Tag Archives: creative writing

Word of Mouth

The best way for business to come to you is word of mouth, when a satisfied customer passes your details onto others who need your services. I have been very blessed in this way which is why I have let my website alone for so long. I am not greedy for business. I have been able to happily maintain a good work/life balance and so I haven’t been “out there” hassling for business. Nor am I doing so now.

My purpose in writing this is just to let you know that I am still in business and welcome serious enquiries. Please feel free to contact me via the webform here.

 

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How to brief a copywriter

Last time I promised a list of things you need to tell your prospective copywriter to get the best out of them. Well here it is:

  1. What is the copywriting for? – Brochure, website, advertisement,  blog etc.
  2. Is it for a product or a service?
  3. Every possible relevant detail about the product or service, including but not limited to, what it is, what it does, how you sell it – direct, party plan, MLM etc., what it costs, what colours and sizes it comes in, what its benefits are, why it is better than your competitors’ products and services.
  4. What is your unique selling proposition? What sets you and your product or service apart from everyone else?
  5. What is your target market? – the more detail here the better
  6. If the copy is for a website then who is going to research your keywords?
  7. What are the keywords?
  8. What keyword density and what length of copy are you looking for?
  9. How many pages do you need written?
  10. Do you have a deadline? What is it?
  11. What style of writing are you looking for? – formal, casual, folksy, cool etc.
  12. Provide information about you and your company such as how long you have been in business, where you are located, where you can ship to etc.
  13. What is your budget? – this is often a contentious issue but it pays to be upfront about it. Most reputable copywriters will tell you whether they can do the work within your budget or not and won’t “pad it out” so that it takes more that it should. What’s more it saves both your time and theirs  to know at the outset if they feel they cannot work within your budget.

I hope this list helps. It isn’t exhaustive but it should help both you and your copywriter to understand the project better.

How to get the best from your copywriter

The best way to get the best work from your copywriter is to give her or him a complete, well-documented and detailed brief. I know this sounds obvious but so many times it doesn’t happen.

Copywriters are a bit like computers in one way…

Well I know that’s a bit tongue in cheek but they say of computers that if you put garbage in you get garbage out and something similar happens with copywriters. If you don’t tell them who your audience is; what your product or service is; what your competitive edge is, and in a fair amount of detail, then you’ll get a half-baked job.

Just stating the obvious?

Well you might think so, but so many times I get asked to write content for websites from a half-page email. I had one recently which I should have turned down from the start. I had a bad feeling about it but because I like to help people and also because this person had trouble expressing themselves in English, I tried to coax information from the prospective client. Eventually I got the half page email plus what was already on the site. I quoted and it was accepted but because of my instincts I said I would only write a small part to begin with to ensure that we understood the project. You know what happened. It all fell apart…

What to tell a copywriter

Because of this latest experience of wasting time and money I have decided to publish on my blog a detailed list of what you need to tell your copywriter to get the best from them. And other copywriters out there, feel free to add your comments to it, or use it as part of your brief requirements. I’ll try to make this list my next post on my return from a bit of well-earned R&R.

Don’t be “dagvertiser”

I was flipping through the colour magazine of a weekend newspaper and I was amazed at the number of ads using tortured words and misspellings. Here are three reason why I think advertisers just shouldn’t do it.

  1. I really think it’s counterproductive. They’re all so lame and amateurish. I mean Salebration! PLEASE! If there’s one thing worse than a bad spoken pun it’s a tortured written one. If you have to stoop to such depths what you’re saying is there isn’t much that the product or service has that’s worth writing about. I can’t even remember what this ad was for.
  2. Literacy among the whole population – not just young people – seems to be less than ideal. Partly this is a result of lacklustre education, partly because for some people English is a second language they’ve had to learn late in life and partly it’s because the written word – in papers, on billboards and websites – is tortured and misspelt. Why do we write LITE and TONITE? What was wrong with light and tonight? Written words in public spaces tend to have a de facto authority and people accept what they see as being correct usage. What a pity it isn’t!
  3. Professionalism. If you want people to take you and your products or services seriously then silly language gimmicks won’t do it. You can still be clever, amusing, eye-catching and thought provoking and use the language properly.
In the spirit of if you can’t beat them…

I’ve coined a new word to describe these horrible ads, which I think describes them perfectly and uses their own tortured logic – DAGVERTISING. (If you don’t know what a dag is check here)

OK! You’re the best at what you do. Why isn’t your website?

People tend to assume that because they are acknowledged as the best in their field it doesn’t matter if their website isn’t the best it could be. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We’re a community of consumers that has come to rely on the web for information

I’ll give you an example without mentioning any names. I had heard about a world class hairdresser and wanted to know a bit more about him before I parted with my cash. So the first port of call was his salon website. It really didn’t do him justice.

The copy was full of business-speak

Who talks about “core-objectives” and “directional boutique environments” to people who want a great haircut? This site patently wasn’t written with the target audience in mind. It looks like it was written to impress a bank manager.

The colours were pale and washed out

Pale pink with white text reversed out is very, very hard to read. Why make it difficult for your customers? And, trust me on this, a paler pink text on pale pink is almost invisible. Why would a person do such a thing? Because they don’t know any better or because they don’t care? Either way it put me off.

If you’re good at what you do then your website must reflect it

If you have a cheap and nasty website you can’t expect people to pay $200+ for a haircut. It doesn’t look professional and it casts doubt on your professionalism too. Most people check businesses out on the web these days before they do business with them. This is your surrogate persona and it has to reflect who you are; how good you are and the standard of your services. Don’t sell yourself short.

What is good copy?

This is the question everyone would like to know the answer to. It seems to me there is no one right answer either. What is good copy for one audience or medium won’t necessarily work well for another.

Are there are any common factors?

I think that there are some “must have” qualities before something qualifies as good copy. Here’s my list. See what you think and feel free to post your list or additions you think are important.

  1. It must be written in a style that appeals to its target audience
  2. It should be clear what is being sold
  3. Benefits and unique selling propositions should be well articulated
  4. It should answer the implied question “Why this product and not another?”
  5. It should assist the reader to understand why they need the product or service
  6. It should be interesting and engaging and make the reader want to know more
  7. And it should contain a call to action

Everyone wants a “killer headline” but what is it?

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of copywriting websites offering “killer headlines”. But what makes a “killer headline” and will it work for your business?

“Killer Headlines”! The what and the why…

“Killer headlines” are headlines that are supposed to grab the attention of your customers in such a way that they give them a virtual lobotomy, stifling all rational thought and objections and making them reach for their credit cards and the “buy Now!” button. Do they work? Obviously on some people they do but maybe – just maybe – that product or service would have sold anyway if it offered great value and had quality copywriting of the non-sleaze variety.

Why do they work? They usually work on curiosity. They lead you in and then the body copy does the rest. (That’s the way all good copy is supposed to work.) The problem I see with them is that the pages they appear on – often call “squeeze pages” -usually look sleazy and if you pay attention you can feel yourself being manipulated. That maybe OK if you have a product that you want to sell once but if you want any sort of relationship with your customers then my feeling is that they are counter-productive.

Guard your reputation

If your business has a solid reputation and the products and services you sell offer genuine value, my feeling is that using “killer headlines” and “squeeze pages” devalues your business. It lumps you in the “make undreamt of wealth from the internet” category of business.

It’s the old story of the turtle and hare

Killer headlines and squeeze pages may get you fast, even spectacular results, but for how long? They are becoming so common that the public is waking up to the manipulation and even non-web-savvy people recognise what’s coming. Relationships, referrals and repeat business are what success is about. That’s built on trust not manipulation. Remember the turtle wins the race!