Subscribe for Insider Stuff and discover YOUR Voice Values with our complimentary self-assessment.

I guess I’ve become an unintentional expert on the theme of rebounding after an intentional brand hiatus. A dormancy. A fallow period.

RainyMugWhy? Because I’ve taken so many unintentional hiatuses (see: Fall 2011) since starting The Voice Bureau, and my freelance copywriting biz before that, almost five years ago.

Here’s where I’m at today: I haven’t blogged or sent an e-letter to my list of remarkable business owners since my last course started. If you’re a subscriber, you might’ve noticed that. I’ve also been a little quieter than usual on Twitter and Facebook.

Behind the scenes: I’ve been delivering my latest course and supporting our clients’ copywriting projects. I’ve been taking a couple of enrichment courses, one from the wonderful Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder, and the other from former Voice Bureau collaborative partner Tami Dawn Smith (newly of The Dawning Point). I’ve also been doing one of these terrific little yoga videos every day, falling asleep to this every night, and enjoying exploring Seattle and environs (our new mossy, rainy digs) with my partner and our dogs.

Oh, and also behind the scenes: I’ve been fretting, freaking out, soul-searching, all but scratching-and-clawing to figure out what the heck I want to do with my business in 2015.

I share this today, a very self-focused post, because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with it. It helps to hear what others are going through. Overworking, creative addiction, message obsession, perfectionism — these are struggles I talk with peers, colleagues, and clients about in the backchannels, but we rarely bring them to light.

Here’s the thing: I’ve got a solid business. I’ve got a beautiful website (thanks, Allie). I’ve got a crackerjack team that most likely will be expanding next year. Most of the systems and structures I need for running sustainably are in place. Sales have been better in 2014 than they’ve ever been (with two months yet to go). (Note: I wrote this paragraph to remind myself, not to inform you.)

And yet, I can’t help feeling like something is ‘off,’ and obsessing over how to set it aright.

What I’ve noticed about myself is that I have a torturously beautiful struggle with structure and flow.

I know that one can — and should — support the other.

Create structure so that you can feel free to flow. Flow toward a flexible structure that makes sense from the inside out.

I adore both the hardness, the fixedness, the container that is structure. The hard stuff.

I also adore the visceral, the ephemeral, the abstract, the instinctual and intuitive. The soft stuff.

I built a business that could contain both energies and named it in kind: The Voice (soft) Bureau (hard).

But what I’ve noticed is that I like to build elaborate, fully-realized structures and frameworks, and then implode them with my own questions and wonderings and creative, water-y wanderings. Such as, should I shut it all down and go get an MFA in Fiction and supplement the school loan I will take out with a mindless day job, one that doesn’t require the best of me creatively? Or, how about this one: Is working B2B (supporting other business owners) actually helping anyone, or is it just perpetuating the self-aggrandizing myth of sustainable solo-entrepreneurship? Because let’s not forget it is HARD to be in business for ourselves.

The good news is, after a couple months of really freakin’ hard soul pummeling (inner critic-driven, not intentional), I have come back around to what feels like center. I believe it is center. It is as center as it’s going to get right now.

And I’m ready to renew all the things that need renewed — but not heroically. Just humanely. I’m ready to see if I can take this business journey a little more gently. I’ve got the support I need. I’ve got wonderful clients, course participants, and readers that I really love to serve. The ‘how’ I serve is going to be changing a bit, and all that will unfold in time. I’ve got plans — in a Moleskine, in a Google Doc, in an art paper tablet with colored markers (SO not me, and SO freeing and interesting).

I got inspired today and made this little video.

It’s my way of touching base (can we call it a ‘touch base’?) and saying, Hey, there. I’m still here. I’ve been quiet. And I’m coming back. If you’ve ever let your business brand sit dormant for a while, you can start back up with a ‘touch base’ — a simple gesture to reconnect with your Right People and let them know you’re still here, just going through some stuff or changing some things.

Thanks for watching.

In the comments, I’d love to know:

Do you struggle with going dormant in your business brand? When you have or when you do, what’s usually going on behind the scenes?

{ 22 comments }

Since I teach a course teaching you how to write a better sales page, I’d thought I’d model some transparency and give you the inside track on what I think about when I write my own sales pages.

I love teaching via screencast and it’s something I do as a part of nearly all of The Voice Bureau‘s courses. And yet, this’ll be the first time I’ve ever made one for the blog! Enjoy, and after watching, be sure to let me know what questions you have in the comments.

  • The most important consideration is that this page is exactly optimized for my Right Person buyer. If you want to find out more about who my brand is speaking to you, please visit my Is This You page.
  • I like my sales pages to have full-width columns (wherein the copy spans the entire available content area), with no sidebar.
  • Use a balance of headlines, sub-headlines, bold text, italicized text, and regular paragraph text all throughout page — to give variety. Ample, appropriate use of white space breaks up the page for the eye. Choose a couple of different text styles that you consistently use throughout the page (but don’t let it be a carnival!).
  • Choose a couple of fonts that are already at play in your brand or that complement your brand’s font family.
  • Choose a couple of colors; these can be your brand’s signature colors (as I have on my sales page) or colors that are complementary to your brand’s signature palette that give the offer a palette of its own. If doing the latter, you would then carry these colors throughout all images and graphics associated with the course.
  • Every great sales page has a balance of (1) your personal story, (2) description of where the Right Person potential buyer is at, and (3) treats the page as a resource or a teaching tool, to raise buyer awareness and provide client education. These three aims dance and waltz together throughout the page.
  • Photos should help to set the mood and create the ‘world’ of this offer for site visitors — they should tie in to themes of the offer, feelings conjured, etc.
  • More than just being section headers, headlines should be written to pull reader through the page (psychologically, emotionally) and signal transitions to another idea or pathway of consideration.
  • Length: as long as it needs to be, and for most business owners I encounter, LONGER than you think. Studies show that long form sales pages convert better than short form ones, when everything else is equal: quality of copy, use of images, strength of the offer, price being right, etc.

Learn more about the course Writing the Conversational Sales Page.

UPDATE as of October 30th, 2014: The course is currently closed while I retool between sessions. Subscribe to the site for updates on when it’ll be re-released.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What’s your favorite new sales page-writing awareness from this video? What landed as a fresh insight or a-ha for you?

{ 2 comments }

This is an installment of The Voice Bureau’s blog post series on Writing Your Smart, Empathetic Website. This series is written with active and aspiring brand creators in mind — those of you who know that your website should be your business’s hardest working “salesperson” — and want to make that more of a reality. This series is geared toward Click here to visit the intro to this series, and to find links to all the other installments.

Chances are, if you’ve been in business for a bit, you’ve done an ideal client profiling exercise or two.

Two women talk on stoop in NYCHow’d it work for you? Were you able to translate the insights you gained directly into an actionable page on your website? If not or not yet to your own expectations, please read on.

It’s time we talked about writing a mighty, nuanced, actionably useful Is This You page.

It’s never about tuna vs. pastrami. Unless you’re a deli.

Here at The Voice Bureau, we LOVE writing Is This You pages. It’s astounding, surprising, and fun to find the things to say about YOUR Right People that no one else would say about theirs, because they’re things that are only pretty much true of YOUR people. And yet, astonishingly, they tend to have a universality to them that has deep appeal. (This automatically solves the If I get specific about exactly who I want to work with, will I be leaving too many people in the dust? Nope. Just the Not Quite Right People and the Wrong People Who Think They’re Your Right People, both of whom will make your business not so fun to own and run anyway.)

The most common argument against having an Is This You page is that if the site/the copy/the brand is doing its job, the ‘who this is for’ should be obvious, should take care of itself. I agree with this assertion.

But I simultaneously exhort you to be clear, upfront, and specific about who the brand WANTS to attract — especially for service-based and practice-based business owners, like life, health, and business coaches; business and life guidance consultants; psychotherapists and counselors; teachers, mentors, and advisers; creative professionals like graphic designers, web designers, copywriters, and editors, as well as artists and product designers who work by commission.

For a service provider who practices a unique skill set with a select group of clients or customers, having a fully-feathered brand sans an ‘Is This You’ page is like having a sales page without an Add to Cart button.

Yes, we as online business owners are obliged to be THAT obvious. I mean, why not?

Far from being obnoxiously clear, writing a thoughtfully on-point Is This You page gives the Right People further permission to step forward. 

So what sorts of things go on an ‘Is This You’ page to make a meaningful impact — beyond sandwich preference, age range (which may or MAY NOT be important to the work you do and the way you do it), or bland generalities like “you’re smart, insightful, and full of integrity” (honestly, most brand owners would like to say this last one of their Right People)???

Here’s a rundown of what’s important to include on your own business’s is This You page, some items that possibly aren’t important, and a short list of items that are often assumed important but actually aren’t meaningful.

Important To Include On Your Is This You Page:

  • stage of readiness for engagement with your brand — where are they, psychologically in terms of readiness, when they arrive at your site? ready to buy now or hire you the same day? just feeling you out? or somewhere in between? (Also: how do you know and why does it matter?)
  • familiarity with your topic area or subject of expertise — have they just learned what it is, or are they semi-familiar? are they themselves experts?
  • disposition toward buying from a brand or business like yours, or working with someone like you — are they skeptical in general toward your industry? delighted and immediately at home? astute and savvy? (if so, based on what?)
  • why they’re interested in learning more about your work and your offers — of all the people who could have landed on your site today, why is this particular Right Person best inclined to stick around and learn more?
  • deep, precise dispositions or inclinations that would make this person the best type of Right Person imaginable for the value you provide — don’t go crazy here: this doesn’t need to be a deep psychographic portrait or a laundry list of habits, likes/loves, and predilections; instead, sort for the five or seven strongest, clearest, most concrete and precise intangible qualities that are so specific to YOUR Right Person that you’re pretty sure a competitor couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say the same of his Right People

Possibly Not Important Based On What You Do & How You Do It, But Often Assumed Important By Business Owners & Therefore Seen A LOT on Is This You Pages:

  • personality typology — note: I include a LOT of this on my own Is This You page because it’s a deep part of my methodology and approach and relates to the work The Voice Bureau does with clients and course participants, though this may not be the case AT ALL for your business
  • gender, age, family composition (“You’re a married mom in her 20s or 30s with little ones at home . . .”) — this may or may not matter based on what you do, how you do it, and why you do it

Not Important Due To Not Being Descriptive & Precise Enough

  • “you’ve been looking for the right fit” — this is always pretty much true, and thus, doesn’t need to be said; there’s nothing that says YOU are going to be this random site visitor’s right fit provider (unless you tell them how)
  • “you’re ready” — this is so overused it’s practically a buzzphrase
  • “you’re smart” — smart takes a lot of forms, so, smart how? and WHY does this particular type of smartness matter to their relationship with your brand?
  • “you’ve tried everything and it hasn’t worked” — okay, so your Right Person is highly frustrated? If so, how are you positioning yourself as immediately, perceptibly, and meaningfully different in a way that you can deliver on?
  • “you’re ready for something more” — aren’t we all, in our perpetually dissatisfied human state? Even Zen Buddhists want to be less attached. ;)
  • “you’re invested in the process” — yes, we ALL want this for our clients when we’re serving 1-to-1, and most clients would say that they are invested, sometimes even despite evidence to the contrary. So in one specific, concrete-detail-filled sentence, what does ‘high investment in the process’ look like on YOUR best Right Person client?
  • “you’re looking for results” — most assuredly, none of our Right People are looking to invest tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars with us and get no perceivable results, so this is a given; a values-based business usually has the results part covered, but what you may want to describe here is the type of results your Right Person is most interested in (given that you, indeed, can deliver)

So yes, you really do need an ‘Is This You?’ page! I think you’ll find that writing one moves YOU toward sharper clarity around who you’re serving and why (and who you’re not serving and why, or who you’ve served in the past and why it didn’t work out so well). And once you publish it, I think you’ll be surprised at who shows up, newly convinced that YOU are the coach/consultant/creative/teacher they’ve been looking for this whole time. Watch as a higher percentage of your prospects start to resemble the people with whom you most love to work, and as a higher percentage of your clients strongly resemble what you’ve set forth on your ‘Is This You’ page.

If you’re looking for the next step, check out Writing the Conversational Sales Page, an online course in crafting a long form sales page that sounds like YOU and speaks directly to these Right People you’ve just done such a great job of profiling. We start soon and we’d love to have you along!

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Do you currently have an ‘Is This You’ you’re happy with? How’s it working for you? What feels like it might need to change?

 

(Image credit.)

{ 3 comments }

Why do you want to learn to write great sales copy?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/46157135@N06/4483111496/in/photolist-bqJ2Ns-6qLxSy-e1SuGM-2CCgLu-bFjmAH-7Qa7RN-borxqu-buxw5P-bmGWZS-ecUA8g-ecizDX-5c4K-34rGG-5Bmv79-bDdmxk-bCXKwr-bewNF-9s8tKx-asYgXC-dDfy5T-2W31F-91GWV8-g3BKE-67yPi9-7wgyoZ-EtckQ-brGx3Y-6fNrpB-a8VNmX-dbPkhh-fTZbEN-buxw66-e2QMHQ-efDMbp-6nW6bu-aKp1c-nsAWSN-o1mwUv-ahR2UW-bA5ATc-7LmtJ1-bysGq6-5BYzYw-5Pirdq-ehpsCs-4mDhZd-35mWcV-5gkSZ9-5d9wg-AkCVB

. . . So that your website can work much harder for you than it is now — which means YOU get to work (slightly) less hard?

. . . So that your “sales copy” starts feeling not so different from any other copy on your site, because it’s written in the same voice, tone, and style?

. . . So that you can stay humble, realistic, and centered even while standing confidently beside (or behind) what it is you’re offering?

If any or all of the above resonate, please keep reading.

Here’s your first copywriting lesson: ‘great’ sales copy is relative. Relative to you. Relative to your business and your goals for your business. Relative to your brand and how you want it to show up in the online conversation. Relative to your Right People — who they are, who they are trying to become, and how they want to feel and see themselves reflected back when they engage with your offer.

Greatness is relative because different people see ‘great’ differently.

This is why mimicking another writer’s voice or style when writing your sales copy isn’t going to work out so well. Speaking to your readership the same way someone else speaks to theirs doesn’t propel you in the direction of making your business work better for you and your Right People. (When taken to the extreme, mimicry can even slow you down quite a bit.)

But mimicry is a part of growth. We’ve all done it [watch out — ancient post alert] and at some level, we’re all doing it still. We learn from models and mentors.

The best question to ask yourself is: what works about that writer’s sales copy and why does it work? Seeing the WHY behind the technique or the choice is a higher level skill and one you can absolutely develop. (It’s one of the things I most LOVE to teach my clients inside my courses.)

Secret of Great Writing, No. 751:

Want to know how almost all great writers have become great?

At some point in their development, they began to read like a writer reads. When you read like a writer reads, you begin to notice what a writer notices. And when you notice what a writer notices, you can begin to write like a writer writes. Not just any writer — you, as the greatest writer you’ve been yet.

When writers read (and I mean read anything, from novels to magazine ad copy to Netflix’s description of a series), they analyze things like sentence structure, word placement, word choice, and yes, even the use of white space on the page. Writers are sensitive to how every choice made on the page affects the whole.

Learn to read sales copy like a copywriter reads sales copy. Look behind the magic, the spin, the schmaltz, and the rhythm of language to understand that great writing is putting word after word after word on the page, having a reason for each word to be there, and having the reason be connected to the big outcome you’d love to create.

What’s the big outcome you’d love to create with your next sales page?

Do you want to enroll seven women who have coached with you privately in the last year in a high level Mastermind, where they can be supported by other women you just know they’re going to dig so hard?

Do you want forty people at your next live event, people who are really ready to do the work you’ll facilitate?

Do you want to try out online teaching with a group of your favorite readers and a pet topic to see if it’s something you’d like to do more of?

Do you want to enroll as many of your Right People as possible in a tiny free offer that’ll provide you with the feedback you need to cultivate your future big offer?

Do you want to work on more custom commissioned pieces this year, so you can grow your portfolio and win a spot at the important tradeshow that could be your big break?

Do you want to sell enough e-courses to buy that emerald color midcentury sofa from Dot & Bo before your best friend from college travels across country to visit you?

Do you want to finally publish a sales page that actually does justice to the work that happens behind the scenes with your clients and customers?

All of these are valid reasons for wanting to write a great sales page for your Right People. And for you and your business.

Please don’t feel sheepish about wanting to learn to sell more effectively.

If you’re intent on having a business of your own that relies on the internet for most (or ALL) of your marketing, then you’ve got to learn to sell well with words. Selling with words requires you to master some very specific mindsets, skill sets, and insight sets. Chances are, these are mindset, skill set, and insight sets you may not yet have. And that’s okay.

I created Writing the Conversational Sales Page because my clients and readers are super interested in mastering the mindsets, skill sets, and insight sets needed for selling online.

There’s no other course out there that I’m aware of that equips values-based, solo and small business owners who want to sell e-courses and e-books; programs, workshops, and events, or creative and custom services, to their particular Right People — and to do so with elegance and integrity. Until now.

If you’re pretty sure that writing better sales pages is the next frontier in your own business, please have a look at Writing the Conversational Sales Page. Registration is on for the next 3-½weeks, but Priority Pricing (read: the best value) ends this Friday the 15th.

Who among my Right People are signing up? So far, we’ve got a career coach, an earth-centered spirituality mentor, a birth doula, multiple coaches of various stripes, several writers and editors, and others. To a one, they are smart, subtle, sensitive types who consider themselves good writers and are ready to learn a whole new approach to making high quality offers via writing.

What are YOUR Right People wanting and waiting to do with you?

Go here now to check it out, and to join us.

 

(Image credit.)

{ 3 comments }

I truly love creating and teaching courses for small and solo business owners.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons by Starman SeriesIt’s the part of my work that makes me feel most alive, most useful, most genuine, and most brilliant.

If you feel the same way about teaching, or suspect you might, then this post is for you. And if you’re a solo or small business owner who is thinking of creating courses for your Right People, you’ll probably find value in this post, too.

In June 2014, I launched The E-Letter Atelier, what would become my most successful online course to date. And not the most successful in terms of numbers of participants enrolled; that encouraging statistic goes to INFJ Business, which is currently between enrollment sessions. I’m talking successful in terms of teaching for mastery (on the student side), percentage of participants remaining active in the Facebook community and following through until the end of the course materials, and in showing up as an enriching, supportive presence all the way through the course. This course blew all of expectations out of the water for the above points, and made me feel even more excited about future courses I’ll create and teach.

Because so many business owners in my circle of clients and peers are teaching courses themselves (or planning to do so in the future), I’ve decided to share a list of things I learned from my most successful course to date.

Here’s what I learned this time around:

1. Set an intention for how many students you wish to enroll, and then settle that whatever number shows up is the perfect number. When I created The E-Letter Atelier, I had the intention to enroll between 10 and 100 people. I know that range sounds insane. I didn’t know what to expect — my previous course had enrolled close to 50 people and the course before that, over 100. Because I have a high Input strength and a capacity for supporting a large number of people both quickly and deeply, I knew that I had the “bandwidth” to support any number of people between 10 and 100, given that only a percentage of students who enroll (A) show up to participate, (B) stick around as “regulars” in the community after Week 2, (3) survive the drop-off point around Week 4, and (4) maintain enthusiasm and engagement until the very end. I figured if 20 percent of a class of 100 met all 4 criteria, I’d only be deeply supporting up to 20 students in this launch, and that is doable (for me).

In the end, I enrolled 24 participants for the first live cohort of The E-Letter Atelier, which turned out to be the ideal number, especially when a much higher than average number of them participated all the way through. Which leads me to point number two . . .

2. Presence begets presence. Even though I have a high Intimacy Voice Value, I prefer one-to-many teaching formats rather than 1-to-1. I’m gonna say it — I love lecture and direct teaching. Love. It. I’d like to edit the unwritten assumption that says the best teaching happens through co-creation and collaboration. While there is a HUGE place in the spectrum of teaching and learning for collaboration, co-creation, and a workshop-style approach, what about all of us Verbal-Linguistic and Intrapersonal (self-study-oriented) learners? While I certainly build visual and community (Interpersonal) elements into all of my e-courses, I know my Right People, and like me, they tend to love learning from audio and written materials. So my courses tend to be audio based with written transcripts, reflection questions, visual supplements (charts, tables, pinboards), and a private Facebook group.

But for the first live cohort of The E-Letter Atelier, I included four Studio Hours a week, when I was live in our Facebook group supporting participants’ journey with the material: responding to questions, providing clarification, offering real world examples, and having great conversation! We even developed our own inside jokes and moved our conversations to Google Hangouts a couple times for an even more up close and personal connection.

So what I learned here is that even though my favorite way to teach is 1-to-many, that personal connection is a huge asset to learners.

3. Eschew “holistic” for smaller slices that go deeper. The methodically creative business owners who make up my clientele adore anything described as ‘holistic’ — as do I. ‘Holistic’ feels respectful, regardful, and high concept. But in action, ‘holistic’ is really hard to teach well. ‘Holistic’ is clunkier on the learners’ end. ‘Holistic’ can cause confusion, misunderstanding, and a false sense of understanding that can be potentially injurious to an enthusiastic learner’s business.

Instead, focus on a tiny segment of the whole thing you’d love to someday teach. For instance, if you’re a life coach, instead of a course on revitalizing your life after 40 (which, by the way, is REALLY SO YOUNG!), what about a course on Recreating Friendships After 40. It’s one particular issue within a huge suite of issues your Right People may be facing, and it can be taken on in the relatively short duration of an online course.

In past courses (none I’m currently offering through The Voice Bureau), I’ve gone to the very, very edges of my scope of practice, always tempted to push just a little further to give people what I saw they really needed (and wanted, and were asking for). But the fact is, more scope usually results in shallower learning and a reduced bandwidth for integrating new ideas. Not what I’m ever going for.

So for The E-Letter Atelier, I stayed rooted in my sweet spot, focusing on understanding one’s Right People, owning and honing your business’s brand voice, and developing content to meet your Right People’s needs and serve your business as the same time. In the context of just the business’s e-newsletter, we could go really deep without overwhelming ourselves with scope — both me as the teacher and the Atelier cohort as learners.

4. Repackage and relaunch immediately. For the past year, I’ve been steadily building out offerings around The Voice Bureau‘s core methodology, alongside serving clients with web copy and content. As I’ve pushed to launch course after course (pushed because I love doing it), it’s been hard for me, with past courses, to pause and go back to a just-finished offer to retool and redesign as necessary. (Hence, why INFJ Business has lingered in the ‘between enrollment’ season for yea, these several months.) You know how it is: you get wrapped up in the newness factor and fail to revisit the very good places you’ve recently been. But with The E-Letter Atelier, I wanted to get it right back on the market. I knew that going in, so instead of treating the first live cohort like an experiment-to-be-retooled, I created as if were timeless — no dates or other time references, and polished intro/outro music with every audio class.

And voilà! It’s already back on the market as a self-paced study, with new enrollees joining in every week.

5. Create a dedicated piece of content to use as a “lead gen*” and share it widely. Although this marketing technique is widely taught and done, it was the first time I’d ever done it. I segmented part of the course’s bonus content — The Oeuvre of The E-Letter e-book, featuring Q&As with 13 successful online biz owners — and set it up with its own separate opt-in. People who opt-in to receive this complimentary e-book are also subscribed to my Insider Stuff e-letter. And they get an autoresponder of emails (still in creation at the time of this post) to support their thinking about their own e-letter, with occasional reminders that The E-Letter Atelier exists, should they ever find themselves in a season to want some focused support.

*Lead gen is short for ‘lead generator.’ That’s marketing speak for a piece of content, or a technique, that nurtures The Right People’s interest in your offer until they are ready to buy, or until they opt out, whichever comes first. :)

Lately I’ve been working on the next Voice Bureau course, to be launched by the end of this week and to begin by the end of the month. If you are going to sell an e-course or any other type of online service-based offer anytime soon, you’ll want to pay particular attention to what’s coming next.

In the comments, I’d love to know:

What’s YOUR best tip for creating a successful e-course? I’d love to know what you’ve learned from firsthand experience.

(Image Credit.)

{ 4 comments }