Saturday, 10 March 2018

How I add value for my clients...

...and how you can do the same.

Added value is described as an improvement or addition to something that makes it worth more.

In today's competitive market, adding value is key to creating a positive customer experience and building client relationships that last.

Here are just some of the ways I enhance my clients' experience of working with me.

Be knowledgeable

I'm committed to continual learning and making myself the best I can be.

When I'm not working on client projects, I'm reading articles and going to local workshops and seminars. Refining the skills I already have and learning new ones.

If I see an opportunity to learn something that will benefit my clients, I take it.
For example, although my role is to write a website, I have the background knowledge on how websites work and what they need to succeed.

Knowing your stuff means you can make effective suggestions and give valuable advice.

Be honest 

I tell the truth — even if it's difficult. 

Telling your client only what they want to hear does a disservice — to them and to you.

For example, I never guarantee the SEO copy I write will get my clients' websites to the top of Google. Because I can't guarantee it. And neither can anyone else.

Never over promise. Be honest about what you can do — and what you can't.

If something is wrong, tell the client it's wrong. And, more importantly, tell them why it's wrong.

If you're honest from the outset, you will both start your project on the same page, with the same goals and the same expectations.

Be supportive 

No two clients are the same. Each client has their own unique set of challenges and each needs a level of support that is tailored specifically for them.

I work collaboratively with my clients to establish a support system that works for them.

It might be regular face-to-face meetings, help with content ideas, branding advice or visual communications.

Also, I aim never to point out a problem without at least trying to offer a solution. 

Tailoring your service to meet your clients' specific needs delivers significant value.

Be generous with your time

I only charge my clients for the work they commission.

I give everything else away for free. 

This includes practical advice, creative ideas and strategic suggestions.

Some — though not all — of this opens doors to further projects and future business.

Making sure your clients are well looked after and getting good value for money is key to building lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.

Be respectful of your clients' time

I understand that my clients are busy people.

I'm always punctual. I respond quickly to emails and phone messages. I call when I say I will and I'm always on time for meetings.

If I'm writing content for a client, on a subject I know nothing about, I do my own research. I don't expect them to spend their time filling in all the blanks.

If I do have questions, I'm clear and specific. I ask exactly the right questions to get the answers I need first time.

If I have several questions, I type them as a numbered list with a line space inbetween them. This highlights each question and enables the client to answer each one by typing underneath it. It's quick, effective and painless.

Being respectful of your clients' time shows that you are capable, resourceful and easy to work with. It helps your clients to build trust and confidence in you.

Be reasonable 

The added value I offer is not something I charge for. Most of it is essentially good manners and common sense.

I keep my prices competitive and at a level that suits the clients who want to work with me — but I still charge a fair price for the work I do, that reflects the time, effort and skills involved.

Overinflated charges won't make you look more competent than your competitors.

Your charges should show that you understand your market and what potential clients would reasonably expect to pay.

Be worth it 

I stand by my conviction that cost shouldn't be the only consideration when hiring creatives.

There are plenty of content mills out there, with writers working at breakneck speed for a pittance. 

And plenty of writers touting ludicrously low hourly rates, working all hours and churning out one job after another.

Will they give their clients a full service with added support?

Probably not.

My clients can expect high quality, well researched, original copy — written exclusively for them and for their target market.

They can expect my personal attention, ideas and input whenever they need it.

And they can expect to feel important, respected and valued, which is exactly what they are.

How can I help you?

I am a creative copywriter, content writer and copy editor with the words you need to succeed.

To find out more about me and the services I offer, please visit my website.

If my approach appeals to you and you would like to discuss working with me on a project, please get in touch.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

What does GDPR mean for me and my customers?

This week I attended a Chamber of Commerce seminar about the forthcoming GDPR regulations. The presentation was informative and helped to debunk some of the misinformation and scaremongering currently surrounding GDPR.

I have used some of the notes I made during the seminar to compose this article and answer some common questions. I hope you find it helpful.

What is GDPR?
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. Its aim is to ensure the privacy of EU citizens and to protect their personal data from being abused or misused.

The regulations will seek to stamp out hacking by being more open and encouraging people to report data breaches and other problems.

There has been a lot of scaremongering about GDPR online, so it's important to be clear on where you stand and what you need to do.

If you hold personal data, from customers or employees, you must be GDPR compliant.

When will the regulations be introduced?

The regulations come into effect on May 25, 2018 and will affect all businesses and organisations to some degree.

The requirements of GDPR will not be affected by Brexit and will still stand after Britain leaves the European Union.

In preparation for the changes, you will need to make sure your business is compliant with both the existing Data Protection Act and the new GDPR regulations.

What personal data does GDPR cover?

Personal data includes things like:
  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Computer IP addresses
  • Photographs
  • CVs
  • Email addresses
  • Passports and driving licences
  • Medical records
  • Bank details

What data will I be allowed to collect?

GDPR will require that you have a valid reason for every piece of data you hold.

You can collect any information, but you must be able to explain exactly why you need and it and how you plan to use it. These reasons and intentions must be documented.

To keep things simple, don't keep any information you don't need.

Is there anything I need to make my customers aware of?

In preparation for GDPR you will need to update your data policies, including your privacy policy and your policies for data protection and data destruction.

The link to your privacy policy must be clearly visible and should ideally appear on every page of your website. If you have an app, your privacy policy should be accessible in no more than two clicks.

Your customers will have a right to know:

  • What information you are collecting about them and how you intend to use it
  • The software you will be using to process and manage their data

Will GDPR stop me from contacting my customers?

The Internet is rife with rumours that GDPR won't allow you to contact your customers. This is not the case, but the rules are changing.

The new rules will be different for B2B and B2C communications.

B2B communications 
Your existing business relationships can continue, but there will be limits on how long you can keep inactive business data.

You can contact business people you meet through networking events and trade shows, but you must give them an easy opt-out if they decide they don't want to continue receiving communications from you.

B2C communications
You will no longer be allowed to send B2C communications for marketing purposes just because you happen to have a customer's email address.

B2C customers must actively opt in to receiving communications from you.

They must be able to specify the kinds of communications they are happy to receive and how they want to receive them e.g. by post, email, phone or SMS.

Again, you must provide an easy opt-out. This should be a one-click unsubscribe and it should be immediate. Customers should not be required to send an email with 'Unsubscribe' in the subject line and they should not have to wait X number of days for the unsubscribe to take effect.

Best practice
If you are holding data for customers you haven't contacted in the last six months and don't intend to contact, it's probably best just to destroy it.

If you have a database of customers you contact regularly, you will need to reach out to them and ask them to re-opt in to receiving your communications.

It is recommended that you acquire consent tracking software so you have a clear record of who has consented to receiving communications and when they consented.

Remember to specify what communications they are opting into and ask them how they want those communications to be delivered e.g. email, SMS, phone call.

How long can I keep my customers' data?

Consent doesn't automatically last forever. So, you cannot keep your customers' data indefinitely — even if they have given their consent for you to contact them.

You will be allowed to store the data securely for a reasonable amount of time — in most cases, six months. At the end of the six-month period, if you wish to continue contacting the customer, you should ask them to re-opt in.

The reasonable time may be extended to 12 months in the case of annual renewals such as an insurance policy or vehicle MOT.

What other entitlements will GDPR give my customers?

At any time, customers can ask for full details of the information you hold on them. This is known as a Subject Access Request or SAR.

Under GDPR you must provide these details in full and free of charge within 30 days, unless you have a valid reason not to — for example, if you believe the request is fraudulent. You must report such cases to the ICO for them to handle.

The Right to Erasure will also give customers the right to have their held data erased from your records. 

Customers will have the right to sue any organisation that doesn't handle their personal data properly and securely. 

What should I do next?

If you haven't done so already, find out if you need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Not all organisations need to register, but you can check if yours does by visiting the ICO website:

The ICO will work with you to help make your business compliant. It also has an online guide which is regularly updated with helpful information.

You could also look for similar workshops and seminars to visit near you.

Where can I find more information?

Here are some links you may find useful.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

6 Ways your website could be costing you customers

A few years ago I wrote an post entitled Ten reasons why your website isn't working, which talks about the written and design elements of your website.

This post is a little more technical and deals with things going on under the bonnet of your site.

A website that is underperforming is still costing you money.

Your website should satisfy three main criteria.
  1. It should work well for your customers
  2. It should give you a decent return on your investment
  3. It should follow Google's guidelines
If you're dubious about number 3, you should bear in mind that Google accounts for 88% of the market. That's a lot of potential customers you could be losing if your website doesn't play ball.

So, here are six things you might want to look at to make sure your website is a winner.

1. Your website isn't responsive

Responsive websites are designed to improve the user experience for people accessing them on smartphones and tablets.

Content is customised to fit a variety of screen sizes and the website adapts intuitively to the screen size of the device being used to view it.

Websites are designed in this way because:

2. Your website takes too long to load

A website that is slow to load can make potential customers impatient, but that isn't the only reason to address the issue.

Search engines have what is known as a Crawl Budget. This describes how often and how deeply it crawls your website. Each crawl has a time limit.

Ideally you want the search engine to crawl your website often and to index as many pages as possible during each crawl. But if your top tier pages take a long time to load, this reduces the time the crawl will spend on the pages deeper in your site.

Again, Google gives preference to websites that load quickly.

You can check your website's loading speed at Google Page Speed Insights. The site will also give you some useful pointers on how you can speed it up.

3. The search engines are not crawling your site.

To improve your organic page rank, you need the search engines to crawl your site. Certain things, however, can prevent this.

Some of the things that block crawling include:

  • Forms requiring data entry
  • Some Java script e.g. infinite scrolling
  • Sites that are coded to stop crawling — for example if your site is being developed and has been uploaded during the testing and critique stage
  • Rich media, such as Flash
  • URLs that appear problematic or too similar
  • Orphan pages, which are not linked to from any other page of the site
To find out which pages of your site have been crawled and indexed, go to Google and type "site:" followed by your domain name into the search box and press enter.

For example

All of the indexed pages will be listed. If your website has a lot of pages — and you know how many pages there should be — you can get an idea from the number of results at the very top of the list.

If some pages are missing, check those pages using the above list. Make sure any missing pages have links to them on other pages.

If no pages appear, check with your web developer that the crawl blockers were removed from the coding when your site went live.

4. Your website security hasn't been upgraded.

Google actively favours sites that use secure http — aka https.

This URL opener was once reserved for pages where users are required to enter personal information or bank details. Now it is a requirement for every page of your site. 

Google Chrome will soon be marking standard http sites as insecure, which could cause a drop in your site traffic.

If your site has already been upgraded the URL for every page will begin with https.

If not, the upgrade is a simple procedure and can usually be done by your web developer or web hosting company. 

5. You don't have optimised page titles or meta descriptions

Your website's page title is one of the most important elements for effective search engine optimisation.

You can see it in the Google search — it's the top line in blue.

Alternatively, it's also the text that appears in the very top of your browser window or tab.

This text should be optimised with relevant keywords that people will use when they are searching for your site.

If it just says Home or the name of your business, then it hasn't been optimised properly.

The meta description is the two lines of black text underneath the page title.

Meta descriptions never used to factor in searches, and didn't need to be keyworded, but this all changed a few years ago. If your website copy has never been updated, they may not have been optimised.

Now when you perform a search, the terms you search for are emboldened in the meta description. If your website doesn't have designated meta descriptions — or if Google doesn't like the ones you do have — suitable text from your home page will be displayed instead.

6. Your website features duplicate content

Search engines favour website content that is unique and original. If they find a number of sites with the same content, they will choose the one that looks the most trustworthy and dismiss all the others.

So, if your content is too similar to what is already out there, you run the risk of not ranking in the search results.

You may have duplicate content on your site if:

  • You are using product descriptions as supplied by a manufacturer
  • You have republished an article or press release from another source
  • You have copied material directly from other websites
  • It contains widely used material, such as industry guidelines or standard documents
You can check for it by copying and pasting a small section from your website into the Google search bar and adding quotation marks (") before and after it.

To avoid any problems:
  • Hire a competent web copywriter to write original and optimised content
  • Avoid copying material from other websites
  • Include widely used materials — such as standard guidelines and documents or republished articles and press releases — as PDFs or JPEGs

Do you need effective, original content for your website or blog?

I am a freelance copywriter and content writer with experience of writing content for the web. All content is original, fully optimised and search engine friendly.

If you would like to discuss a project, please get in touch, I would love to hear from you.