This handy advice comes via the copyblogger website- take a look for yourself, and may it change all your future blog posts for the better! I do understand the irony of re-blogging this piece considering the last paragraph of the article, but good advice is always of great value when applied. Enjoy the remainder of your work week- and remember we're on the down-hill side of "hump day"!
For all the things I love about what I do, one of the things that bugs me is the title of my job. If I had just a dollar for every time I have met somebody new and the conversation has gone like this:
Them: So what do you do with yourself?
Me: I work for myself, I'm a copywriter!
Them: Oh, you legally copyright stuff?
…then this whole blog would be ghost-written while I smoked cigars in a 5 star hotel room and stacked piles of cash to the ceiling. To be a copywriter means, literally, that I write copy. If anything, I am a writer. Yet in this day and age, calling yourself a writer means that you write novels or short stories. Those of us who write content that enables businesses to market themselves more effectively and engage their target market, are left to be confused as some kind of person who makes a living authorising the ©'s on products all over the world. To be fair, there are professions whose titles still have me searching the dictionary or Google. Only last week did I learn what a milliner is. Perhaps if I lived in my grandparents' generation or frequented horse racing events I wouldn't have been so ignorant?
All the same, this has got me thinking about what is most important for any business in regards to promoting themselves. Many people who make contact with you won't want to know so much what the features of your business product or service are, but specifically how it will help them. I'm sure you could list plenty of the specific features of your business, but what about the benefits? Would a hotelier talk about the number of staff they had, the furnishings, the lunch menu or the times for laundry service? Perhaps, but far more important is it for them to advertise the fact that guests can stay in spacious, quiet rooms that not only offer very competitive rates, but are close to the city and public transport. In the first instance, we hear about the hotels' features. The second time around, we hear instead about the benefits. Which of the two is more likely to convince us to check-in?
One crucial part of being a copywriter is looking at how any given business, individual or organisation benefits their customers. Without getting bogged down in the industry-specific details, instead we need to think about what aspects of our business or service will appeal the most to customers in layman's terms. Many times, the difference between sale and fail is whether or not people can distinguish between what you can do and what you can do for them.
So next time you meet somebody new- whether a casual acquaintance at a social gathering or a potential client at a networking event- instead of being fussed about the title of your occupation and the features of your business, focus instead on communicating all the benefits of your business. Find out first what this new person is involved in- what keeps them busy, what they are working away at- and then (being subtle of course!) communicate with them all the ways your business can benefit them.
Get into the habit of doing this, and the results might just surprise you...
Success is something that comes to all of us at least once in life. You could argue that even being born into this world is a form of success. However, the counterbalance to success is failure. On a long enough life-span, failure is inevitable. Not taking any chances in life for a fear of failing, is failure in itself. Failure is life's default setting. Either you succeed or you fail. For many of us, the setbacks in life (be they financial, academic, relational or otherwise) begin to shape our opinion on how far we can go. Too often, the temptation is there to take these experiences and allow them to influence our idea of what our potential really is. We see the brilliant, innovative, successful people and assume that from a very young age, they had 'the gift' and were recognised for this. We take inventory of our own lives and think to ourselves: If only we could have been born with that persons' "gift", how much easier our path would have been, how much greater our current life situation would be. The problem with basing our own efforts at sowing seeds, toiling away under the daily heat, is that we look at the abundance of other people's crops and and assume that the end result was always clearly inevitable. Perhaps if we took a closer look and spoke to these people, however, their own stories might sound eerily similar to ours:
What took these people on their journey to greatness? How did they manage to differentiate themselves from those who only enjoyed sporadic success? Why is it that some people seem to be "lucky" while other people can't get a good break to save their lives? What is the answer to this?
Consistency is sticking to your ultimate goal, even if failure trips you up. Consistency means trying to be your best every day. Consistency is not being content with just one success then laying back. Consistency is enjoying success so much that you do everything to make it happen in your life regularly. Consistency is the realisation that continually backing up on your efforts is what will bring you more frequent success. Consistency is putting to rest an overbearing fear of failure, because you realise that failure is inevitable. Consistency is realising (and acting upon the realisation) that your personal success will not be characterised by your failures, but by what you do between those failures. Consistency is what leads to continued improvement. On a long enough time scale, it is what distinguishes you from the others. Consistency is what transforms failures from major flaws to minor footnotes in the CV of your life:
Even a great like Michael Jordan didn't suddenly begin sinking three-point shots with ease on a constant basis. He knew that in order to become a frequent winner, he had to accept that he would also frequently fail, no matter how "great" he was ever to become. Yet in spite of all his failures, his fans and those who take any interest in basketball (or sport, for that matter) only think of success when his name is mentioned. The reason? Consistency.
If you seek frequent success, first you must seek after consistency. Doing a great job one day each week means little if, for the other 6 days of your week, you are poor or mediocre. Consistency means that you aim to be great every day of the week. You will fail to meet this standard plenty of times. But as long as you seek to be consistently great, soon enough you will go from being great just one day of the week to two days of the week. As long as you keep working at it and focusing on your ultimate goals when failure trips you up, soon enough you will be great 3 days of an average week. Before you know it, that continued effort will bring you 4 days of greatness- or more. People will begin to notice the minimum amount of days where you are below-par, and define you by the majority of days where you are great and steadily improving.
In your personal life, in your business, in your aspirations, ask yourself what it is you truly seek? Then seek to consistently aim for this, no matter what else. You might just find that your vision is much closer than you initially thought...
A copywriter knows how to make your website, brochure, flyer, profile or any other form of promotional material easy for your target market to understand
It doesn't matter how wide your experience is, how great your expertise, how skilled you are or how innovative your business/ product is- if the very people you are relying on to make your business or idea feasible don't understand why you are so valuable to them, you might as well be wishing upon a star for success.
The problem with many forms of written business marketing or informational content is that it either says too much, doesn't say enough, or is too vague for people reading to understand how the business, organisation or individual in question can be useful to them. If your target market don't have a clear understanding of how you can prove your money's worth to them, it's highly unlikely they will give you the chance to prove your money's worth to them in the first place! Below are the three biggest obstacles I see that get in the way of businesses making a real connection with their target market:
Mistake #1- saying too much
If your business is fairly straight-forward and has a simple operational process, having too much written content on your marketing material can instantly make the reader (your target audience) feel overwhelmed and cause them to skim over important details that could make the difference between fail or sale- and that's if they even bother to read past the opening few sentences!
Mistake #2- saying too little
In other cases, especially with businesses that are selling innovative concepts or products, the intended target market (again, the reader) doesn't appreciate just how useful the product or service is to them because nobody is telling them! Sometimes, the best method of generating extra exposure, more calls to action and greater sales is to say more. To give you a better idea of what I'm saying, imagine for a moment that a young bachelor is creating his profile page on a dating website. This young man loves snowboarding, has visited every continent on Earth and plays guitar in a rock band. Not only that, but he is joint partner in a hugely successful online adventure clothing store and is on the verge of launching a new line of high-quality snowboarding equipment. He makes friends easily, is financially comfortable and has a great passion for travel and the outdoors. There would be plenty of girls who would want to know more about this guy straight away, if only his written profile didn't consist entirely of:
"Single and looking for a partner in crime. I like to work hard and play hard so if that sounds like you, let's chat!"
In the same way that this enthusiastic, genuinely interesting and ambitious young man will miss out on plenty of potential dates from selling himself short, many businesses also miss out on big one-off sales or even regular customers because they don't sell themselves enough.
Mistake #3- say what?
While it's especially true in this age of multiculturalism that English is not everybody's first language, there is still no reasonable excuse for your (predominately) English speaking target audience to have trouble understanding what it is you are selling and how that will benefit them. Although you might totally understand what it is you have to offer and can easily explain it to people when chatting to them about your business, if the written content for your business is vague, incoherent or lacking a clear purpose or call to action, then results will be underwhelming. A poorly written site littered with grammatical errors or non-sensical sentences reflects poorly on your business and strongly implies laziness, inexperience and lax attention to detail. A big sales killer. To put it bluntly: It doesn't matter how great you are, how original your idea is or what you can do for people, if your written content is poor or they don't fully understand your key points then they'll never understand why they should hand over their money to begin with!
A copywriter has the knowledge and the experience to minimise these sales speed-bumps. In some cases it may involve explaining in more detail why your business is wonderful and why the person reading your site/ brochure/ flyer/ profile should think the same and subscribe, order now or at least call you to chat. Other times it involves keeping the written content short, sharp and straight to the point. Why dance around the ring waiting for a points decision when you could win the money with a direct knockout punch? Then there are the times where a copywriter will understand that something as small as a simple edit (and spell-check!) can be the one thing that makes a huge difference between an epic fail or an epic sale.
So if you want your businesses' written content to sound professional, persuasive and like you know what you're doing, the proven way of getting these outcomes (and in turn generating greater results for your business) is to entrust the job to someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to written content- a copywriter!
Ben is the founder of Scribe Copywriting.