Survivial Skills for Freelancers

Start-up marketing support for an experienced mortgage and insurance adviser

The client: Stratus Home Finance Ltd

Gloucestershire-based mortgage and insurance adviser, Jez Wallace, has over 20 years of experience of helping his customers save money on their monthly mortgage and insurance premiums. Having worked for a local firm of mortgage advisers since 2006, he decided the time had come to start working for himself.

The need

Training in a new area – equity release – had given Jez the incentive to start his own company. As well as being highly experienced and skilled at what he does, his friendly, straightforward and affordable advice puts him in a good position to do this – but with no experience of setting up a new business, let alone how to market it, he needed help.

The solution

I was already good friends with Jez, having met him at dance classes over 10 years ago. Naturally, when he decided to start his own business he turned to me for help. We met for a chat over coffee and began by talking about the challenges he faced getting his business off the ground.

As with many start-ups, Jez didn’t have a huge budget, but I explained that investing in a great-looking, well-written website and brand identity would help him compete with established businesses from the get-go.

Lack of budget means many start-ups struggle to write or design their own website when their time would be better spent doing the thing that makes them money – which is usually the reason they went into business in the first place! What’s more, professional copywriting satisfies both potential customers and Google – helping to attract clients through clever search engine optimisation (SEO).

What’s in a name?

Jez was toying with the idea of calling his new business Wallace Mortgage Solutions. I steered him away from this obvious choice towards something with a little more gravitas that encompassed the fact that he didn’t just do mortgages, and which included the word ‘home’ because of its positive associations.

After agreeing on the name Stratus Home Finance, I came up with the idea for Jez’s new logo – a simple outline of a house forming both the H of home and an arrow (again, subtle positive associations) with a stratus cloud behind it.

I introduced Jez to one of my web design partners, Narjas Carrington at Inklings Design, and set up a meeting between them. Together, we decided on a structure for his new website – home page, about page, services overview and sub-pages, a page of testimonials, and contact page. While Narjas set to work designing Jez’s new business cards and stationery, I began writing his new website.

Throughout the process, I worked closely with Narjas to find the right images for the site, and to ensure the copy and design worked hard together to make it easy to use.

Get social

I helped Jez to set up a Facebook page for Stratus Home Finance, suggested he list the business on various local directory sites to increase his chances of getting found online, and rewrote his LinkedIn profile – giving it more personality and reflecting his new role.

Jez was delighted by his professional new website and social media profiles, and has already begun to attract new clients to his business as a result.

This project was a great example of how brand new businesses can benefit from clever start-up marketing. Taking a step-by-step approach to marketing can be a great way to raise awareness of a new venture.

In the client’s words…

“As a mortgage adviser I know very little about marketing and even less about writing a website, but having set up a new business I knew I needed one. I was anxious about the entire process but I needn’t have worried.

“Sarah knows everything there is to know about marketing and copywriting and made the process so easy from start to finish.

“She worked with my website designer to make sure the structure and appearance of my website worked and she wrote the words I needed with minimal guidance and input from me. She even gave me lots of useful business and marketing tips.

“I now have a website I’m proud of that’s helped me get Stratus Home Finance off the ground. Thanks Sarah!”

Jeremy Wallace, Owner and Director
Stratus Home Finance Ltd

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.