3 - Message
This is a whole-day subject and depends upon the medium you use – website, off-the-page, direct mail, e-mail and social media. But here are just a few ideas:
Understand voice and tone – what's the language of your clients' business? Would you talk Swahili to a white Caucasian and expect success? Many fall foul of this rule. It's really not how you feel about your product; it's the mind-set, tone and preferred language of the recipient/ reader that counts.
What do they read? How do I talk to them? What sort of tone and voice is best? (Telegraph, Mail, Express or the Sun?) Yes, it does make a difference. Do I use plain English? Or do I need use some element jargon to show that I understand their business? (In engineering, for example).
You get about 10 seconds of someone's time (if you're lucky) before they form an opinion of you.
If it sounds lofty or formal, or too pally, they may resent it.
Some of the questions:
- How do I hook their immediate interest?
- What do I need them to understand?
- What tone should I use – do I sound friendly, approachable?
- Is my message absolutely clear? Use lower case, not upper case: I'M NOT SHOUTING AT YOU.
- Don't stuff the page with too much. Some air/space is good.
- Get a local designer to set the page. (Unless you have the software or you are a designer).
- Check that the spelling, grammar, word choice, punctuation and sentence length is spot on. Avoid using more than two exclamation marks. Exclamation suggests alarm, or deliberate irony or wit.
- Use one or two-word headers in each paragraph so that the whole story can be understood in just a few words if they skim-read.
- Break up the text into paragraphs of 3-4 lines only and sentences of 8-16 words max. People do not read long clumps of text unless you condition that reading.
- Try bullet points for effect.
- Only ask one or two questions, if at all. More than that and it feels like a survey.
- Is the font/typeface clean and clear? (Don't use a seraph font like Times New Roman - it's old fashioned and only use one or two simple fonts in each piece. I have known clients use up to seven Please avoid anything that is hard to read: It clutters and annoys readers. Best not try to be an amateur designer. That's why designers have studied the subject and got an eye for it. (Best fonts: Calibri, Verdana, Arial, Trebuchet, Tahoma).
- Paper choice is important. If it's 80 gsm flimsy and feels cheap, what message does that give out? Is it single or double-sided print? If double-sided, make sure the paper is thicker, 120 gsm, so there's no show-through.
- Don't use heavy, rich background colours – blue red, black print. It thumbprints badly. Avoid pink, purple and orange together unless it's a Caribbean theme, and don't use more than 2-3 simple colours.
- Check where the fold goes. I.e. not across a piece of text.
- Put your logo at the bottom, where it belongs. Logos are really not that important.
- What do I want them to do?
- Does my offer sound credible and reliable?
- Is there more detail on my website?
- If there is an offer, there must also be a deadline, or it will be quoted forever.
- Offer a guarantee, if you can.
- Quote 20 words max from a local, happy customer or two.
- What's my one, single 'call to action'? - Phone me? Mail me? Call in? I have seen great works of art that give no clue at all as to where to call
We'll be talking about Effective Content later.