Whatever business you are in, good copy is worth every penny. It will increase brand awareness and compel your audience to take action. This could be giving you a call, sending an email enquiry, subscribing to a mailing list or simply purchasing your product there and then.
Copy can be long or short, and both have their place. Copywriters are needed to create advertising and marketing materials in all forms, online or offline, but ultimately it boils down to communication. Tapping into the hopes, desires and fears of the reader and explaining how your product or service will solve their problem, even if they didn’t know they had one in the first place.
The TL;DR version of this post is that there is no shortcut. To write great copy you need to do your research, and that means reading! You need to know your product and your audience well enough to hit the mark, because attention is in short supply.
Different types of copy serve a variety of purposes, and require different approaches. Writing good web copy demands an understanding of keywords, backlinks and SEO; a white paper will require in-depth research, analysis and a clear structure. Copy for PPC ads and social media needs to be short, snappy and grab attention, with an immediate call to action.
If you are copywriting for your business, here are some simple tips that will help to make your copy more effective, whatever medium you are communicating with.
5 Tips for Great Copywriting
1. Audience – who are you writing for?
Without knowing or understanding your target audience, it is highly unlikely your copy will fulfil its purpose, so this comes first!
The more specific your target audience is, the easier it is to cater for their needs and desires. Writing for a wider demographic is not as easy, but can still be done with the necessary time and effort.
This brings me back to an earlier point, and a cornerstone of my own approach – research. These questions are connected with much wider issues, and market research in general:
- What is your customer demographic (age/gender/interests etc.)?
- Where and how are you most likely to reach them (social media; blogs; e-books)?
- What are the common pain points for your customer?
Once you know the answers, you will have a better idea of what to write, the best platform for it, the format required and the appropriate style to use.
Remember – always put the audience first. I am writing this for YOU.
2. Purpose – what are you writing for?
It seems pretty obvious, but why do you need the copy? What do you want it to achieve?
Without a clear and singular goal, your copy will become confused. A beautifully crafted product description of 500 words is not going to work as a PPC advert. A blog post won’t engage a reader if you try to write about 3 different topics at the same time.
Start by thinking about it from the perspective of the audience you have identified, and are trying to engage:
- What problem do they have that you are trying to solve?
- What service or product do you offer that can help to solve this problem?
- What do you want the customer to do once they know you can help?
The answers to the questions above will determine the purpose of the copy. Sales processes can vary in length and complexity, but good copy will serve a purpose at all stages.
By keeping the purpose of the copy in mind at all times, you can be clear and concise. All of these things will increase the effectiveness of your writing, strengthening your call to action, and making it more likely that the reader has the desired response.
3. Structure – everything falls apart without it.
Now you know who you are writing for, and what you want them to do, you can start to think about the structure of the copy.
To an extent this will depend on the format and purpose, but both short and long copy require structure. Approaches include: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) – a somewhat antiquated model that has been developed since its origins in the 19th century; the 4Ps (Promise, Picture, Proof, Push) – not to be confused with the 4Ps of marketing.
Rather than sticking to a specific formula, I find that the following things help best with structure (both as a writer and for the reader’s understanding):
- Outline/plan – create a simple list of the key points you want to cover before you start writing.
- Headlines – “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat’. Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.” – David Ogilvy
- Lists – there are lots of reasons why we love lists. They help both the writer and the reader and are great for blog posts…!
- CTA – your copy might be great, but without a call to action will it achieve its purpose?
The structure you decide to use will depend on the type of copy you are writing. Regardless of this, it is best not to make it up as you go along!
BONUS TIP – GREAT COPY IS BETTER WITH GREAT IMAGES!
Courtesy of abccopywriting.com.
Okay, so that was an image of text, but you get the idea.
4. Tone – if your brand speaks, how does it sound?
An important part of writing copy is to consistently use a tone that speaks for your brand, and to your target audience. If this is poorly judged, it can be a big turn-off to a reader. If it is inconsistent, it will send out a confusing message about your brand’s identity.
A business needs to speak the language of its customers. This brings us back to knowing your audience – a company marketing fashion accessories to teenage girls will of course have an entirely different tone to one selling life insurance to the over 65s. Having said that, rules are there to be broken, and having a unique tone can be an advantage in making your brand stand out from the crowd.
When trying to establish a tone, the following points should be considered:
- Natural – writing in a style that doesn’t come naturally will show. You need to sound like a real person.
- Authenticity – this comes from knowing your products and your audience. You need to build trust and it can’t be forced.
- Simple/Complex – know when to use more words, and when to use fewer.
- Context – use the right tone in the right place. The tone of your promotional literature can be different to your social media, but be consistent.
Above all, your tone is about understanding what your customer is looking for. It needs to generate an emotion (preferably positive), because without this, the customer will not act.
5. Editing – check it, check it again, and then ask someone else to check it for you.
Even the best writers make mistakes. They aren’t the end of the world, but it isn’t just spelling or poor grammar we are looking for here.
It is easier to spot mistakes when you are reading something for the first time, so ask someone else to proof-read your work. Perhaps you can return the favour by checking some of their work for them! They might even have some ideas about the structure of your piece, a better headline, or think of something you’ve missed.
When I’m writing copy, these are the things I do:
- Draft – write a first version, read back through it and re-write bits I’m not happy with, a number of times if necessary. If it is for a client, I would ask for their feedback.
- Simplify – I know that I can be verbose. I want my copy to be clear, concise, and understood by all. Remove words that serve no purpose!
- Readability – if you get bored reading your own copy, then chances are your audience will too. Shorten sentences and remove fluff. It makes your writing more compelling.
Poor copy will stick out like a sore thumb, but doubly so if it is littered with mistakes, or reads like a piece of academic work. Nobody gets it right first time, but checking it over before you publish it will help you to avoid obvious mistakes.
By following some of the tips above, you can easily improve the copy you write for your business.
If you feel that your copy isn’t compelling your customers to act, or you aren’t sure how to communicate effectively with them, I’m here to help. I have extensive copywriting experience in a variety of sectors, both online and offline. When combined with my knowledge of marketing and passion for developing winning strategies for growth, we can work together to find your business’ voice, and speak to the audience you want to reach.
I’m available for freelance copywriting opportunities, and welcome all enquiries. Please get in touch!