Thursday, August 24, 2006

Do You Really Need a Copywriter for the Small Projects?

(Apologies on this one being late. I'm still getting over a back injury from last weekend. Makes it hard to sit down.)

The amount of copy needed to market on the Web is staggering, and growing all the time. Successful firms hire copywriters to wring the best returns out of their marketing projects - websites, direct marketing campaigns (on- and offline), landing pages, white papers, case studies, e-newsletters...

But what about the smaller projects? What about the copy that connects those big pieces together?

I'm talking about little writing projects, like e-blasts. Testimonials. AdWords ads.

These are very small bits of copy. All the way from 200 words down to 5. Easy to do, right? All they do is connect the important stuff, so they don't have much effect anyway. Doesn't make sense to hire a copywriter to handle something so trivial...does it?

Surprise - it does.

These are small spaces for your message to go through. But that's where readers' attention is grabbed and sent off to its destination. In truth, little projects like the ones I mentioned are some of the MOST valuable copy you'll show to your audience.

Think about it. You have something you want to say. You have to say it in only so many words. If you don't grab an online reader's attention within 0.5 seconds, you've lost the sale. That's only about enough time to read a headline on a landing page. It's enough time to read a few lines in an e-blast or testimonial, though.

I'm blogging on this because of a little episode that occurred the other day. I was at a mixer, talking with a VP from a small manufacturing firm. Nice guy, but he said something that really burned me while we talked about writing: "Oh, I just have my receptionist write up that stuff. It's only a little thing, not worth contracting for."

(I cleaned up his language a little in the quote - he'd had a few.)

In essence, he dismissed any and all value of writing. To a writer. I didn't take it personally, but it wasn't easy. His ignorance is common, so I don't begrudge him.

Moving back to my line of reasoning, let's talk a bit about what these little copy pieces do for your marketing. You'll get a good idea of why I feel even "small" projects like these should be handled by a professional copywriter:

1. E-Blasts. E-blasts generally don't go beyond 200 words, and 100 is much closer to the ideal. Most companies use them to make announcements of sales or events. They only cover one topic, and often lead to a signup form or a landing page.

In other words, they have to pluck the reader out of their email client and deposit them in their browser. You'll have to get interest fast and drive value hard. In 100 words. Only someone who knows words, and how to persuade with them, can do that.

2. Testimonials. The #1 most effective marketing tool you have is your own happy customers. Testimonials from them give validation to your claims, proof that your products get the job done. Your business looks more human. Testimonials are workhorses in the marketing toolkit.

Yet no one wants to write them. The company soliciting them doesn't even want to put together 40 words for their happy client to sign off on!

I don't generally write testimonials, but it's not because I'm bad at them. Nobody asks me to. Twice now I've even offered to write testimonials for a client free of charge, in addition to the work I'm getting paid for. Both times, the client said no, and valuable marketing help fell by the wayside.

3. AdWords. Everybody knows about the power of Google AdWords and its pay-per-click cousins. But did you know there's an entire sub-niche of copywriting that focuses on writing AdWords ads? I could find a dozen books on it with one search. Here's just one: Writing AdWords

Why would people pay to learn how to write ads that are only about 4-10 words long? Simple. Once an ad shows up in a relevant search, they need an extremely hard-hitting message in a tiny number of words. Once again, the only people who can do this effectively are the writers that know persuasive verbiage.

I'd get you some statistics, but the time needed to root them out would hurt too much. Put it this way - if AdWords wasn't so successful, would click fraud be the billion-dollar problem it is today?

The point I'm trying to make here is that "don't sweat the small stuff" isn't always applicable when it comes to copy. The small stuff - in this case e-blasts, AdWords and testimonials - can easily make the difference between a break-even return and a massive ROI. These are attention-grabbers, mood-shifters, and fast-persuaders. They should never be dashed off unthinking by someone whose real job is already overwhelming.

Trust the expertise of your copywriter on the small stuff. It will pay off big.




At 2:35 PM , Anonymous Michael Stelzner said...

Hey Blue Ferret;

Great post. Smart firms use copywriters for all communication (and editors).

I see that white papers are often used as source material for messaging for many of the smaller projects you are discussed.

Keep up the good work!



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