Am I making myself clear…?!

As an agency, we deal with a lot of copy. Some we write from scratch, some we edit; but one thing we’ve learnt is the importance of making yourself clear when speaking to potential customers.

It sounds obvious – and potentially pretty easy! However, it’s something that’s actually pretty easy to get wrong. We’ve put together our top tips, based on our experience, to help you decide whether your copy is clear – not just to you and your CEO signing off the copy – but more importantly, to the person you’re trying to communicate with. There are millions of copywriting guides out there, but our guide pinpoints some obvious yet common things to watch out for.

Do you know too much?

If someone is an expert on the subject they are writing about, it can be possible for them to know too much. This then has the potential for assumptions being made about the knowledge level of the reader/customer – so don’t be too technical. A good tip is to get someone who is relevant to your customer base, but has no idea what you do, to read it for you and check that they understand it.

Most people will look lost at the mention of maxillofacial surgery, for example, but say dental surgery, and you’ve got your potential customer’s attention.

Don’t let your internals out in public…

Most people producing marketing copy will do so both for internal communications, and client-facing literature. And when you spend all day every day creating copy for your business, it can be easy to fall into the habit of using internal ‘speak’ everywhere. For example, if your company is called George Street Electricals, be careful your marketing copy doesn’t say, ‘Here at George Street…’… George Street is the name of the street, and the chances are you can’t speak on behalf of everyone who works in it.  Also, if you abbreviate your company name, for example as above, to GSE in internal communications, make sure that this doesn’t appear in anything external; unless you make it clear.

Changing how you refer to yourselves without warning can be confusing and sound less professional.

What are you actually on about?

This sounds like the most obvious point of all – but in a world where we’re all fluent in advertising speak, quite often we will accept a strapline that doesn’t actually make sense! This doesn’t matter so much if you’re a worldwide brand – we all know who says ‘Just Do It’ – but a strapline like this wouldn’t work as well if you were selling self-help books. The key is to worry less about being clever, and more about being clear. A strong question can work, but make sure you guide the reader to the right answer – for example, if you sell health products, and you say, ‘What is your health worth?’ – this is vague and unquantifiable; in what terms? In money? To my family? Whereas, ‘Can you afford not to look after your health?’ prompts the answer ‘No’ from the customer, and hopefully prompts them to then read on about the solution that you’re offering.

And finally…

When it comes to marketing copy, you should never assume anything about your readers… think critically, keep it simple, try out new messages on other people, get feedback, and remember  being clever isn’t always the smart thing to do.

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