What are Case Studies? (Part 2 of 3)

 

Yesterday we talked about what case studies are, and I gave you a few ideas on how a great case study can show off what’s special about your business. Today I’m going to give you a step by step guide to producing a case study that grabs your prospect and forces them to read every word.

 

(Just a side note: if you haven’t taken a look at yesterday’s article yet, here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know.

 

A case study is a marketing tool that shows your prospects the value of your offering.

 

Most of the time, a case study will:

 

  • Share a compelling story that shows your how your company solved a customer’s problem.
  • Present the story from your customer’s point of view.
  • Display an angle that shows the unique thing that makes your company shine.
  • Educate your prospects on the value of your offering.

 

Case studies are usually about one to four pages long. The very best of them tells a story that informs, entertains, and inspires.)

 

I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to craft a brilliant case study. But with a lot of time, hard work, and dedication, you should be able to get the job done. Of course, a professional copywriter will usually be eager to take that work off your hands if you don’t have the time.

 

So without any further ado, let’s get writing, shall we?

 

  1. Find one of your best, most typical customers, and schedule an interview with a representative.

Now, this is a pretty simple step in and of itself, but I wanted to take some time to talk about it so I could draw your attention to the two key words here. What are the key words?

 

They are: best and most typical (okay, technically that’s three words. Sorry.).

 

You want to have your interview with your best customers for plenty of reasons. First off, if they’re you’re best customers, you’re more likely to be able to get a compelling story when you interview them, right?

 

And I know this is probably pretty obvious, but I might as well say it anyways: just like it’s best to get a review or a testimonial from your best customers, it’s best to get a case study from them, too. They’ve got the most value out of your offering and they’ll have an infectious enthusiasm that will spread to the people who read your case study.

 

It might be a little less obvious why I say you should go with your most typical customers. But that’s just a matter of practicality. I mean, if you’re trying to show your prospects what your offering can do, you’re not going to want them to read about that customer who buys a half-dozen special services and none of your typical offerings, are you?

 

Of course not. You’re going to want to interview the customer who buys your most common offer. After all, you’re telling this customer’s story. Don’t you want it to be one your typical prospect can relate to?

 

Sure you do. So break out that phone or keyboard and schedule that interview!

 

  1. Prepare for and conduct the interview.

When it comes to it, a phone or Skype interview is just fine for this part. It takes some practice to get good at interviewing, but let me just give you a few pointers so you can get the information you need.

 

Here’s the main thing to remember when you’re conducting interviews: never forget what you need to get out the interview.

 

What’s that, then? First off, you want story you can share with your prospects to show them the value of your offer.

 

That means you want to know all the facts and figures of the company. You want to be able to explain what they do and why they do it. Simple enough, right?

 

Second, you want to know about the problem that led this company to approach yours. (Protip: make sure you’ve got a clear description of the problem and the pain points involved.)

 

Third: you want to know how your company solved the problem. (Of course, you already know this, but you want to get the story from your customer’s point of view.) When the time comes to write your story, this will be where your company swoops in to save your customer.

 

Last: you want to know the results. That means you want to know the statistics that prove the value you’ve provided.

 

With a practiced hand, you should be able to fit all this information into a short interview. No pressure, you’ve got this.

 

  1. Write your first draft.

Now that you’ve got it all together, it’s time to get into the writing process. Luckily for you, case studies generally have a pretty standard structure, so you don’t have a lot to worry about on that front.

 

Remember: you’re telling a story here. The same skills go into crafting a good case study that go into telling a good story.

 

So what’s a good story? A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you introduce your hero—in this case, your customer. In the middle, you introduce your hero’s problem and show them trying to solve it. And in the end, they solve it—with a little help from you and your company, of course!

 

Of course, describing basic story structure is one thing and actually writing an effective story is another thing. Skillful writing is a matter of practice and mastery, just like any other craft. But with time, discipline, and sheer will power, you can learn it.

 

  1. Edit and revise.

This part of the process is pretty obvious, I’ll admit. You tidy up your sentence structure. You check your spelling. You eliminate your passive verbs and you eliminate every word that doesn’t contribute to the meaning of your story.

 

You’ll probably want to give it to a few people you can trust to give you honest feedback on your work. Ask them if everything makes sense and if it all fits together just right.

 

(Trust me on this: I’ve written things I thought made perfect sense, but when I ran it by a couple of readers I found out I’d made some silly mistakes. You never can tell what people might misunderstand.)

 

Now that you’ve edited, pay attention to this part: before you use your case study for anything, you should run it by your customer and have them sign off on it. This is important: you want to get your customer to approve of the final article before you do anything with it.

 

So that’s the process! As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s article if you want to know more about case studies. I’ll tell you some more about what you can use them for tomorrow!

 

Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.

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What are Case Studies? (Part 1 of 3)

 

What’s a case study? A case study is a multi-use marketing tool that you can think of as something like a testimonial on steroids. With case studies, you tell your prospects a story about how your company solved a problem for them.

 

A case study is an article that tells your customer’s story in his or her own words. You’ll conduct an interview to get to know the story, and you’ll take that story and mold it into a handy sales and marketing tool.

 

With a case study, you tell your prospects a story where your customer is the hero and your company steps in to help them with a problem. It’s one of the most effective ways to build social proof and credibility for your company.

 

Good and well, you think. Why should you care?

 

Well, the reason you should care is because your prospects are much more interested in hearing about what your product or service has done for other people than they are in hearing about what the features are.

 

It’s all about benefits to the prospect instead of features of the product.

 

Why’s that? Simple. I’ll give you two reasons:

 

  1. We all care the most about what’s good for us.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can you say people care the most about what’s good for them? Am I saying everybody’s selfish? Am I saying people only care about themselves?

 

You can go ahead and relax. I’m not preaching Ayn Rand here. I’m just saying we’ve all got our own business and preoccupations, so if you want somebody’s attention it pays to speak to their business and preoccupations.

 

And of course people care about more than just themselves. But the hard fact of life is that you have to make sure your own house is in order before you can deal with anybody else’s needs. So considering what a challenge it can be to keep ourselves in order sometimes, it’s quite the accomplishment that we manage to help others as much as we do.

 

So that’s that: we care about what’s good for us, and we’ve got good reason to.

 

So when your prospects hear about your product or service, they’re not going to be terribly interested in a bunch of features of your service.

 

Think about it: when you go to buy a TV, do you really care how many megapixels the screen has? Or does the crystal-sharp image on the screen catch your eyes a lot more effectively?

 

Megapixel is just a technical-sounding word. It sounds good, sure. But be honest now: isn’t it the fact that you can make out every single blade of grass on that baseball field that really sells you on a TV screen?

 

Your customers are the same way. They like to hear about what your product or service has done for people like them.

 

Features of your product are nice, and you can tell your prospects about them if you want. But that’s not what captures their imagination or gives them the serious desire to buy.

 

  1. Human beings love stories.

Imagine you’re a caveman sitting out on the edge of a scorching desert around thirty-five thousand years ago. You’re sitting on a tuft of hardy grass and chewing on a hunk of raw antelope meat.

 

It’s tough stuff. You have to bite down hard to get it in your mouth, and you have to chew it forever to get it down enough to swallow it. It doesn’t taste very good, and it’s awfully hard on your stomach.

 

But what choice do you have? Raw meat is the only meat around.

 

So let’s say your buddy Og from the next cave over walks up to you. Og thinks he’s something special because he hired some avant-garde guy called a “painter” to draw buffalo on the wall of his cave.

 

(They don’t look anything like buffalo, you think. Besides, what good are they when you can’t eat them?)

 

Anyways, Og likes to show off how cosmopolitan he is, so he starts telling you about a guy he knows in the next valley over.

 

“He work R & D on something he call fire,” Og says.

 

“Technology getting out of hand these days,” you say. “What this so-called fire supposed to do?”

 

“Make meat taste better,” Og says. “Scare predators away. Keep cave warm and bright at night.”

 

“Crazy tech apologist,” you mutter. But you’re still curious enough to ask, “How your friend find out about fire?”

 

And Og smiles, opens his mouth, and tells you all about it.

 

Here’s the simple fact of the matter: human beings absorb information best through stories. Stories frame information in an accessible way, and they don’t overwhelm us with technical detail that makes the thing sound intimidating.

 

There are a lot of industries out there where prospects have a clear need for a service, but it’s hard to articulate that need to them because they don’t have the technical knowledge. It’s one of those things where people need to work within their specialty.

 

That’s where a case study can help you. It teaches people about your offering in terms they can understand.

 

Not everyone has the technical knowledge it takes to immediately understand the practical benefits of a complex offering. So when you let them know about your offering in terms of a story about A) a person similar to them, B) facing a problem similar to theirs, and C) resolving it with your product or service, you can educate them to the point where they know enough to decide whether they’re interested in learning more.

 

With a seductively-written case study, you can educate your prospects and streamline your sales and marketing process. You can build credibility for your business by allowing someone else to speak about what your product or service can do for them. You can even use your case studies as sources for testimonials on your site.

 

I’ll let you know more about the uses for your case study on Thursday. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the process of writing your case studies.

 

Thanks for reading. Have you used case study marketing before? Did you write it yourself, or did you hire a professional to take care of it? Let me know in the comments!

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40 Tips for Skyrocketing Your Productivity

 

If you’re anything like me, you’d probably like to get a little more done in the day. Whether you’re making phone calls or typing away at your keyboard, there’s no getting away from the feeling you could have gotten just a little more done today.

 

Sound familiar?

 

Yeah, me too. I’ve been wondering about productivity lately, and I’ve been wanting to find out how I can get more done in a day. So I spent a week scouring the internet for the best advice I could find.

 

I came across a lot of great information along the way, and I hope to share some of that with you.

 

Some of it was pretty obvious stuff, like being sure to get enough sleep—although I still end up staying up too late at night!

 

Some of it was a little less obvious, like the reasons why some top performers only work for three 90-minute bursts a day. (It’s true, and rest assured I’ll tell you why in just a minute.)

 

All of it was good information, and it’s already been useful to me. I hope it’s the same with you. So, without further ado, 40 tips to improve your productivity:

 

  1. Plan Your Day the Night Before

They always say you’re supposed to plan your day at the beginning, but it turns out it works even better if you do it the night before. This gives your brain the chance to get started on getting the day in order while you’re still asleep. (Not to mention that you’ll be more likely to schedule that tough project you’ve been putting off if you plan today instead of waiting for tomorrow.)

  1. Exercise Regularly

Put it this way: your mind isn’t all in your head. If your body isn’t exercised, you’re going to be twitchy and nervous all day long. It’s not a good way to be, and your body doesn’t like it any more than you do. So if you start your morning with a quick workout, a morning run, or both, you’re off to a good start. Your body will be running at its best, and your mind will be all the better able to focus on the day. So it’s always good to get up and get a few miles in!

  1. Minimize Simple Decisions

Should you wear the red tie today, or the blue one? Should you have a regular coffee today, or a decaf? Should you take the normal way to work today, or the scenic route?

 

I know they sound like tiny decisions, but they add up. If you get your mind into the habit of hesitating on these little decisions, you’re all the more likely to hesitate on something more important. So what do you do?

 

Simple. Just get your meal plans and clothes arranged the day before. Or you could be like former President Barack Obama and wear pretty much the same suit every day. (Reducing mental strain: it’s downright presidential!)

  1. Keep Your Workspace Tidy

I know, I know, I know: this is one of those obvious ones we never do as well as we know we should. Just like with the small decisions, an untidy workspace gradually adds a tiny bit of mental strain that adds up to a nasty mood and decreased productivity. Remember: productivity is a war of attrition, and everything counts. You can try all the crazy productivity hacks you like, but if you’re not keeping things neat and organized, it won’t do you any good. So be mindful of that!

  1. Set Your Priorities (Use the 80/20 Rule)

Probably everybody in the world has heard of the 80/20 rule by now, but just in case you haven’t: according to the Pareto principle, 20 percent of the work you do is responsible for 80 percent of the results you achieve. Simple enough, right?

 

So the idea is, if you can identify which 20 percent of your work is getting 80 percent of your results, you can maximize your results by focusing on the part that’s serving you best. It’s worthwhile to check up on what’s helping you achieve your goals and recalibrating your priorities accordingly.

  1. Don’t Kill Yourself With Long Hours

The fact is: putting in long hours doesn’t necessarily correlate with getting more work done. That doesn’t mean there’s no good reason to put in extra time, either.

 

The fact is, diminishing returns starts to kick in pretty bad around the 50-hour a week mark, and by the time you get up to 65 hours you’re not getting much more work done than in 60 hours. So the point is: there’s a limit to what the human nervous system can reliably be expected to do, so don’t push it. Besides, if you’re good with planning you won’t need to put in crazy hours like that anyways.

  1. Use Reminders

They can be on your phone, or wherever you like. The important thing is: it’s good to have reminders in place to help you keep track of what you’re expecting yourself to get done in the day. Sometimes it’s useful to come up with a deadline to give yourself. (Just think, “I’ll get this done by 11:30 this morning,” and then set the timer.) Setting high expectations for yourself is an effective way to keep yourself trucking along when you’re not feeling motivated. Reminding yourself of all you’ve got to get done can be useful, as long as you’re careful not to overwhelm yourself.

  1. Give Yourself Deadlines

Ever had a project you knew you had to get done eventually, but just never found yourself getting around to it? Set a deadline! If nobody’s going to give you a deadline, you’ve got to give it to yourself. That means you’ll need to keep yourself on task and accountable to yourself.

 

Another thing. Find ways to make the deadlines meaningful. If you reward yourself for making a deadline and punish yourself for not making it, you’ll train yourself to be more productive in the future. Remember: it’s not what you do today that’s important, it’s how what you do today shapes what you’ll be doing tomorrow and ten years from now.

  1. Commit to Completing Your Daily To-Do List

Of course I said you need to get a daily plan together, and you do. That’s important.

 

But what’s even more important is making sure that you finish everything on that list every day. Productivity is a habit, and if you can form the habit of being productive, you’ll be able to pick up tricks along the way.

 

I’m not saying you should beat yourself up if you don’t finish what’s on your list. But I am saying you should form the habit so you know that when you write something onto your to-do list, you’re committing to getting it done.

  1. Build a “Stop Doing” List

I need to stop getting distracted online. Maybe you need to stop checking your email constantly. But just admit it: when you read “Stop doing” list, your mind immediately jumped to something you need to stop doing.

 

Everybody has all kinds of things they need to quit doing. But if you take a few minutes to put together a list of things you need to stop doing, you can track your progress. And if you track your progress, you can gradually wean yourself off the unproductive (or even counterproductive) activities you’ve developed the habit of slipping into.

  1. Get a Hobby/Keep Learning

Obsessing exclusively on solving work problems feels like it’s the best way to get the most done. But it’s not.

 

The fact is, good productivity means hitting a balance between single-minded focus on work and enjoyment. It’s the classic work/life balance. There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in reading up on something entirely unrelated to work. You could read up on neurology, or philosophy, or postmodern literature (if you’re me). If that doesn’t speak to you, I’m sure you can find a hobby that helps.

 

Because when you learn about something that’s a little out of your expertise, there’s no telling what might turn out to be more relevant than you thought.

  1. Be Willing to Say “No”

A lot of us feel the pressure to say yes to every project that comes along. There’s no request too small, no deal too minor, and no event too tiny to warrant our attention.

 

Jim Rohn had a name for this problem. He called it “Majoring in minor things.” It’s the flipside of what we were talking about with the 80/20 rule. If you get into the habit of saying yes to every request that comes along, you’re not going to have any time left over for the important work that actually gets your results. You’ve got to be willing to say no.

  1. Graze on Fruits and Vegetables Throughout the Day

What you eat affects your productivity. Some people I know have a habit of skipping breakfast and trying to power on through to lunchtime. I think they do it because they’ve got this idea that it keeps them “hungry for success,” or something like that.

 

The problem is, those things don’t work. Skipping breakfast is a great way to let your blood sugar drop, and if your blood sugar drops you’re not getting all your work done. So keep yourself calm and focused by eating some rabbit food throughout the day. (I know it sounds like hippie silliness, but there’s science behind it, so I can’t argue.)

  1. Break Big Tasks Into Small Parts

Sometimes you can have a project staring you in the face, and you can’t get yourself to make any progress on it. There are two ways out of that problem: either a) you need to learn more about what you’re doing, or b) you need to break it down.

 

Every worthwhile project is made up of dozens, or hundreds, or millions of little sub-projects. Do you think the original plans for the pyramids were perfect, all the way down to how the Pharaoh was going to get the wood so the workers could move their stone blocks?

 

Of course not. You start with an idea, and you break it down into little, manageable problems. That’s how progress works.

  1. Schedule Tasks in Specific Chunks of Time

This has a little to do with what we were saying about deadlines a little while back. A lot of productivity is a matter of using time effectively. Just remember: the most powerful person in the world only has 24 hours a day, same as you. It’s what you do with that time that matters.

 

So, the first key to getting massive work done is expecting yourself to get massive work done. It’s a matter of starting out. If you start now, you can find the best way to schedule yourself to get the most done in a day. It starts with scheduling.

  1. Schedule Similar Activities Back to Back

When you make that schedule, it pays to pay attention to the way your brain works. A lot of the drag you run into with productivity comes from cognitive switching—making unnecessary decisions, thinking about things that don’t help you, switching from one task to a massively different task.

 

If you’ve got to make some sales calls, send some sales emails, and prepare a presentation for next week, you’ll probably want to keep the calls and the emails together on your schedule. These are similar tasks that will allow you to use the same parts of your brain. There’s less switching involved, so there’s less inefficiency in your thinking.

  1. Avoid Distractions

This is another obvious one. We all know we’re supposed to avoid distractions, but we all allow ourselves to get distracted much too often.

 

It can be social media. It can be the phone. It can be email. Whatever it is, it keeps you off task and you wish you could get rid of it.

 

So the big question is: how do you avoid distractions? Well, I’d start out by putting together a list of all the things that you find eating in on your time. Then come up with methods for avoiding those specific distractions.

 

If you can get away with it, turning off the phone is great. If you’re a writer who keeps running away to the internet, there are apps that temporarily disable your internet access. There may be no catch-all solution, but with a little ingenuity you can search out your problems and eliminate them one by one.

  1. Avoid Meetings

Note: I’m only adding this one because it was on every list I checked. Personally, I’m a freelancer, and the closest thing I have to a meeting is a Skype call every once in a while.

 

From what I gather, meetings are pretty awful. So if it’s at all possible to avoid a meeting, you should probably do so. I’m sure there’s some high-level administrative reasons for why meetings exist even though nobody actually likes them or gets anything important done during them, but that’s as may be.

 

It kind of seems like it’s preaching to the choir to say, “Hey guys, you should avoid meetings!” But it’s true that you should, nonetheless.

  1. If You Can’t Avoid Meetings—Set an Agenda!

Of course, a lot of the time you’ll be stuck with the meetings. A client insists. Management insists. The President of the United States insists.

 

Setting an agenda makes great damage control. If you can set the agenda for the meeting, you can get things going in as efficient a manner as possible. You can get in, talk about what you need to talk about, and get on to more important things. Problem solved.

 

Besides, there’s always the little advantage of making yourself look highly efficient, proactive, and professional. (And if you’re lucky, that alone can make the whole hassle of the meeting well worth your while.)

  1. Work in 90-Minute Bursts

Now, this one might sound a little woo-woo, but there’s science behind it, so you don’t have to take my word for it.

 

You know how you’ve always heard you sleep in a 90-minute cycle? Well, it’s the same when you’re awake. The body goes through 90-minute energy cycles when you’re awake as well. So if you work in 90-minute intervals that sync up with that cycle, you can supercharge your productivity in no time.

 

Don’t take my word for it, though. World-class athletes, thinkers, and chess players use this technique to get their daily work done in three 90-minute bursts. How does getting huge amounts of work done in 4.5 hours a day sound to you? Because it sounds great to me.

  1. Avoid Interruptions

It’s easier to make excuses for getting interrupted than it is to make excuses for getting distracted. After all, you can’t help it if your good friend Sam calls you up and tries to catch up, can you?

 

Maybe not. But avoiding interruptions pays off, whether you’re working at home or in an office environment. Family and coworkers will naturally want to chat with you throughout the day, and who can blame them? You’re charming.

 

But you’ve got important things to do. You’ve got to drive a wedge between work and life, or else the one is going to eat up the other.

  1. Focus on Your Goal

There’s no way you can accomplish anything amazing without having a goal to strive for. And there’s no way you can reach that goal if you don’t imprint it deep inside you.

 

I mean, it’s obvious enough that you need to focus on your goals. But where most people fail is that they just imagine some vague ideas and say, “Let’s call this focusing on my goal.”

 

That’s not how it works. If you’re going to really focus on your goal, you’re going to have to really flesh it out. Write down your goals, the same way you’d write down a grocery list. Remember: a list of long-term goals isn’t anything different than a to-do list that takes a long time to get done. Make those goals stick!

  1. Take a Nap

This isn’t me recommending it, it’s the research!

 

Personally, I’d never be caught dead taking a nap. But I’ve seen enough advice from enough people saying that naps are a great idea for productivity that I just had to put it on this list.

 

You can take a 15-minute power nap if you like, or you can take a 90-minute snoozefest. Whatever you do, there’s research showing that it improves your recall and memory, and that it gives you the chance to get your brain up and functioning at one hundred percent. So if your performance is slipping, you could do worse than take a nap.

  1. Keep a Window Open

Now, you’d think having a window wide open to take in the view would slow you down, but it’s actually the other way around. It turns out that we work a lot more effectively if we have something nice to look at, so keeping the window open can help you keep in a good mood while you’re getting your work done.

 

If you can keep your window open, you can have all the benefits of natural lighting and a nice view to help you through the daily grind. It’s always helpful not to feel quite so cramped.

  1. Take Breaks for Exercise

Speaking of feeling cramped: if it ever gets too bad for you, it can be wonderfully helpful to take a quick break to get the blood moving. You could take a quick power walk around the block, or drop down to the floor and do a set of push-ups.

 

The thing you’ve got to remember is this: your mind isn’t just in your head. It’s all throughout your body. Less than half of the neurons in your body are in the brain. So if you can get your body up and working, you can get your whole mind humming. Not just your head.

  1. Keep Inspirational Boards/Posters in Sight

We’ve all got those moments when we feel like we can’t go on. We’ve all got those moments when we just know everything we’ve worked for all our lives is bound to crash and end in terrible failure. We’ve all got those moments.

 

So we all need a little something to remind us why we keep trying. I used to think motivational posters were dumb, cynical, and unrealistic. But then I realized they’re actually deeply meaningful. It can change somebody’s life to have a poster in front of them that says “Look up when you’re down.”

 

Because if you can internalize that belief, you can make it happen.

  1. Keep Your Goals in Front of You (Literally!)

Sometimes we lose sight of our goals metaphorically. But sometimes we lose sight of them literally, and that can be just as bad.

 

What am I talking about here? I’m talking about the same kind of thing I was talking about with the motivational posters. If you want to keep your mind focused on your goals, it’s good to have your goals there in front of you.

 

You could write it down. You could get a picture of the house you want to live in. You can do whatever you want. But just make sure you have what you want in front of you, so you can see it when your motivation drops.

  1. Cut Out Multitasking

Multitasking always sounds like a good idea. But the fact is, it’s not. If you want your mind to focus on something, you need to focus on one thing at a time.

 

I’m serious here. We deeply overestimate the brain’s processing abilities all the time. When you get down to it, you’ve got two options: you can either do one thing at a time, and do it well, or you can do fifty things at once, and never do anything well.

 

It takes concentration to do a good job. So you need to kill the habit of trying to let your mind be in ten different places at once. It’s not working for you, and you know it. So STOP IT!

  1. Use Your Downtime Effectively

There’s always downtime. It can be in the car on the commute. It can be when you’re out for your morning run. It can be when you’re eating lunch in peace and quiet.

 

If there’s ever a chance for you to learn more about your work, you should take it. Read a book. Listen to a motivational speech. Read helpful blog posts. If there’s ever a free moment, you should take that time to make your working time more effective. It’s as simple as that. You need to get your head in the game, and you need to keep your head in the game.

  1. Rearrange Your Workspace

Now, before you accuse me of telling you to do useless stuff as a distraction, I’m not. I’m just saying if you start to feel cramped and stifled in your workplace, you could consider rearranging it.

 

Do it sometime when you get done with your work early. Do it on the weekend. The point is: do it sometime when it won’t interfere with work. But do it, because it’s worth the time to de-clutter your life and get your mind back to where it needs to be.

  1. Don’t Be a Perfectionist

Believe me, I know all about the dangers of perfectionism. You get so wrapped up in how perfect a project needs to be, or how perfect it could potentially be, that you end up never doing anything. Because you’re so worried it might not turn out perfect that you feel like there’s no point in even trying.

 

And that’s a recipe for failure. As somebody famous once said, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”

 

Sure, it sounds corny. Sure, it sounds dumb. But it’s true. So you need to get moving, give up your whiny little, “But it’s not gonna be perfect!” attitude, and get to work.

  1. Use More Red and Blue

Ink, that is. Writing with blue ink stimulates creativity, and writing with red ink increases your attention to detail. (Sure, it might sound a little hokey, but it’s worth a try.) If anything, it’s a way to let yourself know you’re trying, and isn’t that the main thing we’re after?

  1. Give Yourself Scheduled Break Times

This is a big one if you’re self-employed. (I know, because we’ve got a nasty tendency to either cram our days full of sixteen-hour marathons of productivity or week-long pits of uselessness.)

 

It can be tough. But if you make yourself schedule a specific time to take a break, it gives you a great feeling of mental freedom. Because now that there’s a time on your schedule when you’re literally not allowed to work, it’s easier for you to keep yourself on task when you are working.

 

Remember: it’s all about tricking yourself into being productive.

  1. Decide What You’re Going to Eat Before You’re Hungry

This comes back to the whole thing about how it matters what you eat.

 

Because let’s be honest: if you’re picking your meal when you’re half-starving, you’re going to pick that nice, juicy burger over that lousy rabbit food that makes you hate your life.

 

But if you really want to be productive, you need to give up the nice, juicy burger and eat that lousy rabbit food that makes you hate your life. And if you’re going to eat healthy, you need to arrange your life so it’s easier than eating what tastes good. That’s why it pays to pack your lunch the day before, and be sure to include a bunch of awful healthy junk.

  1. Come Up With Milestones for Major Tasks

This comes back to what we were talking about with the way you need to divide big tasks into a bunch of smaller, more manageable tasks. If you have a major project you’re working on, you can need a little kick to get you going. So if you divide the job into little milestones, you can give yourself a little pat on the back every time you reach a milestone. That way you can make yourself power through the tough parts and get them done.

  1. Set Aside 90 Minutes For Your Most Important Work

Some days you can feel like you’re getting sucked into a major pile of stuff that really doesn’t matter all that much. It happens to all of us sometimes. Nobody can keep themselves totally free of what seems like pointless work that doesn’t go anywhere.

 

But if you set aside a specific 90 minute block that always goes to your most important stuff, you’ll be able to power through those tough times. This one works for two reasons: 1) it gives you the incentive to work on the most important stuff, and 2) it forces you to identify what’s most important in the first place. And that can be half the battle.

  1. Turn off the Phone if You Can

Granted, it may not be an option to completely unplug from civilization and get into your work zone. If your clients are in the habit of calling you, they might not appreciate it if you turned off your phone all the time.

 

But if you can get away with it, turning off the phone can be a great way to avoid a major source of distractions. Your good friend Sam can’t call to catch up if your phone’s not on to begin with!

  1. Concentrate on Your Goals

I realize I’m probably beating a dead horse by this point, but it’s important. If you aren’t concentrating on your goals, you’re not going to reach them. There’s nobody on earth who ever achieved anything worth doing without learning to concentrate firmly on a single goal.

 

It’s hard. It’s not very much fun. And it can feel like you’re cutting off parts of your personality.

 

That’s life, bucko. It’s hard. But if you can truly concentrate on your goals, you can get more done than you ever thought possible. Your mind is a tool for helping you reach your goals. So pick the right ones, and stick to them.

  1. Try the 2-Minute Rule

Interruptions happen. Every once in a while, things are going to come up that demand your attention. So if you can’t avoid it, use the 2-minute rule.

 

What’s that? Simple. If it takes less than 2 minutes, go ahead and do it now. If it’s going to take longer than that, you’ll need to find a way to work it into your schedule. Sometimes things come up, and when they do you need to have a plan together to meet them.

  1. Be Sure to Get Enough Sleep

This one’s another obvious one. Everybody knows you’re supposed to get 8 hours of sleep every night, and everybody knows it’s not an easy thing to do.

 

So do it anyways. Everybody knows how hard it can be to force yourself to go to bed at the same time every day, especially when you’d rather catch the last few minutes of the movie you’re watching. But here’s the thing: it pays to be able to force yourself into bed. You’re practicing your will power, and you’re making sure your mind is ready to function at one hundred percent capacity tomorrow. And if you really want to be productive, that’s what matters.

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Your SEO Strategy Development Guide

Maybe you’re an expert on SEO strategy development already. If you are, feel free to skip down a little, because I’m going to start out by explaining what SEO is and why SEO strategy development is so important.

 

Let me set the scene for you: you’ve been working on your content marketing for a while.

 

Maybe you’ve had a blog running, or maybe you’ve got guests contributing to your site.

 

Or maybe you’ve just got your main site, and you haven’t started your content marketing yet. That’s okay too.

 

You’re running your site, and maybe you’re even getting some pretty good traffic numbers through social media marketing. But those numbers still aren’t everything they could be, are they?

 

Of course not! You know as well as I do that when a business owner decides traffic is “good enough,” it’s time to count down till their site goes bye-bye.

 

Now, of course, I know that’s not you. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

 

But you also wouldn’t be here if your search traffic were through the roof or if you were getting so many orders you didn’t know how to fill them. Fair enough?

 

So I’ll level with you: your traffic’s not what it could be, your sales are in trouble, and you’re looking for solutions. Is that pretty much the situation for you?

 

I thought so.

 

Well, SEO strategy development can help with all that. It can blow your search traffic through the roof, bringing you targeted visitors who are already looking for what you have to offer.

 

With solid SEO, you can get your content the traffic it deserves, and you can draw traffic from the visitors who are most likely to buy. SEO can tighten up your sales funnel and give you the results you’re looking for.

 

Are you seeing dollar signs? Great!

 

Now, as you read along in this article, here’s what you’ll find:

 

  1. A description of what SEO strategy development can do for you, including:
    • What SEO is.
    • What SEO is not.
    • How SEO can help your business.
  2. A guide to putting together your SEO strategy, focusing on:
    • Setting objectives and metrics for success.
    • Selecting keywords and ranking for search engines.
    • Integrating your site into the link structure of the internet.
  3. A primer on how to integrate SEO into your existing online marketing strategy, emphasizing:
    • SEO is only a part of a winning online marketing strategy.
    • The value of combining good SEO with good content marketing.
    • The combined power of SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing.

 

Are you ready? Great! Then let’s get started.

 

Part One: What is SEO?

So as long as we’re getting started, we might as well start at the beginning: SEO stands for search engine optimization. (I know it can seem intimidating at first, but I promise it’s not.)

 

So what’s search engine optimization mean, you ask? Good question.

 

Simply put, SEO is a set of techniques that help internet users find your site on search engines like Google. Google is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to search engines, because 68 percent of searches come through there.

 

Why’s it so important to optimize for search engines?

 

Let me put it this way: have you ever taken a look at the amount of results your average Google search gets?

 

Just out of curiosity, I tried it out. I just did three Google searches, and all three of them had results in the millions (one was even in the billions!). Take a look:

 

 

Maybe the numbers will be different by the time you read this, but you get the point: there are massive amounts of results for just about every search. It’s easy to get buried in the clutter.

 

Let me ask you a question: how often do you go to the second page of your Google search results? The tenth page? The hundredth page?

 

That’s what I thought. Now, are you starting to see why SEO is so important?

 

So how does it work? Well, to tell you that, I’ll have to tell you a little about how search engines work. I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible, I promise.

 

Search engines work by having certain algorithms (known as “spiders” or “crawlers”) go through the web and compile lists of results.

 

Then when somebody makes a search, there’s another algorithm that determines the relevance each result has for each query.

 

Google keeps that algorithm pretty secret, but we know enough about it to do the work that lands your site on the first page of the Google searches that matter.

 

So, are we all clear on what SEO is? Or at least a little clear?

 

That’s great. Now let’s move on, and I can help clear up some of the misconceptions around SEO.

 

What SEO Isn’t

Before I go any further in helping you with your SEO strategy development, I want to clear up these three mistakes people often have about SEO:

 

  • Misconception number one: SEO is keyword-stuffing.
  • Misconception number two: SEO is too technical and too involved to be any use to me.
  • Misconception number three: SEO is always a simple, easy, overnight solution.

 

If you’ve heard a little about SEO in the past, it’s easy to come away with the idea that it’s a bunch of keyword stuffing.

 

There was a time when that was more or less true. Or at least, there was a time when you could simply load up your site with as many keywords as possible and crank out a first page ranking.

 

The problem with that was that pages full of gibberish and really low-quality content were ranking on the first page of Google. It was spammy, ugly, and not very useful for search engine users.

 

So in 2011, Google let out their Panda update, changing their algorithm massively. This was one of the most significant Google updates ever. It heavily penalized keyword-stuffing and sent many low-quality sites down into the low rankings they deserve.

 

These days, good SEO strategy development means using keywords usefully, naturally, and intelligently. And that’s good for all of us.

 

Another thing you might have heard about SEO is that it’s an arcane and insanely technical process you’ve got no chance of mastering.

 

Let me clear that one up for you: SEO is not the most technical process in the world. True, there’s a lot involved. There’s a learning curve. There’s plenty of material out there you’ll need to study, and it’s important to keep updated on important changes to search engine algorithms.

 

But let me promise you this: with time, effort, and a little guidance, you can learn how to do SEO on your own.

 

Last of all: some people might have given you the idea that SEO is a quick fix.

 

It’s not. Sometimes it can take a few days for a new page to start ranking for the keywords you’ve picked. Sometimes something goes wrong, and it doesn’t happen for you at all.

 

That’s why I want to make this clear: the best way to make SEO work for you is to use it as part of a solid content marketing strategy. But more on that later.

 

For now, let’s get to what SEO can do for you.

 

How SEO Strategy Development Can Help You

The bottom line is this: good SEO can drive sales.

 

How can it drive sales? Well, thanks for asking!

 

Good SEO is about more than just driving traffic to your site. It’s about driving the right traffic.

 

I’ll get into this more in-depth later on, but let me put it this way: if you’re selling refrigerators, would you rather be in the first page of results when people search for “refrigerators,” or when people search for “where can I buy a refrigerator?”

 

Before you answer that, let me draw your attention to a few things, okay?

 

Now, I don’t have the numbers on this, but I’ve got a hunch that “refrigerators” gets a lot more searches than the other one. That’s one point in favor of “refrigerators,” right?

 

Wrong.

 

Here’s the thing about high-volume keywords like that: they can get thousands, or even millions of searches per month. And what does that mean?

 

That means Wal-Mart and all the other huge department stores have already shelled out huge amounts of green to be able to rank on page one. The competition is fierce. Even if you could win out, it might take months or years.

 

It’s not sounding so good right now, is it? And that’s not the worst of it, either.

 

Why not? The simple fact is this: there could be any number of reasons why someone would do a search for “refrigerators.”

 

Maybe they’re looking for a picture.

 

Maybe they want to know how they work.

 

Maybe they’re just wondering if Wal-Mart really does come up in the number one spot.

 

The point is: it’s hard to win on an open-ended keyword like that, and it’s very likely that the users who make the search aren’t currently interested in buying your product.

 

So what’s the trick? You’ve got to find keywords with less competition and more user interest in buying.

 

That’s what SEO strategy development is all about, and that’s why choosing keywords is so important. As you read along, we’ll get into more detail about that in Part Two.

 

Part Two: Putting Your Strategy Together

Like anything else worth doing, good SEO strategy development starts with setting the right goals. Without clear, measurable goals, you’re sure to end up confused and chasing after the wrong things, right?

 

When you’re running your business, do you set goals and then figure out what you’re going to do to reach them, or do you just muddle through what you’re doing with no long-term structure at all?

 

Of course you figure out the goals first!

 

In anything I do in life, I set a clear goal and I learn exactly what I’m going to do to make it happen. I learn how I’m going to measure my success, and I learn what benefits I’ll get from it.

 

Putting together a winning SEO strategy is the no different.

 

So: what results are you looking for with your SEO strategy?

 

Are you trying to increase traffic to your site? Are you trying to increase sales and conversion rates? Or are you trying to improve the levels of engagement with your content marketing campaigns?

 

Different goals mean different ways of solving the problem. For example, if you’re only trying to increase traffic, you won’t be as interested in targeting keywords that focus on buying. Make sense? Good.

 

When you have different goals, you’ll calculate your return on investment in different ways.

 

If you’re driving sales, you’ll measure ROI straightforwardly: you’re interested in revenue per dollar spent.

 

If you’re looking for increases in traffic, you’ll measure in visitors per dollar spent.

 

If you’re looking for increased visitor engagement, you’ll measure in comments or shares per dollar spent.

 

The best part is, these figures will increase over time.

 

How’s that? Well, with services like Salesforce and Google analytics, it’s easy to tell which parts of your SEO marketing campaign are working, and which ones aren’t pulling their weight. And that means you can constantly calibrate your approach to make an ever more valuable tool in SEO strategy development.

 

Where the Magic Happens: Selecting Keywords

See? I promised you I’d come back to talking about keywords. If you’re getting the impression that keywords are an important part of SEO strategy development, you’re absolutely right.

 

A good keyword can win you massive traffic, and a bad keyword can leave you stuck without traffic, without visitors, and without a hope in the world. That’s why it’s important to choose keywords carefully. You don’t want to gamble all your time and effort on a keyword that’s “good enough.”

 

Now, I’m sure you’ve already got the idea that keywords are pretty important for SEO, so I won’t beat that dead horse, okay?

 

And you already know it’s good to pick keywords that come from people who are interested in taking action, so I won’t tell you about that either.

 

By now you’re probably wondering what I am going to tell you. Right?

 

I’m going to tell you a little about keyword research.

 

It’s extremely important to get the right keywords when you’re doing SEO marketing. If you get the wrong keywords, you get no traffic, or if you’re lucky you get the wrong traffic.

 

So you’re going to want to get to know a few solid keyword research tools. If you can figure out how to use it, you can try your luck with the Google AdWords keyword tool. (It’s free!)

 

Or, if you want to try something that’s actually pretty intuitive and gives you useful information in a way that makes sense, Moz offers a free 30-day trial on their keyword tool.

 

(I probably don’t have to tell you which one I prefer, but then again I’m in the business. If you don’t think a little functionality and ease of use are worth a little green, I guess that’s up to you.)

 

Anyways, let’s get past all the keyword work and figure out some of the other things you’ve got to do to get the best rankings.

 

Getting Integrated: Links and Building Authority

Okay: you’ve got the biggest part of your SEO strategy development over and done with. Are we finished? Not by a long shot!

 

Once you get your keywords picked out, you’re going to want to figure out how you’re going to integrate your site into the link structure of the internet.

 

If that makes absolutely no sense to you, don’t worry, I can explain.

 

Remember those web crawlers I was talking about earlier? Well, when they’re going through the web to compile their map, they’re not only concerned with the actual content of your page. They’re also looking to find out how well your site is connected to the rest of the internet.

 

Now, why do they do that? Because part of the Google algorithm tracks your site’s authority. A site that ranks highly in authority will be a site that many other sites in the same niche link to.

 

That’s pretty intuitive, isn’t it? Because if you’ve got a site that gets linked to often, that means it’s probably a site with reliable information and a thriving community of regular users. Sites like Forbes, Buzzfeed, or the Huffington Post would be examples of very high-authority sites.

 

Now, don’t worry, you’re site doesn’t need anything like that level of authority to increase your sales tremendously. All you need to do is generate a good reputation for your site. If you offer good information to people in your niche, you’ll be able to increase your authority over time.

 

But that doesn’t mean you just have to sit around and wait for authority to just happen to you.

 

You build a little authority when you link to authority sites in your articles.

 

Your SEO strategy development gains authority when you get comments on your articles, or social media shares.

 

You even add a little authority when you share your own work on social media.

 

The important takeaway here is that there are simple, everyday ways you can increase your site’s authority over time. Things like:

 

  1. Regularly linking to high-authority sites in your niche.
  2. Spreading the word on social media.
  3. Guest posting on the most high-authority sites you can get to listen to you.
  4. Building a community on your site. That means not only asking for comments, but responding to the people who reach out to you. A helpful and responsive web presence pays off in good will and authority, but (most importantly) in human relationships.

 

So now you’re pretty much done with your SEO strategy development. What happens now? Now it’s time to integrate your SEO into a larger online marketing plan.

 

How? Read along and find out.

 

Part Three: SEO and Online Marketing

Once you’re done with your SEO strategy development, it’s important to remember that SEO is only a part of your online marketing program.

 

Okay, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. I’m sure you could run a site that’s just a couple of pages of targeted keywords, and you can end up with little or no search traffic.

 

The fact is, a website alone isn’t enough. SEO strategy development alone isn’t enough. Unless it’s part of a bigger overall strategy, it’s not going to get the kinds of results you’re looking for.

 

What are your options for marketing online? Honestly, they’re nearly endless. You could try:

 

  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Paid advertising, including:
    • Social media ads
    • Search engine ads
    • Banner ads
    • Affiliate marketing
  • Cold email
  • Warm email
  • Podcasting
  • Video marketing
  • Guest posting
  • And a million other things that aren’t immediately springing to mind right now…

 

But if you’re looking at SEO strategy development, you’re best bet is going to be combining SEO with content marketing, so I’ll tell you about that in just a minute.

 

Now, what is content marketing? It’s probably a term you’ve heard before, but you’ve never actually heard somebody define it. So I’ll give it my best shot.

 

The way I see it, content marketing is a way to make the content on your website generate demand for your products and services. You can probably already figure out how you’ll turn that into SEO gold, but if you give me a chance in a little while I might be able to tell you something that surprises you.

 

Social media marketing is another great tool to combine with SEO, so I’ll tell you a little more about that further down in the section.

 

Social media marketing, just like content marketing, is all about creating demand for your products and services.

 

But we all know it’s not only about creating demand. Over and above that, it’s about building a relationship of trust with your audience and letting them know you’re someone they’ll want to work with or buy from.

 

It’s about showing them that you’re the same kind of person they are, and you’ve got the same concerns they do.

 

How do you do that? Well, follow along and I’ll show you.

 

Old Reliable: Content Marketing

What makes for good content marketing?

 

That’s simple. Good content marketing is content that’s useful for your ideal customer.

 

How do you do make content that’s useful for your customer? Well, that’s simple too: you figure out what they need, what you can do for them, and how you can show them the value you’ll give them over time.

 

And once you’ve done that, you show them how it’s done.

 

What’s that look like? Well, let’s say you’re running a B2B business, okay? Let’s say you do landscaping for large-scale properties like campsites and industrial parks. A good overall content marketing strategy would be to write about how people could do it for themselves.

 

But wait, you ask, aren’t we supposed to be drawing customers here? Why would we want to tell them how to do it?

 

Three reasons:

  1. A smart business owner knows his or her time is too valuable to spend on doing something a professional has spent years mastering.
  2. With good SEO strategy development, a how-to guide is almost guaranteed to draw more traffic to your site than a more aggressive sales pitch.
  3. Content marketing is about building trust and buying desire over time, not making an immediate hard sell.

 

Your ideal customers are smart people. They know it’s better to go to a professional than to end up with some ugly hedges outside the office window.

 

But do you want to know the best part?

 

Let me tell you: if you’re smart with your SEO strategy development, you can have it both ways. You can use content marketing to make quick sales and slower, long-term sales.

 

How? Well, you can target keywords that signal your users are ready to buy. (Remember “where can I buy a refrigerator?” from earlier? I’m talking that kind of thing.) That way, each of your content marketing pages generates a steady stream of pre-qualified prospects.

 

Good and well, you say, but how can I build those long-term relationships that lead to sales?

 

Never fear. That’s when we bring in the social media.

 

Three-in-One: Content Marketing, SEO, and Social Media Marketing

Okay: so you’ve done your SEO strategy development. You’ve worked out your keywords, and you’re letting out a stream of quality posts that are leading to some quick sales.

 

Let’s turn up the heat.

 

With social media, the best strategy for selling is to never look like you’re selling. If you look like you’re selling, you immediately get packed off and sent to the part of social media that only the spambots actually look at.

 

What does terrible social media marketing look like?

 

Well, it looks a lot like this. How often have you seen this automatic DM on Twitter:

 

Hey there,

Thanks for the follow! Since you don’t know me and we’ve never talked before, you should just go ahead and like my Facebook page, connect with me on LinkedIn, and buy all my products.

Thanks again buddy,

Marvin Fakename, CEO of Fakename Industries

 

That is the absolute worst of social media marketing. It doesn’t build trust, it doesn’t allow the customer to choose the timetable, and it doesn’t even give me any reason to think Marvin Fakename knows what he’s talking about.

 

With good social media marketing, you gradually educate your followers about your offering. You don’t rush them into anything, and you don’t apply very much pressure at all.

 

The key to good social media marketing is to keep your message consistently present for your ideal customers, so you can invite the best kind of people to take a look at your site.

 

If you’re lucky, they’ll be so wowed by what they see that they’ll immediately contact you wanting to do business. But that’s not what good social media marketing is about. What is it about, you ask?

 

Good social media marketing is about building a human relationship over time. It’s about allowing your customer to choose to act when they feel comfortable. And it’s about building a thriving community of like-minded human beings around your site.

 

When you combine SEO strategy development, content marketing, and social media marketing, you’ve got the chance to make something special.

 

You Can Do This

Well, that’s my guide to SEO strategy development. I hope you find value in it, and I hope you don’t find it too overwhelming.

 

Because I know there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to working with SEO. The fact is, content marketing can be a nerve-wracking subject, especially if you don’t have a lot of practice with writing.

 

But the fact is, with time and dedication you can learn how to get these things to work. There’s a bit of technical know-how and research to be done, but this should give you a solid starting point for your future endeavors.

 

With good SEO strategy development, you can draw the right kind of traffic to your site. You can build great relationships with the people you’re meant to do business with. And in time, you can make a thriving business based on building human relationships, one at a time.

 

I hope I’ve managed to show you the value of SEO as a strategy, and that I’ve helped you come up with at least a few ideas as to how you could apply it to your own business.

 

As always, I hope you’ll feel comfortable to get in touch with me if you’ve got any comments or questions, and I wish the best of luck to you and your business. Thank you very much for reading.

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