The question, "Should I write my own marketing copy?" comes through to me at least once or twice a month. Recently though, it's happened with increasing frequency.
I'm always a little torn on this one, so much so I wanted to share my own experiences with producing great marketing copy, and give some of the pros and cons of getting someone else to do it vs. doing it yourself.
Let me start by declaring that I see this as actually being one of two very different questions.
"I need a wordsmith"
The first version of this question is about finding someone else who can make sure writing is consistent, grammatically correct, and ultimately highly readable.
Some people don't like writing. Some people find it hard to articulate their ideas in the concise way that web copy requires. Some people will find themselves staring at a blank page, worrying about how to structure the content. This makes total sense to me.
The problem is when the question isn't actually about writing copy and is about...
"I want someone who can give me a value proposition"
Sometimes I get a sense that the request for somebody to write a website copy isn't actually about writing the copy. It's about coming up with the whole damn value proposition of their business.
In which case it's like asking a doctor to assess your health based on a handshake.
Now, that's not to say you can't engage a copywriter to solve this problem, but bear in mind the great copywriters are not cheap.
The reason for this is that great copywriters understand the value of what they do. They understand that marketing on the internet is a one-way conversation, and copy either hits the mark or doesn't.
They understand what most don't; when someone hits your website, they're not interested in you, or your proposition, or your process or your story. They're interested in one thing; themselves.
When they hit your website, if they can't see some reflection, that you can solve the problem in their head that they have, it's very unlikely they're going to proceed.
In that way, the internet is kind of a selfish medium. We don't Google to learn, we Google to solve problems caused by a lack of information.
Anyone who has played with outsourcing copywriting to a cheap option or a service that produces generic articles will tell you, it just doesn't have the punch. I'd argue that non-specific articles and copy that doesn't understand your business is only marginally better than none at all.
The truth about copywriting - as I learnt from the excellent series Copy Hackers - is that it's not actually about writing at all. It's 99% about research.
When it comes to advice, there's an additional consideration.
In many cases, people aren't actually interested in the information. What they're actually interested in is having whatever problem they have solved in the easiest possible way and with the least possible hassle, ideally without risk, and at a price point that matches the one they have in their head.
Which is why I worry when people ask me to recommend someone to create a website, but what they really want is more than just a tech build.
Because when the request is actually getting clear about what your Value Proposition is, that doesn't start with the web copy.
If you're familiar with our Journey 2 Scale model, you'll know where I'm going with this. One of the first hurdles a business must overcome is to have an offer that is compelling enough for people to want to engage.
In many cases, the nature of that offer is going to be dependent on two things;
If you're going into a situation where you don't know this, or you're not clear on it, or so the landscape of the industry has changed in such that what worked before is no longer working, this isn't a web copy problem.
It's something very much more fundamental.
At the simplest level, there are two types of propositions.
Firstly, there are Painkiller propositions; things which solve immediate existing problems which are causing the end user hassle, pain or cost.
Then there are what we call Vitamin propositions; things which are nice to have which will improve somebody's situation but aren't necessarily a priority.
If there is one constant I see in the industry it's a lot of advice businesses with Vitamin propositions.
There's nothing wrong with that, but it's much easier for people to procrastinate and put off Vitamin propositions, especially when the cost of solving them is sometimes higher than they thought.
So my concern, when I get the request for someone to write copy is that when this is actually a request for a Value Proposition, nobody is going to understand your proposition better than you.
Someone might be able to spend a while getting to know you, getting to know your business, working with you to craft a message, But the cost of doing that is usually a lot more than most people want to spend on a website.
So what's the recommendation here?
I don't want to be unsympathetic.
Ultimately though I believe that being able to stand in front of a client or a room of people, or a video camera, or even just write an article which outlines really clearly...
...is what you need to be able to do to be successful. It's a rite of passage.
But if you're looking for someone else to produce this and your sole point of reference is to write a website, I worry you're asking for a lot more without realising it.
Value Propositions can be hard.
In our industry, we have a tradition of coming from a position of knowing a lot of technical information, but less about why consumers would want to engage us and the actual problems that line up with their solutions.
Thankfully, there are a lot of businesses who do this and those that do are perfectly positioned for what's coming.
But just like pricing, systemisation or any other things that many businesses never actually nail until late in their evolution, copywriting is often left to last.
It's only when asked to write copy for a website, you realise that you haven't actually ticked the box in being able to state clearly and unequivocally, this is the value of what I do.
I see it manifest itself in other ways.
Businesses that don't feel capable of charging what they need to can't answer that question -
Why should I pay for what you do year after year?
How does your service relate to the goals I'm trying to achieve?
This is a lot of the work I do in the program and, much like when I start a pricing project, what I know businesses will come to understand is things like value proposition and pricing are simply the first stage in a series of leaps forward that end with the business being able to -
But it has to start somewhere.
It has to start with you confidently and clearly understanding where you fit in the clients' lives and why they should get advice.
If your starting point for this is getting someone else to write web copy, my fear is that you may just be starting from the wrong place.
A good friend of mine once told me a truth which has stayed with me for a while. In the first stage of business development, his metric was:
"Up to a $1 million and your business is a marketing problem..."
Your goal is your ability to generate leads, going from first being a person of value within the minds of your clients, then building a system of value that enables them to engage with the way you work, then building a team of value and finally, creating a brand of value.
"...after that, your business becomes a leadership challenge."
...which means knowing how to motivate people, get them to work together, and ultimately remove yourself from the business.
There's been a lot of change in the industry over these past months. The microscope is on value. All of this recent focus on service, some may see as a challenge.
Others, including many in the program, see it as the opportunity to differentiate based on service.
After all, when the general public attention is drawn so heavily to service, why wouldn't you choose to make that the thing that differentiates you from everybody else?
But unless your value can shine through when the light is on you, it's hard to grasp it.
I have a gift for you .....
My personal view is it's important for every business owner to be able to answer that question. How is what you do valuable?
If you find yourself struggling to find the words and answer that question, then we need to consider the possibility, in actual fact what you need isn't web copy.
What you need is to be able to absolutely master your offer, and be able to clearly explain what it is that you do as an expert to help your clients that is worth paying for.
It includes a bunch of works templates that can be used not just in your marketing,
but also in helping you explain what you do. Face to face client engagements, in many cases, decide to say yes, with less sensitivity and greater haste at the end of your first appointment.
If you're interested, and you'd like to jump on board, we're offering a 10% discount for anybody who's reading this article.
This offer will be valid for 30 days.