Ever wondered exactly what copywriting is? If so, Mark Davis, one of Lime Copywriting’s most experienced creative minds, is here to let you know all about it…
If you’ve got a flare for talking people into things, you might find copywriting to be your calling. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about what copywriting is and isn’t.
So, I’m going to take a few moments to set the record straight and let you know the ins and outs of this fascinating subject.
What is Copywriting Exactly?
Well, let’s start at the beginning and define exactly what copywriting is and why it is different from other styles of writing – such as blog and article creation.
Here’s my personal definition:
Copywriting is the dark art of crafting a precise combination of words to compel a reader to take an action, whether that happens to be making a purchase, inputting an email address, or any other action that could be beneficial to you.
If you’ve ever found yourself with a mouthful of fish-flavoured crisps or considered Flaming Hot Cheetos a viable source of food, you’ve likely been the victim of the black magic that is effective copywriting.
Or, if you want someone else’s more politically correct definition, Digital Marketer defines copywriting as, “The activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity material.”
So, you know, go with that one if you’re uncomfortable with dabbling in the dark arts.
Web copy involves landing pages and other important pages of a website, such as product pages. As a copywriter, a great piece of web copy should encourage readers to buy a product or service.
Ad copy is the text of an actual advertisement. Its usual purpose is to get someone to click on a button or something to send the user to the business’ web/landing page in hopes of selling a product or service.
Email copy is much like ad copy. It has the same goal but is sent directly to a potential customer. So, it is active in nature unlike ad copy which is typically seen by a more general audience.
Blogs are the weird stepchildren of the copy world. Ostensibly, blogs aren’t copy at all. However, with some clever writing skills, a blog can serve as a kind of guerrilla marketing tool to generate hype around a brand.
So yeah, the black arts recognize not the sanctity of the blogosphere.
What Makes Great Copy?
In a nutshell, great copy is all about conversion. In copywriting, conversion means making a reader take a single, predefined action. That action could be, for example; buying a product, clicking on a link, signing up for an email list, etc.
To effectively do this, a copywriter must:
Target a Demographic
There is an 80/20 rule in marketing which states that 80% of sales will come from only 20% of your customers. Effective copywriting needs to target that 20% for maximum results. Before the first word of copy is written, a good copywriter will research exactly who that 20% is.
Because every demographic has its own concerns and learning those concerns is how you generate revenue.
For instance, say we’re marketing vitamins. If the target demographic is your average 30-year-old, I’ll customize my message far differently than if I were targeting pensioners.
Find Their Pain Points
Once you’ve found your target audience, you need to find their pain points. What is the problem or need that your product or service will address? After all, your product has to solve a problem or address a need to part the buyer with their hard-earned money.
This is where your demographic research pays off. Let’s use our vitamin example again and look at how we’ll introduce pain points.
30-somethings. For this crowd, let’s focus on maintaining youthful vigour. After all, these poor folks are just feeling the first unpleasant effects of ageing. So, we’ll focus on our vitamins restoring that youthful energy and competitive edge they think they’re losing.
Pensioners. Well, they’re certainly not concerned with being able to run a 4-minute mile. However, we can remind them of the correlation between good nutrition and a strong immune system. Or, we can focus on vitamins being necessary for strong bones or good eyesight.
Address Why the Competition is Inferior
The next order of business is convincing your reader they must choose your product. All the other products are inferior. Sometimes this is simple – especially if your product has elements that your competitors don’t. Maybe your vitamins have extra nutrients.
In some cases, your product is just like everyone else’s though. Well, this is when that black magic you got hired for comes into play. If you can’t make your product better, you make your client appear better.
This is what we call selling a brand. If you’re selling to 30-somethings, you’ll want to keep it hip and edgy and make your client one of the cool kids on the block.
If it’s pensioners you’re after, show that your client knows their way around and has been through things – just like them.
The approaches are endless, but you can see the point. You know your customer, you know what their problem is, you know how to fix it and only you do.
The Call to Action
And here is where, finally, you learn if your incantation was correct and your spell has worked. You were hired to make someone click on something. For all your theorising, if they don’t click, you failed. That is your conversion.
There are some snappy ways to get people to click, but the most tested and true is FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.
“While Supplies Last!”
“The world only has one week of vitamins left!”
These are FOMO tactics. If your customer decides to postpone making a decision, you’ll lose a lot of them. So, you want readers to act immediately. The call to action is what drives that.
Other Elements of Good Copy
Avoid being wordy. In good copy, more is less. Avoid flowery words, hyperbole and technical jargon. Keep sentences short and to the point. If the customer doesn’t make it to the end of your copy, they’ll never reach that button in the first place.
Likewise, keep your language simple. You’re trying to sell something, not audition for a professorship. The reader does not care about your vocabulary. In fact, you may irritate them if you show it off too much.
Speak in an active voice, not passive.
“One may sign up by selecting the ‘join now’ button.”
“Click that ‘join now’ button and immediately start receiving this life-changing newsletter”
See the difference? You’re advertising, not writing a thesis, so keep the voice active and driven.
Lead with the story.
In normal writing, you may tend to save the best parts for last. It is quite the opposite in copy. You need to catch the reader’s attention as quickly as possible, so start with the strongest part of your pitch.
Speak to the customer’s needs.
Customers won’t part with their money unless you are meeting some need or desire they have. If they don’t have any need or desire for the product, well, you are being paid to convince them otherwise.
10 Top Copywriting Tips
Finally, here are 10 general tips that every copywriter should always remember.
- Write Simply
The average reading age in the UK is equivalent to a 9-year-old. That stat doesn’t change too much if you move further afield. So, make sure you are writing in a manner your audience can understand.
- Remember FOMO
It cannot be stated enough how important urgency is. Let’s be honest. Readers probably don’t always need what you’re trying to sell them. That’s okay. Don’t overthink it. They’re reading an ad. They understand the game. So, don’t feel bashful about trying to rush them past the finish line.
- Write to Your Audience
Make use of demographic research. Your ad needs to speak directly to the particular wants and needs of your target.
- Share Testimonials
If you want to sell something as proven, offer testimonials from people in your target demographic about how your product worked for them.
- Connect Emotionally
Try and connect with your target demographic. Speak to their pain points, but also use language to try and make yourself part of them.
- Ask Questions You Know the Answer to
“Do you prefer steak or chicken?”
Don’t ever ask a question that won’t lead to the answer you want. It’s your job to lead a customer along with a nod to the product you’re selling. Look at the previous question. You don’t know the answer and it won’t sell your product. Now, try this one and compare.
“Do you think kittens in a pond should be left to drown?”
Okay, admittedly, this is a rather extreme example. But you get the idea. Everyone will agree on the sanctity of kittenhood. Well, mostly. But you don’t want to sell to those heartless kitten haters anyways.
- Research Those Who Have Come Before
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Ad copy is as old as the written word. Don’t believe me? Try this Google search: “pompeii red light district graffiti”
Oh. Don’t try that at the office. Sorry. Should have warned you. But…. point made.
What I’m saying is there is a wealth of wisdom from advertisers who’ve come before you. So, take advantage of their strategies and feel free to emulate the success of your advertising ancestors.
- Keep the Positivity High
This is an important trick. Oftentimes your pain points are going to be fairly negative. Say your client buys homes from people who recently lost their jobs. Well, you might be finding it hard to put a lot of rainbows and sunshine in that sales copy.
Focus on the results of your product. Sure, they’re in dire straits now. But paint imagery of their life at the end of the tunnel-like: “We can assume your mortgage and leave you debt-free!”
- Focus on Your Headline
A headline is your make it or break it point. If you lose the reader with your headline, nothing else you wrote will matter. So, treat every word of the headline as the golden moment it is to pull in a reader.
- Learn the Elements of Specific Copy Styles
This is often overlooked. Every type of ad copy has specific elements to consider. I can’t cover every type here, but I will give you an example: Facebook ads.
Facebook ads come in multiple styles, depending on what your client is using them for. So, ask them before you start.
Here are the basic elements though:
Headline – You’ve got 25 characters for a headline to state what your product is or who your client is. That’s it.
Post text – This will appear just above or below your ad. Congratulations on your whopping 90 characters for this one.
Description – A final 200 characters to fill out your ad. And you only get this if you purchase certain types of ad space.
Call-to-Action Button – Enjoy a small mix of two-word phrases to get someone to mash your ad button and give you a conversion.
As you can see, the style of ad can have a huge impact on the words you choose.
As you have probably guessed, this is by far not a comprehensive manual on how to write effective copy. That would require a book and you can go to university if you’d like to read it.
But this is a solid start for the rest of us who have some skills, the nerve to try and the need to pay bills.
If you’re an aspiring freelancer and writer and you found this helpful, you should also check out the other articles uploaded regularly here at Lime Copywriting. In these, we condense years of on-the-job learning into helpful, easy to read articles just like this one.
But if you don’t act now, the site might go away!
Only kidding, it’s not going anywhere. That was just your call to action.