Author Archive | Jackie

Just wrong.

Scope Walking past a local charity shop today, I spotted this sign.

No prizes for guessing what I think is wrong with it.

When people donate unwanted clothing and bric-a-brac, it’s to get rid of stuff, and to support the charity. It’s certainly not to “stock the shop”.

When writing copy, always remember the ultimate motivation.


Top down v bottom up

mountaineerThere’s top-down communication and bottom-up communication.

Top-down communication is when the company talks to the people. “HELLOOO. We are the company. We sell this, this and this. We want you to buy some. Here’s our phone number. BUY SOMETHING NOOOW!!!”

Bottom-up communication is when the people talk to the company. “Hello, company. I’d like to buy something. Please will you show me where it is, tell me how much it costs, and reassure me that I’m making the right decision. Thank you.”

The people have the money in their pockets that you want. But, today, the people have the power. There’s a trend called social proof and another one called citizen journalism. Continue Reading →


Why your business needs a copywriter

breakfastNo such thing as a free breakfast? I beg to differ. I was unexpectedly granted a free breakfast at a B&B recently, in return for a most enjoyable conversation about marketing.

Paul, the owner, is about 30 years younger than any other B&B business-owner in town and reflects that in the way he promotes his service. For example, his business card shows him spreadeagled over a gatefold, he’s unusually active on social media and his guest-house proclaims itself “Manchester’s best-kept secret”.

I was staying there to attend the annual Professional Speaking Association convention at nearby Old Trafford. During a break, I got chatting with another fascinating self-marketer, The Castle Man.

Roger Masterson is the figurehead of Celtic Castles, allowing you to stay in any one of 93 historic castles in the UK and France. His business card is thick (like castle walls) with a cut edge (like castle ramparts) and shows him sitting in a grand library, reading.

Both these business-owners are doing something different to promote themselves — just what I recommend to my clients. In our conversations, Paul was interested to know what’s new in marketing, while Roger quizzed me about the business value of copywriting.

You too may be asking yourself what a copywriter can do for your business. After all, you learned how to write when you went to school, didn’t you?

As you may know, “copy” is any text that is sent to print or uploaded online. The difference between writing copy and “normal” writing is that copywriting is the art of writing to persuade, writing to influence, writing to change behaviour.

There are a number of marketing and psychological tips, tricks and techniques required to make this happen. The average person probably doesn’t know them (and why should they?) — but, hopefully, your copywriter does.

As a professional copywriter for more than 30 years, the first thing I often have to do is work with my clients on their marketing strategy. I help them pinpoint what they’re selling, who they’re selling it to, who their competitors may be and — most importantly — why their customers should choose them. I use this information to express their unique brand personality and offering, and to help them stand out from the rest in a way their target market will respond to.

Here are just three common copywriting skills to be aware of:

• The headline accounts for up to 90% of the results of any marketing communication, so a copywriter has the ability to identify and encapsulate your key messages in a few eye-catching words that will tempt readers to read on.

• Your copywriter should extract your “most wanted response” and wrap it up in a compelling call-to-action that will prompt people to do what you want them to do — whether that is click a button, subscribe to something or download a document.

• If it’s web copywriting you’re after, an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) copywriter should know how to weave keywords seamlessly into the copy to make your site attractive to search engines as well as human visitors.

In short, a copywriter will make your words work harder for you.With that in mind, ask yourself how many extra clients you would need to pay the very reasonable fee that your copywriter charges for their expertise. Answer: good copywriting pays for itself. Nudge, nudge, hint, hint!

Case studies

An image consultant had paid thousands to have her website redesigned, and wrote all the copy herself. Despite getting 200 hits per week through Google Adwords and Pay Per Click campaigns, she had no enquiries for two months. I rewrote some key pages, recommended some design changes, and she received six enquiries in the first week including a great corporate opportunity.

A painter/decorator used to get 50% take-up of his quotes. I re-wrote his covering letter to ‘sell’ his service more clearly. Uptake increased to 70%, so earning him more money at minimal cost.

A mortgage adviser had written his own web copy. Although people were finding his Home page, they were leaving the site in seconds, without clicking through to his sub-pages. He agreed to let me rewrite the Home page as a test. Within a week, Analytics showed his site visitors were clicking through to the next level.

I wrote an e-newsletter sent by a recruitment company. Within 20 minutes, they had a new booking.

An eco-cleaner asked me to write her website so it would be found on a Google search. She told me: “A new client rang me to say: ‘I must congratulate whoever did your copywriting and search engine optimisation. They did a really great job! Whatever cleaning keywords I searched on Google, your site came up, so I decided it was meant to be!’”

This article has also been published on Fresh Business Thinking and Marketing Lens.


10 essential questions before you even think about writing your own website

As a web copywriter, I’ve written hundreds of websites, and have compiled a list of standard questions to help guide decisions about what content goes where. Here are 10 of them. I hope you find them useful when working on your own website and other marketing communications.

1. Who are your clients?
Who buys your stuff (there may be more than one group of target customers)? Which is your ideal client? Which is the most profitable type of client (either because they spend most per transaction or bring most repeat business)?
> This becomes your Home page or Our clients page

2. Who are you?
Who are the people behind the company (people buy from people)? This is the ‘About us’ or ‘Who we are’ page of your website, or personal profile if YOU are what you are selling. It can be one of the most popular pages on your site — check your Analytics to find out. Buying ‘on screen’ is a remote and impersonal experience, so you want to include as much of your unique personality as possible.
> This is the About us section of your website

3. What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
Why do your customers buy from you instead of anyone else? What makes you different? Why should anyone give you their money?
> This may form your Why us page

4. What do you sell?
This part is all about you, your products and your services. What problem do you solve or solution do you provide? Which is your core speciality? Which is most profitable (earns you most income for least effort or expense)? Do you have a range of price points (cheap, medium, high)? What market research have you done to prove there is a demand for what you sell?
> This becomes your product/services page/s

5. What is your objective?
What do you want people to do as a result of visiting each webpage? What is your most wanted response? What is your desired call to action? This assumes you are producing ‘direct response’ advertising (where you want to get a measurable return on your investment) not brand awareness advertising (usually, only the big brands do this).
> This is your call to action

6. What are your FAQs?
What questions do your customers most commonly ask?
> This may become a separate page or be answered in the general web copy

7. What ‘added value’ do you provide?
These days, it’s not enough to have a website full of ‘sales’ pages. What can you offer that other people don’t, to make your website ‘sticky’? If you provide added value, it encourages repeat visits, demonstrates your expertise and generates goodwill. It can also result in valuable inbound links from the social media community.
> This may be a blog or resources section

8. Do you have any external endorsements?
Are you a member of any trade or professional bodies? Have you won any awards? Do you have testimonials or case studies written in the format problem:solution:results?
> This may be used on your Home page, About us page, or footer/sidebar of every page

9. What is your brand?
What are your 5 top brand values? How are they expressed in the look, feel and tone of voice of your brand (or personal) identity? What does your logo look like? What are your corporate colours and house font? What is your strapline (if you have one)?
> This is expressed throughout the website

10. What are your keywords?
What words or phrases do people use when searching online for your service?
> If you want to be found on search, selected landing pages can be optimised for your desired search terms

These are just 10 of the ‘discovery’ questions I ask when I meet clients in real life so I can do the best possible copywriting job for them — in fact, there’s a total of 20 that cover all aspects of their business. You’ll find the full set of 15 web-related questions when you buy my Little Fish Guide to Writing your own Website book that was launched this summer and reached top 10 in its Amazon category (nudge, nudge, hint, hint!)

So what other questions would YOU ask?

This article has also been published on Fresh Business Thinking and Marketing Lens


10 ways to make your business card work harder for you

Your business card is a miniature representation of you and your brand. As well as including your logo, name, house fonts and colours, it has quite a tough job to do for a small piece of paper.

  1. Remember what your business card is for. Usually, you hand it to someone when you meet them, hoping they will contact you in future. So, the objective is to encourage someone to remember you and make it easy for them to get in touch. The other objective might be to drive traffic to your website where they can find out more.
  2. If YOU are what you sell, then it’s wise to include a photo of yourself. If someone comes away from the meeting with a handful of cards, it helps them to remember who you are.
  3. Given that you want people to contact you, make sure your contact details are easy to read. This means good colour contrast, good choice of font, and good point size. Continue Reading →

Why people love their Apples

iMac boxI’m happily staring at my shiny new iMac. The process of buying and setting it up was a dream. It was delivered in a structured box printed with a beautiful image of the computer that was inside. On opening the box, you find the keyboard and mouse packed neatly in another clean, white package, and a folded white card containing simple instructions which start with a friendly ‘hello’. You simply plug in the machine, wake it up and it works.

instructionsThe whole experience was a pleasure.

I also bought a new printer. For a start, it wasn’t the colour it looked in the photos. The instruction manual comprises 44 pages of what looks like grey toilet paper with text that could have been translated into English via German and Japanese. It’s virtually incomprehensible. For example, it tells you to load paper into drawer 1 but none of the diagrams nor explanations show which drawer is number 1.