breakfastNo such thing as a free breakfast? I beg to differ. I was unexpectedly granted a free breakfast at a B&B recently, in return for a most enjoyable conversation about marketing.

Paul, the owner, is about 30 years younger than any other B&B business-owner in town and reflects that in the way he promotes his service. For example, his business card shows him spreadeagled over a gatefold, he’s unusually active on social media and his guest-house proclaims itself “Manchester’s best-kept secret”.

I was staying there to attend the annual Professional Speaking Association convention at nearby Old Trafford. During a break, I got chatting with another fascinating self-marketer, The Castle Man.

Roger Masterson is the figurehead of Celtic Castles, allowing you to stay in any one of 93 historic castles in the UK and France. His business card is thick (like castle walls) with a cut edge (like castle ramparts) and shows him sitting in a grand library, reading.

Both these business-owners are doing something different to promote themselves — just what I recommend to my clients. In our conversations, Paul was interested to know what’s new in marketing, while Roger quizzed me about the business value of copywriting.

You too may be asking yourself what a copywriter can do for your business. After all, you learned how to write when you went to school, didn’t you?

As you may know, “copy” is any text that is sent to print or uploaded online. The difference between writing copy and “normal” writing is that copywriting is the art of writing to persuade, writing to influence, writing to change behaviour.

There are a number of marketing and psychological tips, tricks and techniques required to make this happen. The average person probably doesn’t know them (and why should they?) — but, hopefully, your copywriter does.

As a professional copywriter for more than 30 years, the first thing I often have to do is work with my clients on their marketing strategy. I help them pinpoint what they’re selling, who they’re selling it to, who their competitors may be and — most importantly — why their customers should choose them. I use this information to express their unique brand personality and offering, and to help them stand out from the rest in a way their target market will respond to.

Here are just three common copywriting skills to be aware of:

• The headline accounts for up to 90% of the results of any marketing communication, so a copywriter has the ability to identify and encapsulate your key messages in a few eye-catching words that will tempt readers to read on.

• Your copywriter should extract your “most wanted response” and wrap it up in a compelling call-to-action that will prompt people to do what you want them to do — whether that is click a button, subscribe to something or download a document.

• If it’s web copywriting you’re after, an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) copywriter should know how to weave keywords seamlessly into the copy to make your site attractive to search engines as well as human visitors.

In short, a copywriter will make your words work harder for you.With that in mind, ask yourself how many extra clients you would need to pay the very reasonable fee that your copywriter charges for their expertise. Answer: good copywriting pays for itself. Nudge, nudge, hint, hint!

Case studies

An image consultant had paid thousands to have her website redesigned, and wrote all the copy herself. Despite getting 200 hits per week through Google Adwords and Pay Per Click campaigns, she had no enquiries for two months. I rewrote some key pages, recommended some design changes, and she received six enquiries in the first week including a great corporate opportunity.

A painter/decorator used to get 50% take-up of his quotes. I re-wrote his covering letter to ‘sell’ his service more clearly. Uptake increased to 70%, so earning him more money at minimal cost.

A mortgage adviser had written his own web copy. Although people were finding his Home page, they were leaving the site in seconds, without clicking through to his sub-pages. He agreed to let me rewrite the Home page as a test. Within a week, Analytics showed his site visitors were clicking through to the next level.

I wrote an e-newsletter sent by a recruitment company. Within 20 minutes, they had a new booking.

An eco-cleaner asked me to write her website so it would be found on a Google search. She told me: “A new client rang me to say: ‘I must congratulate whoever did your copywriting and search engine optimisation. They did a really great job! Whatever cleaning keywords I searched on Google, your site came up, so I decided it was meant to be!’”

This article has also been published on Fresh Business Thinking and Marketing Lens.

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