Tag Archives: content

The Design and Copy dance team: who’s the best one to lead?

Added Value At Work! on this printed page, the sidebar about the Covert Collection has bulletpoints with explanations that make them sell harder. Yes, it takes up more room, but this mailer did enormously well to the customer list. They ended up taking that copy and making it value added copy, or content, on the web.

Added Value At Work! on this printed page, the sidebar about the Covert Collection has bulletpoints with explanations that make them sell harder. Yes, it takes up more room, but this mailer did enormously well to the customer list. They ended up taking that copy and making it value added copy, or content, on the web.

Most online and printed catalog managers believe that the creative development of a catalog is based on design. So in most catalogs, designers take the lead in the creative process.

This is an unfortunate assumption, because more often than not, it leads to copy being an afterthought.

“Poor stepchild” copywriting really shows as such, in most catalogs. The result too often is the same old ‘product on a page’ routine, which we know from response numbers is not the best way to go.

A designer alone doesn’t have the background or selling experience needed to make a catalog the strong seller it can be.

Some of the world’s most effective ecommerce sites and catalogs are actually quite copy-driven, utilizing added-value content, strong headlines and powerful, well-directed copy. On the printed catalogs, it helps create a hierarchy on each spread. On an ecommerce site, it can make the difference between a dull nuts and bolts home page, vs. one that is lively and intriguing that keeps the customer in the site for much longer.

Next time you look at working on upgrading your catalog and ecommerce creative, consider these opportunities to make it more effective…

1. Work with a smart, strategic copywriter to look over the existing website and, if you have it, your catalog. Ask them whether they can envision a better way to sell a Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 7.19.21 PMproduct or a group of products. Then, ask them to write a small feature that would make the whole group of products work harder, to sell more.
2. Create a headline for your ecommerce pages and catalog pages that will be caught quickly by search – benefit driven, product name, etc. This is what is often called the long ‘tail’ headline that has so much, you can’t miss when it comes to being found.
3. Try friendly instead of simply factual. Even in business to business, an everyman approach beats out the cold hard factual approach or ‘engineerspeak’ every time. That’s because your customers are human, not machines.
4. Bullet points are easy – but in fact copy leading to the bullet points gives a reader a reason to dig in and spend more time with your product.

 

On this 4 gifts under $50 group, it's from a direct mail self mailer, and it's a great example of how a lead in paragraph will make the bulletpointed copy more meaningful.

On this 4 gifts under $50 group, it’s from a direct mail self mailer, and it’s a great example of how a lead in paragraph will make the bulletpointed copy more meaningful

5. Tell a story instead of telling facts. How did you discover this product? When did you realize this was something you, yourself could use? How did you work with the manufacturer to make it even better than ever? First person is a great way to sell if your writer is seasoned enough to write a good story.

In all of these cases, the one taking the lead is the copywriter, and that lead will alter the design of the spread, in some cases, substantially.

In a website, you can set this copy up to drill down easily to more and more facts. ON a printed catalog, you may lose a little selling space by making the copy less rudimentary.

But here is the other bonus with a seasoned copywriter taking the lead: the better the writer, the more likely they are to be able to reduce the amount of copy by writing it more efficiently! So what space is lost by copy changes may come back to you in brisker, more to-the-point (but not cold and fact-only) copy.

Keep in mind, shorter copy takes more time to write. Yes, you read that correctly. Even Mark Twain wrote to a friend (paraphrased) “I’m writing you a long letter today because I haven’t the time to write a short one.” If a master of words like Twain found short copy daunting, you can imagine it’s going to be a challenge for any writer. IN fact, the less seasoned the copywriter, the more naïve they’ll be about the work it takes to produce a good short copy block.

In the long run, all the suggestions I’ve made here amount to the same thing: selling harder by using one of the most powerful tools in your reach – smart copy!

So instead of making the copy an afterthought, team up your creatives earlier in the process and challenge them to, with both copy and design, make your catalog and ecommerce site really become selling powerhouses.

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Generate content for your site… and rake in qualified new prospects!

Everyone’s talking about web content these days. It’s said to be a necessity to get web visitors both the first time, through search, and then in follow up, as customers research products and services from many different angles.  The world is hungry for interesting, helpful, informative and quality-dense content. Yet you’ve probably noticed, there’s really not out there. Much of what we find online is rehashed, regurgitated and not worth our time.

Websites with good content get high rankings by visitors, who tell their friends and colleagues. Websites with no content, or dreck for content, don’t get the attention or the appreciation that results in higher rankings. Great web content generates customers through organic search — people search specific topics and they find you.

Great content generates credibility – your customers and prospects like you more, believe you know more than the competition and want to see more about you.

“Nearly half (46 percent) of CMOs at Fortune 1,000 companies attribute engaging content that generates comments as the leading factor to blog success.” — eMarketer

Why is it so hard to find worthwhile content? Well, for one thing, it takes time and effort, and brains to create decent web content. That means that, if you want to improve your site, either you have all the time in the world and are a great writer, or you need to fill your world with sources to generate these interesting articles and other such content.  Image

What makes for good web content? It’s all about introducing some different value-added pieces to your customers and followers!  If you were your customer, what would be interesting, useful, something you’d go back to see again and again? What would you pass along to your colleagues or friends?

• Intriguing news or information
Original reporting.
Research on something that is of interest to someone in your market.
Analysis of news or research, as long as it’s insightful and leads to conclusions that jive with the beliefs of your web audience.
Apps that are fun, interesting or useful — the key word here being useful. There are tons of great game apps out there already, so if you are thinking of a game, it has to be over-the-top great.  Think of which apps you use the most often – things that give you shortcuts to figure things out are probably highest on the list. Consider something like that.
Recipes – even if you’re not a cooking site, there may be a good reason for one. Think of what your prospect likes the most.
Music or pictures that relate to your audience’s interests in some way.
Contests or quizzes with fun prizes – which by the way will not need be super-high value, as long as it’s something your audience likes. A contest might be as simple as ‘sign up for our informative emails and you’ll have a chance to win in our monthly drawing for an XYZ.’  Or it could be something more creative such as ‘Design your perfect jacket and you could win a backstage slot on Project Runway.’ In Business to business, it might be a ‘Spot the hazard’ in a photo if you’re selling safety fixes for industrial plants.
• Guides such as ‘How to start a business in the XYZ industry’ or ‘What credentials do you need to be a public school teacher (name your state and we’ll give you the answer).
• Videos. Your videos should be bright and useful, but don’t think you must hire a videographer to do it! Here is a great video that’s web/email content for Wine of the Month Club that is obviously homegrown but took on a life of its own… and sold a hell of a lot of wine!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brdZNeFwd3U
• Big ideas! That is, whatever you have as content should have one singular idea as the driver for that particular piece of content. Don’t try to do too much in one shot — people get lost and they turn away.

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Many of these ideas can be included in a blog, which should be somehow attached to your website… but often you can and should develop this kind of content in your website, your emails and more.

As you can see, there are so many ways to add content – many I have not thought of here. So, what’s defined as BAD content — what should you avoid?

• Old articles or white papers that everyone’s seen already.
• Benign articles that have been hacked apart by your legal department so the content has no value. (My old friend Howard used to refer to the legal department as the ‘Sales Prevention Department’.)
• Poorly written articles with bad punctuation, run-on sentences, sloppy grammar. In advertising and marketing, grammar need not be ‘King’s English’ but it should be exciting, interesting and easy to understand at a glance. Paragraphs should be short and sweet, vocabulary should be easy, although definitely not geared as stupid (Read some of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ books for ideas).
• Bad headlines – one of the fatal flaws if you don’t have a Big idea is that you can’t determine a good headline or title or name for the piece. An hilarious article about bad headlines (touching often on bad grammar) can be found here: http://contentmarketingtoday.com/2012/07/24/how-to-keep-bad-headlines-from-burying-your-content/

Writing your content – There are entire books about web content writing, but here are a few highlights that should get you going.

• Allow time to figure out a list of content options, and then develop a schedule to develop them all in a timely manner.  For ideas, see this article: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/01/marketing-priorities-spreadshee/
• Set some budget aside
to give you room to hire some content developers.
• Develop a mission statement
for the addition of your content – why you’re including it, what you hope to achieve, etc.
• Ask your followers what they think would be good content
.
• Load the copy with keywords
— yet make it still something you would enjoy reading. Sometimes there’s so much emphasis on keywords that the copy reads like a chart instead of a warm and engaging article.• Keep the subject hot, relevant and current.
• Update your content regularly so you reward people for returning to your site.
• Make it fun to read, to use, to pass along. Remember that if you want your visitors to pass your site/content link along to others, it must be something that makes the recipient think well of the sender. If your web content is lame, your follower will face embarrassment when they pass it along.

Content isn’t just some band-aid you plug into your site to tell people you have it. It’s a sales tool that can help you generate better quality followers and prospects, and even help you close on sales. You have so much to gain! Start putting your plan together now, and if you need some ideas or a brainstorm, don’t hesitate to contact me to chat.

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Filed under Copywriting, Creative Strategy, Design, Marketing Strategy