Words about copywriting and marketing
Hello. My name is Mike Shapiro. I’m a freelance marketing writer and this website is for the benefit of my clients and friends who share my belief that it is wonderful and profitable to find the right words to describe your product or service.
The purpose of this website is to help you to use language to make your printed and online communications work harder for you. The secondary purpose is to create a forum to talk about the power and craft of good writing.
Since most of my clients are business owners or managers my initial focus will be on writing to help businesses do a better job marketing their products. Of course, good writing can also be invaluable if you work in the corporate world and in your personal life as well. As time goes by I will provide discussions on all manner of writing. But for starters the focus is marketing.
The enormous potential of words
The right words can make sparks fly, stimulate interest in your business and drive profits. The act of finding the right word can make you swell with pride and your readers burst with gratitude. The task of finding the right words for your business or product is important because so much is at stake. The right word in the right place can be the difference between success and failure.
“The difference between the almost right word and
the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the
lightning bug and the lightning.”
- Mark Twain.
Finding the right words is invaluable because it provides you with a fast and powerful way to present your company or product. Finding the right words can also help your customer by making it easier for them to decide to do business with you.
Words have enormous power and great potential. You don’t need large amounts of capital or specialized equipment or a brand name to realize this power. All you need to find the right words for your business is the belief that words are important, and a commitment to working at finding them.
Good writing is good business
Good writing is important to business. All businesses communicate with the world in some degree through written language. This language can appear on a company’s website, in sales and capability brochures, in direct mail offerings, letters as well as in all the collateral material such as presentations, fact sheets, sell sheets or flyers. The language that a company uses to talk about itself and its products or services is part of that company’s public image, which means that the language a company uses to describe itself is important and deserving of excellence.
Good writing is the exception, not the rule
If the right words can be such an important part of you marketing effort, why is so much corporate and business writing not worth reading? There are good reasons. If you ask 100 people starting businesses to show you a list of expenditures, you will likely find a fee for an accountant and another for a lawyer. But there is less chance that you will find an advertising agency or a copywriter on that list. Why? Some people think they can find the right words themselves and save money. Others don’t perceive sufficient value in marketing and advertising to justify the expense. Of course, they are wrong. Weak marketing is the reason most businesses fail. Bad writing is one sure indicator of weak marketing.
There are other reasons for today’s sad state of writing. When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail? Letter writing is a lost art. In fact, a case can be made that writing itself is a lost art. People know that writing is hard work. It takes effort and since most of us don’t really have to do it, we don’t. In the days before the telephone, letter writing flourished. If you wanted to communicate with someone out of shouting range, this was the medium you had to use. At that time, we were a nation of pretty good writers, because we had lots of practice. Today, electronic communication is so accessible that there is really no need to ever write a letter. We send lots of email but this kind of writing is more similar to speaking than letter writing. The way to get good at any skill is to do it. And when it comes to writing, most of us don’t.
The bottom line is that we are living at a time when most people lack mastery over the written language. At the same time language has become increasingly susceptible to assaults by those whose interests are not served by clarity. For example, a company that intends to fire a large numbers of employees may call this act “significant outplacement activities.” A government that needs to raise taxes may refer to their efforts in writing as “implementing immediate revenue enhancements.” Too much of the language used by governments and corporations is misleading to the mind and deadening to the senses. Many people are turned off by the written word – and who can blame them?
Still words are important. Words drive people to vote for candidates; words enable us to make buying decisions and words can even make us feel good or bad. People in power know the power of words. That’s the reason politicians hire high-priced speech writers and companies use the services of skilled copywriters. It is true that these writers are often not paragons of virtue and often use their skills to hide the truth or to package it in ways that either pass notice or seems to be less bad than it really is. It is also true that what they do works. There is something magical that can happen when the right words are combined with the right message and the effect can be electrifying. Great courtroom lawyers also are well aware of the power of words. The government spent millions attempting to convict O.J. Simpson. They trotted out dozens of witnesses and made a pretty good case on the evidence. But when O.J.’s lawyer pointed dramatically to a pair of implicated gloves and shouted “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”, he used the magic of words in a way that was brilliant and powerful. Good courtroom lawyers understand that they are in the communication business and their stock in trade is words. Even though most people largely lack the skill to make magic with words themselves, everyone is susceptible to the lure and magic of the right word..
This is exactly what makes the effort to write well so important. The person you want to reach may not read with regularity, may prefer movies to books and may even prefer to get news from TV or radio instead of a newspaper. But that person will still react to the right words, if they are right. You can still inspire, teach or motivate that person by the words you use to make your point.
This is what makes the opportunity to create good writing so exciting. Yes, good writing is a powerful tool but it’s also a tool that anyone can use. You don’t need to spend lots of money to write well, you don’t need your company to be listed on the stock exchange. You don’t need any special credentials. You do need to understand a few basic principles.
And, of course, you need to know what you want to say (more about this later).