13 May Top Copy Dos and Don’ts (Part 1)
Recently on my Facebook business page, I did a bit of a poll to see what people wanted to read more of. The overwhelming response was a bit more insight into the dos and don’ts of how to write for businesses. The truth of the matter is that is a much more complicated task than you might think. We might need to make this a series broken down into websites, social media, emails and ‘other’, but for now, there are a few general rules to keep in mind when writing anything for your business.
Here are the dos…
Know your audience
Before you even consider putting pen to paper (yes, or fingers to keys), you need to do some prep. If you don’t know who you’re writing for you’re going to struggle. Without knowing who your customers are, what their pain points are, their fears, beliefs, desires and needs, you can never really write anything that will connect. If you enjoy shouting into the abyss (who doesn’t occasionally – SO cathartic, but not a great business model) don’t worry about doing any research. If you’d prefer to turn a profit and have genuine, meaningful engagement with your customers (and potential customers), you need to get a-snooping! Obviously, face-to-face conversations with your existing client base is a great start, but you might find you don’t always get the full story. Why not join some groups relevant to your industry you would expect your customers to be engaged with and lurk like the big weirdo you’ve always known you could be…
Option 2, of course, is just outright asking them. Market research can be done in a million different ways, but running a ‘focus group’ occasionally (i.e. pumping out a survey to willing participants in exchange for XYZ) can be enormously helpful. You can delve into almost anything: how is your messaging being received? Where are the gaps your customers wish you were covering? Does the ghost in your shop put people off?
ask: is this something my customers want to read?
Your job, with everything you do, is to add value. So as you write for the next email, or social media post or video, you need to be asking yourself, does this add value? Is it driving engagement? Establishing your expert credentials? Offering up social proof in some way? Do your customers actually want to read it or see it? Do they care about pictures of your newborn’s poonamis? Do they want to hear about the latest holiday you went on? The answer to the last two is really, ‘it depends’. If you’re writing a parenting blog or running a travel company then maybe, but otherwise… keep it private.
Get clear on your message
If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, how will anyone else? Authenticity is a great place to start. If you pride yourself on your eco ethics, great! Shout them from the rooftops! But don’t then be the shady hypocrite driving the Dodge Ram about town with a busted exhaust. (Remember, there is a market for noisy, smelly Dodge Ram enthusiasts as well!) Being your authentic self, no matter who that is, will a) be so much easier to remember, and b) attracts the right kind of clients.
If you really want to do well, be very clear about not just what you offer, but how that will be useful to your customers. You can solve their problems, and you need to do it in a way that they think you’ve got them in mind with everything you do. You need to be able to answer:
What makes you, and your business, truly better/different/a standout from your competitors?
Who is your absolute dream client? Are you presenting in a way that will attract them?
How well do you know your dream customer?
How much of your own voice are you using?
Check your work
Ugh, there’s nothing more unprofessional than typos. Ok, there are heaps of things more unprofessional than typos (I’m looking at you, Susan from accounting with the pet snake in her desk), but glaring errors are hard to ignore and devalue your brand. There’s a certain lack of care that’s implied. (and if you don’t care about the basics, what else don’t you care about?)
And OK, I’m a guilty as anyone when it comes to the occasional slip-up in an email or messenger convo. But when it comes to anything professional I’m putting out into the universe, from advertising to lead magnets, you’d better believe it’s going to be faultless. (hopefully) Having a second set of eyes run over your work is super helpful for a couple of reasons:
Fresh eyes can pick up the afore-mentioned typos
Any copy that doesn’t land can be easily picked up and revised
If you don’t have someone to look things over, at the very least leave it for a few hours before hitting ‘submit’. Sometimes we have looked at things so often that the tiny details get missed.
Alternatively, I run a very reasonable editing and proofreading service (WINK).
Write as you would speak
Ahh, the art of conversational copywriting. Honestly, nobody wants to read robot speak (unless it’s a book about robots). It’s clunky and inaccessible. That engaging story you were telling down the pub the last time it was open? Write just like that. I promise, it’s way easier to read, and it offers a better sense of ‘the real you’.
If you’re not sure if your copy is conversational, read it out loud and consider how easy or otherwise it is to deliver (mouths and brains aren’t that far apart!!).
So that’s about all for today! Stay tuned for next week when we consider what NOT to do!