Hello. My name is Charles Hogge. I am a copywriter, with oodles of experience and an outstanding ability to pick the tip-toppingest words for any occasion. From time-to-time, and when parties are once again a thing, I am paid to take photographs, some of which I’m told are pretty good. I have the most beautiful dog you’ve ever seen, who’s well-trained enough that I rarely carry a lead with me. I cook a mean lasagne - so mean in fact that I have heard, more than once and from different people, that ‘this is the best lasagne I’ve ever eaten’. I like to play squash, and am currently waiting for the club to open up again so that I can try to win the plate final after a 5-month mid-tournament break. I have a pretty epic beard, that’s only getting bigger as lockdown drags on, and which is a source of constant fascination to some of the children around the village. Right now, sitting on my kitchen table, is a large box containing a baby rabbit that I saved from the road outside my house yesterday, and am now keeping fed and warm until I can release it this evening back into the field I’m hoping it came from. I’m tall enough to reach things on the top shelf at the supermarket - even things that are right at the back! I am also, in case you’re wondering, surprisingly single.
So that’s me.
If you’re looking for a copy-writer (and we’re so important I can’t imagine you’re not), I think it’s pretty clear that you won’t find someone better than the person described above - unless of course, through some strange twist of fate, you’re not looking for epic lasagne, a saintly dog or six-plus-feet of shelf-reaching verticality. If what you really need is a proven track record of helping clients increase website conversion rates, or someone able to plan, scope and write a fully-integrated end-to-end nurture program, then nothing I’ve written so far is of any use to you (although, while we’re on the subject, I can do those things as well).
And that is, of course, the point.
I have no doubt that you’re proud of what you and your business do. Whether it’s a novel product carving out an entirely new market niche, or a tried-and-tested service at which you’re indubitably better than your competitors, it can be all-to-easy to fall into the trap of talking about yourself - what makes you better, how much effort you’ve put into getting to where you are, what special processes you’ve perfected to keep projects running smoothly…
The truth, I’m afraid, is painful to hear… NO ONE CARES*.
No one visits a website to read about you. They don’t open an email to give you a chance to talk about yourself. Even now, reading this blog, you’re not doing it because you’re interested in me - you’re reading it to see whether there’s anything in here that’ll make things easier for you.
Customer-centric messaging is all about writing not for yourself, but for your audience. It’s about working out how to position yourself in terms of how your customers will benefit by choosing you. It’s about looking at their challenges, and figuring out what questions they’re asking, and making sure you’re answering them first.
e.g . I’ve developed an incredible new seat belt system. It uses a proprietary fabric in a unique weave that took 4 years to perfect, drawing on a team of industry professionals with more than 60 years’ belt-design experience between them. It’s guaranteed to stop a 300kg weight in half a second without that weight undergoing anything more than a maximum of 2G’s of lateral force. It is, from a technical standpoint, nothing short of a miracle.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who will find all of that fascinating, and I’m not saying for a second that you shouldn’t mention it somewhere. But when I’m looking for a new seat belt (and who hasn’t?!), what I really want to know is how safe it’ll keep my entirely hypothetical children. I want to know how comfortable it is, and how easy to install. I’m probably interested in how expensive it is, and to make sure it’s compatible with the type of car I drive. When it’s time to look at how technically capable it is, I do of course want to be able to dig further, but before I do that I’ll probably check out the reviews. I am not, after all, a material scientist. Whilst interesting, I don’t know the first thing about weaves and forces - I just want someone to reassure me that it’s going to keep me and anyone else in my car as alive as it can, regardless of what’s being thrown at it.
In many fields, particularly technical ones, it can be tempting to assume that your audience are already on the same level as you. And while it’s certainly true that you want to avoid being patronising, always bear one thing in mind: the more technical you make your content, the greater the number of potential readers you’re excluding from making it past the home page.
Start things broad. Much as with the previous point, begin by explaining what you offer, and what challenge it solves. Talk again about its benefits, whilst introducing some of the key technical differentiators. Whilst the ultimate purchaser of your product might well be a network manager, the first step on that chain could be a finance officer trying to save money, or a marketing manager looking for a new competitive angle - do whatever you can to make it clear, at a glance, what it is that you do and how it can drive positive change.
We’ve had clients coming to us asking if we can work on some branding, or run a campaign, and the first thing we have to do is sit down with someone to work out what on earth it is they actually do because the website is written using such ‘insider-language’ that we can’t make head nor tail of it. Whilst it’s clear we’re not their primary audience, there’s nothing to say we don’t know plenty of people who might be... but we’re never going to recommend something we can’t even begin to understand!
Once you’re happy with the above, you need to make sure it’s easy for a technical audience to find and access the information they need - it is, after all, much more difficult to build an information hierarchy that starts narrow and broadens out!
Imagine you’re sitting next to someone completely unaware, but interested, in what you do. How do you explain yourself in a way that keeps them engaged... without boring them?
You want to be led by your audience. They’re the ones you’re writing for, and they’re the ones looking for specific information - it’s your job to help them find it!
Whether it’s a series of emails, or a brand new website, you want to start with the big picture, and give your audience all the tools and cues they need in order to locate just the details they need. If you think some of your audience will be interested in bottom-line budgets, make sure there’s an area that focuses on how wildly efficient and cost-effective you are. If some will be making a decision based upon technical specs, create pages and assets that examine those in detail. If others want to know how you can give them a competitive edge, then ensure they can find their own way to a page that highlights not just how they’ll benefit, but how they can sell those benefits to their own customers… and so on and so on! Start wide, and build a hierarchy that works towards a number of highly-targeted, information-rich end-points.
Where marketing is concerned, literally everything you’re doing is not for you, it’s for your audience. Alway put yourselves in their shoes, and imagine they’re coming across your business for the first time. Focus on broad details and benefits first, whilst making it easy for your customers to find answers to the questions they’re asking.
As long as you always make your messaging customer centric, you’ll never lose sight of the ultimate goal of all your marketing activities!
*Using hyperbole for dramatic effect. I’m sure your friends care, and your mum thinks you’re the absolute bomb.