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Want to *really* persuade your readers? Finish with a strong call to inaction.

06/12/2010

As consumers we are always being told to do something: what to look at, where to visit, what to buy, who to phone, when to do it. Marketing propaganda swollen with imperatives is an ever-present rumble in the symphony of modern life. So if you’re a copywriter, it pays to make things simple for your readers by crafting messages that are transparent and easy-to-follow.

You probably know that.

But can we take things a step further? Most marketing material will conclude with a call to action; ‘Visit our website now!’ or ‘For more information just give us a call!’ But the fact remains that getting people to actually do something is remarkably tricky. That’s why copywriting is such a skilled discipline.

Introducing the call to inaction

Okay, so we know that any brand will earn brownie points with their target audience by crafting clear messages. And we know that it’s harder to get people to act than it is not. So shouldn’t we change our marketing strategies to reflect that?

Consider this piece of copy, which we wrote recently for one of our legal clients as a sign-off to a letter regarding a new service that they were introducing to local businesses.

“I will contact you within the next few days to talk about this new opportunity. Until then, I’d like to thank you for reading.”

Bam! What you’ve got there is a classic call to inaction. No messing. The reader doesn’t have to do a thing. It sets up a dialogue and the content of the letter will simmer away in that reader’s head for the next day or so as they await the call.

Even better, showing that you are prepared to do the leg-work is a potent respect-earner. And informing the reader of your intention to call shows a respect for their privacy and time, removing the ‘intrusion factor’ when you come to make the call. It’s a great platform from which to go on and make a sale.

So when should you use the call to inaction?

Well, whenever you can. Obviously there are only a few instances where this tactic can be applied, but in short when it can be used it should be used. It’s particularly great for sales letters, especially when your target audience is relatively small.

Have a think about it. Give it a go. We’re already sold. Because brands that take the hassle out of engaging their customers and take practical steps to make their lives a little easier will always have the edge on their competitors.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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Apple or Android?

19/11/2010

This week I leapt head first into the deep end of the technological swimming pool. You know, where all the cool kids hang out.

I am now in command of an all-singing, all-dancing, all-Tweeting smartphone. An HTC Desire, if you must know. It runs on Google’s Android technology, splitting our office 70/30 in favour of Android against the iPhone. Given the overwhelming popularity of the iPhone and the rampant anticipation of the iPad just a year ago, it’s a ratio that would then have seemed as unlikely as being served a unicorn sandwich.

So what we want to know is whether or not what appeared to be an unshakeable trajectory towards an iLife has been derailed. The question is: which are you, Apple or Android? Let us know and we’ll publish the results here sometime soon when we’ve stopped looking for new apps.

Oh yeah, about that. What are your faves? If you know about anything super-cool then drop us a line. We’ll publish the best in the results of our Apple vs. Android faceoff. And we’ll give you (and your business) a little mention too.

Ping a quick email to hello@copymonkey.biz and make us smile.

Jamie’s favourite apps:
Shazam
Google Maps

Dictionary.com
Google Goggles

Martin’s favourite apps:
Magic Seaweed

Wind Guru
Hipstermatic

Our foray into the London Long Copy competition

03/11/2010

We love a challenge. Especially if it involves playing with words. So we jumped at the chance to enter the London Long Copy competition. The brief was to create a 48 sheet ad for one of our clients (step forward, Princes Gate Spring Water) that embraced the art of long copy (50 – 300 words).

We enjoyed this copy conumdrum so much that we ended up with two ads! You can see how they turned out below. But which do you prefer? What are your thoughts? Good, bad or ugly, we’d love your feedback! So if you get a minute, ping a quick email to hello@copymonkey.biz with your words of watery wisdom.

P.S. A big shout out to Rockpool Design for working with us to turn our copy into great looking ads. Give them a shout next time you need something designed.

 

 

 

 

The Copy Monkey Copywriting Hall of Shame

08/10/2010
                                                                                 
A road sign has a mistake

oooops...you appear to have slipped up

After our last post we thought it might be nice to share our world with you. The things we see and the things that upset or confound us. This, we have decided, we will call our ‘Hall of Shame’.

What do you reckon? Are we right to put this in the copywriting Hall of Shame? Or is it right that the slipway is a dependant of the tide? Or is it dependent on the tide?

Either way, it’s a good start. We’re such godawful pedants that we notice stuff like this. And with our shiny iphones making it easy to capture these moments of brilliance, no one is safe.
In our office, things like this are discussed more readily than what was on TV last night or what we had for lunch (although it’s close). And we want more! Has your grocer made a gaffe recently? Does your local signwriter suffer from word blindness? Is the world better for decent grammar? Let us know.
Send your shots to hello@copymonkey.biz and we’ll chuck them up here.

HOW TO WRITE BAD COPY PART 2

04/10/2010

street sign with typo

Typo

Make your designer write it.

Calm down. Calm down. Yes, we know there are a lot of designers out there who love writing copy, coming up with headlines and inventing tag lines. And some of them are very good at it. But many aren’t.

So whilst it might seem like good sense (not to mention save money) to make your designer come up with the copy for your latest ads or for your website, secretly, I can tell you, they hate you for it. Designers are just half of the creative process and if you make them do all of it, that’s where your trouble starts.

1              Designers are great at designing

You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Yes. And designers aren’t always great writers. Lots of designers are brilliant conceptualists, some are amazing layout specialists, others get all sexy over typefaces whilst a few, it must be said, love to talk in code. But many are just not cut out for writing. We have worked with many designers who end up having to do their own copy. It’s not the thing that drives them. So they don’t care about it as much as a copywriter will. How many designers do you know who will relish a copy conundrum? How many will push the words around until they fit in the right order, but only when they have been tried in every possible order? How many designers will die in a ditch over good grammar? Not many. Whether your on camera or you’re on camera is up to you. Only a copywriter will sit down and refuse to move unless you change it to the right way (in much the same way a designer feels about white space).

2              If your heart’s not in it, how will the love flow?

Poetic, eh? But it’s a fact. If you don’t care about what you do then you won’t put your heart and soul into it. If you are made to do it then you’ll do it begrudgingly. You’ll also accept second best, simply because it’s a solution. It may not be the best solution but at least it answers the brief. And, in our book, accepting second best is about taking the quickest route to the answer. In the copywriting world that means resorting to clichés, over used words and phrases and cheap puns. There’s only one possible outcome. Bad copy.

3              The designer is just half of the story

Not all work requires copy, granted. And lots of great work gets done without the help of a copywriter. But there’s a reason for advertising agencies putting designer and writers together in creative teams. Designer and writers think differently. They complement each other with their disciplines. A boring ad can come to life with great copy and a dull headline can sing in the capable hands of an eloquent designer. It’s the creative process. I speak from personal experience. The one thing I miss about agency life since I started Copy Monkey is working day in day out with ‘my’ designer.  There is something special about collaboration that is hard to mimic in isolation. You can’t do everything. I wouldn’t expect anyone to make me design an ad. I’d do it badly. So why the other way around?

4              Writing has changed

Thankfully, writing has changed. The internet has made sure of that. The way we write has had to evolve, and along with it, our skill set has had to expand to take in content development, blogging and micro blogging. And we still need to be good at the other stuff too.

Google has influenced us more than we know. But, happily, good sense prevails when it comes to what Google likes. Quality of content is now holding its own against the devil of keyword density. Thank goodness then, that the keyword stuffers are having to find their creative side. Internet users want content – and masses of it – but they also want good content. No one wants to read a list any more. No one wants to attempt to read copy that’s badly written, thrown together or only serves some higher ranking purpose. Of course, you have got to find it to read it but there’s a fine balance. And getting it right takes skill. I don’t profess to understand it completely – I’ll leave that to the SEO people – but I know that I need to know enough to write great copy that the search engines will love too. It’s a dance. And we, as writers, love doing it. In much the same way as your designer loves to make it look amazing. Because that’s what he does.

The problem with !!!: Why excessive exclamation marks are like bumping into your ex.

27/09/2010

Excessive exclamation marks do not sell.

So why is it that examples of exclamation abuse are rife in the marketing materials of small businesses? They can even sneak in to the blogs and status updates of the most savvy brands.

It mustn’t happen.

Consider the following from a real life website, which I won’t name.

‘Our guest rooms are incredible!!!’

From that, any sane reader would decipher that the claim and the writer’s tone are the only things that are ‘incredible’. And I mean that in the purest sense of the word; literally, not credible.

Because !!! can only be used in exceptional circumstances, like: “Every single one! Including the bonus ball!!!” or “Mr. Kipling is dishing out free cherry bakewells!!!”  or “He proposed to me in the pasta aisle!!!”

No one could possibly be that excited about a room in a B&B; owner or otherwise. Even if this were the most stupendous guest room ever encountered, I’d expect my host to have the guile and good grace to explain why using real words rather than an abhorrent overuse of punctuation. That doesn’t tell me anything.

So it would seem that my B&B owner is either a) lying; or b) uncontrollably excited about something he really shouldn’t be. Like a child might be. And I don’t want a child in charge of frying my eggs in the morning, thank you very much. Now where’s the next B&B in this town?

To put it another way, the excessive use of exclamation marks is the literary equivalent of bumping into your ex. Think about it. !!! is the fake facade of hyper-excitement and good will you generate to try and appear cool and natural when you see your recent paramour in the pub. It’s an uncomfortable gloss that suggests you have something to hide. Unfortunately, that gloss is completely transparent; in person and in copy. Your customers will see straight through it and it will really shake their confidence in your brand.

Sure, you could argue that !!! gets attention. But so does the lunatic who shouts and gesticulates wildly in the street. That doesn’t mean I’m going to buy anything off him. Catch my drift?

Now, the occasional exclamation mark is perfectly acceptable. Especially if a playful and light-hearted tone is the order of the day. But it must be used wisely. Make sure your sentence really warrants it. And you must only ever use one at a time. There are no exceptions. Unless you want copy that smacks of desperation/insanity/a crippling lack of self-confidence.

So for a cool, calm, controlled tone, remember to steer clear of !!!.

How to write bad copy: Part 1.

13/09/2010

Let the client write it.

Any idiot can write, it’s true. But not everyone has a feel for it, can do it well or even wants to do it.

So whilst it might seem like good sense (not to mention save money) to let your client write the copy for their website, brochure and marketing materials, we say, don’t. You might argue that it’s their business and they understand it better than most. Let’s face it, they have worked very hard to make it work and have spent hours on the little things that make it great. But that’s where the trouble starts.

1              It’s hard to write objectively about your own business

Anyone who has ever run a business will tell you that everything is important. From the way the desks are arranged to the way their special formula has been created. It doesn’t matter what kind of business it is, any business owner will find it hard to separate what’s important to them from what’s important to a potential customer.  This will be reflected in the copy they write. Writing about yourself is hard because you will want to be represented properly. That often means presenting all the facts. Yes, all of them. In infinite detail. Right up until the point where the customer falls asleep or gives up living. For goodness’ sake, tell them what they need to know and no more.

2              It’s hard to write well

As we’ve already said, any idiot can write. Of course they can! But it doesn’t mean that everyone can write well, can construct sentences that flow brilliantly, can create copy that sells, can be funny or engaging. People who spend 100% of their time running a business will generally be very good at running their business (we’d like to think). So it stands to reason to assume that people who spend very little of their time writing the copy for their business will be less good at it than people who spend 100% of their time writing copy for business. There will be exceptions, but not many.

3              It’s hard to write for other people

For businesses that are focussed on providing specialist services it can be difficult to switch off from work mode into public mode. Especially when it comes to writing. Specialist businesses often find themselves having to use specialist jargon simply because there is no other way of describing what they do or sell.  Whilst they understand it perfectly well, the public may not. Lawyers and accountants are the worst at this because they speak the language of their business all day every day. When it comes to speaking with real people (via the copy they write) they often leave the real people behind. Anyone know what they are talking about? Me neither. Let’s try someone else.

4              Silly mistakes can cost more than pride

Saving money is important. But saving it in the right places is even more important. It doesn’t matter if your client has written a nice, succinct piece of copy, it can still be rendered useless by a silly mistake. Lapses in spelling and grammar will shake your customer’s confidence and cost sales. Why? Because people vote with their feet, just like they are doing now.