How to avoid curse of the generic tagline

A word about finding your tagline.

“Ok” Cleaners. Name or tagline? Maybe they’re based in Oklahoma? Either way, I’d try again! Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

 

 

Fast – reliable – honest – cheeky

That, my friends, is not a tagline. Except it is. There’s a company out there that has actually paid for that exercise in banality to be emblazoned across their delivery vehicles.

Fast, reliable, honest. That’s not a tagline, that’s the bare minimum any business should offer their clients! And as for the cheeky part…I’m not really sure what to do with that. I guess it does make them stand out from all of the other fast/reliable/honest businesses out there but I just don’t get it.

Do I want my delivery men to be cheeky? Um, that’s a definitive no. But then maybe “Fast – reliable – honest – shuts the f up and gets on with the job” just isn’t catchy enough…

So cheeky it is.

I almost fell into the fast-reliable-honest trap myself. I was talking branding with my graphic designer/sister/favourite collaborator, Fi, when she was designing my logo and she was getting all up in my grill about what actually makes me so awesome.

And I was doing that butt-clenchingly cringey British thing where we all pretend that actually we’re a bit crap and owe all of our success to blind luck and cute accents.

“I’m great with a deadline,” says I, “I’m really reliable”. Blush, blush, cringe, cringe.

“No, you eejit”, says she. “Any entrepreneur worth their salt and vinegar crisps is punctual and reliable.”

“What makes you different? If you’re not different, we can’t sell you.” God, I hate it when she’s right.

Can you relate? How do you sell yourself? When you’re networking, when you’re writing blog posts, when you’re talking to potential clients? When writing your tagline?

Let me tell you if you haven’t come up with anything better than fast-reliable-honest or some other version based on a 16-year-old’s first attempt at a CV, then you’re snookered.

So how do you find your tagline?

It’s blindingly simple. Ask your people.

“What do your clients say about you?” Fi asked. Bingo, light bulb, Eureka!

Looking back at my testimonials, my clients consistently express their surprise that I manage to sound exactly like them when I’m writing their stuff. That’s what makes me great at my job, and there’s my tagline: “My Words, Your Voice”.

Four words and I’m tapping into what I do well, but I’m also assuaging a common fear clients have before they come to me, namely that their copy won’t sound like them.

So what do your clients say about you?

Have a good look through every bit of feedback you’ve ever received and I guarantee you’ll begin to see a pattern. Your “what makes you different”, and your tagline, are hiding somewhere in there.

And if you’re a newbie? With no clients, and no testimonials? Think about what you’d like future clients to say about you? How are you planning to blow their minds?

Hint: it ain’t with your fast, reliable, honest service. You’re so much more than that. You know it and I know it — it’s time to make sure everyone else knows it too.

And if you want to be cheeky, that’s up to you!

A word about finding your tagline.

Cheeky!
Photo by Aidas Ciziunas on Unsplash

 

More on that British reluctance to blow your own trumpet. Not as dirty as it sounds, sorry!

How to stop Impostor Syndrome holding you back.

how to deal with impostor syndrome

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Is Impostor Syndrome holding you back?

How do you feel when you see those super-confident entrepreneurs at networking events? You know the ones who can just grab hold of the mic and tell the room how awesome they are. No apologies, no hesitation. They’re amazing and they know it — and I’ll bet their sales conversion rate isn’t too bad either.

I’ll bet they find it pretty easy to write their web content too.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks business owners come up against when writing their own web copy, is the inability to sell themselves. There are a few reasons that we might find this aspect of copywriting so difficult (I go into this in more detail here) but for some of you, I’m willing to bet that a sneaky little doze of Impostor syndrome might just be to blame.

Now, if there’s a way to banish that particular demon for good, please, please let me know (we’re rather good friends, Impostor Syndrome and I, although he comes to visit far less often than he used to, I’m happy to say). But, while we’re waiting for the answer, there are a few things you can do to make sure he doesn’t hang around for too long when he does pay a visit.

Make yourself a brag book.

Arrogance isn’t cool but damn, you’ve worked hard for the things you’ve achieved, so you’re allowed a few bragging rights. Think about everything you’ve accomplished in your career, the last year, the last week, whatever, and write it down. Add pictures if you have any. Any qualifications you’ve earned, courses you’ve completed, work you’re particularly proud of, relationships you’ve built, demons you’ve faced — write it all down and give yourself a shiny star sticker (okay, that’s the nursery teacher in me coming out now, but who doesn’t love stickers?).

Any time Impostor Syndrome comes knocking at your door, shove your brag book right in his horrible little face and send him packing.

Talk to your pals.

Or your Mum. But only if they’re the kind of people who’ll tell you the truth. This isn’t the time for those friends who tell you that you look good even when you know you’re looking like a troll. This is the time for the folk who call you out when you’re being a brat. When your tact-free friends tell you that you’re awesome at your job, you know you it’s the truth. Impostor syndrome won’t get a look in.

Keep your skills fresh.

There is only one occasion that you’re allowed to listen to Impostor Syndrome’s whispering. If he tells you that your skills are getting rusty and you’re not keeping up  with your industry, and you know he’s right, you need to take action.

I know running a business takes up a ridiculous amount of time (hey, I’m right there with you on that one!), but you HAVE to schedule time to work on your skills. You could set yourself a regular appointment to read key industry publications or dedicate some time to completing at least one new course each year.

By far my favourite way of upskilling, is content marketing. Every time I write a blog, whether for clients or for my own blog, I’m learning. All of the research that goes into every blog post is a fantastic way to consolidate existing knowledge and it’s a great incentive to keep abreast of industry developments. And the best thing is that I’m completing serious marketing goals while I’m keeping my skills fresh. Impostor Syndrome, be gone!

Acknowledge that we ALL suffer IMPOSTOR Syndrome.

Yeah, he pays every single one of us a visit at some time or another. Don’t for one minute think that the fact that he’s banging on your door means that you actually are an impostor. We all have those moments of shaky confidence and the suspicion that everyone in the world is doing life better than we are. They’re not.

Let’s make 2018 the year we get rid of Impostor Syndrome once and for all. Whether you’re drafting a social media post, taking centre stage at a networking event, or tackling the dreaded ‘about me’ page copy, I want you to remember that you rock. You’ve got this!

Do you have the confidence to blow your own trumpet?

 

Blowing your own trumpet in business

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

 

A recent networking event, which focused on the topic of ‘Confidence in Business’ has got me thinking. We all know that confidence in business is vital. After all, if you don’t believe in your skills, talent and business prowess then how do you expect to convince your clients that you are worthy of their hard-earned cash?

How confident are you in business matters? Are you the best in your field? More importantly, do you tell your customers how much you rock?

I have a sneaky suspicion that we Brits do not lack confidence, but rather suffer from an ingrained reluctance to blow our own trumpets. In this country, self confidence and blatant self-promotion are often mistaken for arrogance.  While we supposedly live in an increasingly classless society, we do love to hate anyone who we perceive as having ‘ideas above their station’ — Tall Poppy Syndrome in all its glory. How often have you thought that you’d like to bring the insufferably smug Simon Cowell down a peg or two?  I wonder if Mr Cowell is received somewhat more warmly across the pond where, in my experience at least, success is cheered and encouraged.

Don't let Tall Poppy Syndrome cut down your business

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

There is of course a fine line between confidence and arrogance and you do need the talent to back it up. Unfortunately I have met a good many talented people who hesitate in talking themselves up precisely to avoid seeming arrogant.

One of my clients is a perfect example. Articulate, intelligent and remarkably talented in her field, she is extremely confident in her business abilities. Yet, when it came to writing her website, she choked. She just couldn’t sell herself. She admitted that it felt completely unnatural to be so blatant in shouting about how fantastic she is.

This is often when people turn to copywriters. It’s not so much that you can’t write, it’s that you can’t write well about YOU! This particular client told me about her business, her skills and her qualifications and I did the hard bit. Since she couldn’t blow her own trumpet, I did it for her and she was thrilled with the results.

How’s that for a bit of shameless self-promotion?  I hope you don’t think I’m being arrogant…

 

So if you find it hard to sell yourself, drop me a line and I’ll help you out: office@clarecrossan.co.uk

You may also be interested in:

How to use social proof to boost your small business.

How to market your business when you’re broke.

 

7 Benefits of Having a Business Blog

 

Have you started a business blog yet?

Or have you started, uploaded a couple of posts and then let it fade?

I mean, you have other stuff to do, right? You know, designing, coaching or whatever it is that your clients pay you to do…

I get it. Blogging takes time and it takes effort.

You have to set aside time to research, write and (for the love of the wee man don’t forget this bit), promote your blog posts.

Given the whole ‘time and effort’ objection to blogging, you might wonder why I made such a big deal of it in my previous post ‘How to market your business when you’re broke’. Sure, it’s free but is it really worth the hassle?

In a word, yes!

Now, if you’re happy to take my word for it, then you can go and get started right now.

If you still need a bit of convincing, I’ve listed below the most basic benefits you’ll get from starting your own business blog.

1. Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

Now, many copywriters are SEO experts—I am not. I’m not super- techy and they keep moving the damn goalposts on this one. Google changes its algorithms more often than I change my mind about my favourite Game of Thrones character.

 One thing that remains constant though, is that search engines love fresh content.

There is absolutely no point getting yourself an all-singing, all-dancing website and then letting it stagnate.

And that’s what’ll happen if you don’t keep updating your content. All of the well cared for websites, with new and exciting content will float to the top of the search pile, leaving yours to sink lower and lower into the depths.

It’s heartbreaking. Especially if you paid a fortune setting up your site in the first place!

The easiest way to introduce fresh content to your website: a blog.

2.Long-tail keywords

While we’re talking search engines, it’s worth knowing about long-tail keywords. This is something that probably deserves a post of its very own but I’m going to stick with just a simple explanation for now.

What are long-tail keywords and how are they going to help your business?

Let’s take my own business as an example. A relevant long-tail keyword might be ‘how to write a great landing page’. In search engine terms, this is going to have far less competition than the more generic ‘copywriter’ or ‘marketing copy’.

The more long-tail keywords your website contains, the more people will be able to find it —providing you are not jamming keywords in just for the sake of it. (Don’t do this! Google will recognise that you’re trying to cheat the system and will penalise you for it. Always remember you’re writing for people, not search engines).

Blog posts are a brilliant way of naturally incorporating long-tail keywords into your website.

3. Building relationships

Blogging is NOT about making sales. Increased sales will happen further down the line, but when you’re writing it’s worth remembering that the main purpose of your blog is to help your customers.

Before you even start blogging, it’s a good idea to spend some time putting together a strategy.

Consider who your customers are, what they want to know and how you can help them. What kind of topics could you cover that will improve their lives or their businesses?

Assuming you’re providing useful content and showing a bit of personality, your customers will come to know, like and trust you. When they get to the point that they’re ready to buy, they’re far more likely to come to you, the person they know, like and trust.

4. Establishing credibility

In a similar vein, by posting useful information about your industry you’re proving to your audience that you know your stuff.

Diplomas and qualifications are great but producing relevant content highlights that you are constantly honing your skills and keeping your knowledge fresh.

This shows your professionalism and your expertise —and instils confidence in your customers.

5. Getting to know your customers

When you’re blogging, invite your readers to comment on your posts. The conversations that can ensue here are a goldmine.

Are customers frequently asking the same questions? Great, there’s a topic for a new blog post or even a new page on your website.

Is there a recurring problem with one of your products? Great, now you know about it, you can fix it and tell everyone about the improvements you’ve made.

Maybe some of the comments are highlighting a particular problem that your clients are experiencing — here’s an opportunity for you develop or repackage one of your products or services.

6.Improve your industry knowledge

Not every blog post you write will require research. You are writing about your own industry after all. Some will though and when you’re researching these topics, I guarantee that you’ll improve your professional knowledge along the way. This will ultimately improve the service you’re offering your clients and help you grow your business.

7.Increased visibility

I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth saying again:

Promote your posts!

There is no point in writing a post that no one will ever read. As soon as you’ve hit publish, promote your post on every social media account you have, including your personal ones.

It is also worth adding any new posts to your newsletter or automatically emailing any new content to your email subscribers.

This is a great way to increase your visibility and stay at the forefront of your customer’s minds.

 

I’d love to know…

If you were on the fence about starting a blog, has any of the info here changed your mind one way or the other?

Have I missed anything out?

If you’ve been blogging for a while and spotted an obvious benefit that I haven’t mentioned here, let me know!

For more posts on marketing your small business, subscribe here:

 

Designers vs Copywriters – a showdown?

 

Content is king? Design is divine?

Design vs Copy; why it’s time to call a truce.

I rewrote my site’s portfolio page last week and seeing my history of working closely with graphic designers laid out in black and white got me thinking about the designer/copywriter relationship.

We’re not traditional allies — each of us is convinced that we are the most important cog in the machine. Just watch a designer’s reaction if you throw the old ‘content is king’ quote at them.

I reckon it’s time to put down the pens and paintbrushes though and shake hands. When it comes to producing a great website or any other form of marketing, a coalition is the order of the day. When a designer and copywriter work together, a project can truly take off!

Why work together?

Like copywriting, design is primarily about communication.

Most designers will tell you that it makes their job infinitely easier if they have some decent copy to work with before they start bashing out ideas. That way they not only know what space they have to work with, but also get a good idea of the overall tone and theme of the website or brochure.

Even more importantly, the designer can clearly see the message the client is trying to convey — and that’s half the battle! If your copywriter and designer can work together, then as a client you know that everyone working for you is singing from the same hymn sheet — that saves you time, money and much confusion.

Good copywriting requires lots of research into a particular subject; you need to look into the industry as a whole, the client’s specific market and the competition. While there are, of course, certain overlaps, this is not necessarily the same research that a designer would do.

Not all designers are confident in their writing skills.

By nature designers are visual people and while many will have great language skills, copywriting is about more than just stringing a sentence together. Most copywriters will have advertising and marketing experience to bring to the table.

Two heads are better than one.

Two creative heads are better still. Just think of the magic that can happen when you get two creative types, both with different skill sets, different ranges of experience and different ideas, working in harmony on the same project!

And if your designer and copywriter can work together and communicate easily with each other, it will save you, the client, an awful lot of time emailing back and forth, trying to keep everyone’s ego in check.

Now it’s time for the shameless plug.

If you check out my portfolio page, you’ll see that I work closely with my very own graphic design teams. Both are extremely talented and have fantastic portfolios — I wouldn’t trust anyone else!

We’ve worked together on print ads, website design/redisign, corporate identity, promotional leaflets and brochures so if you’re thinking your marketing could use a little oomph, you know where to find us.

Three things to include in your about me page…and one you should definitely avoid.

 

The question of how to write a great about me page or bio for your small business is one that constantly crops up in entrepreneurial discussion groups. So many small business owners freeze when it comes to tackling this particular piece of copy.

In my last post I concentrated on what not to do when writing your bio so now I’d like to leave you with 3 things to include and one that (in my opinion anyway), you should definitely avoid.

1. A photo

There are a few reasons that you should really include a photo on your about me page. We really are such visual creatures so use that to your advantage.

Imagine you’ve done the rounds at a trade show or a networking event. The people you’ve worked hard to connect with have likely connected with dozens of other business owners. There comes a point when it just becomes a blur. Later, when they get home with a pile of business cards to work their way through, they’ll hopefully click onto your website. When they do, make sure they know that it’s yours! Seeing your picture will remind them of “that really friendly guy who sells product x” or “that funny girl who does a good deal on web design”. Assuming you’ve made a good impression, they’re all the more likely to follow up with you.

Have you ever heard the old sales adage “People buy people”? It’s spectacularly cheesy but there’s a reason you’ll hear it mentioned at every sales training course you’ll ever encounter: it’s true. Let your customers see the person or people behind the brand. They’ll feel more confident in contacting you when they can visualise who they’ll be dealing with and they’ll be more willing to recommend you too.

Now, I realise this sounds a bit rich coming from me, given that I don’t actually have a photo on my own about me page as yet, but I promise it’s not too far down my to-do list. As soon as I find the time to get myself a haircut, I’ll be right on it!

2.Your USP

This sounds so simple but you’d be amazed at how many people get this bit wrong: have you included your USP?

Have you won any awards? Do you have more professional qualifications than the average Joe in your industry? Do you have any celebrity clients? Whatever you have or do that makes you special, that’ll make you stand head and shoulders above your competition, make sure you have included it in your about me page somewhere. Maybe your customer service goes above and beyond and you have client testimonials to prove it? So use it. That stuff is gold dust!

3.A call to action

Your web content should guide the reader at every step along the way and your about me page is no exception. You’ve dazzled them with your natural beauty and professional but friendly smile and you’ve told them all about that industry award you won last year. They like what they see so don’t give up now: tell them what they have to do next. Do you have a contact form you want them to fill in, an email address to write to, a number to call? Make sure it’s there and they can’t miss it.

If you’re writing a bio for a conference programme, magazine or any other type of print marketing, this rule is doubly important. Be sure to include follow up information for anyone reading about your business. They need to know your website URL, your twitter handle, your shop address, if you currently have any special offers. Give them a reason and way to get in touch with you and make it easy for them to do so.

Those are just a few things you should include. As promised, I’m also including one thing that for me is a big no-no when writing bios for small businesses.

I’ll preface this by saying that it possibly falls into the category of pet peeve rather than hard and fast copywriting rule but it just sets my teeth on edge.

If you are a sole trader, use I not we in your writing. You’ll see from my own about me page that I do use we but that is reserved for when I’m talking about copywriters and editors in general. When it comes to talking specifically about Crossan Language Services, I revert to writing in the first person.

As a sole trader I see no need to insinuate that I am anything other than a one (wo)man band. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a sole trader, in fact many people prefer working with freelancers. After all, there’s none of the getting passed from pillar to post that can happen when dealing with bigger companies, our rates are often more reasonable due to lower overheads and you know that if you need to talk to the big boss, you can, because there’s no one else to talk to!

Seeing sole traders write we in their about page as if there are 4 employees squeezed into Jane’s spare room just perplexes me. It feels dishonest and as I’ve hopefully just made clear, there’s really no need for it.

Sole traders, stand up and be proud of what you are; you’re going solo and smashing it.

Embrace the I!

If you want to connect or have a chat about any copy queries you have, drop me a line: office@clarecrossan.co.uk

The biggest mistake you’re making when writing your “about me” page.

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of small business owner quite like the thought of writing a bio page. Well, apart from tax returns. Or networking. Or…Okay, the point is, writing an “about me” page for your business, blog or whatever, is a tricky prospect.

And I guarantee you’ve been thinking about it all wrong.

The reason it’s so gosh darn tricky is that it feels completely unnatural to shout about your achievements. To sing your own praises. To blow your own trumpet. We’re British. That’s just not how we roll.

Well, I’ve got some good news for you. Are you paying attention to this bit? If you ignore the rest of this post or get distracted by a cup of lukewarm tea, or the dog throwing up on the carpet, make sure you at least take a note of this.

It’s not about you!

Phew, now you can relax.

As contradictory as it sounds, your “about me” page, just like the rest of your copy, is not about you.

As ever, it’s all about your customer.

So often, you’ll find websites, brochures and other marketing materials ruined by poor “about me” pages that basically just list a bunch of meaningless (to the reader, at least) qualifications or over-used adjectives (I’m a self-motivating, dynamic, creative individual. Sound familiar?).

 Don’t fall into this trap.

So you have letters after your name? Great! How will that allow you to solve your client’s problem?

You have ten years experience working in your chosen field? Wonderful! Now tell me how that will affect your customer.

Paint a picture of how your specific skill set will benefit your target audience and you’ll be on the right track.

Okay, it is a little bit about you…

Because nothing in the world of copywriting is black and white, there is, of course, a caveat here.

As long as you’ve paid proper attention to the skills and attributes that your customers are looking for and shown how these will benefit their business or improve their lives, it’s absolutely okay to share the odd bit of random information about you. It’s great to give people an idea of who you are and why you’ll be suited to working with them. This is especially true for anyone who has identified their own personality as part of their USP. So don’t be afraid to let a little bit of “you” shine through too.

Stay tuned for my next post which will give you a few more tips for tackling your “about me” page, including what to include and what you should definitely avoid.

Still not sure how to go about constructing the perfect “about me” page or bio? Give me a shout: office@clarecrossan.co.uk

Grammar and copywriting: why it’s okay to break the rules.

‘I don’t know the rules of grammar…If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.’

David Ogilvy.

 

I absolutely love this quote because it really made me stop and evaluate the very nature of the copywriting business.

In trying to determine whether I agreed with this Ogilvy statement, I was brought back to the very essence of good copywriting: knowing your audience.

I can be a bit of a grammar geek. Someone uttering  ‘I seen’ gives me shivers – not in a good way. And I’m sure you’ve all heard me wax lyrical about the misuse of the word ‘literally’.

So here’s the bit where you’ll be surprised. Good grammar isn’t always essential to good copywriting. In fact, sometimes it’s downright damaging! Sometimes you gotta break the rules.

Say what??!!

Yup, I’ve said it and I’ll stand by it. And here’s why.

It’s about the audience! I can’t stress this enough.

Dear Mr Ogilvy is right: you MUST consider who you’re writing for, who you’re selling to. Then write for them. How do they think? How do they speak? What kind of language will they relate to?

For some audiences perfect grammar and beautifully structured syntax will be a huge turn off. Constructions that are technically correct but that aren’t widely used today, will come across as patronising and fussy – and you’ve lost the game.

You mustn’t be pedantic;  copy is no place for that. Unless you’re selling an English course or tweed jackets with leather elbow patches.

Back to Ogilvy now: you’ll note from the above quote that this advertising giant wasn’t exactly uneducated.  He was clearly very well spoken and while he may not have officially learnt the rules of grammar, his writing suggests he had absorbed most of them somewhere along the line.

Does this invalidate his point? Do copywriters even need a good grasp of grammar?

You’re damned right we do!

As I’ve already said, the key to this, is knowing your audience and their expectations. There will be times when grammatically correct prose is exactly what is required. Imagine you’re looking for a lawyer – will you choose the guy whose website is badly written, full of slang and dodgy syntax or will you go for the one whose marketing comes across as intelligent, capable and even erring on the right side of pedantic? You’ll choose the latter every time because those are the qualities you’re looking for in a lawyer.

What’s the bottom line here?

It’s all about communication. Will your audience understand your message and more importantly will they agree with it? Will it persuade them to take action? Will it sell? The language you use will determine this.

So make sure you’re getting the balancing act right when you’re planning your marketing copy. Always keep your target audience at the forefront of your mind and write directly to them. But do brush up on your grammar when you have a spare minute. After all, it’s easier to break the rules if you actually know what they are in the first place!

 

Why great writing does not equal great copy.

 

I got my knickers in a right old twist there.

I was having a look through a completed project a couple of weeks ago and discovered the client had made a couple of changes. Gasp!

One of the sentences had become just a little bit longer. An extra couple of clauses had appeared as if from nowhere. A word or two had been deleted and exchanged for synonyms with a few more syllables. Nothing major but…

It annoyed me and I’ll tell you why.

Yes, I can write the sentence of a hundred clauses and make it sound elegant. Yes, I know big fancy words. But I don’t often use them. For a good reason:

great writing doesn’t always make great copy.

Let me show you what I mean.

Using complex words.

Unless you’re selling a specialist product or you have a very niche market, keep your vocabulary simple. You want to be as inclusive as possible and by using obscure, complicated or ‘academic’ words and phrases, you’re automatically alienating some of your potential audience.

That’s bad copywriting.

 

Ditto complex sentence structure.

The more complicated the sentence, the greater the chance you’ll screw it up. We’ve all done it. However, even if you’re a linguistic genius and every sentence is word perfect, longer STILL isn’t better. Your long, convoluted sentence has just bored your reader and they’ve clicked on to something else.

That’s bad copywriting.

 

Never-ending paragraphs.

All audiences are not created equal. Your magazine reader, who’s just settled down on the train for the daily commute could be considered a captive audience (although, don’t forget your ad is competing with every other ad, article and picture in the magazine) and may be happy to read loads of text. Your internet user is not. She is pushed for time, bombarded with information and just looking for a reason to click ‘close’. Your beautifully written but long paragraphs and text heavy pages have just given her that reason.

That’s bad copywriting.

 

So when you’re writing your own copy, try not to fall into these traps. Remember that it takes more than great grammar and syntax to sell a product. Great writing does not always equal great copy.

Although it is a good place to start…