Many aspects of business are driven by numbers, but marketing often seems to be all about words. Whether it’s naming your business or brand, coming up with a tag line, or writing copy for your website, you probably spend a big chunk of your marketing time trying to find just the right words to use.
While you’re busy hunting for the perfect words, your business cards don’t get printed, your web copy doesn’t get posted, and your marketing emails don’t get sent. When you don’t have adequate marketing tools in place, you don’t market. No marketing; no clients. And all for the want of a few good words!
For major projects like a website, brochure, or postal direct mail campaign, hiring a copywriter may be a wise investment. But there are also steps you can take to improve your own ability to communicate about your business in writing. Here are four strategies you can use to break your marketing writer’s block without breaking the bank:
1. Stop grappling and start Googling.
If you’ve been looking at your own words over and over, it’s no wonder you’re having trouble being creative. You need some new perspectives, and you’ll find them all over the web. Start by searching for businesses like yours by category. Notice what words your competitors are using to describe their work. The results can be eye-opening.
Let’s say you’re a graphic designer, and you begin by Googling “graphic design.” Your first discovery might be that many of the top-ranked listings are not the sites of your competitors. Some of the highest ranked pages for that phrase belong to graphic design associations, schools, magazines, reference materials, etc. So if you want to attract customers instead of other graphic designers, you might want to think about using a different phrase in your headlines and web copy — “logo design,” for example.
If you Google that phrase next, a scan of the top-ranked pages will show you a wealth of adjectives you might use to describe your work, such as “affordable,” “high-quality,” “custom,” “world-class,” “exceptional,” “award-winning,” and so on. You’ll also gain many new ideas for presenting the benefits of working with you, for example, promising quick turnaround, emphasizing your formal design training, or guaranteeing your work.
Please note that I am not suggesting that you copy entire phrases from your competitors’ sites verbatim. Instead, use their language as a source of new ideas for creating marketing copy that is uniquely your own.
2. Let a thesaurus do the thinking.
Visit Thesaurus.com and type in any word from your marketing copy that seems a bit tired or overused. You’ll find synonyms, colloquial phrases, and nuances of expression that may never have occurred to you. Did you know that there are almost 50 synonyms available for the word “new?”
Another fabulous resource for the visual thinker is VisualThesaurus.com, which displays an interactive mind map of relationships between words and their synonyms. You can try out this tool at no charge, and if you like it, purchase an online subscription.
3. Find some direction in a directory.
When you are struggling to express complex ideas in layman’s language, look for inspired solutions at Wikipedia.org. Wikipedia’s content is free, and you can use it however you like as long as you include an attribution for any direct quotations. Try it out for hard-to-describe specialties like “business process improvement” or “music therapy.”
Another surprisingly useful resource for finding language that matches the way your prospective clients think is Amazon.com‘s book catalog. Stop by Amazon and search for books related to your profession. You’ll discover many descriptive phrases to help you portray your services in a way that clients will respond to. Book jacket copy (see the “product description”) can be particularly helpful.
4. Get unstuck with sticky notes.
Try this creative technique to help with creating a tag line or naming your business or brand. Take a pad of sticky notes and on each note write one word that says something to you about your business. Use a mix of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Stick all the notes on a wall or mirror and stare at them for a while. Start to form groupings that look promising. If you notice that one word appears in multiple groupings, copy that word on some additional notes so you can re-use it.
Go do something else for a day and then look again. Narrow down your choices to three options. Show your chosen options to some friends and colleagues. Instead of asking them which one they like, ask what each phrase makes them think of. What impression does it give them of the person or business using that tag line or name? Notice which name or tag line best creates the impression you want to make with your business. That should be your choice.
The next time you’re feeling stuck for words in your marketing, experiment with one or more of these approaches. They work well in combination. Try using a thesaurus with the sticky-note technique, or Google some of the phrases you discover while browsing the Amazon catalog. The important thing is to get outside your own head for a while, and applying any of these ideas will help you do just that.