Time-saving shortcuts to inspiration

Business Writing That Sells. Part 10

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 time-saving shortcuts to inspiration for your business writing.


OK, so you’re busy. You don’t have the time to carry out market research, focus groups and user testing for that new web page, press release or blog. The thought of a thousand drafts to fit the hero of 1,000 faces fills you with dread. You want words that catch lightning in a bottle without having to blow the glass yourself. You want words that will catch your customers’ attention. And you want them today – preferably, yesterday.

So what’s a time poor, asset poor start-up or SME to do? Well, of course you should retain a professional copywriter – and may I suggest moi? – but what if you’re determined to go it alone? I could ramble on about drawing inspiration from your core values and how every communication should embody your corporate mission statement to engage your customers one-on-one, but let’s be realistic here – you need to be a marketing magpie. Whatever words you find that are shiny and attractive, no matter the source: steal it.


No business is an island

You should create a marketing toolkit. It’s a list of the main messages that you want to tell the world, expressed in the right tone of voice and agreed by all the stakeholders in your business. But, y’know – that takes time. So where do you turn when you need words NOW?

No man – or in this case, business – is an island. Look at what has proven effective for your competition and decide how you can make that work for you. Then do it. Do NOT steal phrases, taglines or mission statements – that will just make you look like a douche. DO take inspiration from direction, benefits and ‘colour’. It’s what journalists call the ‘angle’. It’s your hook; your way in; the basis of the ‘story’.

You must have heard the phrase, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” It’s been around in one form or another since 1708 and it’s been repeated regularly ever since with good reason. What does that mean today? Any copywriter, designer, or other marketing creative will go to great lengths to stress the originality of their thinking and the unique way they join the dots together for your account. And that’s all true – that’s why we’re worth our weight in gold.

But what we as a breed are less likely to admit is that we all take inspiration from somewhere. True, we can draw together strands from unlikely sources to create an unprecedented whole, but those ideas usually came from somewhere.


Take it and make it better

Every creative has what we call a swipe file. It could be a physical scrapbook, a shoebox, a mood board, a Word document, or a Pinterest album, but smart people collect inspirational, effective and proven examples of their craft to refer to. The important thing is to make sure you don’t restrict yourself to one medium, mission or market. If something speaks to you, capture it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an award-winning billboard ad or a photograph from a magazine; an inspirational quote or a piece of music. The important thing is to file it away for future reference.

A creative swipe file is a touchstone you can return to at any time; things that spark a reaction in you – and therefore, your customers. It might seem totally random when you’re compiling it, but when you need inspiration months later, you might just spot a common thread that not only makes sense, but forms the hook from which you can hang your marketing campaign.

Whether you lift wholesale, or use it as a touchpaper for your own imagination is up to you, but steal from things that speak directly to your soul. Just make sure you take it and make it better. As Jean-Luc Goddard said, “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”


Commerce, not art

If that all sounds a bit derivative, lazy or just plain cheating, remember this is a real world guide to time-saving shortcuts to inspiration for your start-up or SME. As respected copywriter Roger Horberry says, “Originality in copywriting isn’t as important as you might think. This is commerce, not art.”

If you have neither the time nor the budget, these tips will help you find inspiration when you’re staring at a blank screen and the words just won’t come. But if you want marketing copy that flies off the page or out of the screen, then there really is no substitute for the research, craft and creativity of a professional copywriter. Talk to me.


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.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s