An invitation to Sun Studios to audition for the revered producer Sam Phillips; a seminal moment for Johnny Cash but he doesn’t know that yet. When Sam cuts him off seconds into his song, it’s not promising. If the band don’t have anything else for him, then the audition is over.
A rattled Johnny demands to know what’s wrong with his singing. Sam’s response is curt, the problem is, “I don’t believe you.”
They’ve only one more chance to get Sam’s attention back. Johnny delivers and the rest of the story you know, or so it goes in Walk The Line.
What does this have to do with your business?
Because, if you are as passionate about your business as Johnny Cash was about his then you need to work on your messaging too. Plain old cover tracks from the days of old’ aint gonna cut it either.
You need to impress in just one song and in the 21st century that one piece of music can be your website.
If you believe Sam was ungracious think about the average amount of time, someone will spend on your website getting a flavour of what you do, trying to find the love and originality. It’s a cruel 0.05 of a second.
And your tagline is not just saying what you sell. It’s not your business name; but your world, including your audience in only one sentence.
Creating the perfect tagline is hard, which is why I’ve been putting it off for two years and why in the summary investigation I’ve just undertaken not many other businesses have mastered it either.
Now’s our time folks. Let’s do it together. Now, it is our time to go the extra mile with our business.
But why again?
Because like Sam, people don’t have time to spend hours looking at your website trying to figure out what you do. The collective ‘we’ have been conditioned by bright lights and sensory entertainment to have short attention spans.
After you do this groundwork once you can use it across all of your platforms so buckle in and let’s do it.
What is A Tagline?
A tagline is an advertising term for a catchy or memorable phrase that sums up your business to your audience. Its purpose is to capture your audience’s attention.
Let’s look at two brand biggies, and yes, I know that everyone uses these examples, but it’s because they work.
Nike’s — Just Do It, and
Apple’s Think Different.
These taglines may appear simple, but in just a few syllables they both do the same things:
1. Both taglines know their audience.
2. Both understand the higher-level desires of their audience.
3. They both contain an action verb.
4. They both use the rule ‘less is more’. In no more than five syllables, they’ve created a tagline that reaches the core of their universal and individual customer base.
And before you remind me of the marketing budgets of these giants, let’s look at my humble tagline and see what we can do as a team of ‘just me.’
‘Building Worlds With Words’
It rolls smoothly off the tongue gently in live pitches, but it doesn’t hit any of the four criteria listed above.
1. Audience — building worlds? What worlds for who? Fail.
2. Bigger desires — again do potential clients want to build worlds? Not at the point, they come to me. Fail.
3. As above. Fail.
4. Building? Fail
How does your tagline stand up against these criteria? If you don’t have one consider it a Fail too and join me on the next steps.
I’m on repeat; you’ve heard it before, you know it, I know it yet my tagline still sucks and maybe you don’t have one, so I’ll repeat it. Who is your audience? Don’t write it in your slogan just yet; hold onto it.
Apple has designated itself as a brand for creatives and tech lovers; this is its audience.
Nike makes sportswear, so it appeals to athletes but not just any athletes, those aiming to be top performers.
Don’t be tempted when writing a tagline to talk about you and what you do. That’s probably clear already by the pictures on your website. So many sites I’ve seen describe themselves on their home page.
Do Apple or Nike mention themselves? Nope, it’s audience-facing.
My clients are SME business owners across multiple industries. They need to be small enough that they can change or implement a new creative strategy, but big enough to pay a writer to work.
Do they want to build worlds with words? That’s probably not going to appeal to them, but now I’ve identified who they are let’s move on to determining what the audience wants.
Bigger Picture Desires
Now we have our audience; it is time to describe the tangible products or services that we provide more universally or emotionally.
Apple sells laptops, phones and computer hardware but their tagline Think Different appeals to those wishing to differentiate themselves creatively. Use our products if you want to think differently says that tagline.
Nike sells footwear, but their tagline Just do it offers a provocation to join the daring ranks of an athlete. Wear our clothing if you want to be a top-performing athlete says that tagline.
I sell a service to provide words and ideas, but what does that mean for my SME clients? To talk about what I sell isn’t the purpose of a tagline.
What tangible products and services do you sell? Write them down.
Generally, there’s no emotion conveyed in the products and services that we sell. What we’re looking for is the impact that these services will have on our audience. We want something with a higher meaning, something more powerful and emotional.
The answer lies in the verb.
A tagline needs a verb, not any old verb, an action verb which is one that describes a mental or physical activity.
It’s the verb of your client. For example, my tagline shouldn’t describe writing or storytelling because that’s my verb.
Do is the ultimate action verb for an athlete; it sits over achieving, conquering, mastering, winning, flourishing etc. To do, to step out and start is the first step in the process for an athlete.
Think is the ultimate action verb for a creative; it sits above drawing, or coding or painting or creating. It’s the first step in the process for a creative.
Building Worlds With Words fall apart again here because it’s about me, what I do, not what my client ultimately wants.
If you can’t come up with the best verb to describe the impact you have on your clients spend some time bashing words around,
Action — come up with 10 Verbs that you can use in your tagline.
This activity deserves more than a throwaway moment in front of your PC coming up with any old verb that sounds good. Trust me, that’s what I did the first time.
If you’re a product like Apple or Nike, you’ll be talking about the effect your output has on your consumers.
If you’re a service like me, you’ll be talking about the benefit you endow on your clients to help them reach their audience.
Use your thesaurus if you struggle.
While words like illuminate and captivate appeal to me, they aren’t describing the desires of my potential clients.
If none of them are stoking your fire, make another list. If you have a business, there is an action verb out there for you.
After reading all of them out loud and putting them into a sentence, Impress is the one that lands.
Less Is More
Not much needs to be said about Think Different and Just Do it.
It’s time to do the same with yours.
When you’ve got your favourite verb, put it into a sentence.
My (product or service) helps my clients (verb)
My copywriting helps my clients impress.
I change impress to a noun, impression and use the verb make which describes a mental and physical activity.
My copywriting helps my clients make an impression.
It sounds better; the verb make is a transitive verb, and it has a creative connotation. The whole sentence is too clunky, but that’s okay, I don’t need the beginning.
On my website, I can assume that someone knows that I’m offering my services.
I can boil it down to
Make An Impression
I love it! Maybe it will change in the future, but at the moment it ticks all of the boxes:
– It knows its audience.
– It talks to the bigger picture as well as the individual desire of my clients.
– It includes an action verb, Make
– It’s simple — five syllables get me!
Now you can include it across your website and social media profiles, and you can also try and work it into a verbal pitch.
See what a few hours with a dictionary and thesaurus can do. I feel like I’ve nailed my business tagline so bring it on Sam Phillips, I’m ready to make an impression on you.
Thanks for reading. I’m a freelance writer helping businesses to create an impression on their audience. If you are a fellow small business you may be interested in this blog about Taking A UX Approach To Content Creation.
Originally published on Medium.
I’m on a mission to unpick the myth of creative genius and have put together a short, digestible guide on creativity and how small businesses can develop this mindset. Find out more here.