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Archive for quick tips

Your bio matters.

Are you happy with your business bio?

Most business owners I talk to aren’t, they just don’t know if it’s important enough to fix. It was pretty torturous to write in the first place and no one wants to mess with it again.

Fix it. It is that important.

Why are customers buying from you? We tend to think our talents and strengths are normal and everyone has them. We miss marketing our most unique and valuable abilities because we just don’t see them. In the new world of passive marketing that’s an advantage we can no longer afford to miss.

Are you telling perspective customers who you really are with the bio you’re currently using?

In Your Voice has a unique way to create a remarkable business bio that shows off who you really are. We still use the traditional things, like a copy of your existing bio and your LinkedIn profile. The twist is, we get permission to interview 3 of your best referrers, people who really know you. They provide an invaluable perspective on what makes you the very best at what you do. This gives us the insight to really showcase what is unique about you from an unexpected direction.

The result? Three versions of your bio suitable for speaking engagements, social media, and your website and even unique-to-you phrases you can use during in-person networking events.

You don’t have to write another word.

Ready to start? Drop me an email.

 

30 Seconds-Go!

In the world of small business marketing, there is this thing known as the 30 second commercial.

I shudder at the very name.

Really, the name is a problem. If you think about it as a commercial you’re going into it with the wrong approach. You want to think about it as your Brief Introduction.

You can’t sell me in 30 seconds, so please don’t try. Most people are trying to cram their entire business profile into those 30 seconds. It’s full of jargon, carefully constructed (can you say convoluted?) intricate sentences and it is obviously rehearsed, because no one talks that way.

Much like a commercial. Usually, your 30 seconds sounds just as fake as the woman who loves mopping the floor.

Those 30 seconds shouldn’t be your sales pitch. They should be a teaser that makes me say “I really need to talk to her when we break.” Use that time to interest me, to engage me, to show me what a fun person you’d be to work with, and give me enough information to generate some questions. If I need what you do and I think you’re fun and interesting, I’ll hunt you down. So lets rebuild your introduction.

Shortly after I went into business for myself I learned that whatever it is that we’re selling, what we’re really selling is “I’ll take care of that for you.” So what will you take care of? What problem are you fixing? What pain will you take away? But then turn it into something unexpected. Instead of “I write blogs.” I like to start with “I want to tell your story.” Make me wonder where you’re going with that so I’m still paying attention when you get to the end.

Then make sure people can relate by sounding conversational. I could say “I offer developmental editing services to business professionals looking to increase their credibility by becoming published authors.” Sometimes I do say that. More often in a networking setting I’ll say “I work with professionals to get that half finished book off your laptop and out into the world where it can make a difference.” Give me an example. If I need your service, make me see myself in your description.

Once you’ve gotten my attention, then give me a few more details about the kinds of things you do. What makes you different? Why should I pick you?

Choose wording that comes naturally to you. This may get me blacklisted from the editors guild, but don’t worry so much about complete sentences and grammar. In conversation, some times an incomplete sentence, or something humorously grammatically incorrect, stands out in a good way for emphasis. Speak the way you normally would, but at your best and most eloquent. You have time to practice after all.

Do practice, and then practice some more. The only way to sound natural is to rehearse. Just think about some great speakers, or how about great performers? Have you ever heard a comedian do a stand up routine? They sound as if every word is just made up on the spot. If you attend their show again tomorrow, it will be the same laughs and stories, and it will still sound completely natural. That brilliant, easy assurance comes with practice. Once you’re really good at one version, mix it up a little, choose a different point to highlight. Then practice again. Like a politician, have your sound bytes ready for every opportunity.

When it’s your turn to stand up, smile and watch your body posture. When you smile and relax, the people you’re addressing will also relax. If you can get them smiling, you’re on your way to building a relationship, and that’s where the sales happen.

So if you’re me, your brief introduction looks something like this:

My name is Pamela Potter and I want to tell your story. You know that half finished manuscript on your laptop that you’ve stopped looking at? I work with professionals like you to get those manuscripts finished and out where they make you look good. You know those blog posts that you don’t write because you don’t know what to say? I write those so you don’t have to. Speeches, articles, all those ways you could be getting your message out to the world, but don’t? Well, not everyone gets to be good with words. I do, so lets work together to get your story out where it can make a difference. I’m a ghostwriter and editor and I want to help you change the world.

No list of services. No details about my methods. Just telling my story of how I’m going to fix something that you don’t like. If I touch on a pain that you feel, you’ll make a note. If I intrigue you, you’ll ask for more information. If I don’t resonate, then you aren’t my client and we’re good. Listing the details of everything I can possibly do isn’t going to change your gut reaction.

Most people buy with the heart, not the mind. So reach out to them there. Ditch the details.

The first rule

The first rule of professional writing is “have it edited”. I don’t mean for writing professionals, I mean for anyone writing professional copy. Websites, workshops, handouts, fliers, if you are creating something for the whole world to see, have someone, almost anyone, read it for you.

When you look at something you wrote, you can only see what you think it says, not necessarily what is really there. You’ll catch some mistakes, but maybe not the most important ones.

Of course, there are limits. I’m not suggesting that your Facebook posts on behalf of your business need outside editing. They are usually quite short, so any errors are easy to see and generally at the level of a typo, and Facebook viewers are remarkably tolerant of typos. I’m not really talking about blogs. Heaven knows if I had to wait for a 3rd party to edit every blog post I write, I’d never get anything posted. Blog posts, until you become tremendously famous, are usually light and chatty and your audience is likely to forgive a small error or two.

On the other hand, I recently attended a conference and was very impressed with one of the speakers…until I saw her event flier. I was still impressed with her vision and presentation, but it was tempered by her lack of attention to detail. There were 2 major errors that would have been caught by just having one other person look the material over before printing. When you are putting materials out that represent you and your business, you can’t afford to be sloppy in the details. It is counter productive.

Even as a seasoned professional with years of editing experience, I stick by this rule. On the very rare occasions that time pressures cause me to be over confident? It seems that it always comes back to haunt me. Which is very embarrassing. Have your work edited by someone you respect. It doesn’t have to be a paid professional, but it has to be someone other than you.

Don’t wear it out…

What is your favorite word? Most people, especially writers, have a few favorites. They aren’t usually sexy or inspiring, just the words we tend to use regularly in our speech patterns.

The thing is, speech is ephemeral. Writing tends to last, possibly forever, and the words we saw in the previous paragraph are still visible to us as we dive into the next one.

So, if you have a certain pattern of speech, like starting sentences with ‘so’, what is barely noticeable in a conversation begins to really stand out in writing.

The thing is (there it is again), many of the verbal connectors we use for emphasis while speaking just don’t function the same way in writing. They clutter up your text and distract from your point. In blogging and online we’re walking a fine line between wanting to sound conversational and recognizing the limiting factors of writing versus speech. If you’re writing stories, articles, or especially books, it becomes even more important to pay attention to the details and not fall into verbal bad habits.

I encourage you to take a look at the last few things you wrote and see if you can identify your personal pattern. If you can’t find it, invite a friend to look at your writing and offer comments. It isn’t exactly a problem, but if you write often it can become a little wearing on your audience.

I have a friend who is a most excellent writer. I read everything she writes and enjoy it immensely. Her characters are complex and well designed, her plots are detailed and interesting. But, her favorite words during one set of stories are ‘peculiar’ and ‘unique’ and at some points I lose the thread of the story trying to substitute alternate descriptive words. Distracting.

 

 

Should you bite your tongue?

I’m constantly amazed at the things people feel it is acceptable to ‘say’ via email and social media that I don’t think they would ever, ever come out and say to your face. Maybe they would and my friends are just unusually polite and restrained…but I don’t think so. Restrained isn’t the first thing I think when I consider the people dear to me. So it is probably something else. Here are a few techniques you can use when conflict and nasty communications are forced upon you.

Don’t take it personally. Often there are multiple ways to interpret something in writing. Reread the offending piece a few times and see if you can find a way to take it that isn’t offensive. Even if you’re pretty sure they meant it the offensive way.

Consider not responding. What will really happen if you just let this go? Will it really hurt your business? Are there real world consequences? If not, let it pass.

Keep it cool and professional. If you do need to respond, make your responses temperate and professional. Try to choose words that don’t provoke. Don’t escalate the situation; respond as neutrally as possible. If you must, you can say you find the situation unprofessional, against current policy, contrary to normal guidelines. Don’t say they are idiots, ill mannered morons, or liars. Even if you are quite certain they are all of the above. Call your friends and be honest some other time. When you reply, be professional.

Be brief. In conflict less is more. Let them bluster if they must. Make your points count and then withdraw. The longer you engage the more hostility that can come up and the more opportunity they have to drag you down to their level. Answer any salient points they offer, and stop. Don’t respond to anything but facts.

Stay off the phone. If you must engage the conflict, do it in writing. That gives you more space to think about what you’re going to say, and possibly to run it by someone you trust before you respond. If you’re on the phone it’s easy to let your mouth run away with you in the heat of an exchange. Email also gives you a record of the conversation, should you need one.

Just one more word to the wise. When writing a cathartic email, write it in word, in note-pad, anywhere but an actual email . Then you, or someone helpful, can’t accidentally send it before editing. Don’t be a cautionary tale.

 

 

A few tips for better blogging.

Blogging is an important way that we market ourselves, our businesses, and our beliefs. Everyone feels the need to have one. The question is, are people reading them? Here are five things you can do to improve your readability.

Keep it short. One idea per blog. Say what you have to say and move on. If it starts to exceed about half a page, then you should review it and see if maybe you have enough to say to make it 2 blogs.

Within your audience, keep it informal. Obviously if your audience is corporate lawyers then your tone and vocabulary should stay more formal than for the home puppy training set, but even then, you want to be a relatively easy, quick read.

Don’t forget the personal. Why is this relevant to you? Why do I come to your blog rather than someone else’s blog?

Proof, but don’t fuss. As a professional editor and writer, I know better than most how important it is to be grammatical and well written, but frankly, if it isn’t horrible, then most of your readers won’t notice. Blogs are the one place that I break my own rule about always have someone else proof your work. I read, re-read, and then post. If I’ve made an error, someone will gleefully point it out. If I take too much time, the blog doesn’t get finished, and I don’t make my posting goals.

Stockpile when you are in the mood. I’m not always in the mood to blog. I don’t always feel inspired. Sometimes you have to make yourself write something anyway. I get around this by writing more than one blog on the days I’m really inspired and saving them as drafts until I need them. You’re more interesting when you’re interested. Save it up.

 

 

It’s all about the platform.

This weekend I attended a conference sponsored by Hay House. (They’re a publishing company.) The first session I attended was by and for writers presented by best selling author Cheryl Richardson and Hay House CEO Reid Tracy.

Every third point was about platform. Possibly every second point. So they are very, very serious about it. Particularly Reid Tracy. He said that when they get a book proposal at Hay House, the first thing they do is read the query letter where you tell them about the idea for your book. If that is at all interesting, the very next thing they do is look at your platform.

So what is the platform?

Your marketing. What have you done. What will you do. Who is your audience and how are you going to reach them. How many of them have you already reached? How do you stay in touch. Do you have a blog? How many followers.

I had no idea that this was the critical turning point that could make or break your book. Apparently, it is. I highly doubt that Reid Tracy is alone on this in the industry.

So what do you need to do? You need to find your people.

Start a Facebook page. Not just your personal account, but a page for your book, or your interest, or yourself as an author or subject matter expert. Use this page to start collecting people who are interested in what you have to say.

Start a blog. Blogs are a way to share your subject matter expertise, ideas, questions, and to reach the people who are interested in what you have to say without them having to invest too much into accessing your message. If you can build a following for your blog, then you’ll already have reached the people who will then want to read your book.

Collect a database. If you offer a newsletter, or if you have a piece of information you’ve written into an e-Book (or if you can think of one that would be interesting) then send it to people via email. Once you have their email addresses, then you can inform them when something new happens. Like the upcoming release of your new book. There are a lot of rules and regulations and guidelines about emails. That’s another topic. Go with a reliable provider like AWebber or MailChimp, they have all the rules worked out so you can follow them.

Buy domains. If you’re going to be a brand then owning the domain that goes with it is a good idea. If the one you really want isn’t available, figure out some permutations that make sense. Try to own the domain for any book titles you’re working with. You can always relinquish or sell them later, it isn’t that big an expense.

Build a website. If you have a subject matter expertise then maybe you have a website devoted to that long before you put your book together. Or if you have a business website, add a section about your interest/cause that your clients and friends can start connecting to.

Answer emails and comments. If people are  taking the time to reach out to you (and they aren’t being ugly about it) then you have given them something they wanted and you have become someone they admire at some level. When they reach out to you, reach back. Maintain those connections.

Reid Tracy highly recommended the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. I haven’t read it yet, since I’m currently in the middle of 3 other books, but I have downloaded the kindle version so I’m all set as soon as I finish one of the others in progress. It was just published in May so the details should all be very relevant and Reid said the instructions he lists are extremely detailed and easy to follow.

One question that came up during the session is, shouldn’t I wait and do all this when the book is done and being published? Absolutely not. If you want to go  the traditional route, then without it, you might never be published at all. If you self publish, getting noticed will take that much longer.

And even in our 24/7 media hype twitter fueled world, it still takes a suspiciously long time to become an overnight success. Start reaching out now with what you have. They’ll notice when you have more.

Make time for praise.

How often do you take the time to write a recommendation on LinkedIn?

Usually that answer is ‘not as often as I should’.

Why don’t you?

What tends to stop people is the idea that they don’t know what to say.

Recently my husband’s company made some lay offs. It happens even in the best companies. Actually, the best companies do it regularly to make sure that the people who are there are contributing to keeping that company one of the best. People who don’t contribute, or don’t fit the culture, or are negative… there are lots of reasons to let someone go that have nothing to do with competence, although certainly that is an important reason too.

So what happens when someone you liked working with but didn’t know very well but found pleasant and competent is one of those people who got the axe, and then you get a linked in message asking for a recommendation? Around here you talk to your favorite writing expert and she gives you some guidelines!

1. You weren’t the boss and that will be clear on your recommendation.
LinkedIn makes it clear when you start what your position relative to the person you’re recommending was. A colleague, someone you hired for a specific service, a friend. You’re making your recommendation based on that.

2. LinkedIn will also ask you to pick a few highlights of the service you got that you’re recommending about. This will help you decide which parts of your interaction were most significant to you. Where they helpful? Exceptionally competent? We often find it easier to pick from a list of options, so that’s what LinkedIn gives us to work with. Let that guide you.

3. If you look at the list of options and none of the things listed are what you wanted to focus on, then pick some for the form and then write your paragraph about what you do want to focus on.

4. Remember, it’s a paragraph. 2 at the most. You can be as brief as you want and still say something meaningful. Pick 3 characteristics (or only 2 if that is what comes to mind) and say what you need to say. Then stop. Be genuine. Be positive. Be brief.

5. Don’t over think this. This is the biggest stumbling block. We get caught up in saying things just right. Does this sound too…whatever. This is not a make-or-break document! This is a friendly gesture. Write it as a gesture of friendship or appreciation of service well provided, or professional respect, and then move on.

If you’d like to see examples, check out this recommendation I wrote for the person who built my spiffy new website, or for one of the amazing health coaches I work with. I’ve also been gifted with some great recommendations of my own.

What are you saying?

Nothing forces you to think about what you’re saying like a bad case of laryngitis! For several weeks now I’ve had to think about every word I wanted to let pass my lips because each word is an effort. Or had to be written down. Which is a heck of a way to have a conversation with your family.

I think its been a great exercise for me. It has really reinforced my conviction that how you say what you’re going to say is really critical. If every word is an effort, then you pay very strict attention to what each of those words is, and what impact it is going to have. Is it exactly the right word for the situation? Is it going to convey my meaning precisely without requiring a forced, painful explanation as follow up?

Wouldn’t our professional communication really benefit from that kind of review? To say what needs to be said as clearly and concisely as possible. To make sure your message is conveyed exactly as you wished, for maximum comprehension, the very first time it goes out to your customers? How much thought are you giving to that part of your sales process?

In our world of instantaneous communication, I think we could all benefit from a short period of silence to think about what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it.

But its been 3 weeks now, and I’m really, very ready to go back to talking.

Who are you?

This is not an existentialist, meaning of life question. Its serious. I’ve gotten 5 separate requests just today from people who want to connect via LinkedIn. People who I would not recognize if we were making idle conversation in line at the grocery store, face to face.

When trying to build your LinkedIn network, the very best thing you can do is type over that pithy generic default message that comes up. Just highlight it and type over it! Then take a few seconds to remind me who you are, and why you think we should connect. Are we friends with many of the same people? Did we meet at a networking function? Are you my second cousin twice removed? Who are you?

LinkedIn is about building business connections and relationships. They should be based on something other than you saw my name in someone else’s list.

If I can’t figure out who you are, then I probably won’t connect with you. I’m not that kind of a girl.