LinkedIn profiles: first or third person?

I vote for both and here’s why.

Online marketing professionals typically have an opinion on how to write LinkedIn profiles. Many of them promote the use of first person. They argue that first person is more friendly and inviting. I don’t disagree with that notion, however, there are intervening variables. Like search engine results, for example. It’s kind of a big deal since for the time being, Google is likely to pick up your LinkedIn profile on page one of a search for your name, or your company name.

LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn profile summaries are more search friendly in third person

Will Google easily recognize and display your information when it says, “I am a blah, blah, blah?” Who is “I?” Well, “I” is everyone on the planet. It’s more beneficial to write something like, “Mary Johnson is the founder of XYZ accounting and consulting firm and responsible for the day-to-day performance of more than fifty dedicated employees. Mary Johnson leads the company’s management team and is responsible for planning, operations and the company’s overall financial success.”

Why the third person and full name? According to Copyblogger, Google zeroes in on your LinkedIn profile summary. Using your first name in your summary allows Google to pick up “Mary Johnson is…” as not “I am the…” Makes sense doesn’t it!

The summary is the first big block of copy about you after your name, photo and job title. Then comes the listing of your past positions and education. Here’s the place to change it to first person. It reads more friendly and personal, and we’re not so concerned with Google displaying statements from these sections. And frankly, it feels more natural to write about ourselves in first person.

Bottom line? Write your summary in third person, and everything else in first person. You’ll get better Google search results while still conveying a more personal tone in the rest of your LinkedIn profile.

How to craft a winning content marketing plan

Content Marketing PlanDo you want to be a successful business content marketer? The excitement and potential of creating content that builds your reputation as a thought leader often gets in the way of doing the simple stuff first. Like planning. Content editorial planning to be specific.

Unfortunately, you might start out with two or three great blog topic ideas, and then, you’re stuck. You got nothing. No new topic ideas, and your commitment to regular blog posts means there are deadlines. If you had only taken a bit of time up front to plan your content. Well, it’s not too late, and you’ll be glad you did.

As a professional service or small business person, you don’t want to spend loads of time planning. However, a little time and thoughtfulness can allow you to create a simple, actionable content plan. Let’s review the essential elements of a content marketing plan.

Business objectives

Business objectives are two-fold: financial and marketing. It’s the same for any business plan. Financial objectives include quantitative goals, like “achieve a 12% growth in revenues,” or “increase revenue by $100,000” or “gain 20 warm leads.” The time frame might be monthly, quarterly or annually, and the time frame must be included in order to measure results.

Marketing objectives help you achieve your financial objectives. They might include: [Read more…]

Thinking responsively: responsive web design that is

Responsive web design - Strategic Compliance, Inc.

Responsive web design adjusts elegantly to fit on desktop, tablet and smartphone browsers

Responsive Web Design

This year I’ve built new websites for clients on responsive design platforms. Mobile responsive design has been talked about for a few years, but I think it’s really become a must in the last couple of years. And it’s much easier to accomplish today with responsive design platforms, like most of the StudioPress WordPress themes.

If responsive web design is a somewhat unfamiliar, no worries. Responsive web design is a website design that adjusts elegantly to fit on desktop, tablet and smartphone browsers. No longer will people get essentially the same website view as a desktop – only scrunched to fit the smaller space. Instead, the responsive technology adjusts the website content to  the particular device. Searchers and visitors can easily see and navigate the available content.

Strategic Compliance, Inc.

The website displayed here is for Strategic Compliance, Inc., a “boutique, human resources consultancy offering critical wage and hour compliance solutions. Owner Alfonso Zarate created the business to leverage his past experience as a Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Department (WHD) investigator. He seeks to bridge the gap between legal compliance issues and everyday human resource issues, and help employers better relate to employees from different cultures or who speak different languages.

Alfonso’s experience as a WHD Investigator helps his clients defend themselves against WHD investigations, saving them time, money and headaches. He is proficient in reading, writing and speaking to/from English/Spanish. During his time as a WHD Investigator, Alfonso received the prestigious Secretary of Labor Exceptional Achievement Award on three occasions.

Lofstrom + Company professionals developed the firm’s branding, including the logo and tagline, and built the website content and design from the ground up. We chose the “Executive Pro” theme from StudioPress, which allowed us to have mobile responsive design with very few alterations to underlying code.

Online Reputation Management

SERPS matter when your reputation is online and “on the line”

Reputation Management Graphic

A company’s reputation can get disheveled with a single bad comment on directory or review website

People are talking about you and your organization online. They’re talking about you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and perhaps even Yelp. You can find out by “Googling yourself” or your business. The search engine result pages (SERPs) from Google, Bing, Yahoo and others will tell the story. What shows up on the first page? Hopefully your personal or business website, or your blogs are right up there toward the top. Your social media presence is usually good, too, like your LinkedIn profile or your YouTube account.

Unfortunately, that first, or second, page might display a negative review of your business, or perhaps your name and/or photo is displayed because someone shared a less than flattering photo with you in it. Maybe you said something that was captured in an article or on video that you didn’t intend to be for public consumption. None of us are exempt from making mistakes, or being criticized – whether it’s fair or not. It happens all the time and today it can be oh so easily captured on the Internet.

How to mediate online reputation mishaps

Since we agree, “stuff happens on the Net,” what do we do about online reputation mishaps? You could hire a service if it makes economic sense and you desire third party expertise. If you’re like me, you want to be more hands on with such an important matter. And not everyone can afford an online reputation management service. Let’s take a look at the ways you can do most online reputation management yourself.

Monitor your search results daily for negative reputation posts

Set up free “Google Alerts” notices for keywords like, “your business name,” “your full name,” and perhaps common misspellings of those terms. You should also monitor your competitors using Google Alerts. Besides reputation monitoring, you might gain good competitive insights on your competitors. Consider using a paid alert notice, if you don’t feel the free Google Alerts feature is satisfactory. Monitoring is the most important step in the process of online reputation management. If you want a positive and clean online reputation, you must monitor.

Claim or take ownership of our local listings

Like it or not, there are numerous directory and/or review sites on the Internet. You probably have at least a basic listing on many of them. They’ll include your business name, industry or category, address, phone, website, etc. The information might even be correct, but you never know until you take a look. You should claim some of these directory/review profiles. Claiming simply means signing on the directory/review site as the owner of the business. It’s usually free and allows you to include current information about your business and upload an image, such as your logo.
Review sites may have additional features, such as display advertising, that are revenue producers for the site. You are not obliged to buy those add-ons, and they may or may not be worthwhile for your business. Most directory/review sites offer free statistics on visits to your profile, and a way to respond to negative comments. On a site like Yelp, be thoughtful when responding to negative comments. Consider responding “publicly,” “privately,” or not at all. Quite often, my best advice to clients is not to respond – the risks often outweigh the potential rewards. There are a number of directory/review sites. Some of the more important ones are Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yellow Pages and Angie’s List. Of course, you’ll want to monitor them, which is relatively easy to do once you claim your profile.

Encourage positive customer reviews on popular local business directories

With the proliferation of business review sites on the Internet it’s become paramount for businesses of any size and type to have a thoughtful strategy to encourage positive Internet reviews and manage their Internet reputation. Reviews tend to get high placement on SERPS. Here are few ideas that can be tailored to your business and comfort zone:

  • Call or send personal message to customers you believe will give positive online reviews for you and your business. Ask them to join the review site and say something positive about you or your business.
  • Invite people who “like you” on Facebook, link with you on LinkedIn, etc. to make positive comments on one or more review sites.
  • Invite customers to respond to an electronic survey (like Survey Monkey) and ask positive reviewers if they’ll post a favorable comment on a review site.
  • Put a link (and words of encouragement) on your website to review sites. Make it easy for people to click and get to your profile on Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local, etc.
  • After delivering stellar service or making a transaction sale, personally ask the client if they’ll post a favorable comment on a review site. The worst they can say is “No.”
Health club reaches out image

This health club reached out to happy members on Facebook, requesting them to post positive comments on Yelp

Add and share appealing content

This is my personal favorite – maybe because I enjoy creating content. Add news/blog posts at least monthly. Continue to add/share content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media outposts. If you cannot get a negative comment removed from a review site, like Yelp or Yahoo Local, then it will probably continue to be indexed on SERPS (i.e., show up on searches for your company name or personal name). The best way to mitigate those negative comments just happens to be the best way to market your business on the Internet. Proactively publish content that is interesting and useful to your audiences. “How to” articles, white papers, interesting anecdotes, etc. are all great things to share. Some people like to curate relevant content by finding remarkable content from around the web and share it in their blog or via an email newsletter, like MailChimp. Success means pushing any negative comments down from the top of SERPs (off of Google’s page one).

Diversify your online presence

I most often recommend that people and businesses only have the number of social media outposts they can reasonably manage. However, additional social media outposts can further add to your online footprint and help push any negative search results down the page. Consider adding other social media, such as Twitter, Slideshare, Quora, Pinterest, Flickr, etc. Some experts say to create “personal hubs” that link to your social media profiles in order to further diversify. “About me” and “BrandYourself” are noteworthy providers, both with free versions of their product. You could also create a free blog, using your full name as the domain name. WordPress and Blogger are popular and free blogging platforms.

Send out press releases to electronic media

Distributing electronic press releases offer a low cost and easy way to obtain publicity, website traffic and reputation management in an “all in one” online package. Search-optimized press releases can rank highly in Google, Bing and Yahoo searches for pertinent keyword searches, giving your organization another opportunity to own a top Google slot. Your press releases should incorporate keywords relating to your business and can be distributed to local publishers as well as online newswire services. Topics can include:

  • Industry-related trends
  • Problem/solution case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Availability of white papers or “point of view” articles
  • “How to” guides

After distributing your press releases, be sure to further leverage them by bookmarking them on, Digg, Technorati, StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking websites. Mention them on your other social media outposts, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to boost your search engine reputation management effort.
It’s very important to actively own or at least influence top Internet search results because it’s rather difficult to push down negative content once it’s indexed. The good news is that the steps you take are also good SEO practices in general.

(I help people and businesses with online and traditional marketing communication services. I’m particularly experienced at serving financial service, professional service and small businesses. Contact me for more information.)

Content Writing: 500-Word Content Posts for as Low as $325

Yes, really, you can hire me, an experienced content writer, to write your news or blog posts of 500 words or less for a little as $325 per post. The offer is for clients willing to commit to a six-month (up to one year maximum)

Hand waving a help sign image

Need help with your online content?

agreement where we add 2 posts per month. I will take the topics you provide, get your viewpoint on the respective topics, research and write the post. One edit is included after the first draft is presented.

Unless you prefer otherwise, I will insert the post into your content management system’s posting system and do basic SEO tweaking, such as completing the title, post summary and keyword fields. Provided images can be added a small additional cost.

Who can benefit from this special offer for content writing services?

Blogging or posting news items on a regular basis is vital to succeeding in the online, or inbound, marketing game. Organizations that can benefit by retaining Lofstrom + Company services, includes:

  • Organizations already committed to inbound marketing that seek external, professional writing services,
  • Organizations that are not yet fully engaged in online marketing, but want to put together a quality inbound marketing effort,
  • Organizations that know they should have an online marketing initiative and want some help with startup and content writing.

Additional online marketing services available

Depending on your present level on online marketing sophistication, you may benefit from additional online marketing services. Although excluded from the special copywriting offer, they can be packaged and priced if you so desire. Such services might include:

  • Editorial planning. I can help you create an editorial plan and create a calendar with planned post topics and “send dates.”
  • Keywords. Keyword tools can help online marketers find specific words and phrases that are most relevant to your searchers and search engines. I can help you create relevant list of SEO-friendly keywords for your organization.
  • Image Sourcing. Images are great for posts, but they’re not always easy to source. I can help you acquire low-cost, royalty-free, stock photos, manipulate the images in Photoshop (if needed) and place photos within your posts.
  • Social media outposts. It’s important to use your social media outposts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to share new content on your website. I can insert snippets of copy and images so your social media community will be alerted to your website’s new posts.
  • Analytics. Digital marketing has given us loads of data, but what does it all mean? I can help you turn your Google Analytics data into actionable information.

Let’s get started!

Does this sound like a good deal to you? I think it’s an incredible offer to have your blog and news posts written by a skilled and experienced content writer. Please don’t hesitate, contact me, and we’ll get started .

PS: Do you want to see samples? Contact me and I will email you a few samples. Let me know the type of topics you’re most interested.

Content Marketing Tips for 2013

To start the new year, I combed the Internet for content marketing tips and trends. The folks at Social Media Examiner have a great list (26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know) for those of us interested Tips Jar Imagein online marketing. My favorites in this list include:

  • #4 Website/blog Design Elements. Simple ways to make sure your website/blog has a smart, professional design.
  • #6 Text formatting. This one gives sage tips on formatting the body text of blog posts.
  •  #9 Images in Posts. Suitable and properly placed images enhance your blog posts and improve SEO.
  • #13 Mobile Friendly. A reminder that mobile reading/viewing of Internet content is an avalanche rolling your way – be sure your web content is mobile friendly.
  • #18 Reputation Matters. Negative online posts about you or your company can be devastating. You must be aware of your reputation and defend it.
  • #25 YouTube Video. Add a YouTube account and video posts to your website for those who enjoy video and, of course, boost your search engine “findability” factor.

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have a good list to share? Let me know!

How fancy is your firm’s capabilities brochure?

Just when I thought nobody wanted a firm brochure anymore, I get a call from an upstart accounting firm. The sole proprietor had already created a “do it yourself” website, and she also wanted to have a printed brochure to provide clients and prospects.

capabilities brochure

Print brochure samples courtesy of Kelly Palmer

The capabilities brochure banter

“What kind of capabilities brochure options do you have?” she asked.

“What kind of information do you want to disseminate, and who is your target audience?” I asked.

The usual answers came forth,

“Something about me and my background, a description of my services, my contact information and I really want it to sell them on me. My prospective accounting clients are small businesses and individuals with fairly complex tax filing needs.”

“Don’t you have a listing of options from me to pick and choose from, you know like the way I did in choosing the level of website I just acquired online?” she asks.

“Well, no I don’t offer a canned brochure product. I try to make each brochure unique to the client.” I replied.

And frankly, between you and me, it seems everyone is the best at what they do, or at least they think so. It can be a real challenge to write something about a person or firm that makes them truly stand out. Isn’t everybody client-centric, skilled beyond human limitations, etc.?

So, you write good copy that flows well and tells their story as best as it can be told; and by teaming with competent art directors we can make a brochure stand out as coming from a professional, quality-minded professional service firm.

The request for a list of canned options did get me thinking, especially since the CPA firm owner did not have much in the way of budget. So, I offered her a brochure option using the “good, better, best” analogy. Here’s the basic description of each:

Good, better and best capabilities brochure options

  • Good Brochure: a simple sheet of 8.5 X 11 or 11 X 14 (legal size) that is ultimately machine-folded in order to fit into a number #10 envelope or perhaps a desktop brochure holder. Most businesses today go with color, versus one-color or two-color that might be a bit more economical to print.
  • Better Brochure: a presentation brochure/folder (approximately 9 X 12 when folded) that includes copy on a stapled insert (usually 8.5 X 11), and may have a pocket for additional materials, plus a slit for a business card. Printed on heavy 15PT card stock and 100# Gloss Cover, giving it durability and a higher level of impressiveness, versus the “good” approach.
  • Best Brochure: an “image” brochure is a capabilities brochure on steroids. It might be a unique size and shape, and with a unique paper stock. It might have “see-through” tissue paper when you open the first page. It might have a folder pocket. It can be a bit costly, but if one wants to impress, the image brochure will do the job.

My capabilities brochure recommendation

As a startup accounting firm, she was in the early stages of building her solo, professional reputation and client base. She offered accounting and financial services to individuals and businesses, as well as tax services and QuickBooks services/training.

If your accounting doesn’t have much money, then the good brochure may be your only option to get a professional quality capabilities brochure, written by a skilled copywriter and designed by a proficient graphic designer. It was just right for her startup accounting firm for now, and she can step up to a higher quality level as she grows her accounting practice.

However, if you really want to stand out, and you have a reasonable budget, you should consider the “better brochure” or the “best brochure.” They have size, which makes an impression. Think of how you get your mail. If you get a letter in a #10 envelope and another in a 9 x 12 envelope, which do you open first? Hands down, I bet it’s the larger envelope because it grabs your attention. It’s perceived as more important, even if the smaller envelope holds a check for you.

It’s good to know that even though I’ve jumped headfirst into online marketing, content marketing, inbound marketing, or whatever handle you might use, there are many people and businesses who still value the qualities of printed marketing collateral. This begs the question, do you have a firm brochure, and how would you describe it?

Note: read more about marketing brochures.

WordCamp Kansas City 2012

WordPress is a great content management system for financial service companies, professional service organizations, small businesses and nonprofits, and I attended WordCamp KC to learn more about it.

I attended the June 1-3 WordCamp Kansas City and it was very helpful. We had some of the

WordPress' WordCamp Kansas City panel discusses security, plugins and more

most notable and well-known users in the WordPress community, including developers, designers, and publishers. There were 3 tracks: designer, developer and publisher. I skipped around a bit as I’m a “wanna be designer,” in a writer’s body. And I am one of those people who wants to know what makes things tick, so development interests up to the point they start talking in-depth about coding (yawn!). Anyway a shout out to those who put it together, the great venue (Office Port) in Crossroads area of downtown Kansas City and a solid learning event.

Professional service firms grow faster with online marketing

Online, or digital, marketing delivers faster growth and higher profits for professional service firms. That’s according to Hinge Research Institute and their findings from an online survey of 500 professional service firms.  Their findings include:

Online marketing by professional service firms increases their profitability

Greater online lead generation leads to greater total profitability. The survey found that firms generating more than 60% of new business leads via online marketing are two times more profitable than those generating less than 20% of new business leads online.

Online marketing is widespread and poised for growth

  • The survey found that more than 77% of firms generate at least some new business leads online.
  • 46% of firms have redesigned their website within the past year.
  • About 66% of firms plan to increase online spending in the next 12 months. The average anticipated increase is 56%.

Hinge asks, “Why is it that firms that generate a higher percentage of online leads are more profitable?” Their data was inconclusive, but they suggest that is could be due to online marketing being less costly than traditional marketing over the long term. Once a firm is getting good results in searches, the incremental costs decrease.

To add my two cents, I think another factor is that when a prospect chooses to interact with your firm it is “sold on your ability to deliver the goods,” so to speak. They are comfortable and confident in your firm, to a relatively high extent and less sensitive about the fees. Furthermore they probably have reached a pain point where they are ready to act in obtaining a solution for the challenge.

 Online recruiting is also widespread

• 55% of firms recruit employees online.

• About 1 in 4 firms attract 40% or more new hires online.

Personally, I’ve noticed how the career section on websites has expanded and how some of the larger professional service firms have put together video shows discussing their firm’s culture and the benefits of being an employee. I’ve also seen an explosion in job ads on LinkedIn. And many of them specifically state they only want responses from principals, no agencies.

Professional service firms have untapped online marketing potential

Traditional marketing techniques at professional service firms are giving way to online marketing and inbound marketing strategies as buyers of professional services change their habits.

Hinge Research Institute released its 2011 examination of the current state and untapped potential of online marketing in professional services firms. Here are few of their findings.

Results demonstrate that professional service firms embracing online marketing grow faster:

  • Firms generating 40% or more of their leads online grow 4 times faster than those with no online leads
  • High-growth firms obtain 63% of leads online while average firms obtain 12%
  • Greater engagement with online tools is associated with faster growth

Using online marketing also increases professional service firm profitability:

  • The greater a firm’s online lead generation, the greater its total profitability.
  • Firms generating 60% or more of their leads online are 2X more profitable than those generating less than 20% of their leads online.

My take

I belong to several LinkedIn groups, including those focused on professional service firms, such as Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) and Social Media Marketing for Financial Services. There is definitely a growing interest and involvement in online marketing. There is also a lot of confusion about what it is, and how it works. Oddly, I observe a number of professional service firms updating their websites, but omitting the blogging component.

The blogging component, in my opinion and in the opinion of many well-known online experts, is that the website’s blog is the most important part of an inbound marketing effort. Indeed, the Hinge report shows that high growth professional service firms find blogging to be their most important tool, followed closely by search engine optimization (SEO). Of course, blogging and SEO go hand-in-hand.

Read or download the full report, “Online Marketing for Professional Services Firms,  How Digital Marketing Delivers Faster Growth and Higher Profits” at Hinge Research Institute.