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Close the blinds and take the phone off the hook – what I am about to tell you will revolutionise your business.

Time is one of the most precious commodities of the modern day.

As a copywriter, I am constantly asked what exactly it is that I do. I could go on and on about writing web copy, press releases, newsletters, sales letters, reviews, brochures…..dozed off yet? Exactly, it’s not the most glamorous job in the world.

Instead I tell people that by far the most important aspect of my profession is that I save you time.

Whether running your own business or working for someone else, time is important. There are never enough minutes in the day to get everything done. Shall I tell you why? You are trying to do too much[/B
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  1. As a professional copywriter it pains me to say that - but sadly no matter how persuasive your copy is, it may not convert everyone into a buying customers.

    No matter how great the copy you write, not everyone is going to want your product or be ready to buy your product. It might simply be the case that your product isn’t the right fit for them.

    So don’t be surprised when you don’t get a 100% conversion rate.

    What prompted this post? Well, it was a conversation I had with some girl friends over dinner last night. Many of us around the table were avid readers so it wasn’t long before the debate about Kindle or book began.

    To illustrate how a marketing campaign can fail with some people, I’ll give you my thoughts about what’s best—the Kindle or a book.

    Let’s take a look at the Kindle to start with.

    As a technology lover and avid reader you would expect me to be at the front of the Kindle queue. It has everything:

    • E-ink screen so it can be read even in the brightest sunshine
    • A compact design so it’s easy to carry around
    • Instant access to more books than you can possibly read in a lifetime
    • Fast downloads with inbuilt wi-fi capabilities
    • Fast page turning ability for seamless reading
    • Long battery life so you won’t be interrupted as you get to the good bit

    It sounds absolutely fantastic. So why haven’t I rushed out and bought one yet?

    For me, a book is so much more than just a way of conveying a story.

    They have a lot of down sides:

    • They take up a lot of suitcase space on holiday
    • They get soggy when you read in the bath
    • You need a lot of bookshelves to house your library
    • They don’t easily fit into a small handbag

    But for me there’s no substitution for the smell of a book, the feel of its pages and the sense of being privy to someone’s innermost thoughts. It is exciting to hold a book, become immersed in its words and to turn each page with trepidation never quite knowing what’s coming next.

    So no matter what Amazon.com says technology will never (for me) replace a book.

    Mind you I did make the transition from vinyl to CD to music downloads so here’s a challenge for Amazon.com why not send me a Kindle to try out and see if you can convert me.
  2. Blogging is great for positioning yourself as an expert, boosting your profile and, of course, search engine optimisation.

    It’s really easy to get started – all you need is a blog (preferably self hosted with your own unique URL), some ideas and a bit of time.

    But despite it being that simple many people are getting it horribly wrong.

    Here are a few of the most common mistakes made by would-be bloggers:

    1. Not understanding your audience

    This is a fundamental requirement if your blog is to be successful.

    How can you write stuff your audience will want to read if you don’t know who they are? Granted, anyone could find your blog but you have to keep in mind the people you are writing for and trying to attract.

    What is important to them?

    On my blog I write about all things copywriting, marketing and social media because the audience I’m writing for are (in general) small businesses looking for some advice when it comes to marketing their businesses. If I suddenly started blogging about my favourite recipes or what my dog did at the weekend, my readers would get fed up and look elsewhere for the information they want.

    2. Ignoring your niche

    A lot of bloggers want to be all things to all people.

    That’s not going to work.

    As I mentioned earlier, a powerful blog is one that knows its market and what they want. Writing about something you understand will result in informative blog posts that are relevant to your readers.

    Find your niche and stick to it.

    3. Blanket writing

    This is what happens if you don’t stick to your niche.

    Suddenly your blog becomes awash with posts about all manner of topics, none of which gel. You might think you’re doing your readership a great service by taking this ‘all encompassing’ approach but all you’re doing is confusing them.

    If you start out writing a blog about photography and start to build a regular readership, those loyal readers will come back time and again because they know they are going to get great information on photography. But if you suddenly start adding posts about cats, cars, insurance etc., the continuity is lost. Because they don’t know if your next post is going to be relevant to them they won’t bother coming back.

    If you want to write about 2 very different subjects, get 2 blogs.

    4. Being inconsistent

    Every post you write has to be written well. The quality of your work can’t slip.

    When you start out, fired up with enthusiasm, your posts will be top notch. But as time goes on and you squeeze your blog writing between other things, you might become a little careless; errors will start to creep in and the general standard of your writing might slip.

    That is the first sign of a dying blog. Quality is everything so you have to keep your standards high.

    But as well as quality, you also have to be consistent with your frequency. Your readers are creatures of habit. If you blog 3 times a week, they’ll grow to expect a new post from you at that frequency. If you suddenly change it or miss a week they’ll be left wondering what’s going on and, ultimately, go and find a different blog that will meet their expectations.

    5. No commitment

    Just like a dog is for life, not for Christmas, your blog is for life and shouldn’t be started on a misguided whim.

    When you’re sat in front of your computer writing your blogs you probably see each post as an unrelated entity. But your readers see them as a series of factual and interesting posts. They expect great things from you and on a regular basis which requires commitment on your part.

    If you make the decision to blog, you must be 100% committed otherwise it won’t work.

    6. Focus on quality

    As I mentioned in number 4, the quality of your posts must be consistent.

    To make your blog work well you should ideally be posting at least 3 times a week. Every one of those posts has to add value to your reader and must be thought through and written well.

    The mistake many bloggers make is they are so conscious that they have to keep generating posts, it’s not long before quantity becomes more important than quality.

    If the quality of your work slips you’ll get known for your bad writing rather than your great information and you really don’t want that to happen.

    7. Writing for yourself

    You are bound to blog on a topic you know well but you mustn’t lose sight of what’s important to your readers.

    Writing about stuff you find interesting is OK but not if no one else is interested in it. If you want your blog to be successful, identify your audience, discover what they want to know and write about that.

    8. Poor headlines

    No matter how great your writing, if you come up with a lame headline for your blog no one’s going to read it.

    Most people will just look at your post’s title. If it doesn’t immediately grab them they won’t read on. So make sure you come up with strong headlines for every post; something that will draw your reader in and make them what to find out more.

    9. Blatant self-promotion

    The whole point of a blog is to add value to your relationship with your reader.

    If every single post you write is a thinly disguised advert for you and your products, your readers will see through you and walk away. So don’t write about your products and services; provide information that your readers can use to their benefit.

    Sure, you can link out to your main website from your posts but only if it adds value.

    At the end of the post you can always add an author bio with a link to your site.

    10. No engagement

    Every post you write must engage your reader and make a connection.

    Don’t worry that’s easier to do that it sounds. All you have to do is write conversationally and in the second person (using you and your – just like I have done in this post). Your post will then be ‘talking’ directly to your reader, making it personal.

    11. Unresponsive

    When you start getting traffic to your blog you’ll start to get a few comments coming through.

    You have a choice; you could ignore them and come across as someone who couldn’t care less about their readers. Or you could respond and interact with your readers.

    It doesn’t take Einstein to work out which is the best option.

    12. No promotion

    How is someone going to read your blog if they don’t know it exists?

    If you want your blog to succeed you have to promote it. Push an RSS feed through to your website, promote your blogs through Twitter and forums.

    Basically shout very loudly to anyone and everyone about your blog and they’ll start to take notice.

    There you go – 12 of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make. If you manage to avoid them you’ll be well on your way to being the owner of a successful blog.

    Have I missed anything?

    If you can think of anything else that could prevent a blogger making it big? If so please leave a comment below.
  3. Marketing is something that has to be done. Normally viewed as a chore, it's what keeps the wheels on your business.

    Many of the large companies out there will have their own marketing team to take care of all that stuff for them. But what about the smaller business?

    Running a business, especially if you are a sole trader, inevitably means you're left to do everything. You're in charge of finance, operations, sales, marketing etc. But even if you have a small team around you, your marketing probably lands on the desk of someone who is inexperienced in marketing.

    If that sounds a bit harsh, let's face it, marketing covers everything from understanding search engine optimisation, creating eye-catching copy, designing, PR etc. That's a lot for anyone to get to grips with.

    More often than not you find your website isn't working for you and your brochures are just expensive glossy bits of paper stapled together.


    Because your copy isn't speaking to your customers; it's not relevant or interesting - let's face it, it's pants.

    During that last networking event you went to, someone mentioned hiring a professional copywriter to work on your marketing materials. It was probably at that point your wallet started to hurt.

    But unlike your junior staff who are currently tasked with creating your marketing bumf, a copywriter is an expert in creating engaging copy, they understand how people read websites, they understand search engine optimisation techniques (N.B. not every copywriter does, so it pays to ask the question and to see samples of their work) and after a few well chosen questions, they'll understand what makes your customers tick.

    Despite the initial investment (you only get what you pay for), your company will benefit from:

    • A professional image
    • Marketing materials that do what they're supposed to do
    • Customers who come back again and again
    • A website that not only attracts visitors, it actually sells to them too
    • Brochures that generate leads

    Sound tempting?

    Of course, once you've got all of that working for you you can concentrate on making your business the best thing since sliced bread by refining and improving your products/services. Plus, the staff that were caught up in marketing can now concentrate on giving excellent customer service.

    Everyone wins.

    A professional image, marketing that works and a stream of happy customers - happy days!
  4. What is your current link strategy?

    Do you look around for sites with high page rank to link to or from?

    If so, you may already have fallen foul of the Penguin – Google’s latest algorithm change.

    Wikipedia’s definition of the Penguin is:

    …a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced on April 24, 2012. The update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and others.”

    Essentially, Penguin is anti low quality links, over optimised anchor text and keyword stuffing.

    Linking naturally

    Google and the other search engines use links to define the authority of a website. They are what hold the Internet together, helping us to seamlessly navigate from one site to the other.

    That’s why it’s important to link for your reader.

    Good copywriters have long understood that effective website copy should, first and foremost, be written for the reader and not the search engines; the same goes for your linking strategy.

    Before you add a link, think about what you want to achieve.

    The purpose of linking should be to improve reader experience, so it should be in a context that makes sense, using anchor text that also makes sense.

    In a nutshell, the words you use for your link must explain the information the reader will be taken to when they click on it.

    How to recover from the Penguin attack

    Numerous website owners fell pray to the dreaded Penguin, seeing their rankings (and of course their traffic) fall through the floor almost over night.

    Recovering from such a catastrophic event is no mean feat, so to help you understand what went wrong and how to right it, you might find this post on seomoz.org useful.

    In it, Jimmy explains what happened to one of his sites and what he did to recover from it.

    So, if you’ve been bitten by the changes, take a look at how Jimmy recovered from Google Penguin.
  5. Content drives the internet.

    It helps improve search results (if done well). but there are many people out there that still believe that means they have to write for the search engines rather than for people.

    If you fall within that category and believe strongly that your primary audience are the search engines, let me ask you a few questions:

    Why do you do article marketing?

    ⎯ To generate links to my website

    ⎯ So I can boost my rankings

    ⎯ So more people visit my website

    ⎯ So I can generate more sales of course

    Aha! So you’re doing this to get more people to visit your website.

    If that's the case, why are you writing for the search engines? You’ve just admitted you do article marketing to attract people – not search engines, people.

    If your article is incomprehensible because you’ve stuffed it with loads of keywords do you really think someone’s going waste their time reading it?

    Even if it is the number one search result, no one’s going to pay it any attention.

    If someone does open your article and finds it unreadable are they really going to want to follow any links within it that will take them to your website?

    I doubt it because they’ll think they are going to be faced with yet more incomprehensible drivel.

    So the moral is, write for your reader first and the search engines second.

    What to think about when writing your articles

    Before you even touch your keyboard you must think about your reader.

    • Who are they?

    • What’s important to them?

    • How much do they know about your subject matter?

    • What issues do they have that they’re looking for solutions to?

    • What do they need to know?

    It’s not until you have answered those questions can you start to create an informative and interesting article that someone will want to read.

    But what about your keywords?

    Just because you’re writing for your reader doesn’t mean you have to forget your keywords all together.

    • Make sure they are in your eye-catching headline
    • Break your article up into short paragraphs so it’s easy to read
    • Create informative sub headings to help your reader scan your article
    • Don’t fill it with links

    To make sure it reads well forget about keyword density. When you write naturally about a subject you’ll automatically use your keywords and other words related to your subject.

    Once you’ve written it read it out loud to check for rhythm, an easy flow and errors. If you find you are ‘tripping’ over your keywords you’ve probably included too many. Cut back within the body of your article but make sure they are present in your headings and sub headings.

    At the end of the day, if you write with your reader in mind and not the search engines you can’t go far wrong.

    Sally Ormond - Copywriter and blogger​
  6. Social media is gradually taking over our lives – at least that’s how it feels.

    With over a quarter of all adults and nearly half of all teens now owning a smart phone (Ofcom, 2011) connecting to the internet on the move has never been so easy. In fact, it is now so easy it is beginning to affect the way we shop.

    Social media has opened up access to retailers like nothing else before it. Now, it’s easy to send a tweet or comment on a Facebook page. Our complaints, compliments and questions can be fired at them with ease.

    So how is that affecting our shopping habits?
    Well, according to recent research by Reevoo, consumers said that social content is now beginning to shape their online shopping behaviour. Over half of all consumers found social media comments helpful when shopping online, with user reviews (48%) and friend recommendations (52%) being the biggest influencers.

    The vast majority (88%) said they always consulted reviews before proceeding to the checkout, with 60% adding they were more likely to purchase from a site that carried such reviews.

    Ignore social media at your peril

    With online social interaction carrying that much clout, it’s imperative that businesses today engage in social media.

    And that really does mean ‘engage’.

    Merely having the accounts is not enough. You must also monitor them, respond to comments and questions, and be proactive by offering advice. And that means having a strategy.

    More often than not, your customers’ first point of interaction with you will be through a social media channel. That means you must be alert to their tweets and Facebook comments and ensure your staff have a firm understand of what your policy is regarding complaints and compliments.

    Taking in the bigger picture

    You may think that your social media interaction with customers and their product reviews are separate entities.

    To a certain extent they are, but your interaction as a company with your customers is bound to have an effect on the review they leave for others. Frequently, you see such comments not only talking about the qualities of the product in question, but also about the service levels received from your company.

    Reviews are therefore seen as an endorsement (or not) of your company as a whole.

    Therefore it is essential that you have a social media strategy in place, provide the best possible service at all times and respond to your comments in a timely manner.
  7. Did you know that worldwide, there are now over 1 billion users of social media . Plus with over a quarter of all adults and half of all teens (Ofcom) owning a smartphone, access to social media sites has never been easier.

    So how do you, as a company owner, view social media?

    Do you still see it as a fad (albeit a very popular one), or have you embraced it as part of your marketing and customer service strategy?

    The two faces of social media for business

    Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are 2 way conversations – you can offer advice and offers to your customers/followers and they can make comments and ask questions of you.

    But, according to a recent article in The Drum, 70% of complaints made by customers on social media are ignored because many companies still view it as a purely marketing tool rather than a direct link for customer support.

    Big mistake.

    The research by A.T. Kearney’s annual social media survey found that between 5% and 20% of all complaints to many organisations are made through social media.

    Of course, unlike traditional letter or phone complaints, those made using social media are visible to the world. Other customers can sit back and watch how you deal with a situation, giving them a good idea of what type of company you are and how seriously you take customer gripes.

    Benefits of social media as a customer service tool

    It’s fast.

    It’s personal.

    It can be used to offer help and advice to those who aren’t customers yet.

    Plus, because everything you write (unless it’s a DM through Twitter) is visible to your other followers, you can show yourself off as a company that puts its customers first and is willing to go that extra mile for them.

    Basically, using social media as a customer service tool will have a massive reputational impact on your business (sadly, that also means if you get it wrong it will have a negative impact too).

    So make sure those in charge of your social media accounts understand your social media policy, monitor them regularly and respond quickly.

    Jim Close, Managing Director or Datapoint sums it up:

    Social media tools are for two-way dialogue with customers as well as a (mostly) one-way marketing channel. They differ from more traditional media because often the interaction is globally-visible and there is potential for massive reputational impact. The organisation that learn this lesson the fastest – and use contact centre systems to do this effectively – will be the ones that win the customer retention race.”

    Sally Ormond - Copywriter
  8. Can that really be true?

    Well, it is according to a recent article in The Drum.

    Apparently, a recent survey undertaken by TalkTalk Business discovered that only 1% of UK SMEs use social media sites such as Twitter and Linked In to generate new business.

    Out of the 500 SMEs surveyed, 43% said they weren’t comfortable using social networking sites.

    As a copywriter, I’ve been using social media for a while to offer advice, promote my business and make new contacts. It really isn’t scary – it’s just like chatting with friends.

    Finding the comfort zone

    Social media allows customers unprecedented access to companies these days. They can instantly send messages, ask queries and make complaints – perhaps that’s part of the problem.

    But there really isn’t any reason for companies to be afraid of social media. Used wisely, it can open up new markets and even find new business partners.

    Of course, once you put something out on the web, it’s there for good, so any company looking to use social media as part of their marketing must have a strategy in place.

    Understanding your social media strategy

    The first thing that must happen is for everyone to understand (that includes senior management) that the main goal is not to sell.

    Social media is a long term commitment that should add value to your relationships with your customers.

    Then you must determine what your goals are – whether you’re using it for PR, customer service or marketing. However you use it, your goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).

    Of course, not every social media outlet is going to be right for your business, so do your research. Work out where you customers hang out and where your activities will have the greatest impact.

    Once you start to use the platform(s) join in the conversation, don’t just lurk on the fringes. Chat with people, answer questions and offer advice. All of these activities will help get you noticed and increase your levels of engagement.

    After a while, you may start getting questions coming your way. If you do make sure you answer them. Also, it’s worthwhile bringing your social media activities into the real world by going along to networking events and tweetups so people can put a face to the profile.

    One more thing about Twitter, if a specific person within your company runs the account, make sure they sign their name to their tweets, or have their bio on your Twitter page. People like to know who they are tweeting with.

    The best way to learn is to do

    “Social media can prove invaluable as a new business tool and so it’s worrying to see that so few SMEs are embracing it. Its business benefits range from being able to engage and understand the needs of customers and prospects through to gaining insights into target markets and perceptions of your organisation or brand.

    “There’s certainly scope for more SMEs to be educated on how social media channels can be applied to business and ne harnessed to benefit the bottom line.” Paul Lawton, Managing Director of TalkTalk Business.

    I couldn’t agree more Paul.
  9. Keyword density is one of those phrases from the past that should be buried.

    In the bad old days of SEO (search engine optimisation), it was thought to be the best on-screen method of boosting your search rankings.

    The problem behind this thinking was that if you had 10 instances of your keyword or phrase on your web page, but a competitor had 15, they would rank higher than you.

    Can you see where this is going?

    That’s right – the end result was a list of search results that took you to unreadable, unimaginative and very uninteresting content.

    SEO the right way

    Thankfully, most SEO copywriters today understand the value of natural copy that is written for the reader and not the search engines.

    You see, if you write in a natural style about a particular subject, the keywords will appear and at a level that you would expect. The result is great information that is easy to read and that will help your on-screen SEO strategy.

    If you think this is all stuff and nonsense and that having a certain percentage of keywords is still the way to go, have a read of this from Google’s very own Matt Cutts (speaking at SXSW earlier this year):

    What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don't normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO - versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

    Be natural

    So there you go, if you continue to over stuff your content with keywords it will damage your website in the long run as well as having an immediate effect on your conversion rate.

    Good SEO copy is:

    • Natural
    • Written for your reader
    • Simple to understand
    • Well laid out

    It really is as easy as that.
  10. Before you go getting all excited, clean copy refers to uncluttered copy.

    Writing copy might sound easy, but it’s a lot harder than you would think.

    I’m sure, at some point, rather than using a copywriter you’ve sat down to write a piece of marketing copy for your business.

    Distancing yourself from your business to write something that’s focused on your reader isn’t easy.

    How to you make sure it flows?

    How do you keep it clear and uncluttered?

    7 Ways to keep you copywriting uncluttered

    These 7 tips (for copywriters and non-copywriters) will help your writing flow and keep it crystal clear.

    1. Focus

    Don’t try to complicate your copy by addressing more than one idea. Keep your writing focused on one main aspect to keep it clean and uncluttered.

    2. Clarity

    It’s very tempting to start using great long words in an attempt to make yourself look highly educated.


    The best copy uses simple, plain language that is accessible to everyone.

    3. Plan

    Always work out what you want to say before you start writing.

    Your writing should follow a structure with a beginning, middle and end – just like you were taught at school.

    By creating a plan, your writing will flow and follow a logical structure.

    4. Layout

    The layout can be as important as the content. Use it to clarify meaning by using headings and sub headings to signpost information. Bulleted lists and bold type can be used to highlight key points and benefits.

    5. Be familiar

    If you are writing about something complex, try to link it to something in everyday life that your reader will understand – using similes in this way can help make complex ideas simple.

    6. Don’t be clever

    It’s very tempting to add in a pun or two, but remember not everyone is going to find it funny. As a rule, it’s best to keep humour out of your copywriting.

    7. Start with the most important

    The most important part of your copy are the benefits, so make sure you get them in first in your heading and first paragraph. The rest of your copy should back them up with features and a strong call to action.

    By following these simple ideas your copy will flow and get your message across clearly. Give it a try and then come back and tell us how you got on.
  11. Exciting times!
    You’ve decided your business needs a new website, so it’s time to start planning and budgeting. For many companies, their website shopping list is a bit like this one…

    • Find a great web designer
    • Get a photographer on board for some
    arty shots
    • Think about keywords
    • Come up with a colour scheme
    • Think of some cool graphics

    But there’s something missing, something very important – what about the words?

    Nine times out of ten, website copy is overlooked. After all, it’s not that important – anyone can throw a bit of text together…can’t they?

    Why web content should be at the top of your list

    Why do I need a copywriter? I know my business better than they do.

    There’s no denying that, but copywriters don’t profess to know your business better than you because they’re not experts in your business. But they are experts in creating copy that sells.

    If you’re still not convinced about the importance of your website copy, think of it this way.

    [You’ll need your imagination for this bit.]

    Your website is your online showroom.

    The design, colour scheme, photos and graphics are your shop fittings – what makes it look inviting.

    The copywriting is your sales team patrolling the shop floor, ready to help your customers.

    Now, if you write your own copy it tends to be focused on your business, the features of your products and contains lots of ‘we’. That is the equivalent of your sales team huddled together, chatting about what they did last night while your potential customers mill around, get bored and head for the door.

    When your copy is written by a professional copywriter it is focused on your customers, their needs and highlights the benefits of your products and services. That is the equivalent of a sales team that:

    • Greets your customers as they come
    through the door
    • Offers advice about which
    product/service that would suit their
    particular needs
    • Counters any buying objections they may
    • Closes the sale

    I know which sales team I’d rather have.

    Make your website work

    If you don’t make your website copy a priority and get it written professionally, the chances are your website won’t perform.

    It won’t attract visitors, it won’t inspire them to do business with you, it won’t answer their questions – basically, it won’t sell.

    By understanding the power of words and investing in good professionally written content, you’ll create a website that:

    • Attracts visitors
    • Answers their questions
    • Convinces them to buy
    • Closes the sale

    It’s a no brainer.
  12. This one is for all the women out there who are mothers and business owners.

    Do you remember when you had your first child?

    Months of excited anticipation gave way to sheer terror when you realised the birth was only days away. Then you endured hours of intense pain as you tried desperately to help your new baby find their way into the world.

    Then finally, after a monumental and exhausting journey, it was all over and you were handed your new baby, wrapped up tightly, eyes blinking, totally dependent on you.

    For a moment you were lost in that moment, but then you gradually began to realise the midwife had handed you your baby, but forgot to give you the instruction manual.

    In a way, that’s exactly the same as starting out in business for the first time.

    Business gestation

    Your business idea was conceived some time ago. Never forgotten about, it gradually began to grow and develop in your mind until you knew it was the right time to bring it forth into the world.

    Your mind awash with things to do, you worked your way down that painful list of opening bank accounts, incorporation, insurance, PAYE, stationery and utilities. Not even to mention having to grovel to the bank manager for a loan to get you started.

    Eventually, you emerged from your to-do list, exhausted but the proud owner of your brand new business.

    There’s just one thing missing – customers.

    You’ve been so wrapped up in setting everything up you didn’t have time to get a marketing strategy together. In fact, you’re not entirely sure what it should be.

    No one handed you a manual to make your business a success (sound familiar?), so you’re on your own and it’s up to you to bring your business to the market.

    Understanding your customers

    Before you can decide on your marketing plan, you have to understand your customers because you have to know where to find them.

    Local networking is always a great idea (especially if you are a B2B business), but that pool of potential customers will only last so long – even though you hope you will also get other referrals.

    Cold calling and direct mail is always an option, but how many people do you know who actually buy from unsolicited approaches (I don’t)?

    Getting your presence felt online is a great option as you can reach a much wider audience. But a strategy is vital if you want to ensure your customers can find you through the search engines and social media.

    Being prepared

    As with parenthood, in business you can only be prepared up to a point. Something is always going to happen that will throw you off kilter if you’re not careful.

    The trick is to remain calm and focused on your end goal. It will be a rollercoaster ride, but it will also be rewarding.
  13. In business, sooner or later you will be faced with presenting a pitch.

    For some people, that isn’t a problem. But for many, they would rather poke their eyes out with a red hot poker than face a potential new client.

    As soon as the date is arranged they go into panic mode – hundreds of ‘what ifs’ pour into their head followed by sleepless nights and the inability to eat without feeling nauseous.

    So what can be done to help you prepare for the pitch?

    Preparation is the key

    If you were hoping for a magic formula or a pill to take your anxiety away, then I’m going to disappoint you.

    The only way to be confident is to prepare.

    1. The phone call

    During the phone call with the potential client, try and find out as much detail as possible about what they’re looking for. As a copywriter, I would ask what the project was, who was their target audience, what will the review process be, what format would it take etc.

    But don’t just ask questions about the project, also ask:

    • Who will be at the meeting?
    • Where will it be held?
    • Is there any car parking at the site?
    • Are they meeting with any other copywriters (it’s always good to know if you’re up against any competition)?

    Basically, at the end of that call you want to know as much information as possible about the project and the client.

    2. A day or two before the meeting

    Next is the research.

    Take a look at their website. What sort of marketing are they doing? What is the style of their communication?

    See what information you can find out about the people you’ll be meeting – not in a creepy stalker kind of way, but take a look at their previous experience.

    Work out what you want to ask them – a great way to start your meeting is by asking an open question to get them talking. This will not only unearth a wealth of information for you, it will also give you chance to catch your breath and ease yourself into the meeting.

    3. Before you set off

    Check to make sure you either know where you’re going, or that your SatNav is charged up and working.

    Have the name and phone number of the person you’re meeting in your phone so, should you get held up, you can ring and let them know.

    Leave yourself plenty of time so you arrive calm and collected and make sure you have pens, paper etc.

    Most importantly, before you leave, tell yourself you are the right person for this project. You are the writer they need.

    4. The meeting

    Once you’ve arrived (suited and booted), be calm, polite and confident.

    Offer a firm handshake (but not one that will leave them with a crushed feeling), make small talk and then get to down to your first open question and let them tell you everything you need to know to show them you’re the right person for them.

    5. Close

    Often, you’ll meet with someone who is unable to make a decision there and then because it has to go to the board.

    But if that’s not the case, close the sale there and then. If you leave them pondering you could be walking away from the money.

    Once they say yes and agree to your payment terms, tell them exactly how you will proceed and what they can except to happen – and make sure you stick to it.

    6. Yippee!

    Congratulations – you got the contract and kept your nerves at bay.

    Reflect on how you presented yourself and your business and remember the success for future meetings.

    Finally, grab yourself a large glass of champagne – you deserve it.

    Client meetings and pitches don’t have to be scary. A few nerves are good for you, but not to the point your stomach is in knots.

    Preparation is the key – granted, you can’t win them all, but being ready for anything will help your confidence grow.
  14. This is going to be short and sweet, but what do you reckon?

    Should your copywriting be humorous?

    Is there a place for it?

    Well, before you can answer that you really need to think about your brand.

    You’ve worked long and hard to create a particular image, so before you decide to use a touch of humour in your next marketing campaign, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Is it really funny?

    Perfecting a humorous campaign takes time. But you do have to remember that not everyone finds the same stuff funny.

    Just because you’re humour makes you roll on the floor laughing, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will have that effect on everyone.

    2. Oops

    Not only do you run the risk of creating something that, for many, is not funny, but you could also end up causing offence.

    Poking fun at certain people could land you in an awful lot of hot water.

    3. Kill not cure

    As I mentioned earlier, you have taken a lot of time and energy getting your brand’s image just right. If you’ve spent time and money creating something that’s renowned for its quality, seriousness and soberness and then put out an ‘amusing’ marketing campaign, you could turn off a lot of people very quickly.

    The moral is…

    At the end of the day, it’s a brave marketer that goes for the humour angle on a whim.

    Make sure you look at your brand, your product and your audience before you start thinking comedy. After all, you want your customers to be laughing with you, not at you.
  15. The whole world is going mobile – well, it seems like it.

    According to Ofcom, 27% of UK adults and 47% of teenagers own a smartphone. So it’s hardly surprising so many companies are looking to the mobile market and tailoring their online marketing accordingly.

    You could be forgiven for thinking that users will simply browse your website through their handset so there’s no need for additional investment in a mobile website. But that’s not what a recent study would suggest.

    The study by the marketing technology provider Unica (link to PDF), suggests that according to their research:

    • 33% of companies are already using mobile messaging, applications and websites as part of their marketing strategy
    • 24% plan to use these tactics within 12 months
    • 13% plan to use them in more than the next 12 months
    • 20% had no plans
    • 10% didn’t know

    The need for mobile websites is created because of the way mobile users use their smartphones.

    Creating powerful mobile website copy

    I, as a copywriter, know all too well that readers can get very easily distracted. So the copy has to be succinct, precise and easy to understand.

    The problems are that mobile users are even more distracted than PC browsers. They will be interrupted by phone calls, texts, and push notifications. So your information has to be fast and easily absorbed.

    They are probably surfing for research, for specific information or to compare products. But whatever their reason, they will need information quickly.

    Because of the small screen size they’ll be viewing your content on your copy has to be:

    • Tightly focused
    • Short
    • Easy to understand

    Although all copy should have these traits, you have more leeway on a normal website. Your mobile copy must concentrate on the goal of that page and strip everything else out. A short paragraph on your computer screen may cause a mobile user to scroll for eternity to reach the information they need.

    Writing mobile more copy is more akin to Twitter or texting. You have to get your massage across quickly and in as few words as possible. Of course, you must never forget to include you call to action.

    More and more people are browsing the web through their mobile devices so it’s imperative your marketing strategy takes this into account.