Visibility is everything in marketing, but it has taken a whole new meaning in this increasingly digitized world. With the rise of search engines as the go-to platforms for accessing information from the internet, content writing has become big part of online visibility. Today, Jen Du Plessis delves into the intricacies of this art with Shondell Varcianna, founder and CEO of Varci Media, a content writing services firm that helps financial institutions save time by writing content that speaks to their target customer. Whatever business you are in, your customers are now empowered to make a choice about which company solves their questions or problems from their fingertips. How do you literally stay on top of search engine results every time someone from your niche types in something that you may have the answer to? The answer is good content writing – and it really isn’t as hard as you think.
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How To Write Content That Attracts The Right Customers With Shondell Varcianna
Our guest is Shondell Varcianna. She is the Founder of Varci Media. What we’re going to be talking about is content. This is a big problem for many people, especially in the mortgage and real estate spaces. I say this all the time, if you’re selling to everybody, you’re selling to nobody. I noticed in the information you sent to me that you said the same thing. It’s key that we’re honing in on our niche. We’re honing in to highlight and spotlight ourselves so that we can attract clients. Without further ado, let me share with everybody a little bit about you. You started in banking in 1998, right out of high school.
For the next eight years, you worked in several positions, including some mortgage origination, but all of this was in Canada. You worked for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is the equivalent of a PMI company here in the US. What you worked on was helping people and the company itself. I know you work with a lot of major companies in the United States as well, developing and improving their relationships with their clients. Now you help financial institutions get more inbound inquiries by writing blog posts that convert. Welcome to the show.
Thank you so much.
I’m happy to have you. I can’t wait to talk about what you have. I know you’ve got a lot of freebies for everybody. We’ll make sure we get all those links so everybody can get freebies on how to write blogs. Being a podcaster and having the longest-running show for the mortgage space, we’ve done a lot of converting of the transcripts into a blog. Somebody does it for me, so I don’t have anything to do with it. I don’t understand the difference between a blog. I’m an author, so blog to me is, it’s writing. I don’t read blogs ever. I don’t think I do. Help us understand the difference between a blog and perhaps someone might be doing it when they’re saying, “I’m going to do a post or I’m going to do a video to try to attract clients.” Help us understand that aspect of it.
A blog is a post. It’s called blog post. A blog is a shorter version of that. People will call blogs different things. Originally, blogs were people’s personal diaries that they would put out on the internet. Once SEO came about, it transformed itself and then businesses started to add blog posts on their websites and so forth. People call them articles. There are different names for it. When we’re talking about blog posts, it’s written content on your website to attract visitors through search engine optimization. Through keywords that are added organically throughout the content, as people are searching for those, your information will pop up and your blog posts will pop up. In a nutshell, that’s the purpose of a blog post and why people post on their websites.
I know that I have one. We’ll call it a blog post because I know that my podcast company has said, “What keywords do we need to be using?” We had this conversation about some keywords with one of my guests on my other show. They said, “We have to include this in there because people are looking.” I’m dumbfounded by the fact that I don’t go look for things. I don’t feel like I’m looking for a blog post. I probably stumble on them because when I’m looking for some content, I probably stumble upon it.
Typically, people won’t look for a blog post, but they’ll Google what are the interest rates in Atlanta, Georgia? If you read a post about interest rates in Atlanta, Georgia, and you’re doing search engine optimization as well, then your blog posts will end up on the first page of Google. Most people don’t go to a website firsthand. They usually Google it or go on Bing and Yahoo.
I’ve stumbled across tons of articles that I’ve used. I was looking for some stats on workplace, what jobs have the highest risk of death, which sounds terrible. I found that real estate and mortgage loan officers are the ten top workplace environments that create death. We have three, working long hours, not being in control of our results and desk jockeying sitting out all day. Three out of the ten that are going to cause that. Blogs are great because you learn from them. What is the purpose of most blogs? Maybe you can share some facts with us or some statistics on blogs. Are they mostly for entertainment? Are they for learning? Are they only for exposure and attracting clients? What are some of the reasons that someone would do a blog?
There are a bunch of different reasons. It depends on who your audience is. Different companies will blog for different reasons. For the most part, financial institutions are putting content out because they want to inform and they want to educate their target customer as well as their audience and customers. I always say it’s best to put out content that is answering a question or solving a problem. You want to know your audience extremely well and know what questions they have. You providing them the answers is what’s providing value to them.
Keywords are questions that people are typing into Google. That’s what keywords are in a nutshell. You want to find out what the most commonly searched keywords are, and then organically add that in your content. There is more to it. Content writing is one component of search engine optimization. There’s more that’s involved. That’s how the keywords fall into place. You have a question and you’re searching for it on Google. You’re looking for the answer. You’re not going to go to the fifteenth page, the second or the bottom of the first page of Google to find that answer.
You’re going to click the first few because our time is limited. That’s the other reason why you’ve got to attract people with your headline. It’s very rare that someone’s going to say, “I’m going to schedule 30 minutes in my day to read stuff on the internet.” Usually, they are in a drive-through, at a restaurant or you can be somewhere and you’re waiting for someone to come, or you may just have five minutes. Now our kids aren’t in school but I would read things before I pick up my kids if I’m waiting for them to come out.
There’s a short timeframe that you have to capture people’s attention. This is how social media also ties into this as well. When you write a blog post, you’ll take excerpts from the blog post and add those to social media so that people will click back to your website. As you provide more value to your target audience, then you want them to subscribe to your content so that every time you publish new content, they’ll get an email so they don’t have to go searching for you anymore. The whole purpose of content is to provide consistent value over a period of time to your target audience so that they will give you their contact information, their email. Every time you publish content, now you’re getting in front of them.
You’re growing your database and that increases the opportunities for revenue. I have some questions about that too. One of the things that I’ve had to learn as a speaker, not from my mortgage days and I wish I’d known that as a speaker is that the problems that people have and the verbiage that they use, regardless of whether you feel like you’re an expert or not. I thought, “For many years, I was in the mortgage space. I know what the problems are of loan officers because I’ve been one.” The words I use are quite different than the words they use. I may have a more sophisticated way. I may have a more dumbed down way than what the words they use.
I have proof of this. If I’m typing a question, I’m not getting an answer and I have to go to the third and fourth page, that means they’re not using my terminology. What are some of the suggestions that you have for people to identify the problems in the words that the clients have, not the problems in the words that we think we need to deliver, especially with financial institutions? “The ten mistakes homeowners make before applying for a loan” is not the same as, “Should I pay off my collection before I talk to you?” Those are the things that consumers are saying.
The verbiage comes from knowing your customers. It comes from having relationships with your customer or having relationships with your target audience. Forums are great to build relationships with customers. If there’s a mortgage forum and you as a marketer in a bank or a credit union wants to get to know a specific demographic, then join those forums, find out what people are asking, find out how they’re communicating so that you can communicate with them in the exact same way. Social media is also great for that as well. You can find out what people are asking and what people like. It comes down to building relationships with whoever it is you want to target as well as your database.It's best to put out content that answers a question or solves a problem. Click To Tweet
Matching what they are talking about with commonly searched keywords and write about that. Now you understand your customer, you know what they’re searching for on Google. You can create answers to those questions that they have. You’re being strategic because you’re including keywords that they are searching for. It’s not just about the keywords though. The verbiage needs to be there as well. That can only come from knowing your customer. If I don’t know you, I won’t know what verbiage you use because I don’t talk to you. If I am in front of you all the time or if I’m getting to know you, then we can create some type of relationship. I know that Jen likes this and this is how she says this. I’m going to communicate with Jen in this way, so my message resonates with her.
I do think that’s important. One of the things that I hear from loan officers all the time is, “I don’t have any content. It’s content that stops me. I want to put stuff out there, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what the content is.” I have some suggestions for them, but we’d like to hear what your expertise is. If I’m a regular realtor and a loan officer, not a company, and I’m struggling with content, what are some suggestions that you have for us?
You always have content if you’re speaking with your target audience because you will know what they want. It doesn’t start with content. It starts with the relationships. It starts with getting in front of your target audience wherever they are. If they are on LinkedIn, connect with them on LinkedIn. Follow them, see what they’re writing about, see what they’re interested in and find some common ground. The content always comes from relationships. Even us as the company, the majority of our content comes from me talking to financial institutions. It doesn’t come from me sitting down and thinking about what we should write about. It comes from having conversations with our target audience, our customers, following trends and seeing what is happening in the industry and the market.
How could I provide value in that way? Where people get stumped is, they’re thinking about what do my customers want to know? Just ask them or find them and see what they’re writing about. Go on forums and see what people are asking about. That is your bread and butter. That is where the content will come from. It’s not rocket science. You don’t have to be thinking. If you sit down and think about the content, it’s probably not going to resonate with your target audience. What you’re thinking about and what they want maybe two completely different things. You have to build those relationships.
You were talking about talking to them, find out what questions they have, create a relationship with them, follow them and see what they like. What is the better process for this? What I usually tell my clients that I coach is, “When a client asks you a question, that’s content.” For example, “Should I pay off my collection before I come and talk to a lender?” Any question they ask, “Will I get my earnest money deposit back?” That’s content. Those questions and the exact way that they ask. It’s not earnest money, EMD or our language.
We have a lot of acronyms. It’s “Am I going to get my deposit money back?” because that’s the word that they use. Maybe it’s all the ways to capture, increase the awareness, and put your antennas up. When someone asks you a question, that becomes content. Is it better to be asking them questions saying, “What is it you want to know about getting a mortgage or about buying a house?” It is a natural process that people ask anyway. Writing those answers down and not just answering it for one person, but going out to the whole big, bad world. Is it us asking those questions that retrieving their questions? What are we doing when we’re following them? They don’t understand what we’re doing when we’re following them. I know that was a loaded question, but if you could answer that, it would be helpful for me too. I don’t follow them. I follow them and see that they’re asking questions, but those questions aren’t questions I’m going to be answering as a coach.
It’s both. It’s asking questions to your target audience as well as paying attention to the questions that they’re asking you. Oftentimes your target audience may be asking questions on forums. Going on forums that are related to your specific industry and seeing if your target audience is there. If you go on mortgage forums, people are going to ask about mortgages. Paying attention to different forums, that’s what usually when people ask questions.
They’ll ask questions, but they will ask them with larger institutions that they’ve already built relationships with. On their Facebook pages, for example, they may comment on something. You can also find your target audience on other groups. Join groups as well. Facebook groups are great groups to join within your industry. People ask questions within the groups than just on Facebook. It’s a little bit more secure and it’s a little bit more private. Their information is not all out there. Forums and groups are great places to find questions that your target audiences are asking.
How do we find a forum?
Reddit has great forums.
The other one that’s coming to mind is Quora. Would that be a good place?
Quora is a great forum. I don’t know if Quora is specific to the industry.
There are probably questions in there. That’s what you mean by a forum. It’s to go to some of those places. I never heard of Reddit. Hopefully, our readers have never heard of it either. That’s a new fun fact.
I would say just Google mortgage forums and loan forums, and see what comes up. Facebook groups are also good to look at some information on what your target audience wants. Try Facebook groups as well.
Once we’ve done all that research, we’re ready to get started. I know that consistency is something that you talk about too. How are you going to do it? What’s the schedule? Give us some ideas on what we need to be doing? Now we’ve got all the information, what do we do?Finding the right content verbiage is not rocket science. It comes from really knowing your customers. Click To Tweet
There’s no exact science with how many times you should post per day or per week in order to get this amount of traffic. There are many different variables that comes down to it. Consistency is not once a month.
What should people do, which is random acts of marketing?
That’s not going to move the needle. Consistency is at least at a minimum daily. Content does not have to be all written. It could be videos. You can turn the iPhone on yourself and make a video giving your audience tips. It could be quotes. It could be something inspirational. It could be something funny. It doesn’t have to be a 750-word post.
I thought when we first started is, “I have to write this thing.” I’m learning.
It could be a Facebook poll. That’s a post. You put a poll asking the audience, “What do you think about this? Do you want information on this?” It could be an article you share. It could be something you read that you share. Posts could be a variety of different things. It’s you getting out there on a daily basis and being consistent with your message.
It could be this interview. For those that are reading, if you found something cool in this and you have a bunch of realtors that you want to work with, or you’re a realtor and you have a lot of other referral partners you want to work with, it’s great to share this type of a post because then you’re saying, “I found this information on how you could get more bandwidth.”
You’re providing value to somebody that you’re targeting.
Let’s talk about niches. I’m a believer in niche to grow rich. Niching for me is how I can highlight and spotlight my expertise so that it’s easier to refer to me because now I know what you do instead of wondering what you do. Let’s talk about how you post in your niche. What are some of the strategies there?
First, you have to know who your niche is. What are you focusing on? Are you focused on homebuyers? Are you focused on people refinancing? Knowing your niche makes it easier to write content for them. It also makes it easier to find them. Now you can focus on, “I’m going to focus on homebuyers between such and such an age in this particular area.” It may be a little bit easier to target them. It also makes it easier on them because now they know, “This particular person is for me or is not for me.” That’s the reason why having a particular niche is great. A lot of the clients we work with don’t have niches because they work with a variety of different people. What I say is you can still have a niche, but you may have different kinds of niches. You can have ten different niches. The point is creating content for one niche at a time. Speaking to five different segments of people within one piece of content, that’s the purpose. You can speak to different people, but categorize it in the different pieces of content that you’re putting out there.
I see a lot of realtors posting, “If you know anybody who’s buying or selling, please give me a call, please write a note. I would love an introduction.” I don’t know anybody. “If you know” is probably one of the worst ways to start things rather than who do you know. What is the best way to start a post if you’re doing a post to grab attention for your niche? Is it a question? Is it, “Attention first time home buyers?” Is it, “Are you a first-time homebuyer who’s under 21, lives in Seattle, has a good credit score, and has enough money down?” Do you go that far? What is the best way to grab attention with a post in your niche?
All of those could be good depending on who your audience is. It comes down to how does your audience relates. Not everyone’s going to relate to attention. I wouldn’t relate to that. It comes down to knowing your audience. The best way to grab their attention is to answer their questions. What you’re going to be talking about needs to be apparent in the title so that they will click on it. You got to be able to answer their question in the headline. You’re not going to be able to answer the entire question, but there needs to be the keyword in the headline of what you’re going to be talking about so that they will click on it.
Those examples that you gave can all work depending on who your audience is. There’s no one specific answer because it comes down to what will resonate with your audience. What current stuff are they reading? Check out those headlines. I know it’s hard because a lot of people want a specific answer like ten quick ways that you could buy a home. People like list posts as well, but it comes down to your audience. Is your audience going to resonate with that? The other thing too is as you’re putting out content, you should be paying attention to how many people are reading it. Are people engaging with it?
That will help you to determine if the content that you’re putting out is working. What’s working you’ll want to keep on doing that. If it’s not working, then you can switch things up a bit. It’s not “I’ll put out one piece now and if it doesn’t work, maybe I won’t put out any anymore.” You’ve got to keep looking at the numbers. You got to test different headlines, test different things to see if they work. The examples that you gave, you can test them because two may work and one may not work, or all of them will work or maybe none of them will work. You’ve got to constantly be testing the content that you’re putting out there to see if it’s resonating with your customers. Look at the numbers and the stats to see what’s happening with it. If nothing’s happening with it over a period of time, you should change it. If you see some traction, then you want to keep going in that particular direction.
I have two more questions for you. We were on our boat. We were all floating in the water and they go, “Did you see that video that your daughter did?” I’m like, “No, I didn’t see the video that my own daughter did.” I don’t get notifications of everybody’s post. I’m following everybody, but I don’t get it or it’s probably buried down in there. When someone does a post and they don’t get a lot of response, what is the likelihood that it’s not the content, it’s not the subject line or the attention grabber?
People didn’t see it because it’s buried down there. There are a lot of times my son will post things of my grandkids and I don’t see it. It doesn’t come up like, “Kirk posted something.” How do you weigh that and say, “Who’s seen it and who hasn’t?” without going in and tagging your whole world. “I’m going to force you to see this.” Help me out with that because I don’t understand that. If I post something and I don’t get a lot of responses, it may be that it’s a good post. It’s just that they didn’t see it. How do we weigh that?Knowing your niche makes it easier to write content for them. Click To Tweet
Social media posts and blog posts are two completely different things. With blog posts, you can look at Google Analytics to see how many people have gone to the page, how long they stayed on the page, did they do any click-throughs, things like that. Track it that way. When it comes to social media posts, you can only get detailed analytics if you’re running Facebook ads or if you’re doing some type of advertising on social media, then you can get more analytics. One more thing I’ll mention too is if you post on LinkedIn, it will tell you how many views something gets. Social media engagement doesn’t always convert to customers. If you’re going to focus on social media, I would pay attention to where your audience.
Your audience may not be on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. For the most part, if you’re doing mortgages, if you’re a loan officer, your Facebook would probably be a great place to post continuously. You’ve got to be adding people. If you’re not going to pay for advertising, then you have to build your friends on Facebook. If they’re not friends with you, they won’t see your posts at all. You also have to be making sure that you’re posting things that are relevant to them or else when they go on Facebook, they’re also not going to see what you post. Facebook and social media are a little bit different than blog posts. You don’t have control over who sees your stuff on social media.
I wanted to stay there for a second on social media posting. I’m seeing an increase in emojis in posts. What’s your thought? I saw fire, thumbs up, check this out, exclamation points and all kinds of stuff. I do it from a personal social thing like, “I’m excited to go on the boat.” I’ll put a sunshine in a boat. On the business side of it, how is that affecting the visibility and how’s that grabbing people’s attention? For those that are reading, is this something we need to be considering adding to our posts?
I don’t have stats on the difference between posting with emojis and not posting with emojis. I wouldn’t be able to give you a concrete answer on that. What I do know is that it’s scrolling purposes. As people are scrolling, a picture of a fire will pop out at them versus if there’s no emojis at all. The reason why I do it is a personal preference. I know people that swear by not doing it. They do not put emojis. The reason why I do it is because I’m very expressive. The emoji has helped me to express myself a little bit more. It brings life more too what I’m talking about. If it’s not you, then it’s not you. Always be true to who you are at the end of the day especially when it comes to social media. Authenticity is what will stick with your customer. If it’s not you, don’t do it. Don’t do it just because, especially if it’s not. I’m very expressive. That’s the reason why I do it. In terms of stats, I don’t know.
I’m curious because I’m seeing more of it and it’s catching my eye. That’s why I’m asking this question because as I’m scrolling through, I’m stopping for both the emojis and for a video or I’m scrolling through because I’m sick of seeing advertisements about videos. I don’t mind story videos. I can’t stand ads. I wanted to know what are some of the things that we could be doing. It’s important for this show that people are engaged with this type of conversation. They understand that social media is here to stay whether you like it or not. You have to get involved. You can’t be so laissez fair with it. The great Les Brown says, “If you’re casual about your business, your business will become a casualty.” I don’t want anyone’s business to be a casualty. I want them to be very engaged with their business so that there are actionable items. I know that one of your freebies is the Ultimate Blog Content Checklist. People like a checklist. Tell us a little bit about what’s in that so people can grab the content.
It covers things that you should be paying attention to when it comes to writing content. Knowing your audience, answering their questions, is it formatted correctly? Having short sentences, short paragraphs enough space, adding some graphics in there so that when people are scrolling, it’s not a long read. When you open a book, there are different sections to it. Some people won’t read the 750-words that you may have written. They may go to a specific area that is for them. Having subheadings is important as well. It’s a checklist of things that you should add to make it easier, when someone clicks on your information that they’re going to read it.
What is the best way to get in touch with you?
I connected with you so please be sure to connect back so that we can share this episode. Thank you so much for the freebies. I know we only talked about one, but you gave a couple of them. Any parting thoughts that you’d like to share with people that are starting to do this and who’s about ready to say, “I’m going to take action. I know a little bit more. Jen asked some great questions because she didn’t understand it either. I’m ready to get going.”
Focus on relationships because that’s where it starts. That’s where it will continue. Especially as loan officers, you want to know where someone is starting and later on, are they going to be refinancing? Are they going to be selling and buying another home? You want to follow their journey. That only comes from having genuine relationships with people.
Take one person and stalk them all the way from graduation in college to homeownership, refinancing, buying more homes, having grandkids and their kids needing homes. Stalk them for years.
We moved to Atlanta a few years ago. I met our real estate when I was still in Canada. She helped us buy our first home when we first moved here and we’re still friends to this day. We moved into the home that we’re in now and use the exact same agent. We’ve gone to their house for Christmas. She calls and follows up. I had two kids in the few years that we’ve been here. She knows their names. It’s about the relationships. We don’t talk every single day, but she will continuously get business from me simply because of the relationship that we have. I wouldn’t dare go to another agent because I would feel like, “What about Chavez?” I feel we have such a great relationship that I wouldn’t even think of going to someone else.
That’s where everybody wants to be. You want to create that loyalty that people stay with you. That’s part of what I call the infinity of business. We tend to focus on, I need leads and something close, the business close, whatever our business is. I sold them some shoes and that’s it. We don’t think about the infinity piece of it. It’s making it happen over and over again. That’s the loyalty that happens with the relationship before, during and after.
It’s the connections that I have because of how she has made me feel and how she has treated me. The relationship is number one. The leads will come once you have the relationship.
I have my content. I’m going to put some emojis in. I’m going to think about whatever, but it gets back to start with the relationship. Don’t go crazy. Don’t go take action and say, “Now I’m ready to post because I know what to say and how to say it.” You don’t know that until you do a little bit of research. I would say slow down to speed up. Don’t speed up to slow down. It’s been a pleasure, Shondell. Thank you so much for spending time with us here. We appreciate it. I know that there are a lot of loan officers and realtors out there that their companies could use your help as well. Please keep that in mind. For our readers, if you like what you’ve read, Shondell works with the institution as well as the individuals. If you don’t like the way their website looks and they’re not representing you well, then get your company involved. Let her come in and help your company, which will in turn help you.
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
That’s it for this episode. Don’t forget to be part of our community, go to MortgageLendingMastery.com and find out what it’s like to be part of our community. Join our community so you can get additional information from all of our shows. Also, get some tips from me on a weekly basis. One day we’ll be working together as well. Thank you again for reading. Don’t forget to write us a review and give us a great rating. We want to continue to grow. We’ll talk to you soon.
- Varci Media
- Ultimate Blog Content Checklist
- Shondell Varcianna – LinkedIn
About Shondell Varcianna
I started working in banking in 1998, right out of high school. Over the next 8 years I worked in several positions, including being a mortgage loan originator, where I underwrote million dollar mortgages per week and exceeded weekly targets by 130%.
In 2006, I left Bank of Montreal and started working at Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation(CMHC). An insurance company that insures mortgages for banks.
While at CMHC I managed an account of over 150 bank branches, 80 mortgage specialists and 25 underwriters by developing and improving relationships with banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, mortgage brokers, and real estate agents.
Today, I own and operate Varci Media. A writing company in Atlanta, Georgia that helps financial institutions get more inbound inquiries by writing blog posts that convert. With our help, our clients have transformed their blog into a solution provider for their customers.
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