The Sarky Type – content with more bite

Hey, freelancer — business owner! Let’s cut to the giblets: prospects lie. Don’t believe me? Read this article, it’s written just for you, like almost EVERYTHING I write (except for the article Eating ass is hardly ever planned, that baby is universal).

Ok, Karen, not all prospects lie but ‘Prospects lie (some don’t and some tell lies when they’re protecting people they love) when they say you’re a perfect fit’ is way too long a title.

Are you ever just minding your own, working at your desk, when you hear that familiar LinkedIn notification chime? 

Thrilling, isn’t it? 

I mean, who is ‘reaching out’ to little ol’ you? 

Could it be Matt with his one-word message again? He’s dropping his weekly “Hi” in the hopes that you’ll say hi back — and if you don’t this time, he’ll lose his shit and call you a rude bitch — a rude bitch that he doesn’t want to chat with anyway — because you’re not actually that good-looking, despite him leering at your profile photo daily (and banging one out to it). 

That’s why DMs are such fun, you never know what will happen. 

Perhaps that jolly tinkly sound is alerting you to a lukewarm lead. Yes! It’s a DM from a lying prospect who is trying to convince you that you’re both made to measure. 

Those scamps tentatively ask about your services. They pussyfoot around the subject, tepidly enquiring about what it is you do — even though it clearly states on your profile what it is you do. And after all, isn’t that the reason they’re contacting you, because they want the fucking thing you do?

Jesus. 

Eventually, these prospects get around to asking this: “What’s your hourly rate?” because that’s all they care about — money. So when they open with compliments they speak with forked tongue — they care not for quality but how much quantity they can squeeze outta you for a paltry fee. 

The joke’s on them though coz what freelancer/business owner (in their right mind) is offering an hourly rate? Sorry, you are? Christ on a bike!

And again — prospects lie.

Yeah, ‘prospects lie’ is the keyword for this post so I want to stuff it in as many times as I can without it reading like shit — and before you say “It’s a little late for that” keep reading, it gets better… maybe… possibly…

These lying potentials are not gagging to work with you. 

So before you get breathless at the thought of their loving embrace, slam on the brakes and become the ultimate ice queen.

These folks are only interested in one thing — how low can you go? But you’re not prepared to play price limbo — even if you had the back for it — which you don’t (because your back is like mine, absolutely fucked). 

Repeat after me: I will never be cheap, especially during these trying times.

“Sarah, I slip into you like a hand in a tailor-made glove…”

(Crumbs!)

One day I heard that cheerful peal from my LinkedIn inbox. Here’s the message I received:

“I’m looking to hire a content writer with a business background for our company based in the UK. Your profile seems like a perfect fit. Could you please share more about yourself? It would be great if you could share your updated resume with me. Thanks.”

The short answer (and the correct answer) to this DM is “hell, no”. If you think that seems like an unwarranted response, stick around.

Lemme explain why this company is anything but a perfect fit…

Straight off the bat, I am expected to do some donkey work — work that I have already done. And if they’ve read my profile, as they said they have, they would already know all they need to. They also think I am a prospective employee. I would only send out a resume when applying for a job — and that is not what’s happening here.

They had an access-all-areas pass to my profile and website. That’s more than enough for them to realise how much of a perfect fit we are — which they already said we were, confused? Me too.

I get the impression that this person is not ready to buy. They’re window shopping at this stage. They’re browsing for a generic content writer and price is their greatest consideration. And I know this because they quickly asked about my hourly rate — ha! Everything about me screams price per project!

FYI: this is why broad keywords don’t convert as much as long-tail keywords. People get specific when they want to buy. Read Smash your keywords with customer intent to find out more.

It’s my duty to put an end to this bullshit.

I need to take control and swing the balance of power my way.

If I make the mistake of replying with something like, “Oh sure! Let me just get all that for you!” I sound like a simpering pissant. I will become an impotent and pathetic excuse for a business owner.

Gross.

I give them the deets about my process.

It doesn’t take long for me to figure that if this business were a pair of trousers, they would chafe and ride up my bum crack. 

Turns out they weren’t peachy keen (see what I did there — peachy — bum crack) on my prices nor my Client Qualifier. In a very short space of time, I realised this prospect was not a size 10 (which is what I am if you’d like to buy me something expensive).

Dodging a dodgy prospect is easy.

Especially when you know what to look out for. And I wrote this to help you: 5 bad client traits and how to deal with them. Read it (if you wanna).

But sometimes a seemingly perfect prospect becomes a badly fitting client. And that can happen when people say one thing but mean another.

Because, hello, PROSPECTS LIE.

Picture this: the client has actually taken the time to read your blurb. They so enjoy your blog, like really dig the way you write and they want you to create original content as you but for them. At last! The most amazing gig!

So you do just that only to receive this email:

“That article you wrote is way too informal for us.”

Well, this is awkward.

(I know what you’re thinking: it was all the swearing. Nope. There were no fucks in it — not even a single bloody or bugger — coz I get it, 99% of organisations don’t want that.)

Was it conversational? Check. Did it use some slang? Check. And it was me, right? Which they said was cool, RIGHT?

Yeah, not really…

Honest communication.

If there were a rule book about human interaction this should be its first commandment. Most misunderstandings are down to being shit at saying what you want. 

If I can’t nail the tone of voice — understand a style guide — or make sure the content is bang on for the audience, I have no business writing for business. This is basic stuff when it comes to content writing. So what the hell went so bloody wrong?

The blame lies, in part, with me. I missed a key step in my process, which I will never do again.

But the client wasn’t communicating honestly — ok maybe clearly is a better word for it. (Damn. Looks like I’ll have to change my keyword.)

And there is no way of knowing that.

Even if you assume everyone is holding back — even when they lie to you, you don’t know that it’s happening. You have to trust that what they say is what they mean. 

What this client should have said was this: “We really like the way you write but we need you to write like our other writers but with a bit of you thrown in — but not too much you, maybe a pinch of you.”

So although my name would be published in the article they wanted a watered-down version of my style — all that extra me would not fly. And that’s absolutely acceptable.

This experience has helped me understand the kind of work I do not want to do (believe me, the list gets longer).

I will never again lend my voice to a brand or business that asks me to tone down, diminish or bland up my writing. Because if you love me, you don’t want to change me.

Final thoughts: most prospects suck.

In real business life, sifting through prospects is like trying to find a chocolate raisin in a rabbit hutch — you’ll probably have to bite down on a few spicy bumbles before you chomp the sweet taste of success. 

Beware of those that start by saying you’re a perfect fit. Just remember that pair of chafing trousers — oh and yeah, prospects lie. Still wanna work with me after reading this? Superb, click here.

This has nothing to do with personality marketing. (I LOVE personality marketing. My niche is defined by my clients’ business nature.)

No, this article is my response to yet another thing that supposedly died.

Last time it was blogging and this time it’s selling. We’re here because I got triggered by a clickbaity social media post.

Anyway, just forget about selling. Your personality will shift products now.

Last night I had a dream that I was Keith Allen.

(For the youngsters that’s Lily Allen’s dad).

Well, actually, I was still me, pretending to be Keith Allen who was in turn, playing a role on the London stage.

I gave a cracking performance. 

I wowed the audience. 

I even heard someone in the crowd whisper, “Is that Sarah?” see, they weren’t quite sure – that’s how good I was.

There I stood, head shaved and bare-chested, being Keith Allen being some other character.

I think you’ll agree, that’s quite a funny story. Reading it has given you a flavour of my character. That little tale has made you want to hire me RIGHT NOW. Go on, do it!

Welcome to the latest episode of Squirts From The Marketing Shit Fountain…

I am grumpy today. Again. I can’t help it, it’s genetic. 

Ok, it is absolutely acceptable to run your business how you wish. If you get results with the thing I’m going to piss all over, pay me no mind.

The Social Media Wisdom Directive 275 clearly states you only need a personality to sell stuff.

Correction: there is no Social Media Wisdom Directive 275. And the person who made this claim is speaking from their own experience. So, to be clear, they need their personality to sell their stuff. Not your personality, yours is shit. And if you don’t have a personality, well, you’re fucked. 

The “people buy from people” mantra. 

Sound familiar? Old-style selling is dead? Getting to know your prospects is the new way of selling?

This blarney is another line from the social selling playbook – build relationships and your prospects will come (gross).

I don’t really know how I feel about this. (I do, I’m just trying to seem like I’ve considered the other point of view.) I guess it depends on what you’re flogging. 

If a potential is looking for a long-term service provider, they’ll probably want to know a lot more about you. So funny stories and social media posts about your kids could be the way to go.

And hey, I’m all for nurturing a prospect but only when I get some kind of commitment from them. For example, when they sign up for this brilliant blog. (SEE BELOW THIS POST.)

AOB: if you *only* want personality, grab my non-business blog updates (find out more here). 

Selling using your persona is unreliable.

Despite a certain person saying this method works for them, I wouldn’t recommend nailing all your colours to that particular mast.

Especially if you are (as this person was and is) a copywriter. You’re sorta kinda doing yourself out of a job.

This idea of personality for sales smells like brand awareness.

That’s you saying, “Hi this is me/my business” on the regular. We all need to do that, btw, that’s how people get to know us.

But brand awareness is top funnel content. And the folks that need that guff are new prospects (and they ain’t ready to buy). Yes, we should drip-feed brand awareness for those newbies – that’s a good thing to do.

FYI: Prospects are not clients.

When they part with cash they become clients.

But they only do that after they have a bit more to go on. Brand awareness content is no good for the potentials who are already aware of our existence. There might be a few reasons why they have not become clients. Just relying on top funnel content might be one of them.

It’s true that your business has a personality.

And the tone should attract as much as it repels. But it’s not all there is to consider when it comes to sales.

If you are one of the few, who can sell simply by being you, you must be pretty impressive. People are no doubt wetting themselves to hire you.

That is very rare.

Perhaps you’re a LinkedIn celebrity (lord fucking help us).

Maybe your reputation precedes you. And if you are kind of a big deal, you’ve likely earned the right to lean on your good name.

But for the rest of us losers, we have to sell, not by stealth but by good old-fashioned sales techniques.

We have to cling to the hope that selling is not dead.

I follow a few direct response copywriters.

(To you and me that’s conversion copywriters – yeah, getting sales is their bloody job.)

One of my favourites is Cain Smith.

He, like the legendary Dan Kennedy (copywriter/marketer/salesman extraordinaire), thinks this about selling: people are scared to do it.

Even some marketers feel it’s vulgar or shameful. It makes sense that those folks like to focus on social selling, it’s much comfier.

Successful businesses openly sell. 

They aren’t putting all their eggs in the personality basket hoping people will (fingers crossed) buy.

Cain is a freelancer and he works for a large marketing agency. He creates email campaigns (along with lots of other copy).

His agency sends out more sales emails than the ‘giving value’ emails.

Why?

They convert more.

(In fact, they get more unsubs with the ‘giving value’ content.)

Ok, these guys test and measure performance so they know what works for their audience. But Cain is a seasoned copywriter and his view is this: if you have to sell more, send out more sales content.

No, Karen, I am not a direct response copywriter.

I’m not even a garden variety copywriter. Content writing is, as you know, my thing.

But I do write copy when I want to get a quick decision from my peeps.

If I only wrote funny anecdotes I wouldn’t sell my book or get any subs to my list.

Why?

Because people want to know how I help THEM and what they have to do to get that help. Until the day comes when I’m famous, I will always need to demonstrate that.

People don’t mind being sold to if you have what they want. 

I know that coz I buy stuff all the time. 

But if you actively sell to people that aren’t in your market, they’ll get pissed off. 

That could be why you get unsubscribers or negative comments when you send out sales content. Those people are never going to buy from you. Warm leads will always welcome a consistent sales message.

If you fancy some unconventional help with your content writing, head over to my services page.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say you want your business to make money.

I’m going to make the further wild assumption that any investment you fork out for should bring in the cash. 

So it makes sense that you’d like, very muchly, to make sales with content because seriously, why else would you bother with it?

Content can mean anything. In this article, I’m talking about content writing, coz, if you don’t know, that’s my thang.

You might enjoy writing (sweet), and you might be ‘passionate’ about the guff you bosh out (lovely).

However it is still work and work that needs doing.

There’s a possibility you hate writing. Like really detest thinking up new stuff to entice your people. See, content creation takes serious toil so if writing bums you out, you’ll resent the time it steals away from the things you enjoy. You’d certainly like to see a return on your efforts. 

Let’s say you can’t be arsed with all that and you hire a writer, hang about…

Content writing is a saturated market.

There are hundreds (probably more, I haven’t counted) of content writers (oh, hi there). So many in fact, that these bastards are making the place look untidy

And like any market, it is, in part, saturated with shit. 

You can’t tell if a writer is a Dacia or a Rolls Royce. And is it really your job to know?

Doesn’t the burden of proof fall to them (I mean, me)? Aren’t they supposed to be demonstrating their expertise so you can make an informed decision?

Whilst those in my industry squabble about the difference between content writing and copywriting, you stand, open-mouthed, wondering when anyone is going to notice you.

Notice your cry for help.

You know the cry for help I mean, this one: hey, you over there, how does content writing make me dosh?

I see you, gurl! It’s a ruddy minefield. And that’s one of the many reasons I blog. To demonstrate my expertise.

Content has loads of benefits.

Coz you is smart, you already know that content does this:

  • Brings more traffic to your website (organic and direct)
  • Builds trust and authority
  • Is the answer to any question a prospect is ever likely to have
  • Is the reason someone says yes to your product/service

All the above indirectly and directly makes you cash.

Some of those things take time and others happen quickly. Content should always be working hard to attract yo peeps and keep them interested long enough to buy/sign up/download.

Sounds pretty rad (anything but rad).

Yeah, you could learn to do this yourself. 

If you have the inclination you can buy books, sign up for courses and learn the art of content writing. 

Freelancers do that shit all the time because they don’t have the resources to hire people.

But the boss of a small business doesn’t have the time for that.

And if they do, I doubt wanting to write their own content would excite them enough to learn. (And there’s golf to play. I do love a stereotype, don’t you?)

These business folks have the money to hire someone to take care of content. 

But they usually don’t.

Like I’ve said before, people in business don’t understand the importance so they ask someone unqualified within their own organisation to do it. Often a person who already has a day job.

I teach you to write your own stuff.

I show you how to make your content good. 

This blog tells you to get your content arse in gear. Because even a subtle improvement will be a huge step in elevating you above your competition.

Why?

Because most business content is terrible. Again, businesses are getting unqualified people to do it (or doing it badly themselves). If you don’t believe me, go and look at your competition. 

Read the copy on their homepage, I’m telling you, it will be average. And by that I mean, dull, cliched, and full of meaningless garbage. 

Listen, if you’re learning to do all this yourself, you understand why it’s important. So you’re investing time (lots of time) to get your content better than it was before. 

You’re gaining new skills – yay! And you understand the value of the words you type for your biz. (Also, yay.)

Hold up, value is subjective.

Lemme explain: when I tell you about my services, what I charge and what you get for that cost, I’m deciding what my value is. You’re free to agree or disagree.

You are sitting here now (standing or reclining) reading this for a reason. There is value in this for you.

Maybe you’re here for the LOLs. Perhaps you want the free help, and maybe one day you’ll decide to hire me in some content capacity. It isn’t my job to tell you what the hell you’re getting out of all of this. 

Content makes you cash.

And that’s a pretty good incentive to get serious about it. 

But let me skip back to value – just for a moment. 

I am expensive. So I offer a high-value product in terms of monies (It’s all about the monies, monies, monies.)

I charge more than your average content writer. 

I don’t give you the ‘best price’ or a ‘reasonable price’ nope, I do not. I cost up my services based on what I think they are worth.

Let’s suppose I pen you a piece of long-form, a wondrous article that lives on your blog. 

The purpose of that piece is to help warm leads make a decision. 

They need to decide whether to buy from you or to bugger off and stop fucking about, umming and ahing. These prospects understandably have questions about the product you sell. They want to know exactly what’s involved.  

So off I pop, writing tasty content that answers all those questions. 

I throw in the benefits – the reasons why your prospect should be hot for this great new thing you got. And at last, they have everything they need to make the best choice for them.

That bit of content is valuable straight off the bat. 

There’s a lot of juicy info in that article, all organised logically in one easy-to-access place.

But it’s the gift that keeps on giving because it saves you time. 

(Lorra lorra time.)

The time it would take for you to learn to write such a sexy bit of long-form and the time it takes rehashing the same tired conversation with each tepid lead. 

What tired conversation, you scream?

The one that drones on about price resistance… what’s involved?… what do I get?… and something about cheese.

(There’s nothing about cheese. I just got so bored writing for a second. It happens sometimes.)

Time is money (and all that jazz) so although you haven’t made any (yet) you haven’t lost any either. 

We all waste so much time explaining stuff to prospects. This kind of content stops that and it also gets rid of the tyre-kicking arseheads who have no intention of ever hiring you. 

See, LOOK AT ALL THAT VALUE!

Here’s how you make sales with content. (At last!)

This is surprisingly easy.

Let’s suppose you spend £1500 on a single blog article. 

(Yes, £1500 on ONE blog. I can hear the price buyers shitting a brick.)

If you lump all the value on just the spend, that cost will immediately make you run. Good, you get an enthusiastic hand clap from me because if you’re that shortsighted I’d rather you sod off now.

That beautifully written, detailed article (that’s saving time, building trust, and driving traffic) is also going to convert a potential client.

If that blog post is banging on about a product that costs say, £6K and you only sell one as a direct result of that blog, that would be money well spent. 

But you’re not aiming for one conversion.

You’ll be using that article time and time again. 

And as long as the content remains relevant, that will continue to make you money – and you only paid for that piece ONCE.

The price of an article/blog/sales letter/case study will depend on how much the offering is. 

Any content writer should charge a price that reflects the potential earning power of that product/service (so think on next time you crib about the cost). 

If you wanna know more about conversion rates with content marketing, read this article.

Ill-conceived content is as useful as a gelatin condom. 

This is why you need a purpose.

Remember the three W’s: who is it for, why are you doing it and what do you want it to do?

Keep in mind the three S’s: strategystrategy, and strategy.

(Yeah, I’m making this up as I go along.)

But remember this…

There are no guarantees content will make you coinage.

WHAT?!

(Really, did you think this would be a safe bet?)

Humans don’t work like that. There are so many variables when you’re selling. If the conditions aren’t right, magic doesn’t happen.

And what works for one audience may not work for another. Investing in your written word is a long term thang. (Ah, long-form, long term. LOVE THAT.)

You try stuff out, you record the results, and you make the necessary improvements.

Every day is a school day with content creation. 

And that’s why hooking up with a writer on the regular will benefit your business. 

They can focus 100% on the task at hand and no one is shoe-horning the role of content writer into their current day job.

So maybe it’s time you started behaving like a proper grown-up business and got serious about the blurb you’re churning out?

If you’d like to know how you do that, click here.