Thursday, 11 January 2018

9 Steps to help you get acquainted with your brand

The importance of creating a strong brand.

In a crowded marketplace, a strong and engaging brand can be a positive differentiator, making your business stand out from the crowd.

To create your winning brand, you should know it inside out, live and breathe it and keep it at the core of everything you do.

If you're unsure of who/what your brand is, this guide will help you get acquainted and create a clear strategy for your future communications.

Setting some guidelines will help to keep your communications on-brand and appropriate for your target market. It will also be a useful guide for any copywriters or creatives you might work with.

1. Who is your brand talking to?

Your brand should be created with your target audience in mind and should take into account:
  • What they want or need from your brand
  • What is important to them and how your brand fulfils it

2. What does your brand look like?

You can start to get a visual sense your brand by collating things that you feel represent it. These could be pictures, colours, shapes, textures and anything else that inspires you.

What your brand be if it were a physical object, such as a food item, a piece of furniture, an environment, a fabric, an animal or a bird?

Compare and contrast different ideas to help you establish what is on-brand and off-brand.

What visually represents your brand? Here are some examples to get you started:
  • Calming pastel shades or bold, vivid colours?
  • An octagon with many sides or a fluid circle?
  • Cute and endearing or fierce and confident?
  • Rolling countryside or bustling city?
  • Organic and natural or innovative and technological?
  • A fresh, crunchy salad or a comforting bowl of pasta?
  • Rustic sack cloth or tactile velvet?
  • Solid hardwood and leather or intricate embroidery and lace?
  • Hard and shiny or soft and comfortable?

    3. How should your brand make your customers feel?

    A strong brand can evoke feelings and sensations. For example, customers might feel confident when using your service or excited when you announce a new product launch.

    How does your brand make you customers feel? 
    • Comfortable and familiar?
    • Enthusiastic and excited?
    • Calm and peaceful? 
    • Energised and exhilarated?
    • Assured and supported?
    • Confident and self-assured?
    • Warm and fuzzy?
    • Challenged and interested?
    • Luxurious and indulgent?
    • Nostalgic?
    • Entertained?

    4. How is your brand different?

    Think about how your brand fits into the current marketplace.

    What distinguishes your brand from your competitors? 
    • A clear Unique Selling Point (USP)?
    • Its history, background or how it came to be?
    • Its ethics, for example, organic, fair-trade or cruelty-free?
    • Superior/specialist knowledge, experience, quality or service?

    5. What does your brand have to say?

    To get a feel for your brand's voice, think about what it stands for and what messages it might convey.

    Here are some examples of things you might consider:

    • Does it have an agenda — maybe environmental, political or technological?
    • Does it seek to revolutionise or change something?
    • What is it promoting and how will it make our lives better?
    • Will it improve the way we do things?
    • Is it empowering and confidence-boosting?
    • Is it inspirational or motivational?
    • Is it moral and ethical?

    6. What does your brand sound like?

    What is your brand's personality? How does it speak to its audience? What language and tone of voice does it use?

    Bear in mind that the tone and language should be appropriate for your market and the product or service you are offering. For example, does your brand sound:
    • Enthusiastic and upbeat?
    • Smooth and sophisticated?
    • Straight talking and direct?
    • Official and authoritative?
    • Friendly and down to earth?
    • Empathic and compassionate?
    • Intelligent and informed?
    • Young and cool or hipster?
    • Witty and humorous?

    7. What is your mission?

    A clear mission statement can help to further define your brand, where it's going and what you want it to achieve. Your mission statement should be concise and to-the-point — ideally no more than two sentences — so only include the things that matter the most.

    Here are some things you might consider:
    • What do you want to be the best at?
    • What do you want to be known or admired for?
    • What do you want your customers' experience to be?
    • Is your ethical stance part of your mission?
    • What do you want for your employees?
    • What do you want for the future of your organisation and what do you want to become?

    8. Immersing yourselves in your brand

    Once you are acquainted with your brand, you need to channel it through everything you do and make it a core part of your organisation.

    Here are some of the ways you can achieve this: 
    • Keep your surroundings on-brand
      • Decorate your space using your brand's colour profile
      • Choose furnishings in styles and colours that reflect your brand  
      • Display your mission statement and other on-brand words of wisdom
      • Install on-brand artwork and decorative items
    • Keep your company language on-brand
      • Use on-brand internal and external communications
      • Make your brand part of your culture — think about the way you speak to each other and the terminology you use
      • Stay true to your brand when dealing with phone calls and emails — think about small things like your telephone greeting and email signature
    • Be consistent 
      • Create a seamless visual, written and verbal brand identity
      • Think about the customer experience and make sure every element is on-brand

    9. Evolving your brand

    Remember, things change and that even some of the most famous and iconic brands have evolved over time.

    A strong brand can respond to changing markets and changing trends by updating itself and evolving to stay at the top.

    Here are some of the things you could be doing:
    • Watch the market and note how it is changing 
    • Monitor how people are engaging with your brand — has engagement increased, declined or stayed the same?
    • If people are commenting on your social media posts, what are they saying?
    • Monitor what your competitors are doing — are they changing and, if so, how?
    • Watch your competitors' social media — what are people saying about their brand and how are they responding?
    • Review your mission statement and make sure it still represents your future goals
    • Review your brand identity and make sure it is still hitting the right spot
    • If you are planning to make major changes to your brand, make sure there is a good reason and that you have a clear plan for what you want the changes to achieve

    If you would like some help with copywriting for your brand, why not give me a call?

    I am a professional copywriter who can help you establish your brand's tone of voice and  communication guidelines.

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

    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.