I’m going to optimize and transform your website with its conversion-focused design and uncannily crafty copy so that it outperforms all of its competitors.
Wait…what?! Do sentences like this both confuse you and really piss you off? Good.
Marketing writing can really suck. As marketers, we’ve learned a lot of fancy big buzzwords that make things sound important, but are really meaningless. For instance, re-read that first sentence and tell me exactly what you think it means I’ll do for you.
What does optimize mean?
What does transform mean?
Are you really going to make a site outperform its competitors with words and colours?
I’m bringing this topic up because of two interesting recent experiences. My bad, “interesting” is another one of those mostly meaningless words. When it comes out of my mouth, it usually means, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’d like to learn more” or “boooooooooring”.
Back to those interesting experiences. Within one week I was contacted by two prospective clients, both of whom I assume have been burned by marketers before. Typically my client phone calls involve details and deadlines, brand story strategy, and lots and lots of questions. I spent a good deal of time with both of these people just trying to convince them I wasn’t a scammer. Obviously, BeRadMedia.com is due for a lil’ update, but they found and contacted me, not the other way around.
Here’s the thing. Marketers, when you’re communicating and writing for clients you have to consider the client’s audience first and foremost. Seriously. This is not about you and while this is hugely about the client, their reader is the one they’re trying to win over.
I get it that it’s not simple. There are egos involved, and there are a lot of brilliant people out there who know squat about marketing and communicating online. Their fault? Nope.
Our responsibility as writers and marketers and designers is to bring our best to each project. That includes understanding what our clients want, and also what their audience needs from our clients. I’m not going to get into the details of that process now, but suffice it to say that once in a while there will be a little tension. If you’re a responsible freelancer or business owner, a.k.a The Expert, you have to also provide advice.
Giving advice was a struggle for me for a while, because I wanted to make my clients happy and keep things harmonious. The shitty thing about that is that it doesn’t always produce the best work. Good work, for sure. Stellar work, maybe not. Advice to freelancers and service business owners: don’t be afraid to push back a little (tips for that below); advice to clients: if you want to get your dollars’ worth, listen and provide constructive feedback.
It’s really all about trust. Writing meaningless sentences to please people doesn’t make you trustworthy, with your clients or their audience.
Pushing back is really more like nudging in the right direction
Really complicated, academic-style writing just doesn’t fly for most readers. It’s too dense for screen-reading eyes. A great copywriter can take your complex ideas and make them palatable for the public. Will every detail be included? No, that’s the point. Most people just want to know what the results of a study are anyways.
Pushing back on an idea should never be aggressive, condescending, or self-righteous. That’s why I like considering it a nudge. It’s gentle, and should be backed by a valid thought. Saying you don’t like something because it’s not quite right means nothing. Saying you can improve the tone of a webpage to be friendlier and more aligned with your target demographic is bang-on. You don’t have to hug at the end, but both service provider and client should clearly understand why the service provider recommends the change.
Marketers/Freelancers/Service Providers, just like you would validate your recommendations, you also need to validate your claims and clarify your language when producing work for clients. Get details. How will you do something, what’s the process, what are you really offering? Talk about results, include statistics, and for the love of god: stop it with the meaningless words.