Don’t bother with a website without doing this first

I’ve worked in the communication industry for ever. First as a youngster struggling to make my way in the world, then as an English teacher, and now as a writer. In reality, I remain all three.

At every life landmark, words have mattered. And yet, for many, it can be the hardest thing in the world to make oneself heard – or to say what’s worth listening to.

As a teenager, it was easier for me to keep quiet amidst the chaos engulfing me. Yet what I learnt was how crucial it was to listen – to really listen. Today, that matters more than ever…

Starting a career in teaching wasn’t easy for the shy girl who preferred to listen and not shout. Again, words taught me that you can’t talk at or down to anyone – least of all teenagers. So I listened – and kids heard.

Say something that matters

As a writer, words are my daily diet. For them to ‘taste’ appealing,  they have to have a voice and – importantly – connect.

Because if they don’t, they’re worthless. With an allergy to robotic corporate speak, I’d not be the writer for you if you want to sound like everyone else.

The copy I prefer to serve is fresh, enriched with emotion. Yet to work out what will stir the senses, I must first decipher which words will mean the most. Again, I start by listening, then looking at life through a prospect’s eyes.

But here’s the thing. When writing any web copy, marketing campaign or blog to showcase your talent, the sole purpose is to connect with people. Not with a search engine, but with real people.

Does your website copy do that? Honesty counts.

You’ll find the answers if you ask the right questions

For anyone to bother to stop and listen to you, your words have to resonate. To work out what they are, know your audience inside out. What are their needs, dreams, worries and fears? What makes them tick? What keeps them up at night? What makes them happy?

Only when you work out what is relevant to them will your words stand a chance of being heard. And remember: people who hotfoot it to your website from surfing online are a different audience to those who arrive at a landing page from a marketing campaign or Facebook link.

That’s why you need a system that reflects where different people have come from and make sure your copy – every word – helps them get to the next level.

Until you do any of this, there’s no point in writing any copy online…

Make them want more

So here’s my advice. Whatever is on your ‘menu,’ work at making your words palatable. Make them easy to digest, so they satisfy – leaving your audience wanting more…

Now that really would be the icing on the cake. If you fancy a slice, get in touch.

 

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How important is the truth?

David Ogilvy: ‘The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife’

Ogilvy’s timeless words 50 years ago still ring true today. The truth matters. The truth has always mattered.

With social media abalze with a blur of political truths, half-truths and lies, it can be hard to distinguish what’s real and what’s fiction.

Take President Trump. A ‘Marmite’ President if ever there was one…

Trump’s ‘heart-on-the-sleeve’ tweets have divided opinion. Some admire his open, direct language. Others are incensed by his ‘shoot first’ tweets drenched in supposition.

The outpouring of horror to his non fact-checked tweeting simply proves that people dislike being deceived – by public servants or anyone.

Make every word count

In business, too, it matters that you invest in getting your words right. That means the copy on your website, social media profiles, articles, blogs, marketing literature.

Without doubt, it’s a question of authenticity, of integrity. Lose these precious commodities, you lose trust. What’s that worth to you?

Words of wisdom:

  • Never make claims you can’t prove
  • Assume people are smart, not stupid
  • Show, don’t just ‘tell’
  • Sync words and actions – do what you say
  • Be true to yourself

In business, politics or life in general, you can’t win ‘em all. What can make the difference is when your words resonate with people for the right reasons…

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Your authentic voice matters more than ever

In this alt-fact, ‘fake news’ era, it often seems impossible to distinguish the truth. Outcry at President Trump and some politicians UK side shows what people respect: honesty.

The words we choose play a pivotal role in this. Just look at the ‘Brexit means Brexit’ kerfuffle… Such meaningless phrases awash with controversy do little to inspire confidence.

In fact, should any word-spinning or double-speak temporarily ‘con’ people into believing a promise, credibility is inevitably destroyed when delivery fails. Why risk integrity?

As business owners, it’s an important lesson – that few things matter more than staying true to who we are. Let’s face it: a broken promise is a breach of trust. Once trust is lost, it’s hard to claw back.

How easy is it for a business to create distrust?

Very. Time and again websites make the same mistakes. Crammed full of clichés or trite phrases which ‘everybody’ seems to use might put would-be buyers off.

Take the commonly-used phrase, ‘We take pride in our professional service.’ What does this really mean?

The trouble with empty jargon like this is that it spells out the obvious. Everyone takes ‘pride’ in what they do, don’t they? Plus the opposite to a ‘professional’ service is downright incompetence.

Far better to capture a real voice which communicates specific values than one which says nothing. Here’s how to start…

How to create your voice

Crafting an authentic voice which people connect with and believe in doesn’t come easily at first. Read this story if you’re stuck: What difference do you make?

Next, list what you do – and then explain what difference each one makes to customers. Try saying ‘so what?‘ for each. It’s easier that you think.

Let’s say you are a counsellor. Rather than promote just the features of your business: ‘You can come to me for anxiety counselling,’ re-write it in a more human way to illustrate what someone could gain longterm.

‘Do you want to step beyond the hurt that’s dragging you down? Starting today, you can break free from worry and live a happier, better life.’ 

Think of your copy as a conversation with a person in front of you. By focusing on the reader’s needs in natural, everyday language, you are more likely to be heard.

Step into a customer’s shoes to find your voice

Let’s look at the example from above: ‘We take pride in our professional service.’ Here’s the point. You really mean this – you genuinely care about giving customers the highest quality service.

But it’s not enough to say you are ‘professional‘  as you are not saying what you really offer. You’re not quantifying it. What helps is to step into a customer’s shoes for a moment. Think: what do you do for them?

Let’s imagine you’re a private tutor. Perhaps as part of your service you create resources tailored to a student’s needs.

What’s the big benefit to parents and students? If you simply write, ‘I create personalised worksheets for all students,’ you stop short of promoting benefits.

Personalised learning targeting a child’s weaknesses can help them address their individual problems straightaway, and equip them with skills they need.

The result? A more confident, happier child who feels more empowered. THIS is what you are selling. THIS is the difference.

In your copy, you might write instead: ‘By getting to know what’s behind your child’s learning problems, I then tailor lessons to your child’s exact needs. The result? No more struggling day in day out as they’ll feel much happier and confident than ever before.’

Once you focus your copy on what the customer can get as a result of what you do, you’ll be closer to creating an authentic voice listened to.

Need another nudge?

Still unsure how to reach out with words? Check out ‘Does your web copy really speak to people?’

And when you need a copywriter who can make your voice heard, feel free to get in touch whether you’re in glorious Sussex, Birmingham or Scotland.

 

Image courtesy of Yvette Lamidey



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