October 22nd, 2014 — Google
According to a recent article in The Drum Google is stepping up its efforts to cut out online piracy.
It has made changes to its algorithm to make sure some of the most notorious piracy sites are less likely to appear high in the results when someone searches for music, films or other copyrighted content. The idea is that Google will make sure legal sites appear at top of the pile albeit in the form of adverts – yes, that’s right, content providers will have to pay to appear there.
It is that last bit that’s got the ISBA riled.
The ISBA’s director of media and advertising, Bob Wootton commented:
“This is a step in the right direction, but with Google seeking to profit directly by ‘being part of the solution’ spoils the sentiment and leaves a bitter after-taste.
“The search engine’s solution clearly disadvantages legal sites. The fight against online piracy is of course welcomed by ISBA, but trying to make a profit out of it is surely not the way to go.”
You can read Google’s full about the measures taken here.
Is this a good thing?
You can’t deny that Google’s moving in the right direction, but is their solution really the best?
Certainly for their bottom line it is, but what about the consumer?
Will this levy have a knock on effect to the end consumer, effectively driving more people to the piracy sites therefore compounding the problem?
What are your thoughts on this issue? Leave a comment below to have your say.
October 15th, 2014 — Branding, copywriting tips, Copywriting tone
There’s no room for personality in business.
Are you sure about that?
If you are the type of business owner that believes all your marketing communications should be straight, professional and (for want of a better word) boring, it’s time to be enlightened.
Have a think about the marketing messages that resonate with you.
What was it that made you sit up and take notice.
I would hazard a guess at the way it ‘spoke’ to you. After all, if the message is boring and mundane it’s going to get lost amongst the many thousands of other marketing messages out there. If it’s to get noticed it must have personality.
Let’s face it, when you go into a store, if you’re met by disinterested store assistants who look bored to be there, you’re more than likely going to walk straight out the door again.
Likewise, if you land on a website in your search for that new wonder gadget you’re after and are faced with reams of boring text that tells you nothing other than it’s colour, power outage and that it’s “ground breaking” without any qualification to back that statement up, you’ll hit the back browser and look elsewhere.
That’s why your marketing, no matter what shape or form it takes, must have personality.
Brand POW or brand pop?
Every piece of marketing you put out must reflect the brand image you’ve worked so hard to build.
You do have a brand image, right?
The idea behind this consistent message is that your customers will get to recognise you from your style, colours, words and images.
OK, sure, small companies are unlikely to get the instant recognition enjoyed by the big players such as Apple, IBM, Nike or John Lewis, but a consistent message will help people identify you with the values you hold dear.
Building your personality
If you are a sole trader or an individual service provider, you shouldn’t need to work too hard on building your personality – it’s already there.
All you have to do is write your marketing materials from the heart.
When customers read your stuff, it should be consistent with the person they meet. If there’s a huge disconnect, they are less likely to do business with you.
Because from the moment they read your brochure or website, they began to form a relationship with you. They have, in their mind, an impression of who you are and what you’ll be like to work with. If, when they meet you, the real you is completely different that relationship will break down.
How do you get your personality across?
Write as though you were having a conversation with your customer. Picture yourself in your favourite pub, relaxing over a glass of wine (beer etc.) chatting about how you can help them. In real life, you’ll use simple language, no jargon and you’ll explain things in a way that makes them instantly accessible. This type of approach will make your customers warm to you and be more likely to talk to you to ask your advice because you won’t be going in for the hard sell.
It takes a bit of practice and goes against all the rules of academic writing that were drilled into you at school, but it will pay off if you persevere at it.
If you run a larger company my advice is the same.
The personality that comes through is that of your business, which means clearly identifying the values you want to reflect. Again, a simple, jargon-free conversational tone will work best in your marketing copy creating an impression of warmth and openness.
To create your personality:
- Think about the values that are important to you
- Write in a simple, jargon-free conversational tone
- Think about how you want your customers to see you
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd
October 8th, 2014 — Building a business, Freelance advice, freelance copywriter, Running a freelance business
If I’m honest with you, starting my own business was never my intention.
Seven years ago, after completing my English degree with the Open University, I was on the hunt for a job. Although my boys were still at school, I knew I needed to get back to work, but I still had to be around for them.
Finding something that gave me that flexibility was tough – after a lot of searching it basically came down to finance or admin in a school (there was no way I was cut out to be a teacher). The problem was, deep down, I knew that wasn’t right for me.
So, what to do?
It was my husband who first suggested I start something on my own. My reaction was to laugh.
Me, running my own business? Yeah, right, like that’s ever going to happen.
My girl friends were great and suggested all sorts of bizarre and wonderful job ideas, but then something weird happened.
The final year of my degree was in creative writing. A local friend of mine had been kind enough to proofread my work and, one day, her husband had read it too. He ran several companies and asked if I would help him out with some content he needed for a website he was developing.
Now, I’d always wanted to be a writer (fiction), but commercial writing was something I’d never considered. I gave it a go. It was a great success and the copywriting bug bit me.
One thing led to another and within a month I’d created my first website and set about getting clients. They came, they liked what they saw and they stayed. Then more came along and, 7 years later, I’m still here loving every minute of it.
I am not an authority on running a business because I’m constantly learning. There are people out there who have been doing this a lot longer than me, which is why a few years ago I signed up for a course about running a freelance business.
It was great.
I learnt a lot…perhaps a bit too much.
It was the best course I’d ever been on, but it was also responsible for some of my darkest business days.
A hugely successful guy ran it. He made it sound so easy – how to get clients, price your work etc. I came home buzzing ready to try out my new found confidence.
The problem was, once back in my own office I became Sally again. My usual insecurities came flooding back…I knew I was a great writer, that wasn’t a problem, but I knew I wasn’t a great businesswoman.
I desperately wanted to become the person I thought I should be. I came back believing that if I was to be a success I had to be working with huge clients, earning mega bucks and to be constantly working. If I didn’t I was letting myself down, the course leader down and my family down.
But the problem was I was (and am) a very different person to the guy who ran the course and everyone else who attended it with me. I was trying to force myself into a business model that didn’t fit my lifestyle or personality. As a result I went from loving my work to feeling miserable and, for want of a better word, a failure.
Keeping it real
With my confidence at an all time low, I began to question what I was doing.
Did I really want to be in business?
Wouldn’t it be easier to work for someone else?
On the face of it the answer was ‘yes’; I would no longer feel the pressure of finding clients or marketing myself. But if I worked for someone else I would lose the flexibility I loved and the sense of achievement I’d felt.
I had to stick with it – especially considering, even in a slow year, I was earning more by myself that I ever would working for someone else.
Then something happened. A medical scare at the start of this year made me stop and think. I reassessed my life and what was important to me.
My family would always come first. I was a wife and mother and then a businesswoman.
I loved my work and running my business, but it wasn’t the be all and end all.
Now, I work the hours I want to work. I take on the projects I want to work on and work with the people I want to work with.
No, I don’t have a 6 figure salary, but you know what? I don’t care. I earn more than enough to allow us to do what we want to do as a family and that’ll do for me.
What’s stopping me from becoming one of the UK’s largest copywriting agencies? Me, because I’m doing what I want to do and not what others think I should be doing.
What’s the single most important business lesson I’ve learnt?
The answer to that is to be true to myself and to run my business my way and to make no apologies for that. Today, I have a great work/life balance and that’s the way it’s going to remain.
My message to you is to remember there’s more to life than work. Next time you’re still working away at midnight, stop and think about what you’re doing. Is that really where you want to be?
It takes a lot to create a successful business, but it takes even more to sustain that success and create the lifestyle you want to live.
Do you have a similar story? Have you had doubts whilst running your business? Are you thinking about going it alone, but feel too scared to take the plunge? Whatever your story, leave a comment below and share it with me.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd
October 1st, 2014 — email copywriting, email marketing
The first rule to remember when indulging in a spot of email marketing is that it’s not as easy as you think.
No really, I’m not just saying that, it really is very tricky.
Just look at your recent results.
They don’t look pretty do they? Your open rate is disappointing and your click throughs virtually non-existent. So what went wrong?
Without seeing what you sent I can’t give you specific reasons, but here are the top 7 reasons why emails fail.
1. Bad first impression
You only get one chance to make a first impress and you just blew it.
Your subject line was pants. You used all capitals, exclamation marks, deceiving messages and prefixed it with the dreaded “FW:”, “RE:”, or “Warning”.
Be clear and honest in your subject line, don’t try and sell and make sure it reflects what your email is about. To hone your subject line writing skills do some A/B testing on them.
Emails shouldn’t be long. They should get to the point quickly, perhaps with a touch of humour or personality, and end with a call to action.
That’s it; no extended flowery prose, just straight talking and simple language.
3. What do you look like?
The only way you’re going to know what your email will look like when it lands in your customers’ inbox is by testing it.
Make sure it renders properly across all mail clients, including mobile, to make sure it looks good everywhere.
If you have your customers’ first names, use them. Receiving a personalised email is far more preferable to one that says “Dear Customer”.
5. Buy now
Contrary to popular belief, an email is not the place to ask for a sale.
Your email is there to build a relationship, or to educate them. Do not ask them to open their wallets. If you’re offering a free trial or something along those lines that’s fine, but never ever mention price.
6. Don’t try and get one over on your competitors
Trying to sell your products by pointing out how bad or expensive your competitors are is bad form. It shows a lack of imagination on your part and, possibly, a lack of confidence in your own products and services.
Well it doesn’t say much for what you do if the only way you can think of selling it is by slagging off the competition.
Concentrate on selling the benefits of what you offer and your customers will make up their own minds that yours is better than anything else out there. You can read more of my thoughts on this particular issue here.
Being relevant is essential. If you send email after email on subjects that your audience isn’t interested in they’ll leave in their droves.
Plus, don’t just reiterate information that’s already on your website because they’ve probably already seen it.
Come up with fresh information that’s going to be relevant to them.
There you go. How many of these 7 are you guilty of?
If you’re still not sure where you’re going wrong, feel free to drop me a line.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd
September 24th, 2014 — copywriter, copywriting tips, marketing, website copywriting
If you’re looking for a new home, there’s no one better than Kirstie Allsopp to help you find it.
As a fan of Location, Location, Location I enjoy tuning in to watch Kirstie and Phil Spencer attempt to find the perfect homes for two couples.
The word ‘attempt’ is used because, week after week, the couples they help sorely tempt their patience.
Just in case you haven’t seen the programme (why on earth not?), Phil and Kirstie are each allocated a couple that, for various reasons, have been unsuccessful in their hunt for a new home.
At the outset each presenter is faced with the couple’s “wish list” – i.e. ideal location, size and type of property etc. Pretty much every week they run into the same issue – their budget is incompatible with what they’re looking for. But, undeterred, the couples are determined to get everything on their list.
Every now and then they’ll get people they just can’t help because they’re not prepared to look beyond their self-imposed blinkers, but those that are prepared to compromise usually come up trumps.
What does all of this have to do with copywriting?
Well, it’s a lot like the early stages of web copy (in fact all types of marketing content, but web copy is the biggest culprit).
Web copy beyond the blinkers
More often than not, when working with clients, they have a fairly set view on how they want their web copy.
It must be:
- Written to make them sound impressive
- Centred on the business
Nothing wrong with that?
Hmm, there’s plenty wrong with it.
This is where my inner Kirstie comes out.
When faced with a wish list like that one, it’s my job to explain how web copy should really work.
It should always be written for the person who’s going to read it – that means your customers.
Because it should be written for your customers, it must be relevant to them, outlining how your product or service is going to benefit them.
To do that it must be written in plain, simple language. It doesn’t matter if your target audience have doctorates or GCSEs, the language must be straightforward and instantly accessible. No big words, no complex sentences and no jargon.
The most important thing is that your website does what it’s supposed to do – drawn in visitors and convert them into customers.
If a client is willing to look beyond their preconceptions (which I would hope they would be willing to do otherwise what was the point in hiring a professional writer?) the results is a website that works like a dream.
If they adamant that, despite all the years’ experience I have, they are right and I am wrong, I simply can’t help them because it would be very unprofessional to write what they want knowing it won’t work.
Kirstie and Phil are property experts who understand their market and what it takes to find the ‘as near as humanly possible’ ideal home.
A copywriter understands marketing and, although not an expert in your business, knows how to write to draw people in and persuade them that yours is the company they should be dealing with.
So next time you engage a writer for a project, listen to what they have to say and try not to impose any of your preconceived ideas on them. By all means talk thinks through and say what you’re looking for and then trust in their judgement about what will work.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd