flower tree

5 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Online Business

Overheard in the office this morning: “The sun’s out so I can’t complain.”

After a few grey days and long months of winter, that pretty much sums up my feelings exactly.

Spring has officially sprung in the British capital!

Even if I’m still in boots and a jumper (hey, it’s London) the sunnier weather signals a fresh start — a chance to dust off those landing pages, make your social media shine and brighten up the ole blog.

The best part? They’re easy, and dare I say, fun updates to make.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and breathe some new life into your online business.

These five tips will tidy up your digital space in no time and give it that glow other websites wish they had.

1. Revamp Your Headlines

Headlines and page titles play a huge role in attracting visitors to your site.

They’re not only the first words people see when they land on your website, but they also tell readers exactly what they will gain by clicking on your content. Or at least, in theory, that’s what they should do.

To see if your headlines are providing as much value to your community as possible, open up your blog or a landing page on your site and ask:

  • Is the benefit clearly stated?
  • Do you want to click to read more?
  • Can you easily understand what the article, video, landing page, etc. is about?

Every title on your website should pass this three-part test with flying colors.

In fact, you can even apply this “rule” to your social media posts too.

Because headlines are THE chance to pull your reader in.

If you’re feeling stuck or not sure how to craft a compelling headline, look at magazine covers and newspapers. Try to incorporate their bold punchiness into your titles.

The Onion is a master of this, although I would say it takes a certain brand to pull off this type of headline:

Think of the benefit your reader will receive by clicking on your page and put it right into the headline.

Above all, keep your audience top of mind when writing headlines. Because if it’s meaningful and relevant to their lives, it will catch their attention.

2. Perform Better on Google

Wouldn’t it be awesome to know which search terms are taking people to your site?

Google Search Console is a free tool that tells you just that and more.

Once you connect your website to the Search Console, you can see:

  • The search terms that pulled up your company’s pages during an organic search on Google
  • How many times one of your pages showed up in a user’s Google search results (the tool calls these “impressions”)
  • How many times a user clicked on your URL via a search
  • The click-through rate for each URL (i.e. the percentage of impressions that received clicks)
  • The position of your URL on the search page

This is a wealth of information about how users are finding your content through search, so how can you use it to your benefit?

A nifty video on using Google Search Console.

As digital marketing guru, Neil Patel, suggests, you can use it to zone in on search terms that aren’t resulting in clicks.

Jot down the search terms that have a high number of impressions but a low number of clicks.

Then try searching for the term yourself and seeing how your webpage appears in Google.

For these underperforming search terms, that can mean your SEO title and meta description aren’t clear and compelling enough.

Like your headlines, the Googler should know exactly what the content is about just by skimming it: short and to the point.

Next, make sure the description below the SEO title is also crystal clear. By giving the reader a bit more context while piquing their interest, your meta description can be the difference between them visiting your site or not.

No matter how you choose to use these insights, this tool is a quick and easy way to see which keywords are bringing people to your site. That’s gold.

3. Read More Tags & Widgets

I recently noticed it was next to impossible to discover new content on my website.

At the end of my blog posts, there was a small clickable link to the next post, but even I had trouble seeing it.

blog screenshot
On my blog, the links had to be changed to black and increased in size (see above).

For websites built using WordPress, Squarespace or Wix, the title of the previous blog post will typically appear at the bottom of a post, under a “Recent Posts” section or via a link to “Newer” or “Older” articles.

If this is difficult to find on your blog, try making the link bigger and more visual.

If your website is built using WordPress, you may also be able to add a widget to your footer to give visitors another way of discovering fresh content.

footer screenshot
The Recent Posts widget is fully customizable. Here’s how it looks on my footer.

This update, made by adding a “Recent Posts with Thumbnails” widget or “Read More” tag to your website, is one of my favorite tricks because it’s a small change that makes a big impact.

Plus, it extends the shelf life of your content. What’s not to love, right?

4. Boost Your Instagram Profile

With 1 billion people using Instagram each month, it’s easy to see why businesses choose to grow their community on the app.

It’s not a one-way relationship either; people interact with brands on Instagram.

According to Hootsuite, 60% of users discover products on the platform and 75% take action, like visiting the business’s website.

A content-packed Instagram bio with Linktree and Highlights.

This is why upping your Instagram game is so important.

Here are two simple ways to do that all within your Instagram profile:

  • Add Linktree to your bio so you can share multiple links to your website at one time
  • Use Highlights, or curated Instagram stories that do not disappear, to draw in your followers

Both of these tools are free and easy to use, not to mention a quick way to share more of your brand with your community.

What type of links can you add to Linktree?

The beauty is you get to decide. It could be your latest blog post, newest product, About page or even a music playlist. All you have to do is upload the link and switch it out whenever you see fit.

Highlights, on the other hand, are much more visual.

Pro tip: Canva has free templates you can use like this one to design your Highlights.

These permanent Instagram stories can be made up of photos, videos or both and can be a window into many aspects of your business: events, blog, services, tips and inspiration, ambassadors. Even the office pet.

Most importantly, they give your brand another dimension, a more personal one. Because what’s the point of social media if not to connect on a personal level?

Now, give Linktree and Highlights a go and watch your Instagram profile come to life!

5. Revive Your Blog

We’re not talking a full overhaul here, just some fun keyword search to give you new topic ideas for your blog.

I say fun because you sort of feel like an undercover detective when you find out what people, in general, use the web to search for.

Let me show you what I mean, with the help of two free tools:

  • Google Trends tells you how often a keyword was typed into Google over a period of time.
  • Wordtracker is similar in that it estimates how many times a keyword was searched for over a set time, but it also shows you how competitive that keyword and related search terms are.

Google Trends is a helpful way to identify seasonal trends, dig up relevant topics that people are interested in right now and see which geographical regions are seeking out your content.

A snapshot of topics and queries related to Van Gogh over the past month in the UK.

Alternatively, Wordtracker’s value comes from the competitive analysis it performs on a keyword.

It effectively tells you how many businesses are paying to get that keyword seen by as many people as possible.

That means you should focus on keywords with a high search volume and low competition. Those are the topics people are interested in but aren’t being overly covered by other brands.

‘Easter’ has been searched for roughly 60,500 times in the past month.

Once you start plugging in your own keywords and getting a feel for these tools, you’ll see how handy they can be for producing fresh and relevant content for your audience.

And with that, you are well on your way to giving your digital storefront that special springtime glow — one that radiates sunshine and success.

Looking for help to achieve that glow? Drop me a line at celeste@cbacontent.com.

vlad dracula

Dare to be Like Dracula: The Mesmerizing Power of History & Horror

Vampires look like humans. Some so beautiful they hypnotize people.

Three such mesmerizing vampires seduced a lawyer from England, Jonathan Harker, when he visited Castle Dracula for the first time.

It’s not until after Harker escapes from the female vampires’ deadly spell that he realizes Dracula, his host, only wants one thing: human blood.

Bran Castle

Bran Castle, also called Dracula’s Castle. Stoker may have used it as inspiration for his book.

This fictional story is from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written in 1897 and renowned all over the world. Today, the book’s basis in history and connection to real people and events is what fascinates me most.

Because it uses fiction to tell the truth about a brutal 15th-century ruler, Vlad the Impaler. He and Dracula shared a thirst for blood, one while defending Transylvania and the other while trying to survive and grow the domain of the undead.

This idea of fiction being used to shed light on the truth is key to all good storytelling. Whether you’re writing a novel about vampires or a blog post about your business, the ability to educate and entertain your audience is powerful.

Here’s how you can incorporate history (fact) and horror (fiction) into your marketing strategy to capture and hold your readers’ attention.

Inform with the facts

Without Dracula, Vlad the Impaler’s life and bloodthirsty reputation might have remained largely a mystery.

The fact Vlad’s father’s name was Vlad Dracul and he became known as Draculea, “Son of Dracul”, is no coincidence; the ruler’s name and his cruel punishment tactics (impaling his enemies on stakes), were the perfect inspiration for Stoker’s vampire.

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler

Knowing this gives Dracula another dimension. The vampire becomes more real because of Vlad and thanks to the Wallachian prince, readers are more invested in Stoker’s bloodsucking creature.

As a business, think about your different dimensions. Give your audience everything they need to know to make an informed decision about your product or service.

Using your homepage, landing pages, blog, newsletters, social media — all your content channels — set the scene, describe every benefit of your offering and paint a real picture of how your reader’s life will be transformed by your one-of-a-kind workshop, sustainable clothing line, etc.

There are a number of ways to do this including:

  • Sharing the story of how your organization came about
  • Telling your community exactly who you are (reinforce your core values)
  • Describing exactly what your thing does (material, look, feel, etc.)
  • Explaining how their life will change for the better (testimonials, case studies, research)
  • Providing them with something of value: a solution, an answer, expert advice

Think of what is relevant to your community right now. Pinpoint the stage they are on in their customer journey and produce useful content that they care about and can gain something from.

Give them Vlad. Just try not to scare any customers away.

Entertain with fiction

This is where the terrifyingly good content comes into play.

It’s the wolves howling outside the castle and the paleness of Dracula’s skin. It’s the blood from a shaving cut that causes the vampire to pounce on his house guest.

Dracula_by_Hamilton_Deane_&_John_L._Balderston_1938

Poster for a production of “Dracula” by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

In Stoker’s case, the gory details and bone-chilling plot twists are what entice the reader, leaving them wanting more.

Most likely your content won’t grow its audience by frightening them (unless you run a haunted house), but if you incorporate the elements below into your blog, newsletter, social posts, you will draw in and engage with your readers:

  • Use eye-catching headlines that clearly state the value readers will receive in exchange for their time
  • Create a bond with your community by being passionate about your product and speaking from your heart
  • Satisfy readers’ desires with a series of blog posts on a popular topic. Then package it into a free e-book!
  • Give a new perspective on your industry. Be different than your competitors.
  • Make sure your call to actions pop on the page and are easy to understand
  • Choose compelling images and user-friendly designs

Remember that your content marketing should imitate fiction in its power to captivate an audience, make them feel a special connection to the story and persuade them to keep reading. Your content shouldn’t ever be fake, fabricated or untrue.

Virginia Woolf put it succinctly: “Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction… “

People want the facts, but they also want to feel and experience something. That’s the bloody truth.

via Giphy

March of the Penguins: 3 Rituals to Enrich Your Client Relationships

Emperor penguins are extraordinary animals.

For starters, they return to the same stretch of frozen water every winter to mate and give life to the next generation of penguins.

In between finding a mate and nudging their chick onto the ice for the first time, they endure brutal weather elements (up to -60°C / -76°F), lose up to a quarter of their body weight when laying an egg and take turns traveling tens of miles back to sea to eat, restore their energy and provide food for their hatchlings.

Every March and April, emperor penguins make their way to Atka Bay, Antarctica.

This blew me away, knowing hardly anything about emperor penguins and their synchronized breeding habits before watching David Attenborough’s new show, Dynasties.

If Attenborough’s voice isn’t reason enough to watch the show, the concept certainly is: each episode follows a different animals’ fight for survival, beginning with the chimpanzee and ending with the tiger.

Episode two is dedicated to the emperor penguin.

While watching the penguins embark on their journey to Atka Bay in Antarctica and nine months later, seeing the new generation of penguins set out for the sea, three rituals stood out to me as a way to build bonds with your readers and grow meaningful relationships with your clients.

Here’s how the march of the penguins can benefit your business:

1. Find (and know) your match

Once the penguins make it to the nesting grounds, males begin courting the females and eventually pair off as mates for the rest of the season.

They create a bond that lasts for nine months, sometimes longer. A bond that gives birth to, protects and feeds a newborn penguin.

two emperor penguins
Emperor penguins bond with one mate each winter.

Think of their strong partnership as a symbol for the relationships you would like to build online.

You won’t be raising a chick with your readers, but you do wish to have a great rapport with them.

The first step to establishing that connection is to come up with a clear picture of your ideal reader. Ask yourself:

  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are they passionate about?
  • What do they desire? What do they fear?

Once you have this person in mind (giving them a name helps!), you can more easily come up with content solutions that they are looking for. Because you know what stage of life they’re in, what they’re pain points are and how your service can help them overcome these obstacles.

If you are just starting your business and not sure what your ideal reader looks like, make one up. Come up with someone who would realistically be interested in your product and adapt him or her as your business takes shape.

Knowing exactly who you are speaking to makes creating content and forming a solid bond with your readers easier.

2. Show them you care

Antarctic seabirds not only bond as mates, but as friends and fellow parents.

When the female penguins return to the sea after laying their eggs, for instance, the males become sole protectors of the egg. That means keeping the egg warm under its belly and protecting it from blistering winds for weeks on end.

hatchling
A hatchling keeping warm under its parent’s brood pouch.

To shield each other and their eggs from severe elements, male penguins huddle together, trading places inside and outside the group to survive.

As soon as the females come back with food, the chicks are carefully placed under mum’s belly so the males are free to fish.

Just as penguins meet every task with care and attentiveness so too should content creators.

Plan out how you can help your reader (from ritual #1) warm up to your business. Think about how you can gradually gain their trust.

Some ways to do this are by:

  • Sharing your story and why your organization exists
  • Describing what your product/service does and how it benefits them
  • Bringing customer feedback to life with testimonials
  • Providing useful, practical advice in an entertaining and memorable way
  • Speaking from the heart

Nurturing this bond with your readers is essential. And oftentimes, being generous with your content’s value leads to more worthwhile relationships.

3. Give them something they can use

Before the chicks can leave their parents’ close watch, they must learn how to walk.

A forceful nudge usually does the trick, sending the chick onto the ice for the first time. It might feel like tough love, but as mum knows best, it’s time for the penguin to make their own way to the sea.

emperor penguins
A hatchling getting the hang of this ice thing.

While you won’t be teaching your readers to walk (unless your target audience is toddlers of course), your content should aim to offer them something useful.

This could be in the form of a video tutorial, a benefit-driven listicle, webinar or e-book. There are countless ways to provide value to your prospects and customers, so understanding how your audience consumes and responds to different types of content will help define your content strategy.

If your readers are mostly millennials, perhaps a Facebook live will resonate more with your audience than blog posts.

The great thing about content is that you can always put it out there, gauge interest and do more of what works.

To get your creativity going, here are three ideas that keep your reader top of mind.

Like the nine-month journey of raising a new emperor penguin, quality content takes time and commitment. When you’re able to look in front of and behind you and see the community you created through meaningful content, you’ll be sliding belly-down on ice towards success.

Notting Hill Carnival

How to Immerse Readers in Your Content

When we arrived at the Music Box Village, people had already taken their seats.

The film hadn’t started yet but it was plain to see that the show had already begun. We were the actors and actresses, lovers and mistresses, dancers and revellers, dressed as Voodoo maidens and Rio Casanovas.

Coinciding with Valentine’s Day, the night was a tribute to the tragic love story of Eurydice and Orfeu. We were invited not only to celebrate their romance but to take part in their fabled fairy-tale.

View from above at the Music Box Village.

Besides showing up in costume, the evening didn’t come with any instructions. So while the movie screens were still blank, my friend and I made our way up to an improvised treehouse.

There were lots of huts and hidden alcoves around the open-air venue and if you looked close enough, you could see instruments attached to doorframes, windows, walls and ledges. Little did we know, they would be ours to play at the end of the night.

So how did the Music Box Village turn a group of festive spectators into performing musicians? By following the three golden rules for immersing readers in your content:

1. Invite Them In

Although my friend or I had never been to this venue, the invitation told us exactly where the party was located.

The only other explicit details were to dress up. Which helped because once we saw people in costume, we knew we were in the right place.

The Casa Samba group wore elaborate costumes.

Try and do the same for your online community and give your content a way to stand out.

If people can’t find your tech video review, instructional webinar or latest podcast, then how can they watch or listen to it, much less immerse themselves in it?

That’s why the most important thing to consider when publishing your piece of content is, how will my readers and prospects find it?

Come up with a plan for sharing your content, whether that’s on social media, your own site, someone else’s blog or via a newsletter. And think about how you can use a combination of these, such as sending out an e-newsletter and posting it to Instagram.

It’s also a good idea to give your readers just a taste of the content like you are letting them in on a secret. That way they have to click through to your website or landing page to experience the piece in full.

Then they are more likely to explore other pieces of content and potentially sign up for one of your services (the ultimate goal!).

2. Show Don’t Tell

From the moment we entered the experimental village, our senses were filled with colorful costumes, Brazilian music, samba dancers, Capoeira performers and more.

This perfectly set the scene so when the movie, Black Orpheus, began you felt like you were being transported to Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.

Carnaval with a Voodoo twist.

Although the Music Box Village could play to our senses a bit more easily, you should always consider different ways to engage your audience.

Catch their attention with compelling imagery and headlines. If it’s a travel narrative or lifestyle feature, describe what you saw, how you felt, who you talked to as clearly as you can.

The more you can bring your content to life (include photos, embed a video, link to your products or services) the better you can capture and hold their attention.

3. Hand Over The Reins

After the Casa Samba performers finished their group dance, the Brazilian beat drummers opened up the circle. It was our turn to join in.

They pointed us to the dance floor with their drumsticks and soon enough people were making their own music all around the village.

That’s the same response you should be going for with your content. Keep them entertained throughout the piece and seamlessly guide them to the next step.

Whether that is asking them to leave a comment, share it on their social media, sign up to your newsletter or purchase one of your services, make sure your viewers and readers know what to do next.

Remember, signposting your content with relevant links and tagging posts by category will not only help your audience learn more about your business and area of expertise, but it will also improve your company’s search ranking.

As you can see, being able to immerse readers in your content is a powerful achievement. One that the Music Box Village has so masterfully demonstrated.

If you’d like help creating this type of experience for your readers, I would love to hear from you at celeste@cbacontent.com or through this contact form.

Old Station House B&B

A Bed & Breakfast Guide to Attracting New Visitors to Your Site

The sun was setting as we walked up to our bed and breakfast in Broadway, a charming village in the Cotswolds.

Andy opened the door with a warm handshake and a smile, welcoming us inside so we could drop our bags before he gave us a tour of the house.

Starting in the entranceway, he gave us a brief history of the house,  which used to be the station master’s house in the early 1900s. This is the exact location, he explained, where the steam railway’s operator lived and managed the train line.

Inside the Old Station House

View from inside the Old Station House B&B.

By the door, Andy pointed out some flashlights that we could borrow at night and just inside the door he showed us a table full of brochures and guidebooks on Broadway and the surrounding countryside.

As Andy led us through the breakfast room, living room and up to our bedroom, my boyfriend and I immediately felt welcome and at home knowing exactly where everything was and how everything worked, from putting in our breakfast order to indulging in a nightcap before bed.

He pointed out the obvious (“Here’s the snack bar”) and the not so obvious (“The hallway lights are on a timer”), leaving no questions in our minds. Little did he know, but Andy was perfectly exemplifying how your website’s content can attract more people and convert more prospects.

Using Andy as our guide, here are three benefits of being as clear and transparent with your site’s visitors as possible. 

Your readers feel welcome

During Andy’s tour, he told us since we were staying in one of the smaller rooms that we could spend as much time in the living room as we’d like. 

Oh, and the light in the bathroom, he made sure to tell us might not turn on completely (it’s only happened once or twice) but the light above the mirror should be bright enough if needed.

Fireplace

Our favorite feature of the house.

His explicit instructions and homey tips for our stay put us completely at ease.

To provide this sense of comfort to your audience, use straightforward headlines on your blog posts that tell readers exactly the benefits they will receive by clicking through. Also, make sure your landing pages have uncomplicated titles, use clear language and a clean layout with ample white space.

It’s easy for customers to find their way around

Shortly after our arrival, we knew exactly where we could find things, and if not we knew we could ask Andy. The first morning, we even knew to put the long spoons we used for jam in a tall, clear glass so they wouldn’t leave sticky spots behind.

Everything was intuitive and easy to follow.

That’s what your website should strive to do — seamlessly lead your visitors from one page to another while providing them with the information they need to learn more about your service and purchase your product.

You can do this with the headline and layout suggestions above along with call-to-actions that pop out on the page, an easy way to contact you directly and user-friendly navigation.

These guidelines also apply to things like your business’ social media posts and newsletters — always aim to make your outreach messages clear with unambiguous directions so that your readers know exactly what to do next and are therefore more inclined to click to learn more.

A return visit is more likely

The night before we left the bed and breakfast, Andy reminded us that the steam railway reopens in March and when the weather is warmer, the village is buzzing with things to do.

He also told us he’d be happy to pick us up from the train station next time and if we wanted to go on a new hike, he would drop us at a footpath in the town nearby and show us which pubs and gardens to stop at along the way.

Inside the bed and breakfast

Train station touches were found around the house.

In other words, he gave us many reasons to come back. And I’m certain we will!

So when thinking about how to get visitors to return to your site, think about what you can offer them: free expert advice, exclusive deals and discounts, an online course, downloadable templates. Be creative! Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and ask, why would I go here and not somewhere else? 

If you get stuck, remember Andy and his wife, Jenni — the perfect hosts. They made us feel right at home by giving us a carefully thought-out tour, precise instructions and multiple reasons to plan a return trip.

All photos by Alex Chirita.

crystal ball

The Crystal Ball of CBA Content: 5 Bright Visions

It’s only natural, or supernatural rather, to look at the year ahead each January.

In the past, I kept my goals largely to myself, but now that I’m fully responsible for the direction and success of my work life, I’ve decided to spend some time reflecting on the past year and set goals for this one.

So let’s gather around the crystal ball of CBA Content and look into the future. With a little imagination, you will see five visions have already appeared!

So, what are they and what do they mean?

Here are five bright plans for CBA Content this year:

1. Pitch more articles

Writing is at the core of CBA Content. Whether it’s in the form of proposals, brainstorming sessions, compelling headlines or marketing materials, writing is how I communicate, create and bring ideas to life.

While writing will remain the foundation of my business, I plan to use it more as a research, reporting and journalistic outlet. That means pitching more articles to more publications in the hopes of getting rejected more (yes, rejected!) and published more.

The fear of being rejected is what usually held me back from not pitching articles in the past, but those days are over. My “Pitch Log” gained its first entry of 2019 yesterday and will soon see its second.

*scribbles down “New story idea” on to do list*

2. Be patient

Failure and success — landing that byline or new client project — require patience.

The first part of the equation, not hearing back or being turned down, is all too familiar to the seasoned freelancer. But for me, someone who is still learning the ins and outs of this independent work life, understanding that the next collaboration will take time to secure and get off the ground will be key in 2019.

In the early days of CBA Content, I was quick to say yes to anything. Even after a client project was in motion, I’d accept new responsibilities and take on more without batting an eye because that comes with the territory, right? Be flexible, balance your time, be the solution even if you don’t have one yet.

Yes, those are important, but so too is patience. This year, I will remember that you don’t have to jump on every single opportunity. Instead, I will practice putting myself out there more, worrying less about silent prospects and dedicating more time to building quality partnerships.

Which leads me to my next goal…

3. Focus on quality over quantity

The most obvious way to grow a freelance business is to take on as many clients and new projects as possible. Jump from one marketing campaign to a social media update to a blog post, whether for the same brand or not.

Because the reasoning goes, the more work you do, the more money you’ll make. But, there is another way.

Instead of piling on each request that comes your way, take a moment (read: be patient) and list out the pros and cons of the project. Ask yourself: How will it benefit you in the long run? Can you leverage this type of work to win new business or grow your existing partnership? Do you have the bandwidth to take it on? etc.

It’s easy to be distracted by the numbers game, thinking because you have more to do, the more successful you are; however, this year I will be more discerning about the types of projects I take on. Having one quality client partnership with a clear path forward is better than having three short-lived ones.

4. Embrace my creativity

This vision is based on another astrologer’s predictions which means it’s doubly important (stay with me!).

Time Out London, one of my weekly tube reads, published a 2019 cultural horoscope this week and I love the way CBA Content’s stars (aka mine) have aligned: “Expect new-found courage and creative energy over the next 12 months, Leo.”

So besides visiting the National Gallery and V&A more often, I plan to use these artistic adventures as opportunities to think in new ways, connect the dots and grow my work.

I’ve got my notebook in hand. Now, time to follow the stars, explore and absorb.

5. Celebrate!

After all, how are you supposed to achieve your goals without celebrating along the way?

The kind of celebration I’m talking about is showcasing my work and sharing it with all of you more often. Whether that’s through my website or on social media, this is something I really want to get better at.

In the short term, that means creating a portfolio of the marketing projects I have worked on so far. It also means keeping my list of published work up to date.

In terms of the big picture, I want to celebrate the fortunate opportunity I’ve had to start CBA Content and pursue my passion for helping others tell their stories, all in a city that I love — London.

Now that’s something worth celebrating. Cheers to 2019!

Why French Cuisine is Good for Content Marketing

“[T]hey know what to do with every scrap of hoof, snout, entrail, and skin … Because they grew up with that all-important dictum. Use everything! (And use it well.)”

This is how Anthony Bourdain describes the French style of cooking in his book, A Cook’s Tour.

I picked up his collection of food and travel tales before my last plane trip and have since been reliving his fearless and much-missed spirit through his writing.

He brings up French cuisine when talking about creating magic with food. To him, these classically-trained chefs are experts of taking the most unglamorous ingredients — “boiled tongues, tails, bones, and cheap root vegetables” — and turning them into something delicious, like pot-au-feu.

Not unlike how content marketers strip down a business’s purpose, down to the core, so that they can then reconstruct its message in many different meaningful and relevant ways.

Because when done right, content marketing doesn’t appear as a business-driven message at all, but as a story you want to read, a song you want to sing, a feeling you want to have.

So how do you go from a word or an idea to captivating someone’s attention and evoking emotions? Like the French, start with the basics and build from there.

know the exact ‘ingredients’ of your business

What does your business do for its customers that is better and distinct from the competition? In other words, what are the main elements that go into your company’s special sauce?

mixing ingredients

What ingredients go into your business?

Is your product or service easy-to-use? Eco-friendly? High-quality? Backed by research?

Once you know the essential components of your business, then you can begin to shape your brand’s point of view and unique approach to a particular problem.

This thorough understanding of what goes into your offerings will make it much easier to create effective landing pages, start a conversation on social media and focus your e-newsletters.

keep it simple (especially when the idea is complex)

Remember, as Bourdain points out, you have to start with “scraps and trimmings and fat, ground up and seasoned” to get pâté.

In marketing terms, that is to say, if you are trying to communicate a complicated concept to your audience, there are always ways to break it down and reconstruct it so that your customer not only understands the message but can also relate and empathize with it.

Marketers can do this by being empathetic themselves, trying their best to absorb the pain points and desires of your prospects and customers.

By putting yourself in their shoes, you can more easily see what questions they might have and what problems they are seeking to solve. Then, tell them how your business can be their solution in a clear and to-the-point way.

Talk to them, person to person. And tell them what to do next.

Which leads me to tip #3…

use your words — in a myriad of different ways

Your underlying message will remain the same for the most part (e.g. we’re credible, we’re classic, we’re dedicated, etc.) but how you present it will vary in every context.

On a landing page, for instance, you’ll have a headline, subheadline, copy and call-to-action to convey your message. This checklist will help make sure your content is easy to read and understand.

Creating a post for social media, however, will take on a different tone and appearance. It will be conversational in style, shorter and visually engaging.

There are lots of other content types that your marketing strategy will include and therefore lots of options when it comes to putting it together and sharing it with your audience. Sometimes fewer words will work better, or a graphic or a series of newsletters.

What’s important is how you decide to tell your business’s story (hint: follow the French’s lead to create something truly special):

Those shrewd and wily French toiled mightily over the years, figuring out ways to make just about everything that grazed, creeped, swam, crawled, or hopped, and every growing thing that poked through soil, rotted on the vine, or hid under dung, into something edible, enjoyable — even magical.

clay

How Creators Create: A Plastic Surgeon’s Love of Pottery

He credits his early creative drive to spending three years in kindergarten — the advantage of being grouped together with his older brother — and his later breakthroughs in breast reconstruction, he believes were due in part to specializing in a more creative field of medicine: plastic surgery.

Given his background, pottery seems to be a natural art form for this doctor, and my dad, Dr. Bob Allen, to take up, but we all know that artistic flair doesn’t appear out of thin air. So, where does he draw his inspiration from and what can he teach us about the positive side effects of being creative? He shares that with us and more below.

1. Did someone or something inspire you to begin making pottery?

In the early days of my profession, when my job was busy and not balanced, I thought developing an outside hobby would be good for my work and my mind in the long term. Pottery offered a way to use my hands like a surgeon; I could create something that wouldn’t have complications. And with pottery, the fruits of your labor are immediately apparent, molding the clay this way, shaping it that way until you’re satisfied.

Thinking back, too, I’ve always loved looking for Native American pottery on the South Carolina coast, where I spent a lot of time growing up. Finding these old treasures in the sand reminds you that this is an art form that’s been part of humankind for thousands and thousands of years. It holds up to time. I admire that.

2. How does being a reconstructive surgeon influence your approach to pottery?

Plastic surgery is one of the more creative fields in medicine. There’s no right or wrong way to solve a particular problem. It’s innovative, so when I figured out it was relatively easy to innovate and made a breakthrough in breast reconstruction, around age 40, that emboldened me to be more creative with pottery.

Dad's pottery

One of his vases inspired by Picasso.

Introducing something new to the field also made me look to the arts and humanities more as a source of inspiration. I began blending the two, arts and humanities with science, and that has proven to be a worthwhile experiment for me.

3. On the flip side, how has your creativity had an impact on your profession?

If your vocation and avocation overlap, that’s a very positive and desirable thing. Especially when you are able to be creative in your profession, that tends to have a domino effect on your outside hobby, like pottery, and you become more artistic and expressive.

When you enjoy being in a creative environment, I also find that you make more time to study other things of interest, like physics, astrology, history or whatever it may be. Letting your mind explore these subjects, in turn, helps nurture your creative side even more.

4. What are you working on now?

A piece of pottery made from many hands.

My brother created a flat, round clay plate to use as my blank canvas and my mother provided the inspiration for the design — a crayon drawing she did of my birth. She drew the intimate, hospital scene from memory, roughly 40 years later, and it’s been hanging in my office for over two decades now.

Recently, It’s taken on a new meaning.

Dad's pottery

His mother’s original crayon drawing with his first sketch (on the left) and his reinterpretation (on the right).

I decided to use it as a way to introduce an upcoming keynote lecture I am giving, called “The Theory of Everything”. The universe started with a big bang and so too did my life, according to the title of my mother’s crayon drawing, “A Star Is Born”.

It’s not a copy, though. Whereas her drawing probably took her less than 45 minutes to sketch, this piece is more dynamic and bold. She lightly and partially colored her subjects in on an 8×10 sheet of paper. I’m painting a 12-lb, 20-inch slab of clay in very bright colors. Mine looks like an album cover, a lot less modest and much more shocking interpretation.

I’ve had a lot of fun with it, probably spending 15 hours on it so far. It’s rewarding to get to go back to it and continue working on it as often as I like.

5. How do you figure out what you’ll create next?

That’s the fun of it — you don’t know!

I didn’t know I was going to do this painting of my birth after having it in my office for roughly 28 years. The idea popped into my head after thinking about this talk I am working on.

Originally, I thought I might use Picasso or Matisse as inspiration and paint a self-portrait in one of their styles. When you draw ideas from other artists and innovators, which I often do, you understand that a lot of them are interested in the innocence of childhood and how to tap into the free-spiritedness of it all.

Books, like the one I refer to when drawing different body parts, also guide my pottery designs. It helps to know, too, that pottery can be changed before it goes into the kiln. The glaze is water soluble so you can completely remove portions of your painting, change the colors and put in fine details as you go along. In the piece I’m working on now, I’ve changed her hospital gown to seersucker pajamas and painted on red lipstick and long eyelashes. Adding more detail to her ears is next!

6. In what ways has your pottery changed throughout the years?

Centering your piece — throwing moist clay on the wheel while it’s spinning and getting it totally centered so it does not wobble — is the very first thing you do. And in my opinion, the hardest thing.

As soon as it gets off center, it begins to fall apart, so you’ve got to get it just right. Over time, this gets easier, like molding a very thin piece of clay. A beginner potter tends to make thicker pieces, similar to when I started out. Once you get a feel for how to press and pinch the clay, you can then start making larger, more advanced pieces like vases, water pitchers and platters.

Dad's pottery

Two pieces, painted in the Picasso style that he admires.

I’ve learned a lot since taking up pottery. Like any craft, it takes time to perfect and make something you are proud of. After you’re happy with shaping the clay, you let it sit for a week and dry out. Then you carve and fine tune it, fire it, glaze (paint) it and fire it again. The process takes about four to six weeks from start to finish if you keep up with it. For me, it’s time I look forward to spending.

7. What advice would you give to people who are looking to be more creative?

That’s the key — if you’re looking for an outlet to express your creativity, you’re going to find it.

If you’re into poetry, read it, write it, go to poetry readings. Get it down on paper.

Take up a new hobby, like sculpture or photography. You don’t have to limit yourself to one thing, that’s the great part. Music, for instance, is another extraordinary creative outlet — one I’d like to learn a lot more about in my next life.

Throughout history, going back to the prehistoric age when people painted on caves, humankind has proven to be very creative by nature. So to nurture that part of ourselves, our inner being, is a positive thing.

Give shape to your creativity. Let it breathe. Go back to it. Bring it to life.

12 Summertime Workspaces Bound to Give You Digital Nomad Envy

The air is warm, the breeze is welcome and the backdrop, spectacular — a scene fit for a seasoned digital nomad.

Even though I can’t say I’m one of them (well, not near the extent of the remote workers below), I have always believed that a change in scenery has the power to inspire and energize.

Seeing as Southeast Asia or Northern Spain isn’t on my work agenda anytime soon, I rounded up 12 envy-inducing snapshots of #workhardanywhere pros.

So, until you and your laptop set out on your next adventure, sit back and revel in these wondrous office spaces.

1. Amphoe Mueang Krabi, Thailand

Why is Thailand one of the biggest hotspots for wanderlust workers? This view probably has something to do with it.

2. Bali, Indonesia

This part of the world (Southeast Asia) has clearly perfected the art of working remotely.

3. Zürich, Switzerland

A cute cafe turning caravan life into the next big trend.

4. Gili Islands, Indonesia

Yes, another one from Indonesia because, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to work and lounge here?

5. London, UK

I saved this one for a rainy day.

6. Istanbul, Turkey

This view slightly resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco — another reason to add Istanbul to the bucket list.

7. On a Train in America

Have you ever been on a cross-country train ride? This traveling coder pretty much sums up everything I dream would happen on a long-distance train trip: good views, productive days, cozy nights.

8. Avilés, Spain

This coworking space has it going on — a place to siesta and be successful.

9. On the Road in Spain

Or, if you prefer being on the move, pack up your van and grind on the go.

10. Bali, Indonesia

Does this mean Bali is the best place to work remotely? I’ll let you decide …

11. New York, USA

A productive oasis tucked inside New York City? Now that’s hard to find.

12. Tulum, Mexico

Maybe you’ll be sitting across this table in Tulum one day … and if not there, maybe somewhere else as equally inspiring.

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If you’re going to go nomading in Tulum (which I do recommend!) be aware that WiFi is super hit or miss there. I couldn’t rely on my Airbnb or at one hotel I stayed at, so luckily I found some places that had good setups with enough outlets, nice waitstaff who let you sit all day, and fast speeds. Save this list if you’re planning on going! You’re welcome 🙂 🌴Beach spots: 1) @azuliktulum (pictured) 2) @almatulum 3) @nomadetulum 🏠Pueblo spots: 1) @babelcafetulum 2) @tulumartclub 3) @frutomistico (vegetarian) . . . . . . #workandtravel #workhardanywhere #laptoplifestyle #officeoftheday #digitalnomads #officeview #beautifulplaces #girlslovetravel #girlssthatsparkle #exploretulum #locationindependent #digitalnomad #womenwhotravel #digitalnomadlife #digitalnomadgirls #femmetravel #tulumbeach #tropicalliving #tulumart #girlswhotravel #solotravel #tulummexico #wearetravelgirls #lifestyledesign #tulumvibes #nomadgirls #workingremotely #homeiswherethewifiis #coworking

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Let me know where your favorite place to work is in the comments below. And don’t worry, it can be as close as your backyard — because as these photos have shown, the workplace has no boundaries.

silhouette of woman

3 Ways Mary Poppins Can Magically Boost Your Business

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sort

 

Does that bring back any childhood memories?

Luckily for Jane and Michael Banks, the qualifications set out in their Perfect Nanny advertisement brought Mary Poppins down from her cloud and into their playroom.

A little magic could’ve had something to do with it, but I think Jane and Michael’s detailed letter painted such a clear picture of who they wanted that there was only one answer: Mary Poppins.

After rewatching the film on a plane trip recently and babysitting two of my favorite kids last week (No, I’m not comparing myself to Mary Poppins … well, maybe just a smidge?), it occurred to me that Jane and Michael’s advertisement perfectly exemplifies how your business should approach its marketing strategy — with precision, passion and purposefulness.

Using their nanny wish list as a guide, here’s how your company can incorporate the three P’s (above) into your content marketing plan to successfully connect with and grow your audience.

1. get to the heart of your business and audience

Jane and Michael had been around enough nannies to know exactly the type of person they didn’t want. So instead of getting stuck with another unfavorable caretaker, they wrote down every desirable trait they could think of:

You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Like the Banks children, get to know your product or service better than anyone else. This not only includes the technical aspects of your business (what it is, how it works, why it’s better than others, etc.) but also understanding your audience and what they are thinking throughout the customer journey.

One way to do this is through empathy mapping, where you write down what your prospect or customer is thinking and feeling before, during and after they have purchased your product. This will help you visualize your ideal customer, create a bond with your audience and tell the story (i.e. provide the solutions) they care about.

2. relate to your customer on a personal level

Once you’ve come up with your ideal customer (a specific name helps, too), it will be a lot easier to focus your marketing message and give your brand a voice.

Like Michael, don’t be shy about what you like and dislike — “and never smell of barley water”.

After all, your business was created to attract like-minded people. The type of people who agree on one thing and have an aversion to others.

Your service is not for everyone, so your brand’s story shouldn’t be either. Appeal to your audience’s emotions and stand up for what your business believes in, as long as it is relevant to your mission. Wondering the best way to do this? These three tips will help get you started.

3. Don’t forget your call to action

You’ve done your research, you know the ins and outs of your service and you’ve begun to connect with your ideal customer on a personal level. Now, how can your prospects take the next step and purchase your service?

Through your call to action.

Jane and Michael do this with their newspaper advertisement, of course. They even instill a sense of urgency — “Hurry, Nanny!”

Sure enough, the next day, Mary Poppins arrives and blows the competition away (quite literally).

To achieve the same effect and present your audience with a magical solution, you need to thoroughly and directly communicate what your product or service does. Describe its features on a landing page, create a video showing how it works, post photos of what it looks like.

At the same time, your action content is illustrating the benefits of choosing your service. The goal is to clearly depict how your product will make their lives better. Customer testimonials and case studies are great at this.

The last and most important step is to then provide a simple, obvious way for them to: follow you on social media, download your ebook, sign up for your newsletter, buy your clothes.

Whatever it is you would like your prospects or community to act on, make sure you give them an easy way, like a colorful button or pop-up window, to do so.

If sending your message up the chimney will help your ideal customer find you, then follow Mr. Banks’ lead. All I know is that a bit of Mary Poppins magic will make your business “practically perfect in every way.”

Fields of lavender

How to Grow Your Content Strategy Like Lavender

Walking through lavender fields in south London last weekend, I was filled with happiness.

The beauty, the sight, the smell was all a delight.

This new experience wandering through rows of lavender got me thinking — is it possible to give your audience a similarly positive experience through content?

Turns out, yes it is.

Lavender has three qualities that make for an exceptional content marketing strategy.

1. Grow gradually

Just as lavender takes one to three months to sprout, it will take time for your content to attract and engage new readers.

As a business, you will use different types of content across a range of online channels (your website, social media, newsletters, etc.) to draw in prospects, interact with followers and encourage them to take a specific action.

None of this happens overnight and no one piece of content magically makes your company successful. However, knowing which content is used to produce specific outcomes will help you gradually grow your business.

Here’s a quick rundown of content types:

Attraction content helps build a following.

It’s content that:

  • Communicates the value your reader will get in exchange for their time
  • Is free to consume
  • Specific, relevant and eye-catching

Bee pollinating lavender

Your content should attract readers like lavender does to bees

Action content motivates behavior.

It’s content that describes:

  • What your business stands for
  • What your product or service does
  • How you solve your audience’s problems
  • A clear next step for your reader to take

Authority content illustrates your expertise.

It’s content that:

  • Helps your audience by offering solutions
  • Shows you are a leader in your field
  • Your audience can trust
  • Encourages other people to link to and share

Affinity content creates a bond.

It’s content that:

  • You and your audience agree on
  • Your reader believes in and likes
  • Is passionate, genuine and important tor your brand

2. Nurture your evergreen

Lavender is an evergreen plant, able to last years after its flowers are dried out. This quality also makes lavender a very versatile shrub. It can be used as decoration, perfume, a deterrent (to pesky mothballs), in tea and much more.

That is the goal for your content: to be long-lasting and to offer a number of solutions.

Always think about how you can extend the shelf life of your content and adapt it across different platforms. Ultimately, you want any future visitor to be able to use, learn and benefit from your content in some way.

You could create a video, for example, on how to use your service and publish it on your  YouTube channel. Or write a blog post series on one topic and turn it into a podcast (or vice versa).

The possibilities are endless; just remember that evergreen content will benefit your readers long after it’s published.

3. Prune at set times

While it’s recommended to prune lavender soon after it’s been planted and once a year following that, you’ll want to look after your blooming content strategy on a more frequent basis.

There are multiple ways to tweak and improve your content plan as you go:

  • Analyze the metrics to see which content performed the best
  • Collect user comments and answer their pain points with solutions
  • Ask your audience for feedback, using a customer survey for instance
  • Listen to what your prospects are saying on social media

The great thing about content is that it is adaptable and easy to adjust throughout all stages of your marketing strategy.

Taking the time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, is crucial. It lets you see what resonates with your audience and in turn, gives you the insight to grow worthwhile relationships with your customers.

So, the next time you feel stuck in your content creation process, take a deep breath and imagine you’re in a field of lavender. Its purple leaves now represent much more than a soothing remedy.

Celeste in lavender fields

Lavender is good for the soul … and your content strategy!

woman silhouette

For the Love of London: What This Content Creation Venture Has Taught Me So Far

Keep laundry and other chores on Sundays.

Set alarm clock (and get up) on weekdays.

Grab a newspaper from the tube station every day.

This sounds more like personal to-dos than work ones, doesn’t it?

That’s because ever since I decided to go it alone and start my own content creation business, I’ve had to put my personal life in check. And make myself follow a routine so I won’t do everything humanly possible besides work and end up having regular freak-outs.

Taking the leap

About a year ago, I was on the fence about moving to London.

Then, I just went for it.

There was only one catch — I had to come up with a business plan and show that I was serious about my proposed freelance venture through letters of recommendation and sufficient funding.

With the help of a lawyer, massive support from my family, friends and colleagues, and a bit of luck, I was granted an entrepreneur visa to legally live and work in the UK.

*cue the fireworks*

The bumpy beginning

After two months of sorting out legal documents and making my content creation business “official”, cbacontent.com went live!

At the time, I was energized and ready to take on anything. My website had the essentials (background info, published work, my writing and marketing services), but the truth was, it wasn’t giving people in search of content solutions what they needed.

Referrals from colleagues afforded me the opportunity to meet with and pitch a few businesses on content marketing. That was a start!

Plus, something had to come out of all this cold-emailing.

But, nothing did.

My impatience was getting the best of me and I had too much time to think about what I was doing wrong.

It was deflating, absolutely. But this wasn’t going to be the end of my London dreams.

Learning my way

Instead of feeling my way through this black tunnel, I learned my way.

I signed up for Copyblogger’s advanced course on content marketing and am now one of their Certified Content Marketers.

I put my new video skills to test (thanks, Xanthe!) and started creating short films for Instagram.

I became fascinated by Shakespeare’s Globe and the life of Mary Wollstonecraft, researching and writing articles on both.

Tennis, our family’s favorite sport, became my next subject of interest (thanks to my brother’s business, Zen Tennis!)

In between everything was endless hours of reading entrepreneur, small business, freelance, content marketing advice online and in print. As a matter of fact, I’m in the middle of my favorite writing book now — Ann’s got content jokes, I love it.

All the while, I have listened to my family and friends. Because there’s no way I would have gotten this far without them.

Taking the lead

Then, sort of all at once, things started falling into place.

If you would’ve told me six months ago that three of my proposals would be accepted in one week, I would’ve laughed. And cried from happiness.

But, that’s how it happened.

Of course, all of my solo-business troubles have not magically disappeared, however, those troubles are slowly turning into mini-triumphs.

After months of second-guessing myself, tirelessly updating my site, gradually getting used to a home office and fixating on the negatives rather than the positives (sorry, Mom!), I am very excited to be officially producing content and marketing strategies for other businesses.

It’s liberating really, to collaborate with other people and help tell their company’s story while growing their brand and mine at the same time.

This new job ain’t so bad after all.

*knocks on wood*

Onward I go

Looking ahead, far into the distance as this is only the beginning, I plan to remember where I started.

I will continue to learn my way through creating quality content for other people.

I will let my interests lead me and fascinations intrigue me.

I will read, listen to and follow the teachings of pioneers and intellects.

On paper, my business may only consist of me, but so far, its success has been based on many amazing people, countless experiences and lots of inspiring stories.

Here’s to meeting, making and telling much more!

woman on laptop

Real Talk: What’s Content (and Why Should You Care About It)?

You’ve heard this term, “content”, being thrown around a lot lately.

“If you’re not producing content, then do you even exist?” they say.

The word even makes up half of my business’s name.

But really, what is it? And why does it matter to your business?

Since there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, let’s use something we’re all familiar with to talk about different content types and functions — weddings.

Just like there’s no one way to throw a wedding, there’s no one way to create and use content.

All the colors of content

Blog posts are probably the most common type of content that people discuss, but there are many other shades of content out there.

Consider going to a New Orleans wedding versus a Greek wedding — the first traditionally has a second line during the reception while the second usually includes smashing plates for good luck.

Likewise, different types of content can be seen across a variety of businesses. If you primarily manage a YouTube channel, for instance, you will produce mainly videos. Or, if you teach writers how to put together a novel, then you might have a webinar series that takes them through each step of writing a book.

Depending on what you specialize in will determine which type of content will resonate most with your audience.

This list will help get your creative juices flowing when deciding which way to educate, entertain or persuade your community:

  • Articles, including blog posts and guest posts
  • Videos, including live streaming
  • Infographics
  • Newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • E-books
  • Photos
  • Checklists
  • Case studies
  • Social media posts
  • E-courses or webinars
  • Promotions or sales offers
  • Whitepapers

quality content matters

Now that you have an idea of how wide the content spectrum is, let’s turn to the important role it plays on your website.

And while we’re discussing the benefits of creating content, it’s safe to assume that we’re talking about quality content and nothing less.

Because just as every wedding detail is carefully thought out, so too is engaging content.

Now, what kind of effect can good content have on your business?

The short answer: a powerful one.

The impact of good content can be more abstract, like building your authority in an industry, or more tangible, like direct sales.

In addition to helping you become a greater authority in the field, content has the ability to create a bond with your community, act as a sounding board for customer pain points, solve prospects’ problems and tell your audience how life will be better with your product or service.

More concretely, content can attract new prospects or subscribers, spark new relationships with strategic partners, cultivate feedback from customers and increase your ranking on search engines.

what will your ‘happily ever after’ look like?

As we’ve discovered, your business’s “happily ever after” will take on a life of its own.

Think about your company’s personality and the characteristics that define your target audience. Is your community more social and driven by visuals or more traditional and drawn to long-form articles?

Whatever it is that groups you and your audience together, try recreating that in content form. Don’t let the endless avenues put you off. Rather, embrace the possibilities, test it out and produce more of what sticks.

P.s. If you’d like help creating content for your company, email me here and we can put a plan into action.

Royal Wedding Crowd

The Royal Wedding’s Guide to Bonding With Your Readers

“She looked back at us!”

“We totally made eye contact!”

That’s pretty much how it went (times 100) after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry rode past my friend and me during their wedding procession around Windsor.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry riding down the Long Walk in Windsor. Photo by Sydney Bailey.

We felt a real connection with Meghan, especially after seeing the personal and modern touches she put on the royal affair and feeling her American influence on the ceremony.

It’s the sort of bond your business should strive to create with your community, whether that means someone unfamiliar with your brand or a knowledgeable customer.

You can create this special rapport using what some people call “affinity” or “tribe-building” content.

This type of writing, packaged as a blog post, social media update or newsletter, can be achieved through a number of techniques, which Meghan so gracefully demonstrated on her big day.

Duchess of Sussex, take it away.

lead with your beliefs

There were little things Meghan intentionally did on her wedding day because she believed they should be done that way. She walked down most of the aisle unescorted, something no other royal bride has done.  It was also the first time a British royal wedding had an American preacher deliver a sermon.

While these weren’t the only significant wedding decisions Meghan and Harry made, each of them sent a modern, more inclusive message to the world.

Meghan stayed true to her roots on her wedding day and the same should be the case when you create affinity content.

Since you want to attract people who share the same beliefs as you, it’s important to let your audience know what your company is passionate about. There is no point in trying to be all things to all people either because your business should stand for one particular person, not everyone.

By leading with your beliefs — those relevant to your brand — your message will narrow in on your target audience, attract like-minded people and lay the groundwork for a meaningful bond.

Speak from your heart

As cheesy as this sounds, I could feel the love emanating from Meghan and Harry. You could hear it in their vows and see it in their first kiss.

Without getting sappier, the royal couple was the epitome of two people who fell in love and came together in holy matrimony.

These are the vibes that you want your tribe-building content to give off.

Be passionate and play to the emotions of your audience. Your message should draw out a feeling from your reader — the same feeling you have towards a problem or desire.

Once they realize they share that feeling with you, they begin to relate to your company on a more personal level.

In your approach, it is OK to be upfront and candid with your reader, but also remember not to overdo it. Over-the-top statements or exaggerations can come off as phony and backfire with your audience.

be true to yourself

This last ingredient brings out the best in your community bonding skills.

From the outward displays of Meghan’s American background to the inward love she felt for Harry, it was Meghan’s authenticity that shone through every step of the day and captured people’s hearts around the world.

There are many reasons people feel a connection to Meghan. Maybe because she’s American or a women’s rights advocate or was an actress on Suits.

And there are also reasons why people are just beginning to be charmed by her. Because she is something  — American, biracial, feminist, etc. — and symbolizes ideals — the American dream, the power of love, a fairytale life — that people hold onto and want to be a part of.

Meghan is human, just like you and me. We can relate to her, which is huge considering that’s not always an inherent trait in the royal family.

That’s the key — to genuinely relate to your prospects and customers. Because being open, leading with your beliefs and speaking from your heart is how others will begin to trust you, like you and have a rapport with you.

Now, keep calm and bond on!

Horses

Two Windsor Greys make way for Meghan and Harry’s carriage.

woman jumping

3 Compelling Content Ideas to Win Over Your Audience’s Heart

The last bite of seafood pasta had been twirled onto my fork and finished off.

None of us wanted to leave this restaurant, its beachy, open-air construction built right into the cliff.

To remember it, we took a photo with the very friendly staff before saying ciao and grazie. It was a 30-minute walk back to the ferry, but just as we were leaving, our waiter said, “No, no, why don’t you take our boat back to the main beach? It’s a three-minute ride and free for people who eat at the restaurant!”

My friends and I quickly exchanged glances, all thinking the same thing: No way! They are SO nice here, this is the best restaurant in Capri!

And just like that, they won our hearts over. Their free shuttle saved us time and energy, which after walking everywhere on our trip, was very much appreciated.

restaurant photo

My friends and I with the wonderful restaurant staff!

For them, it was a small gesture to show how much our business meant to them, and for us, it made us feel like queens of Capri.

The restaurant’s complimentary boat ride is also a great example of how your website should interact with your own prospects and customers.

You want to leave a positive, lasting impression on your visitors and one way to do that is to give them something for free that will help them, or their wallets, out.

Here are three ideas for giving your website that little something extra. Because little things can go a long way and have a powerful impact on your audience.

1. A downloadable freebie

Don’t you love when you go to a website and they give you something that you can actually download, print off and use? It feels like you’ve been let in on a secret and since it’s free, you think you’ve hit a mini jackpot.

And it’s not just your audience who is gaining something. A lot of the time, these freebies are given in exchange for an email address, so if someone does download your cheat sheet, recipe or city guide, you will have a way to communicate with them in the future. To offer them similar solutions.

Think about what makes sense to offer from your brand’s perspective and create something they will enjoy and get good use out of. For instance, you could give them:

  • A  template or checklist for doing X (editing your own photos, writing a novel, etc.)
  • A calendar of events that pertain to your company’s industry
  • An e-book or professionally-designed document that compiles helpful information on one topic into a downloadable PDF

2. one-time purchase offer

You’ve probably seen this on e-commerce sites before, but another way to entice your customer to buy your product is to offer them a discount.

Depending on how and when you would like to offer this on your site, it could come in the form of a “new member discount”, a percentage off their purchase for a limited time or free shipping.

This can also be a win-win for you because if visitors have to sign up for your newsletter in order to receive the discount, then you will have their email address and access to their inbox. If this is the case, consider mentioning the discount next to the newsletter signup button on your site. More on how to successfully do that here.

3. expert knowledge or advice (with no price tag)

Using different mediums and channels, you can get really creative with this one.

There are many ways you can share valuable information with your audience, but some of the most popular and engaging solutions include:

  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Blogs
  • Live-streaming (i.e. Facebook Live, live stories on Instagram, etc.)

The cool thing about podcasts is that they attract people who genuinely want to hear more from you and your brand. They actively choose to listen to your show because they are interested in your specialized topic.

Separately, I watched a video recently where vlogger Thomas Kuegler said one of his followers got to know him way better after watching one or two of his videos than she did after reading his articles for a year.

That’s a pretty big impression and a reminder of the kind of impact video or live-streaming can have on your community.

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced that blogs are good for business, think again. There are many benefits of blogging, from increasing traffic to building your authority and trust with readers.

Sure, blogging or discounting your product may not be as glamorous as a free boat ride across the Isle of Capri, but it will have you feeling like a million bucks when customers start raving about your company.

girl in market

Easy as (Pizza) Pie: How to Make Your Customer Say Yes

Marinara or Margherita?

Coca-Cola, birra or acqua?

That’s how they take your order at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples, what some consider to be the best pizza place in the world.

Sure, it doesn’t hurt that this was the pizza Elizabeth Gilbert affectionately described in Eat, Pray, Love, but part of the restaurant’s appeal is also its simplicity. They make two types of pizza in one brick oven and offer three kinds of drinks while you wait.

No menu. No-nonsense decisions. Just happy customers.

Pizza from L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele

I heart pizza and websites that make it easy for me to say yes.

So, how can you make your online customers act and feel the same?

By creating content that clearly defines your product or service and motivates behavior.

More specifically, by addressing these four questions and incorporating their answers into your sales and signup pages.

1. Why choose your service over someone else’s?

Framed on the wall next to our table in the pizzeria was the excerpt from Eat, Pray, Love that details Elizabeth’s infatuation with their Margherita pizza. And on adjacent walls were family photos and pictures of celebrities at the restaurant.

These customer memories and stories are like testimonials for their business. They tell visitors what others think of their pizza and how this tradition has been passed down through generations. Together, they bring this famous Napoli experience to life.

So before asking someone to subscribe to your newsletter or buy a pair of your shoes, give your offer some context and let your customers know you are an authority in your industry.

For example, you could include a testimonial from a past customer to show how your product helped solve their problem. Or add a certification badge or award you received to the page as a symbol of your brand recognition.

Bottom line: give them a way to trust your service and assure them you are the best solution to their problem.

2. What exactly are you offering?

At the pizzeria, everyone around us was at various stages of digging into their pizza so we knew exactly what to expect. Plus, the smells coming from the brick oven were so divine you could almost taste the dough.

Brick pizza oven

Seeing and smelling the pizza just made us want it more. Photo by Christie Jones.

Even though your website can’t capture your customer’s senses the same way, it can use descriptive writing and visuals to tell them what your sofa feels like, how it looks inside a living room, what it’s made of, etc.

Similarly, a sales page dedicated to purchasing your e-book can include a picture of its front cover or a sneak preview of its opening chapter. The landing page could also include a table of contents and a summary of what the publication is about.

In other words, the more tangible you can make your offer, the better.

3. How will it make your customer’s life better?

The pizzeria has it easy here because when does pizza not make your life better?

In all seriousness, spelling out the benefits of purchasing your product or signing up for your service is a crucial part of getting your customer to say yes. There are many ways to illustrate the value your solution provides, but these questions are a good place to start:

  • What positive outcomes will your customer gain from this purchase or expert knowledge?
  • How will your product or service make your customer feel?
  • Is there research or data that backs up your user-friendly software or posture-correcting pillow?

This is where case studies and glowing customer reviews can help convince others to take the next step. If favorable stats support your business idea or people have flattering things to say about their experience using your service, put them next to the offer.

Remember, real-life examples and scientific evidence are great ways to reassure your customer that your product works.

4. Is it super easy for your customer to take the next step?

As you’ve gathered by now, the pizzeria couldn’t have made it easier for you to order a pizza pie. So easy in fact, I sort of wish every lunch order was that uncomplicated.

That’s the goal you should shoot for when creating a call to action (CTA)keep it simple and specific so there’s zero confusion on what to do next. Visually and verbally, your CTAs should stand out on the page and clearly lead the visitor to sign up or complete a transaction. More on how to do that here.

So the next time you offer a solution to your audience, don’t leave them in limbo, wondering whether they should say yes. Instead, show off your specialized experience, help them visualize your product, spell out the benefits and take them directly to the next step.

Serve them an irresistible slice of your business and they won’t be able to say no.

Writing a checklist

This Content Checklist Will Make More People Want to Visit Your Site

Bathing suit…check.

Passport…check.

Boarding pass…check.

If only improving your website’s content was as easy as preparing for a trip to the coast of Italy (I may be going there this weekend and it may be consuming all my thoughts).

Well, if you knew how to prep your content and had a focused checklist to follow, I think it could be as hassle-free as flying into the Tuscan sunset.

The real challenge is figuring out how to make your website dispense gelato and pasta carbonara on demand.

gelato

Content goals: To make your website as irresistible as gelato.

For now, though, let’s get to that content checklist so you can create a customer journey that people are excited to be a part of.

#1 Does it make sense?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that other people aren’t living and breathing your brand like you are. Whether you founded the company or recently joined the team, it’s likely you know a great deal more about the service or product than the casual web browser.

That’s why it’s important to put yourself in their shoes and ask if the content on your homepage and landing pages makes sense. Equally important is making sure the visitor clearly understands the purpose and point of your newsletter, about page, blog post, etc.

These  questions are a good place to start when determining if your content will easily click with your reader:

  • Is the brand statement, or the core of your business, prominently conveyed on the homepage and/or about page?
  • If this is the only page your visitor goes to, does it give enough background information on the product or service you offer and describe its benefits in a straightforward way?
  • Is your content inviting and accessible? For instance, do you use sub-headlines and bullet points to break up text? How about visuals to give your audience a clearer idea of whatever it is you are promoting?
  • Do you use industry jargon that others might not understand? It’s best to rephrase in those cases.

#2 Is it attention-grabbing?

One of the best ways to capture and keep your audience’s attention is with an enticing headline. That can mean the title of a landing page, a headline of a blog post or the subject line of an email.

These helpful descriptors have the power to make someone click, open, share or skip completely, so it’s always worth getting the headline right.

Here are some pointers on how to do exactly that:

  • What is your reader getting in exchange for their time? Put the benefit in the title and tell them right off the bat. This will intrigue them to click and find out more.
  • Is the headline an inside joke only your company would understand? Or, are you trying to show off your creative writing skills? Remember, it’s always best to leave puns or clever phrases out of headlines. The clearer the better.
  • “How To” or list headlines (“3 secrets to healthy-looking skin”) are great ways to structure a title because they make you think about the reader and the value you are providing.

#3 Do your readers know what to do next?

Before hitting publish on a new landing page or sending a sales email, make sure to include a clear call to action (CTA) in every piece of content. After all, the point of your business is for people to buy your product, sign up for your service, share your article, etc.

In order to get visitors to take that next step, your CTAs should be eye-catching and benefit-driven. It should be a no-brainer why you would click on a button to register for an online course or download an e-book.

Below are some tips for crafting effective CTAs:

  • Visually, does the CTA button or sign-up form stand out from the rest of the page? Putting it in a bright color or using bold text could really make it pop.
  • As for the copy, does it tell your visitor exactly what they will receive after entering in their personal information? Author Jeff Goins is really good at this.
  • Consider adding a photo of the e-book cover, screenshots of the online course or any other visual that helps give your reader a better idea of what they will be getting.

This checklist may be more detailed than the one you have for an upcoming weekend trip, but if you let it be your guide when publishing content on your site, your audience will enjoy the final destination (your digital storefront) a whole lot more.

P.s. If you would like help improving your website’s content clarity, headlines and CTAs, my free custom marketing evaluation is for you. Get a leg up on the competition and sign up here.

People working outside

Put a Spring in Your Website’s Step With These 3 Revitalizing Tips

Cafe doors are flung open. City dwellers flock to the park and I’m sipping on the first iced coffee of the season.

It’s only mid-April but with temperatures in the 80s (close to 30°C), London has fallen under a summertime spell.

Of course it won’t stay this warm for long, but while it does, let’s follow the capital’s lead and swap out the old for the new: it’s time to hit refresh on your website.

These three steps will not only revitalize your site, but they will also prove to be helpful guidelines when publishing content in the future.

1. Eliminate clutter

White space is your friend. It lets your content stand out on the page and gives your reader a more pleasant browsing experience.

Remember, you may only have 7 seconds to grab your visitor’s attention, so don’t let a cluttered layout turn them away before they settle in.

  • Remove out-of-date and irrelevant information like which high school you attended on your About Page. Or photos of your pets (unless maybe you run a pet business).
  • Take down graphics or visuals that don’t serve a purpose. They should either compliment the content on the page or serve as a signal to take an action.
  • Delete sidebars on landing pages — site pages dedicated to making a purchase, describing a service or getting visitors to sign up for a newsletter. The less distracted they are the better.

2. Lose the bulky blocks of Content

Long, dense paragraphs are the last way busy visitors want to learn about your company. Rather, focus on providing multiple entry points so readers can easily soak in your service.

  • Break paragraphs into small, bite-size chunks that are easy to skim. They shouldn’t be more than 4-5 lines long and variation in their lengths is a plus.
  • Use subheads (titles of subsections) and bullet points to break up blocks of text. They jump out at the reader and convey messages much quicker.
  • Mix in other forms of media like photos, videos, infographics and playlists to keep the reader engaged. Making them shareable is even better!

3. Give your social life A Boost

Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to go to the pub and make small talk. This step is all about sparking meaningful conversations online and making your content super easy to share.

Let social media be your megaphone.

  • Display social buttons on every page so visitors can follow you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also, adding shareable links at the bottom of blog posts and other content pages will make it easy for your audience to share your business tips, e-books, videos and so on.
  • Post any new, freely accessible piece of content onto social media. The tone and style will need to be adapted for each platform, but it will immediately widen your content’s reach.
  • Make signing up for your newsletter easy and obvious. Add the form to the bottom of each blog post and consider having it pop up on certain pages. Giving visitors a clear way to receive company updates is essential to creating meaningful customer relationships.

Apply just one or two of the above tips and you’ll begin to notice small changes in the way that people respond to and engage with your website.

Think of your online business as a work in progress. But less as “work” and more as a fun touchup, giving your site a pep in its step.

It’ll have you feeling like…

excited gif

via GIPHY

blue butterfly

The Simple Art of Differentiating Yourself (and Attracting an Audience)

One of the first things you see when you exit the train station in Bath, Somerset, is an iconic British telephone booth filled with flowers.

I’ve seen lots of red telephone booths, some lined with books inside, others vandalized and wreaking of urine, but never filled with purple primroses and intertwining ivy.

I took a photo of it thinking it’d be the only one in town.

Luckily, there was another one just around the corner.

Turns out, this is a trademark of Bath’s. Or another way of putting it — it is their unique selling proposition (USP). They reimagined an antiquated communication system and turned it into something you might encounter in a Lewis Carroll book.

It catches your eye and makes you think, why doesn’t London do that?

But that’s exactly what adds to Bath’s unique appeal. The city is smaller, quainter and has special touches like flower-filled phone booths.

Like Bath, your business needs to have a reason why people decide to visit your website or storefront.

What do you do differently and better than your competitors? It is this distinction, your USP, that will attract the right people to your brand.

Here’s how differentiating yourself and promoting your USP can be the simplest way to grow your audience and increases sales.

YOUR USP sets you apart

Roughly 2.6 million blog posts have been published so far today.

That’s a whole lot of content options for your audience to choose from.

Why would they visit your blog then and spend time on your site?

Because they value whatever makes your product or service different — a love of all things handmade, an eco-friendly approach or a long history of exceptional performance.

Your brand personality, motto or experience jumps out at them because it is relevant and/or appeals to them.

YOUR USP zooms in on your audience

A direct (and positive!) result of setting yourself apart is a clearer picture of who you are trying to reach.

Whether you share a belief with your audience or have a similar personality or way of doing something, that likeness is what groups you and your community together.

This likeness, originating from your USP, is baked into everything you do, and gradually attracts the right people to your brand.

So rather than casting a wide net in hopes of attracting a bigger audience, concentrate on your distinguishing trait and focus on drawing in those who you have something in common with. This will make it much easier for your target audience to recognize you and become a valuable part of your community.

YOUR USP naturally generates engaging content

Once you decide what your special X factor is, put it at the center of everything you do.

That way you have a guiding light, so to speak, that makes it obvious which direction your blog posts, newsletters and company’s content should take.

If achieving a meditative mindset is at the core of your yoga clothing line, then your content should revolve around a mindful lifestyle. You could write a blog about morning routines for a productive day. Or shoot a video of your favorite meditative poses. Or team up with a healthy food store and host a yoga event.

The possibilities are endless when you clearly define what makes you different. 

Whatever your X factor may be, it is essential in catching your audience’s attention. It not only provides a meaningful connection to your community, but it also makes it much easier to create compelling content.

Think of the flower-filled telephone booth and capture your customer’s imagination with your USP.

Woman with phone

3 Meaningful Ways to Connect with Your Online Community

We had 30 minutes to kill before the next bus to Chatsworth, so we started making our way to a coffee shop around the corner.

Before going in, I noticed a man in a big green coat and checkered Sherlock Holmes hat talking to my boyfriend.

He had just arrived from Baslow, a town over, and stopped to chat with my boyfriend, Alex, about his camera and photography.

After checking his watch and waving for us to follow him across the street, he said he’d love to treat us to coffee before meeting his friend.

He led us through a nearby hotel lobby, telling everyone hello along the way (he even knew their names), and offered us to take a seat while he added coal to the fire.

My boyfriend and I were smiling as we sat down, both thinking, “He is so nice! This never happens in London!”

Our new friend, John, had made the perfect first (and lasting) impression, and here’s how your blogs, newsletters and social media posts can too.

John Trevarick

Photo of John Trevarick by Alex Chirita

1. Be friendly and warm

If you plan to catch your reader’s attention as they flip through lots of other attention-seeking content, as is the case on social media, your message should be inviting and personable.

Like John, who introduced himself with a smile and a handshake, be friendly in your approach.

  • Use a conversational tone
  • Lay out your text in bite-size pieces
  • Introduce your message with a strong headline or relevant greeting
  • Upload a photo, video or GIF that matches the nature of your message
  • Make sure readers can easily access your content if it is on another platform

2. Be engaging

You want to find something in common with your audience so they feel like they are a part of the conversation. If your readers aren’t interested in the topic or can’t relate to it, then they will skip right over it.

John immediately asked us what we do in London, come to find that all three of us—he a singer, Alex a photographer and I a content creator—can relate to the difficulties of trying to make a career out of a passion or art form.

Yes, John had a long, successful career and had been through a lot more ups and downs, but he genuinely cared about our professional goals and how we planned to reach them.

He created an enjoyable, two-way conversation that was relevant to our lives—the second key to making a meaningful connection with your online community.

  • Narrow in on what your audience cares about
  • Think about your content’s purpose—does it solve a problem, entertain or act as an announcement?—and stick to it
  • Write a punchy headline that draws in your readers (and doesn’t mislead them)
  • Be passionate and genuine in the delivery of your message
  • Ask a relevant question and invite readers to leave comments or feedback

3. Be giving

It’s important to always give your audience more than whatever you are asking for.

In exchange for your reader’s time and attention, your content should provide something of value: a solution, piece of advice, helpful information, service or special offer.

John not only told us entertaining stories that are now fond memories (he met Tony Bennett once and sang him his favorite Tony Bennett song!), but he also insisted on paying for our coffee and looking him up the next time we visit Derbyshire.

He turned a spare 30 minutes into a new friendship.

How can your content do the same?

  • Offer a free e-book with authoritative advice or tips
  • Host a video chat where you answer your viewers’ questions
  • Give special offers on your products or services
  • Put on a contest and reward the winner with a prize (big or small)
  • Produce an entertaining podcast or post a cool behind-the-scenes video. Get creative!

There are countless ways to connect with your online community, but creating content that is friendly, engaging and giving will make those connections meaningful and relevant.

Thanks, John, for showing us how it’s done.

P.s. Here’s a short video of our weekend in Derbyshire.

woman working on website

The ‘This Is Us’ Approach to Evaluating Your Online Business

While catching up on one of my favorite American TV shows, This Is Us, Beth and Randall (a married couple) played a game called “Worst-Case Scenario.”

It’s like a mental check they do with each other when something goes wrong.

For example, when their foster daughter, Deja, is being difficult and moody all the time, they imagine what would happen in the worst-case scenario. Randall suggests Deja will kill them in their sleep and end up on the streets doing drugs (dark I know, but that’s the point). Then Beth, trying to top Randall, suggests Deja will kill them while they are awake and eventually turn their other two daughters into prostitutes.

As you can see Beth and Randall are pretty good at the game—taking it to the extremesbut once they’ve thought about the worst-case scenario, it’s easier for them to see the bright side of things and confront the difficult situation head-on.

The beauty of the game is that you can play it with anything, like your website and online business. And before jumping to conclusions and thinking this is some cruel exercise, don’t worry. It’s actually kind of fun (and completely harmless) to think how terribly wrong some things can go.

Plus, you end up seeing things in a more positive light once you’ve considered the worst.

So let’s play

Worst-case scenario: your website doesn’t have any content on it. There’s no blog with helpful posts or inspiring ideas for your visitors. There’s no newsletter sign-up form to connect with your audience. There are no landing pages to promote your products or services.

The result? No one can find you on Google, no one will visit your site and no one will buy your eco-friendly clothes or use your professional catering service.

Now let’s pretend we’re playing with Beth, who considers another, grimmer situation.

Worst-case scenario: your website is bland and doesn’t offer anything new or interesting to your visitor. Equally as bad, the homepage claims that your real estate experience is “simpy the best”. There are no calls to action and your blog posts from 2010 are full of real estate jargon no one can understand.

In other words, if someone lands on your site—cold, unprofessional and outdated—they will immediately leave. There goes another potential customer.

On the bright side

Your website isn’t like this in reality. And if it is…well hey, at least you have a website, right? Not quite…we should talk about how to spruce it up if that’s the case.

As a business owner or someone who is trying to gain exposure online, it’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to get right.

Before creating content and providing solutions for your audience, think about the big picture:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What makes my product or service different and better than the competition?
  • What are my customer’s pain points and how can I help them?

Knowing the answers to these questions first will make it easier to organize your website and produce meaningful and engaging content for your online community.

Make your website the best-case scenario

The next time you step back and reflect on what your website is doing well and what it can improve on, take Beth and Randall’s approach: what is the worst outcome of running your online business like “x”?

Nine times out of 10, your website is not headed in that direction. You know what makes your product stand out from the competition and your passion for helping others is contagious.

Start there—with the traits and knowledge that you already have—and a clearer picture of how to grow your online business will emerge: should you share your tips with followers in a different way, or do you need to reposition the content itself?

One thing is for sure: your website is easier to confront than an unruly child.

See now? The best-case scenario is totally attainable.