You Can’t Make a Living from Disjointed Thoughts and Sloppy Grammar

To earn new business, good storytelling and writing skills matter

It’s my job to beautify your web copy so you can look sharp and on top of your game. As a copy editor, my take on this topic may differ from yours.

Here’s my [totally biased] perspective:

If I had a nickel for every time a blogger asked me THIS, I could be living in a castle by the sea (with a maid, butler, chef, hairdresser, chauffeur, and personal stylist):

“Is proper grammar all that important in blogging for business?”

Inevitably, these questions follow closely behind:

“The messages in my posts are a lot more important than any writing mistakes I make, right? If everything isn’t grammatically correct on the page, my target audience won’t really mind, right?”

WRONG. (Spoiler alert)

I’m a fun-loving soul so I turn the next part of the conversation into a little game.

I ask the blogger to imagine she’s approaching the entrance to a new local bakery when she notices the word, bakery, is misspelled on a sign in the front window. Apparently someone is dyslexic. (Happens to the best of us)

Then I ask her to give me her immediate gut-level response to the glaring boo-boo.

I usually get responses like these: “Eww, not cool” or “Pretty stupid mistake, isn’t it?” or “Why didn’t they pay closer attention or give closer inspection before hanging that sign?” or “It’s such an easy word to spell, I’m embarrassed for the owners.”

Please lean in and listen carefully, business bloggers …

The same holds true for YOU and your writing.

Pure and simple, it’s a matter of credibility and reputation.

That imaginary bakery will probably still sell some pastries today, even with a blatant spelling error in the storefront window. After all, they make the tastiest and richest double chocolate, chocolate chip muffins in town. (In my imagination, that is)

But they’ve opened themselves to criticism, bad press, and photos of their screwed up sign posted on social media … with silly, sassy, and snarky captions.

Ouch.

NOT the reputation they were hoping to establish as a brand new business — plus points and precious ground lost in building credibility.

Take this advice to heart, business bloggers:

Why not get your writing right and avoid having prospective clients or customers leave your blog thinking, “Eww, not cool”, and possibly never return to read another word.

A few typos now and then are no big deal. However, disjointed thoughts and sloppy grammar won’t help you seal any deals!

Your blog posts need to put you in a professional light and elicit trust and confidence in working with you. If your story doesn’t flow, your thoughts are not cohesive, and your writing contains spelling and punctuation errors, you’re running the risk of losing business.

To earn new business, good storytelling and writing skills matter.

Do you agree or disagree? Biz bloggers, let’s hear your take on this topic.

Makeness Media Bravery Blogging Project

The Story We Tell Ourselves About Our Work

Tell better biz stories

Candice is a masterful seamstress.

She can design or alter a garment, exquisitely, to custom fit your body. Short torso, wide hips, long arms, square shoulders, thick waist, flat rear — doesn’t matter.

Nothing is a challenge for this sewing wizard.

Whatever your body type or wardrobe issue, Candice’s exceptional talents are guaranteed to solve your problem and make you look and feel like you’re donning high-end designer apparel.

Yeah, she’s THAT good.

And speedy, to boot.

She can hem a fancy schmancy prom dress in record time! Seems she’s called upon for these last-minute [sewing] emergencies every year … and she pulls through with grace.

Same goes for brides and their wedding gown emergencies. Candice has been known to show up at the church, needle and thread in hand, ready to work her wizardry and save the day.

With all the tailor-made miracles Candice produces, she has one BIG problem — her story.

The story she tells herself about her work is borderline dismal and it shows in her marketing.

When you visit her website, her blog and About Page leave the impression she’s a plain Jane who just happens to know how to run a sewing machine. Too bad, cause she’s SO much more than that!

Sadly, she’s been telling herself her work isn’t anything special; just ordinary and uninteresting.

But you and I know that’s not true.

Do you see any part of yourself in Candice? Maybe your story isn’t painting a true picture of your gifts and your worth. Maybe you’re leaving your target audience with a skewed impression.

Would you love to learn how to tell better biz stories?

I’m talking about stories that enrapture your prospective clients or customers, speak straight to the heart of their challenges, and entice them to choose you over your competition.

If that sounds like something you, your biz, and your bottom line can benefit from …

My amazing friend and colleague, Tea Silvestre Godfrey of Story Bistro, is hosting her second annual Storytelling Soiree in Portland, OR, the weekend of August 8th and 9th and I’m nudging you to attend!

Here’s the thing:

If you can’t attend in person, Tea’s got you covered. You can grab a virtual ticket and attend from anywhere — poolside, your couch, home office, kitchen table, or even your bed.

And to make this event extra sweet:

Tea is offering you, my dear reader, 25% off the ticket price when you reserve your spot before July 1st. At checkout, just use the code, MELANIEPAL25, for your exclusive discount.

I’ll be a virtual attendant this year. I was super excited about making the trip to Portland when I got the surprising news of a new California grandbaby on the way. So I’ll have my bags packed here in Arizona and be “on call” for labor coaching duty (and a long drive).

Just hope the baby waits till the Storytelling Soiree is over. It’s a one-of-a-kind event created by a one-of-a-kind storytelling genius and I can’t wait!

Scope out the details today and don’t pass on the opportunity to tell better biz stories. Those stories begin with YOU and an understanding of your primary business story type.

The Mainstay of My Business is Not a Tool or Technique or Tactic or Even a Thing

Human kindness keeps my biz turntable spinning

The mainstay of my business is human kindness. (Translation: HEART)

Lots of beautiful heart is the buttress of my business.

No, not my heart, though it beats with conviction through the daily challenges of my work and everything I do.

It’s the endless generosity, undeniable and unsurpassed wisdom, and everlasting kindness of my colleagues — my secret and saucy ingredient for success.

Because …

It’s not by chance that people meet
And the right souls gather together
When such a special bond is formed
It’s bound to linger beyond forever

People fade in and friends fade out
It’s the love and lessons that matter
It’s the memories that we’ll cling to
Everything else is noise and chatter

To say I appreciate the friendship, collaboration, humor, support, and camaraderie of my colleagues would be an understatement. To say I cherish them wouldn’t do my soul justice.

So let me tell you about this distinctive group of characters and you’ll understand why they carry the kind of meaning that can never be measured.

The Heart of My Business

She honors her magic through stories
She’s a Capricorn through and through
Her bold and brilliant creative writing
Will enrapture the very depths of you

A master at anything tricky or techie
He’s got website development wired
I love how he never minces his words
And that his nastiest clients get fired

She can be feisty and argue a point
Bravely challenging the status quo
I’m keeping her in my back pocket
In the event I am attacked by a foe

If they gave an award for diligence
And one for persistence and class
It would go to a freelance writer
Who’s classy and mighty darn fast

I’d compare her writing to a song
One that’s at the top of the charts
Mediocrity isn’t in her vocabulary
She speaks straight from the heart

I can add and subtract and tally
But numbers, I seldom romance
She’s meticulous, smart, and fun
In the realm of business finance

I could rhyme on and on and on
Till I can’t type one more word
To mention every precious soul
Is a notion bordering on absurd

So suffice to say the list runs deep
Of helping hands and listening ears
This poem is a gigantic virtual hug
Sent with my love and happy tears

Make your next stop Mission: Storytelling!

Favorite book, pack of Oreos, lucky rabbit’s foot, four leaf clover, a kick-ass CRM and project management system. We all have our own must-have accessories to complement our day-to-day activities and get to the next level. Here’s a rundown of the things we can’t do without in our business.

Your Hangover Was Not Epic. Not Epic At All.

misuse and overuse of epicThat pizza was epic!

The after-prom party was epic.

Epic sex.

Really?!

I would love to get on my soapbox and tell people as a matter of fact the word doesn’t mean what they think it means – mostly due to my personal annoyance with its overuse, but I doubt I have a leg (or a soapbox) to stand on.

Let me know if you agree with this:

Overuse = Meaningless

(Think: That song you hear on the radio that’s played into the ground)

Any effort on my part to clear this matter up would be an epic fail. (See what I did there?) Put the two words together and you have a meaningless catch phrase.

Fail is a verb. Failure is a noun. Fail cannot be epic.

Did you know that “epic” made Dictionary [dot] com’s list of “The Worst Words of 2012”? (Made the same list the three prior years) It was also voted one of “7 Annoying Words That Should Die A Horrible Death” by 101books [dot] net.

Yet “epic” refuses to be banished. {Click to Tweet}

Fizzle published a post earlier this year entitled, “Write Epic Shit”. I’d like to tell the author/s of Fizzle I don’t write “shit”, let alone epic shit.

Pinterest is a breeding ground for “epic”. You can pin any number of artful versions of “Do Epic Shit”.

Misuse and overuse of epic

Like what?!

Discover the fountain of youth? Take a vacation in a parallel universe? Find the cure for the common cold? Put a stop to all the wars?

Want some examples of what’s EPIC?

Oceans.The Cosmos. Beowulf (Takes most people a few days to read the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English, consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines). Ernest Shackleton and his crew surviving their Antarctic voyage.

I’m sure you get my drift. I mean, really. Let’s be honest.

Have you ever met another human being who’s done anything truly epic? I haven’t. And I hang out with some exceptionally smart cookies whose brilliance and creativity is unsurpassed.

And while we’re on the subject of misused and overused words:

Ditto for at the end of the day and the grand champion, awesome. Oy!

I don’t generally encourage readers to leave my blog but today is an exception. If you’re a small biz builder or word nerd, like me, sprint over to Mission: Storytelling. This month’s word carnival is exploring jibber-jabber nonsense words that have come to be a nuisance for legitimate business people and the elixir of life for the more unscrupulous snake oil salesmen in our midst.

Value Tastes Better Than Price: A Tale of Eating Out and Eating In

Greek saladYour colleague, Michelle, places great worth in dining at an upscale restaurant every Saturday night while your best friend, Nick, prefers home-cooked meals, exclusively, and finds no value in eating out.

The value prospects find in a product or service can vary, enormously, from one person to the next.

The magic happens when you market your value to your “right” people.

It’s most likely costing Michelle a lot more for her Saturday night meals than Nick but she values every detail that encompasses the experience of enjoying a meal fit for royalty. She treasures the ambiance, entertainment, fine wine, variety of gourmet selections, exquisite table settings, personal service, and decadent desserts.

Getting dressed up on the weekend and heading out for some fine dining and great entertainment is very much a part of Michelle’s lifestyle.

Upscale pricing isn’t a concern.

She’s forking out the big bucks for what she desires – the experience.

Enter the Small Business Owner (You)

What can you learn from Michelle’s and Nick’s preferences that will help you market your value and not your price?

No doubt, how you price your products or services is important. I’m not suggesting you discount or ignore the dollars and cents of profit and loss.

However …

If you focus on pricing as the only deal breaker, you’ll be traveling the quickest route to breaking your business. {Tweet this}

Prospects always want to know, “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I buy from you?” “In what ways is your offer valuable to me?”

The kinds of dining experiences Michelle and Nick value are very different.

Michelle is checking online to see if the hottest band is in town this weekend and performing at one of her favorite restaurants. Nick, on the other hand, is perusing ads in search of local farmers’ markets happening on Saturday. He’s hoping to land some fresh organic produce for his weekend meals.

Value: The Main Ingredient in Your Marketing Dish

The best place to begin to understand “how” to market your value (in lieu of your price) is to create an Ideal Customer Persona. Get into the heads of your target audience and get specific knowledge about them.

Dig really deep.

Michelle is a consumer who:

1.)  Is in her mid 20’s

2.)  Enjoys being in social settings

3.)  Loves music and other forms of entertainment

4.)  Appreciates the finer things in life

5.)  Works in a corporate setting and eats all her lunches out

6.)  Has discretionary income and loves to buy special occasion gifts for everyone in her circle of friends and family

7.)  Is vivacious and fun-loving; the life of the party

8.)  Is single and dating

9.)  Frequents local upscale venues for dates and outings with her friends

Nick occupies a different spot on the spectrum. He’s a consumer who is:

1.)  In his early 30’s

2.)  Happily married

3.)  Enamored with fantasy, science fiction, and all things geeky

4.)  The father of triplets

5.)  Budget-conscious and a good saver

6.)  A self-employed small business owner

7.)  A trainer and public speaking ace

8.)  A creative and quick thinker who appreciates people with a good sense of humor and sharp wit

9.)  Health conscious, prefers organic foods, and loves to cook

Michelle is a big spender who has the means to support her out-on-the-town lifestyle while Nick is a family man who needs to watch his pennies. They both enjoy tasty well-prepared meals but one is eating out and the other is eating in.

As a single woman, Michelle is not financially responsible for anyone but herself. Nick is saving up to put triplets through college some day. (Yikes!)

This is just the beginning of creating ideal customer personas for Michelle and Nick.

To dig even deeper, we could explore areas such as pets, favorite sports teams, hobbies, locale, favorite movies or books, special interests, and causes or charities they support.

Please Show Me the Way

You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, Melanie, but how do I uncover what’s valuable to prospective buyers? If price won’t seal the deal, what will it take to show my value?”

So glad you asked.

Now go and ask them!!

I’m serious. That’s the only way you’re going to find out exactly what your target audience values (Unless, of course, you’re a mind reader.)

  • Post questions on social media channels.
  • Encourage feedback on your blog.
  • Send a survey to your email subscribers. Be specific and keep it short. Offer a small perk for completing your survey.
  • Follow up with your current customers or clients and ask them to share what they value most about doing business with you. Then post those testimonials on your web pages.
  • Invite your target audience (and/or your colleagues; others in your niche) to brainstorming sessions. Rely on Skype or G+ Hangouts or explore online brainstorming and collaboration tools.
  • Use reverse thinking. Ask people why they “wouldn’t” buy from you? What’s the missing ingredient for them? Why do they not find value in your offerings? And what would it take to convert them into buyers?
  • Include the features (cold hard facts) of what you’re marketing, for sure, but REALLY HONE IN on the benefits (e.g. easier access; no appointment needed; faster turnaround; simpler process; quicker results; proven strategies; open all night; backed by research; stress-free assembly; 24-hour customer service; makes your skin look radiant, etc.). Ask people which benefits they value most and why. Use that feedback to improve your sales pages, blog posts, and landing pages.

Become a value-laden marketer, not a price-pitching salesperson. {Tweet this}

The bottom line: Gathering as many details as possible about your target audience will help you market your value and give your customers or clients precisely what they desire.

Lay some feedback on me

Do you have a tip for small business owners to help them market their value?

My fellow small biz blogging buddies have some fab tales to share with you in the month’s Mission: Storytelling. Grab a cuppa and head over to “Value and Price: What’s Your Work Worth?”

Please, Oh, Please Don’t Read The Bullet Points

path to pathetic webinar presentationsI can’t wait to attend another boring webinar (said no one ever).

Buckle up.

We’re about to hit some big bumps and even bigger potholes on the path to pathetic presentations.

If I had a nickel for every crappy webinar I’ve signed up for, I’d have enough dough to buy that cute little vintage Vespa I’ve always wanted.

Let’s Talk The Intro (a.k.a. The Boasting Fest)

You know, that part where some presenters spend ten to fifteen minutes (and sometimes even longer) shining the spotlight on you-know-who.

Nothing but nothing turns me off more than a personal intro that goes on for miles. And that applies to offline presentations, as well.

If you intend to go on and on … and on … at least weave in a good story!

Preferably something humorous or heartwarming that might help to keep me awake. Because I really have no interest in hearing your laundry list of accolades or the millions of dollars you’ve made selling potholders and perfume (from the trunk of your car).

I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed on webcasts and I’ve hosted some presentations of my own.

Want to know how long my personal introduction is?

Under two minutes.

My goal is to get to the meat of the material as quickly as possible – the stuff people sign up and show up for.

Let’s Take A Look At The Slides (Eeek!)

Graphs and charts and text, oh my!

Personally, I’ll take the lions, tigers, and bears. They’re a lot more engaging.

Unless you’ve just crawled out from under a cabbage leaf, I’m pretty sure you’re up to speed on what’s happening these days under the big tent of content creation.

In a word … images.

In four words … less text, more images.

Webinar slides plastered with text or boring graphs should be buried under the Smithsonian.

And let’s not forget those lovely bullet points. Bullet points are a great way to arrange thoughts in a concise, organized flow but please …

Oh, please! Don’t read them, verbatim. It insults my intelligence. After all, I know how to read.

Instead, elaborate on your bullets in a conversational manner. People will love you for doing so … and maybe even send kudos and cupcakes!

Let’s Address The Sales Pitch

How many times do presenters need to mention a paid offer during a webinar?

Once is enough.

And please don’t save the pitch for the end of your 60-minute virtual event when attendees are in “information saturation mode”.

They’ve had enough and they’ve heard enough.

Most will click away due to sheer fatigue or simply not absorb half of what you’re peddling. Sitting for long periods of time is tiring.

Here’s what I recommend:

Make an announcement at the beginning of your webinar that you’ll be taking a “brief commercial break” midway through your glorious presentation to share an offer.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Everyone will know what to expect and if people don’t care to hear your offer, they can run to the fridge for a nice snack or pay a visit to the loo (I’ve always loved the British term for toilet).

Speaking Of The Toilet

Don’t let your webinars go down the crapper.

1.)   Craft a short and sweet personal introduction

2.)   Learn to tell better stories

3.)   Create images that capture and convey your message

4.)   Use bare bones text on your slides

5.)   Pitch your offer (only once) midway through your presentation

You have worthwhile messages, fun anecdotes, and wonderful offers to share with your attendees.

Use virtual events to your best advantage by creating remarkable presentations – and don’t forget virtual event etiquette!

Make your next webinar one people want to talk about.

[Stepping down from my soap box]

Image credit: Pixabay