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Why Good Writing Matters

Good writing is crucial in this information age—for your customer’s benefit and for the success of your business. The internet is composed of endless words, phrases and stories. Consumers are looking for answers and information.

However, with all these words at our fingertips, we do not read.

We scan.

We are insatiably information-hungry—and extremely impatient. We expect the copy we read—on a brochure, on a website or in a letter—to be broken up into bite-sized chunks and delivered to us in pre-digested form. Browsability is almost as important as grammar.

Good writing = Competence

As readers, we also equate attractive, well-written copy with competence. Everyone has their grammatical pet peeves—whether it is text speech (which is gr8 4 ur phone but not 4 copy), misspelled words or run on sentences. When a potential client reads your wedding stationery site but sees that you have spelled stationery with an “a” (stationary)—they immediately question your quality.

Improved search engine placement

The best reason to have excellent writing on your website and blog is to help improve your SEO (search engine optimization.) Web spiders DO read. Proper spelling and grammar along with targeted keywords improves your search engine placement.

Whether in print or online, it is worth the time to create valuable content with near-perfect grammar for your customers.

Ghostwriting: Outline

This is the second in a series of posts about ghostwriting. Keylocke Services offers ghostwriting services for both fiction and non-fiction books.

The Road Map to Success

A detailed outline is crucial to your ghostwriting project. This is the skeleton of the project as well as the complete road map towards what you want to convey.

The outline occasionally will have its own fee, independent of the book writing. In fact, after this first step, you might feel confident to proceed on your own–perhaps with a bit of editing at the end of the project.

The outline carries the bulk of the responsibility for your book’s direction. The completed outline will guide the research and first draft writing. For example, the ghostwriter will be working on chapters 3 and 4, while the client is reviewing chapters 1 and 2. Typically there are milestone payments as well as milestone due dates.

Keep in mind, changes to the outline, once agreed upon, might also incur addition charges.

When speaking with potential ghostwriters, do ask about having your outline priced separately. Depending how detailed the outline is, you might feel the courage to take the next steps by yourself. But even if you want to outsource the whole project, you want a detailed, expansive outline so you and your ghostwriter are on the same page–and the same map.

If you would like to discuss your ghostwriting project, please email or call me.

Thank You for Complaining

Complaint Dept.I am not a complainer by nature. Sure, I will send back a cold entree but I will do it nicely. If I am particularly upset, I will send a strongly worded letter (after all I’m a writer.) But in general, I don’t complain.

This week, however, I had three complaints to make–with three decidedly different outcomes.

1. I hired a business to fix my paver patio. Instead, they did over $2,000 worth of damage to my whole patio and then refused to answer their phone or messages.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and I am hoping for an acceptable resolution. If it is not resolved, you can be sure I will be sharing their name and their shoddy business practices with everyone I know.

2. I had an issue go from bad to worse (which I am not at liberty to share–but trust me, it’s not a pleasant story.) When I called to make a complaint, it was not to ask for anything in return. I just wanted to save other people from the trouble and I felt the business should know so they could fix it in the future.

The first person I spoke with was helpful and apologetic. But he felt the person in charge needed to know the details. When that person called me, she was combative and accusing. Essentially, they wanted me to waste my time and resources to “prove” my complaint.

3. Third time must be the charm. I had a computer issue which required me to use the customer service feature at Carbonite, my online backup system. I have only been using Carbonite for a few months and I needed their assistance quickly and at an odd hour. The problem was solved but it inadvertently removed the program from my computer.

When I was sent a customer service survey, I mentioned how happy I was with my customer service person (Josh) but that I hadn’t been able to reload Carbonite onto my main computer. They had already sent me an automated response, telling me how to reinstall the system so the problem was already fixed.

So I was puzzled when I got another email from Carbonite. But this is what it said:

“We noted in your survey response that you indicated that you were pleased with Carbonite. We are glad to hear of your satisfaction and appreciate your business. We look forward to serving you in the future.

Further, as a token of our appreciation for your having completed our survey and for your business we are adding an additional month to your subscription.”

I didn’t even complain–I actually complimented Carbonite and they still sent me a bonus gift!

This is how customer service should be handled in a world where complaints can be magnified by a massive Twitter feed or viral outreach.

How do YOU handle complaints?

Expert Upon Arrival

I have an article in this month’s WedLock magazine on time management tips for social media. I am often asked to speak on the subject as well. One introduction suggested I was a“social media time management specialist” to which I promptly snorted the water I was sipping up my nose!

There are no experts or gurus in social media concerning time management (or social media, for that matter.) We are ALL learning as we go. It would be like claiming to be the nation’s utmost tour guide for the North America continent upon disembarking the Mayflower. We all just got here and we are all learning as we go.

That being said, I am happy to share the few time saving tips I have discovered with you. Social media has a bad reputation of being a time suck and rightly so.  A few time management tips can help whack away some of the brush as we travel further inland.

  • Gather ideas for blog posts, Tweets or Facebook updates continuously. This can be on index cards you carry in your wallet or purse, on an open document on your computer or even in the notes section on your phone.
  • Blog in batches. Write a month’s worth of blog posts—or at least start a month’s worth of blog posts—in WordPress and then save as drafts.
  • Use tools such as Ping.fm, Hootsuite, or SocialOomph to manage more than one platform at a time or to schedule posts and updates.
  • If you do not already, start using a RSS feedreader (such as Google Reader) to cut your reading time down. I also schedule a quarterly RSS purge, dropping the blogs that are no longer useful to me.

What tips have you found? How do you tame the social media monster?

How Finding Customers is like Dating

I married young (and luckily, I married wisely.) So my dating experience is limited to my college years. But I have a friend who is dating who asked me what steps I took to find my husband.

I found her choice of words interesting.

“What steps did I take?” She was asking what calculations and specific actions I took to find a suitable husband. Thinking back on my dating years, I was anything but calculating. I didn’t have a guidebook with a checklist.

Dating felt more like throwing a handful of darts at a cork board, hoping some of them stuck.

Marketing works much the same way. There is no ONE way to find customer’s, especially the good ones.

When I started my freelance copy writing business, my husband created an Excel spreadsheet to track pending jobs and payments. I had him add a column called “Referred by” and I dutifully notated where each customer originated from. It might read Elance, Chamber meeting or a past client’s name. If they contacted me through one of my industry specific blogs, I noted which blog drove the business.

In this way, I was able to see what marketing methods were working–and which were not.

I wish there was a one-size-fits-all marketing plan that guarantees X amount of customers in my pipeline, translating into the appropriate number of work hours and profit dollars.

But just as in dating, I have found throwing a handful of darts results in the most bulls eyes. That’s not to say you should throw darts willy-nilly.

  • Consider where your past customers have come from. Networking meetings, industry events, blog posts, Twitter meetups, yellow page ads or volunteer work?
  • Empower your happy customers to talk about you. Send a thank you note with a Starbucks gift card and 3-4 extra business card to your favorite customers. Offer a Share button on your newsletters. Join the social media movement and refer them!
  • Try new darts and track their effectiveness. Give blogging a try for 3 months and see if you see a response. (Make sure to keep it up to date and active.) Create a Facebook fan page and converse with your potential customers. Try an ad in a new magazine and see if you see an uptick in business.

What darts are you going to throw this week?

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