…which worked, for a while!
Earlier this year, I started a series of mini-posts on Linkedin and my Look Here page on Facebook to investigate two things:
- whether creating shorter pieces more often made creating my own content more manageable and enjoyable
- if audience engagement with particular short posts could serve as a guide as to what more in-depth content I should be creating
To be honest, the jury’s still out; I didn’t really post enough material yet (kind of disproving the first point). But for reference, here are the posts thus far collated below. I might revive the series again soon…
1. Who Else Is Still Getting GDPR Emails?
Last month, you got a bunch of emails from companies you no longer care about, asking you to click through and opt-in if you want to continue getting their emails. Whatever reason you had for signing up in the first place is now a distant memory, so you simply hit delete.
You’d think this would be the end of the story, especially given the wording on their emails. But no. They keep coming. In my opinion, this is a terrible move.
Businesses that repeatedly email non-responders are shooting themselves in the foot. They’re annoying a sector of people who were indifferent about them previously, but will now become actively negative.
These companies should simply remove non-responders from their mailing lists and rejoice in having a cleaner, more-focused list. They’ll save on their costs by not having to email so many people, and their CTR will rocket!
It’s also an opportunity for them to move on and create a new campaign to attract people who need their product/service onto their mailing list.
There’s no point in desperately chasing indifferent or lazy non-customers on an old list. There’s every point in making an effort to reach out and appeal to the right target market to show how useful you can be!
2. How important is your meta description?
Google went through a period of allowing more space for meta descriptions in the search engine results page, but a couple of months back they seemed to revert to their traditional 160-character limit. If your description is longer than this, it will cut off with the customary series of…
Apparently, a meta description doesn’t carry any weight SEO-wise. But, it obviously does have an impact on what people will see in the SERP when they search for your subject, business, industry or niche.
As they glance down the results page, what is going to catch their eye? The first lines Google grabs from the web page? Or a well-crafted, catchy and relevant sentence or two, tailored for your target audience? If you’re lucky, they might be quite similar, but more often than not, the customised text will win every time.
So, if you want the lines visible in the SERP to look complete and succinct, then you have to stick within the limit. You might choose careful words to sum up or sell the page perfectly, or grab the best sentence from the on-page copy. Or you may change tack and create something that startles or challenges the reader enough to get them to click through.
Whatever you do, make it noticeable and relevant.
If you do go over the limit a little and get the ‘…’ perhaps it isn’t the end of the world, especially if what is visible is interesting to the reader. If you’ve phrased it right, it might even entice them to click through…
3. Formal or conversational?
Almost every copywriter on the planet likes to create copy that speaks to the reader in a friendly, conversational manner. Across most sectors, there’s been a move towards copy with more personality that’s punchier, challenging or jocular, even in industries that have traditionally been rather dry and straight.
Many people also use the ‘barstool’ test. When you read the copy, does it sound like something you could say to somebody in a bar? No? Then you should change it.
But should this rule be applied 100% across the board? I’d love to think so, but, like everything in life, there are exceptions.
Some sectors and companies like ‘formal’. It’s part of their brand, their character. And they know their clients and prospects expect it of them.
And there’s the crux of it: it’s all about writing to market. If your research shows your target clients enjoy reading copy that breaks with formality or the norm, then knock ‘em out. But if they can’t take a business seriously without seeing plenty of formal language, knowledge signalling and industry jargon, then you’re gonna have to play to that.
4. How will a copywriter really understand my business?
It’s what business owners everywhere often think when they start to work with a copywriter, especially for the first time. Can you trust them to ‘get it’?
The answer is of course yes, but there is a caveat: you’ve got to feed them. They’re not mind-readers. They could assume a lot from online research, but this is no substitute for real facts from the horse’s mouth. And is your business something you make assumptions on? I don’t think so.
A good copywriter will ask a lot of questions – about your customers, their problems/dreams/issues, what’s putting them off, what’s annoying about your industry, what problems you solve, your delivery methods, what your unique or unconventional view or solution is, and more…
Be honest, not evasive. They’re not going to sell your company secrets – they’re looking into the core motivation for what you do and why customers would come to you.
You should ask questions too.
Ask them about their discovery process. Check out their work. Read any testimonials. See how they’ve understood other businesses or subjects. If anything is unclear, talk to them about it.
And tell them exactly what you want – what the actual deliverable will be, and what you want to achieve.
It’s all about clarity. A copywriter’s skills are completely transferable – we just need the specific information to create work to suit your business and your customers.
5. The Fast-Good-Cheap Conundrum
You’ve no doubt all seen this before, but for me it never gets old. I still love the unholy triptych of the three key qualities everyone would like from a piece of work, but don’t always realise you can’t have them all at the same time.
The FAST-GREAT-CHEAP diagram sums it up perfectly, and I keep reminding myself of it every time I think about a project and the pricing. It can apply to any business, not just mine.
Basically, you can always have two factors, at the cost of the third.
Want something fast and great? Then it isn’t going to be cheap.
Want something fast and cheap? Then it isn’t going to be great.
Want great work, at a cheap cost? Then it isn’t going to be fast.
It’s a formula that’s never wrong, and at the centre of the diagram is a place where unicorns live.
6. Remember when…?
…animations were quirkier and slower? When they used real drawings or models, and everything seemed more considered and deliberate (even in the Magic Roundabout)? And you had more time to think about everything?
A effective discovery session is like that. Hands-on. Having to pay attention to the details. Lots of small moves. And you know that if you don’t do it properly, then the final outcome will suffer.
My biggest fail happened because I thought it would be OK to skimp on a discovery session. After all, the designer had already done a great job with her questions and analysis report, and the clients were very busy people, always rescheduling calls. Obviously, they didn’t want to go through the process a second time. What could go wrong?
A lot. I should have insisted. I managed to completely mess up the tone of voice and was trying to create content without those rare insights and key lines that can come out of asking a bunch of ‘idiot questions’, as I call them. The clients were very upset and I spent a lot of time and stress re-crafting everything to get it right.
Lesson learned. I’ve never skipped a discovery session since. Ever.
So, like those old-school animations, stick to the process, pay close attention, and give yourself the time to absorb and think. It’s essential for a great website, branding, ad, email, brochure, or whatever else you need to create.
7. Restrictions are sometimes good
When working with a creative person – someone who is going to put together fantastic images, design, copy, video, or even music, for you – never use phrases like: “I want to give you complete artistic freedom”, “You’ve got carte blanche on this”, or even: “Don’t worry – there’s no rush.”
You might think you’re respecting our talents and doing us a favour, but these phrases can be killers for creativity.
By not giving us any guidelines about what you want, references to other sites you like, or what you want your project to achieve or make people do, you are leaving us without a compass or a rudder in a wide open ocean of possibility. It’s likely we’ll get lost, or simply stop from overwhelm and uncertainty.
And with no deadline, a project loses all its urgency and risks becoming a lower priority than other jobs that come along. Having a deadline focuses our minds on the job at hand and keeps the project’s momentum going.
So, don’t feel that you’re offending or restricting my creativity with deadlines or definitions – you’re actually helping to create a successful result.
That’s it for now!
Hope you enjoyed reading – which one was your favourite? Drop me a line and let me know.