So you’re already running a small, independent business. Or you’re kicking off a thrilling new entrepreneurial venture.
Sticking it to the man. Telling your old bosses to get stuffed. Standing on a rooftop with arms outstretched screaming “Screw you, world! I’ll make my own damned success!”
Alright, maybe it’s a bus stop rather than a rooftop, but who cares if people are looking at you funny. You’re fired up. You’re motivated. You’re excited.
And more than a little bit scared.
Doesn’t matter if this is your first business rodeo – that rollercoaster buzz is always the same.
Out there with the wind in your hair (okay, it might be just a desk fan but hey – it still looks good in slow motion) and the world at your feet. It’s time to give your people what they want, and make the money you deserve.
But while you know that marketing is important, you’re finding it hard to get your best message across. People just don’t seem to be giving you the attention that they should be.
It’s not uncommon — especially in the early stages when both time and money are short. You’ve a million things to worry about and marketing ain’t your forte.
Truth is, lacklustre copy can be a heavy brick tied to the ankles of your business. Turning people away… putting potential customers off… and stunting the growth that you need.
You just can’t seem to make things take off.
And you’re left wondering, “What am I doing wrong?”
The answer likely is: More than you think.
Whether you’re promoting through email, direct mail, social media or your website — and ideally you should be using each of these — here are a few quick tips on making the best impact with your copy, as a small business or entrepreneur…
1. Know Your Brand
Before you get started, you have to make sure that you know your brand inside out. Know your ideal prospect; your target market. Know how you’re going to speak to them.
Know your position, and know your attitude. Is the voice of your product a party animal? A corporate CEO? An undertaker? Does your chosen voice match to or resonate with your target audience?
Do you want it to sound pleasant? Soothing? Frightening, perhaps?
Before a word of copy hits a page or word processor, you need to decide on your positioning. The worst thing you can do is come in with a neutral voice that tries to appeal to everyone.
Because nothing does.
And you disappear into the static.
2. Quit Waffling, and Tell Me What You Do (For Me)
It’s only right that you’re proud of the business that you’ve created. The hard work… the blood, sweat and tears that have gone in to bringing this to life definitely give you bragging rights.
But the vast majority of consumers couldn’t give two hoots. They might give one, which is why it’s always good to use your unique origin story to reinforce your brand… but they don’t want that to be the first thing they see.
Straight up, tell ’em what you do.
What do you have to offer me?
This means benefits. Not just a description of your product. Not just a list of features (what it does, or can do, on a surface level).
Tell me how it’s going to change my life. Tell me which problems I’m dealing with on a daily basis that this is going to solve. Tell me what burning need I have inside that you are going to fulfil.
And then tell me why I should give you money for this product or service over your competitors. What sets your offering apart from similar products — what’s your unique value proposition?
If your product is more expensive than the nearest comparison, tell me why I should pay the extra.
It could be something as simple as outstanding levels of customer support and service. It could be social responsibility, or a demonstrated alignment of interests.
You could show it through your imagery, language or even decor and ambience.
Blow your trumpet, and tell me why you’re different than them, but the same as me.
But do it quick… not after waffling on about a load of business background or stuff that I just don’t care about.
And equally important… tell me clearly. Which means…
3. Talk (Write) Like a Real Person
We get it. You’re in business.
That much is obvious since you’re offering something of benefit to us in exchange for money.
It doesn’t mean that you have to talk (write) like a robot just to sound professional.
Your copy is a conversation — a personal conversation — between you and a single ideal prospect. (Side note: never write as though you’re addressing a crowd. It’s impersonal.)
And people like to talk to people — not to deal with the business equivalent of a self checkout.
“Unknown item in baggage area. Unknown item in baggage area. Beep. Boop. Give me money.”
Just because someone is a professional doesn’t mean that they want to read stuffy, uptight, jargon-filled copy in your emails or on your website.
They get more than enough of that in the boardroom… and whilst it’s natural suit ‘n’ tie business behaviour, nobody really likes it.
Be personable. Be friendly. Be funny. Let your communications be a break from the humdrum. A welcome interruption to daily banality.
Now that’s not to say that in the B2B (especially tech) worlds you shouldn’t use correct terminology in your copy. Remember, talking the prospect’s language is key…
Just don’t be that guy. You know the one. The Project Manager dude who hangs out at the water cooler all day telling everyone how he’s so proud of his efforts to correct the misalignment of resources causing unnecessary complexity in the synergy of deliverables against baseline, bottlenecking the Critical Path and leading to client escalations.
Nobody wants to stop and chat with that guy.
4. Don’t Be Afraid of Selling
So you’ve got your voice nailed down.
You know who you’re speaking to.
You’re telling them how great your product is, and how it’s going to make life so much easier.
And they feel like they’re talking with a genuine person whose only desire is to help them out.
Now ask for the sale.
Rather, don’t ask — tell.
Call them to action — give ’em a link, give ’em a “Buy Now” button, give ’em an order form and tell them to fill it in and return it!
Don’t sit there with your hands under your knees, looking up like a puppy dog and saying, “So, what do you think?”
If you don’t tell people what to do at the end of your copy, it’s like leading them to a cliff edge and walking away. They don’t know what to do. And you’ve failed to lead them to the finish line.
Back up your call to action with a limited offer. A one-off discount, perhaps, or a discount for multiple purchases. Be creative with it — but stress the important of acting now, or missing out.
Sales are paramount for small business (any business, in fact).
When cash flow is tight and your business is new, you likely can’t afford to be running flashy ad campaigns. Nor would you particularly want to.
Flashy ads that don’t directly sell benefits can be useful for brand-building, no doubt. But until you’re firmly established, your efforts are best placed in making your copywriting as sales-focused as possible.
You can get more creative, oddball and obtuse further down the line. Jumping in too early with conceptual oddity is an exceptional risk.
5. A Few More Tips
If you want to get your message across in the quickest time possible, try boiling it down to a slogan.
Just think of what your business is or does, and the single biggest core benefit it offers to consumers. Shorten that down to a single, clear statement.
And then shorten it even more.
So let’s say for a company that makes a hardware/software combo that lets you track your car’s whereabouts…
Level 1: We produce a hardware and software combination package that lets users track their car through GPS. If it’s stolen, lost or towed away, they can use their smart phone to pinpoint exactly where it is… no matter where they are, and even if the car is off. People never need to worry about where their car is ever again.
Level 2: We let you track your car with your phone, from anywhere, even if the car is off — so you’ll always know where it is.
Slogan: Wherever Your Car Goes, <BrandName> Knows.
Now, that’s just a quick, crappy, off-the-cuff example — but you get the idea.
Forget dumb slogans that serve no purpose but to try and make you sound professional, funny or cool. Meaningless buzzwords like “Making Your Dreams Come True” when you’re selling bath bombs do nothing to aid your message.
I had a dream about being chased by a giant, fire-breathing wheelie bin last night. Are you gonna make that happen for me? I hope not!
Make Your Homepage Benefits Based
Your website homepage isn’t the place for telling people all about your business, its history and how much you love it. Save that for the “About” page.
Your homepage should immediately deliver the key benefits of your business. It should hook the visitor with a promise that’s relevant to them — not blather on about nonsense.
Plugging Social Media Into Your Marketing
Use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to engage with your customers. Thank them, respond to their messages, bring new offers to their attention.
And do it all with a personable, approachable style. Start conversations, join conversations, allay fears and bring them into the fold.
Don’t just use it as a cold front to post promos — be there, be active, and be a friend. Your customers will appreciate it, and naturally grow loyalty to your brand.
Keep all of these tips in mind, and you have a very solid foundation for creating your own, effective small business copy. Stand out. Be hard to ignore. Be real.
And not just another hollering entity floating amongst the noise.
About the author: Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones is a freelance copywriter, proofreader and journalist based in Nottingham, UK. With close to a decade of experience writing content and copy within the film industry, he also specialises in direct marketing and consumer/corporate case studies, connecting business messages to their target audience, increasing response and driving revenue.