Language is your secret weapon to reach into your clients’ hearts and minds
The work you love doing becomes successful by your instinctive ability to reach your client. You do this in your sessions with the words you choose, the setting your work in…you offer safety and comfort. Your clients can feel you and your interest.
But when your future clients are checking your social media and website – do they ‘hear’ you?
Social media and blogs, emails, case studies are different kinds of copy. And in all of them, you need your clients to have a sense of who you are. And in copywriting, it’s the style and words you decide to use that counts.
Communication is emotional
Given the scope of the self-help industry, your copy needs to make an emotional connection with your clients. And to do that you need to use some basics.
1. Writing simply – the magic of the FK score
Let’s start with a key tool tucked away in the editing menu in Word.
Do you know what an FK is?
It’s OK. It’s nothing bad. It’s very simple.
‘FK’ stands for Flesch-Kincaid. And it’s about how easy your writing is to understand.
If you’re already using the FK to improve your writing, then you know the writing is scored according to four categories: the words, the length of sentences, the number of sentences and number of paragraphs.
Why should you care?
If you’re trying to reach out to clients, a rule of thumb is your materials should have an FK score around grade 6. This is considered to be a good level for most people to read easily and quickly.
This is also called ‘plain language’ and it started in America in 1975. But, more about that in a second.
Choosing to write at a grade 6 level, simply requires two things:
- You have to fully understand what you’re writing about
- You have to be able to edit beautifully.
Using plain language is a skill set few people bother learning because they don’t understand its value in their marketing materials.
Here’s three typical questions I hear (over and over) when training people:
- “Plain language is for stupid people. Won’t my clients feel like I’m ‘talking down’ to them?”
When you’re skilled at using plain language, it sounds natural. You’re more easily understood and appear to be more approachable. The use of plain language is warm engagement. It’s not patronizing.
- “I work in a highly specialized field and the information cannot be simplified.”
Well, chances are it can be simplified. We’re talking about language. Language is used to explain ideas or concepts. It might take longer to simplify complicated or technical concepts, but it can be done.
- “I’m too smart to do this. I don’t need to. People understand me now, so I don’t need to do this.”
My advice, throw your ego out the window and develop this new skill. When I’ve watched people struggle to do this, it’s because they’re intellectually lazy. They try once, maybe twice, then give up.
OK – do you notice a common theme in the questions? Yup. Resistance.
And that’s a mindset which holds people back.
5 tips for getting a lower FK score (see this article’s score at the end)
- Delete extra words
- Use words of one or two, sometimes three, syllables
- Keep sentence length to 5-7 words
- Keep paragraphs short
Quick glance at 1975 and the roots of plain language
Back in the mid 1970’s American legal communities in a handful of States started using consumer-friendly language.
Then banking (i.e. Citibank) and other financial institutions started to follow along. And more states joined in. If anyone can remember insurance waivers (and they can still be improved!) from the 1970’s, you know exactly what I mean.
By the mid-1990’s Legislation took hold because, frankly, using plain language was a good idea.
Would you like a little proof? Here’s a ‘before and after’ piece from an old insurance procedure manual:
Make sure that the account holder’s name on the account is the same as the name of the customer to whose account transaction should be attributed.
Make sure that this is the account for the right customer.
Do I need to say anything more about the value of plain language?
2. Use persuasive language
There aren’t any hard rules about this. It’s a lot of common sense.
Think to a time when you convinced your partner or a date to try something you wanted to do, or the time you convinced your boss to give you a raise or parking spot. Or maybe the time you spent being interviewed for a job you really wanted?
What did you say and were you sincere?
Being persuasive is a skill set to a point. It involves excellent listening skills, the ability to see another’s viewpoint and to be clear in your intention.
It can be a logical discussion but there’s always emotion behind it – somewhere. People connect with emotion, then logic.
Persuasive language can be used in negative ways. But you use it for good. It’s your authenticity that rings true. Persuading people is easier when you believe in what you’re saying.
Some of the world’s most respected people use hypnotic language skills. If you’re speaking there’s a rhythm you develop, a cadence that’s soothing or invigorating. It’s rhythm and tone. Consider Martin Luther King, Dr. Wayne Dyer, or listen to Maya Angelou recite one of her pieces.
If you’re writing, you’ll intertwine words with punctuation to create a picture and emotion in the reader’s mind. It too takes on a rhythm and transports the reader into the story. Agatha Christie used the skill.
3. It’s a conversation; not a lecture
Shirley Polykoff, a master of conversational copywriting, lived by her rule: “Copy is a conversation with the consumer.”
As with persuasive language, this is a skill mixed with common sense and social intelligence.
When you’re creating your copy for a blog or article, write as if you’re chatting over a cup of coffee. Get your ideas out in normal language. Not the high falutin’ academic tone. Friendly, warm, and inviting are all good tones to start writing with.
Remember who your client is.
Your clients take an emotional risk when they choose you to help them. They need to be honest, look into difficult spaces, sometimes do very deep work. To do that, they need to trust you.
Their first impression of you is often from what they read on your website or blog. They can start to trust you by how you write to them in your copy.
What does your client need to hear from you or know about you? You decide that. Then, take the time to craft your writing to build that trust, professionalism so they are reassured, and ‘open’ so they don’t worry about feeling judged.
If you’re struggling to do this, take a day or two and record conversations you have. Then, transcribe them and use those samples to start.
This is copy for connecting with your clients.
Nobody – absolutely nobody – ever wants to be lectured or talked ‘at.’
This isn’t academia, or a lecture hall. But, hey – a good lecture is informational and conversational. Those are the ones you remember!
Need a boost? Listen to some TED Talks you enjoy. Notice the speakers are having conversations with the audience. And you might notice TED Talks take complex ideas and break them down in simpler ones.
Putting it together – simple, persuasive and conversational
Because of the work you do, most of you will instinctively be using these three points already.
The more you write, the easier it becomes.
What takes you three or four hours for a blog post, will eventually take you an hour.
Are you doing case studies or longer articles? The more you do them, the quicker you become.
It’s worth your time to thoughtfully review all your written material and ensure it is consistent in tone, attitude, language. It’s easy to get lost in writing without realizing it and wander off….
One last tip:
When you’re writing anything, a practical tip is this: have someone read it back to you. Listen closely and answer:
- Do you like it? Why?
- Does it resonate with you? Why?
- Is everything clear? Why?
Next, take a couple of days and leave it alone. Let your mind take a rest from it. Then with fresh eyes and ears, read it out loud again and listen to how it flows. Or read it to someone who hasn’t heard it and get their feedback.
Repeat until you’re really happy with it.
Writing your own copy for all your needs can take a lot of energy, research, imagination and time.
If you aren’t working with a copywriter considering checking a freelance writer out, OR or dedicate time to fine tune your skills. Take a week and practice. And practice. And practice.
PS! This article has an FK score of Grade 5.4?