Context is everything, especially if you want your marketing content to be seen, understood and welcomed.
Missing details, making assumptions about what your reader knows, and mismatching an offer can all damage your marketing.
In this short episode you’ll discover:
- Why even one small missing detail can change the entire meaning of a story.
- Two questions to help you add context to every piece of marketing you write.
- How to think laterally to cross-sell products, but without going so far that your marketing becomes unwanted spam.
Want me to answer a question or cover a specific topic? Let me know in the comments below.
- Register for the Write with Influence course
Hello and welcome to episode six of Write with Influence where I share my persuasive writing and messaging techniques for making more sales in your business. Today I am talking about the importance of context when it comes to copywriting. Without the proper context, your offer might be ignored, misunderstood, or even unwelcome to your target market.
So, let’s start with a story. . .
One day my mum receives a phone call. It was a lady asking if she would be open to fostering two young brothers. My mum had recently registered her interest in being a foster parent to children who may need a temporary place to stay. So, mum said “Yes, I’m absolutely interested,” and the lady explained that, because the children in question were brothers, ideally, she’d like to keep them together, which my mum fully understood and said that that would be fine. “There’re just a few things you need to know” the lady said, “They can be a bit of a handful.” Now, my mum had spent years working with young children with a range of learning and behavioural needs, so this didn’t really phase her, but she obviously asked the lady if she could tell her more. So, the lady said,
“Well, they can be a bit rambunctious, they are very lively, lots of energy, and they do like to climb on furniture and sometimes they can get on top of tables and worktops.”
OK, thought my mum, I’ll keep an eye on them! And the lady continued,
“You know, they also have this habit of stealing food if it’s out or if it’s uncovered. We have had people turn their backs and their entire dinner has disappeared!”
My mum just really felt sympathy for these two boys wondering what they could have possibly been through that made them so desperate for food and needing to steal it. But then the lady continued and said,
“Also, you must never let them go outside unless you’ve got a very, very tight hold of them because they will run away and they won’t come back. And finally, this is a little bit strange but, please remember to lock any doors to rooms with electrical equipment in them because in the past, they have been known to sneak behind the TV and chew through all of the cables and they will definitely chew through your shoes and slippers.”
At this point, my mum wavered. It sounded like these two little boys may just be too much for her to handle after all, but then she stopped and she realised what might have happened.
“Sorry, where are you calling from again?”
“The Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue Centre. You registered as a foster parent?”
Then everything clicked into place! In addition to mum registering her interest to be a foster parent to children, she’d also done the same to foster lurchers, greyhounds and whippets that needed temporary homes. The lady had forgotten to mention the fact that she was calling from the Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue Centre when she started her phone call, she simply said, “We have you down as interested to be a foster parent.” The lady on the phone had two very young whippets that needed somewhere to stay!
Without the right context, the behaviour of the two brothers was becoming harder and harder to understand. Now, my mum did take them in. Yes, they did steal food, they chewed shoes, they jumped up onto the dining room table and they were an absolute delight!
So, how can you test your copy to make sure that it has the right context? Here are just two questions that will stop you from making some big mistakes:
- What have they seen before your marketing message that you’re sending out to them?
- Is it a good match (whatever it is that you’re sending them) to what you know your customer is interested in?
So first of all, what have they seen before and does your current marketing message make sense? This is easiest to explain with an example of sending out an email offer. Just because someone is on your list, does not mean they are waiting with bated breath for your next email. When sending emails out, you should be letting people know why you’re emailing them – why are you sending this particular communication their way? Now, a good practice is to tell readers that they are getting the email from you because you subscribe to my newsletter or you signed up for one of my webinars and we have some relevant information to follow on from that etc. Unfortunately, I do see some marketers do this really badly and I have had emails come through in the past and thought, I have no idea why I’m getting this. Once I look closer, the tiny print will say, “You’re getting this marketing subscription email because you came to one of our events/ one of our partner’s events,” or, “You once walked past a pub that was next to an event that we were having.” You get the picture – don’t do this. Make sure there is a sensible continuation of the conversation. If you haven’t emailed them before, explain why you’re emailing them now and if you haven’t emailed them in a while, make sure it still makes sense for you to turn up in their inbox.
[NEW SCENE – JIM CALLING ON EX GIRLFRIEND]
DOORSTEP – DAY
JIM: I’ve got the tickets.
EX: Is that you Jim? Gosh, it’s been . . .
JIM: Seven years. Seven years since you and I dated and . . . remember you wanted to go on a river cruise down the Danube and I said no, because I was busy? Well I’m not busy anymore. Pack your bags!
EX: It’s a bit out of the blue.
JIM: Not really. I’ve been thinking about this every day for the last seven years.
EX: OK, that’s a bit odd. I mean, it’s out of the blue for me. I haven’t seen you in a long time. I’m married now. I have dog. I’m not going with you on this cruise.
JIM: Wow. I was not expecting that. Talk about playing with someone’s emotions.
Make sure your marketing makes sense when it is pieced together for the customer. If you have an email that goes to a landing page and then that goes on to a ‘Thank you’ page, even though you may have written those pieces individually and you may have written them at separate times, when the customer passes through them, they have to make sense as a whole.
The next way to make sure your marketing has strong context to your customer is to ask yourself whether the right people are getting the right message from you. Now, if someone decides to opt into a list, there are some assumptions you can make about their interests and yes, you can use that for future offers. For example, someone who signs up to get marketing information related to their pet’s health may be interested in hearing about pet insurance or new brands of pet food, but bad marketing tends to make a much more tenuous link between what they know the customer is interested in and what they try to sell them.
One company that does this marketing really well in terms of thinking laterally about what’s relevant to a customer is a company called Zalando.
Recently, I watched a talk by a panel of gentlemen that worked for Zalando and found it fascinating as they gave a really good example of how they cross sell to their audience. They explained that Zalando is an online platform that offers fashion and lifestyle products to more than 17 European countries. They have hundreds of thousands of products and they use sophisticated machine learning to help pair customers with the right products. So, someone looking at a red pair of shoes, for example, might not just be shown other shoes, but other items in that specific red or other items that match the season or the sort of general style of those original shoes. Brilliant.
Unlike Zalando, there is some bad marketing out there that takes a scant piece of information about someone and designs a whole marketing campaign around it. For example, as part of my online presence, I have a blog, but just because I have a blog doesn’t mean I wanted the unsolicited email I got selling “Five high quality blog posts for only $249.” Even if they did only have “25 of these deals available,” with that kind of offer ($49.80 for a single blog post) and that kind of marketing, I’m going to guess that, like my last online dating experience, this is not only a completely mismatched offer, but probably also much lower quality than expected.
[NEW SCENE- MALE AND FEMALE ON BLIND DATE]
RESTAURANT – NIGHT
FEMALE: Oh, you’re already here! I thought I was early . . .
MALE: You are. I’m earlier
FEMALE: You ordered wine? The dating agency said you liked wine.
MALE: Love it. This is my second bottle. It’s definitely going to help make you more interesting.
FEMALE: Oh, Hemingway?
MALE: No, I think it’s a Malbec.
FEMALE: Right . . .
MALE: They said you worked in online marketing?
FEMALE: Well, I . . .
MALE: Do you have a yacht?
MALE: All those online marketing people have yachts.
FEMALE: I don’t have a yacht.
MALE: Can you get a yacht?
FEMALE: Probably not by this evening.
FEMALE: I work in communication. The agency said you worked in the communication department of your company.
MALE: You know those private parking firms that overcharge and have stealthy inspectors to slam you with extortionate fines?
MALE: I work in their appeals department – lots of communication needed there.
FEMALE: Helping people appeal?
MALE: Shutting them down. “Oh, you were an inch over the line?” Boom – £50. “Two minutes late while you visited your sick relative?” Bang – £80 reduced to £50 if you pay within five days. I love it. The banter, the lingual dexterity you need to combat every whine, moan, cry for mercy. I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve made a pensioner cry before breakfast.
FEMALE: Oh . . .
MALE: I can see you’re impressed! I think the agency got it right this time. We’re going to get on famously, especially if you can get that yacht.
Well, that finishes today’s episode. So, remember when it comes to writing copy that your customers will actually enjoy, context is everything.
Don’t forget, if you have a copy question you want answering, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on the podcast page over at www.writewithinfluence.com
Until next time, keep believing.