3122873609_c0a60f4fd4_mWhen I started out as a copywriter it was quite a challenge to take off my creative, flowery hat and don the purposeful cap.  But if you want your copy to work then needs must.  So shelf the pretty bonnet with the pretence it will only be brought out under special circumstances and get that cap on, you’re a copywriter now!  Or at least you are for the purpose of this blog.

So last week I wrote about how to improve online web copy but as a lover of everything copy, I felt I was neglecting my roots by leaving out the trials and tribulations of the traditional copywriter hence this week’s blog being solely dedicated to it.

Over the years there has been so much I have learned and so many tricks of the trade that I have picked up that I wanted to share them with you…

Copywriting is in essence communicating a message through words. Many people use images, but in my biased opinion words can sell and communicate so effectively when used correctly. Good copy helps your customers understand your offer and guides them towards a response by letting them imagine themselves with the product.

Write to an objective

One of the keys to every communication and to copywriting is to know what objective or purpose your copy is to have. What are you trying to achieve? It is best to clarify this at the start of the copywriting process in order to be more clear in both the style and tone of the communication which will in turn influence the language you use. Also, if you are not clear about what the objective is then you can be certain your customers won’t be either.  For example:

  • Are you trying to sell?

  • Are you trying to inform?

  • Is it an urgent call to action?

  • Is it a reassurance message?

By answering this before you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard it will dictate the tone and content of your copy and you can decide how to structure your message.  If you have the words right but the tone and flow wrong then your message is at risk of being inefficiently communicated.

Know your audience…

You need to know how to form a mental image of your reader as it is essential to know who your audience, or your target audience, is.  Think about what’s important to them, what they are passionate about, how old they are, what they might like to do in their spare time and so on and so forth.  This was really hard for me at first but a good place to start is by looking at your product and who it is aimed at and of course what products or services your existing audience have purchased from you in the past.  The more you know about the audience you’re writing for the more targeted and relevant your copy will be. Remember you are writing to and for your audience, and not for yourself. Don’t assume your audience know what you are thinking or what you want them to do, you need to tell them effectively.

What is your value proposition and unique selling points…

Know the answers to these questions:

  • What will be enhanced in their lives or business by them buying your product?

  • What’s in it for them?

  • Why is your product better than the one down the street?

  • What are your key differentiators?

  • This is what your customer really wants to know so you should preempt that and tell them first!

Everyone loves a good headline so make them work for you

A great and compelling headline grabs attention, gets people engaged and encourages them to read on.  Try and make your headlines attention grabbing. Here’s a question I always ask myself: If my customers only read the headline will they know enough to understand what’s on offer?

Don’t write too much… (you may remember this from last week?)

Statistics show that after fourteen words of copy there is a 90% drop off rate in attention… make sure then that your most important message and USP are contained within the first 14 words.

What’s in it for me?

You may hear copywriters speak about ‘features and benefits’, this essentially means ‘what is the feature of your product and what benefit will it bring to the customer?’  I have often thought that the term should be ‘benefits and features’ as putting the benefit first grabs the attention more effectively.

For example:

Save time with our new 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner

Our new 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner will save you time

Another thing I do is to read my first draft out loud and have someone else read it too.  If at any point I need to pause for breath mid sentence or get confused then I know I have either written too much or what I have written is not clear…or both!  As you edit your copy cut out any unnecessary filler words, I always found these were adjectives chucked in for the sake of it and that I had made a statement without having proven it as the sentence went on.

And finally…

If you find that you have a lot to say but limited space then try bullet points and subtitles to break up long paragraphs thus making your content easier to read and more importantly, easier to scan.  I mentioned this last week too, most readers scan a page at first and it is the parts the eye focuses on that make them decide whether to read in detail or not.

Got it?  Good.  Next week we will look at how to make an effective advert.

How to improve online copy

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