Thursday, 26 January 2017

3 things I've learnt from writing real estate copy


I have a few suggestions; both for real estate agents, and for buyers and sellers, but we'll get to that.

I've written copy for hundreds of properties. It means that I walk in and visit between 15 and 30 properties a week. It can be even more during the busy seasons of Spring and late summer. Every day, after visiting all these properties, I have to sit down in front of my computer and come up with creative ways to present the benefits in a way that not only describes a property but also sells it to the right kind of buyer. What do I mean by that?


You only need one

Well, as any real estate agent knows, sure, you have to market a property broadly, but in the end each property only needs one buyer. In the end, all this marketing eventually comes down to one person, one individual who thinks "that's the kind of property I want."

Nudging you towards the property

I seem to be saying vague things here. I use the words "kind of" because an important distinction needs to be made between what the advertisement for a property does, and what the real estate agent does when there's a potential buyer in the property. Put simply, the written copy on the ad does not sell the property.

Instead, the purpose of the ad is to start the customer down the slippery slope towards a sale. If my ad causes an individual to decide to turn up to a home open, then the ad has been a complete success. This might sound like a cop out, and for a while I was a bit uneasy about thinking of it in these terms. But then I stopped and I thought about how you actually search for real estate; something I am personally in the process of doing right now for my family. When you go onto a listing site like realestate.com.au you're already a fairly motivated and interested consumer. You've already got and idea of the kind of property that you would like to rent buy or invest in. You've probably got an idea of the area if you're looking in, and some pretty firm opinions about price range and the basic features that a property requires. You may also be educated in the state of the market, and particularly in what you're looking for; how to spot quality etc.

You are a highly educated and motivated consumer; but there's a lot of property out there and you only have so much time. How do you decide?

The copy paints a lifestyle picture

You search for your basic requirements and you look at the photos and see if it's something you might like. You look at the floor plans to see if it'll work for you.  You look at the map to see if it's in the area that you want to live in and then you read the copy, because you might have missed something like a garden studio, attic storage; something that you can't see in the photo.

Then the copy will relate to you the feel of the property and lifestyle it could grant you. Which school zone it's in, other delights. These are the details that bring it home, that get you emotionally involved. This starts make you feel warm about living there. It begins to put you inside the property and make you imagine how it will make you feel. Think of this as the point at which a car dealer might say, "Hey, why don't you take it for a test drive?" If all of this resonates with you there's really only one more thing you need to do and that is going have a look at the property. So, assuming the agent makes that easy for you, the advertisement has now done it's work.

I said I had some advice. I do, but my real purpose in this post was to describe what a real estate ad is doing, and what it is not doing. It's not a plain description of the property, and yet that is in there. It's not a strong sales pitch, nor a novel, because no one has time for that. Instead, it is a quick picture of the place and how it would be to live there/own it.

What are the three things then?

Well:

1. It's not just a description.
2. There's actually a lot to it, and a lot to consider and include.
3. You need to remember standard sales copy principles, such as a hook, and call to action.

I guess I should also add that I am busy as the proverbial one-legged riverdancer right now, and it takes a lot of effort to get around and see properties (especially with big family homes, it's better to visit to get that personal feel and touch, but it's a nightmare on scheduling!)

For the buyers, allow yourself to get lost in the copy - if it resonates, go view the property. These things are written with what I might term, "exuberant honesty". It paints the property in a positive light. If you don't subsequently like it, well it's not the property for you. No loss but a bit of time, and you've made your way closer to the perfect property.

For sellers, demand the best. The copy, the photos, the floorplan, they all make a difference. A big difference.

For agents, get it right and the campaign should be a breeze. Take the time, or get some help, it's more cost effective than you might think. If you want great, effective copy on your property ads, drop us a line today.


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

When you read this, you will understand why

How do you choose a service? I know, it can be tough. Recently, I needed a new accountant for my company. So I decided to look for one. Just as you might do, I opened up a browser, typed "accountant" and my suburb into Google, and hit enter...

I expected the answer to be fairly easy, as my office is in a suburban business district rather than a capital city. There's at least 15 accountants within a few minutes of my office! Some are fairly big firms of accountants by the look of it. Given that I am pretty well-versed in all aspects of my business, including the accounts, I was not after a Wall Street level of service; rather someone who could review the accounts, manage the tax affairs, and provide advice on growth opportunities and such. In short, not a huge thing, but very important. So how did I choose?

Well, first up, I only had time to look at the ones with websites. I wanted to scan their services and see if they basically did what I needed, and if they looked like they might "fit" my company's needs. I hear you saying, "Well, what's new?". What I found on that first pass was enlightening from the perspective of small business marketing.

I knew that ultimately I would need to call the accountant, have a discussion, and likely follow that with a meeting where we poured over my company's books, plans, business strategies etc. I would talk, they would talk, I would then assess their suitability. But I wanted to at least get an idea about them first, and unfortunately I did not have any word-of-mouth recommendations. So the website was the first factor. And guess what?

Of the few that had working websites with more than simple contact details (and some didn't have websites at all) very few were easy to navigate, and even fewer had well written and useful information. In some ways, this made my job easy. In a matter of minutes, I had a short list. 15 plus accountancy practices down to three in a few minutes based on Google and the quality of their website and web copy. I made the calls.

Finally, I got chatting with two actual real live accountants (in different firms) who might actually be handling my books. Great discussions. Lively banter. Good advice (and free, at this stage). A very interesting thing resulted from this.

The accountant I ultimately chose, with whom I had a great chat and fantastic follow-up meeting, espoused a philosophy towards SME accounting and business planning that was both a) in-tune with my company and desires and b) exactly as described in the accountant's web copy. In other words, their web copy was a true reflection of their practice, and highly effective as a sales tool at the same time. Bravo on both counts!

What does this mean to you? Well, it's an example of the power of great copywriting (and clever web site design). I don't need to work on my accountant's website, it's already pretty good. But boy-oh-boy, there is a lot of work to be done out there. Truth be told, most businesses don't do copy well, especially when you consider that the majority of businesses are small to medium sized. If you run a business and your marketing copy is lacklustre, well I am telling you, it is costing you sales. It's 2017. The web is old news now. You need those sales! How long are you going to wait before you get on top of your copywriting needs?

It's not just web copy, it's all your marketing collateral. Good copywriting is your sales foundation. Drop us a line at Articul8 if you need assistance with your copywriting needs. We're here for you.

*PS. Hat-tip to my fabulous new accountant, AWC - Accountants Who Communicate. The name says it all really.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Is your property sales copy boring?

Because if it is, your sales might be flat too.
There’s no point in me sugar coating it. If the copy on your ads does nothing more than describe the property, then it does nothing to sell the property. You need to target your specific buyer market with your words.
You don’t need a simple property description; potential buyers can already see what it’s like from the professional photos (you do use professional photos, right?)
Good copywriting sells. What it does is connects vendors’ property with the buyers’ desires. It plants a story in their minds as to why they need this property; how they would live there; the lifestyle they might enjoy; or the easy investment returns they might make.
You want to inspire a potential buyer, so as to inspire faster sales and higher sale prices (and better commissions!)
Professional property photographs are essential these days, but without the words, they are a series of dots without connections. The words fill the gaps and tell the story. The copy gives them a reason to buy.
But you don’t need to toil away at this for hours! Incorporating top-notch sales copy into your marketing is easy: if you’ve got a property that needs powerful, persuasive copy, just drop me a line and I can do it for you, at reasonable rates and with a fast turnaround to make your job easy. Make your listings tell stories that leave buyers inspired!

Friday, 16 September 2016

What is "narrative" anyway?


Your're probably sick of the terminology already; the buzzwords of marketing; the new age of engagement.

Engagement. Isn't that an annoying word? There was a time when engagement really had two principal meanings. One was a meeting or event you were to attend, the other was a state of pre-marital bliss.

Now it means something far more nebulous. Something like attention. Yes that's it, we call it engagement but what we really mean is to hold someone's attention long enough so as to convince them to do something about it. Like buy your product/service or connect with people.

Connect. Almost worse than engagement. Another infuriating word that really means to meet, or to correspond, or to make friends. Why do we have to be so general in this day and age of information, when words on screen are so cheap anyway?

Why not be specific? "I met with Brian on Thursday, I think we're going to do business together, hell, we might even become friends!" There. That's better. Now I understand what you're saying!

Which all leads me to the big one doing the rounds these days: Narrative. And its cousin, Storytelling.

I bet you think to yourself, when you see these words in a marketing context, "I AM RUNNING A BUSINESS HERE, FOLKS, NOT TELLING FAIRY TALES!" I know I do, and I write stories for a living!

Yes, I am guilty. I use these words; more than I should. I think it's better to think of everyone's lives as an anthology of short stories. We're doing one thing for a bunch of reasons; and then we're doing something else, for different or perhaps related reasons. The key is that a person is involved, you, and so you're running through this series of little stories that sum to your life. Scary but true: you could tell a story about nearly every aspect of your life. Some of you have some pretty thrilling stories I'm sure!

When we place this into the business context, what us narrative-weaving, storytelling, keyboard-tapping marketers are saying is that you need to focus on the who and why and how of your product/service, rather than just the what and where (which are really just a description of your thing, whatever it is. They might be features, but by themselves they are not benefits, which is to say, they do not, in and of themselves, deliver value. For that, you need to demonstrate how you're making a difference to someone and why they need it).

Some products benefit strongly from the who. For instance, a biography is all about the who and its exact job is to tell that story. Many services depend on the who: you want to know who's providing the service, whether you can trust them, etc. Sometimes, the who is all you need to sell.

The why and the how, however, are the big game. In almost all cases, the reason something sells is because someone has a problem to solve or task to complete, but they don't have the tools or resources. Then you come along with the solution.

  • Need to share a picture of your cute kitten, right now for all the world to see? How are you going to do that? Instagram of course!
  • Looking for a place to stay that's more homely than a hotel? Airbnb will show you how. 
  • Need to settle an argument? Google it. (OK, I say that with caution, but you get me.)

What do all these have in common? They're little stories.
I was trying to get home from the bar [why I was looking for transport], but there were no taxis around [don't know how I'll get home], so I used the Uber app on my smartphone and within minutes, a nice man in a nice car was driving me home. It was a great experience!
Tell that story, and people will start using Uber. Millions already do and you know this story because it could be your own. That story is told the world over, and is a driving force behind their expansion (along with a related story about better service than taxis, which is really just a taxi-avoidance version of the story above). Uber even caters for the business executive who wants to look like he's stepped out of a private limo - Uber Black. There's another story...

So that's why we do it, because it is memorable. If a product or service is to really sell, it needs to fit into people's lives. It must fill that gap. The story of why and how gives a person a compelling reason to buy.

The brands that are best at this invite their customers to tell their own stories about their use of the product. This kind of customer participation in the story of a brand is incredibly powerful in building a business. And it's pretty straightforward in a world of social media.

Tell your story well, and people will sell your product to themselves.

Salespeople have been doing this for centuries. You've no doubt heard of the "create a problem then solve it" technique for selling (and advertising). Well, that's a story based technique. And it works, like crazy. Nothing better than hearing from a customer, "yeah, I can really see why I need this!"

That's what you're trying to achieve when you tell your brand/product/service's story. You're just making it fit into people's lives. Giving them a reason to engage buy.

By the way, to return to the original question, narrative is just an account of connected events. That's what the word means. It's how you tell a story. You narrate a story. You're a storyteller! Get telling! Or, if storytelling IS that gap in your life, get in touch with us and we can help!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

1 Powerful Way to Differentiate Yourself in the Property Market


Scene:
A trendy suburban cafe, around 11 am on a warm spring day. The customer walks past a stand with some local mags, sees a page with a real estate agent's banner. She's about to move on, dismissing it as advertising, but then sees a catchy headline and an article. "Well," She thinks, "I dropped in for a coffee, and don't have anything to read. This'll do." And with that, she picks it up and orders herself a skinny latte.

A few minutes later, she's on her smartphone and scanning ads for real estate in the area. She's a successful woman, has a young family, and is still in the house they bought when they married. The house is getting a little cramped now though, "I wonder what we could upgrade to, if we did?" She ponders before looking again at that article, which discussed the booming real estate market. "Perhaps I'll give them a call."


You published that article a few weeks ago, and it made it into that cafe, and now it is being read by a potential customer. A person who, for whatever reason, was not even thinking about real estate, and especially not about selling their house, until now.

What changed her mind? You did.

The persuasive power of words

Now this woman has taken the first step towards selling, and you were the catalyst. It's very likely you'll be the first call she makes. You'll now get the chance to talk to her about selling and buying in the same market. The pros and cons. The advantages of getting it done efficiently. You will be able to explain to her how you can make it easy for her. And the best bit? She's a willing listener. She came to you, not the other way around.

This is the power of having market commentary out there, in writing. It carries authority, it delivers non-sales-pitch information, it has a subtle call to action. Most of all, it sparks interest, puts the seed of an idea into the reader's head.

Differentiating yourself

The truth is everyone can find a real estate agent if they need one. One Google search and it's done. But often they don't have the prompt to do so. People need to be asked to think about selling or buying real estate. That's why real estate agents spend so much time canvasing the market for listings. It's the hardest part of the job (it's not uncommon to make hundreds of calls a week), which is why anything that assists people in getting over that hurdle is so valuable. If a simple article makes people think about selling; then it's worth its weight in gold.

It doesn't have to be a big thing though - you're an expert in your field, and well acquainted with the goings on in your local market. I bet you have lots to say. I bet you wish people knew how good you are at your job. Well, the answer is to get your opinion out there; regularly. Start locally. Start by communicating with your established client list and roster of sales queries. Get your picture and opinion in the local paper. Write a newsletter. Write a blog.

It does require some work, but consider this: If just one extra listing came from your blog or newsletter, the commission on that sale alone will repay you for your efforts.

Get help if you need it, but do it anyway

Despite what you might fear, generally people are not too picky about grammar. So if writing is not your forte, don't fret. A poorly worded or written piece is better than nothing at all, so by all means, write it anyway and get it out there.

If you really want your opinion to convert to sales though, you need to write it well, and with an ear for persuasive copy. Good writing gets more attention than bad writing. And human beings simply enjoy well-written material. So it is worth the effort to get it done well. Given how much money is potentially waiting, it's worth considering hiring a writer to do it for you. Rates are more reasonable than you might imagine, and the big advantage is that you can establish a regular flow of writing from your desk; freeing up your time for better things, like selling property!

If you are interested in hearing more about how a professional writer with real estate experience can help you, have a look at our services and get in touch today.




Monday, 5 September 2016

Meeting in the Middle: Making complex concepts comprehensible.


I'm not going to lie: Science can be hard to understand.

There's a reason you need at least four years of intense study at university before you can call yourself a scientist. There's a lot to take in, many concepts to understand, and much to remember. It can be challenging. But for those of us with an innate fascination with the workings of the world, science is a joy! So it's not really hard work. More like a labour of love.

On the other hand, science is just one discipline among many, and not everyone is interested in being a scientist. Which is fine. The world would be pretty darn boring without the artists and writers and musicians; and trust me, we'd probably go broke or forget to eat if scientists were in charge of the money.

Science is everywhere, but not everyone is a scientist.

Science and technology underpins--makes possible--modern society; we really don't have a choice but to be engaged in science and technical matters in some way.

  • Many people (in Australia, all working people), for instance, have superannuation accounts whose fund managers invest their money in companies that perform some kind of scientific work. 
  • All of us come across scientific content in the news; be it a story about a bionic ear, or a story about vaccinations, its there; all the time. 
  • Some of us are just interested in understanding how something new works. Be it the latest in VR, or a new biotech company with something revolutionary. 

You don't have time to quickly grab a science degree though, so you rely on the writer/presenter/company executive to give you information that you can understand.

Complexity: the enigmatic enemy.

If you can't understand something, you won't remember it. If you don't remember it, you won't act on it.

It's that simple.

For most of us, that's as far as it goes. It's a shame, but it's OK.

For a company trying to sell its new wonder-product or technology though, that lack of public understanding is nothing short of a disaster. Smart people don't invest in stuff they don't understand.

So companies with scientific (or just technically challenging) ideas to convey simply must ensure their public communications are comprehensible to the public or else they are staring down the barrel of irrelevance; no matter how well run the company is, nor how good their product is.

Tell us all! Tell us all!

In a kind of reversal of the same message, a slightly different principle applies to science media/journalism.

Whereas the science company might be full of science knowledge but lacking in the communications department; the science reporter might be a great communicator, but not have enough scientific understanding to convey science news properly.

Great science reporting leaves very little out - the details and the science remain, but in understandable language. To retain the science content though, the reporter needs to grasp the science first so that he or she knows what to say.

Wait, so how do people do both?

I thought you'd never ask. It's straightforward - this mid-point between scientists and the general public has specialists of its own - science communicators. We act as translators and interpreters. We make it possible for the great work of science to be understood, and therefore supported (financially, legally, politically) by people outside the scientific community.

The problem is not going to get better with time - in fact it will probably get worse. Technology and science is advancing at such a pace it may one day outstrip humankind's capacity for understanding. But in the meantime, it's better to have your amazing whiz-bang thingamawhatsit portrayed to the public in a digestible way.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help with science communication, please contact us for advice.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Creating Investor Engagement in Technical Disciplines.


The question is, are your company announcements performing as well as they should be?

Companies involved in scientific research and development often make highly valuable discoveries, products or services which, by tapping newly created or already very large markets, could make a material difference to company value. “Game Changing” developments are, by their very nature, new to the market, and as such, require that investors understand the importance and implications of the new development. This can be difficult due to the technical nature of the development and the closed-world of scientific research where scientists talk to other scientists in language that is confined to the scientific community.

It is an information market.

Capital markets trade in information as much as they do in shares. Freely flowing positive news can give impetus to share price appreciation. It is critical in this environment that companies who wish to have brokers and investors talking about their offering, over that of competitors, provide information that is easy to digest and share. Thus any announcement (particularly technical announcements) made by a scientific company should be reviewed to ensure it communicates effectively with its target audience: namely stock brokers and investors.

Understand who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to do. 

Stockbroking, and the investment community generally, is a highly educated arena. However, the education is predominately confined to economics and finance, with only a small adjunct of technical/science savvy analysts whose main role is to judge company value on a case by case basis, usually confined to the very specific list of companies that any given broking firm covers. Given the segregated nature of academic specialization here, it is beholden on scientific companies to ensure that their market communications can reach across the divide. You cannot assume that it is a technically savvy analyst who is reading your announcements.

The curious thing about markets is that they can price-in the value of nearly any company development, no matter how technically difficult to understand it is. However this simply will not happen if the market cannot identify the news value, financial value, corporate value or, indeed, understand what you are saying. The net result is commonly no share price movement at all. So, market communications (announcements, presentations etc.) simply must be made with ease of understanding as a primary goal.

With the above in mind, I wrote a short paper on how to approach the problem of "translating" technical material into readable writing for the general market. It contains greater detail than what is here in this post. You can find it towards the bottom of this page: http://www.articul8.com.au/science.html

Clarity is King.

It should be enough to sell the concept of clear communications on one principle alone – the easier it is to understand a company; the easier it is to invest in that company.

The majority of listed companies understand this well and some have entire departments dedicated to good, clear public communications. However it is still common enough, especially in technical disciplines, for this to be overlooked. In the increasingly busy market, this can no longer be ignored. It may be the only way you can cut through with your message.

Given that you already have many very intelligent, well-educated, well-spoken individuals in your company, many of whom probably write very well, you may not need a dedicated communications or PR team. It may be enough to simply outsource the final writing and editing of your announcements. Get it all ready to go, but give the final job to an external expert. This minimizes the time and therefore cost of good communications with the outside world. It also need not jeopardize your obligation to release information to the market “immediately”.

Ultimately, the market can only judge your company based on what it does and what it says. You've got the what-it-does under control, that's how you got to where you are today. But spare a moment for the what-it-says. That may just be the critical difference for the future of your enterprise.

If you think you need help in crafting clear communications, drop us a line!