Thursday, July 9, 2009

On the Value of Good Writing

Talking to a middleman client I work with sometimes, he told me why he sometimes has difficulty selling writing services along with his graphic design: "the client usually has a volunteer just write something quick," he said, "and it winds up sounding awful."

It astounds me that in a world of people who are business-savvy, they have no idea of the value of good copywriting. It creates problems for writers who work with smaller, less-experienced businesses run by people who think anyone can write as well as anyone else.

But here's the thing: writing is sales.

Paying top dollar for slick-looking brochures and then letting volunteers write the copy is like paying thousands for a gorgeous trade show booth and thousands more for a spot at the most well-attended, well-known trade show in your industry, where you'll have access to all the major players--and then staffing your booth with volunteers with no sales experience.

Yes, you've got the booth to catch the eye. Yes, You've got the right positioning. But if your salespeople can't drive the message home, you won't recoup your investment.

The same applies with articles. I was in discussion the other day with someone I thought was a serious SEO content client. Turns out they were baffled as to why I charge what I do when other writers charge as low as $5 per article.

My answer: Would you want to trust your online reputation to someone who charges $5 per page?

There are internet marketing gurus who claim that online sales depends entirely on writing--that graphics and even usability come second. I'm not unwilling to believe them. What good is a beautiful website for your online catalogue if people like looking but can't be convinced to buy? What good is usability if people can find your sales page easily, but don't want to open their wallets? And what's the point of SEO if the world beats a path to your door, only to find you're not offering what they want?

Writing is persuasion. That kind of writing takes work--it takes client interviews, market analysis and marketing expertise, not to mention the ability to express why your product is better than the competition's. And you can't buy good persuasion on pennies per word.


Michael Sebastian said...

Writing is persuasion.

A point that seems to elude most practitioners in my field of interest, photography. As a group, photographers are the worst spellers and writers in the online universe. I realize that your post was about more than mere spelling; but it's all part of the greater whole, effective communication.

Some would say it doesn't matter--as long as the meaning gets through, who cares about the spelling? But sloppiness in this area reflects a disorderliness of mind, in my opinion, that reflects poorly on the individual in other respects.

But I'm a dinosaur.

Jennifer Williamson said...

Nope, you're right on point.

Bad spelling and grammar absolutely matter because if you get that wrong, you come off looking unintelligent. And a lot of readers can't look past that to take in your message. They won't walk away thinking "wow, I'd better hire that guy." They'd walk away thinking "I can't believe that doof doesn't know the difference between 'your' and 'you're.'"

It also indicates sloppiness--and if this person doesn't care about the details with their own marketing, are they going to care about the details when you hire them to do a job?

Robin said...

Also, a volunteer writer within the organization may not have the right perspective to persuade the audience, even if the writing is ok. An outside content writer brings past experience and a more objective eye to the problem.