As a freelance copywriter, I work with small business owners every day to help improve the way they communicate with the world. There are some common mistakes which are low hanging fruit when it comes to improving your own messages.
By keeping in mind these three simple points, even the smallest of businesses can improve the way they relate to their audience.
1. It’s Not About You
Humans are natural story tellers, and when we start to tell a story, we gravitate towards talking about the thing we know and understand best – ourselves. But in order to appeal to your audience, especially when you’re asking them to do something (such as buy something from you), you need to avoid this urge and instead write about them.
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and explain to them what you can do for them. Why should they care? There might be a million businesses just like yours out there, but speak to your audience in a way that they understand, in their own language, and they will come to know and trust you.
2. Don’t Be Too General
It’s natural to want to cast your net as wide as possible. The more people you can communicate with, the more chance you have of getting new customers, right? Not so fast, Tonto! By being too broad and trying to solve everyone’s problems, you risk barely scratching the surface with your audience, and you fail to really connect with that small segment who you can actually help.
Instead, take a niche approach and hone in on the segment of your audience who are most likely to take action. It doesn’t matter if you offend (or bore) the rest, because they probably weren’t very good prospects in the first place.
To cite an example, I recently took on a project for an accounting firm who wanted to publicise their upcoming seminar. The pitch on their website promised: “You will learn how to get results,” and “You will learn how to manage your cash.” Does that inspire you to open your wallet and buy a ticket? What results? Manage my cash … I can ring my bank’s help line to learn that, why should I pay you?
They wanted to provide the solution to everybody’s problems, and as a result, they moved nobody to action. Together, we reworked these into far more specific messages describing exactly what results you would get, how you would get them, and what the outcome would be. Sure we ruled out some of the initial audience, but the people who the seminar is really meant for will realise it can help them and (hopefully) book a ticket.
3. Turn Features Into Benefits
Fact: People are lazy. Even the cleverest of people don’t like to think too much when they can avoid it, especially when they are reading promotional stuff about a product or service. Don’t just assume that your reader will make the connection between a feature and a benefit. You need to actually spell it out for them. So instead of saying just “Our new garden sheers have a padded handle”, take it to the next degree by adding “… so you never have to worry about blisters again.” This not only spells out why it’s good, but it also triggers the emotional response in the reader of the pain they felt last time they had blisters from gardening all day. And emotion is what makes us take action.
Do the heavy lifting for your readers and make things as easy to digest as possible. This isn’t selling them short, it’s giving them what they want – bite size information they don’t have to think too hard about.
Apply these methods to your own communications and see how it changes the way your audience relates to you. You might find it opens the door to new ways of telling your story.