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Marketing

A costly writing mistake businesses make and how to correct it

As a copywriter for more than a decade, I’ve seen a common theme in the way businesses write about their products and services. These simple, yet powerful tweaks will transform copy so it connects more deeply with prospects — and will bring in more leads and sales.

They focus on telling us what they’ve done, what they have, what they do, and what they sell — from their point of view, rather than their prospective customer’s view. For instance:

The Super Portraits office/factory relocated to Sydney in January 2011.

Our manufacturing facility includes the latest ultrasonic automated cutting tables and testing equipment

We offer low minimum runs.

Today I’m going to show you how we can make these types of common lines more powerful — so they connect more deeply with customers. So they become more persuasive sales copy. Copy that sells. It begins with these two small yet powerful tweaks:

2 Ways to Make Small, Powerful Tweaks to Sales Content

‘What’s in it for me?’ approach

It’s helpful to share what drives you. How your business runs. What it offers. Yet it’s a fine balance between making it about you, rather than your prospect.

When you make statements that don’t explicitly tell your reader what’s in it for them, you lose them, rather than draw them in.

Aim to be the guide rather than the hero. Use empathy and be explicit in highlighting how they will benefit from your offering and the way you do business. In this way, you help them feel positive toward you — while giving them sound, logical reasons to back up what they feel.

Take the spotlight away from you. Direct it to your prospect.

Active voice

Speaking in third person distances you from your prospect.

Be inclusive by speaking in first person, the active voice. Use ‘we’ or ‘I’ when referring to your business. Address them directly with the word ‘you.’ These are words you’d use when you respond to a customer email or speak to them on the phone.

When you use these in writing, you’ll give your prospect the feeling they get from the 1–1 connection you typically form with prospects by email or phone.

This can help your prospect feel you’re giving them personal attention and care, rather than seeing them as a faceless, random reader.

I’ve used these two approaches in the business I’ve included below — most of the copy examples have been taken from copy I’ve written for clients. I reckon it helps to see copy actually being used — copy that works — not hypothetical copy.

This type of copy has helped these businesses, their websites, and their offerings stand out above their competitors. In Google. By the phone calls and email inquiries received. In sales.

For each copy example, we’ll run through:

  1. Before: Snippets of typical copy like the examples above — from five businesses in different industries
  2. After: Copy improvements
  3. Rationale: Why those edits were made

Then we’ll look at how we can use the two simple, powerful tweaks to improve each copy example.Note that the business names are fictitious.

Business 1: Family Portrait Photographer

Before:

The Super Portraits office/factory relocated to Sydney in January 2011. The company operates Australia wide to provide a comprehensive service in Laminated & Framed Portraits of the highest quality.

After:

No matter where you live in Australia, you can get high quality laminated and framed portraits.

Rationale:

I would take out the relocation line — as a customer, this information doesn’t mean anything to me.

Before:

Customers using the Direct Debit Pre-Payment system may vary payment amounts, frequency of payments, and even place payments on HOLD. Super Portraits is committed to assisting customers manage their order from start to finish.

After:

Direct debit: You can’t always plan ahead, ‘life’ happens. Our direct debit payment plans help you take control so you can get the service you need and pay it over time. No hidden fees. No interest ever. Choose between weekly or fortnightly payments.

Rationale:

We don’t need to know that the payment system can vary amounts, frequency, and put payments on hold — we care about how we can get our portraits if we can’t pay upfront. Whether we’ll get charged interest. How it works — when we’d have to pay it back.

Business 2: Blinds and Curtains

Before:

Rollaway Blinds manufacturing facility includes the latest ultrasonic automated cutting tables and testing equipment

After:

The Rollaway Blinds manufacturing facility includes the latest ultrasonic automated cutting tables and testing equipment. This means your custom blinds will be created with precision and meet the highest quality assurance standards before it reaches your home.

Rationale:

Why should we care that you’ve got this equipment? Tell us how it affects us.

Before:

We install blinds according to Australian safety regulations.

After:

Tim, our fully qualified fitter, installs all blinds according to Australian safety regulations. So you can rest assured your blinds are fitted with life-saving devices to avoid children or pets becoming entangled.

Rationale:

The statement about safety regulations is an ‘eyes glaze over’ statement. We skim over it quickly.

Give them a visual about how meeting regulations will affect their loved ones. Tell them how your product will help your prospect avoid a common problem — getting entangled. This is an ‘Ohh that’s exactly what we need!’ moment.

Before:

Rollaway Blinds prides themselves on sourcing their products from within Australia and more importantly where possible within Victoria.

After:

When you buy blinds from Rollaway Blinds, you can feel good knowing your purchase helps fellow Aussie families continue to bring you locally made and sourced products — within Victoria where possible.

Rationale:

Switch the focus from the business to the prospective customer. Use ‘you’ to directly address the reader. A more powerful alternative to speaking about the business in the third person.

Make prospects feel good about buying — appeal to their desire to contribute to society. Deep down, we all want to help people around us. It’s a bonus when we can do that by buying what we need.

Before:

The number one important thing Westsie Blinds wants you to know is that their customers are guaranteed to always be treated as people and not ‘numbers’ or ‘orders.’

After:

Curtains and blinds for your existing home?

Kate will visit you in your home to run through the options and work with you to come up with the best solution for the window furnishings for you. She will take the time to listen, and offer any practical advice you may need.

Planning your new home?

If you’re building and have your house plan ready, meet us in our showroom for a chat. We’ll put together a quote for you from your plans and we’ll aim to time the installation of your window furnishings to coincide with settlement.

Rationale:

Show with your words, rather than make generic, cliched statements. Prospects want to avoid wasting time and money. Writing with detail is a great way to show how the business stands out from others. It also helps customers avoid the risk of not knowing what will happen if they contact this business.

Even if other businesses do the same for customers, if they don’t share this with their prospects, uncertainty about what to expect may lose customers.

Business 3: Contract Manufacturers

Before:

Our production operations are scalable.

After:

Our production operations are scalable so we can grow with your requirements. We’ll even do a production run of one unit, if you’re unsure and carefully testing the waters.

Once you’re confident with positive responses from your market, we can set you up with large, repeat production runs if that’s where you’re headed. This flexible, budget-friendly option is one of the main reasons our small to medium customers start — and continue — to work with us.

Rationale:

Don’t assume. Don’t make your prospect think. Tell them why your scalable production operations can give them opportunity. Help them save money. Avoid wasting money. Take the risk out of testing the waters without losing out.

Before:

We do low minimum runs.

After:

You have the flexibility to run one product or 1,000. Our smallest volume is 50mL. This low minimum run is great for small businesses. It makes it feasible and easier for you:

  • To do sample runs (from one onwards)
  • To pace out your budget
  • To manage your risk by doing a small batch and checking your market’s response

We will work with you on a product by product basis and help you work out what will be most cost-effective.

Rationale:

Low minimum runs are a strong selling point. Share the specifics. Then state the benefits for your prospect. Show that you understand what’s important to them: flexibility, budget, testing.

Write simply and concisely yet say as much as you need to say to empathize with your reader. When you empathize, you deepen your connection and trust. Your product or service becomes more relevant and interesting to your prospect. They start to care about buying it from you, rather than your competitor.

Business 4: Consultant that Helps Consultants Build Authority

Before:

I have bundled all my experiences, expertise, know-how, research, reading, successes, and struggles into my new business. It’s my ambition to become the unmatched go-to source of growth knowledge for consultants around the world and teach those consultants how to build, grow, and scale their ideal client base by becoming a visible authority.

After:

You’ve worked hard to hone your skills. You’ve built a solid reputation for following through with your clients. It’s time it all paid off for you. If your ambition is to build, grow, and scale your ideal client base, becoming a visible authority will put you on the fast track.

I’ve done it. And I want to share all my experiences, expertise, know-how, research, reading, successes, and struggles with you. Let me help you.

Rationale:

Shift the focus from you and your ambition — to your prospects and their ambition.

Where You Can Share This Information

Once you’ve carefully reframed how you share information about your business, products, and services — so it matters to your prospects, share it everywhere:

  • Email
  • Website
  • Social media
  • Print material
  • In-person and over the phone

Summary

Many businesses make the mistake of writing about themselves without considering their prospects. The two small yet powerful tweaks you can make for any business copy are:

  1. Take a ‘what’s in it for me?’ approach
  2. Use the active voice

You’ve now seen how to tweak copy using examples from five businesses in different industries. These simple, yet powerful tweaks will transform copy so it connects more deeply with prospects — and will bring in more leads and sales.

Give it a go.

 

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