How to talk directly to your clients

advice | copywriting

There’s a lot of noise out there on the world wide web. Every day we’re inundated with marketing copy, sales ploys and a sea of ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ demands wherever you look. The world has gone advertising mad and, as a small business, it is super hard to make yourselves heard in the sea of sounds and sales pitches. But what many of these big companies do is to talk AT people. Their job is to convey information. They’re not looking for a response. So, as a smaller personable business, your job should be not to take a leaf out of these big corporate books. Instead, learn to talk directly TO your clients, not at them. Keep reading… I’m going to show you how.

Get rid of the third person

Cast your mind back to English lessons as a kid. I’m sure you remember what first and third person were all about, right? If you’re not sure, here’s a quick demonstration. 

Third – Sarah wants her clients to have the best chance of securing that sale by producing amazing copy for them that will win clients over and get them hitting the ‘Buy Now’ button!

First – I love words. And I am pretty darn certain having the right words on your website is going to be the difference between no sales and loads of sales. So you should come and talk to me.

See? Who wants to hear a small business owner talking about themselves like some sort of detached figure? I know I trust small businesses more if they seem like real human people behind the words and images, you know? 

Also, in another sense, there’s another kind of third-person I see used in small business copy a lot that drives me crazy. The use of ‘we’. We are a small cake-making business… we can take care of your wedding photography… we love producing beautiful bouquets for our brides. We, we, we. And when you look at their about page… they’re a one-person band. Who is the mystical we of which they speak?

If it’s just you in your business, it is okay to say ‘I’. I run a small cake-making business… I can take care of your wedding photography… I love producing beautiful bouquets for my brides. I’m unclear why it is people do this although I have a theory that it has something to do with not wanting to stand in the spotlight alone. But if there is no one else in your business with you, then put the imaginary business partner aside and take ownership of your work! YOU did this amazing thing. YOU should be proud of it!

Assume they know stuff

In other words, don’t talk down to people. Just because they’re not florists, or bakers, or photographers, or whatever it is you do, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand what you’re talking about. 

Assume they know the basics and talk to them as you would any normal person! Also, believe that if people don’t know what you’re going on about, they will stop you and ask. Or allow them to ask questions. 

People won’t know the ins and outs of everything you’re offering (otherwise, wouldn’t they do it themselves?). But people do research stuff, especially when we have tools like the internet at our fingertips. One of the things that immediately puts me off hiring someone is if they talk to me about what they do in a manner that suggests I have no idea about anything. Being patronised, or hearing that condescending tone, is a sure-fire way to make me move on to the next business. So do try to be mindful about this. You need to find a balance. Educate them about what you do and how you do it. But also allow them the courtesy of having some knowledge and ability to ask questions if they don’t know something. 

Write how you speak!

There’s this automatic reaction that happens to most people when they start writing. Their formal side comes out and they write in a completely different way to how they speak. It’s like writing is the ultimate “telephone voice” of many small business owners and it does make me laugh. 

I’m going to confess something right now… I was one of those people. 

And I know exactly what that is.

It comes from our schooling. All those years of writing essays for our homework, academic papers for exams and so on. We’ve been taught, for a big chunk of our lives, how to write in a certain way. So suddenly trying to find a more conversational style and tone is tricky!

There are also a lot of verbal techniques and patterns that don’t necessarily work when you’re writing a blog post or some information on your website. For example, most people, when speaking, use filler words like ‘umm’ and ‘errr’. They’re natural pauses most people take to allow themselves time to think of the right words and phrases to say. This isn’t something we need to do in writing. We can take a bit of time to plan our thoughts into sensible sentences, completely removing the need for those filler words. Unless you purposely want to… umm… include them, you know?

You can also make your writing sound more like you by choosing less formal words. Throwing in a little slang you would typically use and making sentences shorter is considered conversational. 

And if you’re still struggling? Record what you want to say by saying it, then transcribe what comes out! Of course, that does entail having to listen to your voice, which some people hate. But it’s a great way of getting the words down that you want to use and have it all sounding much more like you.

Remove the sales patter

As a small business owner, it’s so easy to fall into the pattern of introducing yourself to people and immediately launching into a sales pitch. But, I’m going to tell you now, there’s nothing more off-putting to me when I first meet someone or read their blog or look at their social media posts. 

There’s a theory that what you put out through your business should be 80% education and value and 20% sales. And that’s a formula I can take on board and feel comfortable with. 

Because I’ll be honest, I’m not a salesperson. I hate “selling myself” and everything that phrase stands for makes me feel a bit icky. I’d much rather have a nice chat about all the things I love most and, if people like the sound of it, they can book me in.

Ultimately, people KNOW what they want to spend their money on, what they can AFFORD and WHEN they’re going to spend it. They are looking for the service provider that they like the most to commit THEIR hard-earned cash to. Just as we all do too, right? If they’re going to book you, they’ll do it under their own steam and through their own decision-making. Not because you dragged or pushed them, kicking and screaming, towards the finish line. 

Your constant sales pitches, your pushy patter and your desire to make the sale smacks a little of desperation. It leads me to think you’re all about the end result: earning my money. In turn, that makes me wonder how good a job you’re going to do for me. Now, I’m not saying that’s the case and I’m sure, in a lot of cases, it isn’t. But that’s the perception that comes across. Just sayin’.

Engage your audience

So you’ve removed that imaginary third person, you’re not talking down to them and you’re using a more conversational, less sales-y style. 

But there’s one thing you’re forgetting, and it’s the one thing we all forget to make the time for, especially when we’re so busy running our businesses. 

Engaging your audience in a conversation is not a one-way street. That would be talking at people, the thing we’re trying to avoid here, right? You need to engage them in conversation, to create that two-way street of having conversation and ideas flowing in both directions. 

It’s the thing you do when you meet them face-to-face, so why not do it in your words on the screen too? 

What I mean by that is, instead of posting information and that being the end of it, take the extra step to get them responding, or sending you a message, an email or even an enquiry. All those things can lead to working with a new client, so they’re behaviours you want to encourage!

So, share useful information. Give them help and tips that they can use and action in their own lives. Have them feeling like they’ve received something of value from you without having to pay out for it. Ask them questions. Find out what they think about what you have to say. Get them to share their opinions whether the same or different from your own. But don’t end the conversation there. If they take the time to respond, then make sure you take the time to respond. In other words, have that conversation! Words on a screen might take longer to read and form a reply. But it’s no different from speaking with them for half an hour if they meet you for a coffee, or chatting to them on the phone for 10 minutes. 

By actually taking the time to engage, respond and converse with your clients, or potential clients, you’re showing them there’s a real live human being behind your brand and business. It builds trust and a relationship which, in today’s corporate world is refreshing. And it will increase the likelihood that those people will buy from you in the future. 

Wow, well that turned into a beast of a post, didn’t it? I hope you got something out of that and you find it useful going forward with your business. 

Keep your eyes peeled for more exciting stuff coming in the New Year! Sign up to my newsletter to be the first to find out about what I’ve got planned. You’ll also get a nifty little guide showing you how to overhaul your home page when you do!