Smart Words by Sarah
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Category Archives for Audience Engagement

Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, James Brown, and…Content Marketing?

Here’s why your small business should be blogging and producing other content—and how to make sure your content is effective.

Speaking of noise on the internet, everywhere you turn someone has an opinion about how you should market your business. But all across the web, internet marketers agree:

Like Elvis, Michael Jackson, and James Brown, content is king.

There’s never been a better time for content. Blog posts, guest posts, online articles, white papers, and e-books are a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle. Here’s why content is so important:

  1. Google is constantly getting smarter. Every time you turn around they’ve got a new update. But that’s not a problem for savvy businesses that truly deliver value in their content. That’s because Google is getting better and better at finding the good stuff–the articles and posts people want to read. It’s also getting better at filtering out the bad stuff.
  2. Consumers are changing the way they interact with brands. No longer are they content to sit in front of a TV and be yelled at by a cartoon. Today’s consumers (and especially today’s parents) make decisions based on value, trust, and the connection they feel to a brand. Good content can meet all of these demands.
  3. Content marketing gives you a high return on investment. Unlike ads, you don’t have to pay every time someone reads your content. Evergreen articles (those you can use forever) that engage your customers, demonstrate your authority, and make a connection with your audience will pay for themselves several times over.

Successful internet marketing revolves around content.

Just for fun, here are a few more reasons why content is like Elvis, Michael Jackson, and James Brown:

  1. Content often takes the spotlight, but it can’t be successful on its own. The kings of rock and roll, pop, and soul all had powerful support networks. Content gets its support from brand voice, sales copy, and offers.
  2. Content can be kind of a diva. It doesn’t give you a list of demands before every concert, but if you want it to do its job, you have to treat it right
  3. The really, really good content plays to its audience and gets incredibly popular.

It’s only part of the big picture, and it may change over time, but it will always be king.

So how do you write content worthy of the crown?

Ok. Here it is. (Cue the fanfare.) Here’s what you need to know to create blog posts and other content that will bring customers to your business.

  1. Know who you’re talking to. Are they parents who are currently using your service? Former customers? People you’ve talked to before but who haven’t signed up? What you write will depend on how aware the audience is of their problem and how aware they are of your solution. The tone you write in will depend on what your audience wants to hear.
  2. Write a curiosity-evoking headline. Curiosity is so powerful. Put up a headline that is relevant to the topic and makes your readers want to read on.
  3. Tell a story. Weaving a story into your content will help it stick with the reader. Now, a story isn’t always a must, but it can be quite powerful. Thinking about a basic story framework (complete with a main character, a setting, a problem, a solution, and a change in the main character) will help you craft interesting, compelling content.
  4. Above all, deliver value. Does your audience want inspiration? Tips and tricks related to your service? The solution to a specific problem? Entertainment? The more value you can deliver, the better.
  5. Understand that putting up a few blog posts won’t bring you a slew of new customers. Sure, you may get some organic search traffic (that’s people who come across your content by using a search engine), but for the most part, your content will go unread without additional support. Still, content is king because it’s so important to the overall picture.

Creating content is worth it if you’re marketing online. This is true even if you’re a local, brick-and-mortar business. It can be the difference between “I think I saw an ad for them once” and “Oh, yeah, that place! They really know their stuff!”

P.S. If you’re ready to create content worthy of the crown, I’m here to help. You can see my full service menu, including specials, and email me at to reserve my time. Not sure where to start? Schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Call. We’ll see if your business and mine are a good fit for working together, and you’ll come away with a list of recommendations you can start implementing right away.

Is your “About Us” page helping or hurting you?

In another post, I told you about five simple things to check on your website to make sure people take the time to get to know you. Now that you’ve checked those things and fixed up your site, let’s look at some other ways to get your customers’ attention.

Today let’s look at your “about us” page.

I’ll call it a page to keep it simple, but keep in mind that you can have a separate “about us” page or a brief section on your home page.

Here’s what to check:

  • Does your “about us” page show your brand’s personality?
  • Is it written in your brand’s voice? (Do you have a brand voice?)
  • Does it have a real photo of you or your staff? (Remember that people buy from people.)
  • Does it tell a story? Your brand’s origin story could be the key to building a real relationship with your potential customers. If you don’t think your origin story is interesting, think again! You can tell it in a compelling way to show that you are passionate about your work and your customers.

I hope you’ll take a few moments today to make sure your “about us” page is on point. When a potential customer is exploring your site, your “about us” story can add to their trust in your business.

Your partner in growth,

P.S. I offer discounted services to new clients with my new-client specials. Schedule a free Discovery Call at and I’ll help you choose the best place to start.

Getting Yelp reviews (and responding to negative ones)

Here’s what small-business owners need to know about getting Yelp reviews and responding to negative Yelp reviews.

Hopefully you’ve already claimed your business account on Yelp. If not, go do it now. Please. I’ll wait.


In 2018, you cannot ignore Yelp. Often, your prospects will check you out on Yelp and make their decision before they contact you. It’s absolutely critical to look your best on Yelp and other popular review platforms.

Getting reviews

First, you need to know that most review sites forbid the practice of asking for reviews. Yelp is serious about this. If you want to keep your position in Yelp’s search, you can’t ask your customers for reviews or incentivize reviews in any way.

If you’re currently giving anything away in exchange for reviews—or even directly asking people to post reviews on third-party websites—you may want to have a look at the fine print on Yelp and the other review sites you use.

Here are ways to encourage reviews without asking for them directly:

  1. Put the stickers review sites send you up in your window. (Request your Yelp sticker here.)
  2. Let people know you’re on Yelp, Google, and other review sites. You can tell them you’re there without asking for reviews.
  3. Put links to your review-site profiles on your homepage. Yelp has an embed feature, which makes it easy to share reviews to your website. (Details here.) Or you can use the site’s logos, but be sure to follow their branding rules. (You can get Yelp images and see their requirements here.)
  4. Respond to all genuine reviews, good and bad. Responding in a professional, friendly way to every (or almost every) review shows that you care about your customers’ experience, and your customers will be more likely to leave reviews when they others doing so.

Responding to negative Yelp reviews:

  1. In responding to negative Yelp reviews, stay cool. First, determine whether the review is in violation of Yelp’s content guidelines or review guidelines. If so, contact Yelp directly and ask them to remove the review. Let them know which guidelines the review violates.
  2. If you receive a genuine negative review, use Yelp’s direct messaging system or contact the reviewer personally to try to resolve the situation. Provide a tangible solution (like a free class so they can try your service again) and ask them to consider removing or updating their review if they think the solution is acceptable. Let them know that they’ll be unable to remove their review on the mobile app but will be able to do it from a computer by going to “about me” and then “reviews.”
  3. Consider a public reply in responding to negative Yelp reviews. Show sympathy, state the facts, and calmly explain the situation. Offer to work with the customer via email or phone to resolve their issue. If you do it right, a public reply to negative reviews can make you look good to potential customers.

Now that you’re set up on Yelp and armed with this knowledge, you can use it as a tool to gain the trust of your current and future customers.

Go forth and crush it.

Your Partner in Growth,


P.S. Please do not pay someone to manage your Yelp profile! This is truly unnecessary. If you’re paying someone to do this, end your contract now. It’s really something you can do yourself, and it takes very little time.

P.P.S. Have you tried a new-client special? Choose from the list and email me at to get started. Don’t know where to begin? I’ll help you choose! Schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Call so we can chat about growing your business through content and copy.

New-client specials—Choose as many as you like for $97 each (normally $125). Limit one of each type per client.

  • $97 Website usability audit–I’ll look through your site and give you a full report on user experience, content, and copy. You’ll get at least five ways to improve your website.
  • $97 Email–This can be any email you like. I recommend something you’ll get a lot of mileage from, like a welcome email or a sales letter that you can send to your email list.
  • $97 Blog topic list–I’ll create a list of 20 blog posts that will be of interest to your audience, demonstrate your authority, and build trust. This includes attention-grabbing headlines.
  • Other new-client services are available. Email me at for details about a landing page, a survey, a Facebook ad, or a writing analysis.

5 ways to get your site visitors’ attention

I’m fairly certain I was one of the first people to order pizza online. Sadly, I didn’t get my pizza.

Here’s how it went down:

It was late 1999 or early 2000, and I was living in an apartment just off my university’s campus. I’d gone over to my boyfriend’s place. He had just gotten a DSL line to share with his three roommates, and we were marveling at the speed (and the fact that you could use the phone and the internet at the same time—mindblowing).

I’d read somewhere that one could visit and order pizza online. So we tried it.

Two hours later, our stomachs were growling and we were getting grouchy. We called the pizza restaurant and found out that they had received the wrong address and the wrong phone number from
Internet fail.

(If you’re curious, you can see what looked like in 1999 here.)

Fast forward to 2018. My boyfriend is now my husband, and we use the internet a gazillion times a day to look for whatever we need. Sometimes we even order food and receive it like it’s no big thing.

Usually, we get the information we need within seconds. That’s the standard today. It’s what everyone is used to.

It’s what your potential customers demand.

So, when parents visit your website, can they get what they need within seconds? Or are they bouncing off your page like basketballs on a backboard?

Here are five ways to make sure your visitors don’t bounce away:
Do you have a picture of real people? This could be an image of you, your staff, or your customers in action. People buy from people, and the more real the image the better. Don’t worry if you’re not a super model. Very few of us are. Including an image of you or a real-life shot of your business in action will help to build trust.

Do you have a clear call to action? If parents don’t know what you want them to do, you may lose them. Try to make your visitors’ next steps as easy and as obvious as possible, and place your call to action above the fold (that means putting it in a place they can see without scrolling down).

Do you have social proof? Today’s parents love reviews and peer recommendations. Include a few quotes from happy customers.

Can your customers find what they’re looking for? Chances are your site visitors want your location, phone number, e-mail address, and hours. Are they easy to see on your home page?

Can visitors tell what you are selling within a few seconds? They should be able to tell immediately whether your business is what they’re looking for. If they can’t tell right away, they probably won’t spend time and effort to figure it out.

Go ahead and check these five things on your home page. Making a few adjustments could keep your visitors on your site long enough for them to see who you are, what you do, and why you’re the best choice for them. Having a well-functioning site will also show them that you’re a true professional.
When you’re done, you might want to celebrate by ordering a pizza. Just don’t use the 1999 version of

Your partner in growth,

P.S. If you want more help fixing up your website, I offer a website usability and copy audit for $97. Just e-mail me at and let me know you’d like me to take a look at your site this week. I’ll give you at least five specific ways to improve your site so visitors will stick around and accept your call to action. I’ll also tell you whether your copy is on point and how you can make it better.

What a kids’ hairstylist can teach us about business.

Recently I took my son to get his hair cut at a place we hadn’t visited before. His usual place wasn’t open, and he needed a haircut ASAP.   

One of the stylists, Jessica, led us to her chair and got him set up. That’s when I took my position. My boy is five, which means he doesn’t sit still. Ever. So every time, I go prepared to hold him down. He doesn’t mind; he just needs help sitting still so he doesn’t get his ear cut off. So I hovered nearby, ready to jump in. 

But this time was different. Jessica got to work, talking to him the whole time. It turned out she didn’t need me to hold him still. The lady knew what she was doing, and she could do it despite all his little-kid wiggles and wriggles. The whole time, she was talking to him and to me. She didn’t just pick one. And she could handle it all at the same time: chatting with me about my son, chatting with my son about giraffes, and giving him a perfect haircut—without my having to hold him down. 

We will be back, and we will ask for Jessica. 

Friends, this talented lady is a prime example of how to do everything right with both kids and parents. 

So I wondered why the place was empty. Why wasn’t every kid in town on Jessica’s waiting list?

Probably because nobody knows she’s so good with kids. All I got from the salon’s website was their location, hours, and some generic photos of people with amazing hair. Good info, but not enough to build trust. 

A few simple ways this local business could get more families through their doors:

1. Ask for referrals (and provide a referral bonus). I’d love to tell my neighbors with kids about our experience. A small discount for me and the people I refer would sweeten the deal. 

2. Engage with local parents online (and include a healthy dose of personality). Some videos or anecdotes from their kid-friendly stylists would go a long way in building the brand’s story and encouraging parents to drop in. Customer stories would increase the appeal. 

Being in the business you’re in, you’re probably a relationship-building service master like Jessica. You may have employees who are masters, too. If so, your business should be booked solid. With a waiting list. 

But if you don’t have enough new customers coming in, it may be because people don’t know about you (or don’t know enough about you to call). They need to see your personality and expertise. They need you to show them that you’re relationship material. 

I can help you take the first steps. If you’re ready to get started reaching new customers through blogging or e-mails, all you have to do is book a free 30-minute Discovery Call.  I’ll listen to your needs, and we’ll see if we can work together to bring you more customers.