Guest blog from Rachel Williams, professional copywriter

I’ve become increasingly aware that, for business owners, it’s often hard to see the wood for the trees when it comes to communicating with their target audience. It’s one thing knowing what you want to tell your audience, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s what your audience wants to know – or even needs to know in order to make a purchasing decision.

Over the last year I’ve been working with a number of state schools and have written or edited three prospectuses. It’s work I love doing, my interest in the education sector has developed naturally as my children progress through school, so I have a strong affinity with the subject. I’m also an excellent ‘guinea pig’ because I am the target audience.

Schools, of course, are not at the hard edge of business in terms of the need to sell – unless they are operating in the private sector. Catchment areas and location largely define their ‘audience’, but catchments do overlap and schools are reliant on headcount for their budgets, so even within the state sector marketing does have a part to play.

And that’s why I was surprised by the suggested content for each prospectus. Uniforms, headlice, after-school activities and admissions criteria all figured largely. All good stuff, and all useful information that a parent needs to know. But hang on, schools are about learning and developing, and I want to know what my child is going to learn and how the teaching staff will make the learning experience interesting and engaging. In each case I had to go back to the client and request more information so that I could build up that side of the story. For most parents a school’s approach to teaching and learning will be a key decision factor when choosing a school – having a nit comb is just a handy hint!

As a copywriter it’s my job to craft a piece of writing that will persuade a prospective customer to take action – book an appointment, buy a product, request a meeting. I’m able to keep a sufficient distance from my subject to be objective about what information should be included within an email, brochure or web page. But when it’s your business, you’re so absorbed in the detail and the all-important step to get into your customer’s shoes can be an almost impossible leap.

If you’re worried that your communications aren’t working as well as they should, test it out on other people whose opinions you can trust and respect – a customer that you know well would be an ideal candidate. Their feedback will be invaluable and will help you focus more clearly on the messages that your audience wants to receive.

Have you found ways around this? It would be great to hear how you tap into your customers’ minds.

Photo credit: jscreationzs