Monthly Archives: October 2016

public speaking workshops

Before you send that mail campaign, don’t forget…

Last thoughts on your mail campaign

As you know I’ve been talking about writing mail shots and campaigns recently. But before you hit send, or slip your beautifully written letter into its envelope, here’s a few remaining points to think about:

  • letters-1659715_1920Have you got any information (or can you get some) about the best time to send for your industry and sector? Think about the time and the day, and where you are in the year. Think about your own habits. In late July, do you have a tendency to put stuff off until September because of the holidays? And then does that “stuff” have a tendency to get forgotten?
  • When do you get the best response from your readers and when did you last check your stats? Looking carefully at the details like what days you got your best open rates on and which mailshots got the most click throughs provides valuable insights and helps you to start building a picture.
  • And what if you’re sending a printed campaign? Think carefully about your envelope size, colour and shape. What sort of mail do you open and what do you automatically bin? I open hand written stuff with no sender details…curiosity just gets the better of me but if I know who has sent it, I often just bin it. That’s just me though and you need to work out what you or your people do.
  • gift-1760899_1920Can you write something on the envelope which might tempt people to read, or include something within, something a little bit bulky?
  • Perhaps most importantly, have you worked out how and when you will follow up? One mail shot is rarely if ever enough. On the other hand, you do not want to bombard your reader with constant mail. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this and you need to weigh up all sorts of factors such as your own resources, your reader’s tolerance, the nature of your communication and your industry. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a campaign so be a bit conscious as you plan yours of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

Now that piece of writing you were drafting

The one we spoke about last week. How’s it going? Is it written? If it is, great, now it’s time to edit. Allow plenty of time.

Read it out loud to see if it flows well and makes sense. Do you need to reorganise it into a more logical order?

pencil-918449_1920Check for jargon and long sentences. Have you used overcomplicated words which you could simplify? Will it be easy to understand as a reader if you know nothing at all about the subject? Have you used clichés or too many adverbs and adjectives?

Have you used sub headings and does it sound natural? Check, double check and re-check for typos.

Leave it 2 days and then re-check it again.  You are now ready to send or publish!

See you next week, when I’ll be back in blightie.

Lucy

public speaking workshops

Time to get writing those letters and emails

A challenge for you

content planniingDuring the week, I threw out a challenge on social media in honour of Love to Write day. It went like this: if there’s something you’ve been meaning to write for a while, do it now. Not the fully edited and proofed version, just throw down some ideas on a piece of paper before the weekend. That’s the hardest part. Editing is easy (well easier).

But what’s that got to do with the blog I promised you about writing mail? I hear you say

I’m glad you asked. Because in this blog I’m going to give you some simple ideas about how to pull it all together once you’ve got some basic ideas down. Specifically, I’m still talking about sales mail but you can apply these principles to lots of what you write. So here goes:

Starting your letter or email

This is the most important part of your letter because if you can’t hook them with the opening line, frankly you’re doomed. They won’t read on. Your opening needs to be intriguing but clear…and that’s almost a contradiction (I never said it was easy).

Things you can try to hook them in with

Curiosity, vanity, the beginning of a good story or by emphasising a benefit (although be careful not to give the whole game away or they have no reason to read on) are good ways to start. Appealing to greed followed by flattery can work well, or a suggestion they’re part of something exclusive.

question-mark-1421013_1280Asking questions is engaging (we can’t stop ourselves from thinking about the answer) and try and write something that they will agree with. Once they’ve agreed with one thing you’ve written, they’re more likely to agree with something else you write…so build up gradually to your main proposition.

For example, “Social media is a time suck (reader nods). It would be so nice to outsource it (reader nods). But it would have to be affordable and get results (reader nods).” Then you hit them with the fact you provide super affordable social media services and can guarantee results or their money back! Hard for them to argue with that as they’ve almost talked themselves into it.

Keep going

You’ve got their attention, now with each sentence and each word you’ve got to keep it. But how? Here’s one well known, tried and tested formula: AIDA or in other words Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

hourglass-1703349_1920You’ve got their attention with your killer opening. Then you engage their interest by writing about something that is super relevant to them (and think benefits here). Make them want it with your persuasive arguments and maybe some kind of inducement or guarantee. Then make them act by perhaps making it a time sensitive or exclusive offer. It’s an old formula but it’s really useful to keep in mind.

What else can you do?

Another useful tip to bear in mind is to tap in to your reader’s emotions and then back up your arguments with logic. Quantify your benefits as much as you can…how much time will you save me exactly? And don’t forget your social proof; testimonials, statistics, independent validation. Finally, always have in mind what offers or incentives you could use.

You know I love a bit of structure

I hope it’s coming together for you now. But the next thing you need to look out for is structure and rhythm. Your writing should be easy to read. So read it back to yourself out loud after a day or two and check it doesn’t have the frown factor. You know what I mean, when you have to frown to figure out what’s been written.

It should flow smoothly and logically from one sentence to another with each paragraph focusing one just one idea (unlike this post but do as I say not as I do). Make your sentences a nice mixture in length (but not too long) and then sit back and let it all brew for a few days before your final edits.

luggage-1482697_1920That’s probably enough for now. You’re busy and I have to pack for another trip to France. But don’t forget the challenge that I started with. Just get some ideas down on paper for that thing you haven’t written yet. We can check in next week and see how you’re getting on.

Lucy

PS. Don’t forget your P.S, People often look there before they read the letter. Oh and don’t forget your CTA and your headline. I’ve included a link to my previous posts on these if you need a helping hand. 

business workshops

Workshop 4 ~ Presentations, profiles and PR

A quick reminder of the details of the last of this year’s workshops. 

2nd December 2016 9.30 – 12.30. Horsham Sports Club

How is your 1 minute pitch and  business presentation? Do they get new clients begging to know more or leave you shaking in your shoes? Are you getting the publicity you need even on a shoestring budget? Are your social profiles cooking on gas?

 

Workshop details (subject to slight variation):

copywriting workshop Step by step guide to the 1 minute pitch & perfect presentation

  1. Your 1 minute pitch
  2. The essential ingredients of a good presentation
  3. Practice makes perfect

 Social media profiles 

  1. Reviewing your profiles
  2. What needs to go in, what needs to come out
  3. Bringing it all together

public speaking workshops  Getting into the limelight

  1. What have you been up to and what are you planning?
  2. How to write a press release and what you’ll need
  3. Getting it published

Includes practical exercises and handout. And coffee and cake.

Registration 9.15 am, please feel free to bring business cards to exchange.

£25 / place. Email me at lucy@stroodcopy.com to book.

How good are your newsletters?

A little bit about writing mail

Last week, I promised you a blog about newsletters and mail campaigns. It comes hot on the heels of my “Nail your Mail” workshop for which I did lots and lots of research. I can’t possibly summarise 3 hours of workshop and several months of research in one blog, so here is just some of the most important things to remember.

Your newsletters

What’s in a name?

newslettersI always think that the name newsletter is a bit of a misnomer because sadly nobody is that interested in your news. And it’s super important to bear that in mind. Calling your regular mailer “Our Newsletter” is not massively inspiring either so try and come up with a new name. Equally, work hard on your subject lines: “This month’s newsletter” is not going to pack a punch when it comes to your open rates.

 

Make it useful

You’re not going for the hard sell with your newsletter. As a very rough rule of thumb, various industry giants suggest 90% interesting content and 10% sell. That might not be perfect or suit you, but keep it in mind as a yard stick.

Don’t make your newsletter all about you and your news. A round up of your other recently published content works well, with a little teaser of a paragraph and a link to take them to the full post. Industry news and developments and snippets of information which they’ll find useful can also go into the mix. If you always keep in mind that you want your reader to be really glad he read your material and to leave it with a sense that he has gained something from it, you’ll find yourself on the right track.

Design matters

As I’ve learnt the hard way. My advice would be, unless you’re a Mailchimp whizz or already have a fabulous design, it’s worth a little investment. copywriting workshop Once you’ve got a template in place, you can focus on fitting your copy into your template and not the other way round.  

Subscription details matter too

Make your subscription very clear (how often you’ll be mailing etc.) and remember the law on this. You have to have someone’s permission before you start sending them marketing material.

A debate still rages about whether a double opt in or single opt in (you don’t have to confirm your subscription with a single opt in) is best. I’ve read persuasive arguments for both sides and while there doesn’t seem to be a clear winner, I’d say double opt in comes out slightly on top. Perhaps I should do a separate post on this.

Please, please, please keep an eye on your stats

In other words, your open rates, your click throughs, your shares and your list size. Most platforms make this very easy to do. Keep an eye on industry averages and how you compare and aim to improve with each edition.

Your mail campaigns

Mail campaignsA very different beast, you may find yourself running a direct mail campaign or an email campaign of some sort. I tried hard to get consistent statistics about these two types of campaigns and how their open and conversion rates compared. The figures I uncovered differed significantly with email open rates being reported as everything from extremely low (less than 1% in one case – really!) and up to as high as 35%. However household mail open rates would appear to achieve open rates as high as 80/90%. Wow!

Conversion rates had less disparity but all the figures were very industry and campaign dependent and I was left with a feeling of scepticism about them.

But despite a lack of clarity on the stats, direct mail can still be a very effective tool and there are 4 main factors that are key to success: your list, how well planned your campaign is, how personal and relevant your content is and how timely.

Your list

List quality really matters as this is your target audience. My Mailchimp account suggests I could increase my open rates by as much as 14.99% if I segment my list. Why? Because of course, I can then tailor my writing so it’s really relevant to each segment. Those are stats that you just can’t ignore so ask yourself how you can segment yours. And whatever you do, make sure you audit your list to keep it in good shape.

A good plan

As always, the more research you can put into the what and the why of whatever it is you’re trying to sell, the more material you’ll have. Get a strategy together first and get absolutely clear about your objectives and what it is that you’re actually selling.

Explore your competitors, any objections and your market place and make a list of your features and benefits and the problems you solve. Think about any incentives or reassurance you can offer, such as guarantees, social proof or testimonials. And don’t forget to try and put together some very persuasive arguments about why they should do what you want them to.  

One example of how useful background research can be which came up at the workshop was Lavender! dsc00923-1I recently spent some time at an organic lavender distilling plant in Provence (really). While there, I learnt a huge amount from the owner about the different types of lavender, the harvesting processes and the distilling processes.

For the attendee at the workshop who sells essential oils including lavender, that sort of trip provides a wealth of information which potentially gives her, her USP and her angle. Yes I know you don’t often get the chance to swan off to the factory where your product is made especially if it’s in France. But if you can…jump up at the chance.

Pens at the ready

How to write Not yet. Once you’ve done all your research, only then is it time to write. That in itself of course takes time and is not to be rushed. Rather than rush it here…I’ll make it the subject of a new post, otherwise you may nod off. You are still awake aren’t you?

Until next time.

 

Lucy

15 easy ways to come up with blog ideas

Stuck for blogging ideas? Help is at hand

We’re a little way into the season now and I hope your autumn campaign is well under way. It’s probably at about this time that your commitment starts to wane (sorry, did I hit a nerve?). You had all those great ideas back in the summer while lying in the sun and promised yourself that you would find the time, but…

Well first of all, don’t beat yourself up because it happens to us all. And better still, don’t worry, because this week I thought I’d throw out 15 super easy ways to come up with some blogging ideas to help get you unblocked. Ready?

1. Re-read your old content. Is there anything there that needs updating or could be re-written and re-purposed into a new post?

2. Spend an hour or two reading up on industry news. It’ll bring you up to date and is bound to generate some ideas.

3. Read what your competitors have been up to. I don’t mean copy their ideas but something there may inspire you or you may disagree with their perspective (and of course it will keep you informed of what they’re up to as well).

4. Do a roundup of recent developments. Direct your readers to interesting information. Tell them what the industry A listers have been up to … you may even enjoy some of the halo effect.

5. Explore related industries. What’s out there that dovetails with what you do? If you’re a health insurance provider – look further a field. Consider inviting a healthier lifestyle, nutritionist or fitness expert to guest blog.

6. Write a product or book review.

pinterest-1138517_19207. Have a potter round Pinterest. If you’re in a creative industry or you’re a visual sort of person this often throws up all sorts of ideas.

8. Do some free thinking or brain storming. Jot random thoughts down on a piece of paper and see where they take you. Get the team to join in if you have one. Think beyond the norm. Some obvious ideas may come up but park them up and see if there are any more interesting ideas a bit deeper.

9. Down tools and go for a walk, a run or a swim. Or just do something completely different (watching TV or playing on your tablet doesn’t count). You want either to stimulate the blood flow or do something that requires a little bit of brain activity …draw, make something, mend something. The act of doing something different often stimulates ideas.

10. Read a book or magazine. A cracking good novel or some well written articles about something completely unrelated to what you do often helps fire up those creative juices!

11. Keep a swipe file. This works well in conjunction with a notebook. Every time you read or see something that contains something interesting or just a seed of an idea, add it to your swipe file. Jot down ideas as and when you have them and you should find you have a great source of materials and ideas whenever you need them.

12. Start building up a bank of other resources. It’s up to you how you organise them. But have a handful of websites, news feeds, blogs etc. that you know post thought provoking material, so that you can tap into them whenever you need to.

13. Ask. Next time you go networking, as part of your one minute pitch, ask fellow attendees what they would find useful. If networking isn’t your thing, ask on your social media channels or by email or your newsletter.

14. Write a jargon buster or “my industry explained” type post.

15. Don’t blog at all! Do a post that is predominantly photos, images, video or graphics! In fact video is pulling in some amazing stats at the moment and is relatively easy to do.

Keep a notebook by your bed and about your person all the time. If you’re the digital type, use something like Evernote. Ideas pop up all over the place but are all too easily forgotten. And the good news is the more you write, the more ideas you’ll come up with.

So do it now. Look at the list above and see if you can’t come up with 12 ideas. Just them down in your notebook and you’ve got enough blog ideas to write one a week, right up to the end of the year!

I hope that helped. Next week (in reference to the fact that even as this is post is being published I’ll be delivering a workshop about “mail”), next week I’ll be posting some how to write mail tips. Stay tuned.

 

Sussex copywriting

Identifying your writing style

And getting to know yourself

Your writing style and your brand personality is as important as your graphics and your logo. In fact they should all work in perfect harmony. You’ve probably heard me say, just as you wouldn’t have different logos and colours on your different marketing materials, so you shouldn’t have different writing styles or use different personalities.

writing style

What ingredients make up your brand?

Your writing needs to be consistent and it needs to be uniquely you, so that someone can pick up what you’ve written and instantly know it’s you without even looking at the top. And that means spending a little bit of time identifying and recording your brand personality and identity, your voice and tone of voice and your style. And if you have more than one person writing for your business, it’s even more important.

Your brand personality and voice – are you fun but professional?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a new client who doesn’t want to be thought of as fun and professional so try to go a little deeper than that. If you have spent time on your graphics and branding you should already have some useful information but here are some quick questions which should help:

  • What was the basis for your original branding? And the logo itself, colours and images?
  • What are your business values and your mission and what is the story behind your business?
  • What is your business purpose, what makes you different from your competitors and how do you want to be perceived?
  • What sort of car, animal or celebrity would your brand be?
  • Are you sincere, exciting, sophisticated, competent, masculine, relaxed, calm, youthful, reliable, mature, quirky, experienced, dynamic, inspirational, ethical, affordable or gold star?
  • Who is your ideal client and what do you know about them and their values?
  • If you’re a solopreneur draw on your own personality. You are the larder with all the ingredients – now you just have to work out which ingredients are right and in which quantities, bearing in mind the person you’ll be writing for.

Your tone of voice

What's your voice?

What’s your voice?

Your voice is the unique and distinctive voice of your business but your tone of voice is how you say what you say. The chances are you may have different target clients or personas and this is where getting clear on you tone is important.

You need to have a consistent voice but adjust it according to who you are writing to, just as you would at a networking event as you spoke individually to different people or at a family reunion as you mingle with the young and the old. Don’t assume this will necessarily come naturally as you write. But by using your target audience data and by knowing your personality and voice, it will start to evolve.

Your style

Writing style

What’s your style?

If you’re doing or going to be doing your own writing, there’s no better way to identify your writing style than by playing around and practice. Start keeping a journal. No one needs to see it but just write naturally for a week or two and then look back and see what you learn about your style.

Read other blogs and newsletters and start making a note of styles you like and which ones you don’t. What is it about them that works? And remember always to keep in mind your ideal client, the person you’re going to be specifically writing to and what makes them tick.

Have some rules

Set some rules to start with: what sort of words, grammar and expressions are representative of your brand? Premium, lux’, affordable, cheap? Stellar or grounded? Won’t or will not?

Have some rules

Have some rules

And will you start sentences with an And (or even your paragraphs?). Or other conjunctions? I personally love doing so and will argue the case til’ the cows come home but it does come down to personal choice and who you’re writing to. What about capital letters, specific spellings (American or UK for example) acronyms and event fonts and formatting?

Having a consistent voice, tone and style makes a real difference. It will build brand awareness and trust. People will start to get you and enjoy reading your stuff. It will make you instantly recognisable and unmistakably you. And if you have a clear written guide, as your business starts to grow, it will make outsourcing some of your marketing activities much easier too.

Spend 10 minutes today thinking about your personality (just 10 minutes) and write down 5 things about it. But write them down. It’s the start of your brand guidelines.

Next week, as a bit of a break from all this hard work, I’ll give you 15 easy ways to come up with writing ideas. Until then, have fun.