Tag Archives | copywriting

Calls to action: read this now


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.


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


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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The hardest copy you will ever write

When you start a new business, you may well decide the first thing you need is some business cards.

You are likely to be tempted by online deals, offering you hundreds of business cards for little or no cost. Suppliers tease you with templates that you can update yourself to make it really easy.

But, as with all marketing, even your business card has an objective.

In most cases, the objective is to share your contact details in a way that encourages people to get in touch. They will only do that if your card is written and designed to be compelling. And that takes careful thought.

Suggested content

You might be wondering how much copy fits on a business card, so here are some ideas:

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How to make your call to action buttons work better

Buttons When I was masterminding at the Ritz recently, Chris Haycock of CliqTo told us how changing the text on a hotel website button increased clicks by 45% in the first ten days. He admits that more influences might be at play, and the long-term results are not yet known.

The original button just said:
Details & availability

The new button includes a calendar icon, and says:
Show availability
Hotel details, map & prices


Before and after

Read the full story on Chris’s website

A 45% increase in clickthroughs in 10 days is pretty impressive. But why is it happening?

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KISSing is good for you.

KissYou’ve probably heard the acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. I’ve never liked the ‘stupid’ bit, so prefer to say Keep It Short and Sweet.

But what’s the science behind why simplicity works?

I’ve recently read the book Presentation Genius by Simon Raybould, which contains 40 insights from the science of presenting. Chapter 3 describes research by Daniel M Oppenheimer of Princeton University, with the gob-smackingly beautiful title of ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly’.

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OK, so we know people read the headline first. But why?


Did you read this?

You’re looking out of the window of a train travelling through the outskirts of a city. You see colourful graffiti on the walls outside. You can’t help reading it even though you don’t want to.

Once you know how to read, you can’t NOT read. You just can’t turn off the reading bit of your brain. And that’s why the graffiti is there – big, bold and colourful. Because the artist wants you to read it.

Equally, you can’t NOT read the headlines on the big poster adverts you pass by when you’re driving, or the posters on bus-stops as you walk along the pavement.

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15-step copywriting process

StepsHave to write some copy but don’t know where to start? Here’s my tried-and-tested process to help you along.

  1. Do 360-degree research, understanding everything you can about your product/service, your competitors and your target customers.
  2. Draw a mind map, where you note all your thoughts in a random way then number them in order of priority (also known as a spider diagram or ‘brain dump’).
  3. To help beat writers’ block, take a blank page and write something, anything, to spoil the scary pure whiteness. It can be your name, the date, a squiggle…
  4. Write the main content or body text, following the order you identified on your mind map.
  5. Write the conclusion or summary. This will usually include a ‘call to action’ telling the reader what you want them to do.
  6. Write the introduction. Yes, it helps to write this after the main content so you can introduce exactly what you are going to say next.
  7. Write the heading from the reader’s point of view, answering their question: ‘What’s in it for me’.
  8. Add sub-headings to aid skim-reading and navigation.
  9. Edit the content. Cut, cut and cut again until you have deleted anything that doesn’t fit your introduction and conclusion.
  10. Ask ‘so what’ at the end of every statement and rewrite it until all the content is relevant to the reader’s needs.
  11. Read it aloud to see whether it flows easily.
  12. Delete some more of your precious word-babies until the text is perfect.
  13. Sleep on it.
  14. Read it again and make any final tweaks.
  15. Proofread it thoroughly, perhaps getting someone else to check it too.

photo credit: Man staring off via photopin (license)

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“There’s nothing worse than…” Oh yes, there probably is.

WeaselThere’s a famous slogan: “Nothing works faster than Anadin” to which many people replied: “So take nothing, because it works faster”.

It’s an example of so-called ‘weasel words’ in advertising.

Here are the top 20 results that Google throws up after a search for: “There’s nothing worse than…”

There’s nothing worse than…

  • Sleeping in makeup. You wake up looking like a painting that’s been left out in a rainstorm
  • Normal
  • Waiting and not knowing what’ll happen to you
  • Being disappointed in somebody
  • Having everybody thinking alike, talking alike and having the same direction in mind
  • A pantsuit
  • A know-it-all
  • Being afraid of saying something (especially if it MUST be heard)
  • Too late
  • The crusades
  • Knowing how it ends
  • A doctor’s receptionist
  • A staunch woman
  • Feeling like a ghost
  • A woman scorned
  • Wasted talent
  • Being ordinary
  • Being addicted to a bad song
  • Love
  • Death Dumbledore (?!)

Clearly, they cannot all be right. In fact, none of them can be right. Invest just a moment’s thought and you will soon think of any number of things that are worse than the items listed.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of starting a sentence the way you’ve heard other people start theirs. But that makes it a cliché. In copywriting, you need to be original, as well as accurate.

Ask me if you’d like help with that.

photo credit: IMG_0149 via photopin (license)