Writing

Quality is the key

This page provides examples of professional copywriting I’ve used to convert customers from websites, print ads, marketing brochures, videos, blogs, and emails on behalf of organizations in multiple industries.

I’m updating this page frequently as part of an overall rebranding of this site as a professional portfolio. You can view my professional copywriting résumé here.

 

1) Converting customers by demonstrating passion for the product: Lowcountry Vistas

A key characteristic of my landscape design business‘s brand is passion for–and subject matter expertise in–native Charleston, SC landscaping concepts. Much of the copy I wrote for the website reflects the company’s slogan, “Landscaping Native”, and uses an authentic, conversational tone that reflects a genuine passion for the job. The writing is also search engine optimized: I used research from Google Analytics to choose keywords and phrases to give the site a high ranking in the business’s area of service. Coupled with a call to action at the bottom of each page, the site converts a steady flow of customers who are convinced they want to hire me before they speak with me.

photo of palmetto tree

Example text:

Many of you are visiting this site for the first time. I’d like to welcome you and, in addition to providing a brief introduction, give you an overview of my South Carolina Lowcountry landscape design and installation philosophy.

You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the Lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of her marshes.

-Pat Conroy

Use as many native plants as possible.

I’m biased because I grew up on James Island, but I’ve seen much of the world (even spent a semester in beautiful–albeit flawed–Venezuela), and I believe that the South Carolina Lowcountry is one of the most beautiful places on this planet. Ours is a unique environment that offers Southern staples such as crepe myrtles, azaleas, camellias, and jasmine, native semi-tropical coastal palms such as Palmetto trees and sabal minors, coastal grasses such as sweetgrass and pampas, native semi-tropical coastal shrubs such as oleander and yucca, and iconic verdure exclusive to this area such as grand oaks and spartina salt marsh. This is an incredibly picturesque area, and no plant will thrive in this habitat like a native one.

Low Country Vistas Design Photo by Seth Mason

Additionally, I wrote several brief blog posts to drum up business for Lowcountry Vistas. These are my favorites. Note that I used the above text as the intro to a post. I like to re-purpose content when I can.

My Charleston Landscape Design And Installation Philosophy

The Importance Of A Native Charleston Landscape Designer

Incorporating Mosquito Repelling Plants Into Charleston Landscape Designs

 

2) Writing long-form blog posts from multiple perspectives to generate pageviews: Seeking Alpha

Circa 2010-2014, I ghost-authored a good many long-form blog posts (“articles”, if you will) for the investment site Seeking Alpha. As an anonymous author, I penned articles under multiple pseudonyms from a variety of perspectives to increase patronage of SA’s flavor of “customer”: readers. In order accomplish this, I assumed different points of view, made disparate investment recommendations, and employed distinct writing styles. My posts received between 10,000 and 100,000 page views each…the number varied greatly depending on the pseudonym I wrote as and the topic I covered. This is my favorite article:

DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE LOST GENERATION

“Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)”

– “My Generation”, The Who, 1965

The Great Recession and the seemingly interminable aftermath have significantly reduced my generation’s contribution to the economy and lowered its desirability as a target demographic for investors. Unemployment for my generation is more than 25% higher than the national average. We currently hold $1 trillion in student loan debt. And, as the years pass, our economic futures look dimmer. Call us Millennials, Generation Y, or whatever you wish. Just call us lost.

People in their 20’s to mid-30’s are the first generation in American history to have a significantly reduced standard of living than the previous generation. As the Institute for Higher Education Policy suggests (.pdf), nearly 20% of my generation lives in poverty. Moreover, a staggering 40% of us live in “near poverty”. The really scary part: the majority of us who live in poverty are college-educated. A good many even have graduate degrees.

Due to extreme economic circumstances, my generation is delaying “life-cycle” events that should be contributing to the economy. Unlike most people our age from previous generations, most of us aren’t buying houses, buying new cars, getting married, or having children. This creates a very high opportunity cost to the economy. In fact, Dr. Patrick Fagan, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, argues (.pdf) that missed life-cycle events can reduce one’s lifetime contribution to GDP by as much as half.

Many from my generation have turned to educational advancement to escape our economic depression (at tremendous cost). But it isn’t helping. As fellow Seeking Alpha contributor Nick Pardini recently pointed out, post-graduate education carries a horrendous ROI for us. Nearly half of us work a job outside of our career paths, and a stunning 80% of my generation’s PhDs and law grads are either unemployed or underemployed.

Baby Boomers, fearful of retiring, are crowding my generation out of the workforce by holding onto jobs. A 2010 study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire found that 1 in 5 Americans age 65 or older still work in their careers. The AP reports that three-fourths of Boomers plan to work after retirement. And, according to the Population Reference Bureau, by 2016 the U.S. workforce will have more employees over age 65 than from my generation.

For context, it was much easier for displaced workers from the Great Depression to return to work than those from my generation. In the 1930s, most workers were unskilled or nominally skilled. A factory worker, for example, didn’t have to worry about his skills or credentials eroding during years of unemployment or underemployment. Today, however, most jobs require continuous learning. Years of unemployment or underemployment are much more damaging to my generation than they were to the Great Depression generation.

So, how might investors approach my downtrodden generation? Well, we’re all about escapism and bargain hunting.

As for escapism, we’re generally tech-savvy, and we play with our gadgets to escape our unfortunate reality. Innovators such as Apple (TICKER:AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Zynga (ZNGA) will continue to enjoy our patronage regardless of our financial condition. We’re social media fanatics, and we use Facebook (FB) and FB’s new acquisition, Instagram, heavily. FB’s upcoming IPO would be an excellent idea. And we like to drink craft brews to forget our troubles. Boston Brewing Company (SAM) owns several craft breweries around the country.

Naturally, we look for bargains. We tend to support local business more than other age groups, but we do frequent big-box discounters such as Kohl’s (KSS) and Target (TGT). And yes, we frequently take the walk of shame to deep discounters like Dollar General (DG) and Dollar Tree (DLTR). We’re also big fans of finding deals on Amazon (AMZN). Online discount retail is our future.

My generation is lost, and if history is any indication, it’s not going to be found. According to Yale economics professor Lisa B. Kahn, those who experience long-term economic duress as a young adult almost inexorably have a lifetime of significantly reduced earnings. Plan to invest accordingly.

 

3) Speaking the customers’ language and understanding their culture: Torres Law Firm

 This ad, made for distribution in Hispanic print media throughout South Carolina, is simple, and the importance of this example lies in but one word: “comprende”. The word comprende is from the Spanish verb “comprender”, one of the verbs that mean “to understand” en español. But compreder, unlike other Spanish verbs that mean to understand, is mostly used in Mexico, the country from which most of South Carolina’s Hispanics have immigrated. I typically use the verb “entender” to say to understand, but I used comprender in this ad to tailor the verbiage to the target audience. (I always try consider the nuances of my audience when writing, including when writing emails.) FYI, the complete sentence says “where the attorney speaks your language and understands your culture”. (Click image to enlarge.)

Seth Mason's example ad

 

4) Converting strangers into potential customers with strategically-written cold emails: Lowcountry Vistas, Charleston Spanish Tutor, and Publicaciones el Nuevo Sur

Although I don’t like cold calling, I have generated a decent amount of customer interest in my businesses through cold emails. Because I’m averse to bothering people, I wrote these unsolicited emails from the perspective of the strangers I would send them to. As I composed them, I asked myself: “What would pique these strangers’ interest in an unsolicited email without sounding ‘spammy’?” “What would they see as a compelling value proposition from a stranger?”

Example text:

Subject: Hispanic Marketing Consultancy Looking To Help More Small Insurance Businesses In CA

Hi Tom,

I’m the owner of a Hispanic marketing consultancy that serves the under-served small business market. I’ve helped several small insurance businesses grow their Hispanic customer bases, and I’m looking for the opportunity to help yours, too.

When I was the publisher of Vida Latina, a multi-market Spanish-language newspaper that served the Carolinas and Georgia, I noticed that most Hispanic ad agencies targeted large corporate clients and paid little attention to the needs of small businesses, including small insurance businesses like yours. So, a few years ago, I decided to use my publishing and marketing expertise to help small businesses capitalize on the rapidly-growing Hispanic consumer demographic. Since then, I’ve helped dozens of small businesses grow their Hispanic customer bases, including some other small insurance businesses in California.

I’m a small business owner who knows the Hispanic market, and I hope for the opportunity to help grow your Hispanic clientele like I’ve helped grow the Hispanic clientele of other small insurance businesses in CA. You can find examples of my print and multimedia work here (NOTE: Link was here.), and you can read client testimonials here (NOTE: Link was here.). If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Thank you,
Seth Mason
Owner, Publicaciones el Nuevo Sur
(NOTE: Link was here.)
“Connecting Small Business With The Hispanic Market”

Subject: Top-Rated Charleston Landscape Designer Seeking “Lowcountry Look” Builder In Beaufort

Hi John,

I’m a landscape designer in Charleston who specializes in the “Lowcountry look”, i.e. using native plants and materials that are representative of the South Carolina Lowcountry. I have more 5 star Google reviews than any landscape designer in the Charleston area, and I’m looking to partner with a good builder in Beaufort.

Since your designs have a “Lowcountry look”, too, I was wondering if you’d be interested in offering your customers added value through the “Lowcountry look” of my designs. You can learn more about my work on the residential landscape design plan page of my website, and you can read reviews of my work here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,
Seth Mason
Owner, Lowcountry Vistas Charleston
“Landscaping Native”
LowcountryVistas.com

Subject: Highest-Rated Spanish Tutor In Charleston Looking To Help New Students

Hi Elena,

I operate a top-rated Spanish tutoring business here in Charleston, and I have experience improving students from JICHS, Bishop England, Wando, Porter-Gaud, and other public and private high schools throughout the area. I have more 5 star Google reviews than any private tutor in the area, and I was wondering if any of your students were in need of tutoring.

Thank you,
Seth Mason
Owner, Charleston Spanish Tutor
“Making Non-native Speakers Fluent”
CharlestonSpanishTutor.com

 

5) Giving customers valuable tips as to how products can be used to benefit their organizations: Sawgrass, Inc.

As part of my work for my marketing consultancy, I ghost wrote blog posts in English as well as in Spanish. Some of the entries were written on behalf of customers who had used a company’s product or service to benefit their organization. For those posts, I compiled information from the customer and the product(s) they used and created a customer experience story that resonated with potential customers.

Image from Seth Mason's blog post about printing

Example text:

If you’re like most new product decorators, you likely spend much of your time running from one customer to the next, accepting any order you can get. While this isn’t a bad approach when you’re just starting your business, it rarely leads to long-term growth. You need a more methodical strategy to develop a steady customer base that keeps money flowing through your doors.

They key to success is really getting to know your customers. Unfortunately, gaining this knowledge can be very tedious and time consuming if you simply research on a client-by-client basis.

However, if you concentrate on a whole market–as opposed to a single company or customer–you can put all of your energy into developing a single strategy that can be applied to multiple clients.

Targeting these niche markets enables you to develop a sensible marketing strategy that focuses on creating and delivering a saleable product to those who want to buy. By putting your energies into a targeted market, you’re better able to understand:

  • Who your customers are.
  • What they want.
  • What they’re willing to pay for your products.

Familiarity is one of the most important traits of a good niche market. Knowing the subjects or organizations involved with that market enables you to understand the needs of potential customers and communicate on a personal level. It also makes it much easier to create unique products and services that have instant appeal to the market and position yourself as an exclusive provider. For example, I have a love of boats, water sports, and fishing.

Initially, I catered to boating and fishing businesses, offering them products that featured their logo. As I got to know this market better, I saw special opportunities for which I could use my resources as a product decorator.

 

6) Generating a call to action though emotion: Centro Para Los Derechos Humanos

For my marketing consultancy, I created print and digital ads in English and Spanish, such as this one for a nonprofit that was placed in Hispanic print media throughout the Southeast. The ad compelled victims of domestic violence to call the organization to receive free immigration assistance…I intentionally skewed the photo of the subject to the upper-right so the viewer was drawn to the word “GRATUITOS” (free) above her unspoken call for help. Even with a passing glance, Spanish speakers knew exactly what the ad promoted. Through this ad campaign, the organization provided free assistance to hundreds of victims of domestic violence. (Click image to enlarge.)

Image from domestic nonprofit

 

7) Reaching out to a high-level government official with a compelling cold email in Spanish: Medellín mayor-elect Daniel Quintero

It’s no secret that I’m in love with Medellín and I’m trying to move there. During my numerous trips there, I’ve done a great amount of networking in my quest to secure a means of income that would permit me to live there full-time. In addition to seeking a copywriting job I can work remotely, I’m exploring the possibility of helping the founder of an international technology nonprofit launch a pilot program there, as it’s already done in 26 countries across the globe. Launching the program in Medellín requires funding and technical assistance from local governments, so I’ve been reaching out to prominent government officials such as mayor-elect Daniel Quintero. Daniel happens to come from a tech background and went to college in the U.S. Of greater interest to us, he won the election on a platform of leveraging technology and English/Spanish bilingualism in order to convert Medellín into an internationally-recognized tech hub. So, when writing him a succinct cold email, I stated how the initiative would help him reach his goal.

Subject: Estimado Alcalde: Iniciativa Educativa Tecnológica Internacional Para Medellín

Buenos días Daniel,

Felicitaciones por su victoria! Estoy seguro que su liderazgo ayudará a que Medellín sea un ejemplo de ciudad innovadora.

Llevo un año ayudando al fundador de una iniciativa educativa tecnológica internacional realizar un programa piloto en Medellín. La iniciativa ya cuenta con programas en 26 países, y le sugerí al fundador que realice un programa piloto allí ya que Medellín se está convirtiendo en una ciudad innovadora. Adjunto una presentación PPT sobre la iniciativa y cómo podría beneficiar a los niños de Medellín tal como ha beneficiado a los niños de docenas de ciudades a través del mundo. Tengo muchas ganas de hablar con Ud. sobre la iniciativa y cómo le pueda ayudar alcanzar sus metas sobre la educación tecnológica y el bilingüismo.

Muchas gracias,
Seth

P.S. We’re Americans.

 

8) Stating a clear value proposition to attract donors: Solidus.Center

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Solidus.Center was dependent on funding from foundations, which receive numerous requests for funding each year. In order to convince foundations to donate to my organization in lieu of competing organizations, I had to make a compelling value proposition through the website and the marketing collateral I created, including this prospectus. (Click image to read full PDF.)Link to Solidus.Center ProspectusExample text:

Solidus.Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that promotes economic strength and stability, sound money, equality of opportunity, and reduced government debt by limiting the Federal Reserve System’s influence on the American economy. Through the dissemination of compelling, easy-to-understand content and the empowerment of people passionate about our cause, we work on a grassroots level to educate the American public about how the Federal Reserve negatively impacts its economic health…so that IT may demand change.

Our Value Proposition:

❏ Unique mission that differentiates us from other organizations: restoring the American Dream by limiting the Federal Reserve’s influence on the U.S. economy

❏ Unique strategy of fulfilling our mission: engaging the American people through the dissemination of compelling, easy-to-understand content and the empowerment of volunteers to spread our message on a community level

❏ Existing relationships with online and traditional media outlets

❏ Existing relationships with well-known members of the liberty movement

❏ Lean, nimble, flexible organization that continuously seeks improvement

 

9) Summarizing the value proposition though video: Solidus.Center

During the M.B.A. program at the University of Georgia, I traveled to Atlanta on the weekends to work at CNN Radio. At CNN, I wrote scripts for on-air talent and learned audio production techniques that I used for my marketing consultancy and my nonprofit. The skills transferred to video: In this video for my nonprofit, which I wrote, directed, and appeared in, I distilled the value proposition I made in the aforementioned prospectus into a brief video.

 

The Quality Content (Web) Writing Process

Much of the professional writing I’ve published over the years has been content writing, i.e. writing for websites. I approach content writing from a thoughtful 8 step process, my businessman hat thoroughly in place throughout. The process consists of the following, the most important steps in bold:

1) Determining goals.
2) Determining the audience I want to reach.
3) Researching keywords.
4) Researching how competitors have addressed their audiences with similar content.
5) Writing and uploading content.
6) Analyzing SEO and keyword targeting, editing as necessary.
7) Promoting the content.
8) Experimenting with the content to maximize conversions, implementing changes as needed.

My editing process consists of optimizing the writing for the human reader:

1) Reading all the way through without editing to get an idea of what the text is about, what it involves, and where it’s going.
2) Fixing typos, punctuation, grammar mistakes, and style.
3) Making sure the structure of the text makes sense in terms of order, flow, and clarity.
4) Checking everything from a factual perspective: names and titles, dates and locations, math, sources, etc.
5) Rewriting for readability as needed.

At the end of the day, effective content writing, like effective copywriting in general, is making compelling arguments. While convincing search engines to rank your content highly is important, converting your human audience should be your ultimate goal. As I argued in a blog post on this site, this is why tech startups should consider hiring content marketers from outside of the tech bubble.

It’s important to note that, since the release of Google Hummingbird, content writing for the customer has become more important than ever. Writing for robots is becoming less of a part of effective content writing with every change to Google’s algorithm.

Please visit the branding section of this site to learn how my content writing has contributed to my businesses’ brand awareness.

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