Have you ever visited a website that had poorly written text or read a brochure that had typos or spelling errors on the cover? I don’t know about you, but I am always turned off by this kind of sloppy work. In fact, if the offending business isn’t paying attention to these little details, I wonder what else it is missing. Maybe the company will mail my purchase to the wrong address or forget to gift wrap the package I need sent overnight. Of course, these scenarios are exaggerations, but that’s the contractor contact list risk companies take when they overlook details like good copywriting and editing. When we see mistakes-even minor ones-we question the quality of a company’s work. How can you create a flawless first impression? Simple. Avoid copywriting and editing errors in your own marketing materials with these guidelines.
1. Identify your target audience and the voice you’ll use when speaking to it. Are you offering your services to CEOs and top level managers? If so, consider using a professional tone in the third person (they, he, she). Maybe you want to appeal to parents of young children. Consider a more casual, friend-to-friend tone in the first (I, we, our) or second person (you). Be sure to consider the type of material you are writing, too. Brochures tend to be more formal than website copy, for example. Flyers and coupons, on the other hand, are often lighter in tone. 2. Present your information in a well-organized, easy-to-follow manner. How? Outline your ideas ahead of time and organize them as if you were a prospective customer. Ask yourself these questions: What problem is this business solving for me? What benefits will I get if I buy this product or service? How much does it cost? Why should I choose this business instead of another? Take your answers to these questions and logically organize them. On a website for example, your home page should tell prospective customers what problem you are solving for them and what’s in it for them. Subsequent pages can discuss pricing (pricing or a rates page) and differentiation (about us, why choose us). 3. Write, revise, repeat. After writing your initial draft, set the material aside for a few hours or overnight if time allows. When you come back to revise it, you’ll have fresh eyes and errors such as spelling, punctuation, grammar and organization are more likely to jump out at you. 4. Proofread. If you are satisfied with what you’ve written and have organized it so that it is easy to follow, run a spelling and grammar check (if you haven’t already) and proofread the text line by line. Read it out loud or from the bottom up. Do you have contact information (website, e-mail address, phone numbers) listed in your materials? If so, test each one as it is written. See a phone number or an e-mail address? Dial the number or send a test e-mail to be sure the information is accurate. 5. Have someone else proofread your copy. No matter how skilled we are at writing and proofreading, we will always make mistakes. We’re human and we can’t avoid it, but we can improve our chances of error-free copy by having someone else proofread our work. Almost anyone will do-a friend, co-worker, spouse, teenage son or daughter, even a customer. Ask him or her to not only look for errors but to see if the information is concise and complete. Do you need more text? less text? Can you easily find the information you need? 6. Correct mistakes as soon as you find them. Imagine that you’ve published your copy to the web or had your materials printed before you find a glaring error. It’s not the end of the world, but you’ll want to fix it right away. Web changes can often be made quickly. Printed materials take a bit longer-and more money-to correct, so keep a file of changes to make before your next reprint. 7. Lastly, if this process is completely unappealing to you or if you are simply too busy, consider hiring a professional copywriter for the job. He or she will gather information about your intended audience, products and services, and company and, based on your direction, will write copy that is clear, concise and complete and that will draw in readers. To find a professional copywriter, try a Google search for copywriters in your region or look for local writing and editing organizations for referrals. Many have online directories that list qualified copywriters. When selecting a copywriter, I recommend that you contact two or three, read samples of their work and interview them by phone to see if your personalities and work styles are a match. This step may increase your marketing budget a bit, but the quality of your materials will be well worth it. If you tackle your next copywriting project with these ideas in mind, your marketing copy will be flawless, allowing your message to shine through. Virtually Yourz, Dana Blozis