This month I want to talk about my leaky washing machine. What the heck’s that got to do with copywriting? I know, I know, it seems like a stretch, but bear with me…
I’ll be honest, I was dreading the repair man coming. I knew it wasn’t going to be a simple job. To get to my washing machine you have to practically dismantle the kitchen units around it. I prepared myself for the repair man’s reaction. Tutting. Eye rolling. Head shaking. Sharp intakes of breath. Mutterings. All of which were guaranteed to put me in a state of panic. He wouldn’t be able to fix my machine and I was going to drown in a sea of smalls.
When he arrived I braced myself. But then something wonderful happened. He listened calmly as I gave him a garbled account of the problem, he asked some questions and… wait for this… when I mentioned the kitchen units he smiled and got out his screwdriver (no time for innuendo, people, move on). I was soooo relieved. He was going to fix the problem! And I mean fix the problem without making me feel like it was my fault, or I was making his life difficult or this was the worst job he’d ever had.
Copywriters and can-do attitude
And that’s where copywriting comes in (I know, I know, I took my time). Working with a copywriter is like having my lovely washing machine repair guy with you. Copywriters don’t make you feel bad about your content – like ‘You’re kidding, you want me to work on that?’ We don’t say things like ‘I dunno who did this before, love, but they’ve made a right cock up of it.’ We don’t make you feel like your content can’t be fixed but we’ll grudgingly have a go… and by the way it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. No, sir!
Copywriters are helpful folk. When you come to us with content that’s not serving you well all we’re interested in is making it right. Maybe you know exactly what the problem is. Often clients tell me ‘Writing’s not my strong point – I can’t get across what I want to say.’ Hey, no judgement – you carry on doing what you’re good at and I’ll crack on with the words. Perhaps your sales and marketing content isn’t giving you the results you want but you don’t really know why. That’s OK – let’s have a chat and explore what’s going on with you, your competitors and your industry so I can nail the content.
Copywriters also love a challenge. Well, I do, for sure. The more of a problem your content is, the more excited I am at helping you fix it. That’s because I understand how important great content is to your business and, as a business owner myself, I really want you to have the best words in the world. Ever!
So no ifs, buts or tuts – if you want to fix your content, hire a copywriter. Screwdriver optional.
So this month I bought a summer house. I don’t know about you but before I buy anything I do loads of research so I can get as much info as possible and compare prices. This is where websites are really handy for helping you to make a buying decision. Or not – as the case may be.
There was one website that didn’t have any prices. It was a bit of a dog’s dinner anyway to be honest – poorly laid out, bad quality photos, links that didn’t work – but I persevered. Not everybody would have bothered but I REALLY wanted to know the prices. But, nope, they were nowhere to be seen. All I found was a terse message to ‘Phone for prices.’ I was naffed off and no mistake. You see, they weren’t being helpful, they were making me do the work to get what I needed. So I phoned them to complain.
A very tired-sounding man – the owner – explained. The price of timber kept going up and every time the prices changed he had to manually amend the web copy. It was so time consuming he’d stopped doing it. Well, okay, fair enough – but why not communicate the absence of prices with an explanation and an apology?
Maybe something like this: ‘Sorry you’re not seeing prices for our summer houses. The cost of timber is currently subject to change so please phone us for an up-to-date price.’
Or a more cheery, cheekier tone: ‘Wot – no prices? You wouldn’t believe how quickly timber prices keep changing so call us for an up-to-date quote.’
Personally, I would’ve been happy with that. I would’ve picked up the phone to make an enquiry (not just to give them a piece of my mind).
Mind you, the message could’ve worked harder. Seems to me the business owner also missed a trick by not letting potential customers know that prices were increasing and creating a sense of urgency.
‘Don’t see any prices? Due to Brexit, the cost of timber is currently rising fast – to secure your summer house before the next price increase call us today.’ Or even better: ‘Hurry! Order your summer house before prices go up next month. Call us to get a quote today.’
It always frustrates me when people fail to use their sales and marketing communications to, er, communicate. It particularly saddens me to see wasted opportunities on a website. You’ve got this fantastic online presence that’s perfect for talking to your customers, giving them information, answering their questions, helping them find what they need. Why would you want to leave them hanging and lose a potential sale?
So anyway, after the summer house man explained things we had a chat and I got some prices. He said he’d send me a brochure, which was helpful. He didn’t. Which wasn’t. I bought my summer house from another company. Next month, I’m looking for decking…
* Need a copywriter to help you communicate? Let’s talk
What’s it like working with a copywriter? Good question. I guess I take it for granted that everyone knows what happens when they hire a copywriter – but of course if you’ve never used one before you’re bound to have questions. Obviously I can’t speak for other copywriters, but here’s how it goes down when I’m your copywriter.
I don’t try to change you
Recently I worked with a new client on content for her elevator pitches. She wanted impactful, memorable words that showcased her expertise but she was anxious about handing over the challenge to me. She was concerned that her words wouldn’t be authentic because she wasn’t writing them herself. I reassured her right away. As a copywriter, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t encapsulate who she was.
I get that business owners feel nervous about entrusting their content to someone else. I would, too, but hey I’m a copywriter so I don’t have to (I just spend bloody ages tinkering about with my own words!) I understand that you don’t want somebody coming in and buggering about with your brand, making you sound unrecognisable.
All copywriters write clear, concise and compelling words – it’s in the job description – but none of that matters if they don’t understand the very essence of the person they’re writing about. I’m not in the business of changing you. I write words that showcase the very best of who you are.
I ask lots of questions
So this thing about copywriting and authenticity… it takes time to build up a clear picture of who you are. I mean, I’d love to say I’m a mind-reader and I can write about you without communicating – but I’m not and I can’t. So working with me means giving up a bit of your time to chat.
Now here’s where some people offer to send me some marketing documents or point me in the direction of their LinkedIn page. This is all useful stuff. I always do a lot of stalking – I mean, research – anyway. But actually talking is when I really get to know you. I can hear your natural speech pattern and tune into the language you use so when I write your words they genuinely sound like you. It’s why clients trust me to write their blogs on their behalf – because nobody can see the join!
This talking bit – don’t worry about not having enough to say. I used to be a journalist so I’m good at asking the right questions to tease out tidbits and interesting anecdotes. It all helps to bring your business to life and stop you sounding like your dullard competitors (who probably haven’t hired a nosy blighter like me!).
I’ve got your back
Like all copywriters, I care about the content I write for my clients. But more than that, I really care about my clients. That’s why I’m a trumpet-blowing copywriter. So many business owners are brilliant at what they do but shockingly bad at showing it in their marketing. Words aren’t their thing. They just can’t convey in writing what’s so great about who they are and what they do. And that makes me sad.
So I step in as their trumpet-blowing copywriter. When clients feel embarrassed or self-conscious writing about themselves I’m straight in there, bigging them up, tooting their horn, telling the world how frickin’ awesome they are. My trumpet-blowing means your content will never sound muddled or mediocre. I’ve got your back on this.
Get the words right, stay on brand… and be more Marmite. Yep, three simple copywriting resolutions that will fire up your marketing content this year.
Make all your messaging on-brand
Crikey – 2020 was an unprecedented year, wasn’t it? I know it was because everywhere you looked the word ‘unprecedented’ popped up. You couldn’t get through a day without one CEO or another of a utilities company or supermarket emailing to tell you what an unprecedented time it was. I don’t know about you but I started glazing over and the emails went straight in the trash.
Now – you don’t want people chucking your business in the bin, do you?
Instead of following the pack, use words that resonate with your clients or customers. Let’s say you’re a funky little underwear brand. Will your target audience appreciate a formal email waffling on about unprecedented times? Or would they love a sit-up-and-take-notice message that started with: ‘It’s a bit pants at the moment, isn’t it?’
Make this the year you only use words and phrases that represent your brand and are true to your business.
Don’t be all fur coat and no knickers
That’s a gorgeous-looking website you have there. Lovely images, great use of your brand colours and some handy infographics, too. But, hang on, I don’t really know where I’m going. I’d like to know more about one of your services but I seem to have come to a dead end. Oh well, I’ll pop over to your About page – or at least I would but I can’t find a quick link…
Websites can be a thing of beauty – but you’re buggered if users can’t get to what they’re looking for. You might not know this, but copywriters are rather good at pointing people in the right direction. We’re storytellers, you see, so we know how to weave words together and add in links and Calls To Action to keep people moving around your website to find what they need. You could say we take them on a journey – but that’s a hideous cliché best left alone.
Make it your resolution to avoid style over substance. And if you need help on that score, remember that copywriters are always here to provide the knickers to your fur coat.
Be more Marmite
2020 was a crappy year. Some might even say it was unprecedented. Though – ahem – not you, of course, not now you’ve resolved to be on-brand at all times. Anyway, it was a tough year and now you need to get your hands on as many customers or clients as you can. So what are you thinking? Make your marketing appeal to the masses? Keep it safe? Maybe even – whisper it softly – be a bit bland?
No, no, no – make this the year you stop trying to please everyone. Don’t look like your competitors. Don’t sound like your competitors. Embrace your brand – yes, you ARE a brand – and pimp up your personality to show it off. Use some imagination. Have a bit of fun. Dare to be a bit different.
Some people will love your brand, some people won’t. That’s OK. In fact it’s more than OK – it’s great! You’ll build a tribe of slavering fans who can’t get enough of you and your brand. They won’t even bother checking out the competition, they’ll come straight to you. And all because you resolved to be more Marmite.
* Resolutions flagging already? I can be your content coach! Get in touch on 07894 669750
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
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