Better copy, more impact: 8 questions to test your brand’s words
Think about your brand. What springs to mind? Your logo? The colour palette you use? Iconography? Imagery? Indeed, all important things. But how often do you think about the words you use as part of your brand? Because let’s be honest. Sometimes, words are boring. Or, rather, they are the last thing you think about when delving into your branding. However, the value of words is massive – and they are a crucial part of your identity as a business. Whether you use a copywriting service or have in-house talent, this blog can help see if your copy cuts the mustard!
It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it
Let’s be clear. What you say is important – but how you say it will dictate whether you have success in getting your message across. The words you put out there can be the difference between emotionally impacting your target audience or deterring them and forcing them to look elsewhere. The reality is you could have the most wonderfully designed website, imagery that hits the sweet spot and stand-out-and-smack-you-in-the-face social media graphics, but if your wording is wrong, you’ll fall down where it matters.
Wait! Jargon-busting: What is ‘copy’ and ‘copywriting’?
Skip this bit if you already know… but for anyone unsure, read the below…
Copy is text. It’s the words you use in your marketing – from your website strapline to the words in your monthly client newsletter. Copywriting is the act of creating this copy and is a specialist marketing skillset. To be clear, it’s more than throwing some words together and hoping for the best. Instead, a copywriter will strategically organise words, formatting everything from their sentence structure to the syntax, all with an overarching goal or objective in mind.
For example, if a client comes to us for copy on their website, this is likely to be ‘sales-driven’ or ‘leads-driven’ – so a copywriter will take what you need to say and think about the big ‘how’ to achieve your goals such as ‘we want prospects to enquire about our new service’.
The questions that apply to all copy
There are so many different types of copy. From sales decks to social media animations, copy requirements (and rules!) can differ hugely. However, we believe 8 fundamental ‘evergreen’ questions are relevant for all wording across your brand.
So, read this blog and put your copy to the test – we’re sure it will help you make some essential improvements.
Ask these questions to test your copy
First step, take your website, sales literature, social media posts and anything that has words on it (this could even be your telephone on-hold messages) and line them up to ask the following questions. Your answers will show you where potential problems may lie, what you need to solve – or where you’re doing great!
1. Who’s your target audience again?
Before you do anything, let’s take things back to basics and define who your words are for. It may be that you’re already clear who your audience is. After all, you know your clients inside-out. But perhaps it’s time to challenge yourself to think more deeply about them.
Ask the difficult questions such as “has our audience changed since the pandemic started?” and explore if perhaps they have new motivations, if they’ve developed their attitudes – or if there are recent industry trends they associate with.
Sometimes your answers may be what you already know, but revisiting this can make it crystal clear who your copy needs to talk to. You also may have situations where your target audience differs depending on what service or product you are pushing, so be careful to consider this too.
And if it’s not marrying up? It may be time to revamp your copy for this newly defined audience. Discover our copywriting service here.
2. Do you get to their benefits promptly?
The most common way to engage your audience is by speaking to them on their level. Often, a successful way of doing this is structuring your copy to present benefits high-up – so it’s immediately clear what the prospective client will achieve.
Bonus tip: can you pass the ‘so what?’ test?
Getting features and benefits mixed up is very common. A feature is a fact about a service or product. And a benefit is how it helps/ support/ improves the life of the user. Sounds simple? It is but so many times, we see this mixed up.
So when writing benefit-driven content, ask yourself: ‘so what?’ to pull out the benefit. Then, ask it again. Is it a clear enough benefit that the prospect will think, “well, great stuff! I’m interested.”.
Feature: Our cleanser uses vitamin c extracts.
Benefit (so what?): Brighten your skin and achieve an all-day glow with a vitamin-c infused cleanser.
3. Or are you telling a story instead?
Another technique is ‘storytelling’. This is best for longer-form copy, where a prospect is at a point where they are likely to stay engaged for longer. You can use this technique to present your service or product’s benefits in a less direct way.
So, how does this work? Well, simply, we humans are emotive creatures – and we like stories. They feel real to us and have a higher chance of creating and sustaining an emotional connection – which helps hugely when your prospect is considering investing in your product or service.
Read this fascinating article by a neurologist, Paul Zak, on the discoveries he made between emotive storytelling, oxytocin – “the love hormone” and prospects becoming paying customers. A top-notch copywriting service will be able to advise the best way to engage your audience based on your trade.
4. Are you hitting a nerve?
This point is similar to the above – and it’s all about emotion. Obviously, we’re not saying to upset your audience, but it can be useful to make them think, “ouch, yes, that is my problem… and I need to solve it.”. As unfriendly as it sounds, we call these ‘pain points’. And in our copy, it’s often good to hit them where it hurts (so to speak!).
But before you do so, revisit question number 1 and consider how to do it in a way that’s right for your audience personas.
5. What personality do your words have?
Read your words aloud. How do they sound? Imagine a certain person says your words. What is this person like?
Your words will take on a personality – and that needs to mirror your brand. Take, for instance, your website. When you create copy for it, do you read it back to yourself and make sure it sounds like ‘you’ – and by ‘you’, we mean your brand.
This may sound ‘airy-fairy’ and subtle, but you can do some practical things to ensure your words always have the same ‘tone of voice’. For our clients, we draw up some fundamental tone of voice attributes to stick to. Sometimes, this can be a ‘this but that’ exercise to help us really hone in on what our clients’ brands sound like. For instance, you can sound ‘friendly but professional’, ‘authoritative but open to discussion’, ‘positive but understanding of difficulties’ and so on. You can also define words that you do say, and words that you never say as part of your branding guidelines. Getting help from a copywriting service can make honing in on these subtleties that little bit easier.
Time to get organised and create some branding guidelines? Speak to us today about our branding services.
6. Are you overcomplicating things?
Tying in with the above, when you read your words aloud to establish your brand personality, you’ll soon realise if you’re making life difficult for your audience. Have you heard of the ‘KISS’ rule? It stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid! It’s one of the oldest in the books for those in the copywriting business… yet so important. When you know your audience and hone your tone of voice, you must always keep things as simple as possible. Yes, even in the most complex, academic and niche subjects.
Let’s say your audience consists of top neuroscientists. It’s still important to get your message over efficiently, isn’t it? After all, they are busy people and don’t have time to reread over complex structures and mismatched jargon! Yes, use high-level vocabulary that is natural for them but be careful not to complicate language elsewhere for the sake of sounding ‘smart’.
Bonus tip: Ask ‘can a 9 year old understand this?’
Okay, so we’re not saying this for an audience of neuroscientists – obviously, their reading level will be more advanced than a bunch of 9 year-olds. But this is a great rule to remember when writing to a more ‘general public’ audience.
You can also adapt this rule by finding out your Flesch Reading Score and ensuring your copy always falls into this criteria.
7. Can you say it quicker?
Waffle is so off-putting. As a reader yourself, you will skim read. Much like you are skim-reading this blog now, right?
So we’re getting to the point. If your point is that waffle is off-putting but you haven’t told your reader how awfully off-putting waffle is in the first few sentences, you’re doing something wrong.
George Orwell says it right. Don’t word stuff. Don’t say something for the sake of it. Say what you need to say to your audience and move on.
Bonus tip: if you’re struggling with waffly text, pull it apart and break it down.
Think about your formatting. Can you use headlines? Subheadings? Bullet points? Ask yourself what the objective is of each section of copy and keep it centred on that point alone.
Or send it over to us. Our copywriting service will review and rework your existing copy and give you some stellar recommendations to ensure your audience keeps on reading.
8. Are you continuously analysing the results of your copy?
So important yet so overlooked. You write your copy. You put it out there. You get some website views. You get some social media engagement. People reply to emails. You get leads. So it’s going okay, right? Well, if you know that much, that’s a good start. However, you can – and must – dig deeper to unpick what words are working and which aren’t, alongside other creative elements.
From website heat maps to understanding how to analyse Facebook insights, there is so much you can do to measure and optimise your copy. We always do this for our clients with our copywriting service as it’s so important we keep improving what we do.
Bonus tip: remember the small details too!
You’ve created the copy for your About Us webpage page – great! It’s done and you’re happy your audience will love it. But before you stop there, have you considered some of the most important elements – like your CTA (call to action) and the copy you use for it?
Put time and effort into these seemingly simple bits of copy to make sure it’s effective where it matters – i.e. where leads are achieved!
Then, you can always test variations of your CTA copy to see what works best.
Speak to us about our copywriting service
We hope these questions help you align on your copy, make improvements and see some results (which you can analyse, of course!).
When words work, their power is huge for your brand. From achieving that unique identity you’ve been after to directly impacting the amount of leads you win, copy has a huge part to play in the success of your brand and marketing.
So if words are a sticking point for you, get the help you need. Our copywriting service team love to unpick what you say and recreate copy in a way that speaks volumes to your target audience.