Don’t you type at me in that tone of voice | the art of writing for sales.

Sir Terry Leahy knew it. He knew how important clear communication is. After all, Sir Terry was and still is, one of the most respected catalysts in the retail world. Knighted in 2002, he started his career stacking the shelves at Tesco, gradually working his way up to his post as CEO.

Sir Terry was an exceptional salesperson, and I suspect the reason for this talent was his ability to listen and observe. And then communicate.

"The best place to find the truth is to listen to your customer. They'll tell you what's good about your business and what's wrong. And if you keep listening, they'll give you a strategy."

And in the week where I am writing my own website copy, my need to communicate effectively is brought sharply into focus.  The ability to write persuasively is one of the key skills my clients ask for help with. And it goes far beyond ‘features and benefits’ (although that’s another blog in itself!).  The ability to write, creatively, whilst being true to your brand values, and selling at the same time is a tough ask for anyone!

And there is so much ‘free advice’ out there; how to, 5 easy steps, do it like this, just use this, do it like that…the offerings are endless. And yet business owners still ask me time and again for help and practical steps to create strong sales copy. Not all of us are born communicators, and yet if we don’t crack this particular nut, we are increasing the chances that our business will fail.

It might be web copy to ensure a website ‘sells’, rather than just tells. It might be a sales email or maybe a newsletter. We’ve all got to get writing. Why?

Well, communication has never been so overwhelmingly complex for small business and entrepreneurs. Back in the day, there was just ONE interface with the customer, which was quite literally a shop window – and maybe a billboard on the outskirts of town if the retailer had spare marketing budget to go multi-channel!

Today, that same retailer has, well, I won’t go there. According to one commentator, there are 120+ content delivery and marketing channels that marketers need to manage today (*smart insights) online and offline.

If you really want to mess with your head, take a look at the Google view on this mind-blowing truth of our times! Google Marketing Channel Database

So, there we have it – absolute proof that you’re going to need to communicate. And if you can’t communicate effectively – using the channels that your customer prefers – the end appears to be nigh. I’m sorry.

I’m lucky. I love writing. It’s one of my favorite past-times as well as being a key business tool. My love of words and writing goes back to my earliest years and has flourished throughout my career as I developed my copywriting skills for sales. I never stop learning, though.

So, what do you do if you don’t have the skills to write (yet!)? Your options are to hire a big fancy agency or a freelance copywriter to do the job for you. Or you can learn the craft of copywriting yourself. 

I would absolutely recommend the latter. Learning to communicate through the written word has been one of the most profitable and beneficial tools I now have in my sales kitbag. And the skills can be learned, trust me.

To overcome this obstacle in his day, Sir Terry insisted that his teams spent time with journalists. To help improve internal communication, Tesco employees were exposed to the newspaper industry to learn how to better communicate with more clarity and using fewer words.

And I would recommend your do the same – listen and observe. Get enlisted on a good sales copywriting course, watch the news and observe how you are fed the headlines, the sub-head, and the body copy. Search our delicious internet for tips on the craft of journalism and how these talented wordsmiths boil a story down to its pithy elements to create clear, concise and effective communication in column inches, where every word is precious and has a job to do.

Read advertising copy like it is going out of fashion – observe others copy, read all your competitor's sales material. Even better – don’t bother with your competitors, but instead, go to a sector, or brand that really inspires you and figure out why, by reading their copy.

Become a student of brand ‘tone of voice’ – how does one brand speak, versus another? What do you respond to and why? 

Get up from behind your desk, laptop or palm-whatsit and go out into the world and observe. Listen. Learn.

You – and your business bank account - will reap the rewards I promise.

 

 

 

 

‘Send me a text please’ say 33.67million mobile users.

OK, so I’m old enough to remember the day I received and sent my first ‘text’ message (or SMS).  It was in the late nineties, the phone was a Motorola, and although it made me giggle, I had no notion at the time of how my mobile phone would morph into my mobile marketing department that was open for business 24/7.  I also remember sending my first email too – but let’s save that for another day.

And so, in the intervening years, with creeping insidiousness, mobile technology has gripped us tighter and firmer that any python ever could. And every month – no, every day – my mobile phone can do more. And demands more. Of me, and my time.

Any organisation worth it’s salt has a whole department dedicated to the mobile phone, all charged with ‘developing the channel’ to help the marketing a sales performance figures rocket. Within the communications industry, we are encouraged to talk about m-commerce, not just e-commerce.  Our websites must be responsive, and our marketing mix must make the most of whizzy things that pop up and massage or customers through the sales funnel.

But stop. Hang on.  When did you last get a text from a brand or organisation that was more than a dentist appointment reminder?  I genuinely can’t remember when SMS was last used as a channel to reach me as a customer. 

But the statistics say that we are ready to receive.

There are 33.67million mobile users in the UK that have ‘opted in’ to receive text messages from brands and businesses in 2016, which means the SMS universe for marketers in the UK is 3 million people larger than Facebook’s audience.”  (source: Text Local)

I don’t make any apology for sounding like a stuck record when I bemoan our rush to find the gold in them there hills of dizzy digital advances and shiny new stuff.  Every day, we ignore more golden opportunities back at base camp.

Our customers are telling us that it’s a channel they wish to receive our marketing messages in, and yet the best most organisations can do is use SMS for a hair appointment reminder.  My hairdresser is brilliant at it.  And I always read her text message, and whilst she is being useful to me, she is also keeping her brand in the forefront of my mind.

My challenge to every organisation, brand and communications agency out there is to stop, and LISTEN to what the customer is telling you (all 33.67million of them!).  Then get creative.  SMS could be working so much harder, but it’s not seen as sexy, it doesn’t win industry awards. All it does at the moment is ‘ping’.  And that’s it – the excitement is over.

By 2020, apparently, the number of customer opting in to SMS as a preferred method of communication, will have increased to 48.65 million. It’s a growing channel, and yet we continue to send emails, or post a Tweet, or serve up a link on Facebook – in the same way that all our competitors do.

Let’s keep this between ourselves for now, because we don’t want everyone rushing over to SMS. But there is a massive opportunity for someone here to really steal a march and gain a huge competitive edge by getting this channel to work for their customers.

Oh, and before I finish – do you know what the really brilliant thing about SMS is?  You own the data!  If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, so too would all your followers…all those ‘likes’ gone just like that!  Whoosh!  All that hard work.  Always, always be the master of your own destiny when it comes to owning your customer data.

SMS. It’s the future. You heard it here first