Tag Archives | copywriting

Writing on a ‘need to know’ basis

Heathrow Departure LoungeSome websites try to tell everybody everything. However, there is no point in doing this, because your website is a step in a process. 

Site visitors have done something before they landed there – maybe they clicked on an ad, perhaps they typed your web address from your business card, or they found your site on a Google search. 

And you want them to do something after visiting your site, whether that is clicking a ’buy now’ button, phoning to make an appointment, or giving you their email address so you can keep in touch with them.

[As an aside, lead generation is increasingly difficult because all our inboxes are full to overflowing, and so are theirs. So you have to offer a really tempting incentive for someone to relinquish their precious contact details. And make sure it’s GDPR-compliant.]

Your website therefore needs to acknowledge where they are at, and then make their next step really obvious and simple.

You don’t need to tell them every single thing that will happen next. You only need to tell them the one thing they need to know at each point.

Think about it like this.

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Are you writing from the right point of view?

This is a diagram I often draw in training courses (the photo is me speaking at a Success Matters event in St Albans earlier this month).

Top down v bottom up

The stick figure at the top of my drawing is you.

The stick figure at the bottom is your reader.

You have a message you want to get into the brain of your audience.

The problem is that they already have something in their brain. They are thinking: “What’s In It For Me?”

Chances are that your message includes the words ‘I’, ‘Us,’ We’ or ‘Our’.

But the only words that answer the question in the mind of your reader are the words ‘You’ and ‘Your’.

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Why copywriting is like decorating

paintLike a painter choosing the right paint, a copywriter has to choose the right words.

But there’s more to it than that.

I put it in a lot of effort upfront to get a good brief, so that I can do a great job. It’s a bit like decorating a property – the secret of a fabulous finished product is all in the preparation.

It’s tricky to give even a ballpark figure until we have an initial discussion.

A quick conversation would therefore be really useful for both of us – for me to understand exactly what you’re looking for, and for you to get an idea about how I work and the value I can bring.

These are some of the issues we’d explore: Continue Reading →

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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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