Copywriting Tip: Take Advantage of Every Opportunity to Tell Your Story

On my first visit to P.F. Chang’s late last year, I discovered the brand was telling their story in the tiniest of places: the fortunes slipped into the iconic cookies. The food was delicious, the service was great, and, as a copywriter, I was delighted to see the brand taking advantage of every opportunity to tell their story.

Along with the check, the server delivered the requisite fortune cookies. Inside were short strips of paper printed with the expected fortunes on one side, and factoids about the food prepared and served at P.F. Chang’s on the other side.

P.F. Chang’s fortunes. One side has the fortune; the other side has a factoid about the food served at the restaurant.

Now, I know that this little piece of paper probably usually gets swept up with the cookie wrappers and other dining debris left on the table by guests, but for a split second, P.F. Chang’s took advantage of this opportunity to tell their story to their customer.

For reference, here’s another fortune from a different cookie received at a different restaurant.

A fortune from a different cookie and restaurant. (I can’t remember where.)

The back has lucky numbers and a website to visit if this particular fortune has you wanting another.

No one would notice or care if P.F. Chang’s also had lucky numbers on the back of their fortunes. Instead of doing that, though, they use the fortune-reading moment to reassure their customers that, yes, what you just ate was fresh and carefully prepared. At least, that is what a fact about the food implies. Interestingly, this moment comes after the meal. Reading the tidbit doesn’t feel salesy. I had already asked for the check and pulled out my credit card. There’s no upselling at this point during the dining experience. Of course, there is a risk with the end-of-meal timing for this particular case. If the food is not satisfactory, the customer could easily see these fortune cookie factoids as a marketing sleight of hand—all talk and no action. P.F. Chang’s has to be on their game. Overall, using this tiny area to add to the P.F. Chang’s story is smart.

The tip: Don’t overlook small opportunities to tell your brand’s story. Are you using every space and every moment in your interaction with your customers? Get creative and take advantage of small pieces and short moments with copy that is appropriate to the medium and timing. A short piece of copy can make a significant impression.

Want more copywriting tips? Check them out here.

Copywriting Tip: Bring Your Product to Life with Words

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Grainline Studio Scout Tee Printed Pattern

Grainline Studio brought their Scout Tee to life on the front of the envelope of the printed pattern. The copy starts with a description of the design (cap sleeves, scoop neck) and fit (fitted at shoulders; relaxed below bust). The last line, though, really brings the garment to life: “Perfect on its own for spring and summer and a great layering piece under blazers and cardigans the rest of the year.”

Grainline Studio Scout Tee 02
A description of the garment and how/when to wear it brings it to life, making the purchasing decision easier to make.

With that copy, I could easily imagine how and when I’d wear the shirt. Because of that, I was compelled to purchase the pattern–and make the shirt. When your customers can read how your product fits into their lives, it is that much easier for them to make the decision to purchase. Take the time to bring your product to life with words. Especially if photography isn’t an option due to printing space, budget constraints, or any other restrictions.

Click on over here to see my completed Scout Tee.

*If you have the eye of a proofreader, you’ll notice the typo in “Its fitted at the shoulders…” Yup, mistakes happen.

Copywriting Tip: Turn an Idiom Upside Down

Playing with a common saying can get your message across with a satisfying zing! It may be seen as “low-hanging fruit” in the world of copywriting, but used thoughtfully and sparingly, it’s memorable.

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Bring on Summer 2018 Victoria Secret Mailer

I recently received the “Bring on Summer 2018” mailer from Victoria’s Secret. Check out what they did here:

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When “getting your panties in a bunch” is a good thing: 5 for $28!

The writer really didn’t change the idiom— “get (one’s) panties in a bunch.” But, when paired with a visual of 9 panties and a 5 for $28 offer, the implication is that, yes, getting your panties in a bunch is actually a good thing!

It’s fun, memorable, and on-brand for Victoria’s Secret. Try it!

Copywriting Tip: Tell Me About Yourself

My updated “about” page.

On your business website, be sure to tell your current and future customers and business partners about yourself.

This year, I’m sending low-key “cold emails” to businesses in my community to introduce myself and ask them if they have any copywriting projects I can help with. I like to make my emails as personal as possible, addressing them to a person and not the business. But, you know what? A lot of businesses do not talk about the owner/founder on their website or social media pages. These aren’t huge businesses, either.

This is a missed opportunity. Part of the appeal of shopping locally and patronizing small businesses is knowing the owner or employees—or at least knowing of them and their story. Now, a business owner can’t be friends with everyone, but telling your current and future customers about yourself will help them quickly see you and your business as an integral part of their community, and want to not only patronize your business, but to champion it, recommending it to friends, family, and neighbors. And, in my case, having a good “about” page will allow potential business partners to get to know you, your business, and reach out in the most helpful way possible.

Not sure what to write about yourself? It’s hard! How do you balance personal information with your credentials?

Here’s my quick rule: Establish your authority by explaining why you are the absolute best person to accomplish your business’s purpose.

Be sure to mention that purpose, too! Then, add a personal tidbit or two: family, pets, or hobbies will do just fine.

I’ve encountered some business owners that are afraid of appearing too small. A fear that is grounded in anecdotes of being passed up by potential clients because they were perceived to not have the capacity to complete the project. But, sometimes when the “about” page only tells about the company, it looks like a one-person business trying to appear larger than it actually is. (Which just may be what’s actually happening.) The solution? Try an owner/founder story. This is a win-win: you give your business a personal touch, but still appear professional, regardless of your size.

And, because I want to you to trust my advice, I have revisited my own “about” page here. Take a look and let me know what you think!

If you need help sorting out the details you should include in your business’s “about” page, please reach out. I’d love to help! Also, you can check out this post on writing about yourself.

Copywriting Tip: Getting Started

Questions to ask when you’re staring at a blank page.

When you’re staring at a blank page, trying to write copy for your latest marketing piece, start by asking these questions:

  1. Who are you talking to?
  2. What they need to know?

Recently, I had someone reach out asking for help with writing a page for their website. They didn’t know what exactly they wanted or needed. This makes it tough for them (and for me!), but if you start with these basic questions, you can easily get on track.

The first question can be answered a lot of different ways. You may have data insights that tell you age, geographic location, and all kinds of good information. But, don’t worry if you do not have that level of information. Even if you are just making a really good guess at who your audience is, it will help.

The second question can be tricky. There’s a difference between what you want your customer to know and what they need to know. Here’s an anecdote from my personal experience to bring this to life.

Back when I finally decided to get a smartphone, I went into my provider’s shop to pick out a phone. I was leaning heavily towards the iPhone, but wasn’t 100% sure. So, when the salesperson approached me, I told him I was looking at an iPhone, but was open. And, I let him tell me about Android phones.

He started listing off a bunch of benefits and features (at the time) of Android phones: better for movies and games, larger screen, etc.. Every benefit was “meh” to me, because I didn’t want a smartphone to watch movies and play games on. He didn’t ask me what I was looking for in a smartphone, which (at the time) was to take pictures, access social media, and browse the internet. If he had asked that first, he would have been able to tell me how Android phones were able to do those tasks…or tell me that an iPhone was the better choice.

Sometimes, telling your customer what they need to know just means prioritizing the benefits of your product/service differently within your copy. Tell one group of customers about the convenience. Tell another group about the quality. Simply, tell them about the benefits that are most helpful to them.

Once you know the answers to those 2 questions, the information you need to include in your copy will become clear and the words will come easy.