Words! They Really Do Matter – a Bit of Copywriting Advice

Copywriting South West
Does your language connect with your audience?

I was writing some website content recently for a business that specializes in presentation skills training and wrote the following sentence:

‘Presentations that focus on what you want to say, rather than what the client wants to hear are doomed to failure.’

Having looked at it I rewrote it:

‘Success comes from focusing on what your client needs to hear rather than on what you want to say.’

Both express the same thought and you might not think there’s a big difference between them. But there are several reasons why I prefer the second version, and why I think it would be much more persuasive than the original. I’ll attempt to explain.

First, it’s shorter. This is always a good thing. People don’t like waffle so the fewer words you can use to get your point across the better.

Copywriting – accentuate the positive

The main difference, however, is focusing on the word ‘success’ rather than ‘failure’. Using positive language and positive mental images is so important. People make a connection between the language in your marketing, your brand, and ultimately about how you do business. Often this at a sub-conscious level, which is why words need to be chosen so carefully. One negatively expressed idea won’t kill your website – but a site that is consistently written from a positive viewpoint will be much more persuasive.

Another reason I prefer version 2 is that it puts the client at the beginning of the sentence rather than the end. Encouraging somebody to focus on the needs of their clients should be a good motivator for anyone who wants to grow their business

Note too, the subtle change from ‘what the client wants to hear’ to ‘what your client needs to hear’. In the context of the rest of the page, this is important. Part of the service being marketed is helping businesses to interpret their clients’ needs and to construct persuasive presentations that focus on answering those needs. ‘Needs’ implies a much more fundamental part of the decision making process than ‘wants'; and ‘your client’ is more engaging than ‘the client’.

Copywriting adds impact and value

This is just a small example of how a change in wording can alter the impact of a sentence and how a copywriter will make your content more engaging and more effective.  To be honest, I didn’t analyse it to this extent at the time. I made the change because I wasn’t happy with the original and then moved on. Any good copywriter will be making this sort adjustment countless times as they create the content that will promote your business most effectively. That’s why big brands spend serious money on copywriting, rather than getting one of the team to knock out content when they’ve got a few spare minutes.

If any of this makes sense to you, then something you could usefully do now would be to take a look at your website content and other marketing material. Is the language positive and upbeat? Are you selling a vision of how things could be, or are you dwelling on the negatives? To use an example from Claude Hopkins, one of advertising’s pioneers, are you trying to sell face-cream with a picture of a wrinkled face?

If you do nothing else, at least look at your calls to action. If they start: ‘Why not’, or ‘Don’t hesitate’, please rewrite them.

image:  Brett Sayer via Compfight

Richard Hussey

I’m the founder of RSH Copywriting based in Devon. I help smaller businesses use written content to win more business.

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