I’ve written copy and content for businesses my entire career. Whether I’m writing corporate content for large organisations, CEOs or small businesses, I see people making the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to articulating what a business does and how it helps people. And I would know, because it’s these mistakes that keep me in business year-on-year. Not all businesses make these mistakes of course, but it’s rare not to find a few (if not all) of these issues cropping up when writing or editing for clients.
So what are they?
1. Making it all about you
How often have you landed on a business (or business leader’s) website, excited to read more about how they can help you improve your yoga technique, manage your finances or change careers, and the first thing you read is all about them — their experience and expertise, their passions, their values? The first thing customers should understand on your website is how you can help them. By all means, talk about yourself , but save it for your about page. Your homepage and the bulk of your website should be all about how you help your customers.
The first thing customers should understand on your website is how you can help them.
2. Ignoring the best resource for your copy
The people most qualified to articulate the value of your business services and your point of difference, is your customers. Too often businesses will go through a whole website rebrand and copy refresh without consulting past and existing customers. Your customers know the real value you offer. They can tell you why they decided to work with you and why they were happy with the outcome. Best of all, they’ll tell you this in simple terms and plain English. If you take the time to get this feedback, either informally or through surveys and testimonials, you’ll start to see a pattern, key themes and points that help you clarify your value proposition. Moreover, your copy will speak directly to the people who most benefit from your services.
The people most qualified to articulate the value of your business is your customers.
3. Confusing copy and content
In general conversation, people often mix up copy and content but they’re not the same thing. When it comes to writing for business, knowing the difference is key. In brief, copy sells and persuades, while content shares and engages. For example, an advertisement positioning a house for sale on a property website will use copy, because the aim is to sell the house to the reader. Copy uses words like sign up, buy now, contact me, etc. An article on the same property site providing ‘five tips to style your house for sale’ is content, because it’s offering helpful, insightful information for free, without selling. Content aims to create trust and build a relationship for the long term, so you shouldn’t see a direct sales pitch at the end of a content piece. Confusing copy and content will lead to confused customers. You’ll miss the chance to persuade people to work with you if you don’t use copy on your website, and likewise, you’ll risk losing a strong relationship with readers of your blog if you continually use your posts to sell instead of sharing insights freely.
Copy sells and persuades, while content builds trust by sharing insights for free.
4. Focusing on features and forgetting benefits
Let’s say you’re selling something on your site, an online course perhaps. You write down all of the great things you can think of to say about this service. You list the number of modules, dates of coaching calls, membership group info, your free eBook…all sorted right? Not quite. All you’ve done is list the features of your course ie what it is. What you haven’t included yet is the benefits of the course ie what it does. When the ipod was first launched there was a clear difference between features and benefits, both of which were employed in its marketing. The feature of an ipod was 1GB of MP3s (what it is) and the benefit was 1,000 songs in your pocket (what it does). The other special thing about making sure you include benefits is they’re focused on how your product helps your customers. MP3s have nothing much to do with me, but 1,000 of my favourite songs absolutely does.
A feature is what something is, a benefit is what something does. Include both, but benefits are actually more customer focused.
5. Paying for A-grade graphic design — then skimping on copy
If you want to make all of the mistakes above, get your team assistant to write your brochure copy or the sales page for your next event. Seriously — unless your team assistant happens to be an experienced, trained copywriter (in which case, they probably wouldn’t be your assistant) then you should pay a professional to refresh your copy and content. Paying for top design and not engaging a copywriter is like getting all dressed up for a ball in your gown or suit, then not bothering to talk to anyone when you get there. You’ll look the part, but your conversation (or lack thereof) will let you down. Having someone in your team, whether it’s your assistant or you as the business leader, put together a first draft is a great idea, and an experienced copywriter will be thrilled to have a baseline of content to work with. But let’s be clear that’s what it is — a starting draft only. An expert copywriter will take that baseline and ensure it works ten times harder for your business, based on your strengths, goals and your ideal customers. When you see the refreshed copy and compare it with the starting draft, you’ll see the difference — but most importantly, so will your customers.
Paying for top design and not engaging a copywriter is like getting all dressed up for a ball in your gown or suit, then not bothering to talk to anyone when you get there.
Next time you’re creating copy and content, keep these five things in mind for a significant lift in the quality of your messaging (and customer engagement).