On MSNBC’s Biz Talk the other morning there was a segment about a woman who started a company that specialized in cleaning “crisis points” – locations of murders, suicides, meth labs, hoardings. Stuff most organizers and cleaning professionals won’t touch.
It was a fantastic niche – essential, recession-proof, and with an accessible target market.
She had a nice promotional strategy too. One the one hand, you have to be sensitive to the environment and the people involved. But you also have to be tough – these can be dangerous, toxic areas. Cleanup has to be quick and efficient.
So she made personal visits to hotels, law enforcement agencies, professional organizers, support groups – anywhere her target market congregated.
She met people personally – the key to establishing trust. And she left them brochures full of testimonials and organizations she worked with. Credibility ensured.
Her main marketing tools had nothing to do with the internet or her website. By the time she had met her prospect and shown her brochure, they were 95% sold. Labor intensive? Sure. Old fashioned? Maybe. But she was able to demonstrate her competency, professionalism, and sensitivity quickly.
The purpose of this blog is to help you manage your online presence better, so I won’t get into an extended discussion on networking, one of Linda’s strategies for getting new clients.
Let’s focus instead on Linda’s brochure.
It’s a simple 3-panel, glossy color brochure with a picture of her, a couple of stock photos, testimonials and agencies she’s worked with. The short copy focused on her experience and the need to hire a pro for crime and crisis sites.
It’s a fairly typical brochure template that could easily be transferred over to a website (minus the stock photos). A picture + testimonials + case studies or industries you’ve worked with = a good foundation for establishing trust.
But there’s one more element you’ll need to really distinguish yourself, but unfortunately it’s the hardest one to include. In fact, it’s rarely done well, and can ruin a site – even a reputation – when done poorly.
The three most powerful elements of Linda’s brochure were her experience, testimonials, and voice.
Experience you can’t fake, and testimonials are an outgrowth of experience and good work.
Incidentally, Linda was smart and skillful enough to get testimonials from her clients, many of whom had been a tangential part of the trauma. If you’re intimidated by the idea of asking your clients for testimonials, think of asking someone whose driveway was the scene of a deadly accident.
The missing element in most websites is your voice.
The good news is you have total control over it because it is, after all, your voice. And voice is the clearest way to convey your personality. Hi-falutin’ words said humorously can pass muster but a dry tone couldn’t sell Dr. Seuss.
Of course the problem is it’s next to impossible to detect the voice of our own writing. We’re just too close to it. So we try to write in a neutral tone which is great for business but terrible when communicating our magnificence.
The solution is to show your writing to 2-3 colleagues and friends, and get their feedback on how your voice sounds. Forget the content for now.
The key is to discover what you’re communicating about yourself, what people are reading between the lines. Because everyone reads between the lines unconsciously…”I just don’t like her…I get a weird feeling but I can’t describe it.” That’s all it takes – a “weird feeling” to derail your best efforts.
Do you sound knowledgeable, sarcastic, edgy? Or very neutral, like a textbook? There’s no right tone, but there is a wrong tone, and your goal is to communicate something about who you are and where you’re coming from.
Bottom Line: Readability statistics and studies usually point out things like sentence length, font size, or page layout. I would argue that voice is more important than aesthetics, and in some cases even more important than content. After all, any writer can write content. Whether or not it’s interesting and readable depends on voice as much as anything else.