“We’re going to do a long form and short form version this time,” my client wrote in his email.
My brows furrowed at what I’d just read.
He was talking about the new case study that he wanted me to write. “The short form we’ll use for social media and blog posts.”
I found myself nodding in agreement. A well-written case study is a versatile marketing tool.
A typical case study is basically a lengthy customer review, around 500 - 800 words. A case study highlights the journey taken by a satisfied customer in a quest to solve a problem, a problem that your product or service ultimately solved. Because a case study tells the story of the customer’s experience, before and after she chose your product, there’s no hard selling or marketing lingo.
Be sure to include some direct quotes from the client that emphasize her satisfaction with your company's product or performance. Did she comment that your customer service was outstanding whenever she called with a question, or that implementation went flawlessly? In addition, any numbers that can support claims of improvement or measurable results add validity to the study.
Case studies are a perfect resource to share on your website for reference, or to hand out at trade shows or conferences. They can even be transformed into press releases. And editing the study to a shorter version of its former self, as my client wanted me to do, provides even more ways to promote your product in other channels.
I read an excellent “mini” version just recently in the Dell Small Business Catalog. With just a few quotes from the CEO of the small, featured startup, the diminutive “Customer Story,” a mere 189 words, succinctly explained the benefits of using a Dell Small Business Technology Advisor.
Whether traditional long form or an abbreviated variation, take advantage of your customers’ satisfaction and let them promote your product through a case study.
I had a riding lesson a couple of days ago. Hadn’t had one for several months, partially due to my horse and me getting separate injuries that knocked us both out of commission.
(Nope, it wasn’t a fall. He cut his shoulder during turn out, I hurt my hip walking dogs!)
The first of this year, I moved my horse to a farm with an indoor, since we live in cold, snowy New England where it’s hard to do any serious riding during the winter. It had been more than two months since either of us had done anything except for a little hacking here and there, so the first few weeks at the new place we spent working on our fitness and just getting back into the swing of things.
Now that it’s well into February, I felt we were both ready to step things up, so I scheduled a lesson with my trainer.
I felt that my horse was going pretty well (famous last words.) Problems we’d been dealing with this time last year were no longer apparent, so progress was being made.
Looking forward to the feedback I was soon to receive, my lesson began.
Just minutes into our warmup, in right rein rising trot, my trainer asked, “How does he feel?”
I responded, “He feels like he’s tipping to the right.” And to that my trainer replied, “Well, he is because you are.”
To prove it, she filmed me with her phone for a couple of circles and then had me watch.
Well, looky there -- I was leaning to the right!
For a good chunk of the remainder of my lesson we worked on getting my seat bones square in the saddle. And when I did, the change in my horse’s way of going was remarkable.
All because of a miniscule shift in the placement of my butt!
But without my trainer’s experienced eyes from the ground observing the obvious, I may never have realized this since riding this way had become habitual. It felt normal to me.
The same can be said about writing your own copy, whether product descriptions, web content, or catalog copy.
You, as a business owner, may know your business and your products. And you may think that because of this knowledge, you’re the best candidate for the job.
But are you knowledgeable in writing copy that successfully sells your business or products?
Do you understand the psychology behind selling?
Can you set aside the pride you have in your business or products and step one hundred percent into your customers' shoes and write from their perspective?
Like me on my horse, believing everything was dandy, until my knowledgeable trainer opened my eyes to the fact that I resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you too could benefit from the skills and objectivity of a professional.
And like my horse, whose improved way of going was instantaneous due to the little tweaks my trainer had me make, your sales could improve exponentially with just tiny adjustments made to your copy. Fixes that might never occur to you but would be apparent to a skilled copywriter.
A person trained in using the written word as a selling tool.
Lifelong horsewoman, part-time dog walker, and former vet assistant, Suzanne Quigley has been a freelance copywriter for 10+ years. She writes catalog copy, product descriptions, web content, blog posts, press releases, and more. Although the equine and pet markets are her forte, Suzanne has written for other industries too, and knows that good copywriting practices apply anywhere. Contact Suzanne today at 508-277-4929, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was reading a comment on a Facebook page the other day and the writer used “language” that you often see in texts.
You know, stuff like “LOL” and “OMG.” However, the acronym the writer had written, I had never seen before, and I had no clue what it stood for so didn’t know what it meant.
I was confused.
(I confess, I googled a web site that translates this sort of stuff to decipher what the acronym stood for.)
So, other than showing that I’m a novice when it comes acronyms and texting, why am I telling you this story?
What I experienced, the confusion of not knowing what the unfamiliar acronym stood for, is something that your catalog readers can experience too, if you don’t make a point to explain things to them.
For example, I have a client who sells equine products.
When I was reading the product description for a pair of horse boots, the description included that the boots were made of TPU.
Now, I didn’t know what TPU was and at that moment, I became the perplexed customer, contemplating what those letters might stand for. This confusion began leading me down the wrong path, away from the one that ends at the "Add to Cart" button.
From a copywriting perspective, simply saying that the boot is made of TPU adds nothing to the value or the salesmanship of the copy if the potential buyer has no clue what it is. If she doesn’t know what it is, she can’t make a judgement as to whether it’s a good thing or not.
And why make your prospect try and guess what something is? All that does is distract her from what you ultimately want her to do - buy the product.
Chances are, she won’t google TPU on her Smartphone to learn what it is. But she may go looking elsewhere for boots for her horse.
Including “empty” information in your copy is a waste and doesn’t help you make a sale.
So, what to do?
Well, you could write this in your copy block or product description: “Constructed of TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) a combination of hard plastic and soft silicone…”.
Or, if there wasn’t room in the copy block itself, you could include this information in a sidebar on the same page that the product was being displayed on. (Space restrictions are a real thing with print catalogs, so you have to look hard at every word of copy and cut the fluff. For web product descriptions, space isn’t an issue, so you’ve no excuse for lazy copy.)
You may be thinking, “Really, is it that necessary to include such specific information?”
If you deem the information to be important enough to include in your copy and it’s something - like an acronym - which the average person wouldn’t know of, then you should explain it. This educates the prospect about your product, and most prospects are interested in learning about a product before purchasing.
If you’re consistent about this practice throughout your catalog's copy, you’ll gain a prospect’s trust. And being trustworthy leads to sales.
When you’re looking to hire a freelance catalog copywriter, should you look for a person who is already knowledgeable in what you’re selling?
The short answer is, not necessarily.
While a copywriter well-versed in your product line is at definite advantage because she already understands who your customers are and why they would want to buy your products, this advantage is only useful if the writer is skillful in weaving this knowledge into the copy she writes.
The skilled writer would lay out in her copy the major benefit that the product provides.
She would know that prospects are self-serving (aren’t we all?) and that they buy stuff ultimately to fulfill a want or a need.
Within her copy, she’d pounce on that emotion with words that hit the mark with the targeted customers.
But could a copywriter with little understanding of the products do the same?
For the most part, yes, but it would require research by the copywriter concerning the products and the demographics of the people who buy them.
And any catalog copywriter worth her salt would not be a stranger to research. It just goes with the territory.
Research is the key that makes it possible for a catalog copywriter to write copy for pretty much any kind of product. Of course, there are always exceptions …
If the products you sell are highly technical or specialized, you might prefer a copywriter who’s worked in the industry, who holds a related degree, or has written about these products in the past.
The experience such an individual brings to the table will enable her to produce, most likely, outstanding copy because she understands the products and the customers. But as important as this is, just as important to consider is: does her copy sell?
As you consider your freelance copywriting professional, be sure to read copy samples the writer has written previously.
Are they well done, meaning, do they address benefits and features? Do they speak clearly and persuasively to the targeted market? Do they communicate the right emotion, nudging prospects to buy?
If the copywriter you’re considering is skillful at the craft, half of the battle is won.
And if the writer is eager to learn about a new product or service (and most good copywriters are), and time spent in the learning curve is not a problem, you may find this to be a suitable option.
When you’re writing product descriptions for a product you’re familiar with, it’s easy to leave out details and just give generalities.
A while back, my saddle fitter told me my saddle was too long and the channel too narrow.
So, I started researching online for saddles.
One thing that I learned is that “wide” is a relative term. My wide and your wide may be two different things.
Some sites I visited described a saddle as having a wide channel but didn’t provide any picture of the saddle’s channel or measurement (like, 4” wide) in its description.
By providing a clear image of the saddle’s channel or stating a precise measurement, suddenly “wide” becomes quantifiable.
My point is best made by one poster who wrote in a forum of saddle seekers.
And I quote: “But I couldn't find any definitive information on the channel width other than "generous channel width" which I thought was vague.”
Before you begin writing a product description, step back and remember who your customer is and why she’s looking to buy your product.
Your product description should supply the answers to the following questions:
And embedded in those answers should be specific details, like a 4” wide channel versus a “generous” channel width.
An informed consumer is much more likely to buy your product. Give your customers the information that they need and watch your sales grow!
Don't lose out on sales because your product descriptions don't give your customer the details she needs to convince her to buy. Need help with this? Then contact me today!
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter