In the last two years I have participated in several projects, where I had to train copywriters a lot telling them about analytics, sales, information style, design and many other things. This process has been very time-consuming and preventing me from accomplishing my own tasks on time, but if I hadn`t been doing this, I wouldn't have been able to delegate anything.
For example, I asked my assistant to write a newsletter having made a general outline beforehand, but when the draft was received I needed to rewrite everything. The author hadn`t had any commercial and visual thinking yet, as well as the ability to gather information from the right people.
To find a copywriter for your company who not only can write thousands of characters without spaces, but helps to solve certain problems, is not an easy thing.
That`s why employers hire people who have portfolios with somehow meaningful texts. It is assumed that they will be able to write SEO texts at the start, but to accomplish an increasing number of tasks they will need to develop themselves professionally.
In this post I want to tell you about some elements that slow down the development of potentially gifted employees and unsuccessful recruitment. I have also gathered some useful mechanisms that I try to explain to the copywriters in the first place and a series of necessary references. They can be directly applied in the work.
What prevents the development of those striving to learn
I think it is the lack of a competent leader-locomotive in the copywriting department.
The team and its interests should be defended by the leader.
While working on one project I realized that my staff did not have some specialized technical skills and information, so I asked the technical director to organize a Saturday lecture for copywriters to solve the issue.
On another occasion we discussed that it is impossible to write 10 normal texts a day as the writers go crazy from such huge volumes of work.
It is important to understand that when people want fast and good results it is not always tyranny.
If you have limited knowledge about the profession, it is difficult to understand that normal work takes time. One day I once again defended the copywriters and then bothered a designer asking to finish the illustrations for a newsletter faster. Fortunately, I noticed the irony at once.
Without guidance, newbies might miss useful and not always obvious things
In no blogs on copywriting have I seen the advice to learn the basics of web-analytics. But how can you start to edit a little bit serious text without having looked in Yandex Web Vizor first?
The lack of experience is the lack of critical thinking
For instance, Dan Kennedy's books are often recommended for beginning copywriters, but in order to compare it, it is highly recommended to read Katerina Eroshina`s review, where she advises to critically analyze the examples of Kennedy.
Failing to recruit a good copywriter
The position of a novice copywriter usually attracts those from the humanities field interested in music, culture, literature, travelling, etc. They do not have any network in these fields yet, but can easier make a living in the commercial sector. These guys usually meet the norm in the number of signs in a text, but during their free time they try to realize their potential in the spheres of their interest.
They can easily skip the interview stage and successfully complete the test, but having got the job, they are reluctant to learn new materials and generally behave like “Don't touch me, I’m just writing the texts”.
What can you do?
If you see the potential of a person, try to explain the benefits of possessing marketing skills in any job (What's the point of good things if nobody knows about them?) and the need to develop himself. If the person strives to learn something new, more interesting tasks than rewriting and SEO will be delegated to him or her.
What I try to explain to copywriters
In my opinion, the person who wants to develop as a textwriter only limits himself. When being asked to write an article, the one is thinking about the article instead of inquiring : “What`s your initial purpose?”. Sometimes you don't need a text to achieve a goal, or it may happen that you need something more than just a text.
Once a software company asked me to “do something on Facebook”. “Maybe our customers are there”, they said. I asked for the access to Google Analytics and found out that the best traffic had been generated by their blog on Reddit which had not been updated since 2009. In 2011, I rewrote the main page text for an online store of ecological household chemistry. After a while, the owner of the store complained that the sales hadn`t increased and demanded back the money he had paid. It turned out that customers had read the text, chose the products and added to their carts but dropped out at the order stage because of the extremely inconvenient order form (4 steps process with a huge number of lines to fill in).
The copywriter that is not interested in web-analytics will constantly get into stupid situations.
Sometimes the copywriter needs to complement a text by pictures and other elements, as well as to think of text and graphic blocks positions on a web-page. Yes, it is all about design, and we have designers to do this job, but there are no reasons for which copywriters should not be able to think visually.
What about the readers? Let's cast the bait on social networks and catch readers. It turns out that to attract them you either need to have a popular page or be friends; with famous people who will spread your text. This is the territory of SMM specialists.
And these are not all related skills. To be a good author is a worthy goal. But nowadays there are so many good authors that you need to look for the ways to make your text stand out . In addition, the more you know about how people think (analytics, design, social networks — it's about the people), the more interesting ideas come to your mind.
What you can use for the initial development in copywriting (Useful tips for the initial development in copywriting )
General knowledge of how advertising works
The ultimate reference here is "Ogilvy on Advertising" by David Ogilvy. It is a must read. One of the founders of the advertising market seems to be a brusque but intelligent person, as his book also addresses the issues ofadvertising ethics. David writes that he terminated the contract with Rolls-Royce, when they released a batch of defective machines. And the final chapter of the book is devoted to reflections about the "usefulness" of advertising in society.
Ogilvy didn`t favour creative advertising and called to produce the ads with specific numbers and facts instead of vague cliches like the best, professional etc. He studied a lot of researches, e.g. before making the ads for a margarine factory he spent 10 days reading about the process of margarine production. He didn`t deny the importance of super ideas (the concept of one of the successful advertising campaigns came to him in a dream). But those ideas just crowned the successful result achieved by preceded meticulous work.
In this book I first found out about “Before” and “After” pictures and lots of other things.
One more book I’ve been recommended to read is Joseph Sugarman`s "The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing".
Clear and concise text
Here is a list of relevant examples you can use:
The ability to gather information
I divide all products and services into rational, emotional and household.
Rational (for example, selling optical panels) and domestic (calling a plumber) ones provide answers.
As for emotional products and services, here money is paid for the extra cost. Phil Barden in his book “Decoding: The Science Behind Why We Buy” writes that we have been going to Starbucks not only for coffee but also to have ‘a short holiday’.
For rational services and products it is easier to form the supply: you need to learn what questions the customers ask and convincingly answer all of them in order, starting with the most frequent ones.
To form the supply of emotional services is way much harder as people may have different view of the abstract value. But there is still some statistics.
Anyway, it is necessary to know what your customers think and feel. If you don`t communicate with your customers, ask those who do. When I get into a new sphere, the first thing I do is talking to salespeople.
The ability to negotiate
It is not only about ‘sales copywriting’. We learn to negotiate all our life, beginning in childhood when we ask our mothers to buy something and promise to behave properly, and ending with getting a job.
Here is the reply of a businessman to a letter once sent by my assistant:
‘Thank you for the invitation. It is not really clear to me what my company gets from this. I won't be able to help you until we speak the only understandable language of numbers.’
Conclusion: if you need something from others, think what you can give in exchange.
People love to read about other people's experiences.
In ‘Save the Cat’, a screenwriting guide, Blake Snyder mentions the rule: when the main character first appears, he or she should do something to win the love of the audience and attract them to his side.
To illustrate, there is the story of Natalia Babayeva from "Mann, Ivanov and Ferber". She describes how her husband, a designer, was starving as a student, buying expensive books on design, as the result he has become a great professional.
A good practical article on content marketing can be found in the Megaplan regular newsletter. They write about what it is, who needs it and how to use it. Megaplan is a corporate CRM system for sales increase and administrating businesses on the Internet.
The later Megaplan experience summarizes the results of the 2 year newsletter distribution. ‘We thought our topics would be interesting to entrepreneurs only. But 52% of our readers are employees’.
We continue writing about business. But now we see that our readers` interests are much wider. From a magazine about business our newsletter (ezine) is turning into a magazine about work and happiness. That is why we have started to write about the internal dismissal, the English language, the fulfillment of dreams and personal development. And these topics are consistently more in demand than articles about accountant control and goal setting.
To make a conclusion, the audience is not the same as you draw it in your imagination: we have studied the preferences of our readers and found out how to become more useful.
The main problem with content marketing today is the channels stuffed with the information of the same type. In 2011, I kept a blog of Aweb and it was quite fresh. We have become renown. Now only lazy Internet agencies and web studios don't have their blogs.
If you are going to engage in content marketing and you have some competitors, think about how you will be different.
Everybody is puzzling their brains over this.
Another significant issue is emotional burnout. You may realize a good project and write a cool manual; the people around say ‘Cool!’, share you on Facebook and….that's it. The founder of Megaplan, Mikhail Smolyanov, once complained that he had created a great product but businesses were just too lazy to implement it.
If you feel the need to give or create something, just do it without expecting something from others. Perceive it as personal growth, because when you write or teach, you systematize your knowledge. Accept the fact that most often people don`t want change. It will make you feel much better.
Important points in the text should be demonstrated graphically.
Look for something to show. Use the “Follow me” principle and guide your customer through your services on the website.
For example, your business is to install windows. Even if you have a website with all the windows versions and profiles listed, and the cost calculator, many people still do not know how to install them. They have plenty of questions. How to measure? Who is going to get old windows? How long will the whole work on replacement take? Is it possible to do when it's -20 °C outside? What if the new windows will not fit? Can I pay by card?
New customers will be more likely to come to you if your website answers all their questions describing the whole process, explains what can go wrong and how to avoid it, shows the nearest store where they can see samples, informs them about work schedule, phone numbers. Additionally, It is important that your employees read agreements and explain all details in comments in the margins as well as introduce customers to the managers.
To make your website work and develop the skill of visual thinking, I recommend ‘Don`t make me think’ by Steve Krug. You will learn that:
- The initial page should explain customers what the website is and what they can do with it.
- The first screen is the area people see without scrolling down the page. If it doesn't make people interested, scrolling down doesn't make sense.
- People usually use the website not in the way it was created for.
And lots of other things. The book is very easy to read and useful to everybody. It is a so-called manifest to common sense.
Basics of Analytics (Google Analytics and Yandex Metrika)
Place the text on an external website (or ezine) — highlight links using the URL Builder
You can see from what source people click on your link.
For example, I go to the link and insert:
- in the "Address of website" — http://matilda.com/
- in the field "campaign Source" — blog_netpeak
- in the field "campaign medium" — quest_post
- in the field "campaign Name" — netpeak_questpost_1
Click on the "Submit" button to get the link
Promotion in social networks
Promotion of the company
The copywriter is by default considered to be responsible for all "content". People turn to him when the idea is born to start a page of the company or to provide SMM services.
The media and entertainment industry must be present in the social network. Software companies and web services can tell you about the updates and provide technical support. Social networks can be useful to online stores, but first it is better to make sure that SEO, context, expansion, sales, postbridge, newsletters - all function well.
A friend in court is better than a penny in purse. Make a list of interesting people and find them in social networks, subscribe to their profiles and leave sensible comments to their posts, try to help them by sending useful information for some important project. Meet these people offline after.
As one expert said: ‘In today's world, even the coolest person is doomed to misery and meaninglessness of existence, if he is not able to build life-giving connections.’
In the "Atlas of new professions" (a major study made by 2,500 experts) there given the forecast that the profession of copywriter will have been obsolete by 2020.
Computer programs (bots) that are connected to huge databases with texts, articles, manifestos, literary works, etc., are capable today to generate texts of average quality of a given literary form on any topic, using standard syntax.
The main consumers of average quality texts — SEO workers. Given their love for automation, I have no doubt that with the development of such technologies they would prefer to buy a program. Many processes in SEO run ‘by hands’ five years ago, e.g. collecting semantics,are partially or fully automated today.
If you think this is fiction, read another article ‘Just How Good Can Wordsmith Content Really Be?’
Summing up, I want to underline one more time the necessity of the main points, which should help to train your copywriters: explain analytics in details, tell about sales, convey information style, teach basic design skills. Never stop motivating your team to grow and give them the ability to improve their skills. To reach maximum productivity, try out the techniques shared within the article because their reliability have been checked by our team and I believe that at least some of them will work for you. Remember that the team is as good as its leader or vice versa...
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