Mel Henson, head of Words that Sell answers your questions....
Why do you specialise in home shopping and multichannel retail?
I like the immediacy and challenge of ecommerce websites and home shopping catalogues - you see very quickly if it is working or not. I also enjoy the fact that it has to be written within a highly rigid format but also offers scope for creativity.
Also important is having the skills and the team to manage large projects and take a lot of the stress away from the client.
What makes you different from other copywriters?
We write copy that sells rather than just 'words on paper'. I have personally trained and mentored all the Words that Sell writers, which guarantees you a single source of high quality content delivered to a deadline and on budget.
My background is in classical TV, press and radio advertising as well as direct marketing, working for top London advertising agencies. I've seen at first hand the power of brand advertising and the value of measuring and testing, and I bring all these techniques to the copy produced by Words that Sell.
I learned the craft of 'Salesmanship in words' at leading direct marketing agency 'Ogilvy & Mather Direct' nearly 20 years ago. I have also worked as an advertising executive producing TV commercials for top consumer brands such as Immac, Carte D'Or Ice Cream, Cornetto and Meliitta Coffee.
On a personal level, I have spent years both writing and studying copy and constantly keep up to date with ongoing training, attending conferences and seminars and professional reading - because it's a passion.
In 2012 I published, "Flicks & Clicks" a highly readable, step-by-step guide to creating websites and catalogues that sell more, with an endorsement by Drayton Bird and foreword by Nigel Swabey, Chairman of Scotts & Co.
Can you write search engine optimised (SEO) copy?
Yes. In today's digital age, it is an essential skill. More to the point, our copy doesn't just attract search engine spiders it appeals to human beings too. After all, they are the ones with the wallet and the credit cards - not the spiders.
Our approach is to ‘write natural’, ie: to weave in keywords as appropriate so that it flows and reads well. We also put the most important keywords early in the copy and in the sub-heads and bullets. If your web developer has a specific requirement then please let us know. Nowadays, it’s rare for a web developer to have specific requirements such as ‘mention such and such a word 4 times in every hundred’, but if they do, we can accommodate.
It's important that keywords read naturally and don't feel forced. No-one really knows what Google's spiders really look for as the algorithms change constantly. However, Google themselves state that they usually make changes to favour original, well-written, consumer-friendly copy. The company recommends this as "the single most important thing you can do" to improve your rankings, Underlying this is a common-sense philosophy. Google wants to give its searchers a good experience so that they continue to use Google, so it wants to point them towards consumer-centric, well-written websites.
We ask you to supply the keywords, and we don’t undertake keyword research unless you specifically ask us to, but we do use common sense and try to use words that customers are likely to use when looking for this particular product. We focus on being ‘clear, not clever’. Much as we’d like to include witty plays on words, search engine spiders don't have a sense of humour so we have to write in a way that they can understand.
Overlaid onto this the traditional requirement for copy to be so compelling that your customer wants to buy your product. After all there's no point in getting a potential customer to your site if they don't act once they get there, so good copy is more than just throwing a lot of keywords together and hoping for the best.
What consultancy services do you provide?
Because we specialise in multichannel retailers, I have a wealth of knowledge around catalogues and e-commerce sites. The areas where I can add most value are
- Advice on how to plan and lay out a website of catalogue (the all important flatplan)
- Advice on how to structure categories for websites
- Reviewing your catalogue or website to make key changes to remove barriers to sales and put in additional sales triggers
- Advice on positioning your brand
- Writing 'style-setting' copy to develop the tone of voice and format for a launch or re-positioning
- Training your staff
Our business is specialised. Have you ever written about widgets?
Chances are, I and my team will be completely new to your industry,especially if you sell technical or specialised product. However, this is often an advantage as we have an unprejudiced jargon-free view of your business and may see things from a fresh perspective.
The fundamentals don't change. Whatever business you're in we need to first understand your customers and prospects - what makes them tick, what their needs and beliefs are and so on. Then we need to understand your product or service (not just its features, but also the real benefit it offers your customers). And finally we apply our sales and writing techniques to create the most compelling way of getting your message across to your target.
Do you guarantee your work?
Yes. In the unlikely event that copy is delivered to you that does not meet the brief, we will re-write it until it does.
Why can't I write the copy myself?
Of course you can. Just as everyone who can boil an egg can open a restaurant.
I have studied the craft, read dozens of text books, worked alongside top professional writers and trained with leading copywriters like Drayton Bird, Bill Fryer and Andy Owen. Every year, I attend writing courses, seminars or conferences to sharpen my skills. I have years of experience and know from seeing real results what works - and how to apply it. That means you'll almost certainly get much better results than going it alone.
Using a professional copywriter usually means your project will be completed more quickly, with less hassle and better results than trying to do it yourself. In the long run, that's cheaper, and brings in more sales.
Do you do design, artwork, print or PR?
I regularly work with other talented, experienced professionals in these fields, and would be happy to recommend or put a team together for your project.
Can you provide references?
Yes. Take a look at the testimonials page of this site or my LinkedIn page. I can also put you in touch with clients directly - just ask.
How do you work?
When you need simple product copy, I can provide this cost-effectively through 'Words That Sell', a team of trained, experienced writers, who are specialists in mail order catalogues and websites. This is costed on a 'per patch' basis. (eg: an agreed sum per product, per category overview, per letter). The cost per patch is agreed at the outset, giving you complete control over the budget.
For more complex projects, such as developing a new brand positioning or working on microcopy messaging to improve conversions, then I handle this personally.
What is your background?
For the last five years, I have split my time equally between two roles. As Head of Creative for the international CRO agency, AWA digital, I have worked on web copy for clients including Mothercare, Dunelm, Thompson & Morgan and Canon.
As Head of Words that Sell, I and my team have written copy for some of the UK’s leading mail order companies including Aspace, Cotton Traders, Donald Russell, House of Bath and Muddy Puddles.
On the training side, I've run copywriting workshops for the University of Bedfordshire also trained copywriters at various client companies, including Kew Gardens, Davy’s and Lyco.
I began my career in over 20 years ago, working as an executive in top 20 London advertising agencies on consumer accounts including Veet hair remover, Carte D’Or Ice Cream and retail brands such as Currys and MFI. I learned the fundamentals of direct marketing at Ogilvy & Mather Direct, the world’s largest direct marketing agency.
In 1995, I moved to Luxembourg and began a new career as a features writer and copywriter. I returned to the UK three years later and practiced general copywriting before specialising in multi-channel retailing and setting up Words That Sell in 2005. Two years later, I expanded to take on a team of trained, specialist writers, in response to growing industry demand for well-priced, well-crafted, accurate product copy, delivered on time to a fixed budget.
I am a member of Catex (Catalogue Exchange) frequently speaking at conferences such as the Direct Commerce Association and the Professional Copywriter's Network. I am also on the judging panel for the ECMOD 360 awards and an Ambassador for Women's Enterprise.