#voice

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The Value of Personal Connections

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A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of the value of personal connections.  I love the social world, the ability to connect and build relationships online has been a powerful resource for my business.  As a writer it is so easy for me to hide away behind my pen and paper and remain in the safety and comfort of the office.  Trusting relationships can be established through many different ways, including online, but I think like many of us, I had lost sight of actually connecting in person.

When organising my trip to New York with other entrepreneurs for an event with our business mentor a small group of us decided to share an airbnb.  Honestly, my first reaction when this was suggested was to say no.  I love my privacy and personal space, but I knew if I want to get the most of this experience I needed to throw myself into it with heart and soul.  Facing my fear, I agreed to share and arrived at the Manhattan apartment to meet 5 strangers from different continents.

Facing our fears is something we have to do a lot in business, it’s what challenges us, makes us stronger and also helps us succeed.  Those 5 strangers, over our brief time together, have now become great friends and advisers.  We connected not only on a personal level but we shared a passion for business that infused our creativity for our own businesses.  Our mentor Todd Herman, likes to describe us as ‘weird’, and it’s a word we embrace. That weekend we were with like minded people who understood our workaholic nature, our desire to be challenged, and our thirst for knowledge.

But returning home it got me thinking, what if I hadn’t faced my fear?  What if I have crept into my safe bubble and got myself a hotel room on my own, would my experience have been the same?

The simple answer is no!

Meeting people in person puts a whole new dimension on a relationship, it makes it stronger and more meaningful.

Get out there

Just as I did, go and face your fear.  Get up from you comfort zone and experience something new and exciting.  You don’t have to take a trip to another country, just push yourself to do something different.  Why not have a tweet-up for your social media following and take your online relationships to the next level.

I often find doing a training programme, whether online or off-line is also a great place to build a relationship with people.  You can learn together, get frustrated together and succeed together.  Don’t fall into the trap doing the same training as your colleagues as it will be easy to just communicate with those that you know.  Remember everyone is a stranger to each other at the beginning, you may start that way, but you won’t be strangers by the time you finish.

There are thousands of networking opportunities across the globe.  I know how frightening it can be to walk into a room where you don’t know anyone.  You worry about babbling or you hide in the corner.  See every networking group as an opportunity, the people you meet may not be a direct client, but you never know who they have in the circle of connections.

Lesson Learned

I’ve learned a valuable lesson, my social connections are amazing but if I take those connections to the next level who knows where it can lead!

 

What to prepare for with a new website

What to think about

So, it’s time for a new website. You’re last one is starting to creak a little in its old age and you want to have something shiny and new for your clients to enjoy. You find a developer and you say “Hey, let’s make something amazing!” Eager to oblige, your developer gets out their notepad and says “Great! What sort of thing are you looking for?” This is where you realise you don’t have a fully fleshed out idea.

Not knowing exactly what you want is fine, it’s what designers are here to help with. However, there’s a lot to consider when outside of the standard “looks nice” remit. While that’s an important factor, there’s a lot to consider before any design work begins.

What do you want the sites focus to be?

It sounds painfully obvious, but it’s pretty commonly over-looked. Let’s take an estate agent for example, there’s a lot that can be done to change the focus as soon as a visitor lands on your home page. Want more sales? Making the property search a prominent feature will make that clear. Maybe you have no problem selling but you need more stock? Making your valuations a focal point will drive more people there.

Making sure you know what you want to get from your website will help your designer achieve that for you and know exactly where to place focus. This will save you from having a fantastic website that doesn’t do the job you want it to.

Site Map

It’s important to know exactly what pages you want to go into your website. Do you want a page dedicated to the business and how things began? Do you want something a little more personal like a “meet the team” page? Putting pen to paper and making a full list of every page you want to be included is important. It’ll help you in knowing exactly what content needs to be provided and will make it easier to cut anything unnecessary.

It’s important that every page on your website has a function, whether that be a blog that provides engaging content and helps SEO or a testimonial page that shows new clients how well you perform. You’ve got the perfect site map, not when there’s nothing left to add but when there’s nothing you can take away.

What to think about

Your content

As well as the website being easy to navigate, the text on it should be too. Patience is something that we don’t have a lot of in this day and age. We want everything now and that extends to information about your company. It’s important that no matter how much content you have, it’s easily digestible. This can be achieved in many different ways:

  • Sub headings breaking up large blocks of text (like this article)
  • Bullet point lists (such as these)
  • Cutting out any unnecessary information (like the points in the brackets above)

There’s a lot more to it than these simple points, but they’ll get you on the right track to writing content that people actually want to read.

Provide your brand guidelines

It’s all well and good asking a developer to design you a website, but without predefined brand guidelines it can be hard to get the tone right. While any developer worth their salt will talk over the design with you before-hand, brand guidelines will ensure that your website enforces the same brand ideology as the rest of your business.

It’s important that your brand look its best, so in addition to your guidelines make sure you have high-res versions of your logo and any other brand images ready to go. If you don’t have the high-res version a quick chat with your designer should sort that out.

Have great imagery

A picture says a thousand words. The average adult in England reads at a rate of about 300 words per minute, which means it’ll take 3 minutes and 20 seconds to read a thousand words. When a user lands on a web page they normally make their mind up on if their hanging around in 8 seconds! That’s enough time to read 40 words. If you can’t get imagery for every page make a real effort for the home page, it’s the page the page that needs to grab a user’s attention so make it count!

Moving imagery is even better so don’t be afraid to get fancy and put some video in there!

Property Feed

To make sure your website is always up-to-date you’ll need your property management software. There’s loads to chose from out there but chances are you already have one set up. All you’ll need to do is provide access to your developers and they’ll get everything running automatically, no painstakingly uploading properties over and over.

Mobile Strategy

The way we consume media has changed. Current statistics show that just over 80% of us have smart phones in our pockets and that we use them as our primary means of browsing the web. That means that if your website isn’t compatible you’re missing out on a HUGE chunk of the market.

With the surface of responsive technology making your services available to users on the move is easier than ever. However, one of the things you need to be aware of is whether or not your designer will include responsive design as standard. Many designers will charge you extra for this so it’s important to be aware of exactly what you are getting and that you’ll be ready for any platform.

Budget

It’s always good to go into any new project with an idea of how much you’d like to spend and what you can realistically achieve for the price. The more complicated you want your website to be, the more it will cost. Be sure to talk to your developer about your budget and they’ll always be happy to tell you what they can and cannot build for your requirements.

In conclusion

Getting a new website takes a lot more thought than waking up and just deciding you want one. Sure, you could do that, there’s hundreds of template services out there and some of them are even free! As with anything though, you get what you pay for. If you want to strongly represent your brand in a world that’s becoming more and more digital, there’s a lot to think about!

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Has this article left you feeling stuck? Or maybe just unsure about what you should take into consideration? Chat to us at Estate Apps and we’ll do what we can to get you heading in the right direction.

 

Are you embracing the modern way of working?

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I’ve always loved the idea of working from home but whenever I Googled terms like ‘work from home’ or ‘be your own boss’ it would always cough-up the same dodgy looking websites, offering an unobtainable pipe-dream; when in fact all they want to do is rob you blind!!

And then a couple of years ago Yahoo slapped a big ban on their employees working from home, which (for many) was seen as the first ‘nail in the coffin’ for home-workers. CEO, Marissa Mayer, left hundreds of her staff facing a tough choice between relocating from home to Yahoo’s nearest office or quitting, as part of her vision of a ‘new era of collaboration’. However Richard Branson has recently spoken out about Yahoo’s controversial decision, branding it a big mistake. The Virgin Group founder believes that companies who forbid their employees from working from home put pressure on families, whilst limiting opportunities for women.

Branson: “Unless you have a technical job like flying a plane, you can probably do it from home.”

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I know working from home isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea, especially for those of you who need continual guidance and have a short attention span, but when I saw a (rare) opportunity to work as a remote personal assistant I jumped at the chance. Fortunately (!!) the position had already been filled, and not long after I was offered an even better role working from home with Citrus Content, and since then I haven’t looked back!

Why do I like working from home? … Well:

  1. There’s no commute (I don’t drive!)
  2. Work via my own initiative (This is how I work best!)
  3. No formalities to adhere to (e.g. I can dye my hair whatever colour I like!)

Our approach to content writing is equally as refreshing as Andrea’s approach to business. This is because at Citrus we aren’t confined by stuffy offices or corporate nonsense, as our main focus is finding and creating the voice of your business.

The general consensus of those who don’t work from home seem to think it must take a phenomenal amount of self-discipline, if you don’t have to be there at a set time or have any outside pressure to be continually busy and motivated. But I don’t agree, as I believe if you’re truly passionate, enjoy the work that you do and respect and get on well with your co-workers and boss; the drive to excel and work hard will come naturally.

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There are lots of ways to keep on track from home, and as a company we use Bitrix24; a free social enterprise platform for small businesses. Offering a complete suite of social collaboration, communication and management tools, it allows me to still feel part of the office event though I’m not based there. It helps me to stay on target with deadlines, store helpful dates, keep in contact with the Citrus team via in-built video chat and much, much more.

Citrus Content as a company embraces flexible working, believing that a happy workforce is a productive one. So as a business, what with recent and continual advances in technology, why wouldn’t you embrace the modern way of working?

Ask yourself this: are you limiting your work forces productivity by doing so? …

- Samii.

Estate Agent Leaflet Drops – Sin or Success??

Estate Agent Leaflet Drops - Sin or

Yesterday I was privileged to attend a Rightmove seminar in South Wales, where on a couple of occasions when the words ‘leaflet drop’ were mentioned.  This made me twitch a little, why?  Every day we all receive a wonderful selection of ‘junk’ mail through our doors some of which could include one of your leaflets.  Now I am a little sad as I actually go through my junk mail to pick out estate agent leaflets as I want to research what you are doing.  But many of these leaflets are lost inside the numerous take-out menus that seem to decorate my door mat when I arrive home.  Unlike me, many people will be throwing this pile of unwanted mail in their recycling bin so are your leaflets going the same way?

I ask you, are leaflet drops working for you?

When is the last time you actually questioned the number of leads you received from this essentially costly form marketing?

What is the solution?  You need to create awareness of your brand and your agency services.  You want to ensure that you are in the forefront of people’s minds when they are looking to sell, so is there another way to ‘leaflet drop’ that will have a greater success rate?

The typical estate agent leaflets are a maximum of A5 with pure advertising copy.  I have even had post cards, house shaped and even scraps of paper (yes not the best first impression!).  But is it the size or the copy that is not making you stand out in the junk mail crowd?  Dare I say possibly both!  Nowadays no one wants to be sold to, and isn’t that what a leaflet drop traditionally is, selling?

So what would make your potential clients take note of what you deliver and even keep hold of it?  We work with one of our clients on a monthly newsletter that has had a real impact on his business.  This is a 4 page A4 quality ‘leaflet’ that is filled with tips, advice, seasonal information and industry news.  What’s more the newsletter has a focus on their local community, making it something that their past, present, potential clients and the community at large look forward to reading.  This community edge gives the reader the sense that they are not just based in the community but also actually part of it.  This newsletter is an investment in their business but the results speak for themselves.

Every piece of material you create for your business must serve a purpose and not just because its something that is done in the industry.  Look outside estate agency and property for ideas and inspiration as you need to make a lasting first impression.  Well who knew a meerkat could have such a dramatic impact on a price comparison site?

If you would like ideas on how your marketing material could evade the curse of junk mail, contact us today to see how we can help your business.

Andrea

 

Our Top 5 Reasons Why Blogs Convert into Sales

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At Citrus Content we pride ourselves on the blog service we give our clients.  Each blog post is written exclusively for the client and we ensure that their voice shines through.  Working with our clients we cover a multitude of issues, news and inspiration within the property and interior sector.

1. The Facts

We know why blog posts are powerful for your business and therefore we would like to share with you some facts.

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2. More Facts

It’s all in the name: Citrus Content

We are proud that our blog post service has won awards for our clients.  Recently one of our clients disclosed that using Citrus Content has provided increased traffic to their site by 400%.  In addition, our clients are part of the 62% of companies who outsource their marketing – the facts and figures speak for themselves.

  • Blogs can assist you with the effective promotion of a service or product. (Convertwithcontent)
  • Websites with Blogs have 434% more indexed pages (helps search engines & SEO efforts) and 97 % more inbound links. (U.addresstwo)
  • 84% of inbound marketers – compared to only 9% of outbound marketers – cite organic sources (blogging, SEO, social media) as rising in importance. (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014)
  • Blogs can give you credibility and authority. (Convertwithcontent)
  • 46% of people read blogs more than once a day. (HubSpot Science of Blogging, 2010)
  • SEO is out. Blogging is in. (Convertwithcontent)

3. Show Your Expertise

Blogs are an effective way of showcasing your expertise.  As a leader within your organisation you have a wealth of knowledge that should be shared with your clients.  Clients like to do business with experts, they want to know they are in safe hands.  Telling your story is a way of connecting with them on another level.  We help you put your thoughts into words.

4. To Have a Voice

Every business has a voice, it encompasses your USP’s, your ethos and your personality.  Every piece of content you produce should speak in your voice as clients can connect with a voice rather than a corporate image.  We know how to find your voice and ensure it’s consistent in everything you produce.

5. To Engage with your Clients

Being engaging is about showing a piece of you and your personality.  Engaging content not only creates sharable content that will increase awareness of your company but it will also encourage loyalty.  We make sure you engage.

Why Blogs Convert into Sales

The facts speak for themselves and through your expertise, voice and engagement and instead of chasing sales, sales will come to you.

If you are thinking of outsourcing your blog and are interested in how we can benefit your company then get in touch today.

Investing in Words is Not an Option, it’s a Necessity

Investing in Words is Not an Option,

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Someone once said ‘words are cheap’, but I completely disagree.  Words are powerful they can make someone laugh, cry and stir emotions we never knew existed.

Words captivate

Remember the last time you read a book that completely enthralled you as though taking you to another place.  You were invested in the characters, there was a relationship that evolved as the book developed.

So why is it different when it comes to business?

I recently read a couple of major estate agents ‘new and improved’ brochures.  The design was beautiful, the images were gorgeous, it really was a wonderful first impression.  But when I started to read the content I felt uninspired.  I wanted to feel a connection with the company, I wanted to understand their ethos, their passion and what their services could offer me as a client.  Sadly I walked away disappointed as though I had been given a wonderful gift that was exquisitely wrapped, that just breathed luxury.  You start to open with in-trepidation, wondering what wonders await you, only to be greeted by an empty box.

I have loved following the journey of my friend, Liz Ackerley, as she has started sharing some of her sketches on Facebook.  Now this is something you would never catch me doing, why? because I can’t draw, doodle yes! I do a mean doodle a flower and square box – wow I’m talented!  My point is not everyone can draw and not everyone can write.

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Scibbles by Liz Ackerley

Like drawing, writing is a skill.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been putting together the content for my brochure (which should be available soon).  Even as a content writer I found this a difficult process.  It is hard when you are immersed within something to be able to turn your thoughts into words.  All my clients are experts in their field, they are award winners, are highly respected and extremely sort after, but one thing they have in common is admitting when they need help in an area of their business.  Even though they are the best at what they do, they know that they are unable to express it creatively, passionately and expertly into words.  They know by investing in someone to turn their thoughts into valuable content, they have made a valuable investment in their business.

Every piece of content you deliver, whether its your website, brochure or blog post it is a reflection of your company.  Does your content reflect who you really are? Is it engaging your clients? And more importantly is it engaging potential clients?

My Top 5 Reasons why you should Invest in Content

  • It can have a real impact on your customer loyalty.  Customers are far more likely to remain loyal to a company that they feel they have a relationship with.
  • You become the expert, ahead of your competition.  To be seen as an expert you need valuable content that people want to share.  The more sharing you have, the more you are seen as a person of influence in the field and the more people will want to listen, thus you become the expert.  This sets you ahead of your competition.
  • Customer Engagement.  Content has the potential to engage your customers at every step of process.
  • Your Image.  How do you want your client audience to perceive you?  The words you choose will create an immediate opinion in the minds of your clients.
  • Because it works!  There is a direct correlation from valuable content to increased client engagement and in turn into sales.

Are you making the right first impression with your content?

 

The Post-it Wall of Fear

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Last night, as I sat at my desk looking at the wall of Post-it notes in front of me, I began to get scared.  I felt as though this black cloud was hovering over me, the weight pressing on my slumped shoulders.  I felt overwhelmed.  Each Post-it represented a piece of work I needed to do, emails to send, blog posts to write, projects to complete.  They were staring at me as if calling my name, haunting me with their presence and draining my energy.

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It’s hard to start a business, and even harder when you are still employed.  Every second is so precious as though it was a rare jewel for the taking.  I balance my life between work, family and business my supportive husband encouraging my every step.

Stepping-stones

I have so many things I want to do for my blog, my business and my writing.  I have a mystery story constantly itching to spill out on a page, ideas for my blog and vision for my business.  I will get there, I have a plan, and every day I am moving closer to this dream.

I took a deep breath.

I the looked at the wall again.  This wall didn’t represent fear, it was magical, inspirational and rewarding.  Who would have thought when I started Citrus Content I would have been contracted for such a variety of projects and with fantastic companies.

* Writing articles for print and online
* Social media campaigns
* Marketing a websites
* Writing website content

I am loving every minute of it.

This is my wall

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My wall represents by business, my future, my dream.

 

Am I a writer?

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I was reading a blog post today by Jeff Goins about following his dream and being a writer. And this part of the post got me thinking.

A few years ago, a friend asked me an important question:
“What’s your dream?”
“Don’t have one,” I said.
“Sure you do. Everyone has a dream.”
“Ah, I dunno… I’m living it, I guess.”
“Really? Hrmph.” And then a long pause — “Because, well, I would’ve thought your dream was to be a writer.”
As soon as I heard those words, something in me stirred. Something that had been there all along.
“Well, uh, yeah…” I gulped, “I guess I’d like to be a writer… some day. But that’ll never happen.”
I sounded so sure, so certain that at 28 years old, I knew where the rest of my life was headed. Shaking his head, my friend smiled.
“Jeff… You don’t have to want to be a writer…”
And then he said nine words that changed me life:
“You are a writer; you just need to write.”

This got me thinking of my own journey and the right to use the term ‘writer’. Do you have to earn the right? Or can you just be one?

It all boils down to that feeling we all have from time to time of being a fraud. Even the most successful people have a ‘fraud’ moment from time to time. I recently read the book by Sheryl Sandburg, Lean In. She speaks openly and honestly about her ‘fraud’ experience. She then talks about whether you lean in to the moment or lean out. Reading her experience gave me confidence, why? It demonstrates that we are all human, you could be the COO of Facebook or me and still have the same emotions in similar situations.

Julian Smith in his book Flinch, states “The flinch is the moment when every doubt you’ve had comes back and hits you, hard. It’s when your whole body feels tense. It’s an instinct that tells you to run. It’s a moment of tension that happens in the body and the brain, and it stops everything cold.”

Whether you ‘Lean In’ or face the ‘Flinch’ both require you to have faith and confidence in your ability.

Writing is something I love to do, it’s so expressive, creative and true. There is something scary and liberating about putting pen to paper and sending it out into the world. Citrus Content is still in its early days but my passion for writing is growing. I am constantly armed with a notebook frightened of missing a line, a story or any kind of inspiration that magically appears in my mind.

In many ways starting Citrus Content is like unlocking a door or even flood gates. What has been held deep inside me is now racing to get out. Words are like drops of water forming together into a dramatic waterfall. I feel alive.

So instead if feeling a fraud and flinching, I am now going to embrace the four words and proudly state “I am a writer“.

Resources

Jeff Godins expert via
How I Stopped Waiting to Become a Writer, Quit My Job & Launched My Dream

Julien Smith, Flinch

Sheyl Sandberg, Lean In

The Incredible Journey – From Passion to Citrus

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“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”

Winston Churchill

 

As some of you may know I have gone through a difficult few weeks.  To tell you how I got here you have to start at the beginning.

twitter-Man-with-a-van When I joined twitter I never, ever imagined what lay ahead of me.  I started with complete naivety and skepticism of what it was.  I plodded along really not knowing what to do and then I started to find my voice for property and interiors and I never looked back.  Building my followers has been organic and underpinned with engagement.  I love hearing people’s stories sharing their successes, their interesting articles and honored they want to share them with me.

 

Just over a year ago I started Trying to Balance the Madness – my blog which I share my passion for Property, Interiors and Social Media.  This blog came from, well basically, being nagged by a certain part of my following.  Again I was a novice and really no idea what I was doing.  Again soon I found my blog voice. Trying to Balance the Madness is a huge part of me I feel it shows my journey and my story.

 

About this time last year I started to have talks with a friend about the idea of A Passion for Homes, after months of hard work we launched in February 2013.  It was an amazing day one I will never forget.  I was so proud that so many of the followers had supported me in some incredible ways with venue, photography, speaking, being part of the site.  You name it my followers were there, sharing the experience and I felt honored.

 

About a month ago I made the very, very difficult decision to walk away from A Passion for Homes.  This was not a decision I made lightly but knew it was the right decision for me.  Partnerships are difficult.  My Passion for Property and Interiors is stronger than ever and I knew I wanted my own business and I have so much to give.

 

Trying to Balance the Madness is growing and it’s fascinating seeing it develop and mold into something more exciting every day.

 

Through Trying to Balance the Madness and A Passion for Homes I realized how much I loved writing.  My parents had always said that I had a talent for it but I never really thought anything of it.  Over the last 6 months the request from people for my writing has been overwhelming and I have realized that my parents were right.

Writing-writing-27456811-1277-955  I Love to write!

 


Citrus Content
allows me to utilise my love for writing with my passion – perfect combination.

From:

  • Articles
  • Website Content
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters
  • Rightmove MicroSites
  • Social Media

Wherever content is needed – you will find Citrus.

I am honored to already be working on a couple of really exciting projects.

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As people always say, ‘When one door closes, another one opens’.

I feel as though that door was there all the time and I just hadn’t found the key.

 

Andrea x