How to write copy that gets noticed

May 2010 by Fiona Marsden. Fiona is a professional writer and communications consultant. www.healthierwealthierwiser.com.au

BIR Solutions Note: I met Fiona at a recent Club 3004 function (www.club3004.com.au). Another good reason why these networking fucntions are such good value!

If you re like many business owners, the prospect of writing copy for brochures, newsletters, websites and other communication tools is akin to having teeth pulled. You slave away for hours, only to come up with something that doesn t convey the essence of your business or tell potential customers and clients what they need to know. Worse still, you may not come up with anything at all.

Either way, you ve wasted time that could have been spent more productively, doing the things you re best at.

So … how can you write copy that attracts business without wasting time, blood, sweat and tears? Here are my top tips.

Define your points of difference

The most effective writing hones in on what differentiates a business from its competitors. What are the key reasons people should come to you? What can you offer them that others can t? Write your copy around these key themes without putting down your competitors, of course!

Define your target readership

Who will be reading your copy? Are you targeting other businesses, or the general public? Do they already know a lot about your field, or are they laypeople? This will determine the type of language you should use. It s okay to use a bit of jargon if you re targeting people in your field, but if you want to reach the general public, only use jargon where absolutely necessary, and explain it means.

Tell people what they want to know

This may seem like a no-brainer but you d be surprised how many businesses publish copy that doesn t tell the target readership what they want to know. Quite often, the things you think are fantastic or unique about your business aren t the things that interest potential clients or customers!

Think of your own experiences as a customer or client. What are the most important things you want to know before you do business? At a minimum, you should include your company s point of difference from competitors, core services, profiles and/or credentials of key staff, professional fees or product costs, and contact details.

Write the way you would speak … more or less!

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when writing their own copy, is to make the language overly formal or flowery . Relax! There s no need to tie yourself up in knots trying to produce a literary masterpiece. Instead, imagine that you re explaining your products or services to someone in person or over the phone. Then, transfer that simple, straightforward language into writing.

At the other end of the spectrum, many businesspeople make the mistake of writing the way they think. Since most of us think in chaotic, rambling ways with tangents that run off all over the place, this doesn t make for precise, appealing written copy!

Instead, put down your initial thoughts, then go away and do something else for a while. When you come back, read the copy with a critical eye. Does it address the target readership, define your key points of difference and tell people what they want to know? If not, keep trying until you have something that fits the bill.

Keep it brief

When it comes to business copy, less is definitely more. Whether it s a printed brochure or the home page of a website, people don t want to spend valuable time wading through irrelevant information to find what they re looking for. By all means, include the key things they need to know about your business and what you can do for them but nothing more. Save the detailed information for telephone or in-person contact, or provide links to other pages on your website.

Ask someone to proofread your work

There s little point in producing copy that delivers the right message using the most effective wording, if it s riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical howlers! The spell-check function of your computer software will pick up some mistakes, but not all of them. Ask someone with a good grasp of written English to proofread a printed copy of your work before you send it to the designer or printer.

Seek professional advice

If you ve tried all these tips, but still can t come up with copy that hits the right note, it may be worth asking an expert for help. A professional writer can help you define your message and convey it in the most appropriate and effective way. And because they re at arms length from your business, they may be able to see things in a different light and suggest new approaches.

Good luck … and happy writing!

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