Author Archives: TheHyperteller

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Volkswagen’s Adverts Have a Message for Us All

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I particularly like the current campaign of Volkswagen television commercials. They feature a range of ordinary people hunting for a bargain, and finding it in a number of inadvisable situations. From budget shark diving to discount parachutes, special offer climbing ropes and cut-price laser eye surgery, the adverts perfectly sum up an old adage which many of us seem to have lost focus on since the recession caused a return to penny scraping attitudes.

You get what you pay for

As someone working in marketing I can attest to the truth behind this statement. Marketing is all about investment: a small investment will yield a small return. It’s not an area you can cut corners in, yet many companies still try.

Over the past few years I’ve encountered many people trying to make money without spending any. I’ve seen businesses wanting thousands of words worth of content per month, yet expecting to pay rates that equate to lower than the minimum wage to the writer unlucky enough to get saddled with the task. I’ve had people suck air in through their teeth at the idea of spending hundreds of pounds on website copy, forgetting the fact that it can be one of the major differences between a bounce and a conversion.

Sometimes it is understandable that people are a little wary with their cash. The recession has caused us all to look for better bargains. Is one of the reasons behind the approach Volkswagen have taken with these new commercials. We do tend to think mostly about price. But there is something far more important that we are overlooking, to our own detriment: value.

What is it worth to you?

The most uncomfortable thing to see is when you come across a company whose product or service price is incredibly high trying to get away with paying minimum rates for copy, design, and marketing. Perhaps it is because – and this applies much more to copy than the other two – they often seen as extras. Copy is the proverbial cherry on the cake, or the engraved message on a new watch. It’s not obligatory or important, it just adds a nice touch.

This is not the case, and when copy is considered as part of the cost of sale you can see how easily it gets paid for by the additional revenue it generates. Copy, rather like footballers, is charged not on what it is, but on the value it brings in. The same with marketing. A sales letter that brings in £10,000 worth of extra business is clearly worth paying £1,000 for. Conversely, a £10 sales letter is unlikely to be written with the skill, attention to detail, or passion to even pay for itself.

In racing terms cutting corners is a good thing. When it comes to marketing, cutting corners is like cutting a square cake into circular portions – you’re going to lose out on a lot of cake.

Which is why the Volkswagen advert is not just about showing how the price of their vehicles is intrinsically linked to the quality, but also about the importance of prioritising value over cost when it comes to our businesses.

How you assess the value of your marketing activities? Do you have a clear idea of what you are getting back from your investment?


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Why you shouldn’t ask if your copy is too long

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Why ‘Is it boring?’ is the real question.

Something tells me you haven't got the sale. Image Source: CNN Money.

Something tells me you haven’t got the sale. Image Source: CNN Money.

Let’s talk about length, and why it’s important. It’s fine if you need to go outside and have a snigger first. The desired length for any given piece of copy is something that everyone from business owners to marketers obsess over.

Take blog posts for instance. Some people will tell you that they need to be kept short and concise in order to hold anyone’s attention in today’s instantaneous online world. Yet others will argue they should be well in excess of 1000 words, in order to be able to include enough information to make them relevant and valuable to the target audience.

But focusing on the length of your copy isn’t going to help you in the long run. Unless your word count is dictated by the physical space it will occupy (for instance on a flyer or brochure), the question to ask should be ‘Is my copy interesting?’

Length does not equal interest

There are some times in which shorter is indeed better: parents’ evenings; wedding ceremonies; root canal operations. But when you’re marketing to somebody your main goal is to persuade them to take action. Not everybody is the same. Some will take more persuading than others.

If you are presenting to potential clients, you stay long enough to answer any questions they have and ensure they have all the information they require. You wouldn’t pack up your laptop and leave as soon as the PowerPoint had ended. Selling isn’t about saying what you want to say, it’s about saying what the prospect wants to hear.

Which is why what you should be worrying about when it comes to your copy is whether or not it’s interesting. Just because you cut 1,000 words down by 50% doesn’t automatically mean your content becomes twice as interesting.Rather frustratingly for anyone looking for a definitive answer, the real rule about copywriting is that it should be as long as it needs to be.

How do I know if my copy is interesting?

Unfortunately this one is mostly down to your customers to decide. You have to trust your intuition, and there are a few basic ways to ensure you have done everything you can to keep it from being boring. Ask yourself:

Have I made points I need to make? If 500 words isn’t enough space in which to convey all the benefits of your product that your target market will want to know about, then cutting yourself off will damage your ability to convert them into customers.

Will the reader have any objections or questions that I have not yet addressed? Your potential customer will come up with many reasons (excuses) not to buy from you. If you do not challenge all of their objections, you are giving them a valid reason not to buy. Your copy should leave them with no doubt in their minds that they need your product.

Have I addressed everything that I raised at the beginning of the copy? Like a good story, copy needs some sort of narrative. If you draw your reader in using a question, statistic, or relatable scenario, you need to make sure you have concluded the points you raised by the end of the copy. Your target market won’t appreciate being drawn in with an interesting anecdote, only to be hit with standard sales copy once you have their attention.

Do the trees outside start quaking in fear as my mouse hovers over the ‘print’ icon? Don’t underestimate the power of editing. If you analyse what you’ve written, identify key points, and think of alternative phrasings, you can usually cut 1,000 words down to 500. It’s a common strategy in post-recession businesses these days (albeit usually applied to staff): make what you have work harder with less.

Too little copy is just as bad as too much. What is important is not how long it is, but how skilfully you can guide the reader from the beginning to the end without them even considering the length. People only complain about things being too long when they fail to hold their interest.

Just like some of the most effective things in marketing, great copywriting is invisible. Do you agree?


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Why I charge hourly for copywriting services

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Copywriting rates can be a bit of a mystery, so I’ve decided to explain how I charge.

If you have a look around my website you will see that I talk about copywriting as an investment. This is because it is. Great copy works hard to create interest, leads, and ultimately sales. Copywriting services are just like any other aspect of marketing – graphic design, PPC, web design, brochures, flyers, et cetera – you put some money in, and you get more money out. When it comes to copywriting, you shouldn’t be thinking about the cost. The results are what matter.

But copywriting rates can confuse people. I thought it would be a good idea to take the time to explain exactly why I charge a copywriting hourly rate, for a service whose worth is measured in ways other than time.

If you click on my fees page, you’ll find it gives you the price very clearly. I’ll admit that when I first started, I bought into the whole idea that I should be vague to encourage inquiries:

“As each project is different it is not possible to give you an idea of price upfront.”

But let’s be honest, it’s annoying isn’t it? Being able to shop around is important. You might just want to know how much copywriting services cost because you have no idea. You want to be able to make a decision, but how easy is it to weigh up the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer when you don’t how much it will cost you what you will get?

Copywriting rates for UK businesses

There are three main ways writers can charge for copywriting services; per word, per hour, or per project. They could be some other systems involving runes, or perhaps offers of cake, but the chances are if you choose to hire a copywriter you will end up following one of these payment structures.

Per-project copywriting rates for UK customers reflect the fact that you are paying for a return on investment. Say a website written by copywriter doubles your conversion rate and sees a 50% rise in profits. That’s clearly worth paying quite a bit for. Copywriting which generates tens of thousands of pounds in extra revenue is clearly worth paying several thousand pounds for. If you look at the actual cost, that could seem expensive, but you look at the result, and you realise it’s an offer so good you should bite the freelancer’s hand off.

The problem with charging fees like this is that unless your client is a massive business, this kind of money can still be a lot to cough up. The reality is that while all businesses could benefit from making more money, they simply don’t have the budget to make that kind of investment upfront.

Per-word copywriting rates

On the other end of the scale you have the per-word fee. Straightforward as possible, but is a terrible idea. The problem with paying per-word is you treat copywriting services like a product; as though it is potatoes, or catnip, or barbecue tongs. We’ve already seen above that copy writing has value and cannot be assessed on whether it’s 40 words or 400. And all words really equal? Should you be paying the same for ‘it’ as for ‘strategic’? Paying per word also completely undermines the fact that the final product you get does not represent the work that has gone into.

Say you ordered a 500 word blog post. My initial draft might have been 750 words, or even 1,000. So not only is that 500 words that I will not get paid for writing, there is also a huge amount of editing required to meet the word limit that is also not taken into account. Paying per word for copy is like valuing icebergs based on what you can see poking out of the water.

£40 copywriting hourly rate

Which just leaves us with an hourly rate. I find it a very simple and efficient method to work to. Buying into results is great, but it makes that initial investment a little easier if you feel you’re getting something tangible to begin with. For smaller companies and medium-sized businesses it makes sense to be paying for somebody’s time. My copywriting hourly rate of £40 reflects the fact that the copy I create is of a very high quality, whilst also acknowledging that you have budget restraints.

And that’s all there is to it. I chose my pricing model based upon a number of factors, balancing the value of my services with convenience and affordability for my clients. What I ended up with is a highly competitive rate for my copywriting services.

Do let me know how you prefer to pay your freelancers: hourly or per-project? Comment your thoughts.


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Does your copy say what you think it does?

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This woman isn't actually floating on a magic carpet. Perspective is an important thing to remember when writing your web copy, too. Image Source: Buzzfeed.

This woman isn’t actually floating on a magic carpet. Perspective is an important thing to remember when writing your web copy, too. Image Source: Buzzfeed.

We all know that some words can mean more than one thing. What’s worth remembering is that words can also imply something. A phrase can mean different things depending upon where it is seen, what images it accompanies, and even what time it is viewed. Context is important when it comes to considering your word choices for copy.

Connotation is the thing a word signifies, which is not necessarily the same as what it means. A perfect example is when it comes to cakes and calories.

Pudgy puddings

Calories are, when not consumed in moderation, a bad thing. But no food manufacturer is going to want their packaging to admit that their product is bad for you. They legally have to tell you about all the bad bits that go into it, however they’re going to do it in the most positive way possible.

This is why you’ll notice the nutritional information on a lot of cake packaging tells you that a serving ‘provides’ X amount of calories.

Same meaning, different connotation

‘Provides’ is a much better word than ‘contains’ where calories are concerned. ‘Provides’ is a strong, generous word. It suggests you are being given something. Those 10,000 calories in 100g of cake are a gift. This cake is providing for you. It’s looking after you. What a lovely cake, doing all that. It’d probably wash the windows if you asked it to.

A more serious example

The other problem with connotations is that your marketing can be perceived to be giving out a completely different message than it actually intends to. Budweiser are a very pertinent example of this. The company have been the target of a social media storm by releasing bottles of Bud Light with the sloganthe perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night’.

I think the meaning behind this slogan is meant to be that by having a light option, you can still enjoy a drink with your mates. There’s no need to refuse to join in. However, it is painfully obvious, considering the issues surrounding alcohol, consent, and multiple horrific news stories in the past few months, that this slogan comes across as condoning rape culture.

It’s a completely innocent message with a terrible connotation. It’s kind of remarkable that no one in the marketing department managed to pick up on it, really.

Changing a single word can transform your copy

Thinking about the subtle implications of your word-choice can help make otherwise dull copy into something positive and exciting. Read the example on moisturizer for men and women in my post on semantics for another good example.

Have a look at the example for a taxi service below, and you’ll see just how different a message can be by taking the connotations of your word choice into account:

Getting you where you need to go” – focus is on the fact you’ll end up where you need to be: destination, not the journey.

Carrying you where you need to go” – caring. Sounds supportive, tender. Focus is on a good journey.

Driving you where you need to go” – convenience. Focus is on the service being provided.

Bringing you where you need to go” – focus is on the objective. Acknowledges the stages of your journey and the taxi’s role within it.

They all mean more or less the same thing, yet they convey a different message. It is by considering these implications when writing your copy that you can convey your company voice and objectives.

When was the last time you thought about the meaning behind your marketing copy?


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Semantics – your key to better copy and better SEO

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"Lupa.na.encyklopedii" by Julo - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Lupa.na.encyklopedii” by JuloOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

We have entered the age of semantic search. In terms of SEO, it is an important step. It makes search more intelligent and more relevant to users.

Semantics is all about meaning. The fact that there are so many different ways of expressing a single thought or question is important. People aren’t always going to use identical search queries, and we don’t all write about topics according to one universal style guide, even if we all follow the same laws of English.

What is Semantic Search?

The advantage of this search development is that Google not only understands what you said, but what you meant. You can see this in action by picking a service and searching for the ‘benefits’ of it. Google will also return article on the ‘advantages’ of that service, because it knows those two things mean the same thing in this context. This is useful for searchers – because imagine missing out on great pudding recipes because you looked for ‘desserts’.

Those are simplified examples. What semantics allows us to do is focus more on providing quality writing rather than ticking SEO boxes. We no longer have to pack blogs, articles, and web copy full of “meat” – we can talk about “chicken”, “pork”, “bacon”, “beef”, and so on. It makes for a more interesting, more readable piece of writing. We can still optimise our copy, yet in a more subtle way.

Semantics in copywriting

Semantics has always been useful in copywriting. It’s how we prevent our prose from becoming boring. It means we can say something is fantastic, handy, cool, awesome, wonderful, brilliant, great, and so on, instead of just ‘nice’ all the time.

People get bored of seeing the same word several times, and repetition can jar people out of the reading ‘zone’. Repetition is bad. Avoid repetition. Spoils the moment, doesn’t it?

Semantics also helps us to tailor our writing to get the best response from the target audience. Think about how moisturiser for women ‘rejuvenates’ (a soft, caring, feminine sort of word), whereas men’s face cream ‘re-energises’ (an action-packed, masculine sort of word). They both do the same thing – make you more moist than you were originally – it’s just the semantics are different, because men and women want to moisturize for different reasons.

How has semantic search changed your SEO policy?


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5 simple business blog post ideas when you’re stuck for content

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Filos_segundo_logo_(flipped)

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons User Gabriel VanHelsing

It’s your scheduled blog post day. But you can’t think of a single thing to write. It seems like you’ve used up all your creativity. Perhaps it’s the pressure, perhaps your mind is on other things. No matter how hard you try, no post is forthcoming.

What are you meant to do in that situation? The regular content needs to keep coming, and your following might be waiting patiently. Fear not. Here are five types of post that can be created quickly while still providing something of value to your readers.

Article Share

You probably already refer to other sources in your blog posts. An article share is where you simply point your readers in the direction of something they will find useful. Find an article that says something important about your industry and post the link on your blog along with an introductory paragraph. A five minute job that helps your readers find something new.

Share a laugh

Seen some funny tweets or cartoons that are relevant to your followers? Create a post sharing a few. Write a sentence or two about why you find each one particularly striking and why you shared it. Before you know it, you’ve got a whole blog post. Your followers will like it, because who doesn’t like a little humour about their industry (apart from undertakers)?

Start a debate

People love giving their opinions online. It’s why comment sections on blogs, articles, images and videos exist. Your followers have a lot to say if you give them the chance. Write a short post on a pertinent issue, and state that you want to get a debate going. Ask your readers to comment, or tweet you their thoughts. It can generate a lot of engagement. Not bad for a few minutes’ work.

Revisit an old post

A lot of the time things evolve and new information becomes available. This can make something written just six months ago seem out dated. Or even if it is still relevant, you might have thought of something more to say. In this case, you can use that post as the basis of a new one on the same topic. This is especially effective if you can pick a post that was very popular to begin with, as you can emulate its success.

Ask your followers

There’s nothing wrong with asking your followers what they want to hear about. In fact, there is a lot right with it. Asking them what your next blog should be about creates interest and engagement before it is even written. It gives them a stake in the content, and helps strengthen your relationship with your followers.

This isn’t a cheat sheet of ways to make it look like you’re trying. These are genuine ways of providing useful content that can be used to give value to your readers even when you don’t have the time or inspiration to write an extensive blog post.

You may find some of these are so well received that they become regular features on your blog.


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Is blogging networking or selling?

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HandshakeThere’s a lot of confusion surrounding the humble blog. What is it for? Where does it come from? Why haven’t I got a million followers?

The biggest confusion is often regarding the actual role of a blog. Getting this wrong can result in you developing, writing, and promoting a blog that won’t get you anywhere.

Some treat it like a sales engine, others like a social network. Which is it? The rather frustrating answer, for those looking for a quick fix, is ‘a subtle blend of both’.

Blogging to network

Posting interesting content about your industry, products, or the lifestyle of your customers will attract the kind of people you want to do business with. Advice on where to catch the best waves will draw in an audience of surfers – perfect for retailers of wetsuits.

Over time, more and more people will come to your blog. If you get your content right, you’ll build up a following of the kind of people you want to be doing business with. These people will spill over onto your Twitter and Facebook pages. So in this sense a blog is all about networking.

Blogging as a sales tool

Blogging is about generating leads and building your business. But to think of it as a sales tool is to approach it from the wrong angle. People who approach blogging (and Twitter, Facebook, etc) from the point of view of making sales are usually the ones doing it wrong.

Think about it this way – if lots of people are looking for information related to what you do, why shouldn’t they get it from you? If you have a big readership of surfers following your blog, some of them are bound to check out your products. Why would they think of going somewhere else?

Remember Sainsbury’s 4p curry sauce? How could they sell a product that lost them money? Answer: because for a curry you need meat, rice, and vegetables to go in that sauce. Before you know it, you’ve spent a lot more than 4p.

Blogging is that 4p curry sauce. You are investing time and effort in order to give something of value to your customers at little or no cost to them. In return, they will have a look around your store. After all, those surfers are going to have to get a wetsuit and board before they can ride the great waves you’ve told them about.

The take away message

Blogging makes your target market aware of who you are and what you do. Think of it as product placement. Tweet this.

Approach blogging like a networking event – aim to let people know about you rather than shouting about your products. Tweet this.

Blogging is no different from giving a presentation at a trade event: show people you know your stuff and they’ll buy from you. Tweet this.

 

Let’s do a bit of networking. Follow me on Twitter and we’ll have a chat.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Ltrig


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Is Clickbait Dead?

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Blogs and articles need snappy titles. That’s how you draw in readers. But there’s a difference between an interesting and attention-grabbing headline and a title that cheats you into clicking on a link under false pretences. The latter is called clickbait.

Don’t stare at this image for too long, it does something to your eyes. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Nevit.

Don’t stare at this image for too long, it does something to your eyes. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Nevit.

The idea is to present the most pedestrian of stories in a way that makes them sound far more shocking, controversial, or unbelievable than they really are. By the time people realise how uninteresting the story actually is it’s too late – they’ve already clicked. Examples could include:

You won’t believe what I found when I woke up on New Year’s Day (Article: It’s now 2015).

Or

This man proposed to his girlfriend. What happened a year later will leave you speechless. (Article: The couple got married).

It’s an annoying practice that irks readers and can lose you subscribers. In the great school of writing snappy titles, clickbait is akin to using the science labs to cook meth.

This article’s title is clickbait. Why? To illustrate a point. One of the most common formats for titles I see on LinkedIn and Twitter is ‘Is [insert popular successful marketing practice here] is dead‘.

It counts as clickbait because, just like with this article, the answer is never ‘Yes’. A title like that is more enticing than ‘New marketing practice is somewhat successful‘, that’s all.

What’s the take home message here? Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Don’t write a cheque your mouth can’t cash’? You have to deliver on your promises.

Don’t claim something will amaze people unless it’s genuinely incredible; don’t claim something is dying out just because it is a little bit less popular; don’t promise champagne and truffles if all you have is KitKats and a can of Sprite.

Great titles: take the most tantalising aspect of the story and present it in an intriguing way.

Clickbait: exaggerate the conclusion of the story to promise something the article can’t deliver.

For great clickbait article examples, follow Saved You A Click on Twitter. And while you’re at it, follow me.


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Blog now while it is still easy

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UnderwoodKeyboardWondering what to write about can stop a lot of would-be bloggers in their tracks. The harder you try to think of something, the more difficult it seems to be. This is especially true if you view blogging as merely something that really needs to be done. The other tasks queue up behind you, willing you to write something, and quick. It’s no wonder a lot of business owners don’t bother.

The good thing about a blog is that it can be patient when needed. It won’t dissolve if you leave it alone. It’s not going to disappear. You can come back to it when you like. You can come back to it when it is easy.

Now is one of those easy times

Tying into big events is one of the simplest ways of creating useful content that people want to read. It helps you think of ideas, too. And now, at the beginning of the year, everyone has something in common. So why not write a Happy New Year blog post? Wish your customers well, thank them for their support in 2014. Tell them about the exciting things you have planned for this year, and give them a sneak peek of the things they’ll get in return for following you.

Your New Year post doesn’t have to be based around resolutions, but it can be a good place to start. Give your readers a challenge, or set yourself one, and remind them to check back regularly to follow your progress.

The New Year is a time for hoping, for making promises, and generally feeling positive about the future. Surely your business has some plans, targets, or dreams for 2015? Translate those into a blog post, and beat that barren posting patch.


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What’s the difference between a proof read and a copyedit?

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Services Comparison Chart

When it comes to design, we all know there are terms we don’t understand. Kerning, litho-printing, iFrames, payment. Just what are these designers on about? Well copywriting is not without its terminology either.

With us at least it’s a lot easier to understand. Kerning is presumably how much something…kerns? Copyediting, on the other hand, is nice and straight forward. It’s where you edit copy. But what does that actually entail? And isn’t proof reading editing, too?

Understanding the role of a copyedit

Copyediting is the middle ground between proof reading and copywriting. It involves looking closely at the text and making structural changes – sometimes small, sometimes big – in order to improve the general readability of the piece. It could be as simple as changing the wording of a few sentences, or as complex as cutting out entire paragraphs, jiggling the order, switching prose to bullet points, or changing the language to Japanese (although probably not).

Where a proofread just takes out the obvious errors – spelling and grammar and so on – a copyedit is concerned with making the text as easy to read as possible. It ensures that your key messages aren’t being buried under poor sentence structure or useless information. It can transform 2,000 words of boring text into 500 words of killer copy.

A copy edit is a good way to strike a compromise between having a professional writer create your content whilst still having a strong input yourself. If you really can’t step back and let them do what they do best, this allows you to put your words on the page for the writer to transform into something that wins business, without losing your personality or voice.

Copyediting services also include proofreading, whilst copywriting services include a copyedit and a proof read.

There’s a contact form in the footer of this page. Why not scroll down and get in touch with me to have a chat about supercharging your marketing copy for maximum results?


Provide top quality & value for your business or your clients at just £40 per hour.