16/09/2011

By Doug Jenner, Director of Best Words

If you’ve listened to any sales & marketing experts, you’ll have heard about the importance of focusing on the customer rather than the product or service being sold. Benefits v Features/Them v Us, Customer v Product etc… it’s all the same concept, and possibly the most basic of all marketing tenets.

So let’s assume you’ve absorbed this belief into the very core of your being and you’re now ready to start writing your copy. Is there a particular style or tone-of-voice that you should adopt in your marketing writing? Actually, no there isn’t.

It’s all about context

When I was a child I was convinced that grown-ups didn’t know about swearing. I just thought kids had this naughty language among themselves – and that adults would be shocked if they ever heard the bad words in it.

Sheltered upbringing perhaps, but this story also illustrates how quickly and naturally we learn to adjust our language register for specific audiences. And therein lies the big lesson for how we should approach marketing writing.

You may have heard it said that your copy must be relaxed and conversational in tone. Well, yes and no. True, your writing must always be accessible and clear, but the appropriate ‘tone’ will be determined by the specific contexts of target audience, your purpose in writing, and your branding.

Audience: Know who you are talking to

Far from being one amorphous mass, your target market is composed of broad segments, each of which must be understood and spoken to according to its needs - as well as your own marketing purpose.

The TV ads for a bank’s consumer services might be funky and fun, but that’s probably not the best approach for its hedge-fund manager on a marketing visit to a prospect’s boardroom. Obvious point, you may say, but it’s a reminder – a formal tone can sometimes be most suitable for one, or indeed all segments of your market.

You may not have a big advertising agency budget, but you must allocate appreciable resources to market research so that you can know how best to speak to those different groups that compose your market.

Branding: Know who you are

The other major factor is to do with a how your business is perceived, and how it perceives itself. In other words, branding.

Some companies tread the enlightened path of self-knowledge – branding themselves in line with a culture evolved from their own particular ways of doing things. These companies know and appreciate why their customers like them, and just as importantly, why other people dislike them. (‘Success is being disliked by the right people’). Secure in their self-knowledge, such companies find a distinctive voice which they use it to achieve great marketing results.

The writing comes last

See how we started off talking about writing, but ended up discussing the fundamentals which must inform that writing?

When you work with a good copywriter, you are doing much more than hiring a wordsmith or a journalist. You are partnering with a marketing consultant who will work alongside you to develop and refine processes at the heart of all successful marketing. After that, the writing begins.

Doug Jenner is Director of Best Words – a Hertfordshire-based marketing and copywriting agency. An expert marketing writer, Doug is known for his easy-going manner, laconic wit and one-eyed commitment to Australian sporting supremacy.

www.bestwords.co.uk