January 29, 2016

How to write copy people want to read

Whether you tend to gesticulate wildly, chatter away or perhaps communicate calmly, the way you talk has the power to influence people. It’s kind of what makes you, you. So how do you find your brand’s voice and use it effectively? We asked MOO’s Head of Copy for the lowdown on how to write great copy that sounds like your brand – here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth!

Writing great copy for marketing materials can send a lot of people into meltdown. Word-paralysis strikes as they grapple with self-flagellating thoughts like, “I don’t know what to say!”, ‘does that sound good?’, ‘how many times can you use the word ‘innovative’ in one sentence?”.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever been stuck on questions like the above, one thing you may not have noticed is that they’re all about YOU. Your brand. Your messages. What you want to say and how you want to say it. Which, of course, are valid things to consider in the process of crafting prose. BUT! Writing truly effective marketing materials requires a fundamental shift in perspective.

From you… To your customer

GULP. Really? But there’s so much my customers need to know about! So many features/ services/ USPs/ offers [insert as appropriate] that I have to share!

STOP. Instead, ask yourself, with your intended audience in mind:

– What does your customer need?

– What does your customer care about?

– What does your customer want from you?

– How can you help solve your customer’s problems?

Try to put your business objectives, campaign goals or sales targets to one side, and take the time to really think about your audience. Real people, with real lives and real needs. Sometimes it’s helpful to focus your writing on talking to ONE person, to avoid slipping into ‘generic land’ of addressing a crowd.

Remember: you’re trying to start a conversation, not just talk AT people.

THIS, my friends, opens up whole new territory, no matter which particular type of marketing material you’re working on. Emails. Flyers. DM. Once you’ve got a fully rounded understanding of what you’re offering, you need to do the work to figure out WHY your customer should care about what you’re telling them.

There are no shortcuts.

Not if you want to people to engage. Without this background work, your messages will more than likely blend into the ‘noise’ of a million other brands all talking ‘at’ their customers. Ultimately, your marketing materials will go unseen, unclicked and unloved. And you’ll have spent hours fretting over the specific construct of a sentence that quite possibly no one will ever read.

Now for the hard part. APPLYING IT.

Writing with insight can only be achieved by having, funnily enough, actual insight. To some extent, the job of a writer is to use their super-human empathic powers and imagination to put themselves into their customer’s shoes – deconstructing situations, understanding connections, finding the ‘universal truths’ that will resonate with people. But they need some basic facts.

What if you don’t know a lot about your customers?

FIND OUT. It’s essential. Use this as impetus to march straight into your next marketing meeting demanding all manner of customer-knowledge-finding-exercises: focus groups, surveys, persona work, google analytics – whatever you can do to find out who your customer is, what they think, and what they want.

What if your customers are all different?

How do you stay YOU as a brand while talking to different people? This question comes up a lot in copy. And to understand the answer, we have to delve a little bit into brand Tone of Voice. Something every company should have, but not everyone does.

Your ‘voice’ is essentially who you are as a brand. Are you authoritative? Irreverent? Playful? Once you’ve got your core characteristics nailed, just like a person, your ‘tone’ will change depending on who you’re talking to and where. For example, you at a party with friends on a Friday night is NOT the same as you at the office on a Monday. But you’re still you. You sound a little different. You talk about different things. But you don’t morph into an entirely different person altogether.

What if you don’t have a clear Tone of Voice?

Get one. QUICK. It’s not something you can just invent – people have a great filter for disingenuous ‘me too’ brands. It has to come from a place of truth, so do some digging. Find out who you are and what you’re all about. Similar to the customer-insight exercise, ask yourself:

– What does your brand stand for?

– What does your brand care about?

– What does your brand mean to your employees/ customers/ supply chain?

– What does your brand do that’s different from your competitors?

This kind of work is invaluable for businesses big and small, old and new. You could be an established brand that needs to evolve or get back to its roots. Or a start-up that’s just finding its voice for the first time. Arming yourself with a clear brand voice and real customer insight is the secret to getting your marketing materials seen, read and shared.

Once you know who you are, and you know who you’re talking to, now you can have an actual conversation. When you speak, people listen. Maybe not all of them, but enough of them. They get you, and they know that YOU get them. They may not lap up every single word that you write, but they’re open, receptive and engaged.

Liked this? Then you’ll love telling your brand story.

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