The Sarky Type – content with more bite

So humour in business copy is a no go, yeah?

I’ll be really sad if you’re someone who agrees with that statement. Please do stop reading if you are, you’ll only be disappointed.

I was dragged into a LinkedIn discussion over the weekend.

(I really need to get a life, one that’s filled with fun, boozy brunches and sexy men.)

I was minding my own business when I got tagged in a post (yeah, thanks Lee, no really, I now have something else to moan about).

Initially, I wasn’t all that bothered because it seemed to me like another polarising bit of content to generate engagement. 

But as I was yanked ever deeper into the mire of baseless opinion I started to realise the author believed what he had written.

Don’t use humour in your copy.

Man on LINKEDIN

Let that seep into your noggin for a moment.

A direct response copywriter (his words, not mine) working in marketing said not to use humour. Ever.

Read that again.

You might have to read it once more – I did because ironically I thought it was a joke.

Am I going mad?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

Have the past, god knows how many years of advertising gone unnoticed to this guy?

Present-day brands like Oatly and my personal favourite, DeadHappy must have slipped under this bloke’s radar.

And his reasoning for such an absolute statement?

It might offend someone.

Well, what a great place to start any marketing strategy. Focus on the one person that might not like it. 

Ok.

I have no idea why he cares more about the people that will complain rather than the people that will enjoy the laughs.

(Hint: those enjoying the laughs are your market.)

If you’re worried about being offensive – don’t.

For some, just being you will upset them.

Taking offence can be made into a full-time job, people actually seem to enjoy it.

Another thing to remember is you won’t hit the mark with everyone in the demographic you’re marketing to. Embrace that knowledge and move on.

I’ll give this business writer his due, he was keen to learn.

I left my five pence worth on his post, a couple of days later I got a DM from him.

He explained it would be “more helpful” if I could send him book recommendations and resources to demonstrate how humour in copy works.

I began to wonder if this was grade A trolling on his part, if so, I was impressed.

But he was being serious (which in this context makes perfect sense). 

As this was yet another bloke, asking me for more unpaid labour, I had to resist telling him to fuck off, instead, I sent him a link to my blog.

(C’mon, what else was I going to do?)

You really couldn’t make this stuff up, if you did, no one would believe you.

Imagine if I pitched this as a storyline to Netflix – copywriter has never seen evidence of how humour works in copy.

They wouldn’t commission it, they’d say that’s way too much suspension of disbelief for any audience to accept.

(It’s also a terrible idea for a script, no one wants to watch that series.)

Even you’re struggling to imagine that a person, whose job is to be the voice of someone’s business, would say such twaddle. 

Stop. Trying. To. Please. Everyone.

It cannot be done.

And what happens when you attempt to be universal is you become bland, generic, boring, and the antithesis of all that’s great about good marketing.

Please do use humour in business copy.

I think we can safely say there’s enough unimaginative marketing guff out there without us adding to it.

Just like The Beach Boys sang, be true to your school, just like you would to your girl, guy.

By that I mean, do what feels right.

You know what works and what doesn’t and if you’re not sure, hire a professional marketing person.

Go balls deep into your ideal client.

And you can start by saying this: my ideal client likes humour. Maybe nail down what type of humour.

Here’s another ‘tip’: the ones that don’t like your funny content aren’t your ideal bloody client.

What if you’re a humourless individual?

Simple, don’t use humour. There’s a market for that too.

Amazingly audiences are different because people are different, there’s room for us all, funny that.

If you’re desperate to add some LOLs to your business content, click here to find out what I got for you.

If you sign up for this guff…

you know I like to pluck a retro name out of the air and create a persona.

In this case, Denise: the worst prospect ever to cast a shadow over my inbox.

See, she’ll never hire me.

To referred prospects like Denise, I’m just another SEO content writer. 

(How bloody dare she!)

She thinks I’m a party pooper, a bit of a fun sponge, someone who would be terrible to go out for a drink with.

(I am hilarious to go out for a drink with, btw.)

This ain’t my first rodeo when it comes to writing about the worst prospect. I scribbled something down about 5 bad client traits some time ago, frothing at the mouth as I typed.

(In a rage, I didn’t contract rabies.)

As business owners, it’s a recurring theme. Sure, we get better at repelling the tyre-kickers but occasionally some douche slips through the net.

Denise hates my process.

She thinks my business ways are inflexible and officious – I sound like I’ve got a rod up my arse (apparently).

(Yes, I too am thinking of Rod Stewart up my arse. Sorry, no one needs to read that / think that.)

This bollocks has a lot to do with that thing some twat called social selling.

The ‘people buy from people’ mantra has somehow evolved to mean we must make friends with everyone that’s a potential client.

I’m of the opinion that people often become friends AFTER they’ve worked with you for a spell.

The idea that I have to go through some mind-numbing pretence of being your bestie so that you’ll hire me, is ruddy nonsense.

Denise can’t believe I don’t do calls.

And that I especially dislike face-to-face Zoom meetings.

They. Don’t. Help. Me. Get. The. Job. Done.

But Denise becomes apoplectic when faced with a refusal to chat.

How else can she explain what she needs from me?! 

I don’t fill my days talking to strangers. It drains my energy.

And it’s free time I cannot afford to spend on the mere whiff of actual paid work.

Listen, I’m great at faking being at ease.

I can do congenial but I don’t have to as I’m no longer an employee. 

In the very early, dark days of self-employment, I had a Skype meeting with a prospect (yes, before Zoom) it lasted an hour but it felt much longer.

He spent just 10 minutes of that time alluding to what he actually wanted which meant the guy still had to email me all the details.

In my experience, when you write down what you need, it focuses your brain, you’re less likely to go off down tangent lane. 

I can also refer back to what you’ve said to avoid missing shit out. 

If you provide everything I ask and something gets forgotten, that’s on me but you need to be willing to trust that I know what I’m doing.

So when potential clients excitedly send me a DM, wanting to jump on a call, they get a bit put out by me not sharing their enthusiasm for having a nice little chat.

Your initial message/email will determine if a) I can do the work and b) do I want to do the work. 

Denise would really like to have a relationship.

A relationship that might lead to further work, some hilarious bants, a night out, and maybe even sex.

(We’ve all been there!)

Hi, I’m Sarah Wilson-Blackwell and I’m an introvert.

(I know, I know, I can’t possibly be one coz I do loads of extrovert stuff, innit. Oh, fuck off!)

In this modern era of business making, we have become obsessed with building relationships. 

And before you have a meltdown, hear me out. 

I often get pretty vague enquiries.

Those initial DMs have the same thing in common: they don’t provide any details about what the prospect expects me to do.

If they resist my attempts to know more, that’s a sure sign to me that we won’t be working together.

Another sign is when they ask to get to know me before we discuss the actual project.

(I’m still not clear how familiar we need to become before they decide I’m worthy to hire, is kissing required – with tongues?)

Honey, that’s what my content is doing and if you’re a client I’ve attracted, you’ve been seduced long before you made the decision to get in touch.

And this is why I bang on about blogging:

And that’s all anyone needs to know at the early stages.

The idea of building a relationship with every prospect makes my blood run cold.

The thought of a courtship that involves chats, emails, DMs, is my worst nightmare (well, one of them, being buried alive is probably at the top of that list).

That’s an incredible amount of time to waste.

And no one is getting paid throughout this routine and I think that’s rude.

What Denise is saying here is, “wow me”, “impress me” and “let’s be ‘friends’ and who knows, you just might get the job”.

That’s lovely, Denise but I don’t pray that way.

It’s overprescribed bullshit that is not required to run your business.

Plummers certainly don’t worry about getting to know you before they sort out your taps.

You’ll build a truer relationship over time – not before potential customers decide to hire you.

My process will qualify Denise and her ilk pretty quickly.

And I know almost instantly if I want to work with you.

I am not about to shout “pick me!” at you. I don’t compete for work and I don’t think you should too.

Denise doesn’t like paying for proposals.

Those bitches take hella time.

But the really wonderful thing is you get that cost deducted if you book the work.

Yay.

And if you don’t?

You can ghost the shit outta me and I won’t care.

Also, I have some pretty specific Ts and Cs.

Certain points get Denise in a lather though… 

She doesn’t want to pay upfront, she can’t accept I don’t allow endless rewrites, and she won’t tolerate a freelancer that refuses to take writing advice from her and her team.

(Because she isn’t qualified to give said advice.)

Denise can go to hell.

When the worst prospect tries to make me dance to their tune, ignores my boundaries, and still insists on sending me a Zoom link, I know we’re not going to work.

It’s not me, Denise, it’s most definitely you.

Yous reading this ain’t stupid.

You know this is about qualifying a client for YOU and absolutely not about fitting into a mould to please a prospect.

And it all comes under the banner of brand polarisation which starts with making you comfortable and happy in the work that you do.

I market to people that want what I’m prepared to give.

My process exists to make my life easier, that’s my priority.

But it also makes my client’s life easier – I’m actively saving them time.

In real life, problems like Denise only happen when they’ve been referred to me. 

Some lovely person has done so with the best of intentions but I know the project is unlikely to go ahead with me included.

Why?

Denise doesn’t know me.

She hasn’t come to me because she likes the cut of my jib.

If getting Denise to follow my process is like herding a bunch of pissed, one-eyed cats, the effort will always exceed the benefit.

If she wants me to bend over backwards for her, we’re not a good fit (and I only ever do that for someone in the privacy of my own home).

If she, or indeed you think I’m self-important and have ideas above my station…

(you’re absolutely right) but again, we’re still not a good fit.

Frankly, Denise, you’re a time-wasting bastard. Go play email tennis with someone else. I have other things to do like watch Murder, Mystery & Makeup.

So, if you like the sound of the way I do business and if you need some content that doesn’t suck, click here.

There’s a whole lotta talk around specialist vs generalist.

People getting heated about, wait for it, niching.

Who knew this could cause hot debate.

(Christ, I can’t talk, I’ll literally argue about anything.)

Those hostile to niching often describe themselves as generalists. Yeah, as you’d expect that sounds indistinct.

The reality is, we’re all niching.

Let’s say you’re a virtual assistant offering general admin services within the education sector. I would describe that work as generalist but the industry, specialist. 

What about a technical SEO agency that works in many different sectors? The work is specialist but the industry is generalist.  

See what I mean?

People are niching without knowing they are. 

Yes, even those dyed-in-the-wool generalists who ‘work with everyone’.

They might well be offering an array of products to a multitude of rackets but there will be a commonality that links the clients they work with. 

And that thing is unwittingly their niche. 

Because, friends, they are absolutely not selling to everyone.

When I make an effort to get dolled up of an evening, coiffure my hair just so, It makes me feel good to know some humans appreciate my efforts.

Some tell me how nice I look, maybe they even chuckle at my jokes.

But not everyone.

For some people, I’m irritating. Perhaps my laugh is too loud (and weird) or maybe they just don’t like me.

That’s the exact same thing as your brand/business.

It doesn’t matter how universal you think it is, it isn’t.

So, what can become a niche? 

Anything, really.

Your business non-negotiables might be what repels some and attracts others.

Service terms, your process, your brand voice is beguiling a someone. But I’m sorry Liz, you’re not appealing to the entire world.

If you’ve done diddly-squat when it comes to cultivating a writing tone, you’re still giving off a vibe. If you’re a fluffy unicorn sort you will likely attract fluffy unicorn sorts. 

“But that’s just how I am with my clients, Sarah.”

Sure, and that’s cool but it still isn’t being all things to all people, Liz. 

And who the hell is Liz? No matter, I’m going with it. 

When Liz started her business, she never heard the term, niching. 

She got work from word of mouth.

Some clients turned out to be pretty decent but others she’d have gladly set fire to.

But now the market is fierce and Liz struggles to be for everyone. She’s not sure if she’s on foot or horseback and she does spend an awful lot of time dealing with dickheads.

My question for Liz would be what connects the clients you enjoy working with? 

I reckon those people all have something in common.

That’s a niche that is. 

Wanting to work with people who pay you upfront is a niche – I know, madness and who wouldn’t want that, right?

(Plenty… apparently.)

That doesn’t stop you from being flexible with the kind of work you offer nor does it restrict you to one sector.

We get bogged down with jargon, and marketing is like any other industry – full of (sh)it.

But without knowing who’s buying, selling what you do will be a ball-ache.

Building a business strategy with no clear idea on market is a f*cking nightmare. 

You can’t tailor content to a faceless, nondescript audience. 

So, yeah, specialist vs generalist is a nonsense.

But if you truly claim to work with anyone and everyone, that also includes shysters. 

“Of course I wouldn’t work with those people, Sarah!”

Then you have a niche, Liz. So stop being so bloody silly. 

The impact on SEO.

I couldn’t begin to create content without a target market.

And not focusing on the work I like to do would be mental. This stuff is key to SEO and indeed, running a ruddy business. 

If I did insist on being a generalist (in every sense) then the only keywords I could realistically target would be ‘SEO content writer’ and ‘copywriter’.

There are two issues with that: 

  1. The chances of a prospect finding me are slim.
  2. If they do find me, I’m probably not what they’re looking for.

Let me explain.

Getting organic traffic for competitive keywords is hard.

The clue is in the name – there’s loads of competition for those words.

You won’t find me by googling ‘SEO content writer’.

And that’s cool because people searching that term don’t want what I offer.

(It usually means they want conventional and dull.)

I offer a service (business writing) to business misfits (brands that want non-conformist copy).

That’s it, simple as.

I didn’t come out in hives when I decided that. I simply chose the kind of work I enjoyed marginally more than other work. 

Another thing to consider: users searching on competitive keywords aren’t looking to hire or buy.

Why?

People get specific when they want to part with cash that’s why long-tail keywords are your friend. So, if you continue to be snooty about niching you’ll bugger up your SEO, actually your entire marketing strategy.

Don’t muddy the waters.

SEO content writing isn’t the only thing I offer but it is the thing I’m known for.

It’s confusing for people if you keep changing your offering. How else will they remember what it is you do?

So before you shout loud and proud “I’m a generalist!” have a good think, then ask yourself, are you?

No seriously, are you really?

Are you a blogger or writer that has a content problem? Book a one-to-one with me and we’ll sort it.