You don’t need to be a subject matter expert to write fabulous copy

(In fact, it’s best you don’t have any experience at all)

The first question I’m asked by potential clients is how much experience I have writing for their industry.

There are two possible responses to this:

  • lie and think of a number and bluff my way through the resulting conversation
  • be honest and convince them that having experience is not a necessity and they’ll get better copy because their industry is new to me

Being the well-brought-up young lady that I am, I always tell the truth.

Sometimes this will backfire, and my honesty is scoffed at and they head off to find someone who has experience in their sector.

However, those who are serious about commissioning a writer to create original, high-quality content that will make them stand out in their industry say, “great, that’s not a problem.”

Detailed knowledge of an industry kills your creativity. You become so indoctrinated by what you know, without realising it you’re churning out the same-old-same-old that’s on every website within the sector. You’re using the same tone of voice. Basically, you’re creating sheep copy.

Experience is bad 

Generally, experience is a good thing, especially in the world of recruitment.

But in the world of copywriting, it is a bad thing.

Business owners like to think their businesses are unique. They want to be seen as innovative, daring, professional, friendly etc. So why do they insist on working with writers who’ve written for their industry before?

Surely their marketing is more likely to stand out if someone with no previous knowledge of their market, product or service writes it?

Let’s look at the evidence.

I don’t understand the jargon

Every industry has its own jargon.

Whether it’s acronyms or techie language, your everyday interactions will be riddled with it.

When you talk it sounds like you’re speaking a different language.

When you write it makes no sense.

So, if you use a writer who’s spent a lot of time in your industry the chances are, they’ve been indoctrinated in your jargon and that’s how they will write.

The end result may sound great to you, but to your audience, it will be incomprehensible.

Never assume

Too much knowledge of an industry also means your writer begins at the wrong point.

They’ll already be several steps ahead of your audience because there will be stuff that you do that they take for granted.

It’s important to remember that, for many, this piece of writing (whether for the web or brochure) will be the first contact they have with your company. That’s why it’s important to tell them everything rather than assuming they have a certain knowledge level.

Why are you buying?

Customers will have their own reason for buying your product or service and you can be pretty sure it’s not the reason you dreamt up in the Boardroom.

Again, if your writer is experienced in your industry, they may well come to your project blinkered by what they’ve done before.

Rather than thinking “I wonder what motivates your customers?”, they’ll come in with preconceived ideas.

It’s important to look at the specific audience the product or service is being pitched at to decide the most likely reasons for buying.

What are the benefits?

Briefing your writer involves identifying the tangible benefits your company offers your customers.

Again, as with the previous section, if your writer has written extensively for your industry, they may well plump for benefits that are commonplace without taking a careful look at your unique selling points.

Every business offers customers different benefits, and a writer with little or no experience in your industry is more likely to spot these. They will be able to place themselves in the shoes of your audience and think critically about what it would mean to them if they used your product or service.

They’ll come up with benefits that you have probably never before considered. As a result, they’ll create empathetic content that will really resonate with your customers.

Taking a different approach

Let’s say for argument’s sake you work in the financial services industry – in particular pensions.

I’m willing to bet that if you pulled up all the websites of your main competitors, 90% would be similar.

They use the same imagery, messaging, benefits etc. And I bet they’re all market leaders in their field.

Using a writer with little or no experience in your industry will open up a whole new world of possibilities.

They won’t be blinkered by the ‘standard approach’; they’ll inject personality, be brave enough to take new approaches and create unique messaging that will make your proposition stand out.

Granted, the imagery side of things will have to be addressed by you and your designers, but the fresh and innovative copy will help generate ideas that will really make you look different.

You see, by using a copywriter with little or no experience in your field can generate exceptional results.

They have no preconceived ideas; they will avoid jargon and they’ll bring a fresh approach to everything they do.

Next time you’re in the market for a writer, check out a few – with and without experience in your line. An open mind on your part could be all that’s needed to get fantastic results.

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