Copywriting tips

1. The copywriting mantra: benefits, not features

You’re not selling life insurance, you’re selling peace of mind. You’re not selling a property investment portfolio, you’re selling financial independence (which means private schooling for their kids, foreign holidays, no more 9-to-5 grind).

It’s surprising the number of companies that are selling sex these days. Not literally, of course. They’re simply selling the promise of sex. ‘Use our deodorant and get the boy/girl’ is their message. ‘Drive the car to increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex.’

Everybody’s selling something. But it isn’t always the product. So what are you selling? Don’t start writing until you know.

2. What’s in it for me?

Whenever you write something, it’s always good to ask yourself why they – your customers, browsers, casual readers – should care.

How many times have you clicked past a mission statement (‘We firmly believe that…’) just to get to the stuff that really matters? If you do it, think about your customers: they’ll do it too. When they were first introduced, mission statements were fresh, new and unique. Now they’re stale, old and everywhere. Dump them. Say something that matters. And say it as if you mean it.

3. It’s all about you

Like many people, I shop at Amazon because I like their informal style, their regular email updates, their ‘you-might-also-like-this’ suggestion. They give me the feeling that they care. They use the word ‘you’ frequently.

What are they doing? They’re creating a personal connection with me. It’s not me and and huge bookstore; it’s me and the nice person who wrote the Amazon email. They’re engaging with me in a one-to-one conversation.

All too often when we write, we slip into a formal, stilted tone that loses the reader. And loses the sale. If you want to make the sale, make the connection.

4. KISS – keep it short and simple

What do you think this is trying to say?

From exploiting customer in-store wait time to migrating offline consumers to online channels, we can provide an innovative turnkey solution that delivers both customer insight and business results.

What it’s really saying is:

We’ll make sure your customers buy in your store or online. Every time. And you’ll make more money.

So why not just say it?

5. Get to the point – quick

Writers often use a tactic known as the ‘delayed drop’ – you tease your readers, tantalise them, lead them on, then drop in the unexpected.

It works well with longer articles in magazines or newspaper supplements. There, you have the luxury of time. People have consciously chosen to read your article. And they’ll stay with you.

Copywriting works differently. People are short of time, and you’re not the only one vying for it.

So get to the point. And make sure it’s crystal-clear.

6. If a thing is worth saying, it’s worth saying again

Repetition is your friend. I’ll say that again: repetition is your friend.

You’ve spent an age crafting a piece of writing. You’re sure it says what it needs to say. You’ve read it and re-read it. You could almost recite it in your sleep.

Your prospect/client will read it once. So to make sure they get the message, repeat yourself. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.

Now they’ll remember.

7. Make it lively, make it memorable

It was the writer Fay Weldon who, in a previous life as a copywriter, encouraged people to ‘go to work on an egg’.

So how would you sell an egg? How about ‘a cracking good idea’ or ‘six of the best every week’?

People will remember your message if you use colourful, memorable language. Use as many of the senses as you can (‘silky to the touch,’ ‘the wine has a velvety taste combined with a musky bouquet,’ ‘rediscover brilliant colours and glorious sunlight’).

Make an impression. It’ll help you make the sale.

8. Stand out

What makes your product or service different? In a crowded marketplace, you’ve got to dare to be different. And your writing should tell that story. If everybody claims – and they do – to be faster, cheaper, better, then you’ve got to find something else to set you apart.

So what makes you stand out? Find it, then sell it.

9. Who are ‘they’?

‘They’ are your target audience. But just who are ‘they’? Old, young, affluent, working, retired?

The more you know your audience, the better you can talk to them. When you know their wants and needs, you’ll connect with them more directly.

So find out who they are before you start writing.

10. Plan before you write

It’s very tempting to sit down and knock out something – anything – just to make a start. At least that way you haven’t got a blank page or screen staring at you. But ‘woolly briefs,’ as they’re called, lead to woolly results.

Start at the most basic level: why am I writing this? Who is my audience? What do I want to say to them? If they remember only one thing (and that’s asking a lot), what would it be? And lastly, and most importantly, what do I want them to do? Good writing is all very well, but what is my call to action?

Plan, plan, plan. Then write.

Were these copywriting tips helpful? Why not email me and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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