Four Common Mistakes Businesses Make with Their Web Copy

October 12th, 2009

Message from Michelle

Welcome to this issue of Sumèr’s Secrets. Thanks again to all of you who were on the call Tuesday night. I’m excited about the number of people who’ve already signed up for my four-week bootcamp, “The Secrets to Influencing Your Online Market,” which begins October 27th.

This issue of Sumèr’s Secrets focuses on the common mistakes businesses make with their website copy. It’s often easier to write about something or someone else than it is to write about yourself. It’s no different when writing your company’s marketing materials. When you’re too close to something, it can be difficult to see what isn’t clear and needs revising. What you think makes sense may not make sense to your intended audience.

I’d encourage you to read the article below and take action. Go back over your website copy and see how you can better connect with your target audience.

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Feature Article: Four Common Mistakes Businesses Make with Their Web Copy

1) Is your website too self-centered?

“We’re so great at this, so great at that. Want to see all the awards we’ve won? No? Well we’re going to tell you about them anyway.” This might seem over-the-top, but too many business websites do just this. I’m sure businesses that do this haven’t stopped caring about the prospective customers and started caring only about how they look to others—it’s human nature to want to showcase strengths and people are attracted to it—but it won’t work on a website.

The key to influencing your market and attracting clients is all in how your website copy speaks to your customers and how it illustrates your company’s goals, values, and, obviously, products and services. Your web copy should work to build relationships with your prospective customers and illustrate a transparent business message.

2) Do prospects understand what services / products you offer?

How many times have you stumbled across a website that describes its services / products and you have no clue what they’re talking about? While many businesses have the intention of trying to stand out and be completely unique from the competition, all they end up doing is stringing together a bunch of fancy words that have no meaning. It’s nearly impossible to express your uniqueness when you say that your “creative services are unique.” (What does that even mean?)

The key is not about saying you’re different from the competition, but rather, it’s about showing your prospective clients that you offer something different from the competition. This is expressed in a clear, result-driven brand message. When you become clear on your brand message, your target audience becomes clear on what you sell.

3) Do you even know what products / services you offer and to whom?

You may think you know what products / services you offer, but how clear are you? Businesses evolve. Services change. And so does the market. Often, what happens is companies add information to their website over a period of time. The result is a smorgasbord of information that can easily confuse prospects.

If you aren’t specific about the product / services you offer and how they benefit your target market, it is extremely difficult for you to convert prospects into customers. Similarly, if you don’t follow shifting markets, how can you expect to sell products to a customer you no longer know?

4) Are you speaking “Greek” to your prospects?

Your business is unique, and this uniqueness sets it apart from the competition. But, there’s a difference between expressing that uniqueness in industry terms, and illustrating it in layman terms. You understand the industry jargon, but do your prospective customers? Probably not, which is why you need to understand who your target market is and how your brand message and language can be written to connect with them. Remember, it’s important to speak to your prospects and not at them because, many times, they are your peers, not others in your industry.


Tip of the Month

According to the new FTC guidelines, which came out Monday, October 5, 2009, “The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.” And according to WebProNews, bloggers who do not respect these new guidelines can be fined up to $11,000.

If You Think LinkedIn Isn’t Worth Your Time, Think Again

October 9th, 2009

One of the first pieces of advice Ira Shull gave me when I met him at a networking event was to join LinkedIn.  Since then, I’ve heard him repeat that advice at many events and social gatherings.  According to Ira, in his twenty years of working in publishing, ten of which he’s worked freelance, no other tool has found him more work.  Recently I had the pleasure to interview him about how he uses LinkedIn and what his results have been.

Sūmèr: When did you start using LinkedIn?

Ira: I set up a profile early 2008, but I didn’t really start using it until people started contacting me—including people I went to college with, friends I had at previous publishing companies, and so on.  I quickly realized that this was a valuable resource since people were finding me through it, so I added most of my resume information to my profile, got some recommendations from people I’d worked with as well as former clients, began building my contact list, and started really looking to see what I could use the service for.

Sūmèr: How did you use LinkedIn in the beginning?

Ira: One of my initial steps was to pick fifteen contacts that I thought might be able to lead me to freelance work and I send them a group e-mail saying, “I’m looking for work, does anyone know of anything? Please let me know. ” I didn’t ask them for work directly; I just put out to them that I was looking for work and let them decide how to answer.  Out of the fifteen that I contacted, I got quite a few responses, including a job interview at a major publisher and several leads on freelance work.

Sūmèr: How is this different than other methods you’ve used to find freelance work?

Ira: I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years—professional organizations, job boards, freelance job lists, and so forth—and by far the best results I’ve gotten from anything to this point have been through LinkedIn.  For two years, I paid eighty-five dollars to be a member of a job board in New York, getting their job listings.  The person who got me into it said they got one job a year, and in the two years I was on it, I got one job that I made two hundred dollars from—and that was it. I’ve paid nothing for LinkedIn to this point, and I’ve gotten several thousand dollars worth of work.

I’m basically doing direct marketing, and even to get a response is a small success. No one’s said please don’t contact me anymore.  In many cases I suspect these are people who wouldn’t pick up the phone if you called or wouldn’t e-mail you back.

Sūmèr: How are you using LinkedIn now?

Ira: The big change this year is I’ve started using the groups much more.  I’ve joined a lot of groups related to my field and I’m a member of at least fifteen to twenty groups.  Through these groups you have access to a lot more people.  As long as you’re a member of a group, you can send e-mails to other people in that group directly, unless they indicate they want differently.  So, what I tend to do is look through the groups for interested people, people who might have higher authority, or people who might lead to people with higher authority.  I send them an e-mail introducing myself and ask if they have upcoming projects or know of people who might.  I tend to get a pretty good response.  In most cases people say to send my resume or that they might know someone, and in many cases it’s led to work.

I’ve found clients in different ways.  In one instance someone contacted me—unsolicited—through LinkedIn and asked me to provide samples.  Another I contacted and asked them if they had any upcoming work and got a job from them.

In another case I contacted an individual who was looking for editing services and pitched myself to him, and I’ve worked for him multiple occasions. This year I’ve worked with probably six or seven different major clients, and I would say that at least five are through LinkedIn connections, either directly or indirectly.

Sūmèr: Do you have any advice for people using LinkedIn to find a job?

Ira: It’s a great resource.  You have to be very assertive to use it.  You have to be willing to face rejection.  It’s not a panacea or cure all for what ails freelancers, but if you target people through it, and are clear about what you want and are polite and have a track record—by which I mean experience, recommendations, and samples—I think people will respond to you.  I feel people aren’t using it enough because they’re not really sure how it works and aren’t sure about the technology and they’re afraid to contact strangers, but I think that in this marketplace you kind of have no choice—you have to be assertive.

Sūmèr: Any last words?

Ira: LinkedIn changes things from a national marketplace to a global marketplace.  Two of the clients I’ve gotten from LinkedIn are in Australia and Spain.  It’s clear to me that LinkedIn connects you to people throughout the world.  People who are freelancing need to expand their horizons, and not just think in terms of their town, their city, their state, or even their country, because there is work out there, and with the right tools and attitude you can find it.

About Ira: Ira has worked in publishing for over twenty years, ten years of which has been in publishing.  He’s worked with a number of clients as a writing coach/consultant on projects from Ph.D theses to full-length manuscripts, offering structured feedback and guidance on various stages of the writing/publishing process. Currently, he also works with high school students on the acquisition of writing and reading comprehension skills through a private tutoring agency.

Visit Ira’s LinkedIn Profile at

Building a Unique Brand Message One Pair Of Socks at a Time

October 7th, 2009

Oberon Socks, an up-and-coming stylish, men’s sock line, is taking the retail community by storm with its effective and unique brand message and marketing strategies. We’d like to thank owner Chris Clark and partner Maggie Winterfeldt for their willingness to share their struggles with finding the right audience.

The post below is by Maggie Winterfeldt.

In March 2008, Chris came to me with an idea he had for a company. He was going to start a line of men’s dress socks. His reasoning was logical: dress socks had a simple business model, a relatively low price point, and a steady demand. Mostly, however, Chris saw a lack of hip men’s dress socks on the market and believed he could create a superior product to fill that void.

By September 2008, Chris had successfully formed an LLC, settled on a manufacturer, and designed and produced his first batch of Oberon socks. He had also decided that the socks would initially be sold entirely through an ecommerce website, which would eliminate overhead while serving as both a delivery channel and a branding mechanism.

With 2,400 pairs of socks in route to Charleston, SC, and less than a month until the October 1 website launch, we sat down to discuss how we were going to brand Oberon Socks. In questioning Chris about who he felt the Oberon Sock customer was, we discovered that our target market was an educated, young professional, roughly 22-27 years old. He was making money and, while not overly fashionable, was willing to invest in certain status clothing pieces such as designer jeans to impress on the weekends, but during the week he was still learning how to adapt his wardrobe to conservative corporate culture.

Our customer was essentially Chris and his friends. It made perfect sense at the time. We had recently graduated college, and our successful friends had jetted off to NYC and Charlotte after signing inflated offers with finance firms and banks where they made more money than they knew what to do with.

Thus, the initial branding was focused on our customer as a young, successful professional looking to validate his newfound career status with unique, luxury goods that distinguished him in a world of monochromatic suits. We referred to him as a “discriminating client” and described our socks as “upscale.” We aligned our product’s functionality with his lifestyle, boasting that Oberon Socks could take him “from the boardroom to the VIP room with ease” and billed Oberon Socks as “the antidote to the dull corporate wardrobe epidemic.”

We had the Oberon Sock Guy pegged.

Then, two things happened.

First, the economic bubble burst. Our Oberon Sock Guy no longer existed, or at least no longer existed as he once had. Currently unpopular or unemployed, he might still be buying designer jeans, but it now took more than an obvious logo to convince him to purchase them. The jeans had to be perfectly fitted, exceptionally comfortable, and functional enough to wear all week in order for him to spend precious severance dollars on them.

Second, the Oberon Sock Guy we had painted was not the person buying the socks.

The analytics from a small Facebook advertising exercise revealed that the most responsive demographics were 18-22 year olds. Read: college students. Additionally, the socks were being purchased as frequently by women as by men—Oberon Socks were the perfect gift for the difficult-to-shop-for husband, boyfriend, or father. Oberon Socks, we realized, were perceived as a novelty item.

The Oberon Sock Guy was actually an outgoing young man who enjoyed the uniqueness of the product and the attention it garnered in social settings. He wasn’t thinking about work or office appropriate at all. In playing up all of the socks’ upscale qualities, we had missed their most important attribute—they are fun, and that is what customers were responding to.

Since clarifying who our ideal customer is, we have refocused our marketing efforts to better speak to him (and the women who shop for him).

Advertising was the easiest thing to shift. A big change we made here was targeting women, a demographic that was not even on our radar when we began but that became very significant; for example, an advertising campaign aimed at daughters and wives yielded big sales for Father’s Day. Also, we are aiming more marketing efforts at college students whom we discovered to be some of our best customers.

Another huge step we are taking is to rewrite all of our web and promotional copy with a laidback and comedic voice that is better aligned with our customer than the grandiose language we originally used. Looking ahead, our future sock designs will be more about novelty than work wear, since we know now that that is what our customers value.

In the end, what we learned is simple: redirect your efforts toward the people who like the product instead of wasting time and money trying to attract the original group. Defining your product’s target demographic is important, but being able to adapt will ultimately lead to success.

To check out some of Oberon Socks’ great styles visit their website at or contact the team today via email at or by phone at 617.571.7327.

Feel free to share the love and send your friends and family the link to Oberon Socks. Who knows, maybe someone will buy you a pair.

Stop Wasting Your Time Chasing Clients Online

October 5th, 2009

Whether you’re in retail or real estate, tourism or graphic design, you’ll want to join me for my free telecall Tuesday, October 6, 2009, because I’m going to share with you how you can tap into the new age of PR and achieve exposure and more clients.

If you’re on the fence, if you think you don’t have the time, if you don’t think you need to promote online . . . here are 5 reasons why you should join me on this free call:

  1. You’ll learn proven PR integration tips and strategies that you can easily implement on your own today.
  2. You’ll learn how to save thousands of marketing and promotional dollars while maximizing your online exposure.
  3. You’ll get the tips you need to stand apart from the competition and gain massive online exposure across a variety of channels.
  4. You’ll discover exactly how to interact with your target market online and where to interact with them.
  5. You’ll learn what you can to today to get more online exposure.

Register today for “The Ultimate Strategies to Boost Your Online Presence.”

How NOT to Waste Time Promoting Your Company Online

October 2nd, 2009

I’m often asked, “How do you have the time to spend on social media? How do you handle client accounts and do all that blog marketing?” Or my personal favorites, the less tactful questions, “Do you ever sleep? Do you have a life?”

The world of 2.0 has created a wealth of free marketing and PR opportunities. It’s leveled the playing field—the smaller companies can compete on the same level as the big boys. PR 2.0’s user-friendly interface makes it simple for anyone to use. The problem is, this wonderful technology has delivered a healthy dose of overwhelm and exhaustion to those who use it to promote their company.

If you are struggling to find the perfect balance between promoting your brand online and spending your time wisely, you’re not alone.

The list is exhaustive: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Del.ici.ous, YouTube, blog writing, blog commenting, article marketing, ezine writing, and more.

Where does one begin? Where does it end? (Is your head spinning yet?)

There’s a simple remedy to wasting your time promoting your business on social media, Tweeting all day, and commenting on blogs until your fingers ache.

It’s called a strategic plan—one that you can actually implement and stick to.

My team and I are able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time for our clients and Sūmèr (and, yes, still have a life) because we operate off of a deadline-driven plan. Each week, we have objectives we need to meet, which are broken down into daily tasks.

And we batch our work. It’s amazing how many blogs you can comment on when you have a set list of blogs and do it all in one sitting. Set a timer, and don’t switch tasks until you’re finished.

Another great tip is to track your efforts. Whether you track efforts in a spreadsheet, a planner, or a word document, you’ll be able to see where your time is being spent and refine your efforts weekly.

To recap:

1) Create a plan.
2) Break goals down into easily digestible daily tasks.
3) Batch your work.
4) Track what you do and the results you get from your efforts.

Have any tips to help increase business productivity while decreasing the time you waste promoting your company online? We’d love to hear your feedback in our comments section.

Photography Meets Design: The Personal Approach to Online Marketing

September 30th, 2009

It seems today that websites have either photographic elements or graphic design elements, but not necessarily an integration of the two. Jennifer Huffman Photography is making its mark in the website design and photography industry, incorporating photographic elements with graphic design elements for a creative and humanistic approach to online marketing.

Jennifer Huffman, photographer and owner of Jennifer Huffman Photography, brings the personal sides of businesses to life through her photographic and design elements. In an exclusive interview with Jennifer, she shares the secrets that make her designs work to facilitate a connection between the customer and the business, while expressing a clear brand message and personality.

Sūmèr: Some of your sample postcard designs and brochures are absolutely stunning. How do you so seamlessly incorporate photography with design?

Jennifer: What a nice compliment, and thank you! I’ve only just launched my new business after working in corporate communications for several years, so what you’re seeing is a giant burst of creative energy applied to new clients, purposes, and projects. I’m having a blast, and I am delighted that it translates into designs that some call stunning!

My designs are usually inspired by a photograph or collection of photographs. I try to build the design around the photos, keeping it simple while showcasing the photos. I want the images I choose to convey meaning. I aim for tight, articulate, and fresh copy, for streamlined designs that complement my photography. Ideally, all of these elements come together in marketing pieces that are memorable and hard to throw away. So far, I’m finding this is a strategy that works well for me and, hopefully, for my clients.

Sūmèr: What’s the importance of good photography on a website or print collateral?

Jennifer: With “good” photography, you can achieve, in a single photograph, what it may take a combination of fonts, symbols, and graphics to communicate. Busy consumers appreciate that, especially in the current marketplace where they are literally ducking from the barrage of images coming at them from every direction. And businesses can reap the benefits of that appreciation.

Sūmèr: What do companies need to consider before hiring a photographer to take pictures for their marketing materials?

Jennifer: Just as one would want a teacher to know his / her students or a doctor to sit and listen to a patient, great marketing starts with great conversation. When I meet with my clients, I try to find out as much as I can about their image, their mission, their vision, and their passion about their work. I need to be inspired by them—for them. Uninspired marketing pieces get thrown away, which breaks my heart a bit. But, if I can see the company as special and can communicate that through my designs, consumers will pick up on that, too. It’s a more nuanced, more human approach to marketing. I believe consumers want to know that real people, real ideas, and real exchanges are still at the foundation of every business, despite what anonymous online retailers and standardized, commercialized wholesalers may have us think. Photography can capture those nuances. 

Sūmèr: What advice would you give companies who are looking to add photography to their website—whether it be product photography for eCommerce sites, headshots for bio pages, or just anywhere on their site?

Jennifer: I don’t think you can go wrong with paying the utmost attention to detail. That single element, applied to anything but especially to marketing and photography, is key to conveying a polished, thoughtful image to clients or potential customers, regardless of the size of the company or business.

Ideally, a company would use photographs taken expressly for them, with their needs and marketing goals in mind. Anytime a company runs a photo, it is a chance to convey a thousand words in a 480×360 block of webspace. With that opportunity, it’s important to be thoughtful. Photos aren’t fillers; they are communication tools. In every way, those photos should represent the essence of your company, perhaps even more so than the text that the photos are only meant to supplement.

Sūmèr: What are the benefits of incorporating photography with design? How does it project a different brand message than a site with just photography or just design elements?

Jennifer: A single photograph can really be quite powerful. It can evoke emotions, tell a story, and reconnect the viewer with the human elements of business. That is so important today, especially for small businesses competing against the big dogs.

Another benefit to incorporating photos into design is that it can be a fairly inexpensive way to build a marketing product. My designs are simple and are meant to enhance the photography and communicate information about a business. If I were to design, from scratch, trying to create graphic elements that convey the same meaning of photographs, it would take me twice as long and cost the client twice as much.

Sūmèr: What is your favorite thing to photograph and why?

Jennifer: I don’t think there is just one thing; that’s why photography is so exciting! I adore photographing kiddos and faces. I love to shoot interactions—moments between people when they don’t think I’m watching. One of my favorite photographs is of a mother who was trying to console her newborn boy. He wasn’t excited about having his picture taken. She picked him up and started shushing him in his ear, cheek to cheek. It turned out to be a beautiful photograph, an authentic moment.

There is definitely beauty in artistically arranged photographs, the kind taken after a great deal of time spent preparing for the shoot. And there is definitely a place for that, including in my own work. But what I love the most is when life brings that same kind of beauty to me, during moments of time you can only catch by paying attention. Usually, this happens when people care for each other, and you can’t create or arrange anything for that.

About Jennifer: Jennifer Huffman Photography and Creative Services launched earlier this year after I quit my job last July as communications director for a large nonprofit in Iowa. Before that, I spent eight years in radio and television news as a reporter and writer. Two small kiddos provide me with daily inspiration and laughter, and I currently live in Des Moines, Iowa, with my incredibly supportive husband. We travel back and forth to Kansas City and St. Louis, both for my business and to see family. I’m also working toward an MFA in writing at Hamline University.

Contact Jennifer today via phone at 515.988.0646 or email her at .

Who Are You to Your Prospective Clients? The Answer May Be More Complex Than You Think.

September 28th, 2009

What do you represent to your clients? The answer has been sitting right under your nose, but perhaps you have been too busy trying to sell to actually see it or think about it. For many business owners who haven’t been seeing the results they desire, they have not truly discovered how their clients and prospective clients perceive them.

For example, if you own a travel company that specializes in family vacations, you may think that your clients view you as simply a family vacation provider. Au contraire.

When people are looking for a family vacation, they don’t view a travel company as simply a vacation provider. They view the travel company as a facilitator. In the clients’ mind, a travel company has the ability to provide their family with a time and place to spend quality time together, on a safe and fun vacation, as well as a great price for their trip. See the difference?

Your target audience isn’t coming to you because you provide family vacations—they’re coming to you because they believe you will fulfill their family bonding needs, provide them with a happy and stress-free experience, and meet their vacation standards and criteria. The more specific you are with what you are actually providing for your clients, the easier it will be to connect with them.

Here’s a challenge for you:

1. Analyze your website copy, social media site profiles, past press releases, blog posts, and print marketing materials. Are you speaking to the needs and desires of your target audience? Are you reaching deep down into what you are truly providing them? Remember that you may perceive yourself as a travel company, but that’s not necessarily how you want your prospective clients to see your company—if this is how you’re projecting your company to your target audience, you may find you have no clients.

2. If it appears you’re simply trying to make the sale and not hitting your target market’s sweet spot with your marketing materials, you may be spending tons of precious time with no results—running yourself into the ground.

3. Step back, take a deep breath, and start brainstorming. What exactly do you provide to your audience? How do you satisfy their needs?

4. Now, the trick is to touch your prospective clients with the right marketing strategies and materials. Once you’ve hit the sweet spot, you’ll start to attract more clients, build online exposure, and have a clear brand message that speaks volumes to prospective clients.

Did you like this post? Feel free to share it with your friends on Digg or Stumbleupon.

Maximize Your Online PR Efforts

September 27th, 2009

Are you working hard to promote your business online, only to find your message drowned out in the crowd?

How would your life change if your business gained more online exposure, prospects could easily find you online, and you attracted more clients while staying current with constant changes in technology?

No matter your industry, now more than ever you need an integrated PR strategy that works for your business. Here’s why…

According to a case study by Coke Oasis, 3 out of 4 of the top media vehicles for increased brand recognition are online.

Over 90% of online merchants plan to add rich media and social networking functions in 2009. -Internet Retailing

Social networks have enjoyed a 25% growth in unique visitors in the last year. Some sites have doubled their user base. -Comscore, August 2008

If you want to know exactly how you can save thousands of marketing and promotion dollars and, at the same time, maximize your online PR efforts in ANY economy…

If you want to boost your credibility, increase website traffic, convert more visitors to customers, and stop working so dang hard on trying to figure out how to promote your business…

If you want to have a business that prospects view as a credible resource…

Then you’ll want to attend my Free Teleclass on October 6, 2009, at 8 pm ET. It may just be the best decision you’ll ever make.

I’m going to show you simple strategies that you can use to maximize your online PR efforts–strategies you can implement right now and do on your own.

You’ll learn some of the exact same strategies and tactics I use for my own company and for my clients to build a powerful online presence–using nothing but the Internet to promote and attract prospects.


In this 60-minute Teleclass, I’ll reveal…

  • The 2 most important questions you must ask and answer before you create an online PR campaign.
  • What PR2.0 is and why it’s crucial to your brand and success.
  • How to successfully integrate online and offline PR efforts.
  • What you can do today to get more online exposure, without spending a ton of money.

On the call, I’ll also be announcing the details of my 4-Week Online PR Bootcamp: “The Secrets to Maximizing Your Online PR Efforts Through Proven Strategies.”

Over the course of 4 weeks, I will show you the exact step-by-step online PR process that has worked for my clients and me.

You’ll learn the fundamentals of promoting your business online as I lead you through my proven process of how to implement these strategies easily and on your own (this alone will save you thousands in what it would cost you to hire professionals).

If you’re ready to gain online exposure for your business, then you’ll want to register for this Teleclass…immediately! SIGN UP NOW!

If You Could Outsource What Would YuDu?

September 21st, 2009

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss has been floating around our office. As Sūmèr grows, I’ve been trying to set systems in place so I don’t work myself to death. Two weeks ago, I decided to reread this book and, this time, implement Ferris’s advice.

On a Monday, I made the decision to start delegating more. Two days later, at a networking event, I was introduced to Sarah Hays, co-owner of YuDu, a personal concierge company that helps business and individuals fulfill their daily to-do lists.

I cannot do it all. As much as I’d like to think I can, I can’t. So, I hired YuDu to help me with some business tasks and asked co-owner Sarah Hays if she’d share her expertise and services with our blog readers. Below is the interview.

Sūmèr: What benefits do YuDu’s services bring to a business?

Sarah: YuDu’s benefits to businesses are twofold. On one hand, we are an alternative to part-time or temp employment, allowing businesses to have “on demand” temporary assistance with specific jobs such as filing, invoicing, mailings, supply runs, etc. This allows more flexibility for a business that is not in a position to permanently increase the size of their staff or team. Letting YuDu perform these tasks also allows businesses to better utilize their full-time team members in other areas, such as marketing, sales, or design.

YuDu can also help a business to increase the productivity of employees by taking on their personal errands. This allows employees to focus their time and efforts on work, rather than stress over external errands. For example, YuDu can do a company’s dry cleaning run, a bank run, a Post Office run, meet contractors at employees’ (or owners’) homes to start repair projects or even obtain reliable estimates for work around the home.

Sūmèr: What’s the main struggle you see business owners dealing with?

Sarah: The main struggle we encounter with regard to business owners is time management. Many business owners have a hard time saying no, thus causing them to become inundated with places to be and things to do. As a result, some of the every day (or weekly/monthly) tasks that keep the company running are ignored. Typically, we find that entrepreneurs burn a candle at both ends. It does not take them long to realize that there are areas of their personal and professional life that simply need help. That is where we come in and help alleviate the stress and work to get things back on track.

Sūmèr: Business owners have a tendency to micromanage everything. Letting go of managing and doing specific tasks and delegating to others can be difficult, even though it’s necessary to grow a thriving business. What can you do for them to make their lives easier?

Sarah: Business owners are people, too, and we run into this problem as well with nonbusiness clients who are used to micromanaging their families’ (and even sometimes friends’) lives. Usually we find that if clients are in need of help, especially if they have a lot of tasks, it takes them some time to wrap their brain around their to-do list and explain each task. The great thing is that once they explain their tasks one time, whether in person, by phone, by email, or through our website, we can tackle the tasks without intruding much in their day. The best part, for ongoing clients, is that we work hard to learn their personalities, expectations, and likes and dislikes so that we are able to take on their to-do lists with fewer questions.

Our website and client pages also allow our clients to submit new tasks at any time as well as monitor the status of those tasks and the time it takes to do them. We know our clients are busy so this form of communication allows us to keep them abreast on what has been completed without inundating their day with nagging phone calls and updates. Ultimately, we use the clients’ preferred form of communication whether it be text, email, internet, or phone. We just like to provide them with convenient options.

Another way we make their life easier is making our service “on demand.” Clients buy a block of time (from 30 minutes to 5 hours), and as they need us, they contact us. The time does not expire, and we work in 6-minute time increments so that we can accurately fulfill the time they have purchased. By being “on demand,” clients can contact us immediately, and their tasks can usually be completed within 24 hours or less.

Sūmèr: Do people have a hard time delegating tasks to you even after they’ve hired you? If so, how do you help them cope with their decision and the work you do?

Sarah: Yes, on occasion we come upon clients who have difficulty delegating their to-do lists. Usually, we try to get them to talk a bit about what led them to contact us and take notes on different areas where we can help. Sometimes, clients are not even aware of all that we do, and they are pleasantly surprised that we can help them in so many ways. There are some people, though, who feel bad about asking someone else to do things for them. They think it reflects negatively on the type of person that they are. What I tell them is that we are really just facilitators who work to be their extra set of hands, or essentially an extension of themselves. We work to minimize the stress caused by nagging to-do lists and allow them to focus on more significant obligations in their lives, whether it’s board meetings, extra patients, or even quality time with their friends and family.

Sūmèr: What would you say to an entrepreneur who needs your help but is hesitant?

Sarah: Think about what your time is worth. Literally calculate the value of an hour of your time. Then consider your to-do list and decide which of those things is worth an hour, or more, of your time versus spending your time focusing on other priorities. You may rather spend an hour of your Saturday afternoon at the park with your kids, rather than grocery shopping. There may also be times when weekday meetings run late and your dogs have been waiting since breakfast to be let out. All clients have to do is prioritize their obligations and give YuDu a list of those things that need to be done, thus allowing them to focus on other areas of their personal and professional lives.

Sūmèr: How have your clients’ lives changed after working with you? Specifically, what do many of them say helped the most? Has it helped their business grow? What have they had more time to do because of your services?

Sarah: We received this comment from a business client of ours on Friday: “You are a life saver—who knew how much stress could be released simply by having a little helping hand? I’m already compiling a list for the next set of hours I buy! I’m recommending you to all my clients and colleagues.”

I know that this particular client had reached a point in her life where she was consumed by stress. As a local book publisher, she was trying to figure out how to best serve her current clients, manage the day-to-day stresses of her business, and still grow her company—all the while enjoying out-of-town weekends with her husband. We do simple things like mailings, local deliveries, and grocery runs that give her several extra hours per week to edit her clients’ work and make art and print decisions.  This allows her to have the extra time she needs to relax, refocus, and reenergize.

Sūmèr: What’s the oddest request you’ve ever had?

Sarah: We have not had an odd request yet. Now that we say that, I’m sure one will come our way soon! Most of our requests involve local errands (dog walking, grocery runs, mailings, meeting contractors at clients’ homes, etc.). However, every now and then we get asked to do special things such as getting estimates for a custom picture frame from local framers. We just need to make some phone calls and present the information to the client in a form that would allow him or her to make an informed decision.

We were also asked to travel with a client to Columbia to load and unload boxes/materials for an event.

Sūmèr: What area do you serve specifically?

Sarah: We cater to clients in the Charleston Tri-County area and will soon be franchising to other parts of the state and country. We will travel for local clients at their request.

Contact YuDu today at (843)972.4008  or send Sarah and Abby an email at .

Your Website Design vs. Your Competition

September 14th, 2009

You’re hiring quite the team when you choose Hoppmann Creative for your web design and print collateral needs. With their cheeky saying, “Two Hoppmanns are better than one,” this husband and wife duo are two of the most creative minds out there, designing one-of-a-kind logos, web designs, and print collateral pieces.

In this exclusive interview with Becky and Carl Hoppmann, designers, developers, and owners of Hoppmann Creative, Becky and Carl share their secrets on building relationships with clients, the elements that make a great design, and why their job is the best in the world.

Sūmèr: What are the benefits of a husband and wife team?

Hoppmann Creative: I think that it gives our clients peace-of-mind 24 hours a day. Our minds don’t operate only from 9 – 5. We will discuss new ideas over coffee, during a walk or brushing our teeth. We’re not afraid to argue over what’s best either. Sigh. 

Sūmèr: Who are your favorite types of clients?

Hoppmann Creative: Our favorite type of client is anyone with an open mind and is passionate about making their project the best it can be, not one industry or another. The kind of work we like the best is a collaboration with our client to come up with a solution together, not just painting by numbers.”A food-for-design barter with a South Carolina BBQ shack.”

Sūmèr: How does color play a role in your designs? How do you decide what colors you want to use for each design?

Hoppmann Creative: To be honest . . . despite our training and years of experience:  For me, it’s often a gut instinct.  I really know what I like, and it almost always translates into something the client loves!  With that, we also do a lot of research, look at our clients’ competitors and create something far better.

Sūmèr: What is your unique selling point?

Hoppmann Creative: We do the work. A project doesn’t get filtered down through account handlers, executives, junior art directors and college interns. When you speak with us, we are the ones who follow your project from start to finish.

Sūmèr: Anything else you’d like to mention about Hoppmann Creative?

Hoppmann Creative: Confucius says, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” We really do love our jobs, and it’s impossible for that to not come through in our work.

Visit Hoppmann Creative’s website at and contact them today at 843.801.4893 or via email at .


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