Archive | Writing Without Waffle

The power of slogans

I was at a networking event where Andy Szebeni was speaking about defining your USP. ‘Life of Brian’ was one of the visual (and aural) aids he used to communicate his main message – be different! The same message that is in my book, my own training courses and my blog.

There were three coaches in the room (I know, wait for ages and they all turn up at once, baboomtish!). So I had a go at writing instant slogans to differentiate each of them:

The strategist who declared that he gets results more quickly than the average coach:

“Coaching with go-faster stripes”

The executive coach who gets all his business via word of mouth:

“Executive coaching by introduction only”

And the one who coaches start-ups, speakers and returners who has a flower for a logo;

“Helping you to bloom and grow”


“Coaching with blooming good results”

There was also a specialist in organisational development, who defined ‘lateral thinking’ as her USP:

“A right brain approach to solving left brain issues”


4 tips about using LinkedIn

[Edited to add: Since LinkedIn discontinued their ‘Answers feature, this article is now 3 tips about using LinkedIn. See below.]

1. Have a good professional profile (like a CV), that is rich in keywords for search engines (e.g. in the ‘Professional Headline’ section found under ‘Edit profile’). It should also include recommendations from people who know you. You can send a ‘Request for recommendations’ (if you do, I recommend you personalise it). However, I find the best way to get recommendations is to give them, because of the ‘law of reciprocity (and because I feel more comfortable about doing it that way).

2. Ask your network for introductions to the people you would like to reach (again, only do this if you are clear who you want to reach and why). This is one of the most powerful tools of LinkedIn, but be sure you have a good reason for wanting the introduction and don’t worry if your go-between chooses not to pass it on because they are protecting their own valued contacts.

3. People may already be talking about your particular topic, and you can quickly be seen as an expert when you add value to the discussion. It’s like being at a conference, exhibition or trade fair that specialises in your area of interest online, 24/7. Search the Groups to find the conversations. Just as if you walk into a new pub, there may be people chatting about fishing in one corner, football in another, and work somewhere else, you wouldn’t walk in wearing a sandwich board and shouting ‘buy my stuff!’ Instead, watch and listen before you join in. Don’t be sales-y or you will soon be ‘jumped on’ by other members of the group.

4. Ask and answer questions in the Answers section (you’ll find it under the More link). The best answers get rated highly, so it’s a great way of demonstrating your expertise and getting noticed.

[Edited to add: As of January 2013, LinkedIn has removed the ‘Answers’ functionality. If you find ‘Q and A’s a useful way to source information and demonstrate your expertise, I recommend instead.]


Marketing is like unselfish sex

Dear Clients,

Please stop asking me to write copy that describes how passionate you are about your business.

Your customers don’t care about “your passion”. They only care what YOU can do for THEM.

Thanks in advance.

Me x

P.S. While you’re at it, please don’t ask me to include your mission statement either, as refusal may offend.


My business card story

Despite me wittering on for years about ‘people buy people’ and ‘use your own photo in your marketing if you are what you are selling’, my own business cards used to be more corporate than personal.

That’s all changed.

At last night’s networking event, I passed around a choice of old and new business cards. Everybody, yes, everybody, chose the one with my picture on.

Which would you choose?

Old business cards
New business cards


Why you should add value

My sister had a ‘for sale’ board outside her house for 18 months. During that time, a number of removal firms put their promotional material through her door. One of them stood out above the rest because of the quality of useful information they provided. Good targeting and a worthwhile investment on their part!

Eventually, my sister managed to find a buyer and moved within a few weeks. Guess who did the removal? Yep, the one that had provided her with added value, not the ones that just presented her with a sales message.

These days, people go to the Internet for two reasons: information and entertainment. They don’t go to be sold to. So, that’s what you need to provide on your website.

Add a page or two of free resources, hints and tips, useful articles, FAQs or fun stuff, and watch your Google Analytics to see what happens to your site visitors.

I bet you anything they spend more time on those pages than on any of your selling pages!


How to make your sales letters sing

There is a free sales letter template on my website.

It’s not new, but it gives what I think is still good advice. There is, however, something it doesn’t mention, and that’s about the content. The letter should not just be about what you do, and what’s in it for the customer, it should also explain why you and why now.

It’s not enough to say ‘It’s a good idea to make a Will’ or ‘Cheap mortgages now available’. You have to say why they should go to you for their Will or mortgage – you have to provide your USP (Unique Selling Point). Maybe it’s ‘Our Wills are 40% cheaper than average’ or ‘We’ve had 20,000 mortgage applications accepted so far this year’. (I’m not suggesting these are headlines, this information should be in para 2 or 3, where you explain your credibility.)

Even if you manage to convince readers who’ve read your letter so far, they may still let it languish in a drawer (or the big round filing basket a.k.a. the bin). You have to incentivise people to respond within a timescale. For example ‘Reply within 28 days and get 5% off’ or ‘Book an appointment by the end of this month and you’ll be entered into the free draw to win a plastic daffodil.’ You don’t have to give away money or prizes, it could be a free report or anything that adds value.

I seem to be explaining this a lot to clients at the moment. Now, all I need to do, is point them to this blog post!


10 top PR tips

  1. Have a strong story to tell
  2. Research the publication or media outlet to match their style
  3. Make it relevant to their readers or don’t send it at all
  4. Keep it simple, just three or four paragraphs of three or four sentences each, with a logical flow and no jargon
  5. Present the information in decreasing order of importance
  6. Attach a low-resolution picture that tells a story (captioned)
  7. Don’t contact journalists just before deadline day when they’re busiest. Instead, try contacting them immediately afterwards (when they’ve got lots of space to fill)
  8. Build relationships with journalists so they recognise you as an industry expert
  9. Note there is no guarantee your press release will be used
  10. Send your release in the body of an email, not as an attachment

Download my free PR template


Wordy webby wisdom!

When working out what keywords to include in your web copy, use the words that your customers will search. Plain English rules! For example, the Government soon realised people don’t search ‘road excise duty’, they search ‘tax disc’ ‘car tax’ or ‘road tax’.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. People might search ‘Buy pink skirt’, so don’t write ‘We sell pink skirts’ from your own point of view. Change it around to: ‘We’re the best place to shop if you want to buy a pink skirt’.

Even better, add handy hints e.g. ‘See our FAQs page for advice and ideas about buying pink skirts’, or ‘How to look after your pink skirt’.

Testimonials are another good opportunity to include keywords seamlessly e.g. ‘I wanted to buy a pink skirt and found the perfect one at PinkSkirtsRUs!’ You can add a heading ‘Buying the perfect pink skirt’ before the testimonial, and a postcode or town afterwards, to make it geographically specific.


Getting found on Google

People search the Internet for two main things: entertainment and information. And if you’re selling online, you want to be found. But how?

One useful resource is Wordtracker. Simply type in a keyword or phrase relating to your business and click the Search button. You will see related questions and find out how frequently they are being asked online. You can then ensure your web copy answers those questions so all those searchers find you! As an experienced web copywriter, of course I can help with that (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

“Just read your article regarding keywords on websites.  While keywords do have a minimal effect, Google admitted that they do not use the Keyword Meta Tag some time ago and there is a whole range of other reasons why search engine optimisation works on site. The main ones are that the Page Title (meta tag) and the (story title) contain the same words. Search engines only read the first 225 characters of a description tag for a page, which means the sentence chosen to best describe the content of a page is used within the description meta-tag. There are also other items to take into account like how popular the page is, links in from other websites and how quickly the page loads.”

Paul Collins


Websites that work for search engines AND human beings

You don’t have to get all your keywords into the home page repeatedly. You can optimise the home page for one (or two) keywords/phrases, and optimise other pages for other keywords.

Keywords can be in headings, sub-headings, picture captions and links as well as in body copy. Part of the skill in copywriting is to weave keywords in seamlessly so they are picked up by search engines without being clumsy and repetitive for human beings. The real measure of success is how many people pick up the phone to call you, not where you are on Google.

Readers don’t care who you are until they know what you can do for them.

These days, people use the Internet to search for information and for entertainment, so the best websites also offer added value. For example, articles about problems that you can solve or how to choose a good supplier can be keyword-packed while showing personality, demonstrating expertise and generating goodwill.

Testimonials are also a great way to squeeze in more keywords. It’s also important to include logos for any professional associations you belong to, as any external endorsements give reassurance to potential clients. FAQs are another good way to develop reassurance and embed geographically specific keywords e.g. ‘Q. Where is your [type of business] located? A. I provide [type of services] from my base in [where], easy to get to from [list places here].’

I don’t write any copy before I talk to you about everything you offer, who your competitors are and who your clients are. I can then write in a way that represents your uniqueness and makes you stand out from the rest while appealing to your target market and triggering the desired response. Oh, and pleasing search engines at the same time. Remember, once you have your website you need to promote it offline as well as online (I can help with that too).