How to Not Annoy Local Media with Your Small Business Website

I wasn’t always a writer for small business. I used to write what we call editorial—stuff the website or magazine wants you to read for fun so they can sell advertising.

You know. Like “Eight Portland Dog Shampoo Boutiques You Must Try in April.”

I have not personally tried every dog shampoo boutique in the city.

I don’t even have a dog.

A lot of gathering information for this kind of article, to be honest, is googling and asking around. When those writers are poking around the internet, looking for the best insert your business category here, make it easy to follow up. First, make it easy to connect and fall in love.

If you follow the guidelines below, it might even help your customers do the same.

Earn the Hearts of Local Media with Your Awesome Small Business Website

When you’d like to earn some free media, make life easy on those hard-working writers. They need your phone number to get the quote their editor is requiring, and if they can’t find it you might not end up in that article after all.

Here are the demands. They’re simple, I promise!

wincing dog

Give us the basics.

If you’re open certain hours, please list those hours and keep them current. If you sell online, make it obvious from the front page. If you have a brick and mortar, please come out and say so. It is okay to be obvious. Artfully obvious, of course. You can assume some visitors to your site are flying in from the farthest reaches of the world wide web, knowing absolutely zero information about you and your business.

Tell us how to contact you.

If you want to be contacted by phone, please say so. If you want to be contacted by email, same. Either way, you have to be somewhat available, AND get back to people in a reasonable amount of time. One or two business days is usually fine.

Next, make sure your phone number and/or email is listed in more than one place. Put it on every page, if you need to. Don’t make people search or scroll. This blog post will have my email, hello@kelleygardiner.com, at the bottom. I only have my phone number on my contact page because I rarely pick up my phone unless I have a scheduled call.

See? I’m trying to make it easy for you to contact me in the way I prefer to be contacted. hello@kelleygardiner.com

Make your physical address obvious.

This one is dedicated to Portland, Maine. I’ve been burned one too many times.

Make it easy for anyone scanning your information to get this info. Put it in your social media profiles, too. Please. Location matters.

Your address (AND PHONE NUMBER, for the love) should be text that can be copied and pasted. Not an image. You have my permission to ask your designers to change this. Depending on other people to type your phone number correctly is a dangerous business. I like to leave my dangerous liaisons for leisure, not business.

Related: read up on how to make your business show up in local searches.

You don’t need to be fancy.

If you own a graphic or web design company, fancy can be good. Show off those skillz. (You know that already though, because you’re an expert in web design. Sweet.) For the rest of us? There might be some creative fields where a Flash introduction is super appropriate, but in general, let’s not. Keep it simple, readable, and fast to load.

But please join us in the 21st century.

If your site hasn’t been updated in ten years… we can tell, and it doesn’t make the most impressive of first impressions. Make sure the content is updated as well as the design.

Get mobile friendly.

More and more customers are using mobile devices to search for and find information. Your site should load quickly, look good, and be easy to navigate. Remember, those phone numbers in an image are a total killer on mobile. Not in a good way. Your customers expect that they’ll be able to click to call.

Make sure we know what the heck you do.

What the heck do you do? “Create opportunities for small businesses to increase their conversions.” Okay. But what the heck do you DO? “Handmade lovely adornments for your life and living.” Come again? What in the loving heck would that look like on a shelf?

A quick read  should tell the prospect what it is that you do. Exactly. What services you perform, what you sell, and how the reader can obtain said goods or services. Ideally, this will cut down on messaging from peeps who are not your core customer, as well as boost your SEO.

Additional reading: What the Heck Is SEO?

Answer your dang email. 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve emailed a business with a request to reply within two or three business days and… crickets. This is not good, people! Either they don’t want free advertising, or are too disorganized to get back to people in a timely manner. Get your email in order.


Ready for Contact

It’s not just me, either. Jenni Bost from Portland Bloggers and A Well-Crafted Party has the same kinds of beefs when looking for local information: “The non-existent contact or hard-to-find contact info is the worst. Drives me batty… When a company doesn’t value the web it makes me wary of their staying power or ability to fulfill my consumer needs effectively.”

Mmmm hmm.

Hear that? You need content. If your content is thin or non-existent, email me today. We can even talk about getting a little local publicity.


Have you had any luck with earned media? What worked for you?



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It goes out once a month or so, and it’s a short and sweet way to keep up with the latest in business communications.

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Solving the Email Problem

Are you drowning?

When you’re crunched for time, is email one of the first things that gets neglected?

We can get through this.

Control thy emails

Today’s the day to take a few concrete steps to get this under control for the long term.

First, we’ll look that inbox right in the face and show it who’s boss. Then, we’ll talk about how to keep things from spiraling out of control next time.

Set aside an hour. Get a beverage and some high-tempo music. Roll up your sleeves. We’re diving in.

Step One: Clean Out Your Inbox

352 unread email icon

There’s a good chance you need to clean out your inbox. You know who you are out there, friends.

Unread messages distract from the important stuff.

If you’re like most of us, most of your unread messages are basically junk that you are never, ever going to read. Get rid of them!

Wave goodbye to the junk.

Feel free to use your “delete all from” feature to say goodbye to all those ads you get from ReallyCuteShoes.com. Bye emails.

Next, unsubscribe from all the lists you never touch. Every legit marketing email has an unsubscribe button at the bottom, required by law. If it doesn’t, mark it as spam. Bye emails! (Please don’t mark legit, opt-in email newsletters as spam. It unnecessarily penalizes the sender.)

There are services that will unsubscribe you from a bunch of newsletters at once, but at a price. Usually, the price is that after you give them access to your email, they sell your information.

Get yourself a beverage and power through the rest.

Now—and this might be the hard part—go through that inbox and answer or file everything.

Everything.

If you can’t answer or file it yet, flag it.

Do it all in one go, or take a week to chip away at it.

You can do it! No need to apologize for late responses. You’re doing great. Starting is the hardest part.

Step Two: Organize Whatcha Got

Organized work space

Once you get your email under control, you’ll need to find and stick to a system to keep it under control.

Consider checking your email one or two times a day. Answer everything right away. If a message needs more than five minutes of your time, you can put that task on your calendar, and update the sender on your progress.

Some people say not to do email first thing in the morning. As a writer, I find it easier to start with something “easy,” rather than creative. And I’m on the West Coast, so I don’t want to feel behind the times. Your choice!

Keep it Simple, Stunner.

This is a personal preference thing, but I like to keep my inbox management extremely simple. The inbox is for unread messages and anything you need to reference today.

For unread messages:

  • Reply if needed, and file or delete the message.
  • Delete everything you won’t need to reference later.
  • Flag messages that you need to reference immediately (meeting confirmations, electronic tickets, etc.).

That’s it.

If there is more than one page in my inbox, something has gone seriously off the rails.

This is low-key and works very well for me, with my relatively low volume of messages.

Maybe you’d like to implement some more technology to file, reply, and organize automatically? Please share with the group if you have a favorite app or plugin that automates your email responses. There are also experts in this stuff who will help you streamline your business communications—well worth the investment if you’re so busy you’re missing money-making opportunities.

Folders? No Biggie.

Don’t get too worked up over folders. Search works pretty well.

Sometimes I set up temporary folders for research, and delete them later, including all the messages. No muss, no fuss.

One folder I am fastidious about is my “To Read” folder. Everything that’s just for information, that I don’t want to take the time to peruse during email time? “To Read.” It gives me something productive to do when the baby falls asleep in the car. Everything over a week old in that folder gets deleted. No mercy! Again, unsubscribe when you find yourself deleting the same messages over and over without opening.

Take Charge of Notifications.

Do you need your Facebook notifications to be sent to your email, or do you already check Facebook too much?

I’m not judging. Just saying.

Change your settings if needed. I, for one, need notifications if someone sends me an Instagram direct message, because I never check that. Anything else? I’ll see it.

Canned Responses

Find yourself sending the same message over and over? Create a template and save some typing.

Managing Multiple Email Addresses

Phew. I don’t know about you, but with a quick count, I have… at least seven email addresses.

Yikes.

Now, here’s the thing. I don’t know how many emails you have, what you use them for, etc. What I do know, is that you’ve got to find your system and stick to it.

Logging in to “check” seven email addresses would take a long time. Longer than I have. So, I have notifications for some on my phone, and forwarding for others.

Forwarding can be convenient, but potentially confusing. Let’s say you have info@mywebsite.com forwarded to iamsogreat@gmail.com. When a client sends a message to info@mywebsite.com, you see it in your gmail account. And when you reply to that client, it comes from iamsogreat@gmail.com. This may or may not be what you want.

This blogger uses a “master” account to manage messages from several blogs. That might work well if you have several accounts that don’t get a ton of traffic.

I’ll let the pros tell you how to merge a bunch of addresses into one gmail account.

 

Step Three: Increase Communication

Women using phone

Plenty of messages clogging up inboxes come from misunderstandings and missing information.

To increase understanding, keep your messages relatively short and simple. Put important information in bold or add bullet points. Use descriptive subject lines. Start a new subject when beginning a new conversation.

Reduce Back-and-Forth.

Hey Everyone, Can you meet on Monday at 4? Warm Regards, Angela

I can! Does that work for everyone else? Lu *~Live your dream~*

Hello, No, not me. How’s Wednesday looking? Best Wishes, Stevesie

NEVER AGAIN. Those three emails will become six, seven, or seventeen.

This kind of back-and-forth is an inbox killer, especially when more than two people are involved. Use a scheduling program like Calendly or Acuity to schedule one-on-ones. Do a Doodle to figure out a group meeting time. Work groups can share calendars to avoid all that Doodling.

When scheduling a phone call, I’ll just go ahead and write, “You can call me at 555-867-5309.” Maybe that’s not the epitome of etiquette, depending on the situation, but it helps us avoid Should I call you, or should you call me? and What’s the best number to reach you? emails.

Speaking of Phone Calls…

Sometimes—and I know this is frightening to many of you—it’s better to call than to email. I KNOW. Talking on the phone is not always our idea of fun depending on your personality and generation, but it’s more appropriate when you need a quick back-and-forth conversation.

Ask yourself before emailing: is this information best given in a meeting, phone call, or email?

(Hint: email is great when you need documentation later.)

Set Boundaries.

It’s okay to turn your work email off at the end of the day.

It’s okay to ask people who contact you via Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, or with message sent via St. Bernard, to follow up via email. You don’t need twenty places with different messages to remember and follow up on.

It’s okay to wait several hours before answering non-urgent emails. Email is not an instant message service. As long as you get back to someone within a business day, that’s fine. Yep, if they email you at 4 pm, you can email back at 3 pm the next day. (If they want to talk immediately, they can call you!)

It’s okay to put a vacation email out-of-office message and to really ignore everything when you’re on vacation.

Step Four: Make Your Website Work for You

Getting emails from your customers is a good thing! However, sometimes businesses get messages that are not from their true customer. Let’s try to cut down on those.

Your Marketing Should Tell Your Story.

Sometimes we’re so focused on one aspect of branding or sales that we forget the storytelling aspect of our website marketing. Your website should give clear impression of what you do, and why you’re the best person to do it.

A clear, accessible story will help cut down on questions from people who want a service that you don’t perform, or who aren’t the customer you’re hoping to land—including those who aren’t ready to pay your price point.

Clarify Frequently Asked Questions.

If you’re answering the same questions over and over via email, it might be time to clarify language on your website or add a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.

Cut down on your busy work, so you can put your energy into work that creates wealth.

Sound good to you? Let’s talk about clarifying the messages on your website.

Schedule a consultation today.

Step Five (Optional): When You Just Can’t Handle It…

Look. Maybe there’s just more email than you are able to, or want to, handle.

Declare Email Bankruptcy.

I had a (wonderful) boss once who looked at all the files from my predecessor in my new-to-me office, and told me, “If there were a fire tomorrow, you wouldn’t miss any of this.”

If you haven’t read those 5,000 emails, would you really miss them if they were gone?

It’s nothing to take lightly, but there’s no law against just deleting large swaths of emails.

Hire Out Some Help.

Let’s do some math.

You’re spending 10 hours a week on email, earning you… zero dollars. Boo. So, you hire a virtual assistant, paying $15 an hour. Now you have the time to do the work you really love, earning $50 an hour.

You’ve just made an extra $350 in a week.

You can’t afford NOT to hire out a little help.

Virtual assistants can help with social media, SEO, email, data entry… anything you don’t love and are ready to say goodbye to.

Do it already, you successful job creator!


How do you manage your emails? Any awesome ideas that work for you? Let us know in the comments!

Can I help you clarify your message, so you can get more of the GOOD emails? hello@kelleygardiner.com



If you liked that blog post, you would looooove my email newsletter.

It goes out once a month or so, and it’s a short and sweet way to keep up with the latest in business communications.

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Learn to Love the Editing Process

I love editing. So much.

I love to take people’s words and make them gleam; to make slightly technical things fun and easy to read; to reduce redundancies and increase clarity.

But if someone wants to edit MY work?

No way. Those are MY words, and letting go hurts. I don’t even feel comfortable having my husband sit next to me on the couch when I’m writing an email.

It’s scary to hand over your writing to someone else.

Laptop, book and tea

Love the Editing Process

Ready to get help? Grab that red pen by the cap and tell it who’s boss. When you’re hiring an editor, you’re in control: of your words, of your message, and of the process.

The goal is not to make you feel bad. The goal is to make your business more money.

Take comfort in working with a professional.

No, you wouldn’t ask any stranger to look in your mouth to check on your plaque buildup. You ask a dental hygienist. And, okay, even that might be nerve-wracking and weird, especially when you’re seeing someone new. But if they’re nice, the next time isn’t so bad. It might even get to be pleasant.

Like other professionals, we the editors won’t judge you as long as you’re reasonably nice and pay on time. Seriously.

Just because you can edit doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

A lot of people feel like editing is something they should be able to do themselves. You took English in high school after all. Well, friends, I took economics in high school, but I’m not doing my own taxes. We all have our talents and choose our training accordingly.

Create efficiencies.

Small business owners need to focus on what brings them joy and money. As soon as you have cash flow, you can and should be hiring out tasks. Those are tasks that you don’t want to do (hello, writing). Tasks that keep you from making money. Tasks that you’re not particularly good at. Hire someone at $50 an hour so you can make $200 that hour.

When you have a communications piece that needs to be written or edited, what do you usually do with it? Agonize a little, complain about it to your co-worker, check Facebook, open and close the document? That’s all fine and good—and goodness knows writers do their own share of procrastinating—but wouldn’t it be easier just to send it away to a professional you have a relationship with?

Choose your experience.

Editors have a bunch of tools at their disposal. We can show our work—every deleted comma, every strong verb choice—or not. If this is important to you, let your editor know ahead of time what.

Sometimes you just want a job done and not spend one more brain cell on it. No problem!

Sometimes, you want to be more involved. Great!

Do you need to know how far along we are on a big project on any given day? We can set that up ahead of time.

Work with someone who lifts you up.

Can I tell you a secret? I’ve written for a number of online and print editors.

Some of them just took my work and mangled it without asking. Some just barely communicated at all—the work equivalent of having a grunting teenager in your car. One made me cry regularly.

A few went out of their way to thank me for good work, and to ask politely and clearly when they needed changes. Some are just downright enthusiastic.

Guess which ones I still work with?

Life is short. Hire someone who is a joy to work with. Good editors will improve your business prospects. They might even improve your future writing, and make you feel better along the way.

That’s the goal.

Otter holding hands!!


Looking for a pleasant editing experience? Email hello@kelleygardiner.com

Have you ever been scared to hand off your writing to an editor? Share your pain in the comments.



If you liked that blog post, you would looooove my email newsletter.

It goes out once a month or so, and it’s a short and sweet way to keep up with the latest in business communications.

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Let’s Chat: What Works for You with Facebook Marketing?

I logged into Facebook today, like I do every day. Several times a day.

They’d made another change. An ad I really didn’t care about (a church in another state, with 67 fans?) chased me around. I have no idea what my friends are up to, but I get to see pictures of some stranger’s camping trip because my childhood friend liked it.

Judge Judy does not approve
Via giphy

Ugh, typical Facebook, amirite?

I’m not here to complain. (Okay, obviously I am, a little. Sorry.) Because I’m still on Facebook, several times a day, for work and personal things.

So are your customers.

Facebook Marketing

Chances are, your audience is on Facebook. So how do you reach them?

There’re a hundred bazillion articles about Facebook marketing on the world wide web—I checked—but that’s a lot of reading. And a lot of it’s geared toward social media marketing professionals who do this stuff 40 hours a week. Most small business owners and solopreneurs are doing this on their own, or depending on a member of their staff to find the time.

So, what the heck do we do?

Post somewhat regularly. Don’t be too sales-y. Use nice images. Hope for the best.

That’s a start.

We also know that we pretty much have to use Facebook if we want to get in front of customers. 79% of online adults use Facebook.

We also know that Facebook wants you to pay more to “boost” your posts so more of your potential customers will see them. There isn’t much organic reach anymore.

Facebook thumbs up

 

What’s the Next Step?

You’ve been diligently posting, and keeping in touch with your customers. What’s the next step? Lucky for us, there’s a rich treasure trove of trial-and-error here, within our communities.

Let’s hear from YOU, small business owners. What works for you on Facebook?

  • Do you use Facebook Live?
  • What’s your most popular call to action?
  • What posts get the most interactions?

Let’s chat. Comment away below!

 

Psst… if the basics still aren’t clear to you, or you don’t have a Facebook page yet, try out this guide for beginners. They know what they’re talking about over there.

Digital Summit PDX 2017: Small Business Takeaways

I went to Digital Summit Portland this week, and it was pretty cool, everyone.

It’s all about digital marketing for people who are involved with all aspects of it, from content creation, to strategy, to back end… stuff. Whatever those people do with code.

Content marketing hub plan

Small business writing is marketing.

“Kelley, you’re a writer. What the heck were you doing at a marketing conference?”

Great question! All content and copy is marketing. If you’re going to hire a writer, you’d better make sure that a) you have a strong marketing plan, or b) your writer has marketing skills to help you support your goals. That’s why I take every opportunity to keep up-to-date on online marketing, as well as to hone those writing chops.

A lot of the presentations and programs at Digital Summit Portland were geared toward businesses that work on a larger scale than my clients. The email strategy for say, Home Depot, will be different than strategy for your home-based photography business. Still, there were some pretty cool things to think about and take away for anyone who’s making content or marketing online.

Be real.

Most of your consumers can see a pitch coming from a mile away. They want their brands to be authentic. To stand for something. To add real value to their lives. And if they get that from you? You might get a repeat customer who loves and supports your brand.

Don’t be afraid to use your own voice.

Make an action plan, but keep it agile.

You need a content strategy plan. Even if it’s sketched out on a napkin and pinned onto a bulletin board — you won’t get results without knowing what the heck you’re supposed to be doing and, more importantly, WHY you’re doing it.

Later, if something’s not getting the results you wanted, take another look. Tweak it if you still think it’s worthwhile, and scrap it if it’s not.

Figure out who your customer is.

Have you ever made customer personas? It’s a fairly common marketing practice. Say you have a brick-and-mortar boutique. A very basic persona might be “Jenny.” Jenny is a 37-year-old woman who lives in South Beaverton and has two girls ages 2 and 5. She’s married, owns her home, and works full-time in real estate.

The new, hot thing? Mapping Customer Journeys. What steps does Jenny take before she becomes your customer? What else is she searching for on the internet? What’s the first time she hears about your business? Does she come into your store than once before she buys, or is she more impulsive? Does she look online first? How can you keep her as a customer after she walks out the door? When will she buy again?

Whew, that’s a lot, and it can get even more complex. But thinking this way helps you nurture your leads throughout the process of buying, and in helping them become loyal customers who will buy again.

Fun fact: Customers are less likely to buy from a company who took their email and never contacted them. Get those newsletters out, people. (Yes, I’d be happy to help you. Send me an email.)

Slay all the time.

There was a presentation that was based on Beyonce songs, so OBVIOUSLY I ATTENDED THAT ONE.

Beyonce water from Lemonade video

Lessons learned from Beyonce? So many.

Slay all the time. Get crazy in love with your customers. Be the best.

Make it easy for your customers to love you. Make it easy to interact, and easy to get questions answered.

No 30,000 unread emails or full voicemail boxes.

No “do-not-reply” email addresses.

Meet your customers where they want to interact with you.

Make extra special customer experiences. Stand out and be unique, but make sure your customers can know what to expect when they interact with you. Empower your employees to go above and beyond. Train them and ask them what customers are saying.

Try Being Funny.

People like humor! It adds a bit of color to your clients’ lives, and helps you compete for attention against internet celebrity dogs. Dogs are really cute. Try adding a little humor into your copy and seeing how your customers respond. Most people get 7-24% increase in conversions with just a little joke.

(There’s obviously more to this, so please be cautious. You may wish to hire a professional for applying humor, as it can backfire.)

Need help?

Let’s can work together on a content strategy that targets your ideal client. Email me, or book a consultation. Start getting more customers today.

And slay.

Beyonce with fireworks

 

NW Kids July 2017: Business Profile with Olababy

What’s special about your business?

I’ve written for what we call editorial for a while—that’s content for publications, rather than for sales—and business profiles cross over the two disciplines.

A casual reader of a magazine and a hot prospect who’s heading to your website both want the same thing: a hook.

Give them the hook

Most people who visit your website, or who flip through a magazine, aren’t going to give you much time. You need to get them interested quickly, or they might decide that whatever you’re offering isn’t for them.

This can be visual, or text, but in an ideal world, visual design and copywriting work together to pique the reader’s interest.

When you flip through this month’s NW Kids Magazine, you’ll see a picture of a cute baby holding a rather unusual bottle. If you have a baby, you might stop flipping, because this obviously is geared to you.

Then, you’ll see the short story about how much my baby took to one of the spoons like bears to honey. If that interests you, you might move on to learn more about the company itself.

What’s the hook on your home page? What will make your prospects want to learn more?

Olababy

Check out this example of a profile I did for NW Kids Magazine’s July 2017 issue. (Page 17, if you please.) Olababy is a local company that designs baby feeding gear: bottles, spoons, and these cool bowls that you can use to steam and serve.

Okay, I haven’t actually tried to steam any food for *my* baby yet, despite the tasty peas in my garden that are about to give up the ghost. But those silicone spoons are a lifesaver.

Olababy business profile with baby drinking from bottle
Olababy business profile spread in NW Kids Magazine, July 2017

Getting the Story

For this profile, I got some information from the PR company to review. Then, the two principals of the company were willing to chat on a conference call. Lucky for me, because one of them was in China at the time. Our Friday afternoon chat was a very early Saturday morning chat for him.

A writer should come to the table with their own background research, and then figure out the tricky part—what’re the most important questions to ask? What do the customers really want to know? What’s missing?

People think that writers just write, but the real work is in thinking through different angles.

Finding an angle that gets the audience interested? That’s the fun part.

 

Whether it’s a profile or an about page, let me help you tell your story.

Shoot me an email today.

 

Sweet Web Copy for Cherry City Roller Derby

Sometimes you need hard-hitting web copy.

Writing about roller derby? Don’t mind if I do.

If you gave me $100 to come up with a project that was more up my alley than this, I’d have a hard time coming up with something. After all, I literally wrote the book (okay, a book) about roller derby.

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Upswept Creative on the newly designed Cherry City Roller Derby website by writing and editing the web copy. I cleaned up some copy and wrote some sections from scratch. We collaborated a survey for stakeholders to find out that to include in the new site. They made the site beautiful and functional while I thought about how to communicate with all those people who use the site: skaters, fans, and sponsors.

Screen grab from Cherry City website, web copy writing

Check out Upswept Creative for brand design, rebranding, and website design in Portland, Oregon. They’re good people over there.

Need user-friendly web copy for your tough-as-nails website? Drop me a line.