how the product / service / idea is going to benefit them.

Each piece of copy includes a hook or attention grabber. This is something that makes the reader move from the first line to the second line. Then comes the pain the customer is experiencing… This is key because without a pain point, the product isn’t really solving anything. Then the copy moves into the solution – your product or service – and how it benefits the reader. Most copy also includes a guarantee, a sense of urgency (i.e. registration is closing soon), and scarcity (i.e. there’s only 100 seats open).

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Marketing

Definition of Content Marketing

Conversely, content marketing is the publication and promotion of content (blogs, videos, social media, etc.) that attract a target audience but does not explicitly ask for the target audience to take a specified action. Moreover, content marketing creates brand awareness, allows the site to be search-able, and moves the company from just another option to an authority.

Most content teaches, enlightens, or brings awareness to a specific topic. It usually includes an intro (like the hook), the content, and then a conclusion. Good content will also have copy inside of it – call to actions.

When I first started in my marketing journey, I loved content marketing – still do. There are so many ways you can splinter off topics into mini lessons, stories, and ideas. It came very naturally to me. However, effective content needs to have a strategy that includes copywriting.

Content Marketing Strategy

Because there is so much content out on the Internet, it’s critical that you put together a content marketing strategy that differentiates you from the crowd.

For example, there is a consulting firm that offers accounting services. An obvious topic to discuss on a blog is cash flow. BUT there is no way that you can effectively talk about cash flow in 1,000 words. They splinter the topic a little further into cash flow reporting. BUT they could talk about daily cash reports, 13-week cash flow reports, cash flow forecasts, etc.

Steps To Build Your Copywriting Strategy

Building your copywriting strategy starts with…

1. Initial Prep-Work

Before you start writing, you need to start with the prep-work.

What are you trying to accomplish? Lead generation, acquire contact information, sell a $100 product, set up a meeting for a $20,000 contract, etc…. Whatever it is, write down the intended goal for your copy.

Then identify the intended customer. Most likely, you have already done this. BUT this time go into depth about your customer. Give them a name. What are they experiencing? What is their life like? How do they feel? What are their concerns, Why do they want to talk to you?

Finally, answer these questions… 

What are the benefits of the product/service and how will the customer benefit from taking the requested action? 

What are the benefits of the benefits? 

And the benefits of those benefits? 

Another question we ask during our prep-work session is… 

So what? 

Ask that several times to get the real benefits to your customer’s customer (i.e. the people they are trying to sell to).

2. Figure Out How You Are Going to Distribute the Copy

Then you need to figure out how you are going to distribute the copy. You can do it through…

  • Videos
  • Sales letters
  • Long-form social media
  • Voice or audio (think radio or podcast)

All are totally valid and effective forms of copy distribution.

3. Start Writing For The Intended Distribution Method

You get all your information and how you are going to distribute it. Now, it’s time to start writing.

Start with identifying your tone – rebellious, sarcastic, professional, vulnerable, dry… Carry that tone throughout the entire copy.

Depending on your intended distribution method, you may format your copy a little differently. But the general format is…

  1. Hook / Headline
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Benefits
  5. Benefits
  6. Price
  7. Benefits
  8. Buy Now
  9. Benefits

Have I said benefits enough? That’s the real difference between contenting marketing and copywriting.

4. Proofread

Before you publish, proofread, and then proofread again – use different people and get them to read it out loud. Strangely, reading copy from the last word to the first word also catches a lot of errors too! 

You do not want to have your sales letters riddled with typos or nonsensical language.

5. Test and Retest

Just when you think that you’re done, it’s time to test your copywriting strategy and retest. It’s important for you to track how effective (or ineffective) your copy is. First, you need to drive enough traffic to the piece of copy to be able to test it. Get a baseline conversion rate – conversions / traffic = conversion rate %. Then test different variables like distribution methods, button color, headline copy, etc. Be sure to only test one variable at a given time. Think back to your 6th grade science experiments!

If the conversion rate increases, keep the change and test something else.

If the conversion rate decreases, go back to the original copy and test something else. 

Next Steps…

So, what are your next steps? Evaluate your current copywriting and content marketing strategies. Does your company have a strategy? Is it as effective as you want? If not, contact us. We can help you improve your sales and sales potential by working on your strategy. Reach out to us today to schedule your free consultation.