A potential client asked me, “Do you have any experience writing about debt management?”
I must confess, I did not. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
“No,” I said, “but in the past, I’ve written for other clients whose business I initially knew nothing about.”
I was once hired to write blog articles for a paper company.
Their customer base was varied, ranging from professional printers, amateur scrapbookers, event planners, and brides-to-be. And their paper products were as varied as their customers, from plain-jane cardstock to specialty paper like vellum. Vellum?
And what did I know about the paper industry?
Zilch. Nada. Nothing.
But lack of industry knowledge didn’t stymie my production of weekly blog articles. Working with the company’s subject matter expert and performing my own research, I became a paper prodigy in no time at all.
However, even though my product knowledge initially was minimal, my copywriting knowledge wasn’t. And ultimately, that was why my client hired me, because I knew the marketing value of their blog.
With regular posting of articles that were educational, fun, and sprinkled with discount offers, the company grew their customer base and increased sales.
The same holds true for any other copywriting project, whether it be a landing page, a case study, or an email marketing campaign.
Knowledge of the industry is important, but, without a copywriter who’s familiar with the channel being used and how to write the copy to achieve specific results, you’re only solving half the problem.
Easy is a word that's easy to use for copywriters. Its meaning is clear: something’s not hard or difficult.
And who doesn't like easy?
Easy can be used in a lot of different ways to express all kinds of variations of easiness, like “an easy online application,” meaning there’ll be no great effort required by you to complete it, or “easy pickings,” meaning a particular item or items is readily available.
However it’s used, whether as an adjective or adverb, the message is clear: Using the word easy says to a reader, “Hey, you won’t encounter complexity here.”
For this reason, easy is a word that's an easy choice for copywriters. Made up of just four letters, it’s a particularly popular word in catalog copywriting, where word space is often restricted.
But consider this: Is your interpretation of easy the same as mine? More importantly, is your interpretation of easy the same as your customer’s?
Using “easy” when you write copy can sometimes be the easy way out. This catch-all term helps prospects understand that your product or service isn’t complicated, which is an excellent selling point to get across. But is it enough to convince prospects to buy?
What if your competitor’s product is easy, too? How do you differentiate your product’s ease from theirs? Try this: give details and concrete examples in your copy.
Let’s say you sell an app designed to streamline your potential customer’s client communications. Your copy states that the app is “easy to use.” But, what if you wrote instead, “Customers have told us that they downloaded the app and were accessing patient records in less than five minutes.”
Which copy version do you think would have prospects raising their eyebrows and nodding their heads? (Hint: the second one.)
Illustrating in your copy how easy your product or service is versus just saying that it’s easy makes copywriting more challenging, but your product's appeal will be greater because it stands out from the crowd.
I always thought that I wasn't creative. Creativity, in my mind, was reserved for painters like Van Gogh or writers like Hemingway. Not for a mere mortal like me. The closest I got to creativity, I think, was in my junior year of high school. I took an art course because I didn't want to take a shorthand class.
In art class, I discovered that I liked to draw, especially horses. But drawing did not come naturally to me. I imagined the greats just stood before their canvas or drawing pad and the art just flowed from them, without thought or effort. Not so for me. The art I produced resulted from repeated, mechanical, painstaking attempts to copy my subject. Make what I was trying to replicate have some resemblance to the actual model. But over the course of the school year, the more I practiced, the better I became. Rembrandt better? No. But improvement nonetheless. I felt I was beginning to "create."
Now, years later, as a freelance copywriter, I still often struggle with being “creative.” (Maybe not the best thing for a copywriter to be confessing, out here on the world wide web?)
But, based on what I learned back in my high school art class, creativity can be learned, and practiced.
And, like in my junior year of high school, I practice copywriting regularly with painstaking attempts to replicate the writing genius of the “artists” I follow.
By studying the likes of copywriters Bob Bly, Marcia Yudkin, or Eddie Shleyner, to name a few, I’m educating myself. Learning good habits and methods, which in turn will provide value to my clients.
And, coincidentally enough, the pros I just mentioned frequently refer to copywriting greats that they hold in high esteem. So maybe they, too, have had their own struggles with creativity? If so, I’m in excellent company!
“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.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter