Tag Archives | copywriting

How to make your copywriter smile

SmileIt will come as no surprise to learn that we copywriters are a tiny bit obsessed with words. Not only the ones we write, but also the ones we read.

This enquiry popped into my inbox recently recently, and it made me smile.

“This website is so secret I’m actually writing this blindfolded in a cave from an unknown location.”

I can’t wait to dig out my trusty old Secret Squirrel typewriter and get started on that project.

In a recent LinkedIn conversation, I enjoyed this exchange with a stranger who wanted to connect with me:

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Psychological tricks worth buying into

HotelHave you ever noticed messages like these when you book hotels, flights and insurance?

  • 35 people have already booked this
  • 17 people are looking at this
  • Hurry, only 10 seats left

University College London (UCL) has recently published some research showing that these phrases significantly increase profits for travel websites.

They work due to the principle of perceived scarcity.

What’s more, UCL found that reviews are even more effective than a price cut.

Due to the power of social proof (peer pressure), this means the most convincing copy of all is written by your customers.

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B2B v B2C copywriting: What’s the difference?

plastic cupOn my copywriting training courses, I sometimes ask delegates to write a headline to sell a plastic cup. Usually, they focus on the drinking experience of the end user – a business-to-consumer approach (B2C).

However, the purchaser of the cup is likely to be the procurement manager of an office block, who buys the cups in bulk. They don’t really care about the user experience; they care more about the price and speed of delivery – a business-to-business message (B2B).

It’s not really a trick question. I do it so the trainees remember to always ask themselves who the real customer is and write their copy accordingly.

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How copy really DOES make a difference

Many moons ago, I did a copy test for ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, in which I was asked to describe the last product I bought as a result of an ad.

At the time, I think I claimed that ads couldn’t persuade me to buy anything I didn’t already want.

I was wrong.

You may remember a blog post I wrote last year, about Eve mattresses: Oh, what a lovely bit of copy

BoxThat copy was so good, I have now invested in an Eve mattress. It arrived three days ago in a beautifully branded box (see right).

It’s evidence that a simple value proposition and clear tone of voice actively promote sales.

I’m not surprised that Eve has been listed in the CoolBrands® survey 2016/7. Congratulations to them – and a good night’s sleep to me.

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Let’s talk about tone of voice.

tin canJust as every individual has their own personality, so does every brand. Some clients want simple copy written in Plain English. Others are brave enough to express their personality through their words. In one week, I was excited to write very different copy for a fashion-forward hairdresser, a family-friendly coffee supplier and a young, funky housewares retailer.

Clients sometimes ask me to produce a tone-of-voice manual to match their visual brand guidelines. It includes an analysis of their competitors’ language, and suggests a list of words and phrases to use or avoid to express their uniqueness while making them stand out from the rest and appealing to their target audience.

During these conversations, the fun and friendly tone of voice used by Innocent Drinks is often held up as a model.

But has this approach gone too far? Continue Reading →

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Why writing your own copy is like waxing your own legs

LegsEver had your legs waxed? It’s painful. Hot wax is applied in strips and then ripped off, pulling out your hairs by the roots. Multiply the feeling of removing a sticking plaster by about 100. Very ouchy.

Copywriting can be painful too.

You might think it’s something you can do yourself – but it will probably take longer than you hoped.

Yes, you might know your business better than anyone else – but there is a danger that you’re too close to it. A good copywriter will translate what you want to say into language that your customers will respond to.

When you’re busy running your own business, you need to find uninterrupted time to write. Writing is quicker and easier for a professional copywriter – after all, it’s our job.

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Homepage headlines

GrabTranscript from a 5-minute speech

I could grab you with my first few words – or I could lose you.

With a website you have less than three seconds to grab attention and make an impact.

But what impact do you want your website to make? What’s the objective of your website? What’s the point of having one in the first place?

Most of my clients tell me it’s to be found on search engines, and/or to convert site visitors into enquirers or clients. And how do you do that?

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“Oh f***!”

Teapot

Keep calm and have a cuppa
photo credit: Hot tea at The Pizza Express via photopin (license)

That’s what many people were posting on social media when we woke up this morning to the news that the UK has voted to leave the EU.

But why did they use the famous four-letter F-word (in full) instead of Fiddlesticks, Fridge magnet, Gerbil, or any other word from our vocabulary?

When we are young, we are taught that certain words are ‘bad’, so we store them in a different part of our brain – the amygdala, sometimes called the reptilian brain, responsible for the fight-or-flight response. It’s where we find the language we use when we are most in shock, which is why people swear when they stub their toe or bang their head on an open cupboard door.

For more on this, see the language of swearing videos below.

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So you want to be a copywriter?

Having been doing this for over 30 years, aspiring copywriters often ask me to mentor them.

Here are some of the questions they ask (including my answers, because this article would be pretty useless without them):

Q. Do you have any advice for a marketing strategy, when a new freelance copywriter has little or no budget?
A. When you have time but no money, focus on social media, including blogs, guest blogs, newsletters and guest speaking. When you have money but no time, try advertising.

Q. How did you go about meeting new contacts and potential clients, when you were first starting out?
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Sainsbury’s: What in the world were you thinking?

You might have seen this story; it was all over the press and social media this month. Here’s the ad that caused all the trouble (published 12 May, page 14, Camden New Journal):

Sainsbury's

Putting aside the fact that a £5.2billion organisation wants a local artist to paint their Camden canteen for nothing, the copy is appalling.

I had planned to list all the errors, but it’s SO bad, I almost lost the will to live. Here are just a few:

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