My Core Values

Does your business have core values?

I took a little time recently to think about mine. I’ve always known that certain things are important to me—like supporting nonprofits and creating an awesome product that makes my clients hear trumpets when they read it—but I’ve never written them down.

I guess I was busy writing other stuff.

Now, I have a draft of my core values that I’m feeling pretty good about, and I’d like to share it with you.

I wrote these as “we,” even though my business is me, my laptop, and an occasional outside proofreader. But, hey, it’s good to leave room for growth. And I want my occasional proofreaders to understand where I’m coming from.

Kelley Gardiner Content and Copy
[Draft?] Core Values

Habitual Joy
We seek out fun and cool projects. Life is short, and we do awesome work with people we want to hang out with.

Here to Help
We support small businesses, social justice causes, and nonprofits with our time, money, and talent. We work with people who do the same. We’re here to help our clients and their clients. We aim to make the world a better place for all kinds of people.

Learn, Mess Up, Learn More, Be Awesome, Repeat
We’re always learning something new, and stretching our limits. We’re brainstorming and then pulling back. Good isn’t good enough, but perfect is a myth.


Edited out: We’ll never rest on our laurels, even if we do take some naps here and there.

Does that sound like a business you’d like to work with?

Tell me: What’s important to you in your business? Leave a comment below, or email hello@kelleygardiner.com

 

 

Telling Your New Story

I had the extremely fun privilege to work with Upswept Creative on a website rewrite recently.

It was a special project because Sarah at Upswept is a talented writer. She wrote a blog post for my roller derby blog (many moons ago—what, I haven’t told you about my roller derby blog?), and it was one of my most-read posts ever.

There was no “bad” to edit out of this website. Just some refreshing, fine-tuning, and a couple of pages of new content to do.

But:

The language wasn’t reflecting the work they currently do, and what they wanted to do more of. They wanted to start working with larger companies, and filtering out prospects that don’t have the budget to take on a full-service design and branding firm. They had a new story to tell.

And:

When you write your own website copy, sometimes it’s hard to brag on yourself. Bringing in an outside professional with fresh eyes can clarify a new perspective.

After all, you know your own story. It’s hard not to see it when you look at your website because your brain fills in the holes for you. However, your prospects can’t see the full picture unless you tell them about it.

So:

  • We had a long talk about the business, their goals, and what their dream clients look like.
  • After we finalized the details of the project, I sent a questionnaire to clarify a few important points.
  • I did some research about best practices for web design and branding companies.
  • Writing/editing began in earnest! I started working on a couple of new pages to reflect their focus on design and branding, and refreshes on the other pages.
  • After my first draft, it got sent off to the Upswept team. Everyone got a chance to review the new copy and make comments. We edited via Google Doc, with everyone able to chat in the comments.
  • Once we chiseled away to a final version we all loved, I sent it away to an awesome proofreader. Even professionals get tired eyes when it comes to their own work. She bopped it on back to me minus some extraneous commas, and we were off and running.

The copy is now live in the site. Go check it out!

When we work together, it can look however makes sense to you. Do you want to get your entire team involved early in the process? Would you rather make the decisions yourself? Would you like to edit live, on a Zoom call, or over the course of a few days? I’m glad to make suggestions, but you call the shots on what works for your workflow.

How can I help you connect with your ideal customer? hello@kelleygardiner.com

 

Now Available: Mini Strategy Sessions!

Raise your hand if you have big dreams and a not-so-big budget for your small business.

I see you out there! You:

  • Need help with a specific question or problem.
  • Don’t have much time or money to spend.
  • Don’t even want to start wrapping your brain around hiring a writer for a big project. In fact, the idea of it makes you want to run for the hills.

Let’s start small.

In fact, let’s start miniature.

For all of you who need a little boost in the communications department, I have a brand-sparkling-new offering: mini strategy sessions.

Low cost & commitment, high value

When you’re mired in the day-to-day of running your business, it can be tough to get a clear look at what’s happening with your communications.

You might have questions or concerns like:

  • How can I get more website traffic?
  • How can I get higher quality leads from my website?
  • What the heck should I do with my about page?
  • What should I write about in my email newsletter?
  • Should I start a blog?
  • What am I even doing?*

We’ll chat for half an hour, in person or via Zoom. Then I’ll follow up with recommendations and resources.

How does it work?

If you find a time you like, go ahead and sign up! I’ll send you an invoice to secure the time. If you don’t see a time there, send me an email at hello@kelleygardiner.com and we’ll find something that works.

After your time is secured, I’ll check in with you (over the course of a five-minute call or a couple of emails) about your big question, so I can be prepared for our meeting.

Then it’s just a super casual chat where we discuss what you’ve been doing and what results you would like to see.

I follow up with you within a few business days with more recommendations.

You take those recommendations and run with them!

Summer Special

When you book in July or August, mini strategy sessions are just $49.

Whaaaaat!? That’s reasonable!

Email to schedule today! hello@kelleygardiner.com


Cute dog with text "mini strategy sessions"

*I’m a writer, not a philosopher, so I am not able to make any promises about answering your existential questions.

Wonderful USP: Unique Selling Proposition

You down with USP? YEAH, YOU KNOW ME!

Now that I’ve shown my age (38, if anyone’s counting), let’s talk about what makes you the best person to serve your dream client.

White dog with text overlay

USP = Unique Selling Proposition

What makes you and your product unique? Why are you the best person to buy from?

What makes you special?

This is not a rhetorical question, and I don’t want you to shrug it off. There is something inherent about you, and your product or service, that serves your clients in a different way than your competition.

Yes, you.

What is it?

And is that clear in your website copy?

If someone takes five minutes to read your home and about page, they should come away knowing what sets you apart.

Try this: ask a buddy to take five minutes to read your home and about page, then just ask. “After reading that, what would you say sets me apart from my competitors?”

Definitions Across the Internet

Entrepreneur defines USP as: “The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”

Kissmetrics rolls its eyes a bit about Entrepreneur’s definition and says: “A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about.”

Copyblogger has a 60-second video on the subject, but those who prefer to read: “In essence, a unique selling proposition (USP) is something that you offer customers or clients that your competitors do not offer. It’s also known as a ‘remarkable benefit.'”

Let’s talk about how to find your USP, and then how to communicate it through the language on your website. First, we’ll look at an easy example, then we’ll delve a little deeper with some help from coaches who work with business owners like you.

A USP in the Wild

Let’s use a blaring example. If you have a coffee shop, why should someone come to your place instead of the Starbucks one block over?

What does your business stand for? What are you known for? What are you about?

Let’s look at my local hang. My neighborhood coffee shop is 100% vegan, and their tagline is “Drink coffee. Take care.” They are known for being a vegan coffee shop in East Portland. You can buy records there, but that’s not why they exist.

Starbucks, on the other hand, is known for a consistent gourmet coffee experience. You can buy bananas there, but that’s not why they exist.

Both coffee shops have other offers, and other marketing messages, but they’re not trying to be the cheapest coffee in town. They’re not trying to sell the most breakfast sandwiches.

Of course, you don’t have to be a vegan coffee shop or Starbucks to be successful. There’s room for you to have your unique niche in the marketplace.

Finding Your USP

If you’ve been wondering what the heck your USP might be, you’re not alone! It’s not necessarily going to be 100% crystal clear right out of the gate. It might take some thinking and refining, and it might change as time goes on.

Lucky for you, this isn’t something you have to come up with right this moment. It might take a little musing and shaping. It might take a couple of passes, and a long walk on the beach. I tend to get my “aha” moments while zoning out to NPR in the car.

Danielle Ewalt is a business coach who specializes in working with parent entrepreneurs, and she knows a thing or two about crystallizing your abilities and communicating them succinctly.

As Danielle says, “Your USP isn’t one thing. There are many competitors that will share one, or maybe even two of our unique traits. It is the synergy created when three or four traits combine that make you (or your company) truly unique and stand out in the crowd.”

Deer stands out of the group at the zoo

Try this: make a short list right now of what makes your business product unique. Then list the top two or three things you do really well. What does the intersection look like?

USP and Impostor Syndrome

I have to be honest with you. When I started thinking through my own USP, I found some internal resistance pretty quickly. “What, me? I don’t know anything!” part of my brain wanted to tell me.

Brain, please. I’m good at what I do, and I’m constantly trying to learn more and improve myself. I’m funny when I want to be, and I have a knack for simplifying complex concepts. OKAY, BRAIN? Can I live?

Plenty of other women and non-binary entrepreneurs struggle with this as well. How do we position ourselves as the best, especially when we don’t feel like the best?

I asked the wonderful Selena Maestas from the Love YOU More Project to share her perspective as a coach who helps people see and be their best selves.


Says Selena:

Our minds are our biggest obstacles. When we believe what our inner critic tells us, we stay small. We question our knowledge, our success, and our worth.

It’s a vicious cycle that requires a LOT of work to overcome, especially if you don’t have the right tools.

First, it’s important that you think about your thoughts. You hear them and understand that those thoughts are NOT YOU, it is your survival brain trying to keep you “safe.” You write all of the thoughts down, without editing. Then, you go back to the top of your list and question your own thinking. Ask:

  • Is this true?
  • How does this make me feel?
  • Do I want to feel this way?
  • How would I rather feel?
  • What thought must I have to feel differently?

To be fair, this doesn’t fix the problem right away. There are other pieces necessary to override your survival mind; however, it is a good start to see your thoughts for what they are and to notice how those thoughts are affecting your results.


Thanks, Selena! I’m going to write down my negative thoughts for a few days. And by “write down,” I mean on my phone or in a notebook, not “tweet jokes about.”

USP in Your Website Copy

Okay, you say. I’ve figured out my unique selling proposition. But how do I express that in my website copy?

Well, I’m so glad you asked!

It’s a lot like what we talked about the features and benefits:

  • Figure out your USP
  • Keep it in mind when you’re writing your first draft
  • Go take a walk (have a cup of tea, etc.)
  • Tease it out on your second draft
  • Ask a friend if they can figure it out in 30 seconds
  • Walk away from it for two days
  • Edit it again, etc., etc.
  • *OR* hire a writer to do the above for you

Home: Is your USP communicated clearly? Why would that prospect want to learn more about you?
About: How does your story highlight your USP?
Services: Are the services you offer truly your best work? Or are you offering services you think you “should” for your industry? (If you offer those “should be” services, are they making you more money?)
Work/Portfolio: Amplify your skills and expertise by being super specific and showing examples.
Tagline: Your brand, including a tagline if you use one, should work toward communicating your special talent.
Elevator pitch: Can you tell me in ten seconds what sets you apart?

What’s Your USP?

As Danielle says, “It is so powerful when you find it—but it is a process. Sometimes people put so much pressure on themselves. But keep testing things out, listening to your customers and you will find the reasons they choose you!”

Have you found your USP? Feel free to brag on yourself in the comments.

Let’s talk about what you have to offer: hello@kelleygardiner.com


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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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Keywords 101

We’re back at it with our blog series based on the 18 Must-Haves for Website Copy That Converts checklist. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, might as well go for it now.

#2 on the list: Select a mix of short and long-tail keywords to weave into text.

Today, we’ll go very briefly over keywords.

Why? In short, optimizing your keywords will help your business show up in internet searches.

Shaggy teeny dog with text overlay

This subject can be a bit of a yawner, I know, for non-techie types. But if* you want to show up in these searches, you’ll need to put a little bit of work into the front end. We’ll try to make this intro quick, fun, and actionable.

*Wait… what do you mean, *IF* I want to show up in these searches?

Some people don’t care as much about SEO. Maybe you’d prefer not to get every rando on the internet emailing you to ask you for a quote. Instead of gathering leads via your website, you’re trying to convert warm leads once they get there.

For the rest of us… KEYWORDS!

Keyword 101

What the heck is a keyword?

Make a cup of coffee and sit down here for a moment. I’m here to tell you about a story about a penguin, a panda, and a hummingbird.

It is not nearly as cute as it sounds.

When someone makes a search on Google, Google takes a look at everything the company has indexed, all across the internet, and uses its algorithm to give the user back the most pertinent information. That’s why we use Google—because it works. Most of the time.

Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, and Fred (yes, Fred) are all code names for Google algorithms, which are being tweaked and changed all the time—maybe once or twice a month. Google doesn’t always announce changes.

Red panda
Surprise!

You know how this works. When someone searches for “cat photographer,” a number of websites pop up. In this case, “cat photographer” is a search term. If you want that search term to find your delightful internet home, you use “cat photographer” on your website as one of your keywords.

Long-tail and short-tail keywords

There are two kinds of keywords: long and short.

Long-tail keywords are… longer. They’re a string of words. They’re searched less often, but have higher conversion rates.

So, maybe 100 people search this term in a month, but many of those 100 people are doing specific searches that mean they’re ready to buy.

Think: best cat photographer in Portland, Oregon

Short-tail keywords are… short. There’s a ton of competition across the internet, and your conversion percentage will be much lower.

People are searching for these terms might be looking for something unrelated to what you do. But, hey, they’re easy to sprinkle throughout your site.

Think: photographer

Figure out the type of traffic you’re looking for, and plan your mix of short and long-tail keywords accordingly.

Keyword Research

I’m not even going to pretend like I’m the best person to talk to about this.

Check out a couple of beginners’ guides. Here’s one for WordPress.

And so many more you can google. The point? Start thinking about what keywords you want to rank for BEFORE you start writing.

You can pay people money to do this for you if you like.

Make a list

Still on board?

You have:

  • thought about what kinds of traffic you’d like
  • did some keyword research to find long and short keywords, and
  • put them all in a neat and tidy list

Maybe a spreadsheet. I do love a good spreadsheet.

Cat sitting on a computer lol

And yet…

Put away the list and start writing

I know, I’m sending you mixed messages. Yes, you’ll need to know what keywords you want to rank for before you start writing the bulk of your project. But. Don’t worry about putting those actual keywords in until your second or third draft.

Your copy needs to be written with your ideal client in mind. One perfect client who loves you dearly, pays on time, and sends you chocolates on your birthday. Write to her. Sell to her.

Make things clear. Or, make things weird on the first draft, a little better on the second, and clear on the third.

You’ll have the opportunity to put those keywords in later, when you’re fine-tuning the message.

Go back to that list of keywords

Once you’ve written everything, go back to your list and make sure all those keywords are included. Don’t force it. Keep it natural. If I were putting BEST PORTLAND OREGON COPYWRITER in every other paragraph, you’d be very aware of that instead of my message. The first goal is to be useful to your clients, prospects, and hot leads.


That’s it! Told you we’d keep it short(ish). If you’d like to do some extra reading on the subject, here’s some food for thought:

SEO Copywriting Ultimate Guide from Yoast.

Don’t load your copy with keywords, says Neil Patel. Sprinkle and wave, baby.

Most Massive SEO Copywriting Guide from CoSchedule. Maybe save this one for when you break your leg and can’t move for a few weeks. (Partially kidding.)

Need help wrapping your brain around all this? Let’s talk! I can write it for you, or coach you through finding a strategy.

hello@kelleygardiner.com



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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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What the Heck Is Copywriting, Anyway?

There’s kind of a funny problem with copywriters.

Our job is to make communications as clear as possible, but it’s not clear to everyone what we actually do.

“I’m a copywriter.”

“So, you… create copyrights?”

Hmm, no, I’m not a copyright lawyer. Let’s try again.

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh, have you written anything I’ve read? I’ve always wanted to write a novel.”

“I write website copy for small businesses.”

“…Well, I’m sure you could write a novel if you wanted to.”

Besides, business owners outside industries like publishing and marketing rarely even use the term “copy.”  No wonder people get confused.

Resting spaniel head

Okay, so what the heck IS copy?

Writing! The word part!

“Copy” is used across different industries in different ways—a book publisher, a newspaper reporter, an advertising executive might be talking about slightly different aspects of the written word when they use the term.

However.

For small business owners, these distinctions aren’t so important. Think of it as the messaging that will help you move product or fill your dance card.

The words in your Facebook ads.

The words on your website.

Your tagline.

All the written words you put out into the world to persuade people to exchange their hard-earned money for your goods and/or services.

Great.

Copywriters have the magic combination of experience and know-how to make those words on the actual (virtual) page.

 

Content & Copy

I use the phrase “Content and Copy” because it’s both broad and narrow enough to talk about what I do: I write and edit for small businesses for the internet. Right now, I’m focused on website rewrites and revamps. Hey, you should hire me to do that!

Your blog posts? That’s usually considered content. You might hire a copywriter to write that, or get a content marketer on board. Or do it yourself. But then you actually have to do it. (If you have a blog, that is. It’s not required.)

Content & copy go hand in hand. They don’t need to be written by the same person, but they should be informed by the same marketing plan.

What’s content marketing, then?

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”—Content Marketing Institute

In plain speak:

That’s a plan to create content (blog posts, social media, email newsletters, etc.) that drives customers to you, and keeps them engaged. All in a strategic way that ends with you diving into a pool of money, Uncle Scrooge-style.

Copy might be somewhat static—you can keep your website “About” page the same for years with no detriment to your sales—but fresh content like your blog posts and social media should also be a part of your marketing plan.


What the heck do copywriters do once you hire them, anyway?

We don’t just write.

Well, okay, if you want to split hairs, we write. We make words appear on the page. That’s what’s hard for most people, and it’s what we wake up wanting to do.

But we can’t pull it all out of thin air, friends! Usually, copywriting involves information-gathering, a little journalism, a good dash of marketing, and a large glug of interviewing, messaging, and massaging. After you sign a contract with your writer, they’ll want to download your brain once or twice. It’s likely that they’ll want to talk to other stakeholders as well, like your customers, constituents, or team members.

Two brown dogs and quote "Teamwork makes the dream work"

On a personal note, I’m always happy to talk to you about referrals if I don’t do what you need. I have a little cabal of writers, marketers, proofreaders, and designers at the ready for any kind of project.

Break it break it down

Writing marketing copy for the web means:

  • Keeping up with online marketing and content marketing strategies
  • Nurturing a productive relationship with the client with stellar communication
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Writing and editing copy that helps the business reach its goals
  • Delivering clean (proofread) copy

It sometimes means:

  • Testing headlines
  • A/B testing for newsletters and other sales copy
  • Writing longform sales pages
  • SEO writing
  • Placing copy on the website itself

It does not mean:

  • Coming up with all the ideas
  • Steamrolling business owners into a direction they’re not comfortable with
  • Playing fast and loose with deadlines because of “creativity”

For a better idea of the full range of what copywriters do, grab my free checklist: 18 Must-Haves for Website Copy That Converts.

More Questions?

Now, to answer a couple of questions I got from my Facebook page:

“What is copywriting, and how does it apply to being an entrepreneur and in biz?”

See above.

If it’s good, you will sell more. If it’s bad, you’ll lose customers. That sounds scary, but it’s something you can control.

There’s anecdotal evidence of a change of copy increasing sales 19.5x. Not percent. Almost 20 TIMES. That’s an extreme case, but 19.5% actually sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

“What is an expected range of costs I would expect to pay for copywriting? Say for a website?”

Depending on who you’re working with, a writer might charge by the hour, the word, or by the project. By FAR, the most common way to charge is by project. It’s the best deal for the writer and for you as the business owner—with no surprises when the bill comes.

As a general rule, most writers charge $150 and up per page. That’s one web page, in the 300-800 word range.

Some charge thousands of dollars for sales pages. If they’ve gotten to that point, it’s because they have a history of being worth it. Or they’re just cocky, so do your due diligence, please.

If someone is quoting you $20 an hour, run! (I don’t know anyone who can freelance on $20 an hour, which is probably like getting paid $5 an hour by an employer, but that’s a different blog post.)


Do you have any other questions about copy or content writing? Toss ’em in the comments, or drop a line!

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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?



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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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.