As a writer there are areas I’m familiar with and those which represent terra incognita. When my clients include translators who want to publicise their services, even if they venture into sidelines such as writing or cultural consultancy (of which more another day), the territory is familiar. I know what good practitioners can offer and I know what clients want and need. The challenge then becomes how to express the offer in terms that mirror the demand and present real benefits.
So far so simple.
But sometimes clients pop up from domains that are not quite so familiar. In future blogs I’ll tell you about writing a website for a physiotherapist, or an interior designer, for example. However, as someone whose mother has always been a designer, and with a passing acquaintance with my own body, along with its occasional aches and pains, then those areas are also not too obscure. They require some added research, certainly, but I can also draw on experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been known to wash, and am sufficiently acquainted with soap as an everyday object, but I can’t say I’ve given it a great deal of thought in recent decades. I used to pop along to the supermarket whenever the remaining sliver I had slipped out of my hand and disappeared down the plughole, or I’d squeezed the last drops of liquid body gel (or whatever it’s called) out of the misshapen container. But apart from that, it hasn’t occupied much of my diskspace.
So when a friend and colleague Zoe Beal contacted me early on in the history of Tell My Story to write the text for her website www.savonneriedaniel.co.uk (they like a bit of savonnerie in Huddersfield), I was intrigued. Savonnerie is of course French for soap-making, as you no doubt knew, and Zoe had initially ventured into the field as a hobby. But the success of her fragrantissimo creations among friends and family sparked the idea of a business. And now, just weeks after the launch, Savonnerie Daniel is showing every sign of being a thriving cottage industry…
But how to write about a field which lies outside your immediate experience in this way? Well, as ever, the most obvious place to start is by talking to the client. And not just to set up the brief, but to find out as much as possible about the business, its own target audience, and the benefits it offers.
What inspired it?
Who are the clients?
What are they looking for in a soap?
To what problem is what “artisanal soap” the answer?
What makes these soaps different?
What is the backstory of the soapmakers?
Is there anything else that we can highlight in order to stand out from the soapy crowd?
And so on…
(If you want to know the answers, by the way, visit the website!)
Luckily so far, all of my clients have given generously of their time to answer such questions in interview and on questionnaire, which creates a great foundation. Because no one knows their business, your offer and your prospects as well as they do.
But then there’s further research to be done. Wikipedia perhaps for some insights into what soap is as a concept, as a thing. How it all began, what it represented. Who first had the idea?
Then when people buy soap on Amazon, for example (Amazon merely because of the numerous reviews every time – other global sales distribution outlets are available), what adjectives do they use to praise/criticise a product? Even if they’re talking about mass-produced soap a world away from our artisanal creations, their opinions can spark a thought.
And what of other internationally known soap manufacturers? Again, their products, and more crucially, the claims they make about them, will be different. But it’s good to know – to bathe (no pun intended) in that atmosphere, to live, breathe and eat soap while writing the text.
Well perhaps not to eat it, but you get my drift.
And then what finally emerges from all this heady immersion is a text that’s light years away from what I’d have written if I’d just sat down with a blank sheet of paper.
It’s all in the contact, the conversation, the research.
And that’s half the fun.
Of course it takes a few drafts from start to finish – this is the client’s baby we’re talking about, after all, but we were pleased with the result.
And on that note, I’ll leave the last word to Zoe: “Having worked with Andrew previously, he was my natural first choice when it came to telling the story behind my new online soap business to connect with customers. The questionnaire-based interview process was fun, as well as making me think very deeply about my target market, their problems and how my products might help solve them. A couple of rounds of drafting and review later and Andrew had created the compelling copy I needed to help convert web window shoppers to sales. Based on the evidence so far, it’s spot on!”