Writing is a tricky business.
You have to choose just the right words to convey your unique message to your specific audience.
And, that’s only half the battle.
There’s also the question of context.
Where and how will you communicate? And, what is your goal?
Novels are not novellas. And, content marketing is not copywriting.
As Perry Robin, a writer for the content marketing experts at Brafton, explains:
Writing marketing copy is a unique, specialized task.
It shouldn’t be confused with newswriting, sending an email to a colleague, RFP copy or the many other types of writing a business may need to use.
Although marketing copy draws on elements from all of the above (and much, much more), it’s a distinct, powerful and unique entity that has a specific purpose and set of goals.
The goal of marketing copy is to convert.
Compelling marketing copy is the key to gaining subscribers, clients, or customers.
But, just because you’re great at writing blog content, or technical descriptions, or FAQs, does not mean that you’re a great copywriter.
Fortunately, copywriting is a skill that can be learned.
I’ve heard it claimed that copy is not written, so much as constructed.
Like a model airplane. But, with words.
And sure, there are formulas that you can follow to write strong marketing or sales copy. (More about that below.) But there’s more to copywriting than a handful of formulas.
Here are 7 tips to help fill in the blanks of what makes copywriting great. Read on to learn how to write marketing copy that combines both art and marketing psychology – copy that will engage your audience and motivate them to convert.
Tip #1 Keep it short, snappy, and easy-to-read.
This first tip is important.
People are busy. They lead fast-paced lives. And, a million things are vying for their attention.
As a result, people don’t read marketing copy. They scan.
In 1997 the Nielsen Norman Group revealed that 79% of users they tested scanned web pages rather than reading them. Since then, our online lives have only gotten busier as we’re bombarded daily with personal messages, cat gifs, marketing messages, viral videos, political messages… You get the idea.
This is why people scan – they don’t have time to do anything else. And, wordiness is the enemy.
Eddie Shleyner, content marketer, copywriter and founder of VeryGoodCopy.com, asserts:
Brevity and clarity will ensure that your message is digestible, which is important if you want your words to be read and understood with ease.
If you want to write good copy, you need to get to the point. Fast.
And with fewer words to communicate your message, the words you choose become more important.
And, find more concise ways to communicate your point.
Tip #2 Write in the active voice.
Don’t worry – I’m not gonna get all grammar-y on you. Well… not too grammar-y.
Here’s what you need to know. Passive voice is fussier and harder to read than active voice.
See for yourself:
Passive: “The product was bought by the customer.”
Active: “The customer bought the product.”
Both statements are grammatically correct. However, the passive statement de-emphasizes the subject (the customer) in favor of the object (the product).
When you’re writing marketing copy, are you trying to connect with the customer or the product?
Writing in active voice (emphasizing the subject – aka your potential customer) creates a higher likelihood that the audience reading it will relate to the content. When readers can imagine themselves in your words, that resonance is a powerful tool of persuasion.
And, writing in active voice is always more concise than its passive version. So, it helps to keep your writing shorter, snappier, and easier-to-read. Sound familiar?
So, always review your copy to ensure that you’re writing in an active voice that will quickly and directly resonate with your readers.
Tip #3 Make it about your audience.
We already touched on the importance of connecting with your audience in our last section about writing in an active voice. But, that’s just a piece of a much bigger puzzle.
Your readers are people. And people like to hear about themselves. You should always keep this in mind as you write your copy.
In practice, this means viewing every piece of information you share through the lens of your audience.
- What benefits are most important to them?
- Why will they care about this?
- How will this impact their lives in a positive way?
- What problem does it solve for them?
It also means speaking to your audience and helping them envision how your product or service will play a positive role in their life.
Neil Patel points out that Apple does an excellent job of doing just that. Here’s an excerpt from Apple’s iPhone5 marketing copy:
So you can browse, download, and stream content at remarkable speeds, wherever you happen to be.
With one less layer between you and what you see on iPhone 5, you experience more clarity than ever before.
So with iPhone 5, the games you play, the words you read, the images you see, and the apps you love look and feel incredibly vivid and lifelike.
It’s all about “you.” This copy paints a vivid picture. I can imagine myself holding a new iPhone and playing mobile games on a crystal clear screen.
Write copy that will guide your potential customers to see your product or service in their lives.
For example, on our blog, we offer numerous opportunities for people to get free guides on a variety of topics. When people search for how to start a business and read our article on that subject, we offer them a free brand identity guide (this is a call-out in the article). Our call-out clearly and quickly articulates why our readers should care about this guide and how it will help them.
We just emailed the Brand Identity Guide to you.
Tip #4 Lean on emotion – not intellect.
When it comes to people, emotion trumps logic almost every time.
As we wrote previously,
One of the most valuable rules consumer behavior has taught us is that people respond better to emotional appeals than intellectual ones. Roger Dooley’s article “Emotional Ads Work Better” reveals that emotional ad campaigns perform nearly twice as well as ads with a rational focus.
It’s more persuasive to show consumers how a product or service can benefit their life in a meaningful way rather than showing them a list of features.
We live in a world where we are taught from the start that we are thinking creatures that feel. The truth is, we are feeling creatures that think.
While common wisdom seems to indicate that it’s better to make decisions rationally, the truth is that emotion influences all of our choices. You can’t afford to forget the persuasive strength of emotions.
Tailor your copy to resonate with a prospect’s emotions. Then supplement that emotional appeal with enough info to satisfy the mind’s rational side.
The next section will offer you three copywriting techniques for doing just that.
Tip #5 Use copywriting formulas.
Good marketing copy doesn’t follow the 5 paragraph essay format you learned in high school.
But, that doesn’t mean that there’s no structure at all.
In fact, there are a vast number of copywriting formulas that you can follow. So many, that it’s impossible to cover all of them here.
These formulas outline exactly what type of information you should be sharing and in what order. Handy, right?
But, with so many copywriting formulas to choose from, how do you know where to start?
We’ve chosen three of the best-known formulas to get you started.
This is probably the oldest and most widely known copywriting formula. It was developed in 1898 by St Elmo Lewis. “A.I.D.A.” stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
These are the four stages Lewis believed were necessary in order to motivate a customer to make a purchase. And, history has proven that he was pretty spot-on.
A – Capture the reader’s attention.
I – Build interest in your product or service. (Show how the product or service is relevant to the reader.)
D – Create desire for the product or service (Help readers imagine how their lives will be positively impacted.)
A – Deliver your call to action.
This formula is more recent.
And, it takes into account the fact that when writing on the web, chances are good that you’ve already got your reader’s attention (or they wouldn’t be there). “P.A.S.” stands for Problem, Agitation, Solution.
The best way to wrap your mind around this technique is to think of an infomercial. The narrator states a problem. The actor on the screen acts a fool as they struggle to show how difficult it is to complete the given task – this is the agitation. Then the product is revealed as the solution.
P – Introduce the problem in an engaging way.
A – Agitate the reader by helping them envision how frustrating/unpleasant the problem really is.
S – Save the day by providing a solution to solve the prospect’s issue.
F.A.B. stands for Features, Advantages, Benefits. This formula is great to use when introducing a new product or service that needs some explanation or when you want to differentiate your product/service from a competitor. It’s also a great technique for writing product descriptions.
F – Mention the specific feature you want to call attention to.
A – Specify what advantages that feature offers (over a competitor, a previous version, or just what the feature actually does).
B – Show how these features and advantages actually benefit the lives of the users in a positive way.
You’ll notice that these formulas all rely on inciting an emotional response in the prospect. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Tip #6 Make every word count.
In good writing, as in good design, nothing is arbitrary.
Every word, line, color, and shape must be chosen with intent to optimize your ability to communicate your precise message.
In marketing copywriting – when it’s essential to communicate succinctly – it becomes even more important to get the most from every word. One of the ways to accomplish this is by relying on “power words”.
The internet is full of lists of marketing power words. While we can’t promise that simply using power words will lead to a sale – or even that every word on these lists is as effective as people claim they are – there’s no denying that certain words do have power.
Words like “free.” Or “new.” And words like “you” and “sale.”
Making every word count also means knowing which words to avoid. Take a pass on words that are weak or generic. Instead, choose specific, evocative words that pack a lot of punch. Make friends with a thesaurus and use it regularly.
Choose vivid, expressive, powerful words and your copy will leap off the page or screen.
Tip #7 Don’t forget to ask.
No marketing copy is complete without a call to action.
The call to action (CTA) is the moment in your copy when you stop making your case and ask for what you want.
And, that’s what we want, right?
A call to action should always be clear and concise.
There’s no room for ambiguity. Ambiguity creates confusion and anxiety about how to proceed – neither of which is good for sales.
A clear call to action tells a prospect exactly what they need to do to move forward.
And, that certainty is reassuring. Not to mention knowing how to move forward increases the likelihood that they’ll manage to do it.
When writing a call to action, consider taking one of two paths – the path of complete reassurance or the path of urgency.
The path of complete reassurance removes all potential stress around following through on the CTA. “Sign up for our free trial!” is an example of this technique. There’s no downside to acting – the thing they’re signing up for is free. So, prospects feel safe to take this next step.
That’s what we do, for example, on many of our landing pages. When people are looking for custom logo design for their business, for example, we bring them to a landing page that explains that product offering. And our main call to action there is “Get started (no obligation)”.
This is something we constantly test (so the language on our landing pages always varies) – and you should do the same.
Contrast that with our call to action on landing pages related to naming. When people are looking for a unique company name, we bring them to a landing page where the main call to action is “Start a naming project draft”. In that call to action, “start” and “draft” make clear that the person isn’t taking an action that’s irreversible.
Alternately, your call to action may incite some degree of urgency or curiosity that compels a prospect to move forward. “Order today! Supplies are limited!”
Invoking a limited time or limited quantity creates a sense of urgency that motivates leads to act quickly – whether they feel completely at ease or not.
Whichever path you take, be sure to include a direct call to action. And, test to learn which CTAs are most effective with your audience.
The Power of Marketing Copy
Marketing copy is a powerful tool. But, it’s ultimately only as powerful as your knowledge of where your audience and your product intersect.
Benyamin Elias, copywriter and content marketing expert, explains it this way:
Marketing copy only makes people want products to the extent that it answers their problems and helps them get the things that they want. As Joanna Wiebe, the original conversion copywriter, says “you’re selling your prospects a better version of themselves”
If you want to have strong marketing copy, you first need to ask other questions. What problems do people have? Are they willing to pay to solve them? What demand is out there for a solution like your product?
So, anytime you feel lost about what to write, seek out your sources – your customer and your product.
For more information on copywriting, check out these blogs:
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