Category Archives: Copywriter

What I Learned at the #VanFUNDING 2015 Crowdfunding Conference

Last week a potential client called me up and asked what I knew about crowdfunding.

“A little bit,” I said. “My son is running a GoFundMe campaign.”

He then invited me to attend the VanFUNDING 2015 Crowdfunding conference as his guest. I could hardly refuse…

In May of this year, six Canadian provinces, including BC adopted new exemptions for startup companies to raise up to $500,000 per calendar year through online funding portals. My client’s company happens to fit within the guidelines and is eligible for this exemption.

This opens some big doors for startup companies who can figure out how to use crowdfunding as a way to raise capital.

When we think about crowdfunding, most of us see the Kickstarter model. A person or company has brilliant idea for a product. They put up a campaign on any of the platforms and hope to raise enough money to turn the idea into an actual product they can ship.

If the company raises the required money, the campaign is a success and the person/company can then manufacture the product.

In return for their donation, the donor receives the product when it launches. This model is known as the Reward model of crowdfunding.

Pretty straightforward. And lots of companies have been started this way.

But, that’s only ONE model for crowdfunding. There are three others:

  • Donations: You see these a lot on GoFundMe and other platforms. Someone has a crisis in their life. Anything from an ill child to a fire that destroys everything. A family member or close friend starts a campaign asking for money to cover expenses. These kinds of campaigns appeal to our desire to help others and can raise a lot of money in a short period of time. The campaign doesn’t have to be about crisis, I’ve seen lots of campaigns for people who want to give back in some way. Generally, these are for individuals, not companies. Sometimes called, “pass the hat” funding.
  • Debt: This is a takeoff from the traditional model of debt financing where the company would go to a bank where they borrow a certain amount of money and pay it back with interest over a certain term. With crowdfunding, the borrower goes to a platform which expressly raises capital through crowdfunding. Usually the terms are stricter (higher interest rate and shorter repayment schedule) but they are more willing to look at true startups who have no proven track record.
  • Equity: This is where the new exemptions will have the biggest impact. Companies seeking funding are no longer limited to asking for money from accredited investors – that is investors who have an annual income over $250,000 and a net worth of $2,000,000 or more. That limits companies to less than 3% of potential investors. The startup exemption allows companies to now seek funding from what are called the “Mass Affluents” – those who earn $150,000 and have a net worth over $500,000. This is a huge, untapped market for many companies seeking investment. At the same time, the exemption limits individual investment to a maximum $1500 per round at two rounds per year. This is to protect the investor. The company can only raise a maximum of $500,000 through this channel.

Here are some other things about crowdfunding I bet you didn’t know…

  1. Crowdfunding is a relatively new phenomenon. Especially in the equity sector. Many of the platforms we spoke with at the conference were in their own startup phase. In fact, one company has only put together two deals so far. Since it’s so new, there is a lot of opportunity to learn and grow in this market.
  2. It’s critical to have your legal paperwork done correctly. Shareholder agreements, Memorandums of Understanding and everything else you need. While the startup exemption does reduce the number of documents you need, it does not release you from your obligation to follow the law.
  3. Investors still need to do their due diligence.
  4. Set realistic targets. If you go into a campaign with an outrageous goal and don’t meet it, you may not get anything. It is better to set a lower target and oversubscribe than to have an unsuccessful campaign.
  5. Successful campaigns are all about good marketing. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “Gee, I think I’ll invest in a startup today.” Companies are SOLD, not bought.

And finally, your best chance at success is having a great story and a large audience. A good copywriter helps you tell your story in such a way that it engages your audience, compels them to take action and can help with the rest of your marketing – everything from case studies and brochure to boosting your social media presence to attract more investors.

That touches the basics of crowdfunding.

After the conference my client and I spoke with a few of the speakers about an idea we had come up with while attending. It’s something none of them had thought of, but they all thought it was brilliant and a great way to get exposure AND capital without giving up too much equity. If it works for his company, it may work for yours too. But it’s too early to share it yet.

Nine Signs You Need Help With Your Copy

Is your copy converting the way it should? Are you getting people to take action? Do you see upticks in your sales when you send out a promotion? If so, GREAT! You’re doing it right.

However, not every promo is going to work the first time. And even if you’ve written tons of copy about your product or service and are used to seeing a decent response, sometimes your promos will bomb.

And if you’re a “jack-of-all-trades” business owner who tries to do everything yourself, this will probably happen to you more often than not. Not because you can’t write good copy – you probably can – but because you just haven’t looked at the high leverage spots where you can improve your copy.

Let’s look at the nine signs you need help with your copy…

The first sign your copy sucks starts before you write your first word.

  1. Have you done your research? 

    Do you know the product inside and out? Can you rattle off the features and benefits in your sleep?  If you can’t answer a resounding “yes” to those questions, it’s a sign you need help. (Hint: do more research before you put pen to paper!)

  2. Do you know your target market?

    Can you “get inside their heads” and think like they think? Do you understand what keeps them up at night – and why your product is the best solution to their problem?
  3. Do you have a headline?Your readers are busy, busy people. They need to know immediately whether it’s worth their time to read your sales page. The best way to do that is to make your headline engaging, compelling and RELEVANT. Dr. Flint McGlaughlan of market research leader, MECLABS states regularly “Clarity Trumps Persuasion.” Believe it when it comes to your headline. That’s why I’ll write as many as 100 before I start writing the body of the copy.
  4. Does your opening paragraph make your reader want to continue reading?

    It doesn’t have to be Dickens, but it does need to grab the reader by the eyeballs and make them wonder where you’re taking them. If your readers are dropping off after the first paragraph, it’s probably a sign you need help with your copy.
  5. Are you talking TO your reader – or AT them?Imagine you’re on a first date. Your date drones on and on about all the things that are going on in their life. They don’t care to know anything about you – it’s all about them. Every other sentence starts with “I…”
    “I did this thing.”
    “I can’t believe they did that to me.”
    “I’m going to blah blah blah…”What are your odds of going out on a second date with that person? No matter how attractive they may be, any time you’re stuck with someone who just goes on and on about themselves, you want to get out of there as soon as you can.

    Your reader is the same way. Make your document all about you and you won’t have many clients. Make it about THEM and how your product or service can HELP them and you’re attracting people who want to do business with you.

  6. Let’s take a different approach now… Do you HATE writing copy?Would you rather get your eyelids glued shut? Or walk a rope bridge over a 200 ft. canyon, blindfolded? That’s an indicator that no matter how hard you focus – how much blood you drip on the page – or how many headlines you conjure up, you’re going to need help with your copywriting. Just sayin’.
  7. Do you envision your Ninth Grade English teacher throwing chalk at you for handing in an essay with errors?Believe it or not, mine did. Well, actually it was the math teacher – and he would throw chalk or textbooks or erasers or anything he could get his hands on when we students were being particularly dense. (Which was often – after all, ninth grade was the year boys and girls discovered each other!)It could have scarred me for life. Maybe something similar happened to you in your past and you have a visceral reaction to writing. Many people do.
  8. Your copy just doesn’t convert.You put heart and soul into writing a piece of sales copy. You send it out, or put it up on the web and drive traffic to it. You watch for clicks. Watch for people showing up to your cart. Watch for those dollars to flow back into your account – but nothing happens. NOTHING. No sales. Or maybe a few – after all some people will buy almost anything that’s offered to them. But not what you were expecting.
  9. It takes you FOREVER to write your copy. 

    Business moves quickly. There’s a constant need for good quality, high converting copy in many businesses. But it takes you weeks to put together a strong sales argument and get the wording just right. Time your competitors can beat you to market – taking sales you could have made if you had just got the damn thing written.No matter how good your writing is, if it’s not out there producing, it’s not good enough. Perfection is the enemy of speed. Money loves speed. Do the math…Good enough is good enough. And no matter HOW perfect the copy is, it can always be better. That’s why good marketers are always testing. Then tweaking. Then testing again.

So, if you resonate with ANY of these points, maybe it’s time to hand off your copywriting assignments to someone who lives, breathes and EATS copy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Figuratively – not literally.)

Who Hires Copywriters?

You might think the only people who really need to hire copywriters would be advertising agencies. At least, that’s where you see them show up on the TV shows (think Mad Men…)

But surprisingly enough many businesses can benefit from hiring a freelance copywriter.

For instance, think about the amount of marketing materials banks, insurance companies, manufacturers and other non-traditonal businesses need to produce to get their message out in the world. Do you think the CEO has time to sit down and write all that material – or does the marketing department have a competent copywriter either on staff or on their speed dial?

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg…

Own a business? Have you ever sweated over what to put on your rack card, trifold brochure or even just a sell sheet? Yeah, suddenly having someone you can count on to put the right words in the right place is really important, right?

Want to get some traction for your new software product? You know, the one that would change the course of mankind – if only people could grasp the complexity of it. Well, copywriters are the best at taking complex ideas and making them easy to understand.

And the best ones go a step further and turn those easy to understand ideas into sales.

All through the power of the written word.

What about video? You’ve heard a great video posted on the web can drive both visitors to your website and sales of your product/service.  But for a video to be great, it has to be persuasive. Nobody is going to sit through 27 minutes of a talking head droning on about the features of your product.

Viewers need to be ENGAGED. Their EMOTIONS need to be activated. They need a REASON to continue sitting through your presentation. (And let me tell you, 27 minutes of features just doesn’t do it.) That’s where copywriting shines. Engaging people, activating their emotions and persuading them to watch the entire presentation so they have the information they need to make a buying decision.

So, really… the question shouldn’t be who hires copywriters? The real question is WHEN are you going to hire one?

Kelowna Copywriter Guest Panelist at OVES Entrepreneur Event

The Okanagan Valley Entrepreneur Society has invited Kelowna copywriter Russ Banister (that’s me!) as a guest panelist for their upcoming Townhall Meeting.

The topic is “Information Marketing,” and since I write copy for several information marketers including myself, they thought I would be a good fit. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a great chance to promote my business and position myself as the authority in the marketplace.

Now, I don’t just write copy for Kelowna companies, but I’m sure there are some out there who could benefit from the experience and skills I have.

I’ll follow up this post with another AFTER the event and let you know how it went.