Copywriting Blog

Unconventional copywriting techniques to grab customers’ attention

Unconventional copywriting tips

Sometimes a pencil and paper are all it takes to unleash those unconventional copywriting ideas.

Some unconventional copywriting techniques for Christmas…

Because it’s Christmas, I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and conventions. I love Christmas traditions. I love that link to the past; and that sense of doing things the same way this family or this company has always done them.

Traditions can help us see why certain ideas have endured while others have fallen by the wayside. But traditions can hold us back as well as push us forwards. It’s easy to get trapped into doing things just because that’s what we’ve always done, never mind whether it still makes sense or not.

That’s an issue that copywriters face on a daily basis. So much of what we do – or, at least, what we’re asked to do – is based on maintaining the status quo.

So, at this very traditional time of year, let’s look at some of the ways copywriters can use some unconventional copywriting techniques to change our clients’ marketing for the better…

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The six most important things I’ve learned about copywriting

Copywriting cake!

What I’ve learned about copywriting – best read with cake.

It’s my birthday today. An opportunity to take stock. And eat cake.

So in lieu of party bags, I’d like to share with you some of the things we’ve learned about the commercial copywriting process.

For example:

  • What skills and attributes do copywriters need more than any others?
  • What’s more important – process or creativity?
  • Why do we all need to take a big bite of humble pie every now and then?

Let’s find out…

Commitment

Commercial writers work hard to ensure every word works. We know that if our copy is as compelling and as target-oriented as it should be, we’ve done a good job.

But sometimes it’s tough.

When you’re writing your umpteenth product sheet about superconductors, socks or Zizzer Zoof Seeds, it’s hard to keep the enthusiasm going.

So our ongoing commitment is crucial. Because we know that if our enthusiasm flags, so does the quality of our content.

What do we do to keep my enthusiasm going?

  1. We need to like or admire the product or service.
  2. We need to get a good relationship going with the product or service provider.
  3. We need to think like the customer.

That’s all it takes. Any one of those things is enough. And we know that if we can’t do any of them, it probably isn’t the right project for us.

This realisation is liberating. It gives us a fool-proof system for ensuring we can commit to every project. We can give our clients just what they need to sell their goods and services convincingly.

Clarity

Clear Comms was originally set up thanks to a bit of a clarity crusade. Five years later, it still is. So why are we still so stoked up about this?

Like most other copywriters, we care about the craft of copywriting. We care what people think of our industry when we tell them what we do.

But there’s more to it than professional pride…

Great copy can be as affecting as art, music or literature. The right combination of words, phrased in just the right way can change perceptions. Or move people to take action. Or make them feel better. And the beauty of it is that they don’t even have to be long words. Sometimes the simplest words, carefully chosen, can be the most powerful.

So of course, we care about clarity.

Most overblown business-speak is needlessly complex and unnecessarily confusing. It uses more words to say less. It puts its audience on the back foot and keeps them on the outside, looking in.

Great copywriting should be direct and accessible. After all, it’s got a job to do. It’s got information to impart, friends to win and sales to make. That’s why concise copy, short sentences, and clear propositions make all our jobs easier.

Personality

There is way too much bland, innocuous and identikit copy out there.

Good copywriting has personality. Lots of it. It’s got a distinctive tone of voice too. It needs to reflect us and our companies, however brash, ballsy or relentlessly uncompromising they are.

Business copy can be surprising too. In ‘Talk like TED,’ the author Carmine Gallo says that, according to the neuroscientists she’s interviewed, “novelty is the single most effective way to capture a person’s attention.” So the best sales copy will always intrigue you and inspire you to find out more.

Like us, you probably prefer sales copy that plays it softly-softly. We don’t want it to bash us over the head with the benefits, we’d rather it give us a comfy chair for the riveting story it’s going to tell.

So, my advice is – make sure your web copy talks like you. Leave out blatant sales messages when you can and give it a big dash of your personality.

Your customers want the real you.

Creativity

If we let the fear of making mistakes hold us back from making brave creative decisions, we’ll only ever deliver listless copy.

So how can we learn to embrace mistakes and failures as part of the creative process?

Well, here are a few ideas, courtesy of a great TED talk.

And here’s our take on it…

We need to give ourselves the time to get creative – but we need to make sure all that wild endeavour and rampant creativity happens at the beginning of the process while we’re still at the planning stage. Then, by the time we’re working on our first draft, we know exactly what we’re doing. We’ll have mapped out our creative approach, and we’ll have eliminated the possibility of making any mistakes when it really matters.

  • First, get a good briefing to nail down the copy requirements
  • Next, experiment with form, messages, and tone of voice.
  • Finally, get agreement from all parties on the direction the copy will take – all before the formal writing process begins.

Process

A good process underpins everything.

Writing effective copy is a process. It happens bit by bit.

There’s a briefing… initial ideas… development of ideas… approval of ideas… drafts… reviews… redrafts… sign off.

The ‘creative’ part of the process happens in bits too.

Some of it happens at the briefing stage when we assess what will work and what won’t. Some of it happens when we wake up in the middle of a night still thinking about a project. And some of it happens at the draft review stage – where we fine-tune the copy before letting it fly…

Putting a clear process in place first means that all of these bits happen in the right order. It gives us all – writers and clients – the opportunities to make important contributions at the right times.

It means everyone knows what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen. A good process, with milestones, checks and approval stages, helps keep projects on track and on time.

Humility

When people ask us what copywriting books we recommend, we don’t recommend any. It’s far more important to develop your own style and your own way of working.

However…

It is useful to take  a little look at other writers’ work from time to time. Just to see what’s out there. Social media makes that easy. Rather than slavishly following writers or brands and replicating their ideas, we can interact with them and exchange ideas. That way, we learn from each other. Much healthier.

We can all get a little bit ‘precious’ about our own way of doing things. But if we’re humble enough to accept that we’re all learning and developing as we go, and that we can all learn from each other, our jobs will get easier.

Humility applies to our dealings with customers too, of course. And to customer feedback in particular.

We should be prepared to accept that sometimes, we’ll have to make changes. And if those changes improve the copy, all well and good.

We should make our interactions with customers as collaborative as possible. Draft reviews should give all parties the opportunity to discuss openly, honestly and without prejudice what works and what doesn’t. Just so long as we’re not fighting over every comma.

Bottom line: what serves the client’s objectives best?

Over to you

Well, that’s what we think. Now we’d love to hear what you think… feel free to email us at chris@clear-comms.com or drop us a tweet: @ClearComms_PMM.

 

The great copywriting swindle!

mind control copy

You want this car… Your life will be so much better when you have this car…

 

I get a lot of emails from marketers. Sometimes I’ll take a look at one. But I don’t often like what I read.

Something that comes up a lot is mind control copy or the magic secrets of copy that will make your contacts buy, buy, buy.

My problem with these techniques is that they put people on the same intelligence level as your average Chihuahua.

Are people really that simple? Are they really that easy to call?

Are you seriously telling me that a specific combination of words will make customers putty in your hands?

Okay, I’m being glib.

And I’m certainly not arguing that words don’t have power. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job. But there isn’t a grab-bag of secret phrases you can rummage around in to write your killer headlines and money-raking copy.

There is something you can use though. One technique that I do wholeheartedly recommend. The one that never fails actually.

And I’m going to share it with you…

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Do typos matter? The answer’s not as straightforward as you’d think

Do typos matter?

Sometimes, things don’t quite go according to flan ;-)

A little while ago, I wrote a blog about storytelling copywriting. I wrote it, polished it and then started publicising it on Twitter, beginning with this short, sweet tweet:

Has business storytelling had it’s day.

Intriguing, I thought. Provocative even…

… and thanks to that superfluous apostrophe, grammatically incorrect.

Whoops!

I may not have been thinking clearly when I wrote that, but it was absolutely all I could think about over the next hour or so.

One little mistake

If you make a mistake like that, what’s the worst that can happen?

In my case, I guessed that a small percentage of my Twitter followers would have seen it. And while most of them would probably have just glanced over it without giving it much thought, a few of them would have bristled at an apostrophe where it had no business to be.

Do typos matter?

When your only contact with potential customers is a quick exchange of 140 characters here and there, one little mistake may be all it takes to give the wrong impression.

And what about my peers? A lot of my Twitter followers are copywriters. Sometimes I work with other copywriters and agencies. What would they think?

Twitter users build up respect over a long period of time, one tweet at a time. So it only takes a little mistake to upset the apple cart.

So, do typos matter? Do mistakes frighten contacts away? Yes, they matter. But it’s not all bad news…

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Tell a story or give the facts? Business storytelling on trial

Business storytelling

Making sense of business storytelling.

I’m almost reluctant to say anything about business storytelling. The business storytelling form has gone from being a useful (occasional) technique to a generic cure-all.

Done right, business storytelling gives you an easy way to throw intriguing new perspectives on your goods and services.

But it isn’t always appropriate. And it won’t always work. Every company has a story, but some stories simply aren’t worth telling.

So let’s see if we can drill down into the essentials – the do’s and don’ts of effective business storytelling…

What’s your story?

When we talk about business stories what do we actually mean? Does any stream of information count if it’s got a beginning, a middle and an end. Or does it have to be a story in the conventional sense, one with a narrative?

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Get a change of perspective from your objective copywriter

Your objective copywriter

A real change of perspective

Have you ever written anything that wasn’t quite right? But you couldn’t quite put your finger on the problem?

A lot of my clients are good writers. So they don’t need all that much help from me. Sometimes, what they need most of all, is a fresh perspective.  A new angle on what they’ve already written.

It’s amazing what a difference that can make. A copywriter brings:

  • Objectivity
  • A customer’s perspective

Your objective copywriter

Writing anything for your own business is tough. It makes you aware of just how much each and every piece of copy needs to accomplish.

Problem is, when you’re that close to it you can’t always see the wood for the trees. When you’ve been slaving over your copy for a long time, it can dull your instincts to what really works.

That’s when you need someone without baggage… an objective and impartial copywriter.

 

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Copywriting tips: channelling your inner copywriter

Channle your inner copywriter

Channel your inner copywriter

Sometimes people tell me they can’t write. And, as professional copywriters, we’re torn when we hear them say that.

On the one hand, we get a momentary surge of pride. We’re providing a unique service, yay. We’re on a par with astronauts and brain surgeons…

But then reality sets in. And that’s when we tell them the truth…

Anyone can write.

 

Unique skills

I think I can’t sing. But then my best friend will tell me that’s not true. She says I’ve got a unique style. ‘Unique’ sounds like it should be code for something else, but we know what she means because it’s just like writing. Everyone can do it. It’s just a matter of confidence.

So why aren’t we all a lot more confident about writing? Blame school. Those of us of a certain generation have had it drummed into us… You must never start a sentence with ‘and’ they’d say. Or ‘but’. (People test me on this at least twice a week.) But of course, it’s absolutely, definitely okay. And you can quote me on that.

 

The arcane arts

The rules don’t just take the fun out of writing, they make it seem like an arcane art that only highly practised masters of the language can ever hope to master.

But it’s really not.

Good writing channels ideas simply and clearly. And copywriters know the test of good business writing is the all-important bottom line. So if your newsletters inspire people to read that makes you a good writer. If your sales letters sell, you’re a good writer.

 

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What’s the real value of working with a tender copywriter?

Tender copywriter hard at work

Your tender copywriter’s desk!

We’ve just finished helping a client with a tender response and it’s really got us thinking about the value of tender copywriting.

Sometimes the value of good copy is obvious. For instance:

  • If your copywriter writes you a product description that helps sell your goods.
  • If they write a sales letter that gets you noticed.
  • If they increase your newsletter open rate.
  • Or if they write you a winning tender! (Fingers crossed.)

But sometimes the value of copy is harder to see. For example, suppose your tender bid fails?

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Behind all great copy there’s a great copywriting briefing

Copywriting briefing

The copywriting briefing process… “No, no, no! This tone of voice is much too glib!”

Every great piece of commercial writing starts with a top-notch copywriting briefing. So if you want to get the best out of your copywriter, you have to tell them exactly what you want.

 

Here’s our Top 6 guide to what your copywriter really needs to know: (more…)

Why it pays to choose a distinctive tone of voice

Your distinctive tone of voice

Do you speak the right kind of distinctive English?

Why does your business need a distinctive tone of voice?

For years, we’ve accepted that British English is being replaced by American English. But these days, the reverse might just be true. If so, it’s testament to the power of sticking to your own distinctive tone of voice…

 

An Englishman in New York

It’s not just his accent that gives away An Englishman in New York; it’s everything he says. That idiomatic language, those strange turns of phrase… British English sticks out like a sore thumb.

But don’t fret.Turns out that British English is infiltrating the USA faster than a rat up a drainpipe. And that’s good news for us all…

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