Shoes for people with fitting and walking difficulties, has been the job title at Bill Bird Shoes for years but it took us a long time to arrive at it. It is an accurate statement inclusive of the whole range of reasons our clients come to us, without being off-putting to anyone. At Bill Bird Shoes in Gloucestershire and London we have found out just how important the right use of language is when communicating with the public. Words and phrases that now trip off our tongues as simple common sense, actually took years to find.
For instance, we have clients, not customers as a regular shoe shop does; and not patients as an orthotist or podiatrist does. Why? Because our clients are not just buying something ready-made, nor surrendering to our expertise as a patient does to a podiatrist. More like the relationship between a client and architect, we help the client discover what they want and what is right for them and then we make it, conferring with them all the way
Footwear for Special Needs
During the 80s and 90s, The British Footwear Manufacturers Association (now Britfoot) published an annual booklet called Footwear for Special Needs. This put thousands of people in touch with the shoemaker they needed and it helped give us shoemakers low-cost, effective marketing before the advent of the internet.
The Britfoot publication also popularised the term Footwear for Special Needs, a phrase that describes the work that we all do without carrying any social stigma. Before that, terms like surgical boots, orthopaedic shoes and even therapeutic footwear had associations of an ungainly appearance and the fear of social exclusion. The public could be even more scathing with words like hospital boots and cripple shoes.
The term bespoke describes all that is best in made-to-measure shoe design and making. About ten years ago we placed it in front of the word orthopaedic and the combined term – bespoke orthopaedic – immediately carried a new meaning. Every aspect of the shoe is designed and prescribed for the individual’s condition and needs, paying as much attention to achieving the best possible style and elegance as it does to comfort and treating the client’s condition.
Finding the right words
In 1991, Kate, a journalist and copy-writer (and later Bill Bird‘s wife) joined our firm as workshop manager. As well as designing our still-used and very successful scheduling system, Kate also wrote our first brochure, which has since evolved into the one that we use today.
The process of writing and re-writing it helped us to find the words that best described what we can do, what we can’t do, and how clients can benefit from our service. This not only gave us an informative document to send out in answer to enquiries, it also helped us to be more clear and consistent when answering telephone enquiries. The copy used in our brochure also provided the original framework for our first website on Microsoft Front Page in the late 1990s. It still does so today.
In 1993, Kate came up with the phrase that encapsulates the essence of our service and is still used on our website – ‘Wearing shoes can become a pleasure again, whatever shape your feet are in.’ Some ten years later we finally arrived at the words that describe what it is we actually do. That is, we make ‘shoes for people with fitting and walking difficulties’. Or as they say elsewhere ‘we do what it says on the tin’.
Bill Bird Shoes in the Midlands and London handcrafts fashionable, made-to-measure shoes and boots for problem feet. Contact us to find out how we can help transform your life.