Metrics – the measure of success.

An increasingly vital part of our information-driven era is the necessity of measuring our successes, and failures – and the possibility of doing so before they even happen.

Elections, for example, can be won or lost based on the targeting of campaigns on key demographic groupings, thus ensuring that you have the data to guide your actions is more important then ever. It is no longer about what you say, or do – rather it is more important what you say to whom.

By correctly characterizing target groups, pollsters are able to guide the actions and words of their clients – making them seem the right solution to those people most likely to take action.

If I were perhaps to try and sell a particular vacation (let’s say a cruise on the maiden voyage of the Titanic II), I would need to know who is most likely to actually buy this (imaginary) product. That much is obvious – but what is less obvious is what motivates the target group, and which words and images are most likely to have a profound effect on their emotions – enough to make them act.

This particular insight requires various forms of metrics – data – which show broadly two things:

  1. A characterization of the target (lifestyle, motivations, aspirations, wealth)
  2. Real-time data that demonstrates how these people respond to certain words and images.

Thankfully, this can be (relatively) easily accomplished in the 21st century as there are a multitude of companies who produce proprietary data from aggregate polling, and it is also possible to measure the CTR and CTS of particular test campaigns as they are run in tandem. Three or Four vaguely similar small campaigns can be run at the same time, targeting the same core demographic, but changing perhaps only small word choices each time. The data gathered from these can inform the Copywriters not only of the success of this particular campaign, but can also be used as a ‘comparator’ for future campaigns.

Although many of us may not instinctively like the idea of our individuality being probed, measured, and reduced to useful data, it is a facet of the age we live in that data has become pivotal.

 

The hidden side of Copywriting – an eternal game of chess….

Do a simple search for ‘Copywriting’ on a well-known search engine and you will find a multitude of pages professing to teach people how to become copywriters (often with optional offers of eBooks which tell you the worst MISTAKES a copywriter can make). These pages often go on and ON, with various links etc., that bring you to the next nugget of information thus continuing this never-ending chain of information.

Why?

Copywriting requires two major ingredients in abundance:

1. Talent, and

2. Editing.

No online guide is ever going to make it easy for someone with no talent or ability to edit to become a professional Copywriter – and besides, why are these other Copywriters so KEEN to help their competition?

Let me pause here to say that there are genuine websites which do serve the writing community (including us Copywriters), and these are similar to those which allow programmers and web-developers to put their heads together and learn from each other. So kudos to those guys.

But not EVERY Copywriting business is trying to help out their competition. So again – why?

The answer, Dear Reader, is the mystical SEO. Yes these various sites which clog up the first few pages of search results are there to promote their own relevancy.

You see, search engines are designed to help people, and people tend to ask the internet questions – to get information – and thereby learn about a subject. These ‘helpful’ pages are however intended to help primarily the creators by adding further arsenal in the relevancy arms race. By seeming helpful, the search engines rank them quite highly.

A wonderful side-effect, from a strategic point of view is that these sites can also offer paid items (like the eBooks I mentioned), which adds wealth to the authors while financially weakening their competition – even if only slightly.

Also, it can make the authors look authoritative about the subject, boosting their credibility.

Make no mistake – a Blog or a series of ‘Information Pages’ are both good ways to define your brand, and it will help your business to show a search engine ‘bot’ what your website it all about. All you need to do is tell the truth, and you’ll find your niche.

The importance of clear language in the International Business Environment

I read a really interesting article on the BBC News Website this week – although the article was published last year, it is still very relevant today, next year and probably for the next decade.

The article is titled ‘Native English speakers are the world’s worst communicators’ – pretty alarming stuff for someone whose USP (Unique Selling Point) is in part that they are a native English speaker – however they really did ‘hit the nail on the head‘ with this article.

The general idea is that most native English speakers are pretty careless with the way that they use English – perhaps using colloquial or culturally embedded phrases (see above regarding nails and hitting), abbreviations without explanation, or even words which can be oblique when the context is unclear, or may be easily misconstrued when an alternate meaning is available).

I often find this to be true, and it is certainly the case that people who use English as a second language tend to be more careful and direct with their word usage.

The international business environment is bustling with intelligent and dedicated people who generally use English very confidently as a lingua franca. The British (and Americans to a lesser extent) however are pretty lazy when it comes to thinking about their intended audience – frequently tossing a strange phrase into a conversation which might make perfect sense ‘back home’, but whose non-literal meaning is lost on an audience who are not receptive to it.

Perhaps it is simply a facet of international business that we have to tolerate the momentary confusion that might ensue from an unintended insult, but a serious mistake may also cost big money.

When in doubt – hire a Copywriter who has experience in international English.

What is Copywriting – and how is Copy different to Text?

This is a pretty common question about our industry, as there is an awful lot of crossover with the stately realms of PR, Marketing and Advertising. The advent of Social Media has complicated things too – creating a new entity called ‘Social Copy’.

In fact, ‘Copy’ can manifest in any number of ways – it can be the text in a printed advertisement, or a brochure. It can be spoken word on the radio. It can be the text of a Website. It can be pretty much anything where there is a message to be conveyed and a medium by which it is transmitted. Copy can envelop other media including Music, Images or other artwork, and of course the multifaceted and glittering Social Media. Just think about those catchy ‘jingles’ and Memes out there and you’ll have an idea of what I mean.

In short, Copy is the message but Text is the medium (most of the time).

Our specialty (or speciality if you’re reading this in the UK) is the production and editing of English-language copy for International businesses reaching international clients. We create English language versions  of Websites or Advertisements in simple, easy-to-understand English. We can neutralize culturally contextualized content and generate equivalent content in a universally-accepted format.

Many of our clients have an excellent command of English, but just do not have the time to create English-language versions of their Website or Advertising material. Others just want to be certain that the language used is perfect, without any unintended errors or glaring cultural inconsistencies that might otherwise project an unwanted image of being inept.

Today, good quality Copy is more important than ever when your competitor may be just a click away, and when your audience may only be paying partial attention until the next Tweet comes along. Copy has changed a lot since the early days of advertising – it is no longer enough to just state the simple facts about your product or service. Copy sometimes has to engage people on an emotional level, entertain or comfort, or even provoke people into paying attention!

So, really not the same thing as simple ‘Text’ then.

Our Perfect Story …..and Brexit

People often ask if our reason for setting up camp in The Netherlands was a direct result of this so called ‘Brexit’ thing, but really the story is not that simple.

Obviously, at the moment, the Brexit buzzword has become the current frame of reference for pretty much anything related to the UK. From the rise of noxious petty nationalism, and the UK’s faltering economy, to car – crash election results further afield – many events are set within the context of Britain’s impending withdrawal from the EU. However, this is not our defining story.

Instead, we see ourselves as being representative of the near (or more than) 50% of the UK who want to have an active participation in the wider world. Our decision to base ourselves in Amsterdam, The Netherlands is a reflection of our wider world view – we do not see our business as a ‘British business abroad’, but as a global business based in a truly global city.

The core of our business is really simple – we provide English-language copy to businesses around the world. Our business – and our world- is one without borders, and there are many many in the UK and the rest of Europe who see themselves the same way. While some retreat back to a fictional nostaligic ‘safe zone’ of national identity, we instead proudly proclaim that we are among the very many who see themselves as European and Global.

The Beautiful Netherlands! The humble home of International Business…

When we decided to move our office to Amsterdam (Capital city of the Netherlands), the decision was not made lightly. Many readers will know that Amsterdam is also already the home to many international businesses and multinational corporations who have made the same choice. But what makes Amsterdam such a good choice?

amsterdamEnvious competitor-cities cite the generous tax arrangements that many businesses benefit from by having their HQ’s situated here in the Netherlands, but tax-breaks alone do not make a location a viable option for a HQ, not least as these Tax breaks tend to apply to only a select type of business model (and many cities around the world offer similar arrangements via their national tax regime). No – the big differences can be summarised with three points:

  1. Skilled workforce
  2. Business Infrastructure
  3. Quality of life.

Skilled Workforce

The Netherlands is the proud home of people from all over the globe, many of whom have arrived directly as a result of their precise, specialised skillset. If you are lucky enough to be born Dutch, the education system provides the opportunity to learn a number of languages to a high standard, and the opportunity to gain applicable skills that directly translate into success in the work environment. Vocational training is given equal weight in the education system, so people working in the Horeca/Hospitality industry, for example, will by necessity have qualifications that enable them to succeed.

The Netherlands was built by the Dutch. Much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea – created by industrious and innovative people over hundreds of years of co-operative, long-sighted industry. This strong spirit of ‘Thrive to Survive’ is deeply ingrained in the Dutch psyche and can be evidenced by their generally progressive attitude and their global outlook. The Dutch workforce is multinational, multilingual, and highly skilled, making it easy to recruit regardless of industry or sector.

Business Infrastructure

The business infrastructure here is superb. The main Dutch cities are connected by fast and frequent trains, the cities are serviced by efficient Public Transport, and the Netherlands is easily accessible from Cities throughout Europe by train (or car). Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol) is also one of the busiest and most efficient airports in the world, making Amsterdam superbly connected to the entire world. People in business often choose Schiphol as a place to meet, flying in from locations in Asia, Africa and the Americas just to conduct a face-to-face meeting at a place where everyone can get to by a direct flight. But it isn’t just the transport.

Amsterdam has an excellent communications infrastructure too – with a fast internet connection available throughout pretty much all of the City (true also for the Hague, Rotterdam and Eindhoven to name a few), and excellent mobile phone signal which enables fluid working in any environment.

Quality of Life

This last point should really feature more in business decisions. The Dutch are famous for having one of the best qualities of life, with the population reaching a ripe old age, and enjoying relative health throughout. Perhaps a part of this is the active lifestyle-environment here. Few people drive, and most Cycle or Walk to work – or perhaps use Public Transport for longer journeys. Car ownership is pretty low here, and if you take a train into Amsterdam to do business, it is easy to rent an electric car for a few hours to get around. So a part of this goes back to the solid infrastructure.

And the stairs. They don’t warn you about the stairs, but after a few months you’ll understand why there are no mountains here – they don’t need them.

fennecfoxesamsterdamzooPerhaps the reason that Children growing up in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world (according to UNICEF) is that they have an excellent work-life balance here. Parents often share the household responsibilities pretty evenly, and it is common to see all genders Cycling to school in the mornings with their children balanced across the handlebars. Until pretty recently I am told it was normal for kids to go home for lunch during the school day.

The Dutch work shorter days than the British, taking more breaks, often starting the working day later and finishing earlier – but they get more done. Their focused attitude to work means that they are never ‘killing time’ – this is a pretty much alien concept to a society which is so punctual. Instead they work hard and play hard, enjoying their free time doing sports, spending time with their families, or just having a cozy drink with some friends.

Most people don’t realize this until they are here for a while – but Amsterdam, and the Hague for that matter, are also both really close to the beach. Just a quarter-hour train beachride from Amsterdam Centraal and you are actually AT the beach in Zandvoort- they are trying to re-brand it as ‘Amsterdam Beach’ so that more people will discover it, but I think we should keep it secret. The journey from the Hague to the coast is even shorter.

So it’s pretty easy to see why the Netherlands is such a top destination for businesses around the world – though the Dutch are often too humble to see it, the Netherlands really has it all.