So, there's no Bible for start-ups. Like, here are the six steps everyone takes and here is the gospel truth for how to begin, continue and succeed. Bummer. As someone who bobs and weaves my way in and out of start-ups on the reg, I can readily admit that one of the hardest parts of my job is *getting my bearings.*
(To be fair, I did write this).
I step into a start-up, get access to their Basecamp or Google Drive and am deluged by all of the things that they and thought were important. The variance in this has resulted in this blog.
Why are all of you so different? The things you think are important are so different it's mind. blowing. If I take the temp at the six month mark of most small brands, here's a sampling of what I see:
- Some brands have a complete brand guide, A-Z, of exactly who they are and what they want to say. And social profiles with no posts.
- Some brands have a painstakingly crafted mission and vision statement (I'm talking crafted outside a dehydration tent in AZ on their small business retreat kind of stuff). And no website.
- Some brands have bought followers and started posting frenetically (multiple times a day) on Instagram. And have no templated emails.
Get the drift? It's a mess out there, you guys. And, while I in no way claim divine authority, there is some structure I might suggest to you. In other words, let's set a baseline for the pieces of written text that you are going to need. Some of these you won't have thought of yet. But, I can tell you, writing reactively isn't the best option. Therein lie typos and grammatical nightmares which may not bother you but will give me hives when I login. If you get ahead of this and consider it part of your pre-launch strategy (or really get it done at any time), you'll be ready to roll.
In my world, we call assembling this copy a CONTENT SPRINT. It's the concentrated 3-5 weeks you spend focusing on all of this content. Then you try not to change it.
Write a Website
I am not patronizing you (keep telling yourself that). For real, you have to write a website guys. I've come into companies after they have been operating for YEARS (with an S) and they don't have a coherent website. These are the businesses who have customers. And what they think (in error) is that because they have customers, they don't need new ones. WRONG-O. That's like saying because you're fully staffed you will never need to hire again. If you don't stay proactive about hiring, someone will quit and you'll be screwed. If you don't stay proactive about getting new business, your business will die.
Histrionics aside, your business should have a website. You should have a few things on it:
- Company information (who you are, what you do)
- A way to procure email addresses (a form that is SET UP and goes to an email that somebody will check)
- SEO keywords and phrases (in headers, meta-descriptions and copy)
- Links to your other profiles online (probably social but maybe eComm sites)
Here's the thing you must remember, in case you keep putting this off: a website will start working and *keep working* for you. SEO is like planting a seed. You don't have to do much and it will keep growing. You may think no one will ever find or read your site but what if they do? Depending on your industry, each client could be a significant revenue stream for you. Don't underestimate the power of being found.
Write a website.
Write Templated Emails
I can't tell you how many clients write to me at 1am and are like, "the sales team is starting tomorrow - do we need a templated response and can you write one?" The answer is YES and YES. Here's the thing: if writing were so easy, anyone could do it. Sales skills and writing sales copy are two very different skills. They're the people people. We're the words people. It's risky to expect your sales team to be able to dialogue with clients (cold or warm) in a solid way. I would also suggest arming them with tons of other content, like an elevator pitch, but for now, make sure they at least have everything typed out. This includes:
- Welcome to the company emails for generic form-fills
- Cold sales emails
- Warm sales email follow-ups
- Freebie/offer emails
These are four absolutely vital emails to have ready to quickly customize and shoot off. While cold email leads are a long-shot, you're still going to try. If you —or your sales team— is going to try to create these from scratch every time, you are wasting a TON of time.
Write Company Information
Your business has basic components to it that include who you are and what you do. These should be written out in a coherent way. You will be SHOCKED at how often you need this information. To have it readily available, you need to craft a paragraph (3-4 sentences) that include who you are, why you're credentialed, what you offer and your desired outcome. An example would be:
I'm Joy Youell from Hire a Writer. I have helped hundreds of small businesses create a comprehensive content strategy that converts new leads. I get that growing a new brand is hard. I'm here to make it easier by expert tips and a helping hand that result in a powerful presence and profit for your company.
Me. On LinkedIn.
That could be edited to third person, lengthened, shortened and posted in a variety of places. For instance, my LinkedIn profile (yes, it's there). Here's the thing: every new hire you make has a labyrinth of social profiles and opportunities to represent your brand (whether you ask them to or not). You need brand info readily available for them to cut and paste. Unless you want every new employee to speak on your behalf, it's best to have templated materials that put you in the best light.
This kind of content will have a million different uses, though. As you grow, you'll use it for:
- PR outreach
- Blog descriptions
- Company snippets
- Podcast visits
- Webinar appearances
The more you have your act together here, the better you'll look.
Write company information.
Write Social Copy
This is a giant subject that requires better treatment than a paragraph in this blog. Suffice it to say, you need to write social copy. It's SO easy to think that you're going to grow your brand on social by logging in every day and saying something that's on your mind. But it just doesn't work that way. Social platforms require a price for giving you, as a business, access to all of their invasive user analytics.
If you're going to benefit by knowing that the thirty year old moms in your area all work out at Burn Boot Camp, drink whey smoothies and buy organic cotton, Facebook and Instagram will make you werk (W-E-R-K). You get that insight by engaging on these platforms regularly and according to best practices. This includes using (shudder) emojis and hashtag banks. You have to plan this stuff out. Posting spontaneously will get you nowhere. You need creative, engaging social post copy.
This may sound a little suspect coming from me, but *even in Instagram,* the game isn't all about the image. The caption matters. Matters mightily. And you need to write it in advance. It will take more time than you think.
Write social posts.
Write Business Copy
So, those are the four main areas of business copy you need to get on with. Schedule it. Plan for it. Ignore your kids for a weekend and do it. It will make all of the difference when you get into the run and realize you're not playing catch-up. You're welcome.