Tag Archives | copywriting

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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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A copywriter’s rant.

Dear Clients,

When I write copy for you, I spend quite a lot of time. I draw on my skill, qualifications and over 30 years of experience to research your business, your customers and your competitors, and then craft words that will work. Then I edit what I’ve written. Then I tweak it some more. When I’m finally happy I really can’t do any better, I send the draft to you.

What you get is words that represent your unique brand personality, make you stand out from the rest, and contain the psychological triggers that will cause the reader to take the action you want them to take.

Every word is there for a reason.

Despite that, I’m not precious. I’m not going to argue with you about the position of a full stop, or whether a sentence can start with ‘And’ or ‘But’.

I’m happy to change the copy when there’s a good reason to do so.

So don’t dive in and rewrite it yourself.

If you want to change anything, just ask me. That gives me the chance to explain why things are the way they are, or we can agree what needs to be changed.

There’s a well-known saying: “Don’t hire a dog then bark yourself”.

In this scenario, I’m the dog.

Woof.

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Oh what a lovely bit of copy

I saw this ad on the train yesterday, and read it several times out of pure enjoyment.

How refreshing to see the copy over-riding the visuals (because we all know what mattresses look like).

What a nice, simple, sunny brand (makes sense, it’s about waking happy).

Even the offer code is perfectly written. (A ‘no brainer’, in fact.)

eve

Copy by Paul Belford.

I love a confident client who allows me to write in a conversational style like that.

For example, here’s what I wrote recently for a contact page:

You’ll find our grand old office building tucked away behind a surprisingly residential street. Please make an appointment before you visit, and we’ll put the kettle on.

If you want your brand to sound like a human, give me a call.

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Calls to action: read this now

Scissors

What do you think people do when they read the instruction on this package?

They might try tearing the plastic open, but my bet is that most of them will find a pair of scissors and cut along the line.

That’s because people are generally very obedient (especially to people in authority or uniform, but that’s another story).

In my early days as a copywriter, I was taught that more people cut out a coupon when it has a dotted line, plus a scissors symbol or the words ‘cut here’.

More recently, I’ve been assured that more people phone a number when it says ‘call now’ or similar.

Given that the main objective of any marketing communication is to get people to contact you, it makes sense to use any tips, tricks and techniques you can.

Tell them what you want them to do, and there’s a better chance they’ll do it.

For example, if you like this post, please share it on your social media platforms or add a comment below. Thank you.

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Erm, what actually is a blog?

A client asked me that question yesterday, after I had rambled on about digital marketing strategy for ages.

Blogs have become such a common part of marketing today that I had forgotten some people still don’t know what they are. So here’s a beginner’s guide.

The (ugly) word ‘blog’ is a contraction of the words web and log. That is, a log that is kept on the web.

A log is a diary or journal in reverse chronological order so the newest information is at the top and the oldest at the bottom. You might recognise the word from Star Trek e.g. ‘Captain’s log, star date 160116’.

Each entry in your blog is called a ‘blog post’, or simply ‘post’. As soon as you start ‘blogging’, you are a ‘blogger’.

So what are the advantages of having a blog?

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Why writing your own web copy could be a false economy

School

photo credit: Homework via photopin (license)

  • Have you got a website?
  • Has that website got Google analytics or other web stats on it?
  • Have you ever looked at those analytics?
  • Have you ever made a change to your web content as a result of your analytics?
  • When was the last time you updated your web copy?

Those are some of the questions I ask at the beginning of a website workshop.

There is usually some embarrassed laughter at question three, when people realise there is no point having analytics if you never look at them. I give out a prize after question five to the person who has updated their website most recently as a result of what their analytics show.

These days, many people have a Content Management System (CMS) website that they can update themselves. WordPress is by far the most popular CMS platform. According to W3Techs quoted on Wikipedia, it was used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites by January 2015.

But, just because the technology exists to enable you to write your own web copy, it doesn’t mean you should.

Learning how to throw a sentence together at school doesn’t mean you can write effective, compelling web copy.

Admit it. You don’t know what you don’t know.

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Case study: Blogs and newsletters

TucanaAn IFA asked his clients what they thought of his company’s service, and what would make them rate it 5/5. Here’s what they said:

  • “A ‘little’ bit more contact”
  • “Having more active engagement on a proactive basis”
  • “If an opportunity came along in between our 6-monthly reviews… proactively bring that to our attention”

A contact recommended him to me, to help write regular blog posts that can be compiled into a monthly newsletter.

Let’s face it, most financial advice is delivered in a dry, dull and boring style. So we agreed that each post would start with a real-life story, to act as a ‘hook’ and draw readers in. What’s more, instead of graphs, charts and clip-art cartoons, each post would include an intriguing photo to add visual interest and differentiation. Of course the bulk of each article would be topical, useful and interesting news or advice that is relevant to his audience, so demonstrating his expertise.

Now, his clients are commenting:

  • “I read the insights you shared and thoroughly enjoyed the way they are written.”
  • “I found [your insights] both interesting and entertaining, unlike some of the dull and long-winded fare that gets distributed most of the time”
  • “I look forward to future editions… Keep them coming.”

Would you agree? Read the blog.

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