Listen, Solve a Problem, Don’t be Precious: Copywriting 101

Looking to communicate in a way that gets attention and connects? Try a pie in the face and a hand buzzer. No, that’s both annoying and much too time consuming. How about writing that connects and grabs the right people’s attention?

Several years ago when I started out in marketing/corporate communications, I began to hear comments like: “Wow! You really captured the essence of the project/product that we’ve been trying to tell people about.” That’s actually how I found out I have a knack for writing. Sometimes you don’t know you have a strength until somebody points it out. So I’m reflecting on what makes for strong marketing writing and sharing a bit of that here today.

Lesson One: Listen

Listen to the client. I was describing a project to a local reporter once, being diligently, obnoxiously clear about who our target audience was. When I read the news report the next day, the description of our target audience was the exact polar opposite of what I had described. Come on! Just listen, ask some clarifying questions, and then get feedback. In a client relationship, you’ll definitely get feedback, so being a careful listener up front will save some headaches along the way.

Lesson Two: Features are Cool, But Solve a Problem

How will your product or service solve a customer/client’s problem? This is basic, and you probably know this, but it takes some finesse to get your message out this way. In listening to a client recently, I discovered that they were perhaps the one remodeler in the universe who absolutely stays on budget. That solves a big problem! The customer’s pain of “How much is this new sunroom REALLY going to cost me?” is solved. That is a unique position in the marketplace and should be shouted from the mountain tops. So that’s what I encouraged the client to do.

Lesson Three: Less I/We language, more You Language

Related to solving a problem is to focus on the customer. Uber copywriter Sonia Simone gives the advice of writing to one customer. She suggests developing an “avatar” a specific customer to whom you direct your attention. I hadn’t thought of it exactly that way, but it’s a great idea. Make your copy personal. Say what you need to about the company, product, or whatever you’re selling – but it’s really about the customer. Write to them and about them as much as possible.

Lesson Four: Don’t Be Precious

This just came up for me in a meeting last week. There are LOTS of ways to say something. Don’t be precious about your writing. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you love the little flourishes you put into your copy. But you’re probably working on a team, and if not, you’ve got a client to please. Choose your battles. Don’t die on every hill over whether to say “you’ll be pleased as punch,” or “you’ll be happy as a clam” (though think hard before using either of those.) It probably isn’t going to break the campaign. If you’re 1000% sure it will, that’s the battle you should choose!

Ok, that’s all for today. More ideas may come, but I hope this is helpful for you. Let me know!

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Light a F.I.R.E via Twitter

I’ve been encouraging my small business clients to utilize Twitter as a piece of their word of mouth strategy. To those familiar with Twitter, this is a no-brainer, but to many, Twitter remains a world of mystery and pure self-involvement. “Why should I tell the world that I’m clipping my toenails right now?” is a composite of the kind of puzzlement I’m greeted with when I talk about Twitter with someone who hasn’t jumped on this particular bandwagon.

I’ll frame my encouragement around the F.I.R.E acronym used by my close personal friends at Brains on Fire. The F.I.R.E. acronym stands for Fascinate, Inspire, Reward, Engage. Twitter, among other social media platforms, can be really well utilized in helping “fuel the flames of fandom” for who you are and what you do. In other words, social media is a way to stay connected with and encourage some of your strongest advocates. Here’s a brief overview on lighting a F.I.R.E via Twitter.

BOF emblem

Fascinate. Use those 140 characters as a platform to bring fascination into the lives of your followers. It can be about what you’re selling: “Here’s why local, organic produce is important to us…” if you are a restaurant owner (for instance,) or something you’ve seen online and just want to pass along. This is your chance to offer something of value and interest – to bring a bit of “wow!” into people’s lives.

Inspire. Tell people about the 10k run you are participating in. What inspires you, what breathes life into your day, will probably do the same for someone else. @kriscolvin and @createtomorrow are some folks I look to for inspiration during a given day.

Reward. Lots of businesses have taken to offering special discounts and other offers specifically to those who follow them on Twitter.

Engage. This is where the real power of social media connects with your business. @BlackForestDeli in Bethlehem, PA does a fantastic job of this. They talk about what’s happening at the store, but they ask questions, they check in. When I posted about a nasty cut on my thumb, they were quick with first aid advice. Being a nice human being goes a long way in bringing a customer on board.

Twitter and other such applications are just a piece of the marketing puzzle. They are tools that are there to be utilized, along with more traditional ways of getting the word out. But they are tools at your disposal right now. As you become familiar with the platform, you can nuance and bolster its use in your marketing mix. There are tools within and beyond Twitter to monitor the chatter about your product or service, to analyze and to determine more precisely who your audience is and how to tap into potential new audiences, to discover and engage in topics of interest to the people who are or should be using your product or service.

Learn, Look, Ask, Try: IDEO Method Cards Turn 7

method cards
Learn. Look. Ask. Try. These are the cards we’re dealt in the people-centric design approach used by the global design innovation provocateurs at IDEO. Back in 2003, IDEO began dealing these four “suits” in a pack of 51 Method Cards.

What the Cluetrain Manifesto did for marketing strategy, IDEO and specifically the Method Cards did for design strategy. In the same way Cluetrain saw and named what was happening in a “small pieces, loosely joined” world, in the Method Cards, IDEO saw and named a design strategy that was for and about interconnected everyday people. If all markets are conversations (Cluetrain), then all useful design is indeed conversation as well.

So, for instance, in designing an airplane interior, the IDEO design team used “Bodystorming.” In bodystorming, people act out scenarios and roles, paying close attention to the intuitive responses prompted by the physical enactment. Method Cards let us all in on this and 50 other IDEO trade secrets. At the core of the Method Card method is the notion that it doesn’t matter how cool, or wonky, or geeked-out something is; If it’s not intuitively useable, beautiful, or (best of all) both, you’re automatically diminishing your return on R & D investment.

I use the Method Cards mainly as tools for process design. They are great for groups who are working on solving a particular “how do we get from here to there” kind of problem. In this, I’m part of an unexpected cohort. In receiving feedback IDEO found: “In its first year, the Method Cards appeared to have unexpected relevance to groups that are not necessarily engaged in design initiatives. Clients report using the tool to explore new approaches to problem-solving, gain perspective, inspire a team, turn a corner, try new approaches, and to adapt and develop their own methods.” Exactly so in my experience.

Oh, and I like that this is such a tactile tool. I can pull the deck of the shelf, rummage through and look for an idea that fits my need at the moment. I can put them in the middle of a table and let a group of people paw around in them like a discount bin at *insert favorite clothier here*.

So happy 7th birthday, Method Cards! Thanks for the help and inspiration!