The psychology of the supermarket shop sometimes seeps into the mind of a client. We’re used to going in to pick up a toilet roll and waddling to the car with enough BOGOF rolls to insulate the attic. But getting more for our marketing pound doesn’t necessarily mean volume. Less often costs more. Because it’s much harder to come up with the three words that epitomize your brand (Coke Is It or Nike’s Just Do It), than it is to write a guide to brand values.

Here’s how to avoid big bills.

  1. Do as much research as you can before hiring a writer. A good writer will ask questions, to gather the information she needs. Meet her half way by preparing your key messages; provide examples and even samples of writing you admire. If you brief her fully she only needs to take away key documents.

An initial briefing can take more than an hour. And the writer often leaves with a pile of background reading. Those three words that will become your snappy slogan may be the result of a week’s reading, digesting, researching, and conceptualizing. The actual writing may only be a small part of the job.

  1. Be realistic. Often there are too many people involved, each wanting a different key message. Go back to your original aim and decide what, if nothing else, the recipient needs to know. And don’t pin your hopes on one item. If your message is to get your target audience to make an appointment, tell them how to on a poster or TV advert. Anything else, like the benefits of making the appointment, can go on a website or leaflet. A good campaign is integrated, with consistent messages across all items, and print and online working together.
  1. Remember: Editing means to make shorter not longer. If additional text must be inserted talk to your editor or proofreader. Huge swathes of alts can be paraphrased to keep the meaning in a few simple sentences. But at a late stage their job is to check for mistakes introduced by the typesetter, not to rewrite. Unless you ask them to. Substantial changes should be made at the copyedit stage (when the text is in a Word document) not when laid out in proofs. (Publications work in multiples of four pages. A new page may need to be added to accommodate two new paragraphs. But that new page is actually four new pages. What are you planning to fill the other three pages with?).
  1. Consider where it’s going to appear. People on a bus will have longer to read a poster than those waiting at the bus shelter. Place your copy in situ and get feedback. I’ve done this with convenience advertising (back of the toilet door, as seen in gyms, cinemas and clubs). Loitering in toilets asking for feedback is not a glamorous job but it quickly tells you which of three concepts works best.

And finally, if the final bill is much higher than you expected, don’t be afraid to query it. Who hasn’t left the supermarket checkout with the nagging suspicion that the 2-for-1 wasn’t rung through and we’ve paid too much? OK, just me then…