As those of you who subscribe to my Facebook page may be aware, I have long been vehemently stressing the importance of high quality copy in the website or literature that represents you. It is generally assumed that your marketing copy reflects the quality of your work, so it’s unfortunate when, all too often, a good business is let down by the text content of their website or printed material. If I had a penny for every poorly written flyer that drops through my letter box, or for every grammatical howler or spelling mistake I’ve seen on a professional website, I’d probably be a millionaire by now. The sad thing is that all these errors can be very easily avoided by getting someone to check through your promotional copy before it’s sent to the print shop or uploaded to your website. This is especially important if your advertising copy is written in a language you are not familiar with, as many of the bloopers I’ve seen on take-away menus can usually be attributed to translation mistakes. If budget restrictions limit your ability to bring in a professional copywriter, website content writer or proofreader, then at least get a native speaker to look through your text. If you don’t, you run the risk of your business getting the kind of attention you didn’t want, as in the case of the restaurant whose menu listed ‘Chicken and Herpes’ as a main dish….probably not the kind of mouth-watering effect the restaurant was going for!
Whilst many of the mistakes you see in marketing copy might be amusing, the not-so-funny reality is that ultimately they don’t portray your business in a positive light. In fact, the effect can be quite the opposite. Take, for example, the South Manchester business, whose voucher spelt the name of the suburb they were located in spectacularly wrong. Listing their address as Startfood, instead of Stretford made them look amateurish, if not extremely foolish. There were another five errors in the document, even though it only contained 28 words in total! Potential customers may well question the firm’s capability as business operators if they can’t even get the address of their premises correct! On a practical level, think of the impact this kind of mistake could have upon the ability of new customers using map applications and websites to try and locate you.
You should also bear in mind that your website is only one online representation of your venture. Most companies or projects have a Twitter account or Facebook page, but even in the arguably less formal world of social media, it is still important to maintain standards. A high end retailer which opened recently in Manchester designed their shop beautifully and invested a lot of time and effort in building a Twitter following prior to their launch. Unfortunately they then effectively negated all their hard work with a status update on their opening day saying “visit are grate showroom!” Ouch! Engaging the services of a copywriter to proofread content ensures that mistakes like this don’t happen.
You are what you write – poor copy can harm your reputation
Of course, everything is relative. On balance, it doesn’t really matter if take-away menu items are lost in translation, as long as their food is good. Customers will generally understand what is meant (although I’m still scratching my head at ‘chicken and herpes’), and there’s no real harm done. However, when the company concerned is offering professional services or top notch goods, it’s imperative that the text content of its website and printed material is as close to perfect as possible. If your promotional copy states that you are a provider of quality services, but the text is poorly written, the contradiction can be extremely harmful to your reputation. Case in point, I was recently approached by an SEO marketing company. On the phone they sounded like they really knew what they were doing, and when I visited their website, I found it beautifully designed and visually very impressive. However, when I started reading the text content, it all went horribly wrong. On the firm’s home page they stressed how important it is to have perfect copy to represent a business, and that this was a service they offered. The sad fact however was that this page contained SEVEN spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes in the opening sentence alone! Instantly their credibility vanished in a puff of cyber smoke, along with a proportion of their potential customers.
Don’t just take my word for it. Many industry experts have written warnings on the subject of the negative impact of poorly-written copy, as evidenced in this BBC feature where it is suggested that ‘a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half,’ and that ‘sales figures suggest misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a company’s credibility.’
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the text content of your website and promotional literature is often the most important representation your business can have. Make sure it is checked thoroughly before you let the whole world see it, and if you’re not sure of your own skills in the required fields, hire a professional copywriter or website copy specialist.
Even big TV stations get it wrong sometimes.