Elayne Whitfield, BA, MVA ~ VA Industry ExpertSubscribe Now

Writing to Communicate VS. Writing to Sell

writing imageEvery successful business owner will have to write, or hire someone to write, at some point in time to promote their business. It’s important to recognize what type of writing will need to be performed in order to communicate your message effectively. Ask yourself the question; am I writing to communicate or am I writing to sell? Yes, there is a difference!

Writing to Communicate

When writing to communicate what you’re really doing is writing to share information. This could be with a current customer or it could be with a potential customer. Think blogs, white paper, advertorials, eBooks, eReports and other platforms that allow you to share important information about you as a business owner or your business. When writing to communicate your goal should be to teach, inform, engage and inspire. It is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge while providing value and if done correctly you will open the channels of communication with customers and potential customers.

Writing to Sell

Writing to sell is different and often referred to as copywriting. When writing to sell your focus is usually on your sales pages, sales emails, direct mail, websites and brochures. In this case you are writing to tell people exactly what it is you do, how you do it and why it will help them. You will use emotional trigger words that leads the readers to a conversion.

Content Marketing

In content marketing you are developing a strategy to promote your business by distributing valuable, relevant and consistent messaging via various media platforms. In this type of marketing you will lean more towards writing to communicate. You want readers to learn who you are and what it is you do but you do not want to come across as overtly selling. You may want to do this through placing your content on websites, guest blogs, online articles and offline magazines.

Sales Page Writing

The writing on a sales page is all about the conversion. Your writing will need to persuade the reader to take action. It will be copywriting heavy and that is ok. Along with display advertising, banner ads, and emails this writing will be strong and it will need to be compelling. It is very different from content writing.

Combining Writing to Sell and Writing to Communicate

I hope that you have found this blog valuable so far. I hope that you have learned a couple of things and I really hope you will consider a response to what has been written. If that is the case then I have successfully achieved my ‘writing to communicate’ goal thus far. Now, could this blog turn into a writing to sell piece? The answer is yes. As I approach the end I could shift the focus and the language to influence you into a purchase or to sign up for something. By doing this I am mixing both styles of writing.

Even though I said earlier that copywriting is more often used when writing to sell, it can help with every type of writing you do for your business. You will find it in blog headlines and in email titles. It is the words used and the sentences formed that will entice the audience to continue reading and leave them with the desire to learn more.

You want people to want to read what you have to say and to do this you need copywriting or they won’t read at all. It will lead you to conversions and results you are looking for. Best of luck on your journey to learn all you can about the various types of writing out there. If it isn’t your thing, you may want to consider hiring an expert.

Click here for your copy of my ebook “Straightforward Strategies for E-commerce Success” a great guide full of ideas and practical tips to get you started and on the path to e-commerce success!

Content Marketing: How Sales-Oriented Should Your Content Be?

Content Marketing - How Sales OrientedIn the world of online marketing, two very different crafts are often confused: content writing, and copy writing. Although they are mostly confused in name only, sometimes the actual text gets mixed up too. One especially guilty group when it comes to this mistake is article marketers who often introduce unnecessary sales copy into their content writing. On the flip side, generic content is frequently put into sales copy by accident, drastically reducing its effectiveness.

Online marketing success demands an ability to differentiate between the two. While copy and content both have their proper places, it is rare that they go together, and it can be quite detrimental to a promotional article if they are used improperly. This simple guide explains how to balance sales copy and promotional content, and where to use each of them in your marketing efforts.

Incorporating Sales Content into Articles

It is best to keep direct sales, and sales related talk to a minimal throughout any promotional article. Although the purpose of a promotional article is not necessarily to inform the reader, it is certainly not to sell to them straight away either. If the reader is sold on a product right there in the article, where will they click to buy the product?

Save the sales copy for your landing or sales page. You can always incorporate pre-sales copy into a promotional article, but even then it shouldn’t have an overwhelming presence. The purpose of a promotional article is to achieve one thing – get the reader to your landing page with a slight intention to buy in their minds. If your articles are not accomplishing this, you need to work on flow and content, not sales copy.

Where to Start the Pre-Selling:

The basic structure of any article, or really any written text, is introduction-discussion-conclusion. The first section of your promotional article should introduce a problem, a situation, or an opportunity to your reader. Once you have established this, move on to the body of the text. What is going on in this situation? How could this opportunity translate to the life of the reader? Where are the best places to find these opportunities?

Once you have established and discussed all that you can, introduce a potential solution for the reader; your solution. Do not jump to selling the idea straight away — that is the job of your sales copy — but push the reader slightly so they feel like moving towards it. It is not your job to sell them in the article, only to get them to click on your link.

The Transition from Pre-Sell to Actual Selling:

Your content should work in tandem with your copy to make the sale. Before you start marketing any product through a promotional article, familiarize yourself with the sales page and landing pages that you will be leading readings to, to the point where you can seamlessly incorporate their points into your writing.

People generally love familiarity and trust, not unknown situations. When you can design an article to convince a potential customer into moving to your sales page, and have them arrive there full of confidence and intrigue, you have found article marketing success.

Click here for your copy of my ebook “Straightforward Strategies for E-commerce Success” a great guide full of ideas and practical tips to get you started and on the path to e-commerce success!

The Four Biggest Social Network Marketing Blunders

Biggest Social Network Marketing BlundersUnlike other forms of online marketing, standards for social media marketing are not black and white. There are no clearly laid out right and wrong behaviors, and there certainly are no statistics on cost-per-user. There is also, by no means, a universal code of conduct that is adhered to by marketers. While pay-per-click advertisers and SEO experts are overwhelmed with information on what is and what is not effective, social media marketers are, for the most part, left without reliable information to serve their craft. Instead, they are forced to work via trial and error, and rely on relatively soft data.

That being said, social media is not completely ungoverned by assumptions and expectations. It is social, after all, and like any other type of social interaction it is influenced by collective opinion and user discussions. These four social media faux pas are unlikely to get you thrown off social media websites or banned from public interactions on the internet, but they should best be avoided if you are in pursuance of social media marketing success.

Using ‘thin’ Affiliate Tactics

Back in 2004, MySpace ruled the social media world and spam was out of control. Hidden comments, fake friend requests, and endless repetitive blog posts all led to one direction: questionable affiliate offers and nefarious advertising banners.

Since then, there has been a transformation within social media, one that has attempted to counter against thin affiliate tactics and desperate promotion. The social media environment of today accepts promotion and commercial influence, but pushes back against aggressive marketing. As long as you keep your social media marketing tactics soft, value-filled, and genuine, you will be rewarded with success. If you end up using an outdated and selfish strategy of spam or dishonesty, you will likely be rejected by any community you try and target.

Pay-Per-Post Marketing

Blogs are part of the social media arena and they are held to the same high standards of any other social media platform. They are accepted as commercial entities, but at the same time resented for their success. They are treated as an outlet, yet neglected by users that could contribute. More than anything, blogs are abandoned when they become commercialized above all else. Remember, while your blog may earn you money, it could likely mean significantly more to your audience than it does yourself.

Thin, Fake, and Generic Conversation

Internet marketing expert Seth Godin has often asked his readers whether it’s truly worth engaging in social media if your message is dry and generic. Realizing that this suggestion is not to give up social media entirely, Seth’s followers consciously chose to change their approach and become more unique and influential when engaging with the world.

Social media communities can and will ignore you when you have nothing interesting to say. Join the conversation, but do not treat it as something you cannot be changed. Offer information and value beyond what is currently available and you will be welcomed, appreciated, and compensated; parrot the same old information and you will be brushed aside.

The “friend everyone” Approach

The “friend everyone” approach is normally seen alongside the thin affiliate strategy used by thousands of marketers in an attempt to appeal to a large group of people in little time. It is a classic spam tactic, and it is one that is rarely successful for social media marketers in today’s highly competitive and scrupulous internet world.

The top Twitter users are not necessarily those with the most followers, just like the most popular Facebook pages are not those with the most fans. Build real relationships and you will be rewarded with loyalty; friend everyone that comes your way and you will end up with a large list of thin and utterly worthless online connections to bot accounts and trolls.

Top Internet Business Ideas

Internet Biz IdeasAs far as business opportunities go, there’s no place like the Internet. You can become a part of someone else’s business or create one of your own in an almost endless sea of enterprising options. There are also many advantages to starting an Internet business as opposed to entering the traditional world of employment. Here are a few of the top Internet business ideas right now to help you find an appropriate area to direct your job seeking endeavours.

Every day people search the Internet for all sorts of business opportunities. In the modern economy, something that many people search for is ways to make money without having to cover a lot of overhead costs. To begin an Internet business, most people will have much of the required equipment at home already. If you have a computer with a high-speed Internet connection, a telephone, a desk, and a printer, you can get going right away with minimal additional costs.


This is one way to create an online presence for yourself without having to worry about the technical issues of owning your own website (that will come later). Many blog websites offer free hosting and provide already installed features to make setting everything up easy. Blogging can be valuable to you and fun as you can blog about anything that you find interesting or that you think other readers will be interested in. More specific blogs directed at niche groups will perform better than simple personal ones. Blogs can also make money with programs like Google Adwords and AdSense. Pay per Click advertising works great for generating revenue.

Internet Research

Anyone who can navigate the Internet well and filter out the quality content, can market themselves as an Internet researcher. Large and small companies alike pay researchers to find out various types of information for them. They also generally require reports and analysis from such research.

Selling Products

If you have a hobby like making and selling crafts you can expand it into a business online just by making a simple website. Set up a website that caters to your product offerings and the market you generally sell to. Market these products online through various means to drive traffic to your website.

Selling on eBay

If you don’t want to be in charge of your own website, you can sell things through the online marketplace that is eBay. You can sell products you created or items you own and want to get rid of. Many people now make a living from selling items on eBay. If your business grows and becomes more successful, you can expand to involve other product markets.


Many online and offline businesses are looking for help with various types of content creation. Freelancers lower the overhead of the company and make many jobs more profitable by not having to pay for in-office work. Depending on your talent, market yourself as a freelance writer, graphic artist, website designer, or programmer.

Virtual Assistant

Virtual assistants are an invaluable asset to many businesses today. For many years, virtual assistants have performed the administrative duties of companies from their home. Now, VA’s can be found specializing in many different industries such as medical, real estate, marketing, and publishing. VAs also perform tasks above just administrative duties such as website administrator, report creation, and Internet research.

Membership Sites

These are becoming more and more popular these days. With a membership site, you can choose a niche, such as online marketing, to appeal to. Customers pay to join at a certain level (ex. gold, silver, bronze) and are rewarded with certain perks from their membership that include newsletters, videos, or articles on marketing and related services to help expand their own business. You can create the website and supply the materials yourself, or by outsourcing each month to your members.

Do you have an idea for what your Internet business might do? Hopefully this list gave you some ideas to get started with. Best of luck with your Internet business endeavours!

Do You Need a Coach?

CoachingToday, more and more people are hiring life and business coaches. Coaches can help you set goals and create a plan for you to work towards achieving them. Similarly to fitness or athletic coach, life and business coaches help you develop your strengths and work around your weaknesses while getting you to a point where you are at your best.

Almost anyone could benefit from having a coach, but people who operate their own businesses from home may reap more rewards than those who work in offices. This reality is partially due to the fact that working from home will generally make you more isolated. If having someone to bounce ideas off or brainstorm with is something that you’re missing, a coach should be something to consider.

Coaches will also hold you accountable for your actions. If you are in direct sales for example, and your goal is to sell $400 worth of product each week, your coach will help you set mini goals to accomplish what you set out to achieve. When you meet with your coach and they ask you what you have done, you need to be honest. There is no convincing yourself that failing to reach a goal is no big deal when someone else is holding you accountable.

To name just a few, coaches can also help you with time management, leadership, and customer service skills. If you tend to procrastinate or struggle with fears of success or failure, a coach can help you work through it. Some other issues that coaches can guide you through are: creating a better balance between work and life, becoming more organized, and improving your communication skills.

Good coaches will also give you truly honest feedback. They will let you know where you are lacking and give you tips on how to improve. It can be hard to hear criticism, but if it makes you a better business person in the long run, it is worth it. And if dealing with criticism is something in-and-of-itself that you struggle with, a good coach will help you with that too!

Many coaches will offer a complimentary session or trial period to help determine if your personalities mesh well or not. Different coaches have different styles, so you may want to talk to several before you choose the right one for your needs. You may also want to ask them about their accreditation and experience. If you are having specific issues with a certain aspect of your business, ask if they have experience in that area.

A coach may choose to work with their clients via email, one-on-one telephone calls, or group calls. If you feel intimidated to speak up in a group session, let your coach know. Many people however enjoy group sessions as it allows them to see what other people are going through.
Coaching rates can vary quite a bit. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50/hour to several hundred per hour for the more accredited names.

It is important to remember that a coach is not a therapist and cannot fix your problems directly. They can guide you along the way to success, but you will need to be fully committed to making a change if you want to see real results.

Avoiding Pushy Promotions on Social Networking Sites

Avoiding Pushy PromotionsGoogle’s new instant search feature has brought about much criticism due to a belief that it’s far too geared towards sales-friendly search terms. While there’s certainly no shortage of differences between how Google directs its users and the intended actions of the websites they list, similar complaints are also growing significantly more common on the social media scene.

The feelings of most who oppose the new changes to the search engine giant appear to be in reaction to ‘pushiness’ – the obvious attempts of websites and online marketers to direct their users down a specific sales path. Facebook’s sidebar advertisements are another frequent target for most complainers. Sidebar boxes appear regardless of a user’s actions, making it difficult to visit any pages without being prompted to take a certain action, often one that’s geared towards a company trying to make a sale.

The prompts have appeared on Facebook for some time now but due to recent privacy concerns they’ve developed into a much larger issue. The goal of these promotions is to increase user interaction – a task that social networking websites are particularly efficient at. But when these actions aren’t user-prompted, it becomes difficult to know which interactions are truly called for by friends, and which are automated purely in an attempt to make a sale.

For social media marketers, the revolt against pushy advertising practices could be a blessing in disguise. Users appear to be growing increasingly distrustful of internet giants such as Facebook and Google, and the amount of trust remaining among the general population appears to be fairly consistent. As privacy concern reports continue to put Facebook in the public eye, internet marketers seem to even be benefiting.

There’s a lesson to learn from this ‘pushiness revolt’. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking websites benefit from a lack of hard sales. Users very rarely enjoy being told what to do, and they’re particularly reluctant to comply with predefined actions at the request of a computer. While that could sound like a strike against marketers, it’s really something that can be used to in their favor.

Avoid hard sales and you’ll win the trust of social media audiences, particularly on a platform that sometimes overwhelms with advertisements. If your goal is to build a natural audience on a mainstream social media platform, it could even be worth limiting your commercial output until you have sufficient subscribers for voluntary, action-based social media marketing.

What Many Businesses Miss: A Multi-Billion Dollar Market

Marketing to MomsThe focus of every business is to be sustainable for the long term and it is their job to always keep an eye out for the ways of the future. Even today however, with business all over the world competing for their own market share, there is a multi-billion dollar market this is not being fully tapped in to: moms.

Why are moms so important?

Moms are enterprising. According to BSM Media Inc., mom spending is already over the trillion dollar mark. That’s more than the GDP of most countries in the world today.

Also according to BSM Media Inc., almost 90% of moms consider themselves the financial head of the home. Their husbands may bring home most of the bacon but it is the moms who decide how it is spent. Everything related to the home: kids clothing, appliances, electronics, outdoor furniture, accessories, and home improvement items are all usually purchased by the female head-of-household.

Any husband that shops for these things is surely going to consult their wife before buying them. Why? Wives generally do the research into these products to find the best available options. Moms influence as much as 85% of the purchases for the home. That’s over 70 million women in the U.S alone we are talking about here. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Consider all of the tasks that moms are generally responsible for on a daily basis. They work, take care of the housework, shuffle kids around to various activities, prepare most meals, and manage the finances. In order to keep everything organized they employ a wide variety of the technology and gadgets found in the home which means they will certainly have a hand in the purchasing of it all.

Moms are also savvy on the Internet. A trend for many years has been moms coming out of traditional careers and starting their own businesses at home in order to free up their time to spend with the kids. To that end, communities of mothers have brought about blogs, websites, and forums designed to teach other moms just about everything. Their buying power has been increasing exponentially alongside their knowledge.

Manly Mistake?

Traditionally, the only products marketed towards women were household products and cooking items. This goes back to the archaic patriarchal thought that a woman’s place was in the home which has held many countries back economically.

Women and moms have made an imprint in many areas that were thought to be solely for men in the past. Positions such as CEO, CFO, and company president are now often held by women. They don’t just surf the Web, they are becoming entrepreneurs with widening influence over Internet marketing. Having moms shun your product because you are not marketing to them means they are also spreading the word to other moms across the world (via the Internet) and within their own communities. This would be a massive setback for any company to experience.

The Future

Moms are influenced by other moms. Several generations of moms are coming together to influence the spending habits of major corporations. In the future this trend will only continue to grow. As moms become more “connected” in the world, their spending will increase along with their influence. No product is off limits to be marketed towards moms.

Moms do rule the world. Gain the support of savvy moms with your products and your business will reap the benefits.

Five Ways to Monetize a Mailing List

5 ways to monetize your mailing listSuccessful marketing plans require creativity. The most creative marketers, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople are almost always the most successful as creativity is what separates you from the pack. Email marketing may offer security and long-term income, but it is nothing without an effective and creative platform for monetizing it.

These five options take different approaches to monetizing email traffic and all offer the potential for outstanding results. No matter how your business operates, these five strategies can help you boost income and increase orders.

 1) Sell affiliate products.

A popular method in the online marketing world since the late 1990s, affiliate marketing brings the potential for profit more than any other strategy. In exchange for potential clients, affiliates are paid for every sale that is generated.

The business of email marketers puts them in a unique position to be wildly successful with online affiliate programs. With a trusting and value-added email marketing list, even a slight mention of an affiliate product can generate sales for the advertiser; sales that mean valuable commission income for yourself.

 2) Drive leads directly to clients.

There are countless businesses out there that, while lacking an official affiliate program, would happily pay you for incoming business leads. If your email marketing efforts are focused in specific markets, you could contact businesses in these markets directly and offer leads to them.

From real estate agents to simple product-based businesses, almost all local, national, and international businesses are interested in generating more sales, and with the valuable leads that you bring them, you could collect a substantial commission. Refine your business-to-business sales pitches, get on the phone, and get to work earning directly from local businesses.

 3) Market your own products and services.

It is one thing to take a commission from another business, but it’s an entirely different game when you’re making 100% of the profits from your own product sales. With a minor time commitment, you could have your own eBook to sell, your own utility to market, or your own coaching program to advertise for. Rather than taking just a portion of the returns from someone else’s product sales, apply your creativity to your own business and create a way to market to your email subscribers directly.

4) Ask for client or customer referrals.

The success of referral-based businesses is evident all over the internet. Zappos, a leading online shoe store, generates business almost entirely through word of mouth marketing efforts and customer referrals. By offer focusing primarily on their incredible customer service, their email subscribers spread the word to their friends which expands Zappos’ marketing power and their audience size.

It’s simple, ask your email list for client or customer referrals. If you market to people who are seen as authorities in your target market, you could very well end up with an endless stream of referral sales and contracts.

5) Send subscribers to Adsense-powered websites.

Although sending subscribers to an Adsense-powered website is unlikely to earn you more than a few dollars per email, it can be a good way to test websites before they are officially launched. With a few quick split-testing scripts, a small list of hundreds of prospective customers and visitors can be the perfect testing resource for a pre-launch website or commercial online property.

What You Need To Get Started As A VA

How to Get Started as a VAOne of the great things about being a VA is that it’s easy to get started. You really don’t need much to be able to launch a successful business. That being said, there are some things you’ll want to take inventory of to make sure you’re completely ready to open for business

Office Equipment

You’re a virtual assistant which means you’ll need the necessary equipment for working online.

This means a:

  • Computer
  • Backup storage or system – you can backup files online so an external drive isn’t necessary.
  • Copier/scanner/fax
  • Reliable Internet connection
  • Desk and chair
  • File cabinet/file system
  • Telephone and related equipment like a headset so you can talk hands free

You likely already have much of this equipment but if not, you won’t need to spend a fortune to get it. Take a look at flea markets and online resale sites for furniture. If you don’t have a computer, most experts recommend buying the best you can afford. Your business will be based almost entirely on your computer so you don’t want to cut any corners when getting one.

Business Equipment

You’re going to want a few basics to help you market and manage your business. These include but are not limited to:

  • Business Plan – This is essential. It should include:
    • Budget
    • Goals
    • Marketing strategy
    • Operations
    • Policies and procedures
    • And anything else you can think of
  • Website and/or blog
  • Social networking profiles
  • Email account for business
  • Telephone number for business
  • Invoicing system
  • Bookkeeping software
  • Content management system or delivery system. How will you deliver client work to them?
  • Services agreement/Work for hire agreement
  • Personal insurance: health, dental, life etc. When you’re self-employed, insurance is your responsibility.
  • Bank account for business
  • Organization tools:
    • Calendar
    • Notebooks
    • Whatever helps you get and stay organized
  • Business services software such as transcription software if you plan on offering that

Again, you may have much of this already and most won’t cost very much if you don’t. You can however spend a lot on software, so be careful. Only buy what you really need to get started.

Personal Equipment

Now that your home office is set and you have a solid business plan, what else do you need to get started?

  • Enthusiasm
  • Motivation
  • Positive Mindset
  • Administrative skills
  • Marketing knowledge (Information is easy to find online or in marketing books)

Not bad, right? If you already have a computer you can likely start your VA business for just a few hundred dollars. Many have started with nothing at all and gone on to be hugely successful VAs. Make a checklist. Create a plan. Realize the success you desire.

5 Powerful Mind Strategies for Success

Mind Success StrategiesCreating a business can be a fantastic and challenging experience. You can wake up energized to begin the day and go to bed feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. The key to preserving your sanity through all of it is to maintain a positive mindset.

Easier said than done, right? Here are 5 key tips to help you create and sustain a positive mindset so you can attain the success you desire.


1. Surround yourself with successful and positive people

The influence people have over our own personal energy is amazing and often overlooked. Moods and attitudes are so easily spread. Think about how influential a simple smile from a stranger can be on your day and multiply that by 1000 to put into perspective the power of all of your interactions with friends, family, and associates. When you are surrounded by people who inspire you, believe in you, and want you to succeed, there energy radiates into you and helps you with everything that you do.

2. Create a mantra or an affirmation

Repeating positive affirmations has been shown to get people through tough times and to actually help them truly believe what they’re saying.

To find the right affirmations for you consider writing a quick list of your doubts, insecurities and complaints. These can be easily turned into affirmations that will help inspire you every day.

For example, if you write that you’re always feeling disorganized then your affirmation would be, “I am organized and in control.”  Repeat your affirmations several times a day or whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, and feel the power of positive thinking.

3. Capture negative thoughts

We all have negative thoughts from time to time but if they become too strong, negative thoughts and emotions can derail us and prevent us from achieving the things we desire. Containing such negativity takes practice and persistence. When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts or having negative emotions, find a trigger to turn them around. The affirmations mentioned above are a great way to turn the negative into positives. You can also find quick pick-me-ups like a favorite song, a walk outside in the fresh air, or some exercise to help improve your mood.

 4. Set goals/intentions and then be willing to let it go

The law of attraction says that we attract what we focus on the most. What most people forget however, is that this also applies to negative and desperate things as well. Set your goals and intentions, and then let them go. A certain amount of faith in yourself and in the power of attraction is necessary. Give it a try.

5. Be grateful

Gratitude is perhaps the single most powerful and positive tool for success. When you’re grateful for all of the wonderful things and people in your life the challenges you come across seem far less significant and easier to deal with.

Consider keeping a gratitude journal and make a practice of writing in it every day. That way, when you’re facing challenges a quick peek at all the amazing things in your life will give you a boost of positivity and make you feel as if you can tackle anything.  Also, knowing you have a journal to write in will make you more aware of the positive things that do happen in your life so you can appreciate them in the moment.

Success is always within your reach and with the right attitude you can accomplish anything you set your sights on.  Embrace these five powerful strategies and you’ll build a better business and live a happier, more satisfying life.