I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Ads disguised as information is lose-lose

For myself and for clients, I have often had an editor question whether I will provide an editorial (or article) rather than an advertorial. It’s almost insulting.

brand resting on trust

Brand rests on trust.
Dressing ads as information is not building trust.

Editorials are often the expectation

I say almost because I understand why an editor wants that reassurance.

It’s insulting because I wouldn’t ever pass an advertorial off as an article. I just wouldn’t. It is unprofessional for one thing and I would hate it as a reader so don’t do it as a writer/publisher.

Silly, I know, but I also assume others would not offer an article or editorial when planning to provide an advertorial.

This week, I was shown my silliness in believing that.

I read a guest post on a blog to find it was part advertorial. And the first part was advertorial to make it worse.

It flavoured how I felt about the post as I read the rest of it – I was suspicious because I was just waiting for the next sell instead of the next piece of information.

How was it an advertorial?

Let’s use this guest post as an example of advertorial.

It was a bullet list of tips related to a service offered by the guest poster. The topic and introduction did their job, bullet point one was a very generic statement without explanation.

The second bullet point was a sales pitch. “[This] is paramount. If you haven’t done it, I would be happy to help you”

It did not teach me anything, nor entertain.

A subsequent point included her business. Using your own business in examples is fine, and can be an effective way to put your name into an article. However, she did it as an explanation, not an example. And included a boast about her success in that area.

It probably would have come off as a clumsy example if the earlier point hadn’t been blatantly promoting her services.

In short, an advertorial is an ad disguised as an informative article.

What makes an article an article?

A good article (or editorial or technical piece or whatever name a particular site or magazine calls it) is basically the sort of article you want to read.

It will

  1. provide real information or entertainment, maybe both
  2. not overtly promote any business, person or product. It may promote an industry, service or type of product. So I could write about the value of using a professional writer but not directly write about my writing services.
  3. be accurate and correct, although it may be biased in one direction
  4. be written to the writer’s best abilities – and possibly better if the business gets it written or edited for them
  5. build trust and loyalty


It’s what I aim at in every blog post and article I write – I want to help people write and communicate well.

Is it the sort of writing you prefer to read?

Do you ever read an entire advertorial?



Selling with Valentines Day

dollar sign inside a love heart

Love & money can go together

I know – Christmas has just gone, Australia Day hasn’t even arrived yet and I’m suggesting you think about Valentines Day!

For many businesses, Valentines Day is a huge sales period and they probably plan and prepare for it months in advance.

But have you thought about it for your business?

Maybe you think it is only for those selling flowers, chocolates and cards, having no relevance to other businesses. While there is some truth to that, you can get more out of Valentines Day if you want to.

Adding a Valentine flavour to your business 

Yes, Valentines Day is commercial and it would be great if we showed our love and care for others every day, but it is celebrated every February whether you like it or not. And if you run a business, you can keep it topical through using some Valentines romance.

There are a number of suggestions in my Valentines Day and business article, but here are a few more:

red paper flower made by a child

Paper flowers last longer and, if hand made, are very personal

  • post a Valentine message in your blog. It can be a simple “Happy Valentines Day” or maybe you can find a creative message to show you appreciate your blog readers or customers
  • use pink envelopes or paper on the day or the surrounding week or month
  • pop a chocolate or treat in every package you send out in February – of course, if it’s hot try something less likely to melt! Maybe a paper flower in each order is a better idea!
  • give an eBook or tip sheet with romantic ideas relating to your business
  • put some pink candles in your shop or display
  • run a competition with some romantic prizes
  • add a poem about mum or dad when you send out things for young children
  • send a rose to your key clients – an unexpected gift builds a lot of goodwill
  • Groups and clubs can send paid or active members a Valentines card. It needn’t include messages of love, but it may just be the only card your client gets so it will be appreciated
  • Web masters – think of adding some subtle graphics on your site – just a quick image and the words Happy Valentines Day is enough to convey your wishes without going too far or reducing your professional image
  •  Offer reduced fees for couples booking in at the same time in February. This could apply to a masseur, accountant, hairdresser, dentist, mechanic, coach, gyms, fitness trainers, life insurance sales people and many more.

Sales emails

unsuccessful gesture of thunbs down

An impersonal email got the thumb down from me

There was no reason for me to read some spam I received recently, but it was top of my spam folder and I glanced at it. The subject was “USB Inquiry” and the content was five paragraphs telling me how they could sell me USB keys for my customers (with my logo and presentation on the USB key).

From that email, I spotted a number of tips for writing a good sales letter/email:

  • make your subject match the content. I wouldn’t have read the above email by the subject as it appeared to be asking me about USB keys which I don’t sell. A better subject would have appealed to my need for a USB key rather than asking me about them (inquiry meaning question)
  • check the relevance of your offer to the person receiving the email. Why would I buy USB keys from the USA? There are perfectly good USB keys in Australia and they would cost me less in time and freight. If I’m wrong, they could have explained that in the email. The .com.au part of my web address is a clue that I am not in the USA…
  • relate the offer to the person. A USB key could be useful for me, but a more targeted response would have suggested I put client documents on a branded USB key instead of a plain disc or compile some templates or articles to hand out to prospective clients. They just assumed I did presentations that have notes suitable to a USB key. A serious sales proposition would be based on my needs, not a generalisation
  • I’ve said it before, but use the person’s name – it is the most important word in their language. “Hello,” isn’t good enough and finding a name off a good website isn’t that hard.
  • The paragraphs start ‘Could you…’, ‘My company…’, “We can…’, “please visit…’ and “Thank you…’ Every starting point is asking me to do something or talks about them. Where’s the appeal to me, the message that I am going to benefit from this purchase?
  • The email opens with a request to direct her to the marketing person but then continues as if I am the marketing person. If you request a name, wait for that answer or at least link into the remaining information (e.g. ‘We want to contact your marketing person to explain…’)
  • Check your sentences say what you want them to. This email included this gem “We are not offering rush production services, and custom shape USB flash drives, you tell us the shape you want your flash drive to be, we will make if for you!” So we don’t offer custom shaped drives but we will make any shape you tell us – doesn’t inspire a lot of trust…
  • The email finished with “We offer non – profit organizations, schools and charities a discounted rate, so please be sure to mention that for even better pricing.” That’s nice, but as I’m not a school, charity or non-profit group it doesn’t help me much; then again, the email says mention their discounted rate for better pricing and I could mention it easily enough! The lesson again is make the message relevant and clear.
  • Ensure your contact details are easy to use. This woman gave me a phone number without any area (or country) code and no address so how can I ring her? I’d bet that if I dialed it exactly as is I wouldn’t get her!
  • Build trust. This email came from an email address that doesn’t match the email given in her signature or the URL she includes which makes me wonder why she didn’t use the company email address and makes me very suspicious.

Of course, even had she written a much better email, I still wouldn’t buy from her as I hate spammers and she didn’t meet legal requirements of including her address. Would you have ordered any USB keys from such an email? Had she followed my tips do you think you’d have been more likely to buy from her?

At least you know what to avoid when you next write a sales letter!


*Photo courtesy of 123rf

What is profit?

I have seen a lot of businesses recently offering a proportion of sales or profits to the bushfire appeal, and seen/heard various discussions about this. What thing that has stood out to me is that not everyone understands what a profit actually is, so I think it’s time to discuss it!

The concise Oxford dictionary gives the following definition…

profit: 1. advantage, benefit 2. pecuniary gain, excess of returns over outlay.

Or as a verb, it defines it as bringing or being of advantage.

Profit is different to proceeds or turnover which is the total amount of money coming into your business from customers. If you sell 10 items at $50 each, your turnover is $500 but your profit could be a lot less.

Simply put, profit is the money left over once you have paid all your business expenses. Or you can view it as profit = turnover – expenses.

So continuing from the above example, if each item costs you $20 to make and your overheads are $10 per item, your expenses are $30 and you will make $20 profit on each item. So from a turnover of $500 you will make $200 profit.

Expenses are everything your business spends money on to conduct business. As well as obvious costs such as materials and equipment to make products or products from a supplier, it includes what are known as overheads – the cost of electricity, marketing and promotions, staff, office/shop space, insurance, registrations, legal fees and so on.

Getting back to making donations as a business, ‘100% of profits’ would mean a $200 donation from the sale of 10 items whereas a ‘100% of proceeds’ would mean a $500 donation.

Make blogs interesting, not advertisments!

Some time ago, I wrote about avoiding a sales pitch as your blog ending. I was recently reminded of this when reading a post on a new blog.

The post was about others not having enough skill to offer professional services, which is a fair point (and one of my pet hates, too!) However, a middle section of the post was “Others wrongly offer a and b. Our business offers x and y”., and expanded on what they offer.

Instead of explaining their point of view so I could learn something, they told me what they can do – I still don’t know why they think their way is better than anyone else’s way. Consequently, I gained no knowledge and they gained no credibility.

Blogging is not just a form of cheap advertising – it is about building a community where people share information, ideas and opinions. The more you give through your blog, the more likely that people will start trusting you and valuing your expertise. That is how blogs bring you customers – not by boring them with lists of your services.

Here’s to interesting blogs to read!

Writing effective ads

I have seen some ads lately that just don’t do justice to the product/service they are supposed to be promoting. Some are poorly designed so I won’t touch them, but others look great but the words let it down.

The key is knowing the purpose of the ad – is it to get website traffic, explain a new product, attract a certain type of person, increase sales, or …

Once you know the purpose, you can make the headline, graphics and text suit that purpose.

Next is knowing your audience – using terms like ‘lol’, ‘RAM’, ‘html’, ‘ftp’ and ‘ppc’ will work if you are attracting IT specialists but not so well if you are after people in their 80s.

The hard part is then adding enough information to meet your purpose but not so much you overwhelm or bore people. This is definitely the stage where it is valuable to write it, leave it and then review it a few days later.

As well as the above points, you need the basic writing rules, too – good spelling, correct grammar and an easy-to-read format and style. Put it all together and your ads will be much more effective than the ones I mentioned earlier.

Word Constructions
Word Constructions ~ for all your business writing needs