Don’t want to frighten off your customers? You’d better read this then…
#1 Shocking spelling mistakes
If you have spelling mistakes on your website, you’ll lose credibility. Misspellings and grammar glitches look sloppy – and nobody will want you if they think you’re sloppy. Seriously, analysis by global web services comparison site Website Planet found that websites with rubbish spelling and grammar had an 85% higher bounce rate than sites that got full marks for their written words. And according to one successful UK online entrepreneur, just ONE spelling mistake could slash your online sales in half.
There are online tools that can help but personally I’m not a fan. Many change spellings from UK to US variations and incorrectly suggest changes. So, really, it pays to hire a copywriter. Or, of course, you can proofread your content yourself – check, check and check it again. Then check it again for good measure.
#2 Scary CTAs
You’ve got to love a compelling Call to Action. It’s the perfect way to direct your customers to the next step – whether that’s downloading a freebie, signing up for a newsletter or simply reading more info to help their buying decision. But a CTA that’s ambiguous will fall on deaf ears. Nobody’s going to click for ‘More’ if they don’t know what’s coming. I think it’s OK to be playful with CTAs, though, so long as it’s clear from the accompanying text what you’re clicking to get.
#3 More scary CTAs
Want to know another howler when it comes to CTAs? Sticking them on your website willy-nilly. So, you’ve just landed on a Homepage and the first thing you see at the top is the CTA for ‘Download brochure’. I mean, hold on, wait a second… I don’t even know who you are and how you can help me yet! It’s like walking into a networking meeting and someone asking you to take their brochure before they’ve even introduced themselves. Say hello, be friendly – and then come at ’em with your CTA.
#4 The Home page horror show
Imagine you’re in a long corridor with doors on either side. There might be a kid cycling along the corridor or there might not. If you haven’t seen The Shining, forget about the kid! On each door there’s a sign inviting you in. What door do you choose? There are soooo many doors. Are you getting spooked by all the doors?
A busy Home page can freak customers out much the same way. They want to feel safe and settled on the page so they can take in the key messages about your business. Throw a load of hyperlinks and CTAs at them and you’ll throw them off course. With so many options, they won’t know what to click on next – and they’ll probably run screaming from your website with their head spinning like The Exorcist. To avoid a horror show, keep your Home page clear, calm and uncluttered.
#5About page – be afraid, be very afraid!
It’s been such a pleasant experience looking through your website and I’m really interested in your services. I’m now going to pop across to your About page to find out more about you. But what’s this? No photo? Well that makes me feel nervous for a start. And why are you talking in the third person? It’s all ‘He does this’ or ‘She founded that’. You sound like you’re hiding behind a mask – and unless it really IS Halloween, it ain’t funny.
Your website is for engaging with your customers – and you’re scaring them off with your disembodied bio. Don’t be the bogeyman of your business. Use your About page to emotionally connect with the people you want to convert from browsers to buyers.
* Want to work with a frightfully good copywriter? Get in touch on 07894 669750
Do me a favour – have a quick read through your web content. Sound OK? Did you read every word? And I mean EVERY word on EVERY page. Does your content read like it comes from the same person – or does your website have multiple personality disorder?
Imagine you’ve met someone at a house party. You’re in the kitchen having a bit of banter with them, cracking jokes, admiring their cool T-shirt. Half an hour later you bump into them in the hallway – they’re wearing a suit and tie and they’ve suddenly gone all serious on you. How do you feel? Confused? Annoyed? Desperate to get away?
Your audience will feel the same way if your web content gives out mixed messages about who you are.
Don’t be a Jekyll and Hyde business
I’ve come across lots of Jekyll and Hyde businesses. I’ll read their Home page, which is warm and welcoming, then I’ll click onto their Services page and – whoa! – suddenly everything goes all cold and formal. It’s very off-putting. One minute I thought they were on my wavelength – the next they’ve shut the door in my face.
Two of my favourite copywriting words are ‘congruent’ and ‘consistent’ – and that’s how your web content should be. When you chop and change the way you talk to your customers they’ll get confused. They won’t know who you really are. They won’t trust you. And they won’t want to buy from you.
Manage your microcopy
Personality disorder is rife in microcopy – those teeny bits of content that many businesses overlook. I see it all the time with Contact forms. I mean, honestly, you’ve done so well – your short and sassy content has got your customer this far… then you blow it all with a turgid message like this…
‘Please fill in your details in the form below and we will endeavour to contact you within 48 hours.’
Um, hello, what happened to short and sassy? This is more like it…
‘Pop your details below and I’ll get back to you in 48 hours.’
Or, hey, if it suits your brand personality…
‘Show me your deets to get a call.’
Contact forms, captions, Calls To Action, 404 error messages – whatever microcopy you put on your website, remember to be congruent and consistent.
Mind your language
A while ago my washing machine conked out so I did an online search to find a new one. Now I don’t know about you but I use a washing machine to wash my clothes. I know, radical! So what’s with all these websites talking about ‘garments’? Never in my life have I uttered the phrase, ‘Excellent. The washing machine has finished, I shall now hang my garments on the line.’ I don’t know who these companies are selling washing machines to, but it isn’t me.
So are you using the right language for your customers – and are you using that language consistently throughout your marketing?
Find the right tone of voice – and stick with it!
Tone of voice isn’t about what you say but how you say it. Your brand’s tone of voice could be casual, funny, serious, sassy, irreverent, edgy, sympathetic, provocative, nostalgic, romantic… And there was you thinking it had to be either formal or informal.
Why is tone of voice so important? Well, it defines your brand and makes it instantly recognisable – and that creates a connection with your audience. It also showcases your personality – which sets you apart from your competitors.
Once you’ve figured out your tone of voice you don’t want to bugger about with it. If you’re feisty on your About page and formal on your Services page you’ll befuddle the hell out of your customers. And you’ll lose everything – their trust, their loyalty, their money!
Keep your copywriter on speed dial
A good copywriter knows all about language and tone of voice and will always factor that into writing content. Quick plug here – I’ve got oodles of experience with this. I spent a whole year on a copywriting project for a High Street travel company with two very different brands, which meant two very different tones of voice were needed to differentiate them.
In this case, the company had their own language and TOV guide. The guide was huge. Or you could say ‘comprehensive’. See what I did there with the different brand styles?
Anyhow, whether you have a big fat style guide for your business or not, once you’ve hired a copywriter to create your content it’s worth sticking with them. They know you and your business back to front. They know how to talk to your customers in the right way with the right words. They will create consistent, congruent – hell, let’s throw in coherent as well – content for all your sales and marketing communications.
* Want a style guide for your business or some personality-focused content? Give me a bell on 07894 669750
If you think the answer to ‘How do you hire a copywriter?’ is ‘Get them to stand on a chair’ then you definitely need a copywriter. You see you’ve confused ‘hire’ with ‘higher’. And you don’t want a daft mistake like that on your website, now do you? That’s why savvy business folk hire copywriters – to write clean, clear content that comes with all the right grammar and spelling.
Anyhoo, you need a copywriter – here’s how to go about getting one.
Explain what kind of words you want
The other day, I got a message from a potential client: ‘What are your copywriting rates? Topic: hand-sewn waistcoats for squirrels.’ I’ve made up the squirrels bit but the point is I had no idea what kind of content they wanted. Web content? A blog? A brochure? What?!
It’s like walking into a furniture shop and saying you’re looking for a bed. Er – do you want single, double, divan, underbed storage? Like the bed salesperson, I can’t direct you to a price until I have a better idea about what sort of words you want.
Give me a clue about word length
Once I know what kind of words you’re after it’s handy for me to know how many words you might need. Say it’s a blog. There’s a whole lot of difference between 400, 700 and 1,000 words – the more words, the more time I’m potentially going to need to write them. I say ‘potentially’ because, chances are, the more words I write the more research I’ll need to do first. It kind of depends on the topic.
Of course I’m not expecting you to know the exact amount of words – I’m just saying if you do have a rough idea then that’s a useful bit of info for a copywriter to have. Like for web content – you might want a few short, snappy paragraphs per page or you might need a more detailed guide to each of your services.
Why copywriters don’t charge per word – Part 1
Ha, ha – just when you thought you were getting the hang of this, here I am throwing a spanner in the works. But the fact is, a lot of copywriters – me included – don’t charge per word. And here’s why. Let’s say you want a memorable tagline for your business. You know, like Tesco’s ‘Every little helps’ or Nike’s ‘Just do it’. Not many words there, right?
But that doesn’t mean a copywriter is going to accept a fiver for their trouble. Taglines take a creative brain and copywriters are clever at coming up with words. And to be perfectly blunt – that itsy-bitsy tagline is going to be of HUGE value to your business So, no, small doesn’t mean cheap.
Why copywriters don’t charge per word – Part 2
Would you like me to knock you up 1,000 words for your website right now? No problem. Here it is – can’t be sure it makes any sense but there are definitely 1,000 words. Actually, there are 1,005 – have those five extra words on me. Keywords? Ooh, now, you didn’t mention keywords. Longtail keywords? Oh come on, you never said anything about longtail keywords. What? You were expecting an attention-grabbing headline and sub-headings, too.
See, copywriters don’t just chuck words together. A good copywriter will craft web content that’s not just customer-focused but is packed with SEO goodness, too.
Why copywriters don’t charge per word – Part 3
I can’t speak for other copywriters but I don’t write a single word of content until I’ve got under the skin of your business. Doing extensive research and interviewing the business owner (that would be you) is a massive part of my copywriting process. Without it, how can I differentiate you from your competitors and write the words that will blow those suckers out of the water?
You’re paying me to do the biggest, bestest trumpet-blowing job you’ll ever get.
Do you have a budget in mind?
That old trick, eh? You divulge what you’re willing to pay and you’ll end up paying it whether the job costs that much or not. Er, no. It’s a simple question that will hopefully establish whether we’re on the same page or not.
Last week I was asked how much it would cost to write six web pages. I enquired about the budget. It was £200. There was no way I’d be doing it for that so I thanked them for their interest and we said goodbye. Neither of us wasted our time or energy dancing around the price.
But had their budget been closer to the reality of what I’d charge, we could have negotiated, You know, had a little chat, figured out a price that made us both smile. Sure, we might not have got there – but at least we could’ve tried.
How to get in touch with a copywriter
Personally, I’m partial to an email. It’s a good way of introducing yourself, letting me know how you heard about me and giving me some info – what you want the words for, what sort of word length you’re thinking of, when you need it and your budget. You don’t have to know ALL the answers but, hey, as Tesco says, every little helps (see, it really is a memorable tagline!)
After I’ve received your initial email, I’m happy to have a quick chat before sending you a quote. I’ll leave that up to you. Some clients like to suss me out a bit first. Others just want to get a cost at this stage. I’m fine either way. If we do decide to work together there’ll be lots of time for talking when you tell me all about your business story.
When to get in touch with a copywriter
I’m ready for you – but are you ready for me? I had a recent enquiry about web content. They couldn’t say how many service pages they wanted. The conversation was all a bit ‘I’m thinking about this…’ and ‘I might include that…’ and ‘I’m not sure how many packages there will be’ and ‘I’m wondering if…’
Basically, they were brain-dumping on me. They hadn’t got a clear idea what their business was about and what they wanted to offer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be flexible. I can quote for a set number of pages and we can talk about additional costs as and when you want more. But if you haven’t figured out what you’re doing with your business yet, it’s not the right time to hire a copywriter. Your website will end up as cluttered and confused as you are.
Isn’t it funny how everyone’s business
and personal life has blurred? Suddenly I’m discovering a whole new side to my
clients. Thanks to our Zoom calls and COVID-19 conversations I’ve seen a window
into their homes, complete with baking disasters and feral kids. It’s funny –
in a good way. I like it!
Don’t I feel just a little bit uncomfortable seeing clients in this new warts ’n’ all light? Absolutely not! They’ve shown themselves to be honest, open, real, genuine. Pretty solid attributes, wouldn’t you say? And if I’ve similarly exposed myself – not literally, that wouldn’t be at all funny – then I’m happy that they’ve got to see a bit more of the real me, too.
Showcase your personality
I’m all about blending professionalism with personality. I love working with people who want to stand out from the crowd. People who want to do things differently, to say things differently. People who don’t want just another homogeneous business that gets drowned in a sea of identikit competitors.
Some of my clients take a bit of persuading to show their personality. They want to cram their About page with qualifications and career stuff. What? Tell people I sing in a choir? No, no, no – that’s doesn’t make me sound professional. Really? If you have a fantastic service, are clearly brilliant at what you do (this is the bit where I do my trumpet-blowing copywriting to get your brilliance across) and have supporting testimonials – what are you worried about? You’ve proved you’re professional. And now you’re memorable, too.
‘But I’m a serious business…’
I hear you. Now hear this. We’re all
serious about our own business. I know I am. I want to be the go-to
trumpet-blowing copywriter in the whole of the universe (well, I’ll start with
Bedfordshire). I want people to hire me to write content that grabs attention,
gets them noticed and gets them sales. But at the same time I don’t want to be
known as bland and boring.
today I received these words from a potential client:
I must say
how much I enjoyed going through your website. So many copywriters have such
That was nice, wasn’t it? That’s the sort of compliment I love because it shows they ‘get’ me. I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But that’s the point. I’ll attract the right sort of client for me – and if you show your personality that’s what you’ll do too.
‘You really don’t get it. I’m a serious business’
get it, I get it, I get it. Really! I get it. It’s easy to be playful, quirky,
humorous or off-the-wall if you happen to be a comedian or you’re in the
business of selling dinosaur-shaped doughnuts. Got to be a bit more careful if
you’re a stockbroker or solicitor, though, eh?
yes, but even stockbrokers and solicitors have personalities.
You don’t have to go all out with get-them-laughing-in-the-aisles Carry On Up The Stock Exchange content. But you don’t have to wear your tie so tight it chokes you either. Step out of your personality-free zone and test the water. How about a quirky headline? Or a warm and inviting CTA (please, please, please don’t use a Submit button). Make your content more warm, friendly and engaging. That’s always a good start.
first, professional second
Do you remember that famous YouTube clip showing a professor getting interrupted by his kids while doing a live Skype interview for the BBC? If you’ve never seen it, do watch – it’s hilarious. And, given where we all are today, very prescient. The clip went viral and the poor professor figured the media would never have him back. Well guess what? The BBC did a follow-up interview with him about the incident and he was all over Ellen and the Wall Street Journal.
How come? Because we saw his human side.
Yes, he was a professor – but he was also a father. Nobody judged him for what
happened. Nobody questioned his authority or his ability to do his job. Nobody
thought he was unprofessional. Hell, the cool, calm, collected way he continued
with the interview had ‘professional’ written all over it!
The bottom line? People related to him
and people liked him. Isn’t that the warm, fuzzy feeling you want your clients
to feel, too?
* Want to inject some personality into your content? I can help
Visibility, copywriting and coronavirus? Yeah – I never expected to put those words in one sentence either. But these are strange times. Right now it might feel like your business has just dropped off the map. For some, sadly, it actually probably has. So now more than ever you need to be visible and get back on the radar. Here are some copywriting tips to show you how…
Don’t write content in a panic
Easy to say, I know, but I’m
increasingly seeing this happen. People are desperately trying to get their
marketing messages out to stay connected with customers and clients and maybe
even make some sales.
I know, I’ll create a discounted offer and promote it with a website landing
page. I haven’t really thought through the offer properly, but I’ll throw some
words together and put it out there anyway.
They’re frustrated when they don’t
get any take-up and put it down to nobody having any budget. Sure, that might
well be the reason. But it might not. Maybe the reason nobody’s buying is
because they don’t understand your garbled offering.
Visibility is pointless without clarity
Well done – you’re working at staying
visible. But if your marketing messages aren’t clear and focused it’s hardly
surprising nobody’s hitting the ‘Buy now’ button. Those potential sales? You’re
throwing them away with confusing content.
You can’t write content with a
half-baked idea – so get clear in your own head exactly what you’re offering. Go
through a checklist of questions – what’s included, how it will be delivered,
when, how much, what’s the discount, how long is it available. Yes, I know,
you’re in a hurry to get this out there – especially as everyone else is racing
to do the same – but visibility really is pointless without clarity.
Write winning content
OK, you’re not a copywriter. And right now you can’t afford to hire a copywriter. And – ahem! – you really don’t want to insult a copywriter by suggesting they write your content for a tenner. So here are some basic DIY copywriting tips to be going on with:-
TIP 1 Refer to your ‘clarity’ list of questions to check your content contains all the relevant details.
TIP 2 Don’t
try to be clever. Forget buzzwords and jargon – make your content easy for everyone to understand.
TIP 3 Keep it
simple. If you don’t think a sentence clarifies a point – don’t write three
more sentences trying to explain it. Rewrite the sentence.
TIP 4 Don’t
write too much. Write what’s important without falling into waffle territory.
TIP 5 Break up
content with bullet points – it’s a short, snappy way to get info across.
TIP 6 Use x-headings – another handy way to break up chunks of text
Forget perfection? As a
perfectionist, that’s hard for me to write! But right now, we all have to let
go a little. I’m not saying you should write sloppy content – I mean, you HAVE read
this blog, haven’t you? I’m saying that for now it’s important to get some sort
of marketing content out there to stay visible – and once it becomes clearer
what your customers or clients need during this tricky time, you can then adapt
and refine your content accordingly. The good news is that if you’ve got clear,
focused content to start with, you’ll already be ahead of the game.
I’m happy to admit I’m a nosy blighter. As a former journalist, I wouldn’t have got very far without being inquisitive and asking questions. Lots of questions. Just when the person I was interviewing thought I’d finished with my questions, I had more. Now sometimes I had to keep asking because my interviewee was being evasive (yep, not everyone likes talking to a journalist). But mostly it was because the more I found out about someone, the more I was desperate to know. By the time I’d finished I could practically write a book on their life.
It’s pretty much the same now I’m a copywriter. When I talk to you about your business I want to know everything. Not just the basic rent-a-script info. Or the same stuff your competitors are churning out. Or your CV. I want to dip deep to find out why and how you’re unique. What sets you apart and makes you different.
And so I go into journalism mode. I start with background research to find out about you, your industry, your competitors. Then I compile a long (really long!) list of questions. By the time I get to the briefing meeting, I’m all clued-up and raring to get the answers. Sure, chatting will take a bit of time – and several cups of coffee – but it allows me to capture the kind of detail that a rushed phone call can’t. By asking all my nosy questions, I can really delve deep into your business and brand personality.
Once I’ve got the scoop on you, I put the words together to create your one-of-a-kind, haven’t-heard-this-before, knock-the-competition-for-six business story. Oh yes, your story is a great one!
And here’s a bonus. Once we’ve nailed your story, you get to tell it over and over again – on your website, sales letters, blogs, elevator pitches, Linked In, business awards applications, brochures… Come on – that’s got to be worth a couple of hours with me, hasn’t it?
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