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Sound Safety Solutions Come from Detailed Accident Investigations

Man with hardhat and safety vest to demonstrate the importance of accident investigations

Originally Published by Cole Publishing
Nearly all worksite injuries and fatalities are preventable. John Brengosz, Loss Control Consultant for R & R Insurance, says one way to prevent workplace incidents is to determine the underlying causes and correct them. This requires a thorough incident investigation.
“Ideally, we would want to prevent somebody from getting injured. But at the very least, we want to learn from an injury so it doesn’t happen again and again,” Brengosz says.

Prepare a Response Strategy

OSHA encourages organizations to investigate all worksite incidents that result in injuries, plus close calls in which workers escape injury. Organizations are required to notify OSHA within 24 hours when incidents involve an amputation, loss of an eye, or admittance to a hospital.
Conducting a thorough incident investigation requires forethought. Injuries can occur at the most inconvenient times, so organizations should prepare an incident-response strategy in advance. Brengosz recommends developing several topic areas and questions based on the types of injuries that typically occur. Using this list, organizations are prepared to gather information, even in hurried or stressful situations.
In addition to this list, organizations also should fill out a standard incident investigation form. The form should include the injured employee’s name, time and date of the incident, department, and description of the incident.
“We don’t need to know the (employee’s) birth date, the hire date, or the rate of pay, for it has nothing to do with how this person got hurt,” Brengosz says. “We wasted a whole bunch of time just filling in boxes, and we haven’t even gotten to the investigation.”

Question Witnesses

Brengosz recommends investigating an incident as soon as possible, after medical care is provided, but while the incident is fresh in the minds of the people involved.
“You have to go out and talk to people and look at the scene as soon as you can,” he says. In addition to interviewing the worker involved in the incident, investigators also should interview witnesses.
“I rarely see any witness statements when reviewing completed investigations,” Brengosz says. “Maybe it’s a case that, ‘We’ve had enough.’ By the time we talk to the injured party, we think we’ve already ‘wasted too much time on this’ and just want it to be done. I understand that. I don’t like it, but I get it.”
A supervisor or lead person should complete the investigation report, not Human Resources or a Safety Committee, Brengosz says.
“Those folks can answer questions or help that person do the investigation, but it really should be the supervisory person to take responsibility for the injury and the fix,” Brengosz says.

Ask For the Injured Employee’s Account

In addition to answering the supervisor’s questions, injured employees should write their own version of the incident as a stand-alone document.
“It’s good to get their unfiltered description of how they were injured in case the story changes two years from now when we’re at a work comp hearing,” Brengosz says. Realistically, the supervisor’s and employee’s descriptions of the incident should be a close match.
“If not, you have to go back to the drawing board, and there’s more work to do,” he says.
Investigations can be tricky if the injured employee or the supervisor broke a safety rule or operational rule. They won’t necessarily jump in and admit it.
“The best way to address that is to have other people reviewing the completed reports,” Brengosz says.

Conversate, Don’t Interrogate

He tells supervisors to take a friendly approach when conducting an incident investigation.
“It’s way more effective if the supervisor can make it a conversation and not an interrogation,” he says.
He also suggests recording the interview, as long as the employee agrees to being recorded. A recording allows for a free-flowing conversation. It also creates an audio file that can be reviewed by others in the future. The conversation should begin with the employee describing what occurred. Afterwards, the interviewer can ask questions and gather details.
“If you’re just talking to them and having a discussion and asking questions, you don’t have to spend all this time writing things down and potentially missing important things that they’re saying,” Brengosz says, referring to the benefits of a recorded interview.

Avoid Sarcasm, Blame & Threats

Brengosz recommends using a tone of voice and mannerisms that invite employees to open up.
“Go in with the attitude of ‘We’re not doing this to trap you. We’re really doing it to find out what happened,’” Brengosz says. Avoid sarcasm, blame, and threats. Instead, investigators can encourage collaboration by asking employees for solutions: “What are your ideas to prevent this from happening again?”
“That gives them a chance to weigh in, too,” Brengosz says.
If investigators don’t think employees are being completely truthful, Brengosz recommends revisiting the facts.
“If the story changes, use tact and try to clear that up,” he says.

Get Everyone Involved to Review

In addition to filling out reports, investigators should take photos and videos to document the conditions at the work site.
Once the initial investigation concludes, the next step is a management incident review. The injured employee, supervisor, safety committee rep and human resources rep should meet with a high-ranking person in the company.
“I’m a huge fan of letting top management see those reports so they know what’s going on and also what we’re doing to stop the constant repeat of the same injuries,” Brengosz says. “I think it’s important for people working for your organization to know that you’re diving into this stuff and solving it.”
After reviewing the incident together, the management group should discuss what changes and training need to occur. Brengosz also recommends that safety committees review the incident investigation reports.
“Maybe somebody in that safety committee has seen a similar type of an injury or situation. They might know something that nobody else knew or realized to help the situation,” Brengosz says. “I don’t think this gets done enough.”

Learn and Take Action

The final step in the incident investigation process is to learn something from the incident and take corrective action.
“Don’t complete these reports, throw them in a file, and they never see the light of day again,” Brengosz says.
Although it’s easy to blame the incident on carelessness or failure to follow a rule, it’s better to determine the underlying causes of an incident. Then, identify what changes need to be made to prevent further incidents.
“It’s very common for me to see an organization that has all sorts of injuries related to lifting and material handling. I will ask them, ‘Hey, do you do training on material handling, lifting, use of hoists, etcetera?’” Brengosz says.

Accidents Are Costly

Preventing incidents from happening is a key to productivity and job satisfaction. A safe workplace also saves an organization money. Accidents can be costly. Brengosz estimates that organizations paying $1,000 for a worker’s compensation claim actually pay double in other “hidden” costs.
Organizations can demonstrate their commitment to workers’ health and well-being by maintaining a safe workplace, prioritizing safety training, and thoroughly investigating incidents. Incident investigations help organizations determine the root causes of an incident, so they can develop solutions that prevent the incident from recurring.

Summer Bookkeeping Strategies for Small Business Owners

family on the beach to represent summer vacation.

Originally Published by Prosperity Bookkeeping
Summer is a great time of year in Wisconsin. Because of the warm weather and longer days, we have more opportunities to spend time on the beach, on the water or at the campground or ballpark. Now that the kids are out of school, it’s the perfect time for road trips and summer vacations. Unless your small business is super-busy in the summer, business owners can use summer downtime to relax and recharge. Everyone needs a break once in a while. Vacations help business owners lower their stress, resulting in a more positive outlook and renewed energy for their work. For many Wisconsin companies, business demands decrease in the summertime. Here are some ways to take advantage of the summer slowdown to propel your business forward.

Catch Up on Your Bookkeeping

Summer is a good time to tackle the tasks that you have been putting off. Busy business owners often let their bookkeeping slide. Maybe it’s been a few months since you reconciled your accounts. By keeping your accounts up to date, you won’t have the stress of recreating the past 12 months for year-end reports. QuickBooks makes it easy to reconcile accounts. You can set up your books so multiple accounts, like a savings account, checking account, and line of credit, automatically feed into QuickBooks. Reconciling the books is easier when you can see all of your accounts, current balances and the most recent transactions.

Dig Into Your Business Financials

We’re half-way through the year, so take some time to evaluate your finances. With a few clicks, you can view QuickBooks Online reports to compare the current financial year against the previous year. Have profits grown? QuickBooks enables you to create custom reports to evaluate key financial benchmarks. To do so, select a period, like a month, quarter, or year, and compare it with the matching time period from the past. For example, if your receivables are significantly lower, try to determine the cause. Are you behind on billing for the period? Did you lose a primary customer or experience weather delays? You won’t necessarily know these things unless you have a report system in place.

Explore Technology and Automation

Summer is a good time to assess your current bookkeeping systems and research technology and automation to streamline your business-finance tasks. Look for products that will speed up and improve the bookkeeping process. Test out the latest in artificial intelligence: Chat GPT, Bing Chat or Google Bard. AI can assist you with industry research, brainstorming, marketing content, and data entry. An AI virtual assistant can understand voice commands and perform tasks that make the business run more efficiently.

Declutter Your Office

Bookkeepers consistently put things in order, and your office is no exception. Cleaning and decluttering your office will make paperwork easier to find and your workspace a more welcoming place to spend your time. Reinvigorate your work space by deep cleaning your desk and office. Sort through the papers that have piled up. Discard any that no longer provide value, and scan and file the important documents before recycling or shredding. Organize your desk drawers by weeding out the extra pens, notecards, and office supplies. Place the most-used office supplies within easy reach. Discard or find a new home for anything that doesn’t belong in your office. Wipe down all surfaces, including the phones and computers.

Let Prosperity Bookkeeping Handle Your Finances

Summer gives us a golden opportunity to slow down and recharge, yet tackle some side projects, too. The Prosperity Bookkeeping staff is here to handle your bookkeeping when things get hectic. Contact us to manage your financial statements, payroll, and business advisory needs.

Writer to the Rescue and Packerland Websites at Chamber Breakfast

7 Tips to Make it as a Writer in Today’s Content Marketing World

Writer to the Rescue and Packerland Websites at Chamber Breakfast
Bill and Joan Koehne sponsor the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce Power Networking Breakfast in April 2023.

An interesting email recently popped into my inbox. A minister in the Fox Valley is considering a career change. He wants to be a professional writer and asked me for advice to get started. Before I contacted him, I reflected on my career as a professional writer. I hope this advice helps people in any industry who are considering a career change.

Partner with an established business

As the content writing division of Packerland Websites, I have a steady stream of customers funneled my way. When a business or nonprofit builds a website, the organization often needs text on the webpages. I interview a company rep and write original, brand-specific website content. I also edit newsletters and marketing content for our shared clients. Plus, I assist Packerland Websites with its marketing. In return, the Packerland Websites’ team helps me manage my business and provides technical support. The partnership works well for both Writer to the Rescue and Packerland Websites.

Meet with a business coach

I met with Dave Kaster of Fidelis LLC, Certified Business Advisory Services. Dave helped me create a mission and vision for my writing business. More importantly, he helped me develop a profitable business model and strategies for pricing, invoicing, marketing, etc. Ultimately, I gained the confidence I needed to make a career change.

Network with small business leaders

Some job leads stem from Google searches. “I Googled you” is always fun to hear from new clients! However, a majority of leads come from established relationships. Packerland Websites belongs to six chambers of commerce and business networking organizations. My husband, Bill, owner of Packerland Websites, and I co-sponsor the Greater Green Bay Power Networking Breakfast on the first Tuesday of the month. For years, Bill was active in BNI (Business Network International). Networking isn’t confined to business organizations. My first client hired me because he was familiar with my talent as a newspaper editor.

Write a lot, and read a lot

Natural talent goes a long way, but practice makes perfect, right? I learned to write in elementary school, but that was just the start. I continued to study writing in school, eventually earning college degrees in journalism and social media marketing. Even after 15 years of writing professionally, I’m still learning about new techniques and tools to improve my writing.

Respect your clients

The cost to acquire a new client is estimated to be seven times higher than retaining a current client. Once you attain a client, focus on retaining that client. Provide quality work, on time, and at the agreed-upon price. Answer phone calls and emails promptly. Bring value to the relationship by being attentive to clients’ needs and appreciative of their trust in you.

Find a writing niche

Think about your interests and find ways to capitalize on them. I’m the content facilitator for two Catholic magazines, and I write business management articles for a national trade magazine. A while back, I met a freelance writer who collected dolls and wrote articles for a doll magazine. Write about what you know about, and the writing flows more easily.

Diversify your services

When I launched Writer to the Rescue in 2017, I pitched a variety of services to clients. Then, I modified my services to meet demand. In addition to blogs, website content, newsletters, and news articles, I’ve written grant proposals, whiteboard scripts, and even the text for a wedding invitation.

Considering a career as a writer?

In May 2017, Writer to the Rescue took flight. As the Wonder Writer, I’m saving the world one word at a time. I wonder how many words I’ve written in my career and how many words are yet to be written. To the minister from the Fox Valley, I hope these seven tips help you decide if a career in writing is for you. Godspeed!

Discover the Ultimate Solution for Handling Downpayments: An Estimate

Originally Published by Prosperity Bookkeeping

Woman bookkeeper seated at computer to show way of handling downpayments.

QuickBooks Online makes running a small business so much easier. This industry-leading accounting software automates business-finance tasks and puts financial statements at your fingertips. QuickBooks Online is a real time saver, offering a range of finance and accounting solutions for small businesses. Despite all of its advantages, once in a while, QuickBooks Online throws a wrench in your ability to manage a clean set of books. For example, why does QuickBooks show a negative number when you make a deposit in Accounts Receivable? This is a frustrating feature of QuickBooks Online’s default process for recording upfront payments and downpayments.

QuickBooks Online Accounts Receivable & Aging Summary

Consider this accounting scenario. A customer owes you a $1,000 downpayment for a project that will cost $5,000. The customer pays you the downpayment, and you go through the process of receiving payment and recording it in QuickBooks Online Accounts Receivables. After recording the transaction, QuickBooks creates a $1,000 credit for the customer.
Now, suppose you want to look at what customers owe you money, how much, and how many days their invoices are overdue. You’d click on Reports, then Accounts Receivable Aging Summary. When you view this report, you’ll see that the $1,000 downpayment you recorded displays as a negative balance on Accounts Receivable.

How to Maintain Accurate Days Sales Outstanding

Why is this an issue? Frankly, because it messes with your books when you’re performing complex financial analysis. When you check the financial status of your small business, one of the numbers to consider is Days Sales Outstanding. Just in case you’re new to accounting, Days Sales Outstanding shows how long it takes for you to collect on an invoice. Part of the calculation of DSO involves the whole Accounts Receivable balance. When a customer’s large downpayments is recorded in Accounts Receivables, it throws off the total AR number, Downpayments falsely reduce the amount of the open invoice balance as a negative amount, and QuickBooks subtracts the downpayment.

How to Record Downpayments as Nonposting Transactions

So, here’s a bookkeeping option to consider if you want to record a downpayment and maintain a clean set of books. Instead of just receiving a payment like usual, use a nonposting transaction by creating an estimate. You may wonder how a downpayment becomes an estimate, but bear with me.
Before creating an estimate, make sure that partial billing is available to you on QuickBooks Online. Partial billing isn’t available in every QuickBooks Online version, so you may need to upgrade. You can access the option for partial billing in QuickBooks Online by clicking the gear icon > Account and Settings > Sales > Progress Invoicing > Edit. Toggle the switch to turn on “Create Multiple Partial Invoices from a Single Estimate Feature”, and click Update, Save, and Done.

How to Create a Partial Payment as an Estimate

The process to create and save an estimate is the same as creating an invoice. However, as a nonposting transaction, an estimate will not post to your sales account right away. Click New > Estimate > Customer Name. Once you create and save an estimate, QuickBooks gives you the option to create an invoice. QuickBooks’ prompts allow you to charge a percentage of the total project cost. In our example, you would charge 20% of the total amount due ($5,000) and for a downpayment of $1,000. Alternatively, you can create a custom invoice. Perhaps you want to collect upfront for the product but not the labor. To do so, click Custom Invoice and fill in the product cost. Of course, you can customize the invoice any way you choose – whatever fits your cashflow and customer relationship objectives. QuickBooks creates an invoice that’s linked to the estimate. Then, when the customer pays the invoice, apply the payment to the estimate. Click on Receive Payment, and apply to the invoice.

How to Invoice a Remaining Balance

When the project is completed, it’s time to invoice the customer for the remaining balance. To do so, look up the customer’s account, open the estimate, and bill out the remainder by clicking “Remaining Total of All Lines.” If a project takes a long time to complete, you might decide to invoice the customer in increments, instead of simply invoicing for a downpayment and final payment. An estimate allows you to do that. Additionally, estimate if the scope of work changes, you can add new product or service costs to your original estimate. It’s worth noting that applicable sales tax will be applied to the correct tax period for the additional costs but won’t affect the sales tax of the downpayment. You can adjust an estimate without affecting the transactions in a closed period.

How Creating an Estimate Improves Bookkeeping Accuracy

Collecting upfront payments helps small businesses cover its liabilities and maintain cashflow for day-to-day business operations. By creating an estimate instead of simply applying a downpayment to Accounts Receivable, bookkeepers keep a clean set of books. Small businesses gain accurate and valuable insights into their financial data in order to make smart business decisions.

Talk to a QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Prosperity Bookkeeping is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor that is eager to help small businesses get the most benefit from QuickBooks accounting software. A ProAdvisor provides accurate, up-to-date information about QuickBooks, answers questions, and offers advice. This blog is just one example of the value that a QuickBooks ProAdvisor brings to the table. Visit the Prosperity Bookkeeping YouTube Channel to see Kristie Van Pay, owner of Prosperity Bookkeeping, demonstrate how to handle partial payments. If you have questions about partial payments or other accounting processes, visit the DIY Support page to schedule a QuickBooks ProAdvisor support call.

Will AI Tools Replace Me? 6 Reasons Humans Beat AI in Marketing

Wonder Writer Joan Koehne at her computer writing about AI vs. human murketing.

I just participated in a webinar that shocked me: “Will AI Tools Replace Salespeople?” AKA “Will AI Tools Replace Content Marketers like Me?” If it takes 15 minutes to write a blog versus 2 hours, why write a blog? Artificial intelligence allows you to type in several prompts which the bots use to churn out a first draft in moments. With a few more prompts, AI edits the blog to your liking. It’s like having a copywriter at your side – a writing assistant with access to more knowledge than you could ever comprehend.
My mind raced: Should I use AI to write marketing content? Why not? How? But the thought that shocked me even more was this: Will my clients use AI instead of me? Is human writing, either ghostwritten or byline copy, now obsolete? Will I be out of a job?

AI Churns Out Marketing Material

In case you’re new to AI, its use is already widespread. The webinar I watched focused on ways AI is used in sales. AI completes tasks like researching prospects, developing personas, and taking notes at virtual meetings. Additionally, AI produces content marketing material. For example, AI drafts emails, website content, social media posts, customer letters, product descriptions, blogs, proposals, marketing presentations, and on and on. AI can develop everything from a catchy subject line to a 600-word blog. Where does that leave me? Instead of fighting AI, it’s best to leverage it instead. Let computers do what they do best, and humans do what we do best. Instead of comparing my worth to a computer’s, I need to look at what value I bring to the table as a human being.

The Value People Bring to Marketing

First of all, as a professional writer, I understand the nuances of language. Because of this quality, my blogs and website content have a conversational tone. My writing encourages readers to settle in for a good read and hopefully, join the conversation. Words aren’t used out of place, which is a telltale sign of computer-generated text. Second, my instincts allow me to write and structure text in a way that flows, transitions, and reaches the audience on a personal level. After 15 years working in journalism and marketing, I developed the intuition for writing in a way that people want to read it.

Original, People-First Content Writing

Third, my writing is original, not duplicated in hundreds of other places online. The anecdotes and brand messaging are mine or my client’s, not computer-generated and impersonal. Google loves helpful, reliable, and people-first content. According to Google, original content is one of the key best practices to improve a website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and ranking on Google Search.

Creativity & A Personal Touch

Fourth, creativity is another advantage I have over a computer. Of course, marketing content isn’t written like a poetry book or spy novel. Yet compelling creative writing trumps automated text every time. A human touch helps to engage a human audience. Along those same lines, a human writer builds rapport with an audience. From what I see, AI language models are getting really good at word flow and tone, but AI always struggles with personalizing content for a small businesses and organizations. Unlike AI, I can have a conversation with clients to get them thinking about a target audience, theme, and first-person accounts. I know my clients and their businesses, so I offer them a personal touch. Truly, that’s a big advantage I have over AI. AI can’t understand the person or organization I’m working with the way that I can.

Trustworthy & Authentic Interactions

When readers see my byline month after month, they feel a connection. As a writer and reader, we form a relationship. Of course, anyone in business knows the value of relationship-building. Computers can’t show empathy or camaraderie like we can as humans.

Lastly and probably most importantly, is trust. Trust plays such an important role in starting and maintaining relationships. People buy from brands they trust, and authentic, personal interactions build that trust. AI isn’t always good at differentiating between true and false information. I can ask AI to write an article, but the information in the article might be totally wrong. Erroneous information damages a client’s credibility and destroys trust.

AI is a Tremendous Tool But Not My Replacement

So, despite my knee-jerk reaction, I’m confident that I won’t become a dinosaur in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning. AI presents tremendous tools for small business marketing and management, but AI isn’t a replacement for the human marketing teams – or little ol’ me. That’s a relief! Let’s get together, human to human, to talk about content marketing.

Why Avoid the Danger of Mixing Business & Personal Money

Business owners paying invoices and not comingling funds

Originally Published by Prosperity Bookkeeping

Picture yourself with a shopping cart full of school supplies at the checkout – and you grab the wrong credit card to pay for them. Oops! You just paid for your kid’s backpack and everything that goes inside with your business credit card. Mistakes like these happen. In order to maintain the integrity of your financial statements, you need to go through a fairly painless process to adjust your accounting records. But if this school supply scenario is more than just a one-time glitch, we need to have a serious conversation.

Maintain Legal Liability Protection

Commingling personal and business accounts is a big no-no for any business owner, but especially if you’re operating your business as an LLC, S Corp or C Corp and not simply as a sole proprietor. (For advice about choosing a business structure, read this article by the U.S. Small Business Administration.) By mixing business and personal funds, you’re acting as if you and the business are the same entity. Therefore, you put your personal bank account and assets at risk. Your business entity loses the legal liability protection that comes with its corporate structure.

Preserve Accurate Bookkeeping Records

The second reason not to commingling personal and business accounts relates to the accuracy of your bookkeeping records. If you make personal purchases with your business account, whether mistakenly or routinely, you should record these purchases in your accounting program. Accurate financial statements are important for three main reasons:

  1. Improve your ability to make well-informed business decisions
  2. Present legitimate financial data to lenders, partners, and other interested parties
  3. Keep accurate books so it’s easier to prepare a business tax return

Can you imagine giving your business credit card to an employee and inviting the employee to buy groceries, lottery tickets, or gas? Of course not. The same policy applies to you. You shouldn’t use business accounts to pay for personal items. The correct way to compensate yourself as a business owner is to take a draw from the company or pay yourself a salary directly from a business account. After depositing the money in a personal account, you’re free to buy personal items using a personal checkbook or credit cards.

How to Adjust Your Accounting Records

Earlier in this article, I promised a fairly painless process to adjust your accounting records if you used a business account to purchase personal items. To adjust your accounting records, follow this 3-step process:

  • Confirm that you have an equity account set up for Owner’s Draws in your chart of accounts (It may be called Owner Distribution, Partner Draw/Distribution, etc.)
  • If an equity account doesn’t exist, create one
  • Record the purchase as you would any other purchase, and classify it to the Owner’s Draws account

To reimburse your company for the personal purchases, you can transfer funds from your personal account to your business account. To adjust your accounting records, follow this 2-step process:

  1. Create a deposit for the amount you are replacing
  2. Code the deposit to the same account – Owner’s Draw

This zeroes out the transaction and corrects your bookkeeping records all at the same time.

Avoid Sloppy Business Operations

In addition to the school supply scenario, there are other scenarios to avoid related to commingling funds. Perhaps a client makes a check out to your name instead of your business’ name. Maybe you use one bank account for business and personal needs or move money back and forth between a personal and business account without documentation. All of these are examples of sloppy business operations that increase your liabilities. When you treat your business’ money the same as your own, you become personally liable for business debts and lawsuits. Don’t put yourself in that position!
For more business tips, financial advice, and a full line of bookkeeping services, contact Prosperity Bookkeeping. Prosperity Bookkeeping provides a proven process that will have you spending less than one hour per month on bookkeeping-related tasks.

Grammar Queen’s Guide to Website Editing

I have been correcting people’s grammar since I was a kid, and I turned this annoying habit into a career. Editing is one of my favorite things to do. Previously, while working as a newspaper editor, I edited hundreds of news briefs and newspaper articles every week. Editing became so natural that I edited in my sleep. Lest you think I was sleeping on the job, let me explain. Sometimes, I’d wake up at night, dreaming that I am writing and editing the news. Proofreading certainly comes easily to me.

4 Website Editing Options

So, when a client asked me to edit her webpages, I jumped at the chance. But first, we had to agree upon terms. Essentially, I needed to know the type of editing to do. Thus, I gave her four options:

  1. Proofread and edit for grammar and sentence structure
  2. Style and format for consistency and readability (For example, some pages have multiple fonts.)
  3. Reword from a customer’s perspective (I wrote a marketing blog about this.)
  4. Reword for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by using keywords in text, headings and subheadings

Content Marketing Solutions

My client requested all of the above. Here’s why:

  • Webpages need to be free of grammatical and spelling errors. Essentially, organizations lose credibility with their audience if their webpages contain errors.
  • Webpages also need to be inviting, designed with a clean and fluid layout that attracts the eye and encourages browsing.
  • Websites that are easy to read keep visitors engaged, making them more likely to act. Readability requires short sentences, active voice, and conversational writing.
  • Website content needs to be client-focused, telling the client’s story, addressing the client’s concerns, and offering a solution.
  • Search engines like Google crawl and index the internet. The keywords on websites match the search terms that users type into a search bar, and text allows search engines to show the website on a results page.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Both text and images tell a story, but search engines read text only, not images. My client’s Home page showed a banner image with text written within the image. Although the text looked appealing and included keywords, the text wasn’t searchable. The bots indexing the internet read this as an image only, ignoring the keywords inside. Therefore, for the best results, keywords should be published as text separate from images. Additionally, images should have alt text. Alt text is a written description of what is depicted in a photo. This text allows search engines to crawl and rank a website while also assisting visually impaired readers understand what’s displayed on a webpage.

Proofreading & Editing Webpages

Proofreading and editing webpages are more complex skills than they seem at first glance. That’s why it helps to work with a content marketing professional with years of editing experience. Contact me today to get started.

To read more about website writing and content marketing, visit How to Write a Wicked Webpage.

StoryBrand: Messaging to Win Customers

StoryBrand lightbulb financial idea

Have you ever had an A-ha moment when suddenly, something clicks? The lightbulb in your head blinks on. That A-ha moment is marketing gold.

How can a brand generate an A-ha moment for its customers? By putting their customer in the center of the story.

Instead of focusing on your own organization, focus on the client. Telling about yourself and your products isn’t what gets a client’s attention. Instead, try telling their story. Place them in the hero role, not you. They’ll be all ears. That little lightbulb in their head will be glowing because you offer the answer to the challenges they want to overcome.

StoryBrand Philosophy

This type of client-centered marketing is the powerful philosophy of StoryBrand. Donald Miller’s best-selling book, “Building a StoryBrand,” evolved into a website,, and StoryBrand podcast. Miller created a framework for brand messaging that’s effective, yet surprisingly simple. A client introduced me to StoryBrand, and I was sold from the start. One feature of StoryBrand is the so-called one-liner. The one-liner is a focused, clear message that boils down to three parts. First, sum up the customer’s problem. Second, explain the solution your product or service provides. Third, paint a picture of how success looks.

StoryBrand One-Liner Examples

I love this marketing strategy because it packs a wallop. It directly addresses what customers want, in three parts.

  1. Problem
  2. Solution
  3. Success

I’ve used this three-step marketing strategy for website content and marketing material. Each client has a different problem, solution and image of success. Here are examples for a picnic décor provider and bookkeeper.

  • Metro Atlanta residents want to ‘wow’ their guests at special celebrations – without doing everything themselves. A picnic is the answer! Global Earth Studio provides completely portable and customizable picnic décor. Guests will gush about their extraordinary picnic experience.
  • Owners of small businesses have so much to do and so little time to get it all done. CM Business Services provides accountant-ready bookkeeping, payroll services, and financial coaching to help business owners make more money and spend less time managing it.

Try This Marketing Strategy Yourself

The creators of StoryBrand recommend using a one-liner over and over. Get your team to learn it by heart. Share it with customers on the phone. Use it in brochures, website pages, and social media. Add it to email signatures and company bios. By repurposing the one-liner over and over, you strengthen your brand message through consistency and repetition. One message circulates across multiple platforms.

So, what are you waiting for? Create your own StoryBrand one-liner! Otherwise, contact the Wonder Writer at Writer to the Rescue. Writer to the Rescue provides a one-two punch of solid writing and compelling marketing. Contact the Wonder Writer today to get started on you next marketing campaign.

Top 3 Ways to Personalize a Newsletter

sample of newsletter personalized
A newsletter’s greeting is one place to personalize. Instead of the default Hello, drop in the person’s name.

Back when I was a newspaper editor, an outside party performed a full review of our publication. One of the reviewer’s comments referred to writing style. She recommended writing articles in an understandable, personal way. Essentially, it’s like writing to Mom – nothing complex or flashy. Instead of trying to impress every reader out there, just focus on getting the message across to one special reader, like your mom. Good advice! The same recommendation goes for newsletters. Newsletter editors have numerous ways to personalize their message. Here are my Top 3 ways to personalize a newsletter.

1. Personalize the Greeting

One personalization opportunity is the newsletter’s greeting. Instead of using generic terms like Hello, Greetings, or To Whom it May Concern (super impersonal!), personalize the salutation instead. Email programs like the one I use, Constant Contact, allow me to drop in the name of the recipient in the greeting. I know that people read this salutation, because once I sent a newsletter with Hello Bill on every single salutation. Oops! Thankfully, people let us know, and I corrected it for the next issue.

2. Personalize the ‘From’ Field

Another personalization strategy involves the “From” field that newsletter recipients see in the inbox. Which email are you more likely to open? One from a familiar, recognizable name of someone you know or one from a corporation or organization? Therefore, send the newsletter from an individual’s email, not a corporation or organization, and you’ll get more opens. Additionally, your email is more likely to get past filters. Email services like Gmail will filter emails into “Social” and “Promotional” boxes. That’s not where you want your email to land, because it’s much less likely to be opened and read.

3. Personalize the Content

Finally, personalize the content inside a newsletter. Include a short note from an organization representative like the owner, president, or trusted employee. The Packerland Websites’ newsletter includes a photo of owner Bill Koehne in every issue. The photo and accompanying note tell about his hobbies or recent travels. These tidbits remind clients they’re working with a real person. The message is this: We want you to get to know us, and we want to get to know you. Developing personal relationships is a key to business success…and it’s what makes life meaningful.

Turn Newsletters into Engagement Machines

newsletter personalize

Implementing personalization into a newsletter will help turn the newsletter into an engagement machine. In reality, a newsletter is a valuable communications tool. It’s an effective way to get information out and engagement in. Personalizing a newsletter takes that engagement to the next level.

Contact the Wonder Writer

Although my life as a newspaper editor is behind me, I’m still writing and publishing as much as ever. Currently, I’m editing five newsletters. Each implements various personalization techniques to improve opens and encourage readership. For help with your newsletter campaign, contact the Wonder Writer at Writer to the Rescue.

Bonus Tip: How to increase opens on your newsletter with a killer subject line.

Website content in browser

Questionnaire for website content

Content writing for websites is a little bit like going on a blind date.
Anyone who has been on blind date knows the importance of asking good questions – because the alternative is awkward silence. Good questions lead to good rapport, good conversation, and perhaps, a meaningful relationship.
Here is a list of questions I developed as a starting point for writing website content, especially for the Home page and About Us page.

1. Name of business?
2. Meaning behind the name?
3. Name of Owner/s?Website content in browser
4. History of the business?
5. What problem do your clients face?
6. What solution do you provide?
7. Owner’s experience?
8. Certifications?
9. Training/Education?
10. Insured and bonded?
11. Mission statement/goals?
12. Motto or catchphrase?
13. Advertising messages?
14. Key words people might use in online searches?
15. Selling point: why different than competition?
16. What’s the approach you take with clients?
17. Primary target audience?
18. Secondary target audience?
19. Service area?
20. Locations (home office, branches)?
21. Directions to home office/branches?
22. What do you want customers to do? Call? Email? Visit you in person? Something else?
23. Number of staff members?
24. Selling point of staff members: What makes the staff stand out?
25. Service/product offered? What are their four top benefits or features?
26. What’s your price point? How does your price compare to the competition?
27. Advantages of working with you (quality product, save time, better than do-it-yourself, etc.)?
28. Hours or by appointment only?
29. Awards and recognition?
30. What did I forget that’s important?

I’ve found this questionnaire to be a great place to start when I develop website content for a client. Follow-up questions help to clarify the information, and additional research helps to add detail and industry-specific language. My goal is to engage readers in content that’s meaningful to them, making them more likely to act in a way that meets my clients’ business objectives. Good content can increase traffic to a website and reduce bounce rates.