In this article, Kate Toon shares her insights and best practices for effective copywriting.
- Q: How did you get into copywriting and content marketing?
- Q: What is the process in the copywriting guide that you advise copywriters to create and bring in the most value to their clients?
- Q: What are some of the challenges you see in these small companies and businesses that they are facing to really stand out and get through to the target audience?
- Q: How can companies and organizations stand out from the crowd, communicate to the target audience, and have that personal touch with them?
- Q: How to overcome irrational fear when communicating with the audience?
- Q: What are the best channels for brand promotion and communications?
- Q: How do you see the connection between becoming good in SEO and utilizing data and numbers to connect that with genuine writing?
- Q: What do some writers and content creators miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
- Q: What advice would you give to someone who has been writing and wants to reach the top of the field?
Q: How did you get into copywriting and content marketing?
Well, I started a long time ago, and I didn’t do anything to do with content marketing, nothing to do with advertising. When I left university, I hoped to be a magazine writer, but that didn’t turn out. So I worked in events, and then the strange thing came along called the Internet.
So back in about 1997, I built one of the first websites in the UK, the first major website for a brand called Marks and Spencers. It was the first e-commerce store in the UK, and I got the bug for digital marketing in general.
After that, I worked at big agencies like Ogilvy and advertising.com as a producer and also as a copywriter. Then about 12 years ago, I went out on my own as a freelancer, set up keep tuned.com, and started as a freelancer.
I was doing a bit of graphic designing, a bit of coding, and a bit of email, but over time, the niche that I kind of went into was SEO copywriting because I just saw a gap in the market, particularly for a female it was a very male-dominated market.
I saw that people really didn’t understand how copywriting and SEO could come together.
I worked as a freelancer for about five years, and then I started to build course resources and move from that one-to-one model to a one-to-many model.
I also started the clever copywriting School, which is what teaches copywriters how to be better copywriters, so not just the writing, but also the business, the mindset, the process, and now I kind of would call myself more of a generalist digital marketing coach.
So it’s been 12 years that I’ve been running my business, and I’ve got lots of different things going on, as you heard, but essentially, it’s all about the written word and making that work.
Q: What is the process in the copywriting guide that you advise copywriters to create and bring in the most value to their clients?
The biggest tip for writing copy is to really just listen to your customer. I think it applies to copywriters, digital marketers, content marketers, and just business owners. You know, especially as a copywriter, we go through a briefing process where we ask the client questions, and sometimes I just feel that often, we don’t really listen to the answers.
We don’t even listen to how they speak and the idioms and slang they use. And we don’t know then what to be done?
We need to be challenging with our clients and say I know you think your audience is this, but maybe your audience is this, and I know you want to talk about your product or service in this way, but maybe we should change it and talk about it in this way, maybe we should be different and not follow the crowd.
So I think listening to your client, in terms of running a business and being a freelance copywriter or being an internet marketer, I have a rule of three, I’m trying to get the right number of fingers.
Three things that I use to really make any decision in my business, I always think, does the customer want it? It’s really important; is that desire in the market for the thing that I’m going to sell the service I’m going to offer?
Then the next thing is, will it make me money? Because those two things don’t always match up? Yeah, the world wants it, but they’re not willing to pay for it.
The final thing is, this is so important, which I think is often underestimated by business people is “will I enjoy it?” Will I enjoy doing it, not the end results, not the glory when the job is done and the invoices paid, or I’m on stage at some big conference getting clapped?
So do customers want it? Will I enjoy the process of doing it, the boring bits, the grubby bits? Will it make me money? And will I enjoy it because as a business owner, you’ve got to enjoy your day, you know, we’re not here working for the man. We want to enjoy our day and feel like we’ve done a good day’s work.
Q: What are some of the challenges you see in these small companies and businesses that they are facing to really stand out and get through to the target audience?
Great question. I think there are a couple of things that I think that a lot of small businesses haven’t really worked out, like what their unique selling proposition is, who they are, what they do, who they do it for, and why they do it it better than anybody else.
Because there are many copywriters who work with small businesses, who offer website copy, but what makes you different is how you do it differently. Your approach, your mindset, your customer service level. So I think that’s really important.
Then I think I’m very much based in the world of Google and search engine marketing, trying to stand out online.
You know, we’re up against big brands with big budgets, and it can seem for a small business, or you know, a freelancer, that you’ve got no chance. But Google says that something like 13% of the queries that are typed into Google has never been seen before.
There is an infinite amount of ways that people can find you. Not everybody is typing copywriter in Vietnam. Not everybody is looking for a website or copywriters in Sydney.
Maybe someone right at the top of the funnel might be just wondering, how can I improve my writing on my website? They’re asking you those questions, and no matter how big the other brands are, they can’t cover every single question in the world.
So it’s all about, you know, thinking again, listening to your customer, understanding their pain points, and then offering services pages and resources that suit those pain points, whether it’s a blog, a podcast, a Facebook video, or an igtv.
Being the person that helps the PERT helps them solve their problem. What do we feel after someone’s solved our problem? We feel like we know them. We feel like we like them and buy from people we trust.
So I think being a problem solver and, again, truly understanding your customer’s pain points is the key.
Q: How can companies and organizations stand out from the crowd, communicate to the target audience, and have that personal touch with them?
While again, you just said the word that I wanted to say, which is the personal touch, I love it. And I think, although I am a writer and a big believer in the written word, I’m very conscious that a lot of people like to digest content.
You can see this gigantic microphone I have here; I’m a podcaster. That’s a great way of making a connection with a customer. It’s a very intimate relationship, you know, you’re usually like walking your dog or making dinner listening to a podcast.
I think the other one is visual; you know, we all love videos, whether we have the sound on or off, and now all the social media channels, LinkedIn, Instagram, whatever, are embracing video, live video.
Now we have clubhouse as well, which has just recently launched, which is an audio platform. So I think the reward is important. Yeah, I mean, to do a good podcast, or to do a good interview, you have to write the questions out, you still have to write.
But I think connecting your face with your words, you know, people want to look into the whites of your eyes and see that you’re a nice person that they can connect with you.
And you know, especially in 2020, when we couldn’t physically meet, I think we all understood that you could have a huge amount of connection just on the screen.
So I think the opportunity lies in being brave, stepping out in front of your business, representing your brand, not hiding behind a logo, showing people who you are, and talking about your subject matter expertise.
Q: How to overcome irrational fear when communicating with the audience?
Yeah, I mean, the next book that I’m writing is called be more shark about being fearless. Yeah. I think slowly, slowly, you know, when you first start making Facebook, live videos, whatever, no one’s probably watching anyway, so you can build up your confidence.
You know, they say that the life of a video or something on Facebook is seven hours. So after seven hours, it’s dropped out of everybody’s feed anyway, so you just have to experiment, and you will always get haters, people who write negative comments and say nasty stuff.
But you can’t let some complete stranger in their garage in Utah put you off living your best life and sharing; I really believe this. I’ve spoken on stages all over the world, and I’ve overcome my imposter syndrome and fear.
Because I think that 99% of the audience wants you to do well, they are really pumping for you. They will really hope they are looking at you thinking this is going to be great.
People don’t want you to fail. And if you just accept that, and also just, you know, what’s the worst that can happen?
I remember I fell over on stage at a conference, and I fell over in such a way that I didn’t even manage to get my hands down. So I fell on my face, and for the whole presentation, one side of my face was just bright red and all the photographs I’ve got like, and it was fine. It was fine.
No one remembers, they enjoyed the content, and no one remembers that you get up, you carry on, and you keep on keeping on.
Be brave, and we all get better. You know, I think I’ve done something like 350 episodes of my podcast. Suppose you go back and listen to the first ones. They’re terrible. They’re embarrassing.
I stutter, pause, giggle, and I know that It doesn’t matter. You know, it’s all part of the journey. And I think people are very much more forgiving than we think they are.
Q: What are the best channels for brand promotion and communications?
I think it takes a degree of understanding of where your audience already is. I think we know that the older age group is more on Facebook, the younger generations more on Snapchat and Tiktok. So you know, there’s no point, if you’re like six-year-old insurance that I started dancing around on Tiktok, it’s not gonna work for you, but it’s going to be rather embarrassing.
I think the most important thing is to find the platform where your audience is and just try to choose one platform. I think people try and spread themselves too thin, try all things to all people. It’s exhausting.
I mean, if we talk about a video, the video can go on every platform, and if you spent the time repurposing it and cutting it down and meeting the specifications, it’s spent all day, and as a solo business person, you don’t have the time to do that.
So I think you do one platform really well; I will always, at heart, feel that SEO is the top marketing strategy because I know the statistics bear out that something like 70% of all business transactions, all transactions on the web, whether it’s service or E-commerce, start with a Google search and the Google still has the biggest global share.
So I always think SEO is one of the best ways to be found. After that, I think email marketing is an amazing way to build connections. Then I think social media is a great place to build brand awareness, conversation, and community.
But at the end of the day, if I want to make a sale, I’m far more likely to make it by an SEO course than I am if someone randomly sees an Instagram picture of my dog and me on a particular day.
Do you know what I mean? So it’s a holistic affair, and ideally, hopefully, you do everything, you know, but I think that’s very overwhelming. Do one channel well, think about where your audiences focus on SEO and email marketing, and everything will probably work out in the end.
Q: How do you see the connection between becoming good in SEO and utilizing data and numbers to connect that with genuine writing?
Yeah, I mean, in SEO, we talk about customer intent, and there are four core types of customer intent; conversion intent, information intent, investigation intent, and navigational intent.
So obviously, conversion intent is the one that we want the most where somebody wants to buy something. Information intent is somebody wanting to know something, Investigation intent is somebody wanting to compare x with y, and navigation intent is I just want to find this thing.
I want to find the login page for my bank. So I think we really need to connect that with the buyer journey. Somebody who is at the top of the funnel, who’s never heard of SEO or anything like that, what would they be typing into Google?
You know, they’d probably be typing; why isn’t my site showing up on Google? So as I said earlier, if I can have content that helps with that, I could maybe move them along to the middle of the funnel.
So middle of the funnel is somebody that has a problem and knows a solution, and they’re actually searching for the solution. So they’re not asking, Why isn’t my site ranking on Google?
They’re looking for an affordable beginner SEO course because if someone searches for that, and I can give them information, they move to the bottom of the funnel, and at the bottom of the funnel, people are searching for brands and products.
So those people are typing in Kate toons SEO course. They built up a relationship with me, so it all just interconnects you.
You got to understand where your audience is and who your audience is and whether they live on Instagram, On Facebook, on Google. Then what problems they have, where they are in that problem journey, and then produce content that matches that.
Then the analytics come in using tools to go well. So is an SEO course going to give me more volume of traffic than SEO training? You know, it could be as simple as that which one’s more difficult to get, which one has more competition, and that’s where the data comes in.
But really, I think it’s about, again, understanding your audience, listening, thinking about their pain points, and then producing content that matches their intent.
Q: What do some writers and content creators miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
It depends. We talked before about newbie copywriters and experienced copywriters. So I think newbies don’t have confidence, and they can find it very hard to put their hand and go; I am a copywriter, and this is what I’m doing.
I think it’s just about having the boldness to step out and to start trying to accept that, yeah. You don’t have as much experience as this person, but you’re probably not charging what that person is either. So that’s okay.
And some people won’t be able to afford that fancy pants copywriter. They’ll want to work with more of a starter copywriter so they can build a relationship. So yeah, I think that’s it in terms of creating the gap in the process.
I’m not sure there’s necessarily the same gap for all copywriters. I think it depends. I think a lot of people start out as copywriters because they think they’re good writers.
But being a successful copywriter is about 50% to do with writing and about 50% to do with being a good business owner, treating your clients well and your customer service, your sales, your marketing, and how you manage your finances and your budget.
I know lots of amazing writers who are appalling business owners, and they don’t succeed. You can be a mediocre writer and a good business person and do very, very well, so it’s that combination of writing and business acumen all mixed up together.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who has been writing and wants to reach the top of the field?
I think that people will always pay more for specialists. You know, we go and see the general doctor, and we pay one price, we go and see the brain surgeon, we’re willing to pay a little bit more, and I think the same applies with copywriting.
So I think finding a niche can be really useful, and you can choose a niche by industry. I’m going to be a medical copywriter. I’m going to be a finance copywriter.
You need to buy a channel and go to be a website copywriter or a video scripts copywriter, or you can get niche kind of almost by the audience; I’m going to be a copywriter for entrepreneurs, I’m going to be a copywriter for business coaches, etc.
So I think finding a niche is really important. I think stopping charging by the hour is really important, and instead of charging by the project so that you’re doing value-based pricing rather than going well, it’s gonna take me an hour, but it’s this much money.
You want to stop yourself from being a commodity, and you want to stop yourself from being compared to copywriters on Fiverr and freelancer.com. So charging like that and I also think again, stepping out from in front of your business being the face of your business.
You know you got to hustle a little bit. There are so many copywriters, and often copywriters are quite introverted. That’s why we’re copywriters. We just want to hide and type, but you’ve got to be brave enough to maybe go out there and share your thoughts and tips and opinions so that people go.
We want, ultimately, people to remember your name. So do whatever you can to make people remember your name.