The benefits of long copy

‘Brief is beautiful’, we’re often told when it comes to writing web copy these days. Or words to that effect, anyway. But this isn’t always the case, even in today’s world where most Internet users have the attention span of a 5 year-old child. Again, so we’re told.

The truth is somewhat different. There are occasions where long copy is perfectly acceptable, and even necessary, if you are to convert words into customers. It may well pay to be snappy and witty with your succinct prose but there are plenty of instances when a customer will want to know more before making a purchase.

When selling your product or service, the decision to go for long or short copy really depends on a number of factors, including:

1)    Price
The more expensive your product, the more information people will want to know about it before they’re confident enough to buy. Even impulse buyers need assurance they know enough to make a sound decision.

2)   Number of customer benefits and features
If your product isn’t just a ‘one-trick pony’, then you’ll need to go into some detail in order to sell it fully. The more benefits we see, the more likely we are to be interested, and this needs to come across effectively in your copy. There are different ways you can do this. If you have ten features, you can list 10 bullet points, which would qualify as ‘short’ copy. But that sometimes isn’t enough to really get the point across.

3)   Complexity
Some products or services are simply too complex to be described in a pithy sentence or two. A piece of industrial machinery, for example, isn’t going to fair well with just a short tagline and a whimsical paragraph, so your reader will need quite a few details in order to fully grasp exactly how your product works. And, don’t worry; people will take the time to browse through this if it is written well.

Your audience will also be a key factor in deciding to go for long copy. If you’re approaching a professional or mature audience, they’re more likely to stay engaged with longer copy, but that doesn’t exclude others. If your product or service warrants it, then you should always go for longer copy to make the most impact.

One other benefit of long copy is that it’s search-engine friendly. Although this factor is one that is steadily losing its pull, it’s still something worth considering.

There are no hard definitive rules for using long copy over short. Sometimes, it pays to experiment – if your analytics suggest that short copy isn’t grabbing your audience, perhaps it’s time to draft in some detail.

An important point to make here; long copy may well be beneficial, but only if it is written well. Check out Copyblogger’s authoritative guide on how to write long copy effectively.

As you’ll see, choosing long copy is not a luxury that affords you the opportunity to waffle on. It still has to be engaging and focused, in much the same way as short copy. It’s just that there’s more of it!

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Mission to Japan

Published in ’53 Degrees’ – magazine of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

The chances of immediate success were minimal, I was told by my UKTI trade adviser. “But,” she said, “if you can afford to take the hit, go for it.” On Dragon’s Den, Peter Jones calls it a ‘punt’ – chancing your arm on that little spark of possibility that could easily fizzle and die, but equally could fire up an exciting opportunity.Japanese-flag

And so it was that I landed in Tokyo, armed with a smattering of Japanese, a pamphlet on business etiquette and some Japanese business cards.

Beforehand, the UKTI office – attached to the British Embassy in Tokyo – had carefully sourced potential clients and produced a comprehensive report detailing who I was to meet and why they were interested. My Japanese trade advisor later told me it had been a challenge sourcing clients for my business. Most companies who go out on these things have a specific product to sell, whereas I was selling a service – in my case, a copywriting service that would improve on the ropey English translation often seen on websites and brochures.

My first meeting was held at the embassy the day after my arrival. Still jetlagged and bleary-eyed, I somehow summoned the energy to cheerily greet my potential clients from a Japanese PR agency. I had been briefed that the Japanese place a high premium on punctuality, expect you to study business cards rather than just stick them in your pocket and take a very formal approach. In the event, I’d ticked the first two boxes but found the atmosphere in the meeting to be very calm and relaxed.

The PR company boss and his colleagues seemed genuinely interested in what I had to offer and even produced a business model detailing how both our companies could work in partnership. I was impressed. This was more than I was expecting. At best, I’d hoped to suss out market potential, but here was an opportunity to work in partnership with a successful PR firm who already had a client base and the infrastructure to deal with it. Jetlag be damned, I was buzzing.

A few days later, the two company bosses attended a UKTI function at the embassy and we talked some more. The opportunities for my service were potentially huge, they said. With an aging society, local competition and economic stagnation, Japanese businesses are being forced to look outward and communicate more with the international community, and they want to get it right. We ended the night agreeing to work towards our common goals.

Other meetings were equally enlightening. Over the course of the week, I made new contacts and won business. Other delegates reported the same. One delegate signed a £40K contract, another had an interview posted on a Japanese website. Even with plenty of social media savvy, you don’t get these kinds of introductions from LinkedIn or Twitter. The British Embassy is well respected in Japan and the kudos that comes from a UKTI contact is invaluable. Added to which, face-to-face meetings count for so much more than an email or a chat on Skype. It lends you credibility and speaks volumes to the host country about your seriousness in doing business.

So, was it worth the punt? Yes, absolutely. I now have a much better understanding of the Japanese market and have already begun profitable business relationships.

The spark of possibility has certainly not fizzled. Instead, a whole new world of opportunity awaits.

 

 

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Blogging from Japan

Later this week, I’ll be travelling to Tokyo and Osaka on a trade mission run by the UKTI. It’s an exciting leap forward for my company – Voxtree – and could become the catalyst to bigger and better things

japan tokyo trade missionSo, what’s the aim? The hope is to engage with Japanese companies who need top quality content designed for the English-speaking market. The Internet is fast becoming the primary mode of selling and brand awareness, so content has to be good if it’s going to be effective. With the Japanese government promoting more trade with foreign countries in order to sustain growth, the demand for this service within Japan is increasing, and forward-thinking PR/marketing companies know this.

Of course, the trade mission is also an opportunity to experience Japanese business culture first hand, and bound to be a fascinating and challenging endeavour!

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Premium business writing service for Japanese companies

Coming soon to www.voxtree.com

日本企業向けのビジネス・ライティング・サービス

海外への輸出販売を行っている企業では、英文ホームページや会社・製品カタログなど を既にお持ちのことと思います。しかし、内容を翻訳しただけでは、英語を母国語とす る人には御社の商品の魅力が充分には伝わりません。

VOXTREE では、プロのコピーライターが英文のホームページやカタログを効果的なセー ルス・ツールに仕上げます。英語を母国語とする消費者に向けて、御社のメッセージを 効果的に伝え、実際の購買につなげることにより、御社の海外での売上アップに貢献致 します。

メリット

1.プロの英文コピーライターが文章を書きます。英語のネイティブ・スピーカーにア ピールするよう、簡潔かつ読み手を引きつける文章で、御社の製品やサービスの魅力を 強調します。

2. 御社のイメージを作ります。ウェブの内容次第で御社のイメージは高まりますし、 ぎこちない文章では、消費者にマイナスな印象を与えます。

3. プロによる魅力的な文章にすることにより、Googleなどの検索エンジンでのヒッ ト率が上がります。海外の消費者には、御社の製品・サービスの検索が容易になります。

次頁で、実際に VOXTREE が手がけたウェブの書き直しの実例をご覧ください。

ユーザーのコメント

AL Consulting 社 (英国のコンサルティング会社) Dr Fred Ayres のコメント 「VOXTREE のサービスをカタログとウェブで 2 回利用しました。品質と時間にとても満 足しています。新規開拓のため 42 社にカタログを送付したところ、3 社とビジネスが 成立し、2 百万円の売り上げにつながりました。」

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The Power of the Business Blog

Published this month in Chamber of Commerce ‘Business Matters’ magazine:

As a tool for getting your business noticed, the blog is one of the cheapest and most effective methods at your disposal. But it’s important to invest time in producing good content to make it work. By NEIL STONEHAM

It wasn’t that long ago that nobody had ever heard of the word ‘blog’. At some point, one clever wag merged the two words ‘web log’ and you can now find the result in the Oxford Dictionary.

Today, blogs have become the mouthpiece for a whole generation of individuals and businesses alike. It’s a crowded market, for sure. But if you approach creating your business blog in the right way, it can pay dividends and draw potential clients and associates to your website in droves.

That said, blogging does take time and effort. While the actual setting up of a blog can take just a few minutes – using sites such as WordPress and Blogger, for example – deciding on what to write and how to write it can be quite daunting. What’s more, a lot of content must be produced in order to increase your audience and gain some payoff.

It needn’t be quite so painful, however, especially if you work out a strategy. For example, you need to study other blogs in your industry to see what works. And then you need to find the time and inclination (a big ask for a lot of people, I know) to write the content on a regular basis, so that people will start following your blog, sharing it and talking about what you do.

All this seems like a lot of work, so why bother? Well, you could ask the bloggers who make a living purely by writing about what they’re passionate about. You could ask people who are now recognised as an authority in their field, simply by blogging free advice. Or you could ask the thousands of successful business owners whose blogs are so widely read and shared that traffic to their website has soared, bringing along plenty of new clients and business.

Intrigued but not sure how to go about getting it right? Serial bloggers and local entrepreneurs Jane Binnion (Jane’s Social Media) and Neil Stoneham (Voxtree.com) will shortly be running a hands-on workshop for beginners to get you going. The workshop will take place at Lancaster Chambers from 9am-midday on Tuesday 19th March 2013. Book your place here.

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Well, what do you expect?

Earlier this week, I attended a briefing for a trade mission to Japan. Representatives from UKTI in Manchester and Tokyo gave an interesting presentation on what we should expect from Japanese business culture – cue much talk around the etiquette of swapping cards and the meetings full of awkward silences.

card_exchange

One thing that stood out in a way that I’m sure the speakers hadn’t anticipated was the list of expectations that Japanese business people will have. It was all, quite understandably, placed in the context of us plucky westerners entering into a quite alien culture. Like the L.P. Hartley’s past, Japan is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

But let’s look at those expectations:

1) Japanese people expect you to be punctual. Lateness is frowned upon unless the reason is serious and genuine (such as an earthquake!)

2) If you say you will do something, you are expected to follow it through. 

3) You should produce work of quality. Shabbiness is frowned upon and corners should never be cut.

This is another culture. And yet there is nothing in those three expectations that should be alien. At all.

We in the UK have much to be proud of and, when we do business well, we’re up there among the best. But, in my experience, we could do with having a few of those expectations ingrained in our own business culture.

I’ve encountered countless situations where at least one of these expectations has been flagrantly abused – people turn up late with the lamest of excuses; promises in meetings go ignored; emails go unanswered; services are rendered with barely any thought, and communication is sloppy with virtually no consideration for basic grammar and punctuation.

If you’re meeting a mate, fine. But there’s no excuse in business for not observing any of the principles that, absurdly, are defined as being unique to our friends in the Far East. If we’re to avoid the somewhat scary reversal of fortunes that lay on our horizon (think emerging markets taking over supposedly ‘developed’ countries) we’d better change our mindset. And fast.

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Online dating…just a phase we’re going through?

online-dating-tips-300x250Way back in the spring of 2003, I’d just met my then partner. We’d connected through an online dating site and I was awestruck…not just with my new beau but with the possibilities opened up by this new form of introduction. So I wrote an article about it and it was published in a monthly listings magazine.

Dating websites were something of an novelty back then and all pretty much of a muchness. But each was an Aladdin’s Cave of people who, under normal circumstances, you would never meet. There was so much choice! At the dawn of the sparkling new 21st Century, here on your PC was a plethora of dream men and women, and all you had to do to get in touch was drop them an email. Then you’d wait patiently. If things went well, your potential mate would reply. Maybe you’d exchange a few emails. If there was a zing, you’d meet up and then cupid’s arrow would take its course…whichever course that happened to be.

In the early days, online dating was seen as something of a desperate alternative to socialising. Physically checking out other humans, plucking up the courage to talk to them and taking it from there was viewed with much more dignity. In the emerging world of www, you could be spared your blushes but there was a stigma attached.

In the intervening years, online dating has changed markedly.

Countless marriages, relationships and flings have all begun life as an electronic message - it’s now probably one of the most popular ways that busy people meet their next partner. And it’s become quicker. Smartphones even allow you – if you’re so inclined – to hook up with people in your immediate vicinity. The more adept users can spend barely an hour between pinging a ‘hi how r u?’ to ruffling the bed sheets. (This is NOT based on personal experience, I assure you!)

So much choice, it’s easy. You can’t fail. Or can you?

I wonder if the ease with which people can get together these days is a poisoned chalice. I know of people who avoid relationships at all costs at the risk of losing seemingly limitless ‘opportunities’. Others have seen marriages and relationships break up because it was just too tempting to be ‘discreet’ and get that sexual thrill. Others still have been hurt and cast aside by the prospect of Mr or Ms Right walking through the door and turning into Mr/Ms Right Now. True, all this did happen before Tim Berners-Lee got his mitts on a computer. But has the ease with which we can find emotional and sexual gratification today ruining our chances of finding deep and long-lasting relationships?

Online dating is no doubt here to stay in some form. My take, though, is that we’ll see people moving away from online and trying to connect with people the old fashioned way. (i.e., getting out and being sociable). For one thing, it’s more fulfilling and you don’t have to waste an hour of your time thinking of a polite get-away line.

Maybe I should do some research and write an article about that…

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