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29 March 2011

Marketing

Spring Clean Your Copy

We may have lost an hour's kip over the weekend, but any initial sleep deprivation will soon be forgotten as our body clocks synchronise with spring and the cleansing rituals of the new season begin.

Spring is a time to clear out the clutter that has accumulated over winter's long, dark months and welcome in a new, brighter season. It's a chance to reflect on the old and salute the new, and concentrate efforts on those life-improving tasks: from revamping the home to redirecting careers and making new personal and professional decisions.

On a professional front, while you're rethinking your business model and fine-tuning that marketing strategy, why not take into consideration the words you use to promote your products and services? For these are the essence of your sales pitch; this is how you communicate with your audience. So spring into action and get your copywriting right.

1. Keep it fresh

Remember to regularly update your content, whether it's online or in print. Nobody likes to read an out-dated brochure. If you have a website, then SEO (search engine optimisation) needs on-going attention. You have more chance of being noticed by search engines if you keep on producing quality, concise and relevant content, therefore increasing your company's exposure, rankings and sales.

2. Do your research

How can you write convincing copy if you don't know what you're writing about? First and foremost: study the product or service and list its unique selling points. Talk to the buyer, the product manager or the account executive. Research ads and direct mail packages for competitive products, and if possible, try the product or service yourself. Then build your copy framework with facts, before embellishing your work with a touch of personal flair.

3. Know your audience

To write effective copy you need a clear understanding of the goals of your piece. Are you trying to get your visitors to purchase something or have them sign up for your newsletter? Remember, you are trying to get someone you have never met take a step towards buying a product or service. Know who they are and write in their language. Read your target market's magazines and newspapers to gauge the pitch, and study the product's competitors.

4. Be clear and concise

When you're writing commercial copy don't be too self-indulgent - copywriting isn't a place for you to get creative. You need to communicate with your audience through your words, so your piece needs be structured and organised so that it makes sense; every single word should be chosen for a reason.

5. Use that fine toothed comb!

Check and check again! It is your job to ensure your copy is typo-free, consistent in style and grammatically perfect. Just as with any piece of copy entering the public domain, it's got your reputation riding on it, so ensure you check it at least three times. Stick to a style guide so that you maintain a consistent format. Revise your web copy after taking a break from it for several hours or a few days. This allows you to see it with a fresh eye. If you're staring at a computer screen print it out and proof it on paper.

6. Keep it simple

Showy writing isn't sales writing. Don't use words just because they sound impressive, and leave jargon alone. You have very limited time to grab the attention of your readers so it's important to remember to stick to the point. Try to avoid being clever and don't spend time constructing long complex sentences. Keep your sentences short as they are easier to digest.

7. Plan ahead

Plan, plan, plan ahead. Ask yourself questions: Why am I writing this? Who is my target audience? What do they need to know? How can I communicate to them in a clear and concise manner? In order for your content to achieve its purpose you need to do your research, know your audience, structure your piece and plan before starting to write.

8. Headlines!

Creating a headline is not always as easy as it sounds, but it's imperative that you get it right. Headlines are what get your copy read in the first place - they should be punchy and to the point. Most readers will simply scan for the information they are seeking, so they are attracted to what stands out. You only have a few seconds to grab your visitors' attention - so no matter how great your copy is, if your headline is boring, it will simply not be read.

9. Know how to write online

So much is done online these days, you'd be a fool not to fine-tune your skills to be an online copywriting pro. If your background is in print, then extend your skillset for the online market as well. Get some tips on writing effective SEO. Use targeted keywords in your web copy that will allow the search engines to find your site. Include these keywords in your image names, links, file names and page titles also.

10. Enjoy it

If you produce copy that is a joy to write then your audience will find it a joy to read. Writing quality copy should be fulfilling, so have some fun with it. Inject some humour into your work (if it's relevant to the piece) and produce something that you're proud of.

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