Plain Thoughts Blog

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Marketing copy search continues…knowing your company’s values

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By peterurban - January 23rd, 2009

Great Web Copy is a Product of Teamwork

In the comment thread from my last post, Justin mentioned 37 Signals as a model for great web copy. I couldn’t agree more. For those of us looking to write smart, sharp marketing copy for the online software market, I think 37 Signals sets a high standard.

Consider this quote from their homepage:

Execution is everything.

We believe most software is too complex. Too many features, too many buttons, too much confusion. We build easy to use web-based products with elegant interfaces and thoughtful features. We’re focused on executing on the basics beautifully.


Without getting too technical, I’d like to point out the consistent structural features of this snippet. The use of short sentences helps the copy pack a punch: each statement comes and says only what it needs to. Conventional grammar is abandoned in favour of information-stuffed fragments. The tone of the copy matches the mission of the company. Just like they want to simplify online software, 37 Signals accordingly communicates in a simple, no-nonsense fashion. Their software is friendly, so their copy is friendly.

Which brings me to what I believe to be the most important maxim of writing web copy: match your voice with your company. Short and sweet is nothing if your copy doesn’t have something more, its own unique voice. There is nothing that can improve your marketing better than a thorough understanding of your business’s mission and value system that goes for marketing in person, of course, as much as it does on the web.

My suggestion to web writers is to take the time to accustom yourself with the look and feel of your company, and this ranges from its webpage, to its physical office space, to the people who make the magic happen on a daily basis. Have a conversation with your coworkers about what your company means, what its ambitions are and what its core values boil down to. Write that stuff down, and highlight key words that come to mind. Here at Plainpeak, our philosophy always links back to “Grow Smart”. I find those two words surprisingly helpful when I’m struggling with marketing copy.

Justin also drew my attention to an incredible non-profit site called Housing Works. Next week I want to consider the differences and resonances between non-profit and corporate marketing copy: what can each of them learn from the other?

In the meantime, I am interested in more examples of great web copy. What are your favourites?

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