A Copywriter’s Manifesto On The Real Value of Copywriting

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A couple of months ago I scored a regular copywriting gig, and while I put a lot of time, energy and creativity into crafting great articles, I soon discovered that the client I was writing for didn’t share my views.

In fact the client simply didn’t value copywriting beyond anything more than a means to boost their website ranking on Google.

It was clear that we both had very different ideas about the value of copywriting and it was our differing views and expectations that put an end to our rather unhappy working partnership.

So on the basis of that ill-fated situation, I decided to write a copywriting manifesto to clarify and explain the real value of copywriting.

Copywriting is a conversation

There’s no need for heavy jargon and empty corporate speak in your copy.  No one is impressed or will even bother to read complicated and hollow monologues.  It only serves to create a barrier between your business and your customers, and they will simply go where the conversation speaks their language.

Copywriting solely for SEO purposes

SEO has its place, but to obsess about page ranking and visitor traffic to the exclusion of actually engaging with customers in a real and honest way is a waste of everybody’s time.  Technology and search engines won’t ‘convert’ visitors into paying customers, copy that is genuine, inviting and sounds human will win over the trust and confidence of your customers and make the sale.

Copywriting helps build relationships

Words attract attention, words create interest, words add personality to your message, words connect with customers, words convey feeling, and words provide the framework that carries your message, building a bridge between a business and their customers.

Copywriting is a creative process

It takes time to write great copy, to understand the audience you’re writing for and to create a ‘conversation’ that speaks their language.  It takes time to research the client’s business to fully grasp what they do, what they’re about, what makes them different and to be able to write from a knowledgeable point of view. Copywriting is a balancing act, meeting the client’s needs as well as their audience.

Great copywriting requires a great brief

The brief is the copywriter’s template it provides vital information about the client’s objectives, and provides the foundation on which to create purposeful content.  A poor brief or worse no brief won’t get you great results.  Copywriters are not mind readers, the more information we have the better your copy will be.

Copywriting helps create communities

Communities are based on open dialogue; it’s where likeminded people gather to talk with one another, share information and ideas.  Copywriting can help businesses create a community that encourages dialogue with its customers, shares their concerns and shows genuine interest in their customers.  Creating a community makes your business more accessible, more human, more than just about the sale.

Good copywriting is truthful

At the heart of all good copywriting is truthfulness.  Gaining trust and loyalty from customers can only come from writing honestly.  No scams, lies or embellishments – just straightforward information that is sincere will get you much better results every time.  Copy that is truthful is easier to write, it’s concise and focused.  Besides people can see right through the bullshit – so you’re not fooling anyone by fudging the truth.

Copywriting – it’s all about the words

There is power in the written word, without words you don’t have websites, blogs, emails or online communities, without words there is no SEO, webinars or e-books.  The online world is very much about words, conversations and interaction.  Trust the copywriter to know the right words to infuse your copy with so that it rings true, is lively, interesting and attracts attention for all the right reasons – people who want what you have, to be a part of your community.

Copywriting is a highly skilled craft in salesmanship.  Respect the copywriter – they’re your sales person, it’s their skill with words that make your business look good and appealing and bring you more sales!

And in the words of Brian Clark from Copyblogger fame “The Writer Runs This Show”

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How To Choose The Right Copywriter For Your Project

You need a copywriter but you want to be sure that the copywriter you hire is going to do a great job.  A quick search on Google and you get 22,500,000 results for copywriter, how on earth are you supposed to choose the right person for your project?

With that many search results for writers, you can be sure that not all are good at what they do.  And your chance of picking the not so good is higher than you think.  Just because a copywriter ranks high on Google, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best choice for your project.

So how do you know that the copywriter you choose is the right person for your project?

Here is a list of 9 things you should consider when choosing to hire a copywriter.

1. Portfolio of  Samples

Take the time to look at the copywriter’s portfolio.  You can get a good feel for the copywriter’s style and how good they are from the samples they provide.  If you enjoyed looking at the work and found it interesting then this is a good starting point in helping you make a decision.

2.    Interest and Enthusiasm

A good copywriter will take a real interest in your project and business, asking lots of questions to get a good sense of your particular communication needs.  Copywriters thrive on information and the more details and facts you can provide the better the work will be.

3.    Good Listener

Copywriters are natural communicators but they also should be good listeners.  After all it’s your story the copywriter will be writing, so if you don’t get the chance to tell your story then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

4.    Empathy

You want to hire a copywriter who understands your business challenges and can empathise with your clients too.  It’s tempting to turn to an industry insider but you risk ending up with plain, trade or product expertise when you could get fresh objective marketing expertise from a freelancer.

5.    Print and Web Savvy

The best copywriters are versatile writers who can just as easily write for print as well as the web.  In fact these days most businesses marketing mix is a combination of print and online.  So hiring a writer that can offer value offline and online is worth your marketing investment.

6.    Simpatico Relations

Good chemistry between you and the copywriter can make a huge difference to the quality of the work created.  You’ll always get great results when working with people you like and are compatible with.  Getting to know your copywriter and finding out whether you’re simpatico will make working together easier for both parties.  Because copywriting is a collaborative effort.

7.    References

It’s a given that posting testimonials and references is written proof of happy clients.  But as we all know, all is not as it seems online.  You can always ask the copywriter to provide previous client details should you want to follow up with the reference.  Most copywriters will be happy to connect you with a few clients, if not keep on looking.

8.    Good Grammar

Any correspondence and email exchanges between you and the copywriter should be clear and grammatically correct.  That means no text or sms shorthand and spelling mistakes.  You want to be confident that the copywriter represents your company in a professional manner.

9.    The Commitment

So you’ve found the perfect copywriter, they tick all the above boxes and you’re ready to get started.  Good copywriters are generally busy and as long as your job isn’t super urgent, like yesterday, and they want to work with you, then they’ll happily commit to your project even if they are busy.  Be wary of the copywriter you can’t pin down.  They just may not be interested and are playing hard to get to shake you off.

If you consider some or all the above points, you should find it much easier to choose the right copywriter for your next project.

 

Why Being An Expert Makes You Smarter, Sexier and More Successful

Group of Expert ProfessionalsHave you noticed how everybody is an expert these days?  The Internet is positively rife with blogs, e-books, webinars, online courses and workshops offering to help you do, be or have just about anything with a little expert help.  (A collective roll of the eyes, I know it’s easy to dismiss ‘expert opinion’ especially in the very crowded and competitive online market.)

It seems that anyone with a little skill or knowledge can claim to be an expert in his or her field, but is this so called expertise nothing more than marketing hype, or is there more to it?

Marketers and entrepreneurs, all tout the idea that you need to position yourself as an expert in order to become a trusted authority to win the hearts and minds of customers.

And once you achieve trusted authority status, your business or blog is well on its way to financial / readership / fandom success.

Now I can’t deny the power imbued in the words expert and trusted authority, after all they’re very persuasive and psychologically charged words.  The words expert and trusted authority command your attention and it’s no wonder they get used / overused in the media.  How many times have you heard “experts claim…” in news and current affairs reports, read it in magazine articles, and seen it in TV commercials?

I’m betting quite a lot.  You’d think that we would be immune to all this expert information and opinion.  Sure we filter out stuff that doesn’t interest us, but the undeniable persuasive pull of experts and trusted authorities has a special X factor that is difficult to resist and ignore.

To illustrate the point, remember the eighties Oral B toothbrush commercial where they can’t show the guy’s face because he’s a dentist?  The authoritative voice over at the end claims ‘Oral B the toothbrush more dentists use.’  Well it worked a treat on me, I’ve been using only Oral B toothbrushes ever since.  Why?  Because if it’s good enough for a professional dentist, then it’s good enough for me too.

But that’s not the only reason.  This particular commercial worked on me because I had a fear of going to the dentist and I’m not alone in my fear.  Obviously the ad worked on some subconscious level, that if I use Oral B toothbrushes I don’t have to visit the dentist.  Crazy, I know but there you go, even as a copywriter who understands the psychological machinations at play it’s hard to ignore an expert.

That’s pretty powerful stuff for something as trivial as a toothbrush.  It works incredibly well across all types of professions, products and services despite the fact that everywhere you look there’s another expert flaunting their thing.

You only need to look at the success of Copyblogger and Problogger, to see how powerful showcasing your expertise is.

Even though I’ve yet to achieve the kind of rock star status of my peers and competitors, I acknowledge that showcasing your expertise certainly helps establish you as an authority people trust making you the smarter, sexier, successful choice.  How about you?

Keep watching this space 🙂

How To Prevent Your Website From Being An Online Fashion Victim

Rainbow coloured frilly dress
Colourful dress

Whether you have a website or are thinking about getting one, finding a good website design that fits your business needs, is like trying to find the perfect outfit for that all important date or meeting.  It’s natural to want to put your best foot forward and just as a new outfit can make you look and feel confident, so too a great website design should clearly portray your business in an appropriate style.

If you think about it, a website is your virtual outfit, and it’s the crucial first impression people have of you or your business.  Just like the clothes you wear, your website reflects your individual personality and style.

And like your wardrobe, websites need to be updated every now and then to maintain freshness and relevance in a changing online environment.  A good website design should allow you the flexibility to adapt and evolve as your business grows and accommodate changing customer habits and expectations.

A site that hasn’t had a style update in a long while is in danger of becoming an online fashion victim.  It’s not a good look, and it signals troubling consequences for your online success.

A bad, ugly or outdated website design gets in the way of good content.  It puts visitors off instantly if your site is difficult to read, poorly signposted and busier than a Pucci print.

No one is going to hang around a site that literally is an eye sore. Likewise if the design is downright drab and plain, with minimal, uninspired content blander than a pair of brown corduroys.

Here are 10 design style tips to keep your website looking good.

1.    Easy Navigation that you can understand in seconds.  I’ve been on sites where it’s not immediately apparent how to move to another page of a website.  Frustration factor very high.

2.    Good Content that stays on topic is up to date and easy to grasp.

3.    No Background Images they look amateur and they drastically slow down page loading.  Plus it makes reading very difficult, best to avoid and opt for pale, light coloured backgrounds instead.

4.    Avoid Animated GIF’s, scrolling text, and pop-up windows they’re distracting and annoying.  Particularly if they’re advertisements that have nothing to do with your business.

5.    Readable Text with a good clean font type in a decent size, 12 pt. is ideal.  Stick to just two font styles and colours, you don’t want your content resembling a kaleidoscopic hippie headscarf.  Use italics or boldface to emphasise or highlight points of interest or importance.

6.    Contact Details are easy to find, list your contact details or a link to your contact info on the top or bottom of every page.

7.    High Quality Images that are properly resized and optimized.  People don’t like waiting an eternity for photos to load and in most cases they’ll move on to another site.  Images should ideally be optimized to display on a web browser in as little as 1 to 3 seconds.

8.    Internal & External Links should work properly taking visitors’ to the appropriate page or section of your website, loading the correct image or document file.  Same goes for external links, don’t waste people’s time with broken or dead links that lead nowhere.

9.    Flash & Splash Pages look all glamorous and impressive but they’re all style and no substance.  They’re nothing more than visual obstacles that prevent visitors from entering your site. Flash-based websites and splash pages are an unnecessary, irritatingly slow loading ‘introductory page’ that serves no real purpose.  And that’s provided your visitor even has a flash plug-in.  Trash the flash and splash pages, and let your visitors in, pronto!

10.  Design That’s Tailor Made to your image incorporating your colours, logo, artwork and other style elements into a unique and dynamic website.  Your site should look great and work well on any browser, and is search engine friendly.

Tasteful, good design that doesn’t date in a blink of an eye usually takes the “less is more” approach.  Avoid gimmicky design add-on’s that detract from your content.

A great website design is an unobtrusive visual framework that organizes, supports and showcases your content.

PS:  If you’re ready for a website style make over or in need of a snazzy, new website, check out these fabulous website design solutions.  I’ve partnered up with fellow copywriter Shahan from the Science of Copy and AU WebCentres where we can offer you fully customisable, feature rich website designs that’ll blow you away.

 

 

How To Avoid The 10 Signs Of Website Monologue Syndrome

A lone cross-eyed bird on a branch

As a copywriter I read and write a lot of website content.  And I have to say there’s an awful lot of websites out there that are just plain, dull and boring. I see the same bland, monotonous, copycat statements repeated across many websites in many different industries.

What I’m referring to is a style of website communication that’s sadly all too common, I call it “The Website Monologue Syndrome.”

It’s basically a very generic, staid and uninspiring piece of communication that doesn’t really convey anything other than the company is a little on the dull side.  Nobody wants to do business with a company that comes across as bland and dreary.

If your website content is lacking in passion or enthusiasm, it could be that it suffers from “website monologue syndrome” and it could be harming your business more than you realize.

Content that just spews out information but doesn’t really offer any value or benefit to the customer will definitely drive people away.

Here’s what to look out for to avoid “The Website Monologue Syndrome” from sucking the life out of your online communications.

1.    A stuffy and formal tone of voice.
Just doesn’t sound natural, and it’s not appealing for people to read.

2.    Content that is entirely from the viewpoint of the business with constant reference to “we” and “our.”
This just makes the company appear arrogant, or superior and shows a lack of empathy with their customers.

3.    Listing facts and features but no benefits.
All facts, features and specifications make for very dull reading.  You need to explain to customers how, why or what else they will gain from buying “x, y, & z” features.

4.    Content that never puts ‘you’ the customer in the picture.
If your content doesn’t include the customer in the story or picture, then they can’t see how or why they should buy or need your products or services.

5.    Overusing words such as best; premier; high quality; affordable; free; cheap; reliable; great customer service, with no real proof or evidence.
Telling people how great you are, means you’re probably not.  Leave it to your customers to spread the word, use real customer testimonials/social media as your proof.

6.    Too much jargon, spelling and grammatical errors.
Spelling and grammar mistakes show a lack of care and attention to detail, it arouses suspicion in customers’ minds.  Content that is heavy on jargon or industry talk makes your content difficult to read.  It alienates your readers by making them work too hard to understand your message.

7.    Broad and general content.
Means you don’t have a clearly defined target market.  Generic content loses impact as it tries to be all things to all people.

8.    Not having a specific point of difference.
Looking and sounding the same as the next person means you end up blending in with the rest of the “me too” crowd.  Tap into your uniqueness and use it to stand out from the crowd.

9.    An unimaginative headline such as “Welcome to… …”
Is a wasted opportunity to grab the attention of your audience and engage their interest.

10. Omitting a clear call to action.
Remind people why they landed on your website, what they need to do to fulfill your website’s objectives.  Don’t leave them guessing or you leave yourself vulnerable to losing enquiries or sales.

Now that you know what to look for, you should be able to quickly revive any lifeless signs afflicting your website content and stop “website monologue syndrome” from sabotaging your sales.