Throughout this 6-part series, I’ve been taking you on a tour of the ‘7 Graces’ and how they apply to the practice of writing marketing copy for our websites, sales pages, newsletters, email shots, blog articles, social media updates, and so on. So far we have covered:
- PART 1: Grace-FULL Tips for Writing Effective Marketing Copy – where we looked at how to bring the Graces of Connection and Inspiration into our written copy.
- PART 2: Tips for Writing Clear, Inviting and Ethical Marketing Copy – where we looked at how to bring the Graces of Invitation and Directness into our written copy.
- PART 3: A Case for Transparency – Ditching the Formulaic Sales Page – where we looked at how to bring the Grace of Transparency into our written copy.
- PART 4: Bringing the Flow of Abundance into Our Online Marketing – where we looked at how to bring the Grace of Abundance into our online marketing and indeed our worldview.
- PART 5: Taking a Collaborative Approach to Writing Marketing Copy – where we looked at practical ways we can use it to infuse greater relevance and deeper connection into our online marketing.
TODAY, as promised, I’ll be sharing my top 10 writing tips for putting together your online marketing copy. Tip number 10 will also give you a ‘formula’ to follow, to help you structure your copy to make it effective. Please don’t skip the tips that come before it, though, because unless you incorporate tips 1-9 into the formula, you’ll miss the mark in your copy.
A Bit of Context Before We Begin
These tips have been taken from the most common issues I encounter in my work with my own clients who come to me for help. Because of this, I think it’s important that you know a bit about my client base so you can understand the context from which these tips have been gleaned. My client base is comprised of varying types of SMEs (small to medium enterprises). They include both traditional businesses (usually sole proprietor or partnerships) and non-profit incorporations, such as social enterprises. Their industries range from high-tech software, corporate training and high-end business support to holistic health therapy, music distribution and spiritual books and magazines. While many of my clients are authors, all of them have businesses that offer other services and products, such as coaching, training, therapy and keynote speaking.
Ok, so now that’s out of the way, here we go.
TIP 1: Meet People Where They Are
‘Meeting people where they are’ means that your copy speaks to your audience’s current state of mind and emotions. The mistake I often see people make in their copy is that they immediately launch into speaking about their own services and products, getting very technical from the start. This is a sure-fire way to get people to click away from your website.
The other common mistake I see people make is that they open their copy with the ‘solution’, but it’s about 10 steps ahead of where their audience is coming from. For example, one of my clients works with teams within corporations, and recently published a book aimed at corporate managers and team leaders. The promotional copy for the book led with the words ‘we can heal our organisations’ and then went into a lot of technical talk about the strategies she shared inside the book.
The problem with this is that the leading headline does not speak to the current state of mind of her audience. They’re not necessarily thinking, ‘My company is sick. I need to heal it.’ They’re probably thinking, ‘How can we increase productivity?’ or ‘How can we get better and conflict resolution?’ or ‘How can we make communications more efficient?’ My client might be able to see the bigger picture and recognise that there is often a deeper issue in organisations that make them ‘sick’, but this is not the ‘starting point’ from which her audience is coming. Of course, the point of the book is to take them from their current state of mind to this deeper understanding. But the aim of your marketing copy should simply be to speak to your audience’s current state of mind and invite them to consider the possibility of exploring your solutions.
The aim of your marketing copy should be to speak to your audience’s current state of mind, and invite them to consider the possibility of exploring your solutions.
To meet people where they are, you need to understand who your audience is. Before you even write a single word of copy, sit down and define your audience as specifically as possible. How old are they? Are they male, female or both? Are you speaking to professionals (B2B) or to the public consumer? What do they already know? What do they NOT yet know? What has happened in their lives most recently? What solutions or information are they seeking that led them to your website?
And MOST importantly, what search words are they most likely to have typed into Google to find you?
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to look at Tip 2.
TIP 2: Write Through Your Audience’s Eyes
Your writing needs to address the specific needs your audience already has. Of course, many old-school marketers try to create artificial needs by telling their audience how they’re losing out because they don’t have something wonderful they are offering. This creates a sense of discomfort in the reader. That’s what the old-school marketer is counting on; if people feel discomfort, they will buy something to relieve the discomfort.
But if you really step into your audience’s shoes, you can write your copy through their eyes, with compassion and connection. You can identify the issues they are already seeking, so they can see themselves in your copy like a mirror. The more specific you are about this, the clearer they can see themselves.
How you do that becomes clearer in Tip 3.
TIP 3: Make It CONCRETE
The other day I worked with a client named Paula (http://inspiredwomenwork.com), who said that her audience was ‘women in transition’. I felt this was too vague. What kind of transition? Life transitions can include divorce, menopause, a death in the family, career change, relocation, sudden health issues, retirement and many other things. Each of these things holds desires for the person experiencing them, and different challenges for the person seeking to help them. The question is, did Paula want to address all of these, or focus on a specific area of them? Paula decided to focus on professional transitions instead of ‘all’ transitions, which was already a great step in the right direction.
Another thing to consider is that perhaps the woman visiting this website is so involved in her own issues that she doesn’t even realise she’s ‘in transition’. She only knows that she has a problem and may feel stuck, overwhelmed and even depressed. In that state of mind, it can be hard for her to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Because of that, it’s important to go back to Tip 1 and ‘meet them where they are’ and gradually take them to consider the possibility that they are in transition.
Your copy needs to concretely identify and describe your readers’ situation, so they can recognise themselves within your words. So you can see what I mean, here’s a portion of some ‘concrete’ first-draft copy I created for Paula to consider:
For so many women in the 21st Century, work is a central focus of our lives. Our work impacts us financially, emotionally, socially and even spiritually. So, when something happens to shake our professional world, we can often feel like our lives have turned upside down:
- We might lose our job and feel overwhelmed and directionless.
- We might become ill and can no longer work in the same job we’ve done for years, leaving us feeling vulnerable and depressed.
- We might have hit a wall in our current work situation where we feel trapped and dissatisfied, but with no idea how to change things.
Because all of these things can make us feel so horrible, what we might not be able to recognise is that we are actually ‘in transition’. It might be hard to believe right now, but transitions are doorways from an old way of being to a new one that is often better and brighter.
This is where I come in. I’m a coach and mentor for women who are in professional transitions. I help them find their way through the fog so they can move to the next stage of their professional journey, and discover their ‘right livelihood’ that brings them security, fulfilment and personal satisfaction…
TIP 4: It’s Not About YOU. It’s About THEM.
Notice in Tip 3 that I only started talking about Paula AFTER I allowed the readers to identify themselves in the copy. This is extremely important! The focus of your copy should be about your readers, not about you. Yes, eventually you will talk about what you offer and why it is helpful, but remember that your audience did not do a Google search for your products; they did a Google search to find a specific answer to a specific question.
TIP 5: Take Out All Unnecessary Words
Tips 1-4 are the tips that will help ensure that your copy is audience-focused. These tips underpin the Graces of Connection, Inspiration and Invitation. Now we move on to Tips 5-9, which address the Grace of Directness.
Writing copy is a creative art. However, this doesn’t mean you should waft too poetically in it. If you use a lot of fluffy, flowery, ‘pretty’ language, it might make you feel creative, but it might lose your readers entirely. Take out all the fluff and just say things as they are. Sure, you can add a few nice words here and there to make it tastier, but make sure that every word has a purpose in your writing.
Taking out unnecessary words makes your copy easier to understand. Here’s a tip from my daughter, Vrinda Pendred, who is just about the best editor I know: after you’ve written your copy, do a search for these commonly over-used adverbs and see how many you can delete without affecting the meaning. You’ll be amazed at how much clearer and tighter your text will become:
actually, surely, quite, very, really, honestly, truthfully, nearly, truly, relatively, simply (and many more).
TIP 6: Ditch The Jargon
Along the same lines, take a look at your copy and see where you are using a lot of personal or industry jargon.
Your ‘personal’ jargon could be terms that you have coined. Many people believe that inventing a jargon unique to your business makes you stand out as a brand. While that can be true, it doesn’t always work in marketing copy. In fact, if you feel the need to include it in your copy, be sure it’s well after all the other points above have been covered. Better still, make it minimal in your copy and give a link to an article for them to read that tells more about it. If you get too jargon-y or technical in your copy, you’ll lose your audience entirely.
Another common mistake I see is when companies use a lot of ambiguous industry jargon on their landing page. This is what I call ‘Big Speaks’, a term I borrow from the H. G. Wells book The Island of Doctor Moreau, which refers to the practice of people using big words just to give their words the illusion of being ‘important’. It’s kind of like the old saying, ‘If you can’t impress them with intelligence, then baffle them with bullshit.’ I find such copy off-putting. It also makes my eyes glaze over and I don’t know what I’m reading.
When writing copy, it’s really not a good idea to ‘assume’ that your audience understands (or even wants to understand) your jargon. Even if you’re a B2B business and you’re using industry-specific jargon, it’s good practice to keep your language understandable to the employee who is on his/her first day on the job. Again, if you need to go into more detail, reference your copy out to an article that gives more information.
TIP 7: Explain Your Terminology
Ok, this might sound contradictory coming right after Tip 6, but sometimes you HAVE TO use certain terminology/jargon in your copy because it identifies your brand. For example, I couldn’t talk about the 7 Graces paradigm without mentioning ‘the 7 Deadly Sins’ and the ‘7 Graces of Marketing’. But when I do, I don’t ‘assume’ that people understand what they mean. It’s important to give an explanation when you first use your terminology in your copy.
This practice doesn’t just go for brand specific terms. Remember above in Tip 3 where I shared you Paula’s draft copy? I felt it was important to explain what Paula meant by the word ‘transition’ within the context of her company. You might think your terms are self-evident, but I assure you they are not. If you go back and read parts 1-5 of this article series, you will see that I clearly explained my terms like ‘Connection’, ‘Abundance’, ‘Scarcity’ and so on. Unless you explain your terminology in your marketing copy, it will fail to communicate your meaning to your audience.
Unless you explain your terminology in your marketing copy, it will fail to communicate your meaning to your audience.
TIP 8: Keep Sentences and Paragraphs SHORT
One of the most common mistakes I see is sentences that go on and on and on and on and on…
Having come from a musician’s background, I’m very auditory. Whether you are reading or speaking them aloud, all sentences have a natural rhythm. Sometimes a sentence seems to ‘want’ to end in a certain place, but it has too many words or syllables to allow that to happen. READ your sentences aloud. If you hear a ‘stop’ or a ‘pause’ in them, consider putting a full stop (period) there and make two (or more) sentences out of the one you have. And, of course, go back to Tip 5 and take out all unnecessary words.
The same thing goes for paragraph lengths. It’s vital in online copy that your paragraphs are relatively short (just a few sentences). This is because it is difficult for the human eye to stay focused on long paragraphs in an online setting. If your paragraph contains more than one central idea, split it into two or more paragraphs.
TIP 9: Give Attention To Your Visual Presentation
The experience of reading online is very different from reading the printed page. It’s actually very taxing on the eyes. If you want your audience to keep reading (rather than click away due to feeling exhausted by your web page) it’s vital to give ample attention to how the visual presentation impacts your readers.
Here are some fundamentals:
- CHUNK your ideas into short paragraph blocks.
- Break up your copy with boldface headers to signify each new block (as I’ve done in this article).
- Use an easy-to-read font that is neither too small nor too large.
- Use a WHITE background behind your body text.
- Use ONLY black font colour for your main copy text.
- You can use colours for specific points you wish to highlight, or define, as being different from the body text (as I did with Paula’s draft copy above). But when you do, make sure to use only ONE colour. Websites that use too many font colours not only look amateurish, but they can really wear down your reader’s eyes. Make sure that the colour you choose is high-contrast against the white background. Colours like yellow, pink or aqua are often impossible to read.
- Do not CROWD your text. Make sure there is a lot of white space around it on all four sides.
- Try not to make your readers scroll too much. If your copy is getting too long and you are covering too many ideas, should consider putting some of it on a different page and linking out to it from the main page.
TIP 10: Follow This Structure:
Ok, taking all of the previous 9 tips into consideration, here’s a quick structure you might want to follow when creating your copy:
- Open your copy by identifying what your audience are seeking. Again, think back to the search terms they might have used to find in the first place.
- Then, describe your readers and their issue(s) in such a way that they feel like they’re looking at themselves in a mirror. Be sure to give clear, concrete examples.
- Summarise in a sentence or two the overarching focus of what your company does and how you address their specific issues.
- Briefly list or describe your services/products (you might link out to other pages containing more detailed information about them).
- Explain what makes you different. Describe your specific strategies, techniques, etc. You can mention your ‘brand jargon’ but remember, don’t get too technical or you’ll lose your readers. Again, you can link out to a separate page if you feel the need to elaborate.
- Reiterate your commitment to them. Some people put testimonials here, but it’s not really mandatory. Besides, you might think it brings credibility to you, but endless testimonials are horribly boring to your readers!
- Close your copy with some inspiring and encouraging words, and invite them either a) to contact you (if your copy is for a service) or b) to purchase your product (if your copy is for a product).
I hope you’ve found this article to be useful. It was certainly useful to me to have a chance to sit down and analyse some of the ways I think when I approach copywriting. I believe the strategies I have shared in this article can help you stay customer-focused and establish a connection with your audience. This is really at the heart of the 7 Graces paradigm. I am on a mission to help educate business owners about doing marketing in a different way that is aimed at serving our customers rather than trying to ‘capture’ and ‘convert’ them.
I hope you’ll help spread this movement by adopting these strategies, and leading others by your own example.
If you enjoyed this series, I hope you’ll subscribe to the 7 Graces blog so you can receive future articles. We publish twice a week.
And, once again, if you’re looking for help in writing marketing copy for your ethical business or non-fiction book, please do drop us a line via the contact form on this site. I’d love to have a chat to discuss your needs.
8th November 2013
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)