Even in today’s digital age, we’re still surrounded by the written word… emails, websites, social media, newspapers, magazines, books, brochures, flyers, technical data, and good old-fashioned letters… but how often do you stop to think what your words are really saying about you and your company?
OK, so there’s the literal meaning of what you’ve written; that goes without saying. But there are some far more subtle – and some would say far more important – messages your words are sending out too.
The right words are a powerful, compelling, marketing tool; but get them wrong and your readers will be left with a very poor impression… so, just how do you get your writing right?
This week we’re sharing with you some of the techniques our professional writers use to create truly effective marketing copy.
First, the basics…
And I’m not going to apologise for going back to basics, after all, how many times do you see obvious mistakes in things you read, and what’s your first reaction when you do? It makes us cringe, but we would, wouldn’t we?
1. Spelling… get it right. No excuses. And when you think it’s right, get someone else to check too, because your brain knows what’s meant to be there, so that’s what it sees – fact! And remember: spell check is notorious for missing subtle mistakes.
2. Watch your homophones! These are words which sound the same but mean different things. I’ve seen “weather” instead of “whether” and “their” rather than “there” this week, and how many times have you seen “you’re” instead of “your”, or vice versa?
3. Look out for auto corrections. Before lockdown, I received an expensive, beautifully printed invitation to a very up-market event in Epson… it’s actually in Epsom, but I’m guessing the computer didn’t recognise that, so changed it to the nearest word it does know!
4. Check your grammar, and I know it’s not fashionable to bang on about grammar, but it matters in your written text. As does the poor, blighted apostrophe… need I say more? If your grammar is poor, then it reflects badly on you and your company; sadly, your readers will judge you.
Develop your style…
With the basics in place, you can develop your style and start building great relationships with your customers and prospects through well-crafted words designed to woo, wow and win them over:
5. Write for your reader. Some people skim read bullet points, others like plenty of fine detail, so mix your copy styles to make sure all your readers can access the key messages in a way which works for them.
6. Get personal! They’re one-to-one with you when they visit your website, read your email or browse your brochure, so talk to them personally. If they feel distanced, or part of a herd, they’re less likely to take any action.
7. Draw them in. Tell a story; draw your readers in and take them on a journey (with apologies for the dreadful and over-used ‘J’ word). It should be like taking their hand and walking them through to the conclusion you want.
8. Be specific, use facts. Statistics and facts build credibility, so be specific wherever you can, but do make sure your facts, figures and claims are correct; honesty is the best policy!
9. Use action verbs, especially in your bullet points. Words such as “delivers”, “generates” and “ensures” bring immediacy and reality to the benefits you’re promoting, making them so much more compelling and appealing to your readers.
And then there’s the real copywriting skill of creating smarter, more effective, conversion-orientated copy.
Yes, it’s crucial to get the basics right, to make sure your style and ‘voice’ reflects how you do business and connects with your customers, but truly great copy has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about it too. That means working on your structure, flow, language, nuance, plus adding some real psychology… illusory truth, serial positioning, justification, textural adjectives, even rhyming and your PS… they all come into play!
It’s way more complex than just scribbling – or typing – a few lines on a blank sheet (and a blank sheet is a very daunting thing!)
And finally: whatever you write, and however you write it, always, always, take a sanity check.
It’s amazing what you can miss because you know what you mean, but how could others interpret what you’ve written? Even the professionals can get it wrong, as these awful howlers (some old, some more recent) attest…
Nivea was sorry for this Facebook ad in 2017 and took it down pretty quick, but not before it experienced a huge backlash.
Bic had to apologise for this advert it ran in South Africa (2015).
According to the agency which created this: “We did write the banner deliberately, because we believe that in the same way men have historically been granted room in our discourse to make playful references to their sexuality, women should have that same freedom.”
The brand saw the ridicule it was attracting (surprise!!) and very publicly told them to change it! (2017)
Spotted in Virginia Beach… We had a good chuckle (and a face-palm) at this one!
This Good Luck message makes sense if you understand the cultural significance and references on this billboard from 2010, but could be a little alarming if you don’t!
This classic from the 1970s is famous, but it’s only a ‘howler’ in hindsight, as language and meaning has changed over time. The slogan was used successfully for years, until ‘sucks’ came to have negative connotations.
This has been just a tiny peek into the vast world of copywriting psychology, theory and practice.
Our professional copywriters are – frankly – nerdy about all this stuff. They use all these ‘wrinkles’, and many more tricks of the trade, to create marketing copy which helps you stand out from the crowd and delivers the results you need.
So, next time you’re tempted to write your own website or brochure, please stop and think.
If you’d like to discover how our professional copywriting services can help you create the right impression, first time, every time – do book your complimentary 1-2-1 to talk through your project with us!
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