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Content Marketing

Authentic marketing: dangerous jargon or the only way forward? ft. Lauren Van Mullem (@LVanMullem)

Lauren Van Mullem is a conversion copywriter who knows the rules and when to throw them out. She believes authenticity is the only way to market a business sustainably, because it feels good (and character wins in the end).

“So there I was, in a tent in the back-end of Rajasthan, armed with a bucket, chasing a six-inch bug (that looked more like a baby dragon) around the toilet.

“I finally cornered it against a canvas flap and it started vibrating at me. Do dragon-bugs explode? Was this a ticking time-bug? But I believe in humane relocation of even terrifying insects, so I went at it with the bucket, trying to trap it, and accidentally lopped off one of its legs.

“And then it flew off and disappeared. I went to bed knowing there was a giant, now very angry insect somewhere in my tent. I didn’t sleep the whole night.”

Lauren Van Mullem will tell you that she went to India before it was cool – before that whole ‘Eat, Pray, Love and leave your spouse thing.’ But she went for a similar reason, at least in terms of mental and emotional healing.

“I’d just left the first real job I’d had since graduating from college, and the boss was so abusive, and the environment was so toxic, I knew I couldn’t go straight into another job. I needed to clear my head. Stop having nightmares about emails with the subject line ‘See me.’”

She’d saved enough money for one straight shot around the world, touching down in England, India and Tokyo. England and Tokyo because she had friends there. India because, for lack of a perfectly logical reason, she felt called.

When you tell people you’re going to India, you’ll run into a few people who’ve been. They will tell you the same thing: it’s a life-altering experience. I didn’t buy the hype. I should have.

“It’s so completely different. Any sense of control you thought you had over your life, you have to let that go, or the very nature of India will beat it out of you. It’s elemental in that way. And it’s intense. I saw the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life jammed up next to the most horrible things I’ve ever seen in my life. Temples with courtyards of blooming trees, green fields where dozens of women are working wearing bright pink, gold and blue saris. Then young men my age with no legs begging in the train station. Skeletal dogs walking the streets with gaping holes in their rib cages. It’s all there.”

Lauren is the first one to laugh at herself, saying “Yes, two weeks in India is enough to contract giardia and change your life.” But it’s also true. When she came back, she did have clarity.

She never wanted to work in an office again.

But more than that – she never wanted to play by anyone else’s rules again. The only path she wanted to follow was one she forged herself.

“It’s how freelancers are made,” she quips.

In this interview, Lauren talks about how to do marketing in a way that doesn’t play by established rules, how she applies her philosophy to her own website, and why “authentic marketing” is both dangerous jargon and the only way forward.

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Content Marketing

How to run a successful blog that attracts brands ft. Serena Faber Nelson (@Pretty_Fluffy)

Serena Faber Nelson moved from TV producer to follow her passion for puppies as a full-time dog-blogger. Here she shares how she differentiated her blog early on, forms genuine relationships with brands organically, and her secrets of a successful media kit.

Pretty Fluffy is an apt name for Serena Faber Nelson’s blog about the joys of having a dog in your life. It’s deliberately light and joyful – both in subject matter and in color scheme – and it was exactly what Serena needed at an emotionally fraught time in her career as a television producer.

“Pretty Fluffy was born out of a need for escape. I’m a trained journalist, and for the last decade and a half I was working as a TV producer for lifestyle shows, like cooking shows, some pet shows (my favorite), and in 2010, a medical documentary series.

“We followed people through their journeys from really rough things, like being diagnosed with cancer and going for treatment, or people who’d been in motor vehicle accidents and were going through multiple surgeries. We were shadowing doctors and got to see what they were doing in these life or death situations.

“For me, that was really confronting. I decided I needed something outside of work that was fun and light and joyful.”

Serena had just gotten married, discovering StyleMePretty along the way, which she said gave her the idea to start her own blog in 2010.

“Pretty Fluffy came about and grew from there. Now it’s my actual job.”

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Community, Email Marketing

It’s not marketing – it’s making friends at scale ft. @bythepartygirl

Most bloggers use Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to cultivate their audiences. But lifestyle and party blogger Ashley McAllister has a knack for making friends (and clients) through email subscriptions – something very few bloggers, or businesses, get right.

Canadians party differently than their Stateside counterparts, according to Ashley McAllister, blogger at The Party Girl and Etsy store owner. Americans seem to take things further, creating epic events out of weekend girls’ brunches and balloon-festooned birthday parties for toddlers. Part of the reason, she suspects, is that Americans have so many more resources, including multiple craft stores and Target. Canada has Michaels… and the internet.

Before Amazon, life for a party girl was a lot harder. Especially in a small town just outside of Toronto. Ashley says, “I felt like all of this really cool stuff was out of reach.”

But that seems to have only made Ashley more creative. This woman can make a cake topper out of just about anything.

In a country where the population, outside of a handful of urban centers, is spread out over 3.8 million miles, it can be hard to find people who share your passions. Especially when the dominant culture is a bit more understated.

“There are people up here like me. But I couldn’t find them.”

That began to change with Instagram.

“You see images people are sharing and that creates a following, and as people see images of what other people are doing, that style of party throwing is growing here. Having a theme and different elements and DIY projects. I didn’t used to see that very much. DIY wasn’t that big here except maybe for weddings, and that’s changing.

“But there has been a bit of a gap up here. People thought the DIY projects were out of range.”

The Party Girl blog began as a desire to share her crafts with friends and family, but the more she crafted, the more she felt there was a gap to fill.

“I thought maybe there are other people out there who would like to see this type of thing, or feel like they could do it if they saw someone else do it. The blog began as a way to create that community, where people could see what other people were doing and see that it isn’t crazy, that they weren’t alone, and that it’s not insane to DIY everything for your wedding or bridal shower.”

And it’s in creating community where Ashley McAllister truly shines.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Content Marketing

The secret to building a business based on sharing what you know ft. Kaleigh Moore (@kaleighf)

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance copywriter who works with clients like AT&T and SumoMe and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur and CopyHackers. Since beginning her freelancing career in 2013, she has doubled her income every year. In this interview, Kaleigh lets us in on her personal philosophy of building a business based on being kind and sharing what you know.

“I think people hire people. That’s what it comes down to. They want to come to your website and get a feel for who you are as a person – a person who they might potentially hire. If you have stale photos and a formal website, it’s hard to get that feeling from it. You can’t read between the lines. There’s nothing there. You have to provide that sense of who you are for the reader through words and visuals so they can understand who you are before speaking with you.”

The moment you land on Kaleigh Moore’s site, you begin to have a good feeling about who she is – as a writer, a potential team member, and as a person. In that order. It’s deliberate and strategic, but also manages to be incredibly personal.

And it’s simple.

In fact, the way she does business – a business that has doubled every year since she started – is nearly as simple, clean, and uncluttered as her website. Kaleigh is one of those entrepreneurs that seems to have mastered la vita bella – the beautiful life. It’s about being true to who you are, being good to other people, and reaping those rewards.

With just a little strategy and a handful of metrics.

In this interview, we talk about how she uses her website, blog and newsletter to support her business, along with some of her best tips for aspiring freelance copywriters.

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Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Branding, Content Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Creativity, Emotion, Visual Communication

Why weird works: copywriter @KiraHug on branding with personality

Conversion copywriter and podcast host Kira Hug talks about her journey to build her brand and why strategically-crafted visuals are so important for connecting with the right people.

“This might sound strange coming from a copywriter – who should, presumably, eat, sleep and poop words – but I love me some visuals.”

Kira Hug isn’t just any copywriter. She’s a conversion copywriter – which means her specialty is writing words that spur and inspire readers to take action. If you’re selling a product or service and want to talk your ideal customers into buying them, Kira is the person behind the scenes making that happen with landing pages, sales pages, and email campaigns.

This work requires her to get inside people’s minds, take on different brand voices, and play upon just the right mix of pains, fears and desires that cause people to act.

It also requires a strong grasp of how to use an entire brand experience to attract and connect with ideal customers – and much of that experience is created through visuals. Visuals are never to be underestimated.

But that’s an idea that runs contrary to the philosophy of many writers – we’re biased. Our art is the written word. However, Kira didn’t grow up as the ‘writer’ in the family. Her identity was ‘the artist.’

“My sister was the smarty pants. I embraced my artistic side and wore the ‘artist’ label very happily. That followed me into college. But I realized, I can’t be a fine artist and live the life I want, so I pursued graphic design.”

As Kira worked toward her B.F.A. in Fine Arts in Visual Communication, she found herself attracted to advertising classes, which led to an advertising design internship.

That’s where things really started to click for me. You get to be creative, and there’s strategy, words, and visuals and psychology behind it. I remember thinking that this is the best thing ever.

Of course, the challenge all new graduates face is finding a job in the ‘real world’ doing what you love. Which rarely, if ever, happens fresh off of campus. With no job prospects in sight, Kira took a leap of faith and moved to New York City, a lifelong goal.

“I didn’t plan well in terms of having a job before I moved there. I just did it. So I took the first job I could find at Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s management training program. I cringed at taking it. It was so different from the cool, art-design job I’d envisioned, and I was embarrassed by it.”

For nine months, Kira sold car insurance and rental cars, spending down time washing cars “in a parking garage that smelled like urine, in a pencil skirt.”

But at the same time she was learning how to tap into the selling power of words.

Over the next several years, Kira took many different jobs – glamorous jobs at places like Estee Lauder’s store design department, hard jobs in marketing for non-profits, even jobs in event planning. If she didn’t feel like she was growing, learning, and feeling challenged, she’d move onto the next thing.

After Kira had her first child, she needed a little more control over her work schedule. She began working for a fast-growing startup as CMO, which allowed her to build her reputation in the company as well as her own business on the side at the same time.

All with a newborn baby. Is Kira Hug secretly Wonder Woman?

Possibly. She does have more alter-egos than the average copywriter. But that’s all part of her brand strategy.

In this interview, Kira Hug tells us how she built her solo copywriting business and how her artistic background informs everything she does, from her own blog, to her copy, to her delightfully quirky business strategy.

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Content Marketing, Social Media

Party blogging with work-life balance: How a love for parties helped Jessica Lighter (@Celebrationsty) find her calling

Brands like Pier 1 and Target regularly find Jessica Lighter, of The Celebration Stylist, through her Instagram posts. In fact, despite her accomplishments as a party planner and blogger, she says the community she’s made on Instagram is what she’s proudest of. Here she talks about how she built a following of thirty-thousand highly engaged followers.

“I always had all these fun business ideas but I never had an audience for them. I knew if only people saw the things I could create, they would appreciate them and support them, but finding an audience was the hardest part. And what’s a business without buyers right?”

Jessica Lighter has always been a woman of many talents. Creativity isn’t something she does, it’s who she is. Trying to find a job that encompassed her many talents wasn’t easy; as she says “They don’t offer ‘party throwing’ as a college major.” But in high school she worked at a mall store that specialized in children’s birthday parties, and while she didn’t expect that to become her career path, it sort of did.

She went on to open her own party store, but when she and her husband decided to have children, her focus changed. She closed the store and planned occasional parties for families around the neighborhood, working events around the schedule of a stay-at-home mother. Then she began posting pictures of these parties on Instagram.

“I had a personal (but not private) Instagram account, like most people do, and one day I got a couple of random strangers following me. It dawned on me almost instantly that somehow I needed to grow my Instagram account and THAT would be my audience.”

Growing her Instagram following became her focus. She knew she could find an audience there and maybe even people to buy her products. Not only that, but “People that were interested and invested in my journey and what I would create.”

She says it was the exact solution she needed.

“No matter what I decided to do, I needed people to know about it if I was going to make it work on my own.”

Instagram fascinated Jessica. She saw businesses and brands using it as practically their only medium for growth. Jessica has devoted a lot of time to studying how to build a business through Instagram, and along the way, she discovered that she also enjoyed writing, which made blogging about her parties a natural evolution.

“There have definitely been points where I felt I was failing at life, but it all sort of funneled into this. And this lets me stay home with my daughter, write, create – all of which I like to do. A lot of people think they can’t make a career out of what they love to do, but I’m here to tell you, you can. You might just not know how yet.”

Jessica says she had no idea before she started that there were companies, big ones, that would pay other people to create images for them.

Today, Jessica as The Celebration Stylist works with brands like Target, Shutterfly and Pier 1 to create styled party shoots for her blog and Instagram, in addition to planning parties for local clients. It’s a system that’s working so well for her that she says she isn’t accepting new clients at this point – she’s earning enough and is able to give her two-year-old all the attention she needs (which, being a two-year-old, is a lot!).

Unlike so many entrepreneurs, Jessica Lighter isn’t all about the hustle. Her priorities are her daughter, work-life balance, and spending what time she has (while her daughter is napping) doing what she loves. Not a bad way to do business, if you ask me.

In this interview, Jessica Lighter shares how she built an Instagram following of more than 30,000 highly engaged followers, works with big-name brands, and is starting a community of party-loving creatives all on social media.

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Social Media

Mixing Lifestyle Photography & Business

Event planner Rachel Senner makes business personal by promoting her work and herself at the same time – through lifestyle photography. The result, an experience that looks like so much fun her followers can’t wait to work with her.

Vendors at a pop-up shop party seem to sprout overnight, like mushrooms. 🍄 It looks so simple. Name the date, find a place, then invite a bunch of shops to set up tables, tents and displays.

But when it’s the first event you’ve ever planned, and you have to convince those vendors that it will be worth their time to come?

As Rachel Senner remembers her first pop-up shop party, it was less fungi-like ease, and more like giving birth: “Hundreds of phone calls, elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears and prayers. I was ready to quit.”

Rachel had just opened the proverbial shutters of her event planning business, Senner of Attention, and took on the pop-up shop party with the help of friend and photographer Meghan of Chicka Artistica Photography.

“We found a venue (The Chase Center on the Riverfront) and immediately got to work. I created a logo on Canva (which, by the way, I use Canva for pretty much all the graphic designs I do for events; that website saved my life!) for the Pop-up Shop Party, which served as the face of our project. As we gained vendors we would post their logos with the event logo to gain momentum for the event.”

Like Rachel you can create your own event logo in Canva using templates like Script BluePeach Circle or the Snow Pink Flower Floral.

The event not only kicked off a partnership that would help build Rachel’s business grow, but it was also a landmark moment – it’s how she got her first 100 attendees.Rachel says, “I heard a lot of ‘No’ before I ever heard a ‘Yes’. Business owners are smart. They want a great return on investment, and to trust what seemed like a couple of newbie kids with their money and time took a big leap of faith.

When those vendors started showing up and setting up their products, and thanking us for allowing them to be there, I felt like I could do anything.

Those first vendors will always have a special place in my heart. They were the start of something really big.”

In this article, Rachel breaks down how she uses social media (and print media) to grow her business, why promoting yourself is key to promoting event planning, and her unique approach to event design.

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Social Media

10 Tips on Building Your Community and Business at the Same Time

Paper Goat Post is a brick-and-mortar store that combines beautiful paper products with events, and is quickly growing through their out-of-the-gift-box strategy for growing a business through community, social media, and snail mail.

When most non-wedding invitations are sent online, letters devolve into emails, heart-to-heart conversations happen on Gchat, and gifts are sent straight from Amazon Prime – a business based on paper seems a bit old-fashioned – and optimistic.

But there is something about paper.

Reading the hand-written words of a loved one that has physically traveled from hand to hand.

Carefully disassembling a beautifully, thoughtfully wrapped gift.

Discovering an elegant invitation in the mailbox.

As Paper Goat Post’s co-founders (and twin sisters) Megan and Cedar will tell you, they consider it their mission to “promote togetherness through the lost art of snail mail, gathering in celebration, and the thoughtful art of giving.”

Our philosophies extend through our products, services and brand to enrich our local community.

In fact, Megan and Cedar’s philosophy and business plan is very much about building community – and growing through community – with the help of paper.

And social media.

Where the old-fashioned and modern marketing methods converge is in this unique, utterly delightful space Megan and Cedar have created, both in their brick-and-mortar shop in Ivanhoe Village in Orlando, and their online presence.

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Social Media

How One Event Designer Used Styled Shoots to Establish Her Blog and Connect with National Brands

Twinkle Twinkle Little Party is a party blog that works with brands like Starbucks and TinyPrints, and has been featured on Style Me Pretty and 100 Layer Cake (to name but two). Blogger Andressa Hara’s secrets to success leverage social media and her own stunning styled shoots.

Bloggers who make a living from their blogs walk a delicate line between delivering engaging, original content to their audiences – and serving their advertisers. Go too far in one direction, and you look like a shill. Go too far the other way, and you’re back to applying for a 9-to-5 job.

Andressa Hara has successfully transitioned from event planner to event designer and full-time blogger at Twinkle Twinkle Little Party (TTLP). If you’ve ever tried to pay bills by blogging, you’ll understand just what a challenging transition that is. But it’s one she felt compelled to make in order to fulfill her creative vision.

“When I was building my event planning portfolio, I used to invite several vendors to collaborate with me. They would provide all the party décor and food necessary for the shoot, and I’d use a photographer as well.”

For Andressa, that was giving over a lot of creative control. Each styled shoot was the result of the team’s vision, rather than her own.

I found that I am happiest when I plan, design and execute my own vision from beginning to end. So I chose to rebrand from being an event planner to being a brand stylist only.

“Once I rebranded and became a party stylist/blogger, I was able to establish my own style and stick with it. I started to incorporate more DIY ideas rather than having vendors to provide everything. I also started to take my own pictures.

“Now I create content that is easy to recreate: parties my audience can get ideas from to host their own events rather than hiring someone to do it for them.” Andressa says that producing styled shoots for her readers has become her biggest passion, and her strongest content for building her business and brand.

When she agrees to a brand partnership, her audience – real people planning real parties – come first. If what she does helps them to throw an unforgettable, joyful event, she’s done her job well.

“When a brand contacts TTLP to promote a new product they are launching, we will only work on the campaign if the product is a good fit for our blog. Since TTLP is a party blog, I will only promote products that can be easily incorporated into celebrations.”

Her work has been featured on Style Me Pretty, Oh Lovely Day, 100 Layer Cake and Hostess with the Mostess, as well as nationwide magazines and brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nestle, Kate Aspen, Tiny Prints and Shutterfly.

Andressa’s blog, Twinkle Twinkle Little Party Magazine and Etsy store work together like gears in an engine to support and promote each other. But none of these became successful overnight.

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Social Media

Building an Events Business with the Help of Reality TV and Visual Marketing

Ever wonder how reality TV shows find their event planners? Want to know how to turn your Instagram page into a brand-building, client attracting portfolio? How’d you like to get in on the secret of creating a powerful first impression with your website’s home page alone? Elle Anderson of Elle A Events covers all of this and more.

Seven years ago, while living in Hawaii, Elle Anderson had her life flash before her eyes – she’d been in a car accident that landed her in the hospital. Until then, she hadn’t really asked herself what she truly wanted to do with her life. She already had a number of event coordinating, venue management and marketing jobs under her belt, but it wasn’t until that exact moment that she realized event production was what she felt called to do.

“I knew it was the culmination of my experience. It pulled all the pieces together. I wanted to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for people.”

Unforgettable moments. When life flashes before your eyes, those moments are what stay with you.

Fast-forward to today where Elle A Events is a fast growing event production company with an accomplished team of creative professionals. They do everything.

“I get to be involved in so much more than one aspect of the event. This was why production for me was a bigger calling. I love being able to do custom fabrications and unique detailed touches; that’s the side of production you see. Planners and designers think of the ideas, but the people who put them into place are on the production side.”

Elle’s company has grown fast in the last six years in a way that could almost only happen in Los Angeles – by being on reality TV. Her television appearances may have been the catalyst for some of her success, but it’s not the only reason – her incredibly smart marketing strategies and business philosophy all contribute to her success today.

Our conversation with Elle ranged from how she first began marketing her business on Yelp, to how she found herself as the wedding planner for several reality TV shows, and how her marketing strategy and branding has evolved along the way.

She explains how she did it all, and why at the end of the day, it’s integrity that’s really the most important factor for growing your business (although a carefully curated Instagram page helps).

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