Survivial Skills for Freelancers

How clever customer profiles help you attract the right clients

Whatever business you’re in, you can’t successfully market your products or services without knowing who you’re selling to. To quote Friends (the one with Russ, if you must know) “You can try, but you will not be successful”.

One of the first questions I ask business owners when we’re chatting about their marketing is, “Who is your target customer?”. Sometimes they have an idea – female, mid to late 30s, ambitious – but that’s often about as far as it goes.

Far too often (you didn’t hear that from me) they’ll look a bit blank and reply, “Well, anyone, really…”.

You wouldn’t buy shoes without knowing your size, so don’t think about writing copy to sell or promote your business without knowing exactly who you’re trying to convert.

Avatar? I thought that was a film full of giant blue people?

Customer profiles – sometimes called buyer personas, or avatars – are an in-depth description of your ideal client. They look a bit like this:

 


The expert start-up

Profile

In her mid-30s, Rachel is a divorced graduate with two boys in junior school. She gave up her job so she could achieve a balance between work and family, and believes she can earn more working for herself.

She’s experienced in her industry but has become disillusioned and wants to use her considerable knowledge to help other businesses.

Goals

Rachel has ambitious plans for her own company, and needs a great website and marketing materials to help her launch her business and build her customer base.

She wants to earn enough for financial independence and security for her family, and would like to be able to afford a decent annual holiday for her and her boys.

Challenges

Juggling is her biggest challenge, and she wants to appear professional at all times, while balancing the needs of her family.

Communication styles

She’s happy to talk on the phone and meet face to face when necessary, but deep down prefers to email, as she can respond in her own time, making juggling easier. She is a big social media user and very switched on to the latest trends.


 

You may have more than one customer profile – perhaps a different persona for different products or services. And that’s okay. The key is to take time to understand the differences between the customers you want to attract, and their motivations to buy.

Talk to the heart

Taking the time to identify and outline your ideal customer and the things that make them tick, makes it easier for you – or your copywriter (hello!) – to talk to them in their language.

As Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a person in a language they understand, that goes to their head. If you talk to them in their language, that goes to their heart.”

When you use your customers’ language you have more influence. By understanding what motivates them, and the things that are important to them, you can begin to address their fears, solve their problems, and excite them with the things they desire.

That insight is like a superpower. Once you know who you’re writing to, you have the power to use that in-depth knowledge to influence them, by producing targeted, segmented marketing messages that really mean something to your audience.

Worried this all sounds a bit manipulative?

Think of it this way. You’re in business because you genuinely believe in your products and services, right? (Time to dust off that CV, if not.)

And if that’s the case, then you genuinely believe in their ability to solve problems, and to make life easier or more enjoyable.

Client with gaping need, meet supplier with perfectly formed solution. You’re welcome.

When it comes to addressing your target audience, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Using generic marketing messages is like taking a scattergun approach to your marketing copy. You might reach the odd new customer by chance – perhaps the timing just happened to be right – but you’re more likely to hit the mark if you segment your messages, and use a targeted approach.

That’s when you begin to generate real results.

6 devilishly good tips for brilliant blogs

According to a HubSpot survey, 60% of marketers say creating blog content is top of their marketing to-do list.

Whatever business you’re in, blogging should be a vital part of your marketing strategy. Perhaps you’ve vowed that this will be the year you start a blog, or begin to post more regularly. These tips and tactics will help you do it well.

1)   Tell, don’t sell

A well-written, thought-provoking blog is your chance to share your expertise, answer potential customers’ questions, and position yourself as an expert in your field.

Your blog should be thought-provoking, knowledgeable – even entertaining. It shouldn’t be a thinly veiled sales pitch. You don’t like being sold to, and neither does your reader – and they’ll quickly switch off and go elsewhere.

Sure, sign off with a line or two about how your product or service solves the problem you’re writing about, but don’t make your sales message the purpose of the article.

2)   Stay on topic

Your posts should always be relevant to your market. For example, a recruitment agency could share top interview techniques, ways to motivate staff, to improve retention, or share their take on the latest changes to employment law.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be posting the latest movie news if you’re a firm of accountants… however much of a Marvel nerd your marketing assistant is.

Brainstorm ideas for relevant posts with your team, and use the resulting list to create a content schedule. Commit to posting regularly, but don’t set unrealistic goals – one quality post a month is a great start.

3)   Keep it fresh

Quality blog posts boost SEO and can help drive traffic to your website.

Every blog you add to your site is another page of fresh content for the search engines to index – that’s another chance for you to show up in potential customers’ Google searches. Keep working those keywords in.

By using your company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn feeds to share links to your latest blog, you’re creating shareable content that’ll raise awareness of your business, and help to position you as a trusted authority in your field.

4)   Hello, new customer!

Chances are your target audience will stumble upon your blog because they want advice, information, or answers to a problem that’s bugging them. Blogging gives you the chance to educate readers and present your expert opinion on the issues that matter to them.

Once they’ve established that you know what you’re talking about – and that your business has the knowledge, skills and solutions to solve their problem – you’re on their radar when they’re ready to make a purchase.

To increase the chances of taking the next step and converting your readers to customers, make sure every post contains up-to-date contact details so they can get in touch if they need to.

5)   Create a conversation

Regular blogging gives your business a voice – creating a dialogue around current topics that are relevant to your industry, and your customers.

Thought-provoking, informative articles encourage comments and feedback from readers, many of whom will be potential customers. Welcome any interaction as a chance to find out more about the problems faced by your target audience, and always respond to comments. Remember – dialogue is the first step in converting prospects to customers.

6)   Finally – in the immortal words of Wham! – if you’re gonna do it, do it right

Your blog represents your business. Think of it as your shop window. Having a badly written, error-filled blog – or posting for the sake of posting – is worse than not posting at all. Make sure your thinking is eloquent, well-structured, and well written… and that it supports your brand.

Always read your blog carefully before posting – or get a colleague to do it for you – to catch spelling and grammar mistakes and iron out clumsy language. Mistakes in your posts show a lack of professionalism and care, and you risk driving your target customers into the open arms of your competitors.

If you don’t have the time – or the skills – to write great blog posts yourself, hire a professional copywriter to ghost-write them for you.

I originally wrote this post for digital marketing agency, Kandekore, and have adapted it for my own website with their permission.

Why failing to proofread is losing you business

Whether you like it or not, mistakes in your marketing cost you customers and sales. Online errors can affect your search rankings, and sloppy spelling drives potential customers to question your credibility, and buy from your competitors, instead.

We’ve all seen examples of pitiful proofreading that make us cringe. How do you make sure your business isn’t next in line for the hall of shame?

We’re all under pressure – our inboxes are full of unanswered messages, our ‘to do’ lists get longer when they should be getting shorter, and there are never enough hours in the day… it’s no surprise we end up cutting corners.

You’re too close to your own work to proofread it yourself, and your colleagues are just as busy so there’s no point asking them for help.

Avoid the pitfalls of pitiful proofreading

Your marketing literature, website and social media accounts are often the first contact potential clients have with your business. You budget for design and print – even copywriting – yet how often have you risked your investment by skimping on proofreading… then found embarrassing typos in the finished product?

A 2013 study revealed that 59 per cent of UK consumers wouldn’t use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing material because they wouldn’t trust the company to provide good quality service. Others were put off due to an obvious lack of care, and considered the business to be unprofessional as a result of the mistakes.

Spellcheck schmellcheck

So you don’t have time to proofread but you’ve run a spellcheck so it’s okay, right? Wrong. Spellcheck doesn’t know if you’ve repeated a word, or left one out, neither does it know if you’ve used the right word – it only knows whether the words you’ve used are spelled incorrectly (that’s one C, two Rs).

Computers can’t check context: they don’t know if you meant there, their or they’re, affect or effect, loose or lose. And – oops! – you just spelt manager as manger. Sorry, it won’t spot that either. P45 anyone?

Each time you rely on spellcheck you risk mistakes and errors in your writing. Homophones – words that sound the same, but have different spellings and different meanings, like the examples below – are partly to blame:

  • your, you’re
  • to, too, two
  • there, they’re, their
  • sight, site
  • board, bored

So, don’t sack your spellchecker, but don’t rely on it to do your job for you – it’s never a substitute for proofreading. Consider professional proofreading as security on your investment. It may be another expense, but it’ll pay for itself many times over.

As the saying goes, ‘There’s never time to do it right, but always time to do it again.’ Don’t learn the hard way.