The importance of good copy

Here is a transcript of the forthcoming article I wrote for the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce magazine “Business Matters”:

Image, it seems, is everything in this day and age. Most of us go to some lengths to look good within a business environment, all with the express intention of dazzling our clients and creating a positive first impression. Same with the way our company is presented – we all want a good logo, flashy brochures and a smart-looking website.

So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing. Image is important, no doubt.

But it can all count for nothing if we neglect the necessity of good copy. As a copywriter myself, it pains me to see businesses splash out on a pristine, beautiful website, only for it to read like a third-rate student essay, replete with bad grammar, awful spelling and some unusual turns of phrase! It’s a waste and, at its worst, an insult to the intelligence of any prospective client.

Even less serious offenders can turn away potentially important sales by failing to write copy that is concise, persuasive and easy to read. After all, if you don’t sound professional, it may unintentionally suggest that your business is less than professional too.

A professional company cares about what it says as well as the way it looks. And it’s a proven fact that strong copy, written to draw people in and keep them hooked, is massively more effective than something bland or badly written.

Some of you may be worried now that your own copy is not very strong and that you ought to do something about it. Perhaps you’ve thought about it for a while but not got round to it. Well, here are a few pointers to help improve your copy so that it turns your core message into sales.

1. Make your text lively and persuasive
Many people feel the need to adopt a formal tone when describing their product or service. This can, however, fall flat and bore clients if you’re not careful. Today, most people accept a conversational tone as part of business patter and can be a boon if promoting something creative and quirky. If you are not sure, the best policy is to keep it neutral.

Remember, too, that you are selling. Clients are only really interested in how your product or service can be of benefit to them. Sounds obvious but it’s amazing how many businesses spend too much time ‘bigging themselves up’ at the expense of providing information that is actually useful.

2. Accuracy is key
We rarely pay attention to good grammar, spelling and punctuation. In some modern contexts (social media or texting, for example) it may even seem unnecessary. Bad grammar, spelling and punctuation, on the other hand, stand out a mile. It looks sloppy and unprofessional. Even with the best will in the world, a few demons regularly stalk our copy – “their” instead of “they’re” and “your” instead of “you’re” are some of the popular ones. Get your copy checked by someone with a good knowledge of these things before you put it online or, worse still, send it to the printers.

3.    Keep text concise
The phrase “Too much information” may have other connotations these days but is still relevant to sales material! When presenting the details of your product or service, tell us what we need to know and no more. Many technical aspects of your product, for instance, may seem important to you but can be tedious for all but the most tech-savvy geek to plough through. Also, get the point. Websites that spend the first two paragraphs detailing your company’s history could drive your potential client to the ‘back’ button and they’ll be away before you’ve told them a thing about what you do.

A word about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) here. Don’t buy the myth that reams of keyword-heavy content will bag you a high ranking. The next generation of Google will filter this out and reward good quality content that is actually read and shared.

4.    Avoid jargon and clichéd ‘marketing speak’
Unless you’re aiming your material at people solely within the same technical field, cut the jargon. Otherwise, it will alienate your clients and possibly lead to misunderstanding. Similarly, most smart people can see through ‘marketing speak’ these days, so treat people with respect and avoid phrases like this:

“When You succeed, we succeed with You. When you dazzle your CLIENTS, we dazzle ours.”

This was actually used by a company and guaranteed that a high percentage of potential clients were confused enough to go somewhere else!

There are, of course, many other issues that distinguish good from bad copy, so it’s worthwhile using a professional if you are serious about getting the words right. After all, it could make all the difference when generating that next big sale.

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About Neil

Neil Stoneham runs Voxtree - a content writing business based in Manchester, UK. www.voxtree.com
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