Copywriting services: the lowdown
The right copywriting service provider is key to relationship building with new and existing audiences.
Forward-thinking businesses know that high-quality content builds trust and authority, and is key to both long-term customer retention and new business. Yet imaginative copy generally remains a very neglected area of business, let alone something to be utilised in strategic planning. In this article you will find out why you need to address that and why you should be showing your authority in your field. Read on to find out how good writing, whether using a professional copywriting service, or your inhouse talent, could help bolster your very vital and neglected content strategy.
Any company serious about customer retention and growth should be exercising thought leadership, contributing to the community and building relationships. But there are two major problems facing businesses with regards to content strategy today.
- Many businesses are aware that they need good content to drive business. But they don’t have the time, which means it’s usually one of the most neglected parts of the business.
- Too many decision makers think that content is the ‘fluffy’ side of corporate activity. To them, it’s not a concern of the core business, and so they view it as a lot of work and spend for little gain. Bottom line – if it’s not directly selling, why should they care?
Anyone who thinks content is overrated is doing it wrong.
What many business owners struggle with is the fact that traditional one-way marketing methods are only one part of a bigger picture. Increasingly developing businesses are recognising the role of copywriting and content, using these methods to strategise their relationship building activities. It’s the long game to customer retention.
It seems obvious, but we get busy with the big business of running a company, and we get too busy to work on what appear to be finer details, but have become major avenues of development. We need to remember that everybody consults the internet to solve their problems, and that’s why written content has never been more important. It should be a priority, because your content is a major component of your brand, and it affects how customers feel about you.
Copy isn’t just about meeting new customers either. Many of the best brands know that copy keeps engaged customers loyal. So even if you aren’t worried about growing too quickly, you need engaging copy to do the work required to keep your existing clients on board.
Simply put, businesses often don’t want to invest in copywriting services, but effective copy creates relationships with potential clients.
Quality content can boost your sales, increase discoverability and position your brand as a trusted leader. It also keeps good faith with your current customers.
That’s why businesses who don’t have an inhouse content writer need to train one, or hire one.
Smart content is a trust building exercise
When have you ever bought from a website that is full of terrible grammar and spelling mistakes?
If you casually hit a website and can’t see straight away exactly what they do, do you go digging for it, or do you close the tab and carry on scrolling through Twitter?
How many times have you seen a badly written post on social media and thought it was a spam account?
If copy is being created anyway, isn’t it better to plan and align it with company values, strategy and mission statements?
Tight, well-written copy will qualify your leads. This is where a client goes to check you out to do further research and decides if you are trustworthy and worth their investment. Poorly written content will see customers bounce without thinking twice – they don’t owe you anything. The least you can do is take time to capture their attention.
This is copy on a very basic level. Business owners need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes, and understand this before a content strategy is possible. That’s where professional copywriting services add value in the perception of a business.
Why well written content is an investment
Most businesses who engage with proper copywriting services understand that content creation isn’t an empty process of publishing and moving on. It lives on. It’s something that should form part of your business plan, and be created alongside it.
If you come up with a smart strategy, you will be producing material that continues to give value over time, will always be needed, read, and continues to do its job long past its publish date.
Knowledge sharing is a form of relationship building. If you’ve got the answers to someone’s problem, you’re going to make friends.
Remember, when someone is researching a product or service, a lot of work goes in first. They don’t want to speak directly with a business until they’re almost ready to make a purchase. They’ll have already educated themselves adequately by the time they decide to contact you.
And this is why content is so vital – it lays the foundations down early and gives you the potential to catch the buyer in the research stage.
- Your customer facing copy is the voice of your brand – in fact internally, this is also true. Your written internal communications can massively affect how your staff view you as a brand (they are ‘buyers’ too!).
- Excellent copy persuades people to buy from you: it literally affects revenue.
- Shows clients and customers whether or not you represent value.
- It convinces customers of your values and has the potential to create ‘meaningful’ connections which is the main driver of social media.
- Attracts people to engage with you (which helps you reach more people).
- Encourages people to talk about you (this is great for reputation building, and referrals are one of the best ways of getting new custom).
Content is naturally part of your marketing strategy – you can’t be too busy or strapped for resources – otherwise, you’re creating a stream of copy without an intention at the heart of it.
Intentional copy: everything you create should have a purpose
Content for social media, blogs or awareness reports, is content that should be created with a purpose in mind. Some companies choose not to invest much resource in this type of content creation, valuing a social media presence over any real aims. That means copy is constantly being created on their digital media without any thought behind it.
When copy is viewed as the by-product, subsidiary labour, for the sake of getting something out to the public – very rarely is it created with the company’s aims in mind. This is copy as a task oriented activity, not the opportunity to say something meaningful and engaging.
If copy is being created anyway, isn’t it better to plan and align it with company values, strategy and mission statements? At its best, it’s bland copy. At its worst, it’s preventing you from meeting your audiences, and wasting the money pumped into the products you are creating.
Put it this way: someone hears about you and they take to your social media to find out who you are. They see that you put out a report, one that you invested in, or which is vital to your client-base, and you just tweeted this:
“We were proud to fund this report into climate change, read it to find out what our policy-makers plan to do over the next decade.”
That tells your audience what it is and what your involvement has been. But you haven’t commented on it, analysed it, supported it adequately or even told the reader what is interesting about it. Is that going to make them want to invest in you?
Say something, stand for something
You want to give perspective, opinion, a point of view. You want to make people care and understand why this is important. Instead, we should be aiming for something like:
“We’re asking you to join us in lobbying the Government on their climate change policy. Read our independent research criticising current policy-makers’ inaction and the efficient alternatives we need to invest in over the next decade.”
The supporting content of your media – the copy – will make a difference to how any piece of media is interacted with, and by who. It should be supported by the overarching aims of your brand. Where does this fit into who you are and what problems you solve? What do you want the viewer to do with the information? This filters down from your mission statement, your values, and your aims. No piece of media sits in silo from another, and none of your messaging should either.
“Captions aren’t tacked on afterthoughts” – they add weight and context to their accompanying media.
Copywriting is a major part of your marketing framework
Visual media is on the rise – isn’t that where your focus should be?
Video is proven to be a highly engaging tool that continues to grow, attracting fans and interaction that can win followers and customers. But who is writing the scripts to your video? The social media headlines and by-lines that contextualises them, calls to action, who is creating quality subtitles? Good quality copy is a tool that pulls in viewers. Using it well is a skill that can be learned, but it takes time.
No media exists in a bubble alone, each has different functions, and thought-provoking copy is a vital part of that marketing mix that feeds into the overall content strategy. You wouldn’t dream of having a website with just words – you need good graphic design, UX, photography, videos – and much more. Each discipline depends on the other.
When businesses ignore the need for purposeful content, they are missing out on a vital trust building exercise that sets them apart from the competition.
Quality copy, at its most basic function, is the framework that contextualises all of your client-facing activities.
Is your content persuasive?
Be more. Words are emotive.
Even if you have fairly well written client-facing channels that can be easily understood, ask yourself: are you actually persuading your audience? Can you do better?
If you’re doing something similar to another company, what will be one of the deciding factors helping a customer to buy with you over a competitor?
It could be the first few lines they are hit with in a Google search – the thing that pulls in the initial hit to your website. It could be a Twitter post about your values. A product description that taps into the customer’s ideas about themselves.
Copywriting is a multi-tool that does many things
Professional copywriting services don’t just communicate an offer – your exchange of goods or services – they communicate values and reflect identity. They empathise, they tap into people’s self-image, their aspirations. The right words set the tone and energy, giving your words a personality. It shows you know your audience. That is what creates an emotional connection with them and makes a brand memorable.
People buy for two reasons: Buying is an emotional process, based in reflection of values. Good copy communicates that – what your business stands for. So you must ask yourself at every level of copy creation if you are persuading the customer that you are worth their emotional and financial investment.
It’s the difference between a quality and low grade offering, cheap or expensive. It’s communicating an idea about your brand and reaching the buyers emotional consciousness about themselves. People buy things that they think speaks to them. Copy is one of the many factors that helps them make a connection to your offering.
It’s the copywriting service provider’s job to convince browsers to join your ‘club’, whatever that may be. It’s an investment that pays off, and one that is ignored at the peril of longevity, growth and reputation.
Free content is not a distraction from selling
David Meermen-Scott, Author and marketing entrepreneur, is an excellent example of how his free content keeps giving. He’s sold over a million books in 29 languages on marketing.
In particular, his book The News Rules of Marketing and PR has sold 400,000 copies. And all because of his blog that he started in 2004. This blog was eventually published as a book, and is now in its 6th edition. This blog, and free e-books, continue to drive hits to his site, even blogs that are over 10 years old.
Yet he still sells books. Despite all this free content. Because people want more of his expertise, despite all the free stuff. His content is rich and people still pay for it.
People who benefit from your content are likely to become customers later on.
The ‘what’s in it for me?’ concept
People often mistake copywriting and content creation as a way to make a company look good. It is that but it’s also so much more. Quality content should be benefit-oriented, otherwise nobody will read it. You’ve got to genuinely seek to solve a problem. This might not lead to a direct sale on a first read, but it should build the foundations for a relationship in the future. Good content encourages people to come back to you for answers in the future. And done right, it earns respect.
And it’s not just about blogging, writing newsletters, or even creating a video. We are talking about everything visible to your buying audience. It encompasses the entirety of your communications, starting from your website copy, right along with what you are writing on your social media . It’s meant to be making your customers fans, entertaining them, so they’ll not just buy your products but will enjoy their interactions with you, and with some luck, will prompt them to talk about you positively to their friends.
Any company doing well in their social channels will know that sometimes, their audience just simply wants to be entertained. When people want a break and go to Facebook, if they see something funny they will interact with you and share your material – and become curious about your offering.
This takes time, but it is a way of reaching your potential customers, increasing your discoverability and showcasing your expertise. The best companies are already doing this, and they use professional copywriting services, or they have in-house talent dedicated to this.
How do I know if my content is good?
If you’re working with a professional copywriting service provider or not, ask yourself: Is your offering easy to see and summed up succinctly? Are the calls to action easy to understand? Are your channels SEO-optimised? Does your copy communicate your brand, its personality and its values well? What queries do you get the most? The most important test is this – is it being read, and is it converting? If not, then time to recalibrate.
And if after reviewing these questions you still aren’t sure, then get your channels tested by real users.
Good content sells, but its function at a basic level is to help readers understand how you solve their problems, what to expect from you, and to a lesser extent, what is expected of them in an exchange.
Here’s a few examples of where copywriting matters – some less obvious than others:
- Your website – most vitally a summary on the first page of what you do
- Meta description (how you appear in search-engines)
- Forms (on and offline)
- Social media posts
- Email – both in customer and staff communications
- Awareness reports (or white papers)
- Video scripts
- Speech writing
- Internal report writing
- Company intranet
- HR communications
Thought leadership: copywriting and content impacts your authority with competitors and customers
Words are powerful, and many brands need to do more than just have a nicely written website and a decent Facebook account. Many companies are now generating their own research into the issues facing their respective industries, and one of the related aspects of this is awareness reports – or a white paper. The ultimate in thought leadership.
These are often used in the technology space to create awareness around new approaches to known problems. But many industries are now recognising the use of them. They can help to create a positive contribution to your reputation and to set you apart from your competitors in the marketplace of ideas.
It’s not an advert
Whilst an awareness report is an advert of sorts, it’s actually not about you or your product. It’s about your buyer, and their problems. It’s about how you can help solve those problems with your expert knowledge.
Awareness reports simply define problems and offer solutions.
But why should you give away your knowledge for free? Surely you should be monetising this?
Because, done well, they can prompt action from buyers. Good content can retain loyalty and convert a reader into a buyer later on. It can prompt them to share your material, or talk about you, and get your brand out there to a wider audience.
Awareness reports are not the be all and end all of content marketing. They should form a small part of a wider content strategy which covers all your public facing channels as outlined above.
“We don’t have the resources…”
You don’t have to commission expensive research to create good content. In fact, many companies take for granted all your in-house knowledge and forget that your average client could use a bit of education – after all, aren’t they trying to understand what it is that you know?
The best content answers problems and showcases your company knowledge
There are experts in your company that can and should be utilised to create useful content.
To transform their knowledge into useful content, you can go three routes:
- Get a professional copywriting service on board to interview your experts: The Society of Authors have a directory that will be able to help you find someone suitable for your field. It’s time-efficient for the person who hasn’t got time to do the writing. This is a really good idea if your in-house experts aren’t natural writers. It won’t be as expensive as you think, and it’s worth the money.
- Get your expert to do the writing: and, if necessary, you can outsource the editing to a copywriter/editor tidy the copy up and knock it into shape. Ideal if you don’t have a big budget but your expert needs some steer.
- Long term: Look internally to see if you have existing talent that you can hone. Getting into content creation means you may want to consider making this someone’s job. If you’re going the DIY route, two things are a must: 1) the person writing has to have a proven interest and talent in writing, and 2) they should be rewarded – writing is work too. Remember, that if this activity has been neglected so far in your strategy, then it needs to be part of somebody’s job legitimately, and recognised.
If your writer doesn’t have a marketing background, then a certain amount of direction and planning from management and the experts on the aim of the piece will be required beforehand.
Get your own copywriter: Training in-house talent
An alternative to employing professional copywriting services is to train in house talent. This is often seen as expensive, but the benefit of this is that you get to train your own specialist in your field. There are lots of training courses that your appointed internal budding writer can do. Find something to help guide them over at the Chartered Institute of Marketing or the London School of Journalism to get them started. Investing in someone in the company with natural talent and having them formally trained could win loyalty to the company – they will get a better in-depth feel for the business and will soon be able to produce content independently.
A word of advice though. Do not give this job to someone who doesn’t really want it. This is for someone who sees themselves as growing with you in this field. If they don’t have an interest in writing, show zest for the company, or their existing stream of work means they couldn’t possibly fit it in, then you need to rethink who should do it.
Remember, the quality of the content must be powerful – if you’re putting resources aside for this, make it count.
Using your knowledge to build reputation and attract long-term customers
Write an awareness report
A good awareness report will present a known problem, and talk through all the objections to solving that problem. They’ll also present an answer, and convince the reader why the answer is the way forward and the solution to their problems.
Usually, the ‘problem’ is known to the reader, and something that has been bugging them for a while.
Take SingularityTech, an AI training company. This company knows that their buyers need to get up to speed with AI automation, and that many are actually intimidated by this new technology. All the research shows that AI is the future, and only the companies with the biggest resources are up to speed on it. Even some of the bigger firms lack the expertise and don’t know where to start. These companies currently outsource, which they know is not going to be sustainable once the competition integrates this new technology into the business.
SingularityTech have crafted their report to show companies that they can take control, and despite feeling powerless because of lack of knowledge, there are steps that they can take, and that they needn’t feel silly for not having that knowledge.
They give examples of how AI automation can help the business become more efficient, help them become a serious competitor in the market and that it starts with staff training, staff hire and cultural shifts. Their awareness report is a starter guide in how a company goes about doing this, what they need, what software they need, manpower, and other resources.
>>Read the report (link)
Why would I give away my secrets?
Audience education has a high conversion rate. You may be worried that your competitors are lifting ideas, but in the long run, building trust with your audience is what gets you customers. Because often they’ll choose who they feel they have a meaningful connection with. Audiences are very adept at knowing who is genuine. So don’t worry about your competitors.
Helpful content puts you into the sales consideration bracket of the buyer thought process. If you prove your authority in an area effectively, you become trusted within your market.
For example, I recently used a recipe from Cupcakes and Doilies owner Gemma Wilson. I was so impressed with the recipe, I visited the shop for lunch when I was in London. This is how content operates in the marketing funnel.
Approach your content authentically
You have to take a genuine approach to your content. If you’re a serious company, with a more traditional culture, you need to be authentic to that, and communicate with your clients in a tone they will understand and expect.
But remember, there’s no hard sale in content. The market is intelligent to sham ‘infomercial’ content. This isn’t an exercise in “I’m giving you this, now buy my product”. Your reader owes you nothing. Prove you’re worth their time, contribute to the conversation for the greater good, something that is greater than your product. And they will come back to you anyway.
Content is about knowledge, branding, and thought leadership first, and sales later. Think of it as going to a networking event. You don’t say your name and state what you’re selling. You go to make friends in your industry first. That’s what the content game is.
Good quality content + readers = potential buyers.
There will be lots of consumers reading your stuff that don’t become customers – that’s fine. You’re educating your market, getting your brand out there. You’re a good guy in your industry, gaining authority and respect in your field. It’s likely your peers in your industry will be emulating you too, which is a good position to be in.
Content is as much about reputation as it is anything else. And that’s something you can’t buy.
If you’ve read the above and feel you’re ready to broaden your content offering, below you will find the steps to take in building an awareness report.
How to write an awareness report
The content of your awareness report will follow the basic outline below.
- Be up front at the start of what the report promises to deliver
This is about ‘what’s in it for me’ – a potential client is not going to engage with your content the way you want if you aren’t very clear about the benefits of your content.
- Present a problem
This is the stuff you know your client is going through that is prompting them to seek answers. Remember – think like a publisher. This is your chance to be relatable and understand your client’s predicaments.
- Provide some answers to potential objections
A solution to a problem is rarely a very easy process to go through. It often means change, and change means pain. You need to help them see that you understand them first, and why your answer is the better option. The pain is worth it.
- Include real-life case studies
Prove how it is applied in real life – show successes as well as failures. This could also include where your answer isn’t the right solution in a particular instance – you don’t want to sell your ideas to people who it won’t work for. This is about being good for your community and being the answer to people’s problems, not blindly selling no matter the consequences.
- Give a run-down of how to fix the problem
This is where you address practical steps needed to go through to work through the known issues. The actual stuff that will help them do it.
- Give them some further steps to take
They may decide they need help beyond your material. This is where you direct them to other channels that could help them further – this could be other resources, or your own social channels where they can get further education on this particular issue.
Remember the principal aims
An awareness report has a higher purpose than just increasing sales. It can, of course, form part of your strategy to do this – relationship building equals sales in the long run. But the main objective should be to:
- Share knowledge
- Build relationships
- Contribute to thought leadership within your market
- Be a respected brand in your market
- Help your community
An awareness report’s principal aims are not to:
- Make a sale
- Advertise yourself or your products
Do not blanket brand your awareness reports, nor any other substantive content. Name your experts. Name your writer and any other contributors. High authority content is always attached to a human.
Cornering your content
If you want to start publishing content, then you need to start thinking like a publisher – your copywriting service will be able to guide you, but if you’re going it alone, ask yourself what your typical customer looks like. There will be a number of ‘types’. What problems do they face? There will be more than one. What knowledge do you hold that is going to help them with their problems? That’s the content you’re going to write about.
Where to start
- Consult your internal experts. What’s their knowledge, what do they know on a deep level that your customers are looking for?
- Look at common incoming queries: Consult your customer service teams – what are your customers top ten problems that they ask you to solve?
- Can you create ‘how to’ guides based on this information?
- Do you have expert legal knowledge that holds value that is going to help potential clients?
- Arm yourself with information about your buyers. What are they looking for on Google? What are they searching for on your site?
- Are there any gaps in the content market that you can fill that will be helpful?
It may only be connected to your service, but publishing content that helps your buyer means you’re going to capture their attention. If you share your expertise on a subject they need, they’re going to remember you for it. You’ll win loyalty, and fans.
Put yourself in their shoes
For instance, you are a property developer, and you happen to know a lot about the challenges facing landlords. Your company doesn’t directly carry out services for landlords, but is still within your field of expertise. However, you produce content advising landlords on whatever issues they face, and how they can overcome them – structural issues, damp, attracting the right tenants, health and safety, potential legal pitfalls and how to protect themselves and their tenants.
If they find your content useful and entertaining, they’ll remember you. You potentially have a future business partner or client in property development.
And when someone talks to their friends about an idea they had, or something they need, a reader of your content may well suggest this great business they’ve know because they subscribe to their material. A recommendation has value too, people trust their friends.
Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes will help you to formulate a basis for a content strategy. The blogs you should be writing, how to use your social media channels more effectively. It will show you need to revamp your website copy and improve your messaging. You will understand what other content you could be producing.
Create content that efficiently drives action – present the problem, show them your answer to their problem, and then finally tell them how to take action – funnel them. Make sure they know what to do once you’ve educated them.
Focus on being helpful. Then when your client needs your product, they’ll remember you.
In short: make it useful and enjoyable to read. Break down difficult information so it’s easy to digest. And make it easy to find.
Ready for the next steps
- Review copy on a basic level: both client and staff facing, if possible.
- Strategise: Outline what is and isn’t working, and draw up a plan of action.
- Drum up support: If you need support from decision makers, now is the time to lobby them and show them where you could do better, and how the best are already doing it.
- Be good for the community: get ready to share a good portion of your knowledge (without giving away all the goods).
- Create relationships: your content should make the right emotional connections to your brand.
- Think like a publisher: corner your content by creating information needed by your prospective clients. What sort of specialised content you could be making?
- Take it seriously: Remember that content is an investment. Make it somebody’s job and reward them, or outsource to a professional.
- Have a budget: try not to skimp on this important reputational process.
- Engage invested staff and get them on board.
- Be a thought leader in your field.
Trusted resources for copywriting services, editing, proofreading and training
Society of Authors
This writers’ organisation has a directory of their members who you can contact through them. It’s a useful directory if you are looking for a writer whose work you are familiar with know, or are just looking for a writer who has expertise within a particular industry: https://www.societyofauthors.org/Our-Members/Author-Search
The Society of Proofreaders and Editors
This organisation has a directory of professional and qualified editors and proofreaders who can help knock an amateur’s work into shape:
The London School of Journalism
A respected independent school of journalism offering distance and on-site courses in writing. Perfect for new writers, and skilled writers looking to expand in different genres. Courses include freelance and feature writing, English for business, journalism, sub-editing and media law – among others.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing
You may have a talented writer who needs a steer in the principles of marketing, and if so, CIM run a number of day courses that can help them focus their copy. Among their day courses are: B2B Copy and Content Writing, Principles of Great Copywriting, Content Marketing and many others. On a more long-term level, CIM offer distance courses on an ongoing basis, from s foundation certificate, or diploma qualification, right through to postgraduate level. These courses are are perfect if your company needs to develop or upskill an in-house content marketer. They blend your real-time practical work and career with marketing theory.
Written by Jade Zienkiewicz, Copywriter and Content Services Director at Phlashweb.
If you would like an evaluation of the content on your channels, you can book an appointment with our in-house expert and get a review of your content.