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Snake Oil, by the gallon

Snake Oil, by the gallon. (photo via clotho98 on Flickr)

On today’s internet, hype breeds faster than rabbits on Viagra. It’s tempting to join in the clamour – shout your claims from the rooftops in a desperate attempt to be heard. There’s just one problem: only fools buy from a huckster.

If you’re selling snake oil or get-rich-quick scams, you’ll likely find there are enough fools to go round. But if you have a legitimate business that delivers genuine value, then you need to avoid  unbelievable claims and false promises.

As a copywriter, I see a lot of people making a fundamental error in the way they pitch their products and services. It comes down to a simple rule:

If it sounds too good to be true…. then it probably is.

If someone’s offering you a way to make easy money then you’re right to be suspicious. If someone claims their online course will make you rich, or have you earning thousands of dollars a day in no time, then being wary of such claims is only natural.

If it sounds too good to be true…. then it probably is

There’s a simple rule I often use when shopping around, on the internet or out in the world in general. It’s a bit of an admission from someone who makes his living by writing stuff for the marketing departments of corporations, but here it is:

The slicker the marketing, the worse the product.

The reasoning behind this is fairly simple: some people invest time and money on creating something great. Other people skip this bit, and concentrate all the time and money on the marketing.

The slicker the marketing, the worse the product

Now, clearly there is a middle ground where sensible and legitimate businesses invest in their products and services and then promote it with balanced and generally true marketing messages. However, those with a great product are better placed to also rely on word of mouth, while those with garbage to sell focus all the attention on their big, fat ‘BUY’ button.

Even putting the morality aside, trying to sell garbage with false promises is a strategy with a short shelf life. It only  works consistently well when you’re selling impulse buys to people with more money than sense. It’s unlikely to work when selling business-to-business. And in the age of social media, word quickly gets out.

So, if you’re writing sales material remember not to over promise. Don’t make claims that people won’t believe. If you make people suspicious, you’ll lose their trust, and the sale. Focus on the real benefits, the real value.

The trick to copywriting is finding that true value, and highlighting it in a way that catches the attention of those who will genuinely benefit from it.

I’m not saying that’s easy, or that it leads to instant riches. But at least it’s honest, and in the long run, it’s better marketing.

Informative and intelligent articles that are also compelling for a wide audience, easy to understand and fascinating to read

Articles for the Met Office magazine

Articles for the Met Office magazine

The UK’s Met Office publishes magazines designed to inform and entertain an extraordinarily wide range of people. Some are ordinary citizens interested in the weather – and who indirectly, through taxation, support the Met Office. Others are more direct stakeholders – such as:

  • People who work in the many businesses and organisations that depend on the Met Office’s services
  • Government and Ministry of Defence officials
  • Academics and scientists
  • Professional meteorologists and colleagues from around the world.
The articles need to be informative and intelligent, but interesting and accessible to a wide audience

The articles need to be informative and intelligent, but interesting and accessible to a wide audience

Articles in Met Office publications such as the magazine Barometer need to inform and entertain this wide audience. The content needs to be intelligent, accurate and relevant. It also should be compelling and comprehensible to a lay audience while meeting the needs of professional users. [continue reading…]

Website text for Eliot Partnership

Website text for executive search firm

Website text for executive search firm

The Eliot Partnership is the global insurance industry’s leading executive search firm. The London-based firm provides a full range of recruitment services for the insurance sector – helping its clients find, attract, reward and retain the most talented individuals in the industry.

When it came time to launch a new website, the company asked me to help write, edit and refine the wording. The site is a crucial element in the firm’s branding and marketing strategy, and it was essential that the copy reflect the company’s exceptionally high standards of knowledge, expertise and professionalism. [continue reading…]

Press advert for data centre 2bm

Press advert for data centre

Press advert for data centre

The essential thing with advertising is not to get too clever. Or obscure. Sometimes the best approach is to simply get the core benefits into the headline, then repeat them with some elaboration in the first sentence. Then build on that, focusing all the time on what’s in it for the reader. Because the moment they lose sight of how they benefit, they’ll stop reading and move on.

This is the approach I took when creating a press advert for 2bm. The company was planning to be at a major exhibition where it knew there would be many important business clients and prospects. The event was a chance to get to meet these customers in person. The aim of the advert was to position the company’s name and offering in the minds of prospects by convincing them of those core benefits. There was no room in the ad for getting clever or beating around the bush. But that didn’t matter – because stating the benefits clearly is really all an advert ever needs to do.

It’s not necessarily easy to achieve. But it’s nearly always the right approach.

Helping telecoms company connect with business clients

Business -to-business copywriter for major telecoms company

Business -to-business copywriting for major telecoms company

I’ve worked on many projects over the years for telecoms clients, many of them mobile phone operators who want to improve communications with customers. For Vodafone, for example, I’ve written marketing materials aimed at both consumers and business clients.

One example was a brochure designed to win new business customers for Vodafone by helping position the company as a mobile operator that truly understands the needs of professional users. [continue reading…]

Helping patients make the right choices

Audiology specialists Pindrop Hearing wanted to communicate the benefits of good hearing and the options available to clients who are suffering from hearing loss. The Harley Street specialists wanted to position themselves as a leading specialist hearing aid consultant, showing that they understood the issues and could provide independent, expert advice. [continue reading…]

Copywriting for design agency's own brochure

Copywriting for design and branding agency’s own brochure

The right words prove a vital ingredient for food service specialists

Atlantic Creative are specialists in graphic design and branding for the food service industries. They provide marketing expertise to some of the biggest and best known brands in the world.

Clearly, getting branding and messaging right is something that matters deeply to Atlantic and to its clients. [continue reading…]

Marketing and branding text for ebusiness consultancy

Marketing and branding text for consultancy

Creating a well-rounded sales pitch

Cube Consult asked me to help with their marketing by writing some compelling and clear text for a sales leaflet to be distributed to potential clients.

As is standard practice in marketing materials, I began by setting out the problem or challenge the prospect faces – in this case looking at how taking the first steps into ebusiness can be daunting and confusing. There are myriad consultancies offering help – but will they be the right people, there for the long-haul?

Having set the scene, the copy moved on to presenting what my client, Cube Consult, could offer.

But I wanted to bring it all to life. I wanted to make Cube appear friendly, approachable and human. So I indulged in a little word play, designed to reinforce the branding and make it more memorable:

Wording that enhances the branding.

Wording that enhances the branding.

Stop going round in circles
Cube is a new kind of eBusiness consultancy – one that can square these circles for you. Cube goes beyond the advice and planning stage to offer a complete implementation strategy and end-to-end project management.

We use only leading industry professionals with proven track records and the solutions we deliver are proven to work.

Refreshingly, perhaps uniquely, you’ll also find that Cube won’t encircle you with jargon. It’s eBusiness delivered by approachable professionals who’ll explain things clearly and always put you in the picture.

[blockquote-right]”I’m lost for words! This is genius.”[/blockquote-right]

When I sent him the copy, Chris Currie of Cube Consult contacted me to say: “I’m lost for words! This is genius. As soon as I started reading it I broke into a smile that is still on my face. Thank you so much – I’m quite simply delighted!”

Writing marketing copy can be dangerous for your finances: it brings you into contact with products and services that sometimes are just impossible to resist.

For Seiko, I was asked to write a marketing pitch for their new range of auto-relay kinetic watches – watches that need no battery and which draw their power from the wearer’s own movement: [continue reading…]

Articles and news items for  electronics manufacturer FCI

Articles and news items for electronics manufacturer FCI

FCI Electronics designs and manufactures connectors used in cars, telecoms, data storage, consumer electronics, industrial applications and medical instruments. The company is headquartered in France but has nearly 7,000 employees based around the world, with major manufacturing plants in Europe, the Americas and China.

The company produces a magazine, Panorama, to keep staff informed of everything that’s going, from financial performance to new products, marketing initiatives, HR projects and major company announcements.

Over many years I’ve written a range of news items and in-depth articles on a huge range of subjects. [continue reading…]