notebook and flowers on a desk

Should You Start a Blog?

Did you know that February 7 is international Start a Blog day? Plan now to begin the blog that's been on your to-do list forever!

It may seem crazy to encourage people to start a blog. After all, there's a ton of blogs out there covering almost every topic you can imagine. Mom blogs, cooking blogs, business blogs, gardening blogs, you name it, there is a blog for it.

Even though the internet seems saturated with blog content, there's still room for more blogs. If you have an original idea and are willing to invest the time and energy into creating unique content, blogging may be a good way to generate site traffic and content for your digital advertising programs.

5 Reasons to Start a Blog

  1. Search visibility - blogs enable site owners to post multiple pages with keywords associated with their site. Think of each blog post like a page and you'll see what I mean. Each post acts as a potential entry point into your website, adding plenty of places for Google to find, index, and serve your site to searchers.
  2. Branding - a blog provides your company with a unique opportunity to share your perspective on business issues. A well-constructed blog filled with content that supports your brand style offers another excellent branding opportunity.
  3. Social shares - blogging provides fresh content links to share across multiple social media platforms. Such links may reach new audiences, people who may not otherwise have found your site.
  4. Expertise - sharing your expertise on a topic helps boost your digital persona. A digital persona is an online impression people receive from all of your online interactions. Blogging around a topic of interest provides a focus to find experts on such a topic, and others may seek you out based on your posts.
  5. Profit - yes, blogging can be profitable. A good blog can earn money through advertising, affiliate programs, product sales, and more. Some bloggers do earn their living solely from their blogging work and related products, such as books and courses, they sell from their blogs. How profitable a blog can be depends upon the skill of the blogger, the audience, and the topic, of course, but I do know two people who make their living solely through blogging. It can be done.

Two Popular Free Blogging Platforms to Try

Today on this "start a blog day" check out the two most popular blogging platforms.

WordPress: WordPress remains the most popular blogging platform despite a steeper learning curve than its competitor, Blogger. A free WordPress blog offers an excellent starting point for any content and can be upgraded to a paid site. (We recommend Web Design of Palm Beach if you want to upgrade. They host our sites and do a great job.)

Blogger: I started most of my blogs on Blogger. It used to be independent but is now owned by Google. It's difficult to create pretty blogs using their outdated templates but it is an easy, intuitive way to start a blog. Plus because it is owned by Google it is easy to incorporate Google AdSense and track your posts.

Now is the time to start a blog. If you'd like help starting a blog or creating unique content for your blog, please contact Seven Oaks Consulting. We provide consultation and writing services with an emphasis on SEO writing, including blogging.


a desk with cellphone, laptop

Facebook Business Pages: The Dangers

Many small business owners rely on Facebook business pages for their online presence. "I don't need a website," they tell me. "See, I get this free Facebook business page and I can promote my company as well as share information with my customers."

Our local health food store has a business page...the dog trainer I follow for tips to train Zeke has a website and a Facebook page, but he rarely updates his website. Local companies often spend time and effort on their Facebook presence without a website.

It's a huge mistake. Marketing misinformation is rampant, especially around setting up a presence online. Be smart and avoid these mistakes.

She Lost Everything When Her Facebook Business Page Was Hacked

I felt like a broken record telling small business clients, "Don't do this" but it wasn't until an email reached my desk today from fellow marketing consultant Sandra Martini that I saw firsthand the chilling effects of what happens when a Facebook page is hacked.

Sandra's email detailed a nightmarish story unfolding on her Facebook account. Sandra's business account generated $50,000 of sales (her business books and consulting packages) yet she lost it all in one day.

Here's what happened.

Someone hacked her Facebook account. That person began charging advertising to her account to the tune of $1,600. Then, they reversed the charges and took the money. Facebook immediately canceled her accounts -- all of them -- for suspicious activity.

Sandra lost:

  • Her business Facebook page, which she had spent a decade building
  • Her personal Facebook account, which she used to keep in touch with family and friends
  • Access to several clients' Facebook pages which she was responsible for managing

Her words of advice: Never have only one administrator on the account. Always have a backup. And never rely solely on Facebook pages for revenue, customer contact, or your business presence.

Why Have a Backup Administrator on a Facebook Business Page?

When Sandra's account was hacked, the company notified her of suspicious activity. Since she was the only person on the account, however, when they locked the account, she had no way of recovering the information.

A second administrator unlinked to her personal page may have been able to salvage the account and with it the decade of hard work that she'd put into building her social media presence.

Granting someone else in your company admin rights to your Facebook business page is a smart idea.

Websites Are Essential for ALL Businesses

It sounds strange to have to say this but yes, a website is essential for all small businesses today. It should be built for mobile-first as the majority of people now use mobile devices to access the web. It should also be properly optimized for search engines. Even if your business relies on local traffic only, people still search online for your address, phone number, menu, hours, or other information.

When you build your own website, you own it. Unlike a Facebook business page, which can disappear at the whim of Facebook, your website is your own property and a valuable asset for your company. Purchasing the domain name and setting up a simple hosted WordPress site may take a few days, but it is well worth the effort and gives you a prime piece of 'online real estate' to call your own.

If you're not sure how to set up a website, please contact Seven Oaks Consulting. We'd be delighted to help you build a permanent online "home" for your business - aka, a website.

More Free Marketing Articles for You


a white coffee cup next to a laptop

Customer Service and Product Development

Customer service can be one of your best marketing allies. Listening to customer complaints can help you adjust your product marketing strategy.

Listen to Complaints

A young friend of mine launched an Etsy business this month. I watched from a distance as she carefully photographed and listed her products. She celebrated her first sales...and then came hot on the heels of those first transactions, her very first return.

She was devastated. She took to social media to share her disgust with the person who didn't read her listing. The customer thought they were purchasing one type of item, when in fact she did not sell that item.

Customer Service: The Underused Product Development Strategy

I don't know what the final outcome was of that transaction, but knowing my honest young friend, I suspected she eventually refunded the customer's money and moved on. However, a few things stood out for me in the story, and I thought I'd take a moment to share my perspective on customer service, particularly in an ecommerce or retail environment.

(A note from me first: I worked in retail, in the trenches so to speak, for two years. I ran a successful ecommerce business for over a decade. I managed marketing for an upscale retail store. I have a peculiar love of retail. It's exhausting. It's exhilarating. It's my thing. What can I say?)

4 Tips for Better Customer Service

  1. Respect: The customer may not always be right, but should always be treated as if THEY believe they are right. In other words, you may have done nothing wrong. You may have provided the exact service they requested. You may have listed the product clearly on your Etsy store. But if they are unhappy, they are unhappy. That is the fact you must deal with - their unhappiness. Try to make them happy, even if they are not right.
  2. Consideration: Issuing returns should be rare. If you find you are constantly issuing returns, it's time to check your marketing. There's a gap somewhere between customer expectations and what you are offering.
  3. Integrity: NEVER take your frustrations out on social media. The second you start posting about your customers in any way, the second someone, somewhere, is going to read those comments. I don't care if you set your privacy status to super-duper lock down mode. Word will get out that you talk trash about customers, and they won't shop with you anymore. Don't do it. Just walk away from your computer before you share something you'll regret.
  4. Marketing: You know the old chestnut about how you get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers? It's pretty accurate. If your customers aren't repeat customers because what you sell isn't conducive to repeat business, they tell others about their experience, and that brings more business to you. Be always on your guard against poor customer service. It can kill your business faster than you think.

Good customer service is often what sets apart similar products. People choose to do business with companies that treat them like valued customers, not like an annoyance. If you have any unhappy customer, accept graciously their feedback, take what you can and leave the rest.

burgundy flowers, pen and notebook on a desk

Why Are Stock Photos for Business Websites So Boring?

Stock photos for business websites are boring. I don’t care which website you’re looking at; most feature one or more of the following

  • People in gray or black business attire around a conference table
  • Hands at a keyboard/calculator
  • Desks
  • Office buildings
  • Binary code to make you think of “high tech”
  • Two people shaking hands

Yes, stock images for business sites are boring.

Stock Images for Business Sites Are Boring!

Looking at this list, I notice one thing: a lack. A lack of zest, of creativity, of energy, of daring!

Unless your business is super conservative – and there are few of those left in this world – these photos are boring, clichéd, and (shudder) safe. So safe they blend into the woodwork like beige-painted walls.

Let’s not play it safe, shall we? Let’s be daring. Let’s talk like pirates. Let’s be bold, free, and most importantly – ourselves when it comes to images for our business websites!

Branding Through Images

Branding is more than the logo and colors chosen for your business. Branding actually consists of the spaces in between the tangible, the feelings and emotions evoked by a business. Diving deeply into your business through the feedback from your customers is the surest way I know to find your true brand image. Often what you believe is your brand isn’t your brand, but someone else’s ideas about your brand.

We carry with us the images of all of the things we have encountered throughout our lives, and this colors our perception of “what a business should look like.” Most of us are numb to the images we see daily around us. The billboards, the websites, the signs. We are used to what others think a bakery should look like, or a pet grooming service, or a marketing agency.

My own business suffered from this for years. I had vowed a long time ago not to resort to the old-typewriter look on my website. Too many copywriters, marketing writers and freelance writers use the typewriter as a metaphor for writing. But truly, how many companies hiring us these days even remember what a typewriter was, never mind realize it’s a symbol of a writer? The only industry still clinging to its ancient symbolic roots like this is the caduceus in medicine or the draft horses on the teamsters union sign.

Computer keyboards are, alas, a typical stand-in to demonstrate our finesse as writers, but does this truly exemplify what we do? I am no more a typist than I am a red-pen artist; I write and I edit, I create and I craft, I define and I refine.

But how do you visually express create, craft, define, refine?

My customers tell me they love working with me for the solid, dependable experience I bring to the encounter, the warmth of our working relationships, the feeling that I “get” their business and am able to express what’s in their hearts and minds about their own work. How do you express that visually?

Storytelling Includes Metaphors. So Should Can Your Brand Images.

Storytellers often use metaphors to express feelings. When metaphors become clichéd, they are boring and detract from the writing.

Visual storytellers or web designers must reach for metaphors, too. It’s easy to fall back on boring and clichéd visual metaphors such as hands hovering over a keyboard or concerned people seated around a conference table. Visual and verbal metaphors remain part of the common consciousness because they work, at least on the superficial level.

To truly stand out, however, you must dig deeply for your next metaphor. Your visual images should convey your brand attributes in ways that feel right for your business. My own brand visual includes references to nature; I am at home in nature, whether walking the woodland trails near my home or tending to my garden. It is in nature that I am myself, and in nature that I am most creative, so in nature do I place my business.

The metaphors I’ve chosen echo what clients say and what our company name reflects: oak, a solid wood, one of the strongest, symbol of the great Norse gods and of strength, durability, and power.

As you choose images for your website, consider your brand attributes.

Creativity? Reach for the creative. Think big! Black and white with splashes of color, interesting angles, close-ups or panoramas. Give your audience the unexpected, the jarring, the unique.

Attention to detail is your brand attribute? Think tiny, intricate photos of the weave of cloth, of frost on a windowpane, or cells in a leaf. All of these are available as stock photos you can license.

Professional? Ditch the men in business suits, please. Consider abstract prints, artistic swirls, or something fun. Consider unusual images that reflect your bright shining personality, not the personality of Big Corporate Culture.

Choosing and defining your brand takes time. Once you’ve figured it out, however, you’re well on your way to avoiding the stock photos for business websites that make you sleep syndrome. Be the wake-up call for your industry. Be the leader.

hom eoffice setup with computer on a desk

Why Customer Service Matters

We've all experienced awful service. We've all experienced good service.

As business people, we all know - or should know- the value of excellent customer service.

How valuable is good customer service? If you improve service by just 5%, according to Bain & Company, profits can increase 25 to 90%.

So with just a little effort, training, and better hiring practices, you may be able to increase profits. Who wouldn't want that?

In this article written for Medium, I share not just the facts about why good customer service matters, but how to achieve it without spending a fortunate on fancy loyalty programs, punch cards, free gift with purchase items and so on.

Enacting a strong customer service policy isn't expensive, but it's not easy. It takes thought, effort, and consistency. When it's done well, however, it can reduce customer attrition (churn) and boost profits.

Again, I ask: Who wouldn't want that?

Read the full article here: The Customer Pays Your Salary - Why Excellent Customer Service Is Vital for Client Retention

notebook and flowers on a desk

Content Marketing Mistakes

I really liked this post from Amy Gynn on Content Marketing mistakes. I see so many of these mistakes, and most of them are easily prevented or corrected. Besides, a good infographic on content marketing deserves to be shared.

plant and notebook on desk

Customers Are Won, Not Managed

Far too often I hear company executive talk about "managing their customers." Customers are people who pay your salary, not widgets to be managed.


You can manage expectations, but managing people for profitability is just...wrong.


Let's talk instead about building trust, value, and long term relationships for enduring loyalty. And yes, profits. Profits come after building trust and value.


Today I've published a new piece on Medium talking about how CRM is often used to mean software instead of the relationship itself. You may read the article here: Don't Manage Customer Relationships. Build Them. 

Grow Your Email List Fast


Email remains one of the most popular ways of reaching customers. Constant Contact, the email marketing company, states that for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you earn $38. The right list, strong copy, and a compelling call to action get results.

I've written a new article for ADP THRIVE on how to grow your email list quickly. It includes my tips for growing a strong, responsive email list. You can read the article here: How to Grow Your Email List.

Should Freelancers Express Their Opinions on Social Media?

This week, we've watched horrific events unfold across the nation. Hurricanes decimated Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. A gunman opened fire on concert goers in Las Vegas, killing 59 and wounding hundreds of people. It's more than anyone can bear. To be honest, some days, I don't watch or read the news.

I can't avoid the chatter on social media, however. Not only do I rely upon social media for my own promotional needs, but I am part of a freelance team managing social media for a large, global marketing agency. Our clients rely on us to publish great social media posts and to maintain constant awareness of what's trending. On any given day, I am checking into my social media accounts several times a day, liking, commenting, following, and sharing.

As anyone who follows social media will attest, there's no shortage of opinions. No, people aren't shy on social media! This week alone, I've read everything from conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas gunman (he wasn't a lone wolf, he was a secret Antifa member, he was a secret Al-Queda member, you name it) to so much vitriol and hatred against the president that I feel like I went swimming in a tar pit.

I have opinions. I consider my opinions well-formed, based on sound, intelligent reasoning, logical deduction, and a well-read mind. That said, I don't share them on social media.

Social media has been called an echo chamber and it is quite true. Few of us have friends with differing opinions; we rarely tolerate opinions contrary to our own.

Perhaps even more importantly for a freelancer such as myself, social media puts my opinions on display for all to see, including current and prospective clients. It's a known fact that companies screen potential employees' social media feeds during the recruiting process. So too do clients see my social media posts, which is why I stay within neutral topics.

I'm not saying that freelance writers, consultants, editors and others offering services hide their opinions. We all have opinions. I am saying to be very careful about how you express them on social media. Unless you want to limit your work options, it may be better to keep your opinions to yourself or express them among close friends. In person. The old-fashioned way.

5 Tips for Strong Writing


Flabby prose. Flat, uninteresting sentences. Trite, cliché-ridden advertising and marketing copy. We've all seen it. Heck, maybe we've even written it. I'm here to help you turn that fat-ridden body of words into a lean, mean, athletic machine. I'm here to help you turn flabby, 90-pound weakling words into buff Charles Atlas-fit writing fit for kings. These 5 tips will help you write well whether you are writing for print or web, school or work, fiction or nonfiction, but they are aimed at people writing business documents.

Five Tips for Strong Writing

  1. Write from the verbs: Verbs provide action. The stronger the verb, the more interesting the writing. A strong action verb immediately sets your prose apart because 90% of people writing blog posts, web copy and marketing copy do not know this trick. The passive voice prevails among academic papers, technology companies, and websites where a 'scholarly' tone is desired. Yet you can write in an active voice even when creating serious, scholarly works.
  2. Use for strong verbs: A corollary to writing from active verbs dictates writing from strong verbs. Strong verbs describe, inspire, and connect readers to an immediate mental picture. If you use strong verbs, you are less likely to reach for adverbs or adjectives to enhance the reader's mental picture because they already have a clear image in mind of what is happening.
  3. Shorten your sentences: I'm guilty of this, and it is something I have to work on, especially in my business writing. I love writing lengthy, complex sentences. Blame my earlier training in linguistics and literature, especially Victorian literature. I can string together independent and dependent clauses to rival the most purple-prose riddled Victorian text, but it's ineffective in business writing. Shorten, tighten, and shorten again when writing business copy.
  4. Start with your conclusion: Business writing begins with the end in mind. State the conclusion first, then back into it with supporting details. In school, triangles were used to help us imagine the structure of a paragraph; an upside-down triangle adequately represents strong business writing. Lead with the conclusion or desired action, then add your strongest supporting details and so on.
  5. Incorporate a personal tone: Too many business documents sound impersonal and robotic because somewhere, someone learned that to be 'personal' in a business document smacks of  ineptitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. A warm, professional and personal tone lends voice and credence to your documents. By personal, I don't mean relating your weekend plans or your breakfast choices. I do mean using contractions, simple phrases, and personal touches to enliven your documents.


Lastly, here are a few rules of thumb for business writing:

  • Spell check programs cannot catch everything. It offers suggestions, not hard and fast instructions, so proceed with caution.
  • Search online for the correct spelling of proper nouns, especially newfangled brand names which love to mash together two words with random capitalization to make it jazzy.
  • Avoid the Random Capitalization syndrome, or capitalizing words to make them appear important. It's distracting and annoying.
  • Use a consistent style for writing out numbers and dates. It often doesn't matter which style you use, as long as you keep it consistent. I prefer to spell out numbers zero through nine, and then write numerals beyond 10, but that's a personal preference. AP Style and Chicago Manual of Style are two commonly used style guides that can help you through the nitty-gritty of stylistic choices.


If you'd prefer to hire a professional writer, editor, and word wrangler, let's talk. Until then, may these tips act like vitamins to boost your weak muscles into strong, bone-crunching prose.




(C) 2018 by Jeanne Grunert, The Marketing Writer | Seven Oaks Consulting. I offer writing, editing, and marketing consulting services.