Saturday, 2 December 2017

10 Mistakes you might be making if you write about your own business.

Are you wearing blinkers when you write about your business?

You might think you are the best person to write about your business. After all, it's your business and no one knows it better than you do. 

Under normal circumstances, this is an excellent attribute. Your knowledge is exceptional, you give the best advice to your customers and you are committed to providing a quality product or service.

So why wouldn't you be the best person to write about your business for your customers?

There are a number of common mistakes you could make when you write about your own business. Often it's because you're blinkered — like this horse — and not seeing the bigger picture.

Here are 10 common mistakes I have come across.

1. Assuming knowledge

One of the most common mistakes is to assume all your customers are the same.

Different customers have different agendas, different questions and different levels of knowledge. If you fail to acknowledge this, you could be alienating part of your customer base from the start. 

Writing for customers with different levels of knowledge takes some skill. You have to be inclusive of the ones who don't know as much, and may need more explanation, without patronising or boring the ones who know more.

When you have written your piece, ask someone else to read it. Revisit areas where confusion has arisen and add any necessary explanation or context.

2. Focusing on what you think is important

There can be a vast difference between what you think is a priority for your customers and what their actual priorities are.

The best way to align what you are communicating with what your customers want to know is to listen to them.

What are they particularly interested in? What kind of questions are they asking? What do they want to know that you're not already telling them?

Find out what your customers actually need/want and make that your priority.

3. Using company language

Every business has its own language — an insider vocabulary consisting of abbreviated terms, informal titles, acronyms and jargon. 

This is okay when it's used in the confines of your business, with colleagues who know the lingo, but what if it seeps into your writing?

Odd phrases, or words that a potential customer doesn't understand, can be off-putting. 

4. Errors

You can have the best business with the best products and the best customer service, but if you promote it using copy that is littered with errors, you are doing it a damaging disservice.

Typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, improper use of words and other inaccuracies demonstrate a lack of attention to detail which can cause potential customers to look elsewhere.

5. Misjudging the tone

The language and tone you use to talk to potential customers is incredibly important.

It needs to be appropriate for your target market demographic, taking into account their age range, gender, wealth, aspirations, wants, needs and other circumstances.

Getting it wrong could mean your communications hit the wrong note.

Make sure your copy is engaging and focuses on things that appeal and are important to your target market. Be careful when using humour, as this can be misconstrued; or voicing strong opinions, as they may not be shared by your audience.

6. Using clichés or jargon

"Going forward, blue sky thinking will take us to the next level so we can really hit the ground running." 

Tired and worn clichés or inside industry jargon can be a real turn off for a potential customer. 

Aim to give them something fresh, new and exciting — something that engages them and makes them think. And if you must use industry jargon, make sure you write out the full version of abbreviations at least once and explain any terms that your customer may not be familiar with.

7. Trying to sound 'professional' — and getting it wrong

In my experience, many people seem to equate sounding professional with sounding 'posh' or 'fancy'. Their most common mistake is using big words, that sound clever, without fully understanding what they mean.

Trying to sound sophisticated can also result in copy that sounds laboured and is difficult to read.

To avoid these mistakes, keep it simple and conversational — write as if you were talking to the person face to face. And if you're not certain what a word means, don't use it.

8. Writing too much

Long paragraphs packed solid with text. Lengthy rambling sentences that don't pause for breath. The same point repeated multiple times. Over explaining things using too much detail.

These things all contribute to an excessive amount of copy, which can deter a potential customer. Long paragraphs are daunting, rambling sentences are difficult to read, repetition is frustrating and too much detail is often unnecessary.

Keep it concise, separate it into shorter paragraphs and make sure every sentence makes a different point.

9. Not including citations

Potential customers have no reason to trust you, or anything you tell them. So, if you are making claims to support an argument, you must make sure you substantiate them.

Get your information from reputable sources; be specific about what the data is saying and what it proves; and make sure you include details or a link to the source materials. 

10. Overusing exclamation marks

"The best prices in London!!!!"

The mark is used to denote an exclamation, something shouted or expressed loudly or something the writer finds amusing.

If what you are writing falls into one of the above categories, then it may be permissible to use one exclamation mark. 

Using more than that is unnecessary and takes away credibility from what you are saying.

Hiring an experienced freelance copywriter can help you avoid all these mistakes.

If you would prefer not to take the risk of writing your own business copy, why not contact me and let me do it for you?

I am a professional copywriter with 16 years' experience of writing effective business communications including websites, blog articles, posters, brochures, catalogues and newsletters.

I now work freelance, helping businesses like yours create copy that sells, informs and persuades.

For more information and to see samples of my work, please visit my website.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The difference between simple and basic language


"Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication."

Leonardo da Vinci                     

Regular readers of this blog may recognise the above quote. I have used it before in this article about writing copy for the web.

For me, it is a quote that resonates and has a strong influence on the way I write and present information.

There is a common misconception that the terms simple and basic are interchangeable but, to put it simply, this is untrue — especially when it comes to your use of language and words.

Basic is primitive

Basic language is dulled down to its

It's the name given to a language programmers use to communicate with their computers. That alone should tell you it's not fit for human consumption.

You can't express yourself or write intelligently using basic language.

And you would never use it in your business communications.

Simple is smart and sophisticated

To distill something to its simplest form is a skill. 

Simple language sounds intelligent and professional, but is also easy to read and easy to understand. 

Four good reasons to use simple language in your business communications:

  1. It delivers a clear, concise message your audience can read quickly, understand straight away and will only have to read once.
  2. It allows you to break down complex subjects, information and ideas and make them accessible to a wider audience.
  3. It enables to you to reach your maximum potential, by reaching and engaging the full extent of your market.
  4. It acknowledges the intellect and sophistication of your audience.

Would you like to create simple communications for your business?

I am an experienced copywriter with a passion for clear, simple copy that converts.

If that sounds like something you need, please contact me.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

How clickbaiting can harm your business.


What is clickbait?

We have all seen headlines like this while surfing the web:

  • Lose weight instantly with this weird old trick
  • You'll never believe...
  • What happens next is outrageous
  • This woman is 52 but looks 25
  • What she looks like now will shock you
 Articles like these are known as clickbait.

Clickbait could be described as a modern, online form of tabloid sensationalism. It uses a striking headline designed to intrigue you and entice you to click.

If you have ever clicked on such a headline, you will know that the stories rarely live up to what their headlines promise and can be vastly misrepresented.

After reading such articles, which can often be several pages long, we are left feeling disappointed, unfulfilled and foolish for ever believing the hype. We may also find our experience on the site is blighted by pop-ups and crashes.

Nevertheless, many of us still click.

What is the purpose of clickbait?

The purpose of clickbait is to make money. It achieves this by getting as many page views as possible.

A high number of page views and/or unique visitors is a measure of the site's success — and, most importantly, its worth to advertisers.

Advertisers like to use sites with high volumes of traffic, because more people get to see their ads. Websites make more money when they get more traffic, because they bill the advertisers according to the number of page views they get.

How can clickbait be harmful?

If you are considering using clickbait as a strategy to increase your page views, you may want to think again.

Clickbait is lazy

It takes virtually no effort to boost substandard content with a clickbait headline. But what does it say about you? And what does it say about how you regard your readers?

Clickbait has a bad reputation

Clickbait has become synonymous with poor quality, and sometimes spammy, content. These are not things you should want your brand to be associated with.

Clickbait abuses and loses trust

Savvy readers are getting wise to clickbait. Where once they were curious, they are now becoming wary and sceptical. Social sharing of clickbait articles has diminished. Losing the trust and respect of your target audience won't do you any favours.

What should we do instead?

Never compromise your brand

You have spent too long building your brand and its reputation to ruin it for the sake of a few clicks.

Aim to surprise/enlighten/engage your audience
Just make sure you don't disappoint them or make them feel you have wasted their time.

Invest in quality content
Show you respect your audience by providing them with consistently meaningful and valuable content. This will build trust and appreciation — and encourage social sharing.

Deliver what you promise
Start by using a headline that accurately describes what your content is about.
I like to write the headline first, so I always know exactly what I'm working towards.

Follow up by making sure your content fits the headline.

For example, if you start out with a question make sure you answer it. If you are giving a list of 10 tips, make sure you provide the full number and ensure each tip is useful and different from the others.

Do you need some help to create quality content?

I am an experienced copywriter with lots of good content marketing ideas that don't involve using clickbait.

To find out more, please contact me.