How this little note shredded one company’s credibility 33 days ago

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.

Not so.

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 46 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

7 things I learned in 7 years of blogging for my business 88 days ago

Image for blog by Nottingham copywriter, Camilla Zajac

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

8 easy ways to kickstart your marketing content this year 94 days ago

Image for copywriting Nottingham blog
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

That internet thing? It'll never take off... 103 days ago

Image for Nottingham web copywriting blog

Image by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

“Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.”

The internet has come a long way since this prediction in Time magazine in 1968.

And it’s not going away any day soon. Yet, as I highlight in this Catena Sector Spotlight, it’s still a missed marketing opportunity for many businesses. Even the basics continue to be overlooked within the web copywriting and content strategies of many companies. As the article says,

“A November 2013 survey by Global Lingo polled more than 1,000 Britons and found that 74 per cent of those questioned would notice poor quality spelling or grammar on a website, with 59 per cent of those insisting they would not use the offending company as a result.”

But, as I point out in the article, there’s much more to web content than getting the essentials right:

“It’s incredibly important to get the right style and if you use the same written content for every channel across a business, rather than tailoring it for online, it can be a wasted opportunity. Remember, it’s not just about getting people to your website, but also making sure they are interested once they are there.”

While the person who made that prediction back in 1968 didn’t have the advantage of seeing the full potential of the internet, today’s businesses do. Isn’t it time they made the most of that insight?

You can read the full Catena Sector Spotlight article here.

Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, January 2015

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