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Μost small business owners have two problems when it comes with writing copy: They don’t know what to say, or the do know what to say but don’t know how to say it. Infusionsoft’s head of copy Clare Kirlin chats with Clate and Scott about how to break it down to get people to do what you want to do, how to write to the right people, and how to overcome the blinking cursor of death.
Do you have a question that you want us or an expert to answer? If you have questions about your small business submit them at smallbusinesssuccess.com/questions.
Scott Martineau: Welcome everybody to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I'm Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: I'm Clate Mask, we're co-founders of Infusionsoft.
Scott Martineau: Today, we have a very exciting podcast planned for you today. We have a special guest, Clare Kirlin is with us. Clare, welcome.
Clare Kirlin: Thank you so much, I'm excited to be here.
Clate Mask: This episode is an ask the expert edition. So, we've got a copywriting expert in Clare here with us, and we're excited to share stuff with you because copywriting, Scott and I learned early on is one of the keys to growing a business. You got to get that right.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. I want to take us back to when I learned that this was so important. One of the very first big wins that Clate and I had was when we went to a marketing seminar, and we sold our software
I remember with Reed Hoisington, and we sat down, and he was like this is – I'm doing my event tomorrow. Today is a big copywriting boot camp, and there were 150 or so people in this room. I'm thinking why on earth would all these people want to come and learn about copywriting. Copywriting their…
Clate Mask: Intellectual property.
Scott Martineau: Intellectual property. So, just to be clear and save everybody embarrassment we're talking about copy with a writing. So…
Clate Mask: Salesmanship in print is sometimes it's called if you care about sales. I don't know if you care about sales.
Scott Martineau: So why – maybe let's just – let's kick it off with why the heck does copy matter, Clare?
Clare Kirlin: Yeah, definitely. Because you can turn words into money.
Clate Mask: Enough said. Spoken like a great copywriter.
Clare Kirlin: That's the magic of copywriting, and I think that it is something this is woefully overlooked by a lot of entrepreneurs. We're going to give you some tactical advice today that's going to help you
once you start emphasizing copying your business, and placing more importance on it actually get started writing it as well.
Clate Mask: Yeah. It's woefully overlooked by everybody including me and Scott. We were just talking about before this how many times in the business we recognize for _____ on copywrite now, we've got to do a better job. By the way, Clare loves hearing this, because she's hearing raises in her mind.
Clare Kirlin: [Laughter] New hires.
Clate Mask: That's right.
Scott Martineau: Maybe I love this _____. We're turning words into money, fantastic. What are all – what are – maybe just for our business owners to think about this. Where if I develop the skill of copy, let's talk concrete examples of what does it actually – how does it happen. How do I turn this into money? What do I – how do I use words to make a difference?
Clare Kirlin: Definitely. We talk a lot about the funnel here at Infusionsoft. So, if you think about your funnel, and how the factors at the top of your funnel, the variables at the top of your funnel are going to impact the variables at the bottom of your funnel. Imagine you write an email, and you have you a subject line.
If you could increase the open rate of that email by writing a better subject line. If you can get 10 percent or 20 percent more readers to open that email think about how many more people are then going to take the next step, the next step all the way through to customers, and hit that bottom line.
Clate Mask: Cha-ching. [Laughter]
Scott Martineau: I think about the principles of also applying even in just maybe my regular email communication with members of my team or my vendors. Just the ability to use words to influence, persuade, move people is just such a powerful thing. Much more powerful than the copywrite you're going to get from the…
Clate Mask: From your attorney.
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Clare Kirlin: Yet, it's so hard for people, right.
Clate Mask: It is hard, it is. There's this real writer's block thing that happens. Everybody's experienced that.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. What are the – Clare, what are the things that you see most challenging for business sales when I think about copy?
Clare Kirlin: I think there are two huge challenges that face business owners when it comes to copy. I think either they don't know what to say or they don't know how to say it.
Scott Martineau: Okay, let's jump into the first point of they don't know what to say. So, I'm sitting here, I'm all excited to go make a bunch of money, turn my words into money, and I sit there and I stare at the cursor.
Clate Mask: Blinking at you.
Clare Kirlin: That's right. Blinking cursor of death. So, this is where I use a tactic of reverse engineering. Think of what is the next step I want someone to take after they've finished reading this copy. That's going to be the centerpiece of your copy, and every single word you're going to write has to drive them to that next action. That's your call to action. So, I think when you start there the task of copywriting becomes less about how do I become a great writer, and more about this email or this piece of content has one job to do, and it makes it a little less daunting for you.
Scott Martineau: Great. So, what am I hiring this email to do or this landing page.
Clare Kirlin: Exactly.
Clate Mask: That's really great, because I remember early on when Scott and I
were toying around with copywriting, and listening to CDs to learn how to do copywriting. But I remember that when we started to practice it, it was when we had a very specific thing we were trying to accomplish that the writer's block seemed to go away. So, we weren't – you said that you're not sitting down trying to become a good copywriter, you have a specific thing you're trying to do. There's a job to be done with this copy, and then you back – you reverse engineer it like you said, and it actually – the flow begins to go, because you know the goal you're trying to get at, and you can move back step by step starting with – and then you end up with this great subject line that leads people through the action you want them to take.
Scott Martineau: The worst thing would be that you babble on and on, and actually forget to invite people clearly and crisply in what you want to do. So, there's some practical benefit to starting with that, right.
Clare Kirlin: Yes. There is, and actually I have an example. I'm not going to call out the company, but it's a $2 billion company that served me a banner ad on the Internet.
The banner ad "Merry days of savings. Save with exclusive holiday digital coupons, plus get free holiday favs." The ad doesn't say who the company's for. What are these coupons for? Are they for boots, are they for cupcakes, I don't know. So, we over simplified it a little bit, but it's also really easy to miss.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Seriously, the call to action, and the specifics of what you're after. It's great.
Clare Kirlin: Yeah, that's exactly it.
Scott Martineau: Good. Any other tips on if I'm not quite sure what to say?
Clare Kirlin: Yeah. Definitely. I think that there's an old copywriters trick called the swipe file, and this is really about not plagiarizing other people's work. But starting with something, what do you see out there that you like. When you're going through your inbox, and you have 10,000, 20,000 unread messages, which ones made you click, which ones grabbed your attention? Put those in an email folder, and then when you're experiencing writer's block open up
that email folder, look at those examples. Another great tool for this is the Facebook bookmark feature. I often bookmark content I want to read later, and then I'll take that to work. When I need to write an email, I'll scroll through all these headlines and go which ones grab me. I would say it's easier to write with a red pen than a black one. It's easier to edit or change or improve something that exist, then start from scratch. Why start from scratch. You don't have to do that.
Clate Mask: Great tips. Good stuff.
Scott Martineau: Love that. I think it's counter intuitive. I think people would – I don't know. I think for some reason we feel like I've got it, somebody else has used that so many times or whatever, I can't follow that same formula or template. But the opposite is true; there's reasons behind. You may not even understand all of the reasons, but if you can take something that you know has worked, and slightly tweak it, love it.
Clare Kirlin: Then the second challenge we talked about was entrepreneurs who do what they want to, they just don't know how to say it.
I have an idea, I have a vision, and I think it sounds like maybe this is a challenge that Infusionsoft co-founders, which will name – remain unnamed may have faced at some point. But we were chatting a little bit before the podcast about how you don't have to be a great writer. You just have to be an effective writer about how that copy has a job to do. So, again, breaking it down, being a little less daunting.
Clate Mask: Yeah.
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Clate Mask: That's great, and I – one of the things that was really helpful for us, and a copywriter shared this idea with us, much like your idea of the swipe file of – to get you those ideas. I was told a long time ago record your calls, and – your sales calls. When you had a good, effective sales call you can go back and hear what you said. Because it helps you figure out how to say it, because you actually hear yourself, and you see when it resonated.
In the call, you can hear when it resonated with the customer. So, that was one really good trick, and then the other really good trick was to go back into my sent items in my folder, and find how I said something that was effective that ended up the customer taking action and buying the software or whatever. Those were – it was really interesting to me, because I didn't know how to say it. It was like – I really just wasn't sure, and yet I knew there were times where it worked, where I made it work. But I didn't really know why it worked until I went back and studied it. Then it was like these are really great ways to say this. Then it helped me to actually build the templates in our file of campaigns that would drive that action we were after.
Scott Martineau: Some of the best copywriters that we studied on cassettes and tapes or on CDs they would – that would be the first thing would do if they're a professional copywriter brought in. They're just sitting down there interviewing, they're listening, they're listening for word patterns, they're listening for all of these things, and for some reason I think we maybe create this disassociation between what I
say, and I don't – that doesn't come to me when I'm sitting down to write. But that's so critical.
Clare Kirlin: Yeah. Voice is really important, and what I love about that exercise you mentioned looking at sales emails is that when you go to replicate that higher up in the funnel on your webpage you're speaking in the same voice.
Scott Martineau: Yeah.
Clare Kirlin: Brand is something that can be a four-letter word. Some people perceive it as brand, it's expensive, it's over blown, it's artsy. But really brand is just about truth telling, and being consistent in how you talk to your customers so that they feel when they have a conversation with you, when they first land on your webpage, your website, they're talking to the same company as the company that sells them the product two weeks or hopefully two days later.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Finding that voice I think that's awesome. So, glad you're talking about this, because when I started to learn how to write copy well enough that it did the job. I know – I don't know that we ever – either of us ever became great copywriters.
But we certainly saw effectiveness, and one of the key things that I noted when we began to really get it right was just total authentic personal connection with people where we were just being ourselves, which I would translate as brand in what you're describing. But how do they find that voice? How do they get to that place where the brand of them is coming – the brand of the business owner is coming out as opposed to – it's almost like what we've done. It's like public speaking when you're talking to a lot of people, and you're writing copy, you water yourself down a little bit instead of just talking one on one to a friend.
Clare Kirlin: Yeah, totally. I think that's an awesome question. Some of our listeners may have heard of something called a user persona. If they're looking at marketing, and spending copywriting, and basically that's just an archetype of who is my ideal customer. I would recommend something called the brand persona, and this is one character. You can borrow from fiction, you can use a celebrity. Who is that one person, and it doesn't necessarily have to be you the founder.
But who is a person whose voice encapsulates who we are at our core. Then everything you write, all the copywrite, if you pass it through the voice of that person. Let's say it's Wonder Woman, is this something Wonder Woman would say. [Laughter] That is a really quick spot check, almost a shortcut to determine whether those words are "on brand" for you.
Clate Mask: Awesome.
Scott Martineau: I think my observation is that authenticity, and I would think there would be situations where this wouldn't be the case. But generally, especially in the case of a small business. I feel like an – a distinct advantage of the small business owner is this deeper connection that they can created with their employee. Maybe compare to a big brand company that doesn't have that connection. So, I think I would just recommend that in each – independent of what your voice is I would recommend to the listeners to be – just be authentic. I think people connect with that. There's so much noise, I think some of the click off and not listening to that noise – as I sense inauthenticity it starts to go away.
Clate Mask: Totally, and it's huge strength that you have. "The smaller your business is the easier it is to stand on brand." Because as long as you're being authentic, if you're just being real you, and you're thinking about I'm talking to a friend who is interested in what I offer you get very personal, very real, and very – and sometimes it can almost come across a little folksy, because you're just being so – just real, and casual in some ways. Yet, what we found is when we did that it – people – it resonated, and people responded. When we started to get a little – we saw different times where we'd get a little bit more stale in the communication, and it was like – we didn't see the response rates.
Clare Kirlin: I think you nailed it with a friend who's interested in what you have to offer. Because this also comes down not to just knowing your voice, but who's my audience, right. The more you can narrow that down, the more you can segment who am I talking to, rather than speaking to the lowest common denominator and trying
to write copy that's going to resonate with everybody, and turn off nobody that becomes soulless and bland. You're speaking to a really specific audience. I get a daily newsletter that has terminology in it like – it's a news digest, daily news digest. Some of the terminology is this selection is tods cray cray. My dad's not going to read that newsletter. You might not read that newsletter, but it resonates with me because that's – I grew up with emoji's that's my first language. They know their audience, they drill right in, and you're having a personal conversation with them, and that's great.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Great.
Scott Martineau: Knowing yourself and know the audience.
Clare Kirlin: Yeah, that's right/
Clate Mask: Being authentic.
Clare Kirlin: That's right.
Scott Martineau: Love it, and I think one other maybe just snippet to insert here. I remember the concept, I thought this was a great way to present it is you want to – so you understand your audience to the point where you can enter the conversation that's going on in their head
in a very natural way, which I think speaks to this idea of the voice matching the audience as well. But understanding what are the things that they're concerned about. So, we have this goal, we're clear on what we want the copy to do, we're clear on the voice, and who the person is. Now, we're entering the conversation going on in their head. What are the concerns they have? What are the aspirations they have, and using that to progress?
Clate Mask: That conversation I can't help but interject this point. Because we learned how powerful it was early on, and that is that you want to enter that conversation, and that conversation that they're having is not about your product. It's not about your thing you do. It's about the problems that you have – that…
Scott Martineau: That they have.
Clate Mask: That they have. The problems they have that are bugging them, keeping them up at night, frustrating them. If you can talk to them about the problems that they're having then eventually you can get – you can turn that to a conversation about your solution.
But particularly high at the top of the funnel we don't want to go jumping into the product. We want to talk about the problems that our product solves because those problems relate to the conversation going in their mind. So, I think that's a great way to talk about it, the conversation going in their, but we got to remember the conversation is not about our product. It's about their problems.
Scott Martineau: Any other tips you have on how to write? Maybe – just more on the long-time debates would be do I write really long stuff, lots of words, long copy, short copy, any tips and advice on that, Clare?
Clare Kirlin: Yeah, a couple. One, is test, there is false conventional wisdom that long form copy doesn't work. People don't have attention spans anymore. That can be true in things like the in box where you only have so much space to make your point with your subject line. Only 50 characters of your subject line might display on a mobile device so I always keep my subject line under 50 characters.
For example, or that pre-header, those first few sentences that you see of an email before you open it, I like to keep that under 40 characters, and I like to use that real estate to actually make an impact, and make a point. In those instances writing short copy, yes, really matters. But then you get into the email, and for some audiences a really short form sometimes it's just the name of an asset, and click to download a call to action. If they're in a nurture campaign where they're getting emails from you every couple of days that might be how much they want to hear from you. But I've also gotten some really in sense some longer form emails that to your point, Scott speak to my pain, and that really hooks me to, and that draws me in. So, it's very contextual, and I just encourage everyone listening here to test and see what works at what point in the funnel with what audience.
Scott Martineau: Love it.
Clate Mask: Good stuff, Clare. Anything else that you want to share with our audience to the tips and tricks from the expert copywriter?
Clare Kirlin: I'm going to give them a challenge actually.
Clate Mask: Right.
Scott Martineau: Love it.
Clare Kirlin: Anyone listening to this podcast is on some kind of a device that has a notes app. You might have word or the notes app on your mobile phone, but I would say open it up, and just start writing. In the next 24 hours open that up, think about the one thing you've been afraid to write that's been holding back. Maybe try some of the tips that we've talked about today. We're also going to share some of the resources for this podcast, and use those and see if they help you overcome those barriers. Then let us know how it turned out for you.
Clate Mask: Alright.
Scott Martineau: Fantastic.
Clate Mask: So, you heard the challenge, and are those resources in the show notes?
Clare Kirlin: They're in the show notes.
Clate Mask: Okay.
Scott Martineau: That's smallbusinesssuccess.com. Clare thanks for being here today. You're awesome, your energy's great, and we appreciate the tips you've given our guest, and we're going to call this a wrap for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. Thanks everybody.
Clate Mask: Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate us, write a review and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
If you're looking for more ways to grow your business, check out our knowledge center at learn.infusionsoft.com.