We’re designers. That’s where it all started for us. It’s a world full of excitement, colour, energy and joy. We love it and our client’s love it too. It’s what they think we’re here to do. Which is true. But increasingly it’s not the only thing.

The truth is design has an amazing ability to invite an audience into something new and exciting. It creates intrigue, aspiration and has the power to position a brand in the mind of an audience quickly and accurately. But once you have someone’s attention, what’s next? Design alone is not enough to cause someone to take action. We need to clearly tell our audience how they can engage with us and for this we need to use messaging. In others words…words.

We’re not copywriters, at least it’s not a service we’ve ever charged for. But looking back (over 10 years or so), I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve influenced, refined and had a say on the words used within a design project we’ve been part of. Let’s not even begin to think about what this might have been worth had we charged for it. The truth is, design and words can’t be separated – they need to work together to ensure the success of the project/campaign/very important thing that’s being created.

Before we go any further, let me just clarify what I’m talking about in this context – messaging. Not reams and reams of content copywriting. Longer form writing is content, which is necessary to educate and build authority, but it’s not what we’re talking about here. When I refer to messaging, I’m talking about the shorter pieces of copy that make or break a campaign; the headline, the one-liner or the call to action. Indeed, much of the copy of a website landing page would come under the ‘messaging’ category, and this is one of the most vital places to get your messaging right.

So on that basis, here’s three things you can do to improve the success of your messaging on your website:

1. Read Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller

In his book, Donald Miller outlines a fascinating story-based framework that positions the brand (you) as the ‘guide’, and your audience or ‘character’ as the hero. If you’ve been all too eager to tell the world your extended life story, accompanied by an unabridged account of your many accomplishments, then this may be the wake up call you need to realise that this is to much like hard work for a prospective customer. In Building a Storybrand, Donald Miller lays out a framework that cuts through the noise, plus he provides a bunch of handy free downloadable resources. I don’t believe anything is a ‘silver bullet’, but this framework provides a great perspective that will likely bring some much needed balance to the way you approach writing.

2. Clarify your audience and services

Sublime works with owner-managers of B2B service-based small businesses and consultancies in the UK on brand strategy, visual identity and website development. In short, we help small businesses thrive through brand. Who do you work for and what do you do? Writing anything is hard when you don’t know who you are talking to and what you are offering to do for them.

3. Clarify your call to action and next steps

If you read Building a Storybrand (get it here), you will be taken through a series of steps including how to call your audience to action. But is a one liner and an email address field enough to get a potential client over the line and hand over their precious personal contact details? I hold my email address lightly and will often subscribe on websites without too much thought, partly because I’m interested in seeing how they have set up their autoresponders and onboarding journeys (so I can see what works well and borrow ideas for ourselves and our clients!). But if your audience behave more like a normal person (!) who wants to protect their email address, then it’s likely they will have some questions around ‘what happens after I give you my email address’? It’s your job to reassure them in this moment of the next steps to give them an added level of confidence that they know you’ve got a plan and they won’t get any nasty surprises.

If you feel like your answers to some of these questions are not clear and you need some help refining your brand, let’s talk.

Written by Matt Collison, Co-founder and strategy director of Sublime.

Starting out as a freelance designer, Matt has been working with small businesses for 10 years to help them look as good on the outside as they are on the inside. Today he leads the brand strategy work of Sublime, leading small business owners and their teams through a process of discovering their true identity and positioning them for success.

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