“You’re the perfect person to have on this call,” said my client. And he was absolutely right. Not about me, but about The Yardstick Agency’s new Digital Copywriter, also called Clare*, who was sitting in with me on her first discovery meeting this morning.
Our client, a Chartered Financial Planner with more than 25 years’ experience, spoke fluently about what he does, using the language of someone who lives and breathes his work. It’s also a language I’m happy to say I’m now very familiar with, which made Clare the perfect person to have on the call.
The smell of joss sticks
I run through a list of words I wonder if our client would be happy to use on his website. The word “holistic” comes up. “Holistic…” We start discussing what this word actually means and, crucially, what it means if you’ve never come across it in the context of financial planning before.
New Clare perceptively remarks that it carries the scent of joss sticks to her. And I’m suddenly reminded of just how problematic this word was for me once upon a time too. Because she’s absolutely right, in isolation, that’s exactly what it evokes for me too.
Throw that word into a sentence surrounded by lots of other ambiguous adjectives (“holistic, client-focused, effective, professional…”) and someone taking those tentative first steps into financial planning is probably none the wiser about what you do. And how truly transformative financial planning can be.
I belong! (You don’t.)
There’s a nice feeling that comes with being able to speak and understand a language that was once alien to you. You’ve transitioned and now you belong! That’s an achievement! Why wouldn’t you want to show you joined the club!
But there’s another purpose to jargon, and that’s to exclude non-members. Those who use it are inside, looking out, no longer left outside, looking in. And if you detect a certain arrogance to that, so does that prospective client who wants to know whether you’re someone who can relate to their life and situation. You might not be consciously using it for that reason, but there’s always the danger it comes across that way.
Remembering what you once didn’t know
One of the many reasons I chose to become a copywriter is that it affords me a whole career-lifetime of learning. As a copywriter, I get to be professionally curious (slash-nosey).
Of course, there’s a purpose to all the question-asking. As a copywriter, I need to be able to speak about your profession with as much confidence and understanding of the issues as you do. I must be able to get to the heart of a matter and understand the significance of things that might be otherwise missed but which will create a connection between you and those you are trying to reach.
But there’s another, just as important, skill to being a copywriter: While I need to be able to speak like an insider, I also need to be able to think like an outsider.
That’s why, being reminded that there was once a time when a certain word, phrase or concept would have meant very little to me is always incredibly valuable.
When I think back to my first few days as a Yardstick copywriter, two things jump out at me:
- How little – I suddenly realised – I knew about how to be financially healthy and secure. I’d written about financial products previously, I thought I was savvy. How was it possible that I knew *nothing* about something as important as having enough money to live well?
In my first days at The Yardstick Agency, Phil gave me a copy of “Enough” by Paul Armson. And it truly blew my mind. Why? Because up until that point, having “enough” was, to me, something that only applied to a day, a week or a month.
Never, ever, had it crossed my mind that it was possible to work out how much I’d need for the rest of my life, and plan for it. Understanding that was possible meant it was possible to foresee and plan for those periods when outgoings were more than incomings, which, with small children at home, is always something of a preoccupation. This blew my mind.
- My first reaction on realising how little thought I’d previously given to my finances, was embarrassment, and shame.
Shame. I was reminded of this feeling recently by a client’s client I was interviewing for a website. She told me her story and, as is often the case, how much her financial planner had enabled her to turn her life around. She had come to him feeling so ashamed. Like she didn’t belong there. She had even apologised to him for “not being like his other clients who all had their ducks in a row.” The effect it had on her to be told that she had no reason to feel shame and that there would be no judgement of her in those offices, could not be overestimated, she said. “I walked away from that first meeting knowing he was the person for me.”
The value of “silly” questions
Having been in the role for almost 20 months, there’s a whole lot of lingo that now flows from keyboard to screen relatively easily. Which makes these reminders of what I once didn’t know, even more important than ever. If you write about your work, it’s worth taking the time to remember what you also once didn’t know every now and again. Or, if you can, ask others outside of your professional circle to review what you write and crucially, ask all the questions they worry will be classed as “silly questions”. Those are the most valuable of all.
How we help
This is what we do! Each member of The Yardstick team is a specialist in their chosen field. If you’d like us to take a look at your existing website and provide some pointers on where you could be making more of an impact, or you’re wanting a brand-new website that succeeds in achieving all your aims, then get in touch on:
Phone: 0115 8965 300
Email: [email protected]
We’d be very happy to have a conversation about how we can help.
*We’re yet to come up with prefixes for us Clares that will differentiate us, so I’ll be very unoriginal and call Clare Fenech “New Clare” just for today. Welcome to the team “New Clare”!