The answer to ‘So what?’
Business Writing That Sells. Part 5
I’ve been a professional writer since 1998 and as Editor for The Business Show and Business Startup, I have worked with literally thousands of business owners and entrepreneurs to improve their content marketing. As a freelance copywriter specialising in content marketing, I meet and talk with many entrepreneurs, start-up founders and owners of SMEs on a regular basis. I will share some of my secrets and tricks of the trade with you here. Today, we look at how to overcome your biggest obstacle to sales; the question “So what?”
Your company has demonstrated 28% growth, year-on-year. So what? You’ve moved to new, bigger premises. So what? Your staffing levels have doubled. So what? (Here’s a clue to the public’s mindset: think of any statement about your business, followed by the question, “So what?”) There you go.
It’s only natural that you want to celebrate success, but every time you want to publish how the business that you have nurtured is growing, stop and ask why you want to share this information with your customers. You’d get a warm welcome in your business network or from your friends, but why does the world at large care? In short, it doesn’t. Sure, a press release to the industry can’t hurt, but as far as the real world goes? Sorry to break it to you, but nobody cares.
So before your audience can even think “So what?”, put yourself in their shoes, become your readership and ask “What’s in it for me?” If you can translate your success into something that will benefit your customers and prospects, then you’re onto something.
Let’s go back to our opening examples. Your company has grown 28%, meaning more buying power and lower prices. You’ve moved to bigger premises, meaning higher stock levels for quicker dispatch. Your staffing levels have doubled, meaning faster service, or more personal attention to every customer’s order. Every. Thing. Is about the customer.
But even if you aren’t banging the evangelical drum for your brand’s success, you should still ask yourself why anybody (ie: a completely random anybody) would want to read what you are putting out there in the world. And yes, that applies to your adverts, too.
Think about the ads that have connected with you in the last month. What brands have connected with you? Chances are they were informative, entertaining or engaging – or maybe all three. As advertising innovator Howard Gossage puts it, “No one reads ads. They read what interests them.” So peel back the layers of your proposition, understand why it appeals to your market and express that in a way that one real person will find irresistible.
Don’t Be A ‘Me-Too’ Brand
Today’s corporate marketplace is swamped with me-too, us-first whitewash. Your customers are not only wise to it; they’re bored to tears with it. Don’t give them a reason to be bored with your brand before you’ve even made friends. Don’t be bland. Don’t play it safe. Don’t thump your tub. It’s outré, passé and just plain done. Somebody started your business with a vision – and even if that vision was just to make a truckload of money – that vision will connect with someone out there. Be upfront about it, be open about where you’ve come from – and where you want to go – and invite the public along for the ride.
Love him or loathe him, but Quentin Crisp (well worth a Google) hit the nail on the head when he said that, “Everyone who tells the truth is interesting”. Of course, in a commercial setting, you should avoid being too provocative or outrageous – unless that’s your marketing strategy. In any event, don’t publish anything libellous (your copywriter understands libel for journalists, right?) and don’t give away the secret to your success, but true stories carry more weight than any abstract claim could ever hope to.
Interest = Spend
And why are we expending all this effort to simply interest your customers and prospects? Interest is a prerequisite for understanding and action. This is all about encouraging people – don’t forget those sales numbers are people – to engage with your brand. Understanding means they are sympathetic to your cause, but the action – oh, the action – is to put their spend with you. And if you gauge the relationship well, spend with you frequently.
Every word has to carry its weight. Every sentence must grab your audience. Every paragraph should persuade your prospects to invest in your dream. In the course of my work with new clients, the most frequent problem I encounter is that even if they understand the need for content, they don’t understand why that content needs to be great. I’d argue that if you care enough about your brand to talk about it to the general public, then you should care enough to present it in the best light. And if you don’t care, why should they?
Make The Ordinary Extraordinary
I believe that the best copywriting makes the ordinary so extraordinary that you are compelled to stop and read it, whether you’re interested in the subject or have no knowledge of it at all. It isn’t easy and committing eight-tenths could be more damaging than not even trying at all, but get it right and your brand will engage your customers and prospects like never before. Does your business deserve anything less?
If you find the series – or any of the articles in it – useful, please share them via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I’d really appreciate it, thanks. If you need professional copywriting for anything from your new web copy to marketing collateral and press releases, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to find out how I could help your business.