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How to Create Content If You’re Not a Writer

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As an entrepreneur, you need to be a jack of all trades—developing business ideas, marketing, public speaking, mastering finances and cash flow, and much more. But there’s one area that often leaves business owners paralyzed with fear: Writing. How do you create content if you’re not a writer?!

As we all know, these days being a “content creator” is a requirement for building your online business. Providing value through creating useful content helps to grow your audience, builds trust with your audience, establishes you as an authority in your industry, and invites people into your ecosystem. 

This type of content, also called content marketing, is all about creating content that will invite people to come to you because of the value you offer, instead of just pushing out a message through advertising or traditional marketing. 

Content marketing includes blog posts, email newsletters, social media, podcasts, YouTube videos, and other content that people actually want to consume. This content doesn’t involve the “hard sell” you put in your marketing and advertising efforts. Content marketing is more about offering help, building relationships, building trust, and building your community of superfans

Content marketing is great, but it also requires a lot of writing, even if you’re creating a YouTube video or podcast.

So . . . what if you’re not a writer? What if you’re just not good at it, or don’t like doing it? What if you just don’t have the time?

Don’t despair! Here are some hacks that you can employ that will help you create great written content that will help you build your business. 

Hire a Writer

This is a no-brainer, right? If you have the means to hire someone else to do your writing for you, then, by all means, hire away! This will allow you to focus on what you do best.  

So how do you go about hiring a freelance writer? Ask around and see if anyone in your network can recommend a writer. Post a message on LinkedIn, or visit one of these platforms that can match you with a freelance writer.

Fiverr is a great website where you can find writers who have experience with just about any kind of writing, whether it’s articles/blog posts, white papers, sales and marketing copy, or ebooks. You can also hire editors and proofreaders.

An example of some of the help you can find through hiring a freelancer on Fivver.

On Fiverr, you can browse the profiles of freelance writers available for hire, and see which one may be a good fit for your needs. UpWork is a similar website. 

Don’t be afraid to hire someone to help, even if it’s for only a few hours a week, or one project at a time. If the writer is a good fit, you may even eventually want to ask them to come onto your team full-time. Hiring freelancers is a great way to get to know someone before you hire them. 

But what if you don’t have the money to hire someone?

Tap Your Team

If you have a team, even if they’re not in an official “writing” role, tap them to see if they will contribute. 

You might be surprised that there are good writers out there who aren’t in an official writing role. So see if team members can focus on a specific topic they have expertise in, and ask them to contribute on a regular basis.

At SPI, we have several people on our team who write content, including me; our senior writer, Ray Sylvester; our co-CEO Matt Gartland; Sara Jane Hess, and David Grabowski from our podcasting team; and Jillian Benbow and Jay Clouse, from our CX team. 

If you have someone on your team who is good at editing, you can also record an audio “brain dump.” This is where you record your thoughts and ideas for a blog post, and then have someone else edit the content into a cohesive article.

Repurpose Existing Content

You probably already have content that you can repurpose to make blog posts, email content, and even social media posts. 

Do you have an online course? If so, take one module, or chapter, of that course and edit it down to create a blog post. At SPI, we recently did that with this blog post on how to nail your business idea. 

We took one chapter from the Smart From Scratch course, and we turned it into an article. 

You might think, “What if people know the blog post is taken from course content? That’s cheating!” 

No, it’s not. It’s providing your audience with valuable information through more than one medium. Blog content is free. So offering free content from a paid course is adding value. Just be careful not to give away too much content for free, or that will devalue your paid content. But a slice here and there is a smart way to reuse content and serve your audience.

You can also reuse content from your podcast, if you have one, and YouTube videos. Take the transcripts, evaluate them to see what content will work best in a blog format, and edit them down. 

Strategically reusing content is smart and efficient.

Invite Guest Bloggers to Contribute

Is there someone in your network who can write valuable content on topics that will benefit your audience? Reach out to them and see if they would be interested in writing guest posts. Ideally, these would be people who have a somewhat substantial audience, so you’re killing two birds with one stone—you’re providing content for your audience, and when a guest blogger promotes the post to their own audience, you’ll get some new eyes reading your content. 

Make sure the guests know your audience and the types of topics you cover on your blog. Suggest topics they can write about, or collaborate to come up with topics. When their post is published, suggest ways the guest can promote the post to their own audience so you can get more traffic to your website.

At SPI Media, we frequently invite guests to write for our blog, including this one from our friend Heather Osgood, founder of True Native Media, on how to turn your podcast into a profitable business.

Curate Content

Whether it’s for a blog post or your weekly newsletter, curating content is another option for providing value to your audience without having to personally churn out a 2,500-word original article. 

Curating content is simply putting together several pieces of content that you have found interesting and think your audience will like. For instance, a blog post could consist of a list of articles (with links) from other publications that you’ve found helpful on topics related to your industry. 

Again, this may seem like a cop-out. But it’s not! People like convenience, and having links to several articles all in one place saves them time and effort.

Survey Your Audience

Enlist your audience to help you write content! You can do this by surveying them and using their answers to create blog posts. At SPI Media, we typically use a Typeform survey to ask our audience a question. Then we gather the answers and put them together in a blog post. This is a great way to provide interesting information, and also connect with your audience. 

Last May, early in the COVID pandemic, we surveyed our audience and asked them, “What’s giving you hope?” Several people responded to our survey, and we compiled their answers in this powerful blog post

Leverage the Power of Lists

A list of tips or recommendations is an easy way to pull together content that doesn’t require a lot of research and writing. 

About once a month, our podcasting team puts together a list of their favorite podcasts. They write a paragraph about each one, and tell readers why the podcast is good. Sounds easy-peasy, right? 

You could do this for anything. What are your top ten recommended online business tools? What are the best business books you’re reading right now, and what do you like about them? What are the top five things that helped you start your business? Giving people advice through a list is a great way to create valuable content.

Interview Experts

If you’re good at asking questions and being curious, then you will probably be good at interviewing. 

  • Interview an expert on a topic that you think will help your audience. At SPI Media, we regularly interview entrepreneurs who are doing amazing things.
  • Interview people in your audience who have found success, and write a success story for your blog. People love to read about people just like them who are succeeding.
  • Interview a mentor or someone you look up to. Ask them for advice, and create a blog post with the answers.

If you record a video of your interviews, it can be used in many different ways: for a podcast, a video for your Tube channel, as a blog post. You can get a lot of mileage from just one interview!

If you want to learn more about creating content, here are some tips from Pat about how to create content when you’re a busy, beginning entrepreneur.

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3 Ways Marketers Can Earn — and Keep — Customer Trust

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A 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions, despite the fact that only 34% trust the brands they use. As trust in institutions diminishes, consumers are increasingly skeptical of where they put their money and receive their information. The author recommends three marketing strategies for brands to maintain and foster trust in their brands: 1) Do not overspin, 2) Avoid half-truths, and 3) Read the room and adjust.

It is no big secret that our world has a trust problem. Amid a global pandemic, economic crisis, and political instability set against a backdrop of deep cultural malaise, people no longer know where (or whom) to turn to for dependable information amid widespread disinformation and propaganda.

Similarly, government leaders, briefly seen as the most trusted institutions at the beginning of the pandemic per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, squandered that goodwill when they could not halt the virus or restore economic stability. And per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in U.S. CEOs is at 47%, and credibility has basically hit rock bottom in Japan (18%) and France (22%) as consumers wake up to the indignities and absurdities of unfettered capitalism.

Yes, trust is in short supply, yet it remains a vital currency in sustainable customer relationships. A 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions, despite the fact that only 34% trust the brands they use. Consumers, of course, are not a monolith. And as it so happens, age is a key differentiator in understanding the intricacies of the public’s confidence in and perception of the news media, in particular.

Per a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey, older Americans tend to rely on maybe one or two sources for all their information, and they prioritize brand reputation and political slant when evaluating an outlet’s credibility. Conversely, younger adults (18- to 34-year-olds) are more likely to gather information from numerous sources and place more of a premium on how open that outlet is with its facts, research, and processes.

Younger consumers also view national news outlets with more skepticism, with just 29% saying they trust them compared to 41% of adults over 55. A credible media landscape is always critical, but with the line between marketing and media blurring each day, news organizations’ morale fiber can sometimes be linked to that of a brand.

To summarize, ​​older adults are more brand-conscious, while younger adults are more process-conscious. As marketing experts, we can apply these findings to our brand messaging to develop credibility with our intended audiences as they age and evolve. Here is how.

1. Do not overspin.

Though Edelman found that trust in CEOs hit an all-time low in 2021, the same study revealed that businesses are still considered more trustworthy than governments, NGOs, and the news media. With such power comes great responsibility. CEOs and other business leaders must address today’s most pressing challenges and focus on societal engagement with great fervor. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 53% of respondents believe that business leaders have a duty to fill the information void left by the news media.

This is not the time for corporate platitudes. People are smarter than you think. If you attempt to fool them, they will find out — and the hit to your credibility will outweigh any short-term gains that you made.

Think back to summer 2020, when PR teams across industries jumped to distribute public denouncements of systemic racism. People were quick to call out the performative allyship of companies such as Glossier, whose public anti-racism pledge was at odds with former employees’ recounts of on-the-job discrimination and toxicity. So make sure you back up any announcements with actual steps. For example, Ben & Jerry’s is not one for empty promises, and its statement on racial injustice held a lot more weight because company leaders have a track record of on-the-ground activism.

Keeping your message free of excessive spin goes a long way with the public and protects you from potential PR gaffes down the line.

2. Avoid half-truths.

Pfizer has been in the news a lot this past year — mostly for good reasons. CEO Albert Bourla and his team cleared myriad hurdles to develop an innovative, effective Covid-19 vaccine in record time. But back in 2006, Pfizer was in the news for less-than-glowing reasons after launching a $258 million ad campaign for a cholesterol drug with Robert Jarvik, inventor of the first permanent artificial heart, as the face of it.

The tagline — “Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I don’t worry about my cholesterol” — was catchy, but there was one problem: Jarvik was not licensed to practice medicine and, in fact, had never practiced medicine. The ads drew swift criticism that resulted in a congressional investigation and millions in monetary losses for Pfizer.

In the court of public opinion, omission is akin to lying. If a claim requires omission, then do not use it; and if you do make a mistake, own up to it. In fact, you may find consumers more forgiving if you show any semblance of contrition. Being vulnerable about where you have fallen short in the past suggests honesty, which sits at the foundation of consumer trust, brand affinity, and long-term engagement.

3. Read the room and adjust.

When was the last time you checked the pulse of your customer base? You should be continually evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts by asking yourself these key questions:

  • What is our customer sentiment? Negative? Positive?
  • What are our favorability ratings? Are they rising? Dropping?
  • Is our audience engaging with our content?
  • And did we follow through on our promises?

By regularly checking whether consumers are picking up what you are putting down, you will find that you can more easily meet and even exceed their ever-evolving preferences. For example, Bryanna Evans, the social media manager at home fragrance brand SECC, told Buffer that her team’s social media-powered strategy focuses on in-feed customer engagement. Not only does the social team respond whenever someone leaves a comment, but it also nurtures consumer interest by regularly posting quizzes, contests, and giveaways. As a result, SECC has built an army of loyalists and grown its monthly revenue from $20,000-$30,000 to more than $100,000.

The fight for consumer trust is ongoing — and it will not be going away anytime soon. But savvy marketers can use authentic brand messaging to engender stronger customer relationships that stand the test of time. Implement these three steps to begin building a reputation as a reliable information source that people depend on.

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How to Improve Email Deliverability

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If you’re running a business, you need an email list. And you need to send great emails, obviously. But if those great emails aren’t making it to people’s inboxes, then what’s the point?

If you’ve been putting a lot of hard work into your email marketing but not seeing the results you want, then maybe your email deliverability could use some help. I’m going to share the four key factors that will help make sure more of your emails stay out of spam and land in the inbox.

And if you don’t have an email list yet, this will set you up for success right from the start!

The Four Pillars of Email Deliverability

When it comes to email, it’s all about deliverability. You can have the fanciest automations, the best copy, the best upsells, downsells, follow-ups… But if nobody’s getting those emails in their inbox, then it’s all for nothing.

This is where you’re up against the algorithms of the email giants that control more than 50 percent of the world’s inboxes: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. You’ve got to understand what they’re looking for—and play by their rules.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to stay on the good side of the algorithms. Anyone can avoid the spam folder as long as they follow a few key guidelines.

There are four main pillars of email deliverability, and they form the acronym RACE:

  • Reputation
  • Authentication
  • Content
  • Engagement

Pat and email deliverability expert Adrian Savage covered these four pillars in depth in SPI episode 498:

Reputation

In business, as in everything, reputation matters. If you’ve got a lousy reputation, no one’s going to want to listen to you.

When it comes to email marketing, you need to focus on what’s known as your sending reputation.

You see, the big mailbox providers are monitoring the emails you’re sending, and most importantly, how people are reacting to them.

The more they see people marking your emails as spam or ignoring or deleting them, the more they’re going to mark down your sending reputation. And they’re more likely to send your emails right to the spam folder.

That’s the simple version, but it means that everything you do with your email marketing has to be focused on preserving and improving your sending reputation.

How to Improve Your Sending Reputation

So what can you do to improve and maintain your reputation with the big email services?

First, use common sense. If you feel like you’re gaming the system, you probably are—and you’re eventually going to get found out.

A (not so) great example is downloading lists of email addresses from the internet.

The only legitimate way to get ahead now with your email list is to send emails only to people who have specifically asked you to contact them.

If you buy a list and start emailing people who haven’t given you permission, you’re much more likely to get spam complaints, which will hurt your sending reputation.

And what’s the only definition of spam that matters in the eyes of the mailbox providers? Whatever the recipient thinks it is.

There are also businesses out there, like Spamhaus and Cloudmark, that operate email addresses called spam traps. If you send an email to a spam trap address, then you may be added to blocklists that tell the world you’re a low-reputation sender.

The only definition of spam that matters? Whatever the recipient thinks it is.

If you do decide to buy a list of addresses for some reason, make sure you really trust the person providing the data—it’s much better to control it yourself.

Next, you’ll want to clean your email list regularly. That way, you’ll avoid hitting what’s called a recycled spam trap.

Here’s how that works.

Suppose 10 years ago you had a Hotmail address that you’d stopped using, and Microsoft canceled your account. For the next few months, if anyone tried to email you, they’d receive an error saying the mailbox didn’t exist. But a few months later, Microsoft might reopen that address and repurpose it to catch senders who weren’t looking after the hygiene of their email list.

Send enough emails to spam trap addresses, and you’ll end up on a blocklist.

So, only send emails to people who have said they want to hear from you, and keep your email list clean so you don’t get caught in recycled spam traps.

Authentication

Authentication is the second crucial piece of improving your email deliverability.

It’s all about telling the world that you’re sending legitimate emails.

You’ve probably received spam from someone spoofing an email address that isn’t theirs. It’s relatively easy to spoof an address you don’t own—what’s not so easy is to authenticate one.

Authentication is what sets you apart from the spammers, and there are two steps you need to take to authenticate your email address.

The good thing is, this is usually a one-time thing you do when you’re setting up your email platform.

The two authentication steps involve a couple of acronyms.

Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)

The first one is domain keys identified mail, or DKIM. This is how you get your email platform to digitally sign every email that you send.

You’ll need to look at your platform to determine how exactly to configure DKIM, because they all do it slightly differently. If you’re stuck, then find someone who can help you, because it is probably the most important single thing that will make the difference between hitting the spam folder and hitting the inbox.

Here’s guidance on setting up DKIM with some of the most popular email service providers (ESPs):

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

The second side of authentication is something called sender policy framework, or SPF.

SPF helps identify which mail servers are allowed to send email on behalf of your domain. This communicates which platforms you trust to send emails on your behalf, which can reduce the incidence of email spoofing—people pretending to send mail as you. Like DKIM, it’s a one-time thing, but crucial.

Doing those two things—setting up your SPF and DKIM settings—is going to make a huge difference in deliverability. And don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.

Here’s guidance on setting up SPF with the popular ESPs:

Content

In the recent past, it was relatively easy to avoid the spam folder by being careful about the content in your emails: don’t use swear words, don’t mention Viagra, and don’t mention “free.”

Today’s spam filters are much more sophisticated, and the big email providers use a ton of artificial intelligence to figure out what’s junk and what’s legit.

In 2005, you might have gotten away with writing “free” as “fr.e–e” in an email, but today that’s a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

Making it to the inbox in 2022 is a lot more about being authentic with your email content. Here, another acronym comes in handy: WILF, which stands for:

  • Words
  • Images
  • Links
  • Frequency

Words

Words are important, obviously. And when it comes to email deliverability, it means writing emails the way you’d have a conversation with someone.

Write like yourself. The more your emails sound like they’ve been coming from you, the more authentic it sounds, the more likely those big sophisticated algorithms are going to recognize it as authentic.

In most cases, shorter is also better. Don’t cut it down at the expense of not getting your message across, but don’t waffle unnecessarily. Because, let’s face it, people’s attention spans are getting shorter.

At the same time, don’t stress too much about content either. There are no hard and fast rules here, and you don’t want to follow a rule at the risk of ruining your message.

You can always send a few test emails and see what happens. Just remember, however, that email has evolved, and no two people have exactly the same email experience anymore. The same email might end up in Spongebob’s inbox and Squidward’s spam folder.

But you can still learn some things by looking at the big picture of what you’re sending over time. If you notice that emails written a certain way are getting delivered more often than others, use that as a data point to guide how to craft your email content going forward.

Images and Links

Here’s where things get even more interesting. To include images or not include images in your emails? And what about links? One? None? Many?

First, remember that there are exceptions to every rule. But in general—and testing bears this out—the more images you’ve got in an email, the more likely it’s headed to the junk folder. And the same goes for the number of links.

One of the quickest ways for an email to be viewed as a promotion by Google is if it has a graphical banner at the top, because that makes it look like a promo. So just cut to the chase with your message.

If you need images in the middle of the email to reinforce or illustrate things, that’s a different story. But only include them if they’re going to actually add value, not just for the sake of it. If you can manage three or fewer images in total, perfect.

Here at SPI, most of our emails are pretty barebones: no (or few images), and just a single link.

It’s the same with links: the more you use, the more your email looks like a promotion. One of the biggest mistakes people make is using a bunch of little social media icons in their email signature. Before you know it, you’ve got five additional images with links in your email, you’re in the promotions tab.

When it comes to links, also be careful about linking to websites you don’t control. You can’t always be certain whether the domain you’re linking to has a good domain reputation or not. It’s much better to only link to content that you’re in control of—like the stuff on your own website.

Frequency

Finally, there’s frequency. The more frequently you send emails to the people who want to receive them, the better you’re going to do. In the good old days, it was sufficient to send an email newsletter out once a month, but these days, mailbox providers are looking for consistency and engagement (which we’ll talk about in a second).

The more frequently you send emails to the people that want to read them, the better it’s going to look for your engagement. If you’re sending out an email three times a week, then you’re a lot more likely to reach more of your audience more quickly than if you’re sending one email a month.

That doesn’t mean you need to send an email every day—if you can, then great, if you’ve got enough to talk about—but the more frequently you can share some really cool value, the more people are going to love you, and more importantly, the more the mailbox providers will love you as well.

Engagement

While authentication is something you set up once and pretty much forget, engagement is something you need to pay attention to on an ongoing basis.

By engagement we’re talking about, are people reading your emails? Are they opening them? Are they clicking the links? Are they actually reading them properly? Or are they just deleting it without reading?

One of the worst ways to hurt your engagement is when you send something out, it lands in the spam folder, and no one rescues it.

When someone signs up to your email list for the first time, that may be the only chance you’ve got to keep your emails out of their spam folder. So direct them to a thank-you page that instructs them to check the spam folder for your first email and move it to their inbox if need be. If they don’t, they may never see another email from you in their inbox again.

That’s the most important thing.

The other is maximizing the number of people engaging by improving your open rates. Here’s where it’s important to clean your email list regularly, so you’re only sending email to the people who are likely to read it.

It can be scary to clean your email list regularly—because it means deleting people from your list—but it’s absolutely a great thing to do for your email engagement, and for the health of your email list.

Why? It will show Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! that what you’re sending is of greater interest to your subscribers. The higher they see your open rate, the more likely they are to increase your domain reputation. The better your reputation, guess what? The next email you send is more likely to land in the inbox. It’s a virtuous cycle.

More Email Marketing Resources

If you’re just getting started building your email list, the best time to start thinking about and implementing these email deliverability best practices is now.

And if you’ve had a list for a while and things have gotten stagnant, the best time to start is… also now.

If you need more support with your email marketing, you’re in the right place! Here are a few more resources to help you build an audience and create more revenue with a robust email marketing practice:

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Branding Mistakes That Can Cripple Small Businesses

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Small businesses operate in a highly competitive market, and branding can be vital in standing out. The branding process should be done thoughtfully and deliberately.

Small businesses need to invest in their brands keenly to create a winning identity. However, in branding, emerging businesses need to avoid common mistakes like lack of brand strategy and failure to research market competition.

photo credit: Hans / Pixabay

Lack of a Brand Strategy

You need to develop a brand strategy while detailing your business objectives. The strategy should be comprehensive and understand the business landscape while highlighting your competition. You also need to define your brand alongside your type of customers.

Note that an ideal brand strategy is developed as a creative partnership involving the client, the strategist, and the designer. In some cases, you can leverage services of third parties like Agency Boon to get ideas on different strategies.

A comprehensive strategy will assist you in working out what products and services you should focus on. From this position, you can make the right decisions to enter and grow in the market. With a strategy, every team member is aware of their role in advancing your business goals. Even when you are alone, the strategy will guide you on how to win over customers.

Not Researching Your Competition

A new small business should understand its competition since it acts as a guide to attracting customers. Researching the competition enables you to understand what other established companies in your niche have done. Understanding competition allows you to determine where other businesses have failed and how you can avoid their mistakes in your new venture. While reviewing your competition, look at products, services, target audiences, websites and social media platforms.

Note that failure to consider these factors will likely result in you being unable to understand the competition better alongside running the risk of replicating their strategy, which might fail.

Not Understanding the Target Audience

Before you start selling your products into the market, you need to understand who your right audience is and how you plan to satisfy their needs. Generally, understand their demands and expectations. Once you do identify your target audience, designing the brand message becomes easier. Additionally, having knowledge of your audience is an indicator that your customers feel valued and likely to engage with your business.

Branding mistake

Inconsistency

Inconsistency in any business sends a message that you don’t understand what you are offering. Small businesses need to present a consistent identity mainly due to benefits like fostering a sense of trust and comfort for clients. In most cases, starting a business with an inconsistent image can be viewed as unprofessional and untrustworthy.

To meet consistency, consider having a style guide for your business’s visual and verbal elements.

Failure to Collect Feedback

Feedback is key to improving your business. If you have feedback channels, your customers will feel at home as they consider your business trustworthy. Additionally, you need to focus on collecting feedback from the proper channels and sources. However, limiting your sources to positive reviews will not give you an accurate picture of the business.

Avoid feedback from friends, family members, employees, and relatives.

Endnote

Managing a brand has its challenges, especially for small businesses. However, following the right branding strategies will likely elevate your business, especially if you have the right strategy in place.

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