Copywriting - The Cinderella of Marketing
It's odd (and a source of considerable dismay to professional copywriters) how the value of words in business, and the skill required to craft them effectively, so often goes unappreciated. Yes - we copywriters feel unloved.
Our products (words) and our skill (putting them in the right order) are the sad, neglected, Cinderella of marketing.
'I don't need a copywriter. My wife's really good at grammar'
You know when you meet someone for the first time? Before long, you’re asking about each other’s careers - that old ‘What do you do?’ question. I find the chat often goes like this -
‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a copywriter’
‘Oh, right - what’s that then?’
‘Well, I get businesses more clients by writing words for their websites that are clear, concise and compelling.’
(the seasoned networkers amongst you will recognise that well-rehearsed ‘elevator pitch’).
So far, so good. But it’s here that the conversation takes a deeply disappointing turn.
‘Oh I get it! Words for websites. Actually, I don’t need a copywriter …’
(take your pick for what comes next …)
1. ‘I got an A star grade in English A-Level.’
2. ‘My friends say I’m great at writing.’
3. ‘My wife’s really good at grammar. She checks over everything I’ve written.’
Web copy - just an afterthought
Don’t believe me? Ask any web designer. They take on a new client. At the initial meeting, this client is so excited at the prospect of owning a new website. They talk in animated fashion, about the graphics and the overall look of the site. They dream of how its user-friendly functionality will soon have new customers beating a path to their inbox.
Fast forward a month or two and the web designer presents the client with their shiny new website and declares, ‘There you are! That’s the design finished. All you have to do now is add the copy - you know, ‘words’.’
The client’s interest visibly wanes. He glances at his watch and mutters something about setting off to avoid the rush-hour traffic.
For so many business owners, well-written copy is just an afterthought, not to be taken seriously; an aspect of their new website that will somehow, magically, look after itself. Some clients, having been presented with their copy-less website, simply slide it to the bottom of their to-do list, where it lies, for weeks, for months, sometimes years, gathering dust.
Good copy does the heavy lifting
Visually engaging web design is critical - if your site is to grab and keep the attention of the visitor, this is a must.
The design might be attractive, the imagery sublime, the website structure well-conceived - but here’s what is so often ignored. Important as they are, these elements are little more than a beautiful, essential canvas for that vital ingredient called ‘words’.
Well-sourced, imaginatively collated, arranged and formatted words will
- grab your potential clients’ attention
- keep them on your website
- persuade them to engage with your website
- convince them to place an order, send an email or pick up the phone
It's your website copy that does the heavy lifting
In short, your words get the job done.
So, what is good copy?
Is good copy, lovingly-constructed lengthy sentences worthy of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens?
Is good copy long, 'professional-sounding' words?
Does good copy slavishly follow the rules of grammar?
You'll be unsurprised to learn that the answer to these questions is an emphatic 'no'.
Words make stuff happen
I’ll ask the question again. What is good copy?
Good copy is ... copy that does the job.
Whatever that job might be.
- Persuading potential clients why they should pay for your services
- Convincing a nation to cast aside all common sense and vote for you
- Leaving a note for the milkman, requesting that he stop sleeping with your wife.
Use words well and you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting people to do what you want them to do.
In short - Words making stuff happen
I love my job. For me, working with words is a joy - second only to beating my four-year-old grandson at arm wrestling and following the mighty Northampton Town football club.
Words are wonderful. Understanding how powerful they are - how to make them dance to your tune - is a craft that can be enormously satisfying. Whether they're used for
- Sales letters
- Letters of introduction
- Press releases
- Case studies
- White papers
Let's take Cinderella to the ball
Words in business matter so much. They make the offer. They seal the deal.
Words - make - stuff - happen.
Let's not leave the Cinderella of marketing scrubbing the scullery floor.
Let's take her to the ball and marvel as she transforms into the lovely dancing princess we all know she can be!