Is giving someone copywriting advice like telling them what to wear?

Fashion advice_a

Where do you draw the line between listening to experts and listening to your inner knowing?

Today’s post was born (as so many things are in my business life) during a conversation with the awesome Kris Oster. I was wearing my business coachee hat at the time, and explaining to her that I felt like I needed to take a step back from absorbing everyone else’s wisdom and focus on connecting with my own inner knowing for a bit.

I talked about how frustrating it was that, when I “go with my gut” in my introvert business, I usually have a kind of moderate response. I usually sell my programmes or offerings, although not in any great numbers; and get mostly good feedback on them afterwards.

It’s the absolute epitome of so-so results.

I haven’t yet seen my sales increase through getting expert advice

As soon as I bring in paid experts to help me tweak the copy to up my conversion rate though? Suddenly, somehow, everything starts going to hell. That’s happened three times over three launches with three different awesome marketing experts now.

Each time, the expert I worked with someone for whom I had a lot of respect. Someone with whose values seemed to match mine pretty closely. And someone who’d been able to get fantastic results for other people I knew. And each time, I either sold one programme the entire launch (which has happened twice now), or none at all (which happened once).

(NOTE: to be fair, there was ONE occasion where I significantly increased the number of folks who signed up for a free webinar after getting an expert to tweak my registration page. But when it comes to paid programmes? Not so much.)

It’s crazy-making, especially given the results I seem to be able to get for my copywriting clients!

That’s when Kris compared the copywriting advice I’d been given to fashion policing

When I started talking about the changes that the expert had recommended to my copy, Kris was surprised. And she wondered idly if experts can EVER know the language that will resonate best with our clients better than we do.

In fact, she asked, isn’t telling someone what to say in their copy the same thing as telling them what to wear in their lives? Isn’t it every bit as inappropriate to erase people’s individual voices, and replace them with some kind of standard “marketing copy style” instead?

It’s a great question: especially for someone like me who offers copywriting services as a core part of their business.

Here’s how I see the answer to her question

Yes, in some ways, telling people what copy they should and shouldn’t use is like telling them what they should and shouldn’t wear. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s face it: we tell people what they can and can’t wear all the time in the business world. To be taken serious at a certain level in the corporate world, you need to wear a suit (or at least formal businesswear). Wear that same suit teach a practical workshop for yoga teachers or sustainable farming types, though, and you risk undermining your message.

Why? Because your clothes tell the people you’re talking to that you don’t really understand them or what they do.

Language is much the same. You need to know the terms your ideal clients use – and (perhaps more importantly) the ones that will turn them off.

But there’s a big difference between applying general advice, and using your clients’ language

I think one of the biggest problems with “expert copywriting advice” is that it tends to come in one-size-fits-all formats. Looking back, it occurs to me that some of the advice I’ve been told to incorporate that’s had me falling flat on my face is firmly in that camp. You know, things like:

  • Don’t ever make your call-to-action conditional (e.g. “If that sounds like you, click the button below”)
  • Don’t ever talk about feelings when you’re connecting with people’s pain points
  • Always put an availability limit on your offerings, and include the number you have left on or next to every buy button

It may be true that there’s research that shows that each of those techniques is likely to improves conversion. It’s equally true that “is likely to” doesn’t mean “will definitely do so for you”: especially if the audience in the study isn’t a good match for your readers.

So to me, the issue isn’t that copywriting advice is like enforcing a dress code…

Instead, it’s that general, “always do this” copywriting advice is like enforcing the same dress code on every one indiscriminately, regardless of who – and where – they happen to be. It’s the assumption that what works for one person or group of people will automatically work for everyone.

I feel as though I’ve seen pretty clearly that that just isn’t the case during my first year of offering introvert coaching. Which leaves me, of course, with the question of, “Well if that doesn’t work, what will?”

To be honest, I have no idea at this stage. But whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve going back to my people and starting with what feels right to them.

What do you think?

Do you ever find yourself confused about when you’re supposed to follow expert advice, and when you should just trust your intuition? Ever found yourself in a situation where what your readers say they want going directly counter to the marketing guidance you’ve been given?

What did you end up doing? And how did that choice work out for you?

If you’re willing to share it, I’d love to hear your story in the comments below

Posted in Business building, Copywriting, Marketing, Personal posts | 1 Comment

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