Growth is one of our values. It’s why we do what we do and why we love working in the creative sector: we are curious about the world and our place in it. It encourages us to widen our skillsets, to sharpen our tools and to grow as individuals. By learning new things of professional interest, from inclusive fonts to sharper animation, we embody the belief that “when we grow, our clients succeed.”
This spring, my colleague Nina and I completed our Strategic Copywriting certificate with the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Over a year, we took three virtual courses designed to teach us, among other things, to “engage and persuade online audiences [and] drive traffic to websites, blogs and landing pages.”
Besides putting these skills into practice, the best part about learning new things is sharing them. So, here are three smart and simple concepts that can improve anyone’s writing.
1. Write YOU-focused web copy
You’ve likely heard this one before: write as if your target audience is in the room with you. Your writing should sound like you’re having a conversation with the reader.
But have you heard it put this way? “You-words should outnumber we-words.” (Thanks, Prof. Slaunwhite!)
When you use the first-person singular (as I’ve done here) more often than the first-person plural (as I did in the intro), you bring the reader into the writing. Especially when offering tips, tricks or steps to follow, you make your reader feel like they are part of the process.
This small difference moves your reader away from the abstract “we” or the objective “she/he/they”. It personalizes the message and makes it more accessible.
You can try it with newsletters, blogs and social media posts and you should definitely try it on websites. Your readers will see themselves in the web copy, leading to better engagement and responses to your calls to action.
2. Ask the most important question: so what?
Persuasive copy has to be personable, yes, but it really needs to address a specific pain point or problem.
Maybe your website is out of date and no longer shows up on Google searches. Or maybe your organization’s resources are drawn too thin and your mission feels like a muddle.
I could brag about our team’s skills or list our successful projects related to similar problems. Instead, I’ll ask myself: “so what?” What do our services have to do with your pain points?
At Spruce, we use what we call our “TRUE process” to help an organization’s stakeholders rearticulate their unique value proposition. This allows us to know more about our client and it creates the foundation for everything: a solid value prop guides strategy, focuses marketing efforts and launches confident projects into the world.
So what? What do our prospective clients really need to hear?
You need a campaign or website that delivers on your goals. We have a team that will listen, understand and then get results.
Asking “so what?” does a number of things:
- It eliminates “salesy” language.
- It gives you persuasive lines of text to drop into your copy (as I’ve done above).
- It provides a clear way to communicate benefits to your audiences.
3. Focus on the benefits
Whenever you are writing about a product, service or cause, make a distinction between features and benefits.
Spruce offers strategy, copywriting, design and development—these are our services. What are the benefits? A brand that energizes and aligns the organization. Target audiences that are inspired to take action. A website where everything is easy to find.
Services and features are things. Benefits are results.
A feature of working for Spruce means we are constantly encouraged to learn more, to find out what we can do to be our best selves. But so what? What’s the benefit?
Speaking for myself (and I hope my colleagues would agree) the main benefit is more enjoyment and feeling valued at work. As a result, I’m more confident in my skills and I offer them enthusiastically. I’m better equipped to overcome complex challenges that require sophisticated strategic solutions.
Each opportunity for personal evolution enhances not only the strategist, designer or writer’s life but also their relationships. That’s one of the benefits of working for, and with, Spruce: we have each other’s best interests at heart.
Joseph Mathieu is a writer and project manager at Spruce. He enjoys writing, editing and reading and will talk your ear off about these activities any time.