But it’s cheeky – emotion v logic on the forecourt

Now I’m no disciple of Clarkson, although as a middle-aged man I do have a penchant for pairing a blazer with jeans.

But I still care about the car I drive.

I wouldn’t settle for just any old thing.

I know, I know, it’s just a piece of tin on four wheels that gets me from A to B, but I’m a sucker for a bit of personality.

So, when my Mrs P and I decided to get a little runabout there was always going to be a heated debate.

Captain Sensible vs Mr. But It’s Rosso Red.

First up we put a Toyota Aygo through its paces.

And very nice it was too. Low miles, service history and plenty of warranty left.

Definitely worthy of serious consideration.

Then we took a Fiat 500 for a spin.

It had been worked harder and there was no sign of the log book, voiding any remaining guarantees on the mechanics and bodywork.

After the test drive my wife pitched the Toyota, listing the perfectly logical advantages.

Good points well made – all twelve of them.

And my counter to her checklist when it was my turn to make the case for the 500?

But, it’s cheeky…

Yup, that was it. Pitiful I know.

However, subconsciously I’d made my mind up. I wanted a car that put a smile on a face.

And no amount of evidence or common sense was going to sway me.

Any logic at play was reverse engineered into my thought process to try to justify a decision already mostly made and very much driven by emotion.

Not the other way around.

“Well they don’t rust any more”.

“It’s only two years old so nothing major can go wrong with it”.

And guess what, the Fiat won the day.

No, I didn’t have a tantrum to get my own way, and very nice it is too.

Anyway, the upshot of all this…

We’re humans, not robots. We don’t always act how you might expect.

Which means when you’re peddling your wares, facts and figures won’t necessarily win the day.

Even though it seems like they should…

So, it’s essential to make a play to your prospects intuitive side as well as the rational.

If you’re getting stonewalled and missing out on new customers, then maybe your sales copy needs some tweaking.

Y’know, to better press those emotional buttons to get the response you’re after.

Happy to have a look and give you my two cents worth.

As long as I can drive over to your office…

 

 

 

 

 

A copy lesson from a horror icon

The return of Michael Myers. Again.

 

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John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher flick Halloween is a bone fide horror classic.

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Michael Myers, he of the boiler suit and white face mask, escapes the secure facility he was sent to after murdering his sister and returns to his home town of Haddonfield.

Carnage ensues.

Tense and taught, it’s a masterful 91 minutes of scares and screams.

And as the highest grossing independent movie of all time, sequels were inevitable.

So, how do they rate?

Halloween 2 is OK.

Halloween 3 Season of the Witch is just plain weird. Something about killer masks. No Michael Myers.

Then things really go downhill when they bring him back.

In Halloween 4 it turns out Michael didn’t die at the end of Halloween 2. And he comes back to Haddonfield.

In Halloween 5 it turns out Michael Myers didn’t die at the end of Halloween 4. And he returns home. Again.

In Halloween 6 it looks like Michael Myers is immortal…some guff about the ‘Curse of Thorn’.

Halloween H20 ignores installments 3-6 and purports to be a direct sequel to 2.

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Then Rob Zombie reboots the series with remakes of 1 and 2.

Phew! Still with me?

And somewhere along the way Michael Myers stopped being scary, or interesting, or entertaining if you like this sort of thing.

He became silly, tired and predictable.

Interest levels in the franchise plummeted and the one star reviews rolled in.

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Donald Pleasence topped up his pension fund nicely though.

Anyway. Where’s all this going?

Ah yes.

Maybe the same thing has happened to your marketing?

Something that was fresh and interesting once upon a time, has been become stale and dull.

You’ve done it to death, dredging up the same old thing and putting it in front of prospects itching for something new.

You’ve become the Halloween franchise.

Once you wore that boiler suit with menace. Now it’s just old hat. And no one cares any more.

If your marketing feels stuck in a groove of ever diminishing returns, then maybe I can help?

How?

With a revamp of your copy.  Emails, press releases, blog posts…

That sort of thing.

Together we can come up with ideas to get your message across in new and interesting ways.

Ones that get your prospects thinking. And clamouring for a solution.

A rethink. An overhaul. A freshen up. That won’t turn putrid. Because we’ll keep on mixing it up.

Not just rehashing the same old, same old until everyone’s had enough.

First call is free, so if you like to talk through an upcoming project that could use a different perspective, let’s schedule a conversation. 

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Intern vs copywriter – let’s get ready to rumble

So, you’re wrestling with a marketing project – a website, a piece of direct mail or a brochure perhaps – and need to come up with some killer sales copy.

What’s the plan?

Give it a go yourself? Maybe the intern could have a bash?

Or you could bring in a copywriter to craft those persuasive words that you need. Sounds kind of expensive though……..

The Professional Copywriters’ Network recommends a minimum day rate of £250 for freelance copywriters. Some charge as much as £800.

First impressions confirmed.

So why spend the money? They’re just words after all. Anyone can put a few sentences together………..

Cutting corners with content is tempting. All too often copy is just an afterthought. Invest in design? Sure. Words. Not so much.

And the results are all around for everyone to see………..

Leave someone to their own devices and what you get is a bad case of ‘we’. As in we do this, we do that.

Take websites for example. Ever seen stuff like this?

‘We were formed in 2005 and since then we have been committed to providing the highest levels of service to our customers. Our aim to is provide a service that fits the needs of clients, not ours. Our knowledge and experience make us the perfect fit’.

Probably. It’s all over the web. But what is this gobbledygook actually telling us?

Nothing.

It’s just empty platitudes, hollow boasting and nothing at all about what you can do for your customers.

A professional copywriter comes at the same task from a very perspective.

So let’s look at 5 reasons why it’s worth shelling out for their services:

Reason 1 – it’s salesmanship in print

If you’ve ever had to sell anything in person, you’ll know how hard that is.

Whether you tried to convince a would-be customer in a shop or pitched a complex software package to senior management, it wasn’t easy.

Now imagine not even being there. That’s what copywriting is. Words that sell without you.

In person you can read body language and respond to objections as they crop up.

Which is why copywriting is so much harder. That landing page, letter or sales brochure has to do all that on its own.

And think about your sales team.

You wouldn’t let just anyone pitch. You hire sales people with a proven track record of winning new business and developing those accounts.

And it’s the same with sales and marketing collateral.

If it’s going to convert readers into customers, it needs to be professionally written, by someone who understands what makes your customers tick.

Reason 2 – copywriters were sales people once

Every copywriter worth their salt has sold something in a previous life. Whether it was door-to-door, in a call centre or on the road, they’ve been there and done it.

And this experience of the sharp end of business informs the way they write.

So back to your intern or graduate……………

They’re educated, sure, and they’ve written a ton of essays. All well structured and to their credit, deal admirably with complex themes.

But what have Jane Eyre or the Tudors got to do with selling your product or service? What experience and commercial acumen do they have?

Are they really the best person to turn to in your bid to tell your story and get under the skin of your customers?

The grammar will be spot on, but that’s not all that matters here.

Reason 3 – emotions influence buying

Why did I buy THAT?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

Whether you upgraded to the nth degree when you only wanted a basic phone or bought some useless tat, buying isn’t logical or rational.

It’s an emotional process.

So many businesses insist on including dreadful bullets of non-information in their promotional literature. Did you ever buy something because:

We were established in 1986 – yawn
This product has these 5 features – how does this make my life easier or better?
We help small and large businesses – vague
Our product is AMAZING – run out of things to say, so crank up the hype.

Of course not. They don’t push any buttons.

A copywriter is an expert in empathy.They get inside the mindset of your customers and put your product or service into scenarios readers relate to:

Then couch your offering in terms of benefits – the very essence of what you provide.

And this isn’t features or how long you’ve been in business. It’s the problems you solve and the improvements you help your customers realise:

  • A beach-ready body
  • Hassle free accounting
  • A head start in learning
  • Becoming a hero in the eyes of colleagues

Powerful triggers that result in action. And orders.

Reason 4 – conversational writing doesn’t come naturally

Some copy just seems to suck you in. It’s compelling, easy to digest, you can skim here and there without losing the flow, and it talks directly to you.

Funnily enough, that’s no accident. Because the best copy is conversational.

Chat, chat, chat. You keep on reading. It’s easy to understand, relatable and carefully structured. No big, fancy words here. Just plain speaking. Kind of like you are.

And as you work your way through, you find yourself thinking, yup that is a concern. Those words seem to understand your pain. Then offer you a compelling solution.

And this chatty, customer-centric style is hard to master. It takes years of practice, not to mention some natural aptitude for this kind of thing, to get right.

Not everyone can be as clear, concise and compelling with words as a professional copywriter.

Reason 5 – good copy is a business investment

A well crafted sales letter is an asset. A resource you can keep reusing to generate leads. Leads that convert into sales. Lots and lots of sales.

Investing in the services of a professional copywriter can pay itself back many times over. A single e-shot or letter can generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds of revenue.

Unlike that ham-fisted effort someone cobbled together. Badly written, feature heavy and deleted or thrown in the bin.

It didn’t cost you anything. Nor did it gain you anything.

Here endeth the lesson.

Ready to give working with a professional copywriter a try?
Good news! But, as we’ve not worked together before, let’s start small.

Send me over something you have already and for £100 I’ll rework it.
And if you don’t like my version? I won’t charge you a penny.

richard@scribblewizard.co.uk / 07897 618711

It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To

It was my birthday yesterday. Yay! Happy birthday to me. A marketing opportunity if ever there was one, because even though I turned 44, I still got some birthday money.

Thanks Mum!

So, flush with cash and ready to treat myself, I ventured into the promotions section of Gmail where a whopping 3 brands had gotten in touch to help me celebrate. And relieve me of that money I was keen to spend.

Yes, 3.

So well done the NFL, River Island (I know, I know,  but I’d bought a present for a young person a few months back) and ASOS (ditto).

Everyone else – you better try harder next year.

I was at a marketing conference a few months back. I say conference. Big data circle jerk more like, which is what the industry is becoming.

But, honestly, what do they do with all this information they harvest? Just sit on it? In a world where you can time commercial messages more effectively than ever, opportunity missed guys.

And the quality of those messages…

To be fair to the NFL theirs wasn’t bad. Jaunty, a suggested personalised purchase and a clear call to action complete with time limited offer.

ASOS sent me a riff on it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to (look fly if I want to ), a discount code and a picture of a man. I think he was supposed to be looking fly, but I wasn’t sure. I haven’t been fly since the mid 90s.

And River Island? Oh dear, the worst of the bunch. Not that I want any absurdly skinny jeans. But a measly £5 off and some guff about celebrity birthdays this month. Am I supposed to buy a celebrity a gift with my discount code? Who knows?

Worst birthday ever. From a purely marketing perspective of course.

My wife took me out for a lovely meal at a restaurant we’ve eaten at a few time before who had the wit to reach out to see if we had plans for a special occasion…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Yabbering Haircut

I was at a get together of small business owners recently. It was exciting to see so many people taking the plunge and striking out on their own. But it made me kind of nervous too. I thought about all the redundancy payouts and business loans staked on making a go of it. Self-employment can be great. It can also go horribly wrong…

What you need in those early days is good advice, because any mistakes are going to hit you hard in your pocket. Looking back at my own cack-handed efforts to get my modest gig off the ground made me wince. I’d give anything to turn back time and do a few things differently. I’d certainly have more cash in the bank today.

So, when the eager young host with the towering haircut started with the social media guff, my heart sank. Most people there were just starting out – fledgling outfits looking for those vital first few customers to keep them afloat and kick-start growth. Exactly the kind of people who shouldn’t be arsing about on Twitter all day increasing ‘reach’ in lieu of actually putting some sales on the board. But, everyone dutifully noted down ‘social media stuff’ as absolutely the most important thing they need to do when they get back to their desks, making me sadder still.

Marketing fads come and go, but some things are timeless – tell people what you do, why you do it well and what makes you better/different from the competition. And capture prospect data for follow up.

Yes social media has a place for a small business, but get your fundamentals in place first, the stuff that really matters- like a great website. And if you look at a lot of them, they tell you precisely nothing. Just empty platitudes, hollow boasting, or waffle. With nothing for visitors to sign up to. No newsletter, no free report, no giveaway. Those hooks that help you build a list of prospects to market to – educating them, gaining their trust and ultimately converting them to customers.

Do that, and you won’t make a mess of things like I did in my first year. So, if you’re looking for a steer, beware the yabbering haicut and seek out a grizzled business veteran instead.

 

 

What the NFL can Teach us About Succeeding on a Level Playing Field

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On Sunday the second game of the NFL international series takes place at Twickenham stadium in London. The well-heeled English rugby set take the day off as an army of gridiron fans descends on HQ.

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The Los Angeles Rams (technically the home team) ‘host’ the New York Giants as American Football continues to look for new markets, fans and commercial opportunities, testing the waters for the viability of a full-time UK franchise.

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Sure, they’ll be a rendition of God Save the Queen, but cheerleaders, marching bands and foot-longs will render the place unrecognisable, colourful Americana everywhere and not a Barbour jacket in sight.

The game itself, violence punctuated by committee meetings and stuffed full of ad breaks, couldn’t be more American. And by American, I mean capitalist.

doritos

But behind the glitz and commercialism, you’ll find something truly unexpected in the way the sport operates – equality.

This is a league that believes in parity. A level playing field to ensure that even the worst team last season, can compete to be crowned champion next time.

There’s a salary cap for starters. So unlike say Manchester City and Chelsea, teams can’t just outbid others for talent and stack their rosters with quality players. If a superstar goes down injured, it’s a journeyman free agent or rookie who steps in.

And combined with the draft – the entry of new players into the league from the college system – the least successful NFL teams from the previous season get to pick first, you have a recipe for sporting socialism.

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No team has ever won the Super Bowl three times in row because it’s hard to keep winning championships when the system is stacked against you.

But, some teams are still more consistently successful than others, even with these handicaps in place.

The most egregious example of this in the AFC East.  The once mighty Miami Dolphins who recorded the only undefeated season in league history in 1972 are a shambles by committee. Arch rivals the New England Patriots on the other hand are a winning machine.

They’ve topped their division 13 times in the last 15 years, been to 6 Super Bowls and won the big prize 4 times. A phenomenal record by anyone’s standards.

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How is this possible?

Subject to the same restrictions as everyone else, they find ways to do things better and smarter, thinking differently to other franchises.

Take the draft. They consistently trade down rather than up. So they don’t pick early where other teams get first dibs on the most coveted prospects, but they do end up with more picks overall. Viewing the process as a lottery they’re happy to have more tickets – picking up a ton of talent in later rounds, seeing value in raw young players overlooked by the other teams.

They have a knack for trading for players or acquiring free agents who haven’t fulfilled their potential elsewhere, but possess plenty of upside. Maybe they were a bad fit, mismanaged, poorly coached or all three. The Patriots know how to get production out of them.

And no team plans for opponents as effectively as the Patriots do. They’re ruthlessly thorough. The coaching staff sweat the small stuff to come up with got a way to win each game. Usually it works!

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On the field they innovate with new schemes. This is not a team that follows, it leads the way, continually refining the game and driving change within the league.

Which brings me back to your business.

Your industry can seem a bit like the NFL – this level playing field where not much separates you from the competition. Broadly speaking you all offer the same product or service. It’s hard to stand out.

But actually there are some really simple things you can do to tip the odds in your favour without blowing the marketing budget.

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And who doesn’t want to be playing with the slope?

Take your copy.

Content is so often an afterthought. They’re only words right?

But cut corners with copy – by doing it yourself or giving it to the intern – and you could miss out on conversions. Because it takes skill to turn readers into new customers. 

A revamp of your website, brochures and sales letters by a professional copywriter could pay dividends. A quick win that the Miami Dolphins would die for.

By crafting a clear identity, daring to be different and pressing the right buttons with your prospects, those words become an investment – a toolkit that delivers again and again for your business.

Small changes can make a big difference.

Food for thought.

And if you’re curious about the game, good news, no dish or subscription required. It’s on BBC2  and kicks off at 2.30pm.

Let’s go Giants let’s go……………

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Two Hearts Believing in Just One Mind

 

I’ve often wondered – was Phil Collins singing about freelancing?

The relationship between marketing manager and copywriter?

Probably not. But I think he makes a valid point about partnership. Although what I’m proposing is a bit less intense:

Two people working towards one shared goal – yes.

Remaining connected through time and space when we’re not together – no.

Hi, I’m Richard Phelps – writer for hire.

And if it’s OK with you, I’ll take my foot out of the door and come and sit down.

Nice desk btw. And is that an iMac? Cool.

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Right, I’ll make it quick. You’re crazy busy as it is.

I’ve got a couple of days each month coming free and wondered if you could use a hand?

All that copy you need for those big projects you’re juggling – chuck it my way and free up some time to crack on with all the other pressing stuff that’s overwhelming your inbox.

An extra pair of hands without contract or commitment.

Leaving you more time to be strategic. Which is what you’re really good at.

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Lighten the load and you might even leave the office on time, so go on:

  • Catch a movie
  • Pick the kids up from school
  • Chillax to a bit of Phil Collins if you must.

Whatever it is you like to do of an evening.

Right now though I’m just some random you know nothing about.

So have a look at my credentials first.

And here’s the deal:

We’ve not worked together before, so let’s start small.

For £100 I can work on something that could use a polish – a press release, sales letter or homepage perhaps.

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And if you don’t like my version? Well I won’t charge you a penny.

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Can’t say fairer than that.

The bad news? I’ve only got capacity to work with 5 new people.

So if you’d like to grab a slot, email me before someone beats you to it.

You look after the big picture. I write. Perfect. It was like this was meant to be!

Look forward to hearing from you.