Effective Copywriting for Professional Services: An Interview with Gloria Russell, Russell Resources, LLC
Copywriter Gloria Russell joined host John Ray to discuss the elements of effective copywriting for professional services providers. Gloria talked about the problem of services providers talking too much about themselves, uncovering their unique brilliance, the rise of AI and what it means for copywriting, why reading makes for better copywriting, and much more.
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Gloria Russell, Founder and Lead Copywriter, Russell Resources LLC
Nine years ago, Gloria Russell launched Russell Resources LLC to help entrepreneurs upgrade their marketing strategy and copywriting. She works with service-based businesses to gain clarity on their preferred markets, ideal clients, and services that provide in-demand solutions. Her compelling content enhances visibility, credibility, and marketability by reaching the right audience through engaging topics on websites, blogs, and LinkedIn posts.
After a lengthy corporate career, Gloria now enjoys working with clients across the country from her office in west central Minnesota. She treasures all the special times with her children and grandchildren who live out of state. Her son, Ryan, and family live in Virginia, and Michigan is home to her daughter, Odessa, and family.
Gloria enjoys travel, music, adventure or mystery books and movies, home improvement projects, and the cheery sound of birds chirping.
John Ray: [00:00:00] And hello again, folks. I’m John Ray on The Price and Value Journey. And I’m delighted to welcome my friend Gloria Russell. Gloria is based in Minnesota, but she works all over the country and she works with a number of different verticals, you might say, performing copywriting services, giving them copywriting that they need for their website. It might be for brochures or social media posts or maybe LinkedIn or what have you.
But I’ve known Gloria for a while now and I really love her work. I love her perspective. And I thought she would be a great person to talk to about effective copywriting for professional services firms. Gloria, thank you so much for joining me.
Gloria Russell: [00:00:50] Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.
John Ray: [00:00:54] Absolutely. So I didn’t do your background justice because you’ve done so much great work. But I’m going to turn it over to you and tell the listeners a little bit more about your background and how you became a copywriter.
Gloria Russell: [00:01:15] Well, I think, John, it actually started kind of a young age, at least for the writing part of it. When I was a young girl, I used to actually rip pictures out of a magazine and then I’d write my own story. I had quite the imagination. And I’m a reader and I think readers make good writers a lot of time. And it’s probably just because you have that exposure to the written word and the spelling and word usage, just all of that. And of course, you love the impact and the adventure. But I do feel like readers oftentimes make good writers.
And so that’s kind of how I began. I used to like to write. I always been a reader. But if you fast forward to my corporate career, there I had a variety of responsibilities. But part of it was I wrote internal and external communications. And for some of them I was the author, but for others I was writing for other people. It might have been the owner of the company, the VPs, the CEO, the C-suite, whomever.
And so I learned, and I feel like some of it might have been a little bit of a natural tendency. But I learned through years of practice how to write in the voice of many different people. And it was really fun for me. So I enjoyed that a lot.
John Ray: [00:02:49] You said something there I want to follow up on. You talk about the connection between reading and writing. Talk about how important it is to read in order to develop your writing skills.
Gloria Russell: [00:03:06] I think it is, most definitely, because and I think that’s one of those things that really helps. When you read, and I’ve got the whole bookshelf, when you read, you really see how stories develop. You see different styles of writing, but you can also recognize the good patterns and even just the words and the spelling and all of that. I’m one that finds the mistakes in books. And I’m always thrilled when I read a book and there are no mistakes, but I think it is important.
It’s kind of funny, John, because in my corporate days when I did a lot of writing, I didn’t call myself a copywriter. Even though I certainly was, but that was just one of my many duties. And I didn’t call myself a copywriter. It wasn’t until I decided to leave the corporate campus and start my own business that I realized, oh, now I’m a copywriter.
Because what I was trying to do, I wanted to help business owners with their copywriting, with their content, with how they projected themselves. And that’s what they told me they needed the most. So the things I love to do, that’s what I decided. And I do love it because it offers me a lot of freedom and flexibility at this stage of my career. But now I indeed do call myself a copywriter because that’s what I do all the time. So I’ve owned up to it now.
John Ray: [00:04:45] Okay. Well, I want to talk about that term for just a second, because the term itself, I understand why you use it because that’s what people are looking for. So you have to call yourself that, right? But the writing itself is the task, and you do so much more than that. And really, and this is true for any good copywriter, right? I mean, it does not start with the writing. It starts with something bigger than that. Talk more about that.
Gloria Russell: [00:05:20] Yeah, absolutely. Well, so there is the writing thing, and that’s the part where I say I kind of came by that early and came by that honestly. But when I talk about the content, really, it’s the marketing. And sometimes people don’t know that’s what they need and they’re asking for the writing, which is definitely the product. But a lot of times, it’s the marketing and they don’t quite understand that.
So when clients come to me, typically what they’ll say is they need the content, they need the writing, but they don’t have time, they don’t know how to write, they can’t write. Some of them just say it would be torture. So they want something professional, something that’s really going to serve them well, represent them well, but they’re not sure how to provide that for themselves.
So a lot of times, even I do use the word copywriting because you need to, but a lot of times I use the term marketing content. So I’ll say I write marketing content, or I create marketing content. And I think sometimes people understand that a little bit better.
John Ray: [00:06:33] You know, I think I’m qualified to judge a bad copywriter from a good one because I’ve had bad ones and I’ve had good ones, and that means you. And I think the difference is the copywriters that play into people’s point of view, right? I mean, and I think your talent, it seems to me, is giving professional services providers and other companies you work with a point of view makeover that it’s not about them and what they do per se.
Gloria Russell: [00:07:14] This is so true. I think what you need to do and what people want, sometimes they’re just not really able to express it. But really, we need to uncover their unique brilliance and how they’re different and how they relate to the client. Because in the writing and in the copy that people are going to read, it needs to be all about the client.
There are many different types of copywriters. There are some and they are professionals as well. But there are some that will write for a particular industry, and they will maybe create companies that will create a website and the copy that goes with it, and they sell that same thing to everyone in that niche or all the same.
So there’s really no way to differentiate when you see that. And if that’s something that works for you and that’s what you need, that’s great. You have to know what your objectives are and what your goals are. For me, I like to provide original content. And so that means I really need to get to know the business and who their ideal clients are.
John Ray: [00:08:22] Yeah. And I guess this also comes around to a lot of professional services providers have, they’ve gotten trained too. Right? I mean, they’ve done a lot of writing along the way, particularly attorney’s verticals like that. Right? They’ve done a lot of that. So. If you’re a good writer, why do you need to hire a copywriter?
Gloria Russell: [00:08:55] Well, there’s usually two reasons. People will come to me, and they’ll say, I am a good writer. And they are, but they don’t have time. They absolutely do not have the time. And that’s not where they want to focus their energy. But most of them are good, they’re good writers, but they don’t really understand the marketing side of it. And you need to really love the outcome.
So once you have new content, say for your website, your blogs, your LinkedIn profile, bios, whatever it is, you want to feel really good about that and proud of it because I feel really bad when people say, yeah, I wrote it but it doesn’t really do the company justice. It doesn’t really help me. People aren’t attracted to it.
And the whole thing is you need to speak to the clients. You need to show what’s in it for them and you need to do it pretty quickly. So I think a lot of times the real reason is it’s just a matter of the marketing side of it. People have trouble talking about their own, talking about themselves or their own business a lot of times.
John Ray: [00:10:06] Well, my sense of it is they talk too much about themselves. So maybe they’re too good at talking about themselves as opposed to talking about what’s going on in the heads of the potential client that they have, right?
Gloria Russell: [00:10:20] Right. Well, that’s absolutely true. And that’s one of the things that I see as probably the biggest, well, I would say undoubtedly the biggest mistake that people make when they write their own content. And a lot of people will do that, especially when they’re starting out. But they talk too much about themselves and too much about the company and we do this and we do that.
But the truth is, when someone comes to your website or looks at some marketing materials, whatever it is, they want to know what’s in it for them. And people don’t have a very long attention span anymore. I don’t either. So they want to see it and they want to see it quickly. So you really need to talk about the client and what’s in it for them. That’s what gains you the outcome that you’re really looking for.
John Ray: [00:11:11] Well, let’s talk about the, I guess, the piece of this that involves how you work with a client and how you get to that point. So dig into that for us. Take us through what that looks like for you as you unpack all that with a client.
Gloria Russell: [00:11:33] Well, when there’s a new client, the first thing always is to get to know them. So I will spend time with them to really understand what drives them their why, why are they in it? I’d like to know about their business, the mission, the vision, what they’re hoping to achieve. And so we have some discussions on that. Some of them will go pretty deep to see what’s it all about. I want to know what’s important to them.
But the second thing we’ll talk about is who is their ideal client? Who are they really looking for? Who do they want to serve? And those are the people that we want to attract because we want them to fall in love with you so that you can serve more of those type of people. So we discuss all of that with an understanding of what their goals are and who they’re really going to be basically a hero to. And then we decide what needs attention and where we can show the client some love. So it might be their website, it might be their LinkedIn, it might be blogs. Sometimes it’s video, video scripting, case studies, whatever they need. But you need to start with those elements first.
John Ray: [00:12:49] Do you find that you discover more about the clients of a service provider than maybe they knew themselves?
Gloria Russell: [00:12:59] It happens sometimes. Yeah. The interesting thing is when I talk with business owners, most of them know a lot about their business and what their goals are and what they’re trying to achieve, who they want to serve. Some of them are very clear on who their preferred clients are and who they can really make a difference for. But some of them are not so clear, especially if they’re a little earlier on in their business.
Or during the pandemic, a lot of people change their focus or do a little bit of a switch and they might have added services or just they’re doing their work differently. They might even be looking for a different set of clients. So we would talk about that. And sometimes we need to have a little bit more discussion on that to really understand who it is they’re looking for. Because until I know who those clients are that they really want to serve, I can’t write for them. I need to know who they are so that I can write directly to them, and it will speak to them and resonate with them.
John Ray: [00:14:11] Yeah, that makes sense, Gloria. Now, so you go through — and I know this from working with you. You go through a pretty extensive interview process, right? And you record that interview, so you have access to that later, right?
So I guess what are the big — are there surprises that come out of that? I’m just curious if your clients sometimes have epiphanies about their own business that maybe they didn’t fully appreciate? And just because you’re an independent third party and looking for their special sauce that you find things they didn’t know they had.
Gloria Russell: [00:15:01] This is true. It does happen sometimes. And it turns out to be a delightful journey for the business owner, I feel. And they’ll say, oh my gosh. And sometimes I think they’re a little bit worried about it, like, well, it will be too overwhelming, depending on where they are at. It depends really on how deep we go into that and how much we have to do.
But typically, at the end, they’ll just say, oh my gosh, I learned so much and I’ve narrowed things down and I have much more clarity now. And they realize that actually the exercise was fun. And so, I really love that because I don’t want anybody feeling nervous about it or like it’s going to be too much work. But you do have to ask the right questions so that you can uncover the essence of their business goals and what they’re really trying to accomplish.
John Ray: [00:15:57] Yeah, that makes sense. So what are the services businesses that you find maybe the most challenging to write for and why?
Gloria Russell: [00:16:13] That one’s pretty easy for me. And every copywriter might have a different answer. But for me, the most challenging are legal and financial. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t write for them. I do. I will write things like ads. I’ll do their LinkedIn profiles to make sure it really represents them well. I will do some website content, or it could be blogs or posts.
What I won’t do is I won’t do white papers or something that really gets deep into the topic. And the reason is I’m not the expert on the legal and the financial. That’s not my main focus. And there are a lot of things in those industries that you can’t say or certain ways you can’t say it. There are certain words you can’t use. And so, I just avoid that. And if there is someone who needs that type and that depth of copy for legal or financial, I refer them to someone who only works with that group.
John Ray: [00:17:23] Okay, cool. So let’s say we’ve got some someone listening to this, and they’ve decided, okay, I give up, I’m going to hire my own copywriter. So one question that I get a lot from people is I don’t know how to judge. I don’t know how to judge who’s a good fit for me and who’s not, because it all kind of sounds the same to me when I go to their website or what have you. So how do you counsel someone on how to make a good selection of a copywriter for their business?
Gloria Russell: [00:18:03] Well, I think there are ways that you can go about that. And first thing I would do is you have to have an idea of what you need. But you can go to the copywriters, look for their LinkedIn. And when you look at their LinkedIn profile, you can gain a little bit of an idea of who they are, what they do, what it might be like to work with them. And you can see a little bit about their style.
The other thing you can do is you can look at their recommendations and that will tell you something I think that’s valuable. And the LinkedIn recommendations are awesome. You can see who said what. You can even see the date that it was posted. So I think that’s really good. You can also go to their website and just see how they wrote their own website and who they seem to be speaking to, that kind of thing.
So I think those two. And then if it seems like something that speaks to you, you can ask for a conversation. I’m sure that any copywriter would be very happy to have a chat and you can decide if it’s a good fit.
John Ray: [00:19:22] Yeah. Okay. So I want to get to the topic of the day, which is AI and ChatGPT and Google has Bard coming out. Well, it’s already out right now, but talk about just how you view AI and copywriting and your ability to do what you do.
Gloria Russell: [00:19:52] Yes. It certainly is the topic of the day, isn’t it?
John Ray: [00:19:55] Oh, yeah.
Gloria Russell: [00:19:57] For me, I love technology, so I don’t think of AI or any kind of techno innovative happenings as any kind of a threat. If you think about over the years, all the technology changes we’ve had, it’s exciting and we have capabilities now that we never had before. And this is another thing. I mean, it’s ever-evolving and it will continue to evolve.
I know there are people who aren’t as fond of technology. Probably they think, oh, now we have to learn another thing. Or some people just don’t like change. And so that impacts how people feel about things. I’m one of those that really embraces change and technology. I mean, as long as it can do something for me that might be productive, it’s great. So change doesn’t bother me.
I mean, even in my personal life, John, I, like a lot of people don’t like to move and I have moved many times. For me, that’s just an adventure. I don’t have to clean my closets. I can just move. And I kind of take that same perspective with technology. And I think AI can really help a lot of business owners and it can help a lot of career professionals in many ways that might not have been available to them before. And it will keep getting better.
I’ve seen a lot of my clients use AI effectively for writing emails. Some of them, especially if they’re a little concerned about how to structure the sentence or which words to use, they find it very valuable. I’ve seen others use AI as they start projects, maybe to outline something or to gain some other ideas. That is another benefit.
And then of course, there are some people who are using AI to write their posts in their blogs and their eBooks and all of that. And it’s amazing if you just watch it unfold, it’s just like, oh my gosh, look at this, it’s amazing to just see it happen so quickly.
But here’s the caution. And this is my view, but here’s the caution. This is like anything, I believe the output is only as good as the input. And so to use it well, you really need to spend some time with it and improve the questions you ask, and you need to know when to use it and basically create a strategy.
John Ray: [00:22:35] Yeah. There’s something beguiling about getting the results as quickly as you get them. And what I mean by that is it’s kind of like if you, well, I’m dating myself. Probably not you, but I’m dating me. So, I mean, when, I guess it was VisiCalc, came out and the old spreadsheet software and because everything was so well organized and so forth, I mean, you maybe took a little bit of a, had more confidence in the results than you should. Right. Just because of the way the output looked. Right. And it strikes me that something like ChatGPT is very similar.
Gloria Russell: [00:23:28] Yes. Yes, I think so. I don’t believe for a minute that it would replace humans for exceptional copywriting, but it can help speed up the process a little bit if really learn how to use it to your benefit. And on the other hand, I’ve had clients come to me in the last weeks saying they don’t want to use AI for their content because they don’t feel that it gives the personality, or it doesn’t add to their branding, and it just doesn’t pull it all together. So that’s why they would like for me to do it so that they know that that’s they’ll get the outcome that they want.
But the whole thing is fascinating. And I think the other caution that I would have is it’s like anything else, it’s not perfect. And so when you use ChatGPT or the others, it will create content that can sometimes be inaccurate and there can be mistakes. It’s like any software actually even if — well, it’s because I know I guess. But if I use the grammar software, I can see it make mistakes or I can see it use a word that changes the meaning basically of what I want to say. And it’s not going to be a good thing for me.
So you have to be aware that all the information might not necessarily be accurate and some of it might be a little bit biased. So you have to, when you’re using it, I feel like you need to, in the end, really make it your own and edit it. Make sure that it has the proper content, grammar, tone and flow that you’re looking for. In other words, what you really want is something original, not strictly machine generated.
John Ray: [00:25:21] Right. Yeah. And so do you use ChatGPT or its equivalents? Do you use AI yourself?
Gloria Russell: [00:25:33] I do to a point. I do to a point. But I certainly don’t write my clients content with ChatGPT. No.
John Ray: [00:25:45] Okay.
Gloria Russell: [00:25:46] N-O.
John Ray: [00:25:47] So I got it. So are you using it for like research, outlining, prompts, or that kind of thing? Is that the extent of your usage?
Gloria Russell: [00:25:57] Pretty much. I would say, honestly, I’m using it just to see what it can do.
John Ray: [00:26:02] Okay. Okay.
Gloria Russell: [00:26:03] Really, I feel like we’re really at the beginning stages of this. And so I use it to see what it can do, but it does not replace the original content for me at all. So, but it’s very interesting. It’s fascinating.
John Ray: [00:26:20] Yeah, for sure. So let’s talk about tone and getting someone’s voice because I can hear someone saying it’s a valid point. That may be a problem with ChatGPT, but how do I get a copywriter that gets my tone and my voice, right, that makes it sound like me? So how do you accomplish that?
Gloria Russell: [00:26:50] Well, I don’t know that there’s really a class I could teach on that one. But again, I feel a little bit like I had maybe a little bit of a natural tendency there, but also probably just because I’ve done it for so long. That was part of my corporate work. And again, you need to really know your client and you need to know who you’re speaking to. So that’s the key to it right there, I think.
And it’s very important to have those conversations with the client, to understand their personality and their brand, what they’re trying to accomplish, their focus. And in working with them over time, if that changes, then you have those discussions again. But if you’re working with someone for the first time, like I will look at what has been created before and I’ll ask them how they feel about it. Sometimes they’re really happy with it, sometimes they’re not. They understand that that did not represent them the way they wanted. And so we talk about those kinds of things. But I think if you ask the right questions, you can really understand better who they are and how they would speak to their client.
The other part is knowing the client and how would they speak to those marvelous clients that they love to serve, and how do those clients want to be spoken to, what do they want to know? And again, you don’t want to use too much technical jargon or acronyms. You don’t want to get too technical. So there’s a lot to it, but it’s really fun. And I just am thrilled when I hear the comments that people say, oh, I don’t know how you can write so that it sounds like I wrote it, but you do a great job. And that really makes me feel good.
John Ray: [00:28:46] Yeah. And that really gets over the objection I think a lot of people have toward hiring a copywriter in general, right. And they put this in a category. They kick the can down the road because that’s what they’re afraid of and they’re waiting for a time they’ll be able to do it themselves. And they never get to that point, right?
Gloria Russell: [00:29:07] Yeah, it’s true. I have had a few, not many, but a few say, well, I don’t know that you could write my content because you don’t totally understand my business. Well, we have conversations so that I can understand enough. And I think what helps me too is that I have that corporate background and I was involved always from the strategy all the way through to the implementation.
So I do understand business and that probably helps me too. But sometimes it’s maybe better not to know all the details because you can write then in a way that more people will understand rather than when you’re really in the thick of it and you’re getting a little bit too detailed or too technical. It’s interesting.
John Ray: [00:29:54] Yeah. Sometimes knowing too much makes you a captive of all that, right?
Gloria Russell: [00:29:58] Yeah.
John Ray: [00:29:59] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me. Gloria, this has been great. And I can’t imagine that there aren’t some folks that would like to know more about you and your services. So can we give them your contact information and allow them to get in touch with you?
Gloria Russell: [00:30:18] Absolutely. Thank you so much. So they could Google Gloria Russell copywriter and they would find my LinkedIn and my website for Russell Resources. That’s one way. But I have a shortcut. The shortcut is you can just Google writer.mn. I’m based in Minnesota, so the MN is easy to remember. So writer.mn goes directly to my Russell Resources website.
John Ray: [00:30:44] Terrific. And you were again, work with clients really all over the place. You may be in Minnesota, but in terms of your clients, you’re all over the place.
Gloria Russell: [00:30:54] All over the country. I don’t do international anymore, but all over the country.
John Ray: [00:30:59] There you go. Gloria Russell. Gloria, this has been great. Thank you so much for joining me and our listeners and talking about your work and the copywriting profession. Thank you so much.
Gloria Russell: [00:31:14] Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It’s a pleasure.
John Ray: [00:31:18] Hey, folks, just a quick reminder that you can find the show archive for this series at pricevaluejourney.com, as well as your favorite podcast app. So whichever makes the most sense to you, just search pricevalujourney.com or go to pricevaluejourney.com or search Price Value Journey and you’ll find it.
Also, if you go to pricevaluejourney.com, you can find updates on my upcoming book. It’s called The Price and Value Journey, Raising Your Confidence, Your Value and Your Prices Using the Generosity Mindset Method. Be out later this year in 2023. So for my guest, Gloria Russell, I’m John Ray. Join me next time on The Price and Value Journey.
About The Price and Value Journey
The title of this show describes the journey all professional services providers are on: building a services practice by seeking to convince the world of the value we offer, helping clients achieve the outcomes they desire, and trying to do all that at pricing which reflects the value we deliver.
If you feel like you’re working too hard for too little money in your solo or small firm practice, this show is for you. Even if you’re reasonably happy with your practice, you’ll hear ways to improve both your bottom line as well as the mindset you bring to your business.
John Ray, Host of The Price and Value Journey
John Ray is the host of The Price and Value Journey.
John owns Ray Business Advisors, a business advisory practice. John’s services include advising solopreneur and small professional services firms on their pricing. John is passionate about the power of pricing for business owners, as changing pricing is the fastest way to change the profitability of a business. His clients are professionals who are selling their “grey matter,” such as attorneys, CPAs, accountants and bookkeepers, consultants, marketing professionals, and other professional services practitioners.
In his other business, John is a Studio Owner, Producer, and Show Host with Business RadioX®, and works with business owners who want to do their own podcast. As a veteran B2B services provider, John’s special sauce is coaching B2B professionals to use a podcast to build relationships in a non-salesy way which translate into revenue.
John is the host of North Fulton Business Radio, Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Radio, Alpharetta Tech Talk, and Business Leaders Radio. house shows which feature a wide range of business leaders and companies. John has hosted and/or produced over 1,700 podcast episodes.
Coming in 2023: A New Book!
John’s working on a book that will be released in 2023: The Price and Value Journey: Raise Your Confidence, Your Value, and Your Prices Using The Generosity Mindset. The book covers topics like value and adopting a mindset of value, pricing your services more effectively, proposals, and essential elements of growing your business. For more information or to sign up to receive updates on the book release, go to pricevaluejourney.com.