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If you are in Brisbane, I’ll be speaking at the next International Association of Business Communicators Queensland (IABC QLD) event on 20 October 2010 at the Melbourne Hotel in West End.

Here’s the blurb from their site:

Web content strategy: Regaining control of your web assets as a communicator

  • Do you see web content as a valuable communication tool within your organisation? Or is it more a maintenance nightmare?
  • Not sure how to produce quality content with limited resources?
  • Are you about to embark on a web re-development project, but aren’t sure how to approach it?

Content strategy is a fast-growing discipline that connects the dots between information technology, usability, design, and communication.

It offers practical, easy-to-apply methodology to ensure that your website is working hard to meet the goals of your organisation.

This round-table discussion will be based around what’s happening in your workplace. To make this possible, when you register, we’ll ask you to answer a simple question:

What is the biggest challenge you face in your organisation in relation to web content?

So if you are around, please come along and join the discussion. Tickets are only $20 for IABC members and $40 for non-members and can be purchased online.

Which comes first, the design or the content?

When you are working on a project like a new website, direct mail piece, or brochure it’s quite common to have a design ‘mocked-up’ before you have started writing the copy. In fact, for most web projects I work on, the design has already been signed off before I even provide a quote.

This can be problematic.

If you want truly persuasive copy with a strong call to action, it’s much better for the designer to see what content needs to fit on the page prior to commencing the design.

For example:

  • There’s no use developing a layout that only has small content boxes if you want long sales copy.
  • If your call to action ends up being a newsletter sign-up, this has to be reflected in the design.
  • Different header and body styles may need to be supported in the design – content is more than paragraph text.

Get the content written first. Be happy with the tone and language. Decide on the style.

It all influences the design.

And a final point: Once the design has been finalised and the content added, get your copywriter to have another look. The transition from a Word document to proper layout is a big one, and sometimes some minor tweaks to the words will make all the difference to the impact of the final product.

What do you think? Do you start with the content, or always have the design done first?

If you’ve got a copywriting project coming up, get in early and ask for a quote so I can start work on your content before the design is finalised.

Choosing the right testimonial

Testimonials are great. Nice words from a happy customer can go a long way to help persuade a new customer to do business with you.

But some testimonials are better than others. Here are some tips when choosing which testimonials you’ll use:

Get testimonials from the type of customer you like working with

Like attracts like – and potential customers want to see if you have experience dealing with other people like them. So if you like working for big corporates, put their testimonials first. If you want to work with more business coaches, then get some of their words up front.

Use your testimonials to address doubts or concerns

It seems like a lot of work.

It’s a long way for me to travel.

I’m not sure if I can afford it.

A good sales process has momentum. You don’t want little snippets of negativity slowing it down.  You don’t want the customer to pause (with any doubts) or hold back because you don’t answer their concerns.

Use your testimonials to address the potential stumbling blocks of doing business with you.

I thought it was going to be really expensive, but I made my money back in new business in no time.

You have a to start somewhere

Not everyone feels comfortable writing testimonials. Even if the project has been a total success and everyone is happy, you may still find it hard to get something in writing. That’s fine, use what you have with the aim to replace them with better ones as they come along. In my opinion some good words are better than none at all.

Are you comfortable writing testimonials? Leave a comment below or go to my portfolio page to see some of my copywriting testimonials. I am in the process of updating them, but as I said above – some good words are better than none at all.

Working with a copywriter for the first time? Read this.

Working with a copywriter for the first time can be daunting. Writing is very personal, and having an external person write about your business (your baby) takes a lot of trust and communication.

And to be honest, the actual writing is only one component of a much larger relationship. Get these other components right and the words will come much easier.

Completing the brief

I’ve talked about the importance of a good client brief as a key component of a successful copywriting project. Keep in mind that you know  your business best, and it may take a lot of questions and discussion for me to get my head around what you do, what makes your business so special, and who your customers are. If you don’t know the answers to some of the questions – be truthful. We can work through it together.

Allowing enough time

A rushed job is never good. As soon as you know you have a project, make contact so I can add it to my schedule. The more time I have to prepare and write, the better the outcome for everyone. It doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily take longer to write your content, it just means I can spread it out and have enough time to refine  it.

Providing feedback

I like happy clients. I want you to be happy with the work I do. I want you to let me know what works and what doesn’t work. I want you to tell me why. It’s all about communication. Don’t be afraid to say what you think – I want the best outcome for the project just as much as you do.

Paying the invoice

My invoices are due within 14 days of the date of issue. If you know that your accounting department doesn’t work that quickly, please let me know before I start so I can plan accordingly. It may mean that I ask for a deposit up front, or issue more frequent invoices along the way.

What are your experiences? Please share them below.

If you are ready to take the plunge and work with a copywriter for the first time, contact me to arrange a quote.

The art of persuasion – communicate and influence

Tickets have gone on sale for the next Networx event The art of persuasion – communicate and influence featuring Marissa Tree and myself.

If you are Brisbane on 28 July 2010, consider coming along to listen to us speak about how you can develop and refine your communication tools so that people sit up and take notice.

We are going to give lots of practical examples (it won’t all be theory), so you’ll walk away with tips and strategies that you’ll be able to apply easily within your business.

See you there!


Persuasion is not a dirty word

I am speaking at a Networx event in July with the wonderful Marissa Tree on the topic of Persuasion. The idea is we are going to go through different methods that you can use to persuade people to get them to do what you want.

I was sharing this with a friend, who looked at me, rolled her eyes and said

“You mean you are going to tell them how to trick people.”

I was actually quite shocked.

Then by chance I saw an advertisement on TV for an upcoming current affairs show that was going to “expose the tricks that supermarkets use to get you to buy more groceries”.

It all sounds so negative.

Sure, there are unscrupulous people out there who deceive and lie about their products or services, and as a result consumers feel ripped off.

But I firmly believe that if you have a great product or service that is relevant and useful for your audience – then what’s wrong with ensuring you do you best to sell it? It doesn’t even have to be something for sale. You may want people to register for community consultation, download a whitepaper, sign up for a newsletter. Whatever your call to action is.

Sometimes understanding just a little about the psychology of persuasion will make a huge difference to your conversions.

What are your thoughts?

If you are in Brisbane on 28 July 2010, keep an eye out on the Networx site for ticket details.

Snappy tip: Choose your angle and stick to it

(Short and sweet post tonight.)

Although you may associate the term ‘angle’ with media releases or news articles, it’s also an important concept to keep in mind when writing other forms of communication.

By choosing an angle and sticking to it, it’s easier to focus on what your key message is.

To see if you have stayed true to your angle check your headline, opening paragraph, any quotes you’ve used, and your call to action. Do they all follow your angle? Yes? Well done.

I’ve launched a content strategy site

As some of you know, I have a strong interest in not just copywriting but web content strategy too. So much so that I’ve launched a new website and blog:  www.webcontentstrategy.com.au

This new site will be my outlet to explore topics that aren’t just about copywriting. Things like usability, information architecture, strategy, and other resources. I’ll also be writing lots of book reviews.

Drop by if you get the chance.

Tops tips for newsletter writing

I’ve been reading Dean Rieck’s ProCopyTips for ages, so when he asked for guest posts I jumped at the chance.

Read my guest post: How to write engaging newsletter articles in 7 easy steps.

Remember to persuade the gatekeepers

Persuasive writing is all about understanding your target audience, their motives, their goals, and their problems (that you’ll hopefully solve with your product or service). By knowing all of these elements, you can shape content that will make them want to buy (or call, or register etc).

But one thing to keep in mind is quite often the end user of your product or service has one (or more) ‘gatekeepers’ that stand in the way of making a purchase. This is especially true if they are part of a larger organisation that could have complex approvals processes, procurement teams, or even purchasing policies to abide by.

  • Gatekeepers may want a different set of benefits from your product or service than the end user (such as value for money, locally made, or warranty)
  • Gatekeepers may receive their information in different ways than the end user.
  • Gatekeepers may also have gatekeepers.

The best thing that you can do is to not only understand your target audience, but also understand their gatekeepers. Make  it as easy as possible for them to persuade their gatekeepers why your product or service should be used.

Do this by:

  • Using scenarios that show the benefit of your product or service not just to the end user, but also to the gatekeeper.
  • Including fact sheets that can be downloaded and attached to procurement requests.
  • Include a ‘how to convince your boss’ section if appropriate. I like the one that Usability Week has.

What have been some gatekeeper hurdles that you have overcome?

If you ever need help persuading gatekeepers to buy your product or service, get in contact with me and we’ll work out a plan of attack.