There was a time when solo professionals could get by with minimal collateral — a business card, a brochure, and perhaps an ad for the Yellow Pages. Now most people maintain Websites. People may chuck your business card, figuring they can find you on the Web. Not having a Web site may even make some prospects suspicious about your professionalism. The best Websites combine strategic user-interface design, a look and feel that supports your business culture, and content (text, video, audio, and graphic) that lets your best customers know they’ve found a provider they can relate to. If you are a solo professional who sells services or a small number of products, fairly simple design will do: use a good CMS, such as WordPress, with an affordable theme or “skin.” The best return on investment will come from getting the words right.
Many business owners leap to the conclusion that they ought to hire a copywriter. This hire is often premature. If your writing projects often take 4 or 5 or more rewrites, including major changes to the structure, you are not making the best use of your copywriting dollar.
Here’s a guide to what kind of writing help you need:
Copywriter. You can make the best use of a copywriter’s time if, in the words of advertising giant David Ogilvy, you provide “the freedom of a tight brief.”
* Who is your audience?
* What do they care about?
* What do they need to know?
* What do you want them to do?
The best copywriting direction I ever received was from a consumer electronics company: “Our prospect is the kind of person who is not an early adopter, but who wants to be known as the first on the block to have a product once it has become the product to have.” Whether or not you “are a writer,” you should be able to articulate the answers to these questions, in words, images, or mind maps. We manage our thoughts internally through words and images; if you can’t symbolize your thoughts, feelings, and ideas, your problem is not “writer’s block” or a lack of talent or skill: you just aren’t clear enough on what you want to say. If you’re hoping a copywriter will “take stabs” at your content as you figure out what you are trying to get across, consider hiring a consultant instead.
Consultant. Take another look at those questions. Can you think them through with a little reflection? Do you know how to find the answers? If not, a consultant might be able to help. An expert can show you how to build business intelligence.
* Can you construct a customer persona, or a profile including their demographics and psychographics?
* Do you have strategies and roadmaps for product offerings or lines of business?
* How will you measure the success of your messaging?
Creating that “tight brief” comes much easier when you know what you need to say, what effects you’re going for.
Still stumped? A consultant will be most useful if your business objectives are fairly clear, and when what you lack is expert knowledge or industry experience. If you’re fuzzy on objectives, coaching may be in order.
Coach. Ultimately, many business owners know what to do. In fact, they know too much. They are overwhelmed with advice, options, tools, and professionals offering “solutions.” The trouble? Deciding what they want to do and committing to a course of action. If you’re torn between pursuing markets that seem most lucrative and the ones to which you are most attracted, are suffering from “impostor syndrome” about your best talents, or haven’t really committed to a business model, no expert can make decisions for you. What you write about your business will tend to be muddled. With the right support, you can find clarity and, as a result, develop much more effective communications.