Here’s something you probably wouldn’t expect a copywriter to say: in the future, some of your most valuable content will come from your clients, rather than from your business.
Photo by Hoffnungsschimmer
Surprised? Welcome to the world of User-Generated Content (or UGC). If you haven’t heard much about UGC, you soon will. About six months ago, I named it as my top trend for this year. It may sound complicated, but essentially, UGC showcases your clients’ experiences, opinions and responses in your marketing to create even more of a profile for your business.
Are you making your clients’ experiences count?
Let’s be clear: UGC is not only about your copy and copywriting strategy. It embraces video and more, with effective, relevant content working alongside it. If you’re exploring it from a pure copywriting point of view, UGC can cover testimonials, quotes, comments, forums and other aspects. It may seem daunting at first, but how about starting with a look at ways to give your clients more of a presence in your marketing? These could be as simple as including a quote or tweet from a client in your content or making a feature of user comments on your website.
Turn opinions into opportunities
This isn’t just a shift in marketing format or approach. It’s a shift in culture. The statistics repeatedly demonstrate the power of social proof. Increasingly, people are seeking out the opinions and experiences of others when making a purchase and this is where UGC can give you an advantage. Don’t underestimate the power of giving your clients a role in your marketing. Whatever your view of it, UGC is here to stay. Are you ready to give your clients more of a voice?
Need a quick starting point on UGC? Here’s a round-up of some helpful articles:
1. This is a quick definition of UGC with an overview of the benefits
2. Here’s an informative piece on how brands can get UGC working for them
3. This article explains more about the potential value of UGC campaigns for your business
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, May 2015
I invite you to take a look at this note. Where would you say it came from? When I first saw it, I thought it was perhaps a quick letter from a neighbour wanting to spare someone their “quirky” handwriting or maybe a message from colleague who’s a bit trigger happy with the print function.
When we think of content or copywriting, most of us picture the high profile stuff, the nice shiny brochures, the blogs or the new website. We don’t always think about the little in-between pieces of content – those more functional bits that nevertheless connect us with our customers.
Like the note above. This was sent from a business to their customer. Yes, to a paying customer who ordered a shredder online. It was also the only thing they sent him, apart from the wrong shredder, of course. Now, where do I start? I could go on about the lack of branded stationery, but I’m distracted by the absence of capital letters. I could focus on the missing signature, but I am waylaid by the oddly casual tone of the “apology”.
I know what you’re thinking: “Calm down, dear. It’s only a note”. But it’s a note to a customer who paid money up front for a new shredder. Never mind the fact that, instead of getting the shredder he wanted, he received an inferior product and was charged more.
Those little in-between pieces of content? They matter. It’s amazing the damage they can do. Some time ago, one of my clients had some unfortunate experiences with employees sending out content that was off-brand and off-message. Because of this, they have now made it a rule that no communications go out from the company until I’ve checked them.
That little note or quick piece of marketing content? It may seem small, but it could be the thing that makes people take a big step back from your business.
And the shredder? Returned to sender.
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, March 2015
10 great quotes to help transform your content 86 days ago
Content. Everyone’s talking about it. With so many different views, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the detail. So here’s a quick round-up of helpful content quotes by people from the world of online marketing, content marketing and copywriting.
1. “Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.” Avinash Kaushik
Does your marketing content bring something useful to your readers or is it all about your business? When you’re planning your copywriting strategy, start with the concerns and interests of your customers and build your approach around them. Seek out the issues which really matter to your customers – is it lack of time, a desire for a simpler life, or something else? Then create content which talks direct to these priorities.
2. “Content is the reason search began in the first place.” Lee Odden
This is a great statement and an important reminder that while things keep changing in search, good content retains its value. The quote also says something about the topsy-turvy way in which many companies apply their copywriting approach. Yes, SEO matters, but well written, informative content never goes out of date, unlike the ever-shifting principles of search rankings. So while it’s important to keep up with changes in search, it’s just as important to maintain a consistent content voice and copywriting strategy.
3. “If we only talk about ourselves, we’ll never reach customers” Joe Pulizzi
This quote is a great little reminder about the importance of putting your clients – not yourself – first in your content and copywriting approach. While it may seem natural to write reams about how great your service or product is, you’re more likely to create the response you want by starting with your customers: their interests, concerns and needs.
4. “If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.” Jay Baer
Storytelling is the lifeblood of great content and a more powerful copywriting approach. Why just list features and benefits when you can create a story around your business that connects direct with the concerns of your customer? Look closer at any enduring brand and you’ll see that that’s exactly what they do.
5. “Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the web.” Rick Levine
If I had to choose one of the biggest trends in content right now, I’d have to name-check transparency. Actually, it is so significant a change that I think it’s more of a culture shift than a trend. Audiences increasingly want to connect with brands in a more authentic way. Transparent brands are ones that strive to be more open, whether that’s like the recent change in online strategy by Dixons Carphone or the companies that give their audience more of an insight into the way they work, like these ones.
6. “Context should be driving all your content.” Steve Haase
Wise words indeed. Great content keeps the customer at its core, but it’s also designed to match different contexts or marketing channels. Go beyond just re-using the same content across all your different marketing options. Rather than creating lots of additional marketing content, this means looking closely at how to re-purpose your content in different ways, making sure that the style and message fits with each channel.
7. “Make the customer the hero of your story.” Ann Handley
It’s natural for a business to want to be the star of the show. It’s their marketing content, isn’t it? Actually, the real star is your customer and you roll out the red carpet by making the content all about them and their interests and concerns.
8. “Content strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.” Rachel Lovinger
Content is massive right now and that’s not going to change any time soon. But that’s not your cue to generate reams and reams of words without a plan! As this quote suggests, without a copywriting and content roadmap, you’re likely to get more than a little lost along the way. Avoid this by starting with a strategy and reviewing it as you go along.
9. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you just need to share your unique perspective on why the wheel is important.” Jon Ball
So true. While it can be tempting to work up an innovative copywriting approach for the sake of being innovative, this can prove counter-productive. Quirky content can end up working against you. Just find an angle that is special to you and that fits with the concerns of your customer, then share it in an interesting way.
10 “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” Leo Burnett
A lot goes into creating marketing content that works. This quote reminds us to make things more simple and focus on keeping content readable and appealing. Don’t get tied up in being too clever or complex. After all, most of us now read more than 100,000 words a day in our leisure time alone!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, March 2015
Image by Mike Licht
Jewellery, employee benefits schemes, CE marking, high end doors and windows, wine, ink cartridges, mortgages, business networking, updates from an award winning author…They are just a few of the many topics I’ve brought to life through blogging in my 12 plus years as a copywriter.
I’ve been blogging for myself for quite some time too. I recently reached a major milestone – my 7 year “bloggiversary”! This was my very first blog post…
Hundreds of copywriting blog posts later and I’ve certainly learned a few things along the way:
1. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing
Why cover the same ground as everybody else? In each industry, there’s probably a more, shall we say, “familiar” way to cover the main issues. But following the same route as others in your sector isn’t likely to make you stand out. Look for a fresh way to talk about your industry to make your business blog your own. Why be generic when you can be genuinely individual?
2. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just inform people in an interesting way
Having made my point above, my long track record as a blogger for myself (and for others) has taught me that it’s not productive to be different just for the sake of it. Your audience wants to be informed (and fast!) so focus on achieving that. Keep your main topic right at the centre, but keep offering new perspectives on it.
3. It (usually) takes time
Blogging for your own business takes time to establish. That’s as true for your blogging voice as it is for your presence and your audience. Yes, sometimes great things do happen overnight, but usually it’s a long-term, gradual process. Enjoy the ride. Look to create quality evergreen content that can withstand the rigours of time and of marketing trends and shifts!
4. Find a voice that belongs to you
Every business blog is different. Some companies prefer a detached, formal style while businesses that trade more on their individuality may prefer to speak in the first person. The important thing is to explore and uncover a tone of voice which feels natural for you and your business. If you really want to make your blog sustainable, make sure that your tone of voice is authentic. That will help you maintain both it and your blog for many years to come!
5. Trends change, but blogging is for life
A lot has changed in 7 years – with marketing, SEO and social media, never mind blogging! When I first started my copywriting blog, blogging wasn’t common practice. Now it’s recognised as part of everyday life for proactive businesses and as a central aspect of content marketing. SEO and attitudes to content continue to shift ever onwards! What I’ve learned is that there is a magic balance between keeping up a consistent copywriting strategy and adapting to changes in the way people seek out and respond to content.
6. Blog about what interests you and you’ll create interest in other people
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Having your own blog is an incredible opportunity to explore your professional ideas and share your personal insight into your industry. Having said that, your blog needs to be focused around the interests of your potential customers! The more you make your business blog part of your everyday life, the more ideas and opportunities you’ll uncover. It might be a conversation with a client or your own experience of using a service or product. Whatever it is, make your blog your own. Get into the habit of seeking out new ideas and approaches for your blog and it’ll soon become second nature…leading to those 3am brainwaves or to the experience of having a brief chat with a client which quickly turns into a series of blog posts.
7. See it as a valuable business resource, not a task
It’s all too easy to look on the act of blogging as a chore. It’s a view I hear all the time from business-owners that I meet. But if you change your perspective, you’ll see that your blog can work for you on all kinds of levels. It can establish you as an expert in your field. It also gives you an incredible resource for promoting your business through social media, enewsletters and more. Changes in marketing continue to create ever more opportunities through blogging. Why not make the most of them?
Thank you to all the lovely people who have commented on (and off) my blog in the past 7 years!
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, January 2015
Image by Paci-Mau
Are you finding it tough to get your content and copywriting strategy into gear? Kick back and take a look at these ideas…
1. Say less
Need to speed up the impact of your marketing content? I have three words for you: clarify, refine, reduce. It’s that simple. Take a closer look at the content you use to promote your business. Is it streamlined and strategic or packed with words and unclear messages? If you want to create more of a response, pare it right back. With copywriting, less really is more.
2. Give more
Generosity with content could help to generate the response you want. Are you sharing your marketing content fully with your clients and prospects? Would you say you’re making the most of the great case studies, success stories and tips that you have in-house? That’s what they’re for, after all! Now is the perfect time to start distributing all th content you’ve created.
3. Share stuff
Here’s another way to share which could make your content more productive. Instead of just telling people about yourself and your business, inform them about the things that you know will interest them, whatever that might be. This can be as effective in your emails as it can be for your blogging and makes for more magnetic marketing content.
4. Limit yourself
Trying to do too much can turn your marketing content into a mammoth task. Instead, focus on just two or three channels (blogging, Facebook etc.) with or two one or two key messages. It’s an easy way to strengthen your marketing voice.
5. Exchange it
Here’s one urge which often undermines business copywriting…the urge to list features and facts instead of benefits! Start looking at converting the facts about what you do into great reasons to buy into your business and you’ll speed up the response to your content.
6. Encourage response
Here’s yet another classic error found in a lot of business copywriting, whether it’s off or online – the strange absence of clear calls to action or information about what your potential client should do next! Should they click to contact you, pick up the phone or sign up for your newsletter? Make it clear, make it easy and you’re much more likely to make them respond!
7. Ask questions
I named User Generated Content (UGC) as the trend to watch in my first blog post of 2015. Apply the power of UGC by asking more questions in your marketing content. Look to generate interest and response by encouraging your clients to share their views and experiences.
8. Get support
Most of us value a second opinion in many areas of our lives. Why should your content or copywriting approach be any different? Gaining a detached second opinion from a copywriter could help bring out the best of your business in your marketing instead of missing out on the good stuff. I know someone who can help …
Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, January 2015