What is the end purpose of copywriting? Of content marketing? To help your company grow – to increase its revenue. To write copy that sells. Right?
Sure, goals are often set to raise brand awareness or improve search engine rank for instance, but all these individual goals have a common end goal.
All roads lead to sales and revenue.
But there is also a side to creative copy whose purpose seems to be geared toward winning industry awards. Such agencies – and there are many – often lose sight of the original goal of copywriting – the goal of selling your client’s product or service, in pursuit of fame and glory as a creative force.
So, let’s refocus on writing the kind of copy that sells. What do you say?
1. Plan your copy project well
A detailed brief will guide your piece. It happens way too often where the tone, style of writing, or type of produced copy is not quite right because of poor planning. A detailed brief addresses all areas to do with the copy – production life cycle, end objective, audience, tone, style, sources and so forth. Cut corners here and it sets a horrible precedent for the rest of your copy lifecycle.
2. Establish a tight word count range
Knowing a word range – say between 4 and 6 words for a headline or 500-700 words for an article guides you in your writing. It ensures that you are concise and that your work is sharp. If not, the content tends to lose direction and often drones on, losing the reader in the process.
We are hard-wired to work towards established targets. Whether it’s reaching the 5-mile mark on a run, making 20 sales calls before lunch or writing to a specified target count, it helps us to achieve what we want to.
3. Speak to your one Ideal Reader
Write like you’re in conversation with one reader and one reader only – and make it your Ideal Reader, or Ideal Buyer Persona. No we and certainly no me. Make it all about “YOU.”
4. Focus on the benefits. Always the benefits to write copy that sells
You’re never selling what you’re actually selling in copywriting. You sell the lifestyle, not the clothing. You sell the perfect family life, not the 3-bedroom house in the suburbs. You sell the fit, energized you, not the gym membership.
In the B2B world, you sell the bumper profits and free time that your new B2B application offers, not the high-tech features. Make sense?
It’s all about communicating to your Ideal Reader why they should be interested. I don’t prospect clients about my writing and marketing chops (features) – No, I tell them that I will deliver profit (benefit) by generating high quality leads, more website traffic and a richer brand reputation.
5. Use features to back up your benefits
Features strengthen the case for why the prospect should buy from you. “Achieve 15% higher profit margins (benefit 1) in half the time (benefit 2) with automated market orders (feature 1) and centralized control (feature 2).
6. Use white space
Improve online reader experience in your content by using lots of white space. Big, long paragraphs are great in print. Not so much on your screen. Aim for 3 to 4 line paragraphs.
It breaks up the writing and makes it easier on the eye. You’re helping your reader stay on your website and explore further. A big block of text on a screen on the other hand implies effort to take it on and the reader is more likely to go elsewhere.
7. Use power paragraphs
These are one-word or one-sentence paragraphs – or what I like to call “power paragraphs.” They are brilliant for emphasizing a very important part of your copy. They’re impactful. Don’t overkill it though with too many. Less is more.
8. Use power verbs to begin a sentence that communicates a direct benefit to your prospect
These include verbs like achieve, boost, discover, grow and enhance.
“Boost your work routine. Crush poor habits. Accomplish more every day. Try today for free!”
Who wouldn’t want to do all of the above three? And you get a free trial, where do we sign up already?!
9. Know your product inside out and back to front
Do your research and speak to the experts in the company – usually the business development guys, the sales guys and the product team – to prepare your copy.
Sit in on sales demos, read all you can on the product and soak up as much information as you can. This will inform your copy and make it as good as it can be. Don’t be that copywriter who thinks they know enough by reading the How It Works section of the website and little else. You don’t and it will show in your shoddy, ill-informed copy.
10. Find out and focus on lead and client pain points
What keeps your Ideal Buyer Persona up at night? What can your product do to solve those issues? How can your copy succinctly, effectively identify your reader’s problems and demonstrate that your product is the solution for them without being pushy?
You find out what these pain points are by getting to know the client better – you do this by talking frequently with Sales and Client Services. Then you know what your future leads are more likely to be concerned about and so you can tailor your copy to address these concerns.
11. Show, don’t tell
Saying that your product is “the best” or “better than the rest” is lame and lazy. Show your reader with cold, hard facts.
The same is said of disparaging the competition. I’ve worked for companies where I actually heard the odd sales guy telling prospects down the phone that the competition is terrible. This is never a good idea. You look desperate, underhand and negative if you employ these tactics.
Much better to show why you’re better – demonstrate what you offer by communicating direct benefits that speak to what the lead is really interested in and concerned with.
12. Keep your copy simple. Keep it easily digestible
Don’t say “tenebrous where you can say “dark.” Break up long sentences with full stops – this is particularly relevant for online audiences. Help the reader by making your copy easy to follow.
13. Keep your buyer persona firmly front of mind
With every word you write, ask yourself, “Does this word bring my prospect closer to the final goal of sale?” Do I really need this word here? Do I need this sentence? This paragraph?
14. Aim for viral by eliciting emotional response from your copy
It’s why those John Lewis Christmas adverts are so memorable. They make us sad, happy and nostalgic all inside a couple of minutes, don’t they? You can tap into these emotions in your copy to increase the likelihood of viral marketing success.
Have a look at this graphic to see the most popular emotional responses elicited from a collection of very successful viral campaigns:
15. Purge and then purge some more
Get your copy as succinct as possible. Stephen King has never been a copywriter but he does offer one golden nugget of writing wisdom for purging: Draft two is draft one minus 10%.
King also says in his excellent book about writing, On Writing, not to be afraid to “kill your darlings” – cull your carefully crafted work. Yes, it’s not easy at first, but tightened, razor-sharp copy is what you really want.
I also find that there is a strange liberating effect of taking a pick axe to your own work and sculpting something more refined out of it.
16. Make your copy urgent
Is it timely – relevant to the here and now?
An example would be – “Boost profits by 37% and lower churn rate by 22% in 2017.” The time indicator says to your reader, “Hey, this is pertinent to you NOW and it will seriously help your business.”
17. Make it useful
Does it help your reader in some way? It really should, or are you just waffling on and on about how great your product is and why it will save the world? NOBODY wants to read that, apart from your mum. Unless your mum is going to be a repeat customer, help your reader by producing unimaginably useful, helpful content.
“Create an effective content calendar for the whole year in less than an hour.” Why is this useful? It promises the reader something that takes little effort (one hour) but lasts for an entire year and that it is going to make a big impact (effective).
18. Make it unique
Is your content one of a kind or are you saying the exact same thing that all your competitors are saying? How can you do something different? OK, so you’ve got your Buyer Persona mapped out. You’ve got their pain points identified. But so do your competitors.
So are you going to go ahead and just hope for the best by producing the same thing or are you going to try to annihilate your competition’s efforts with something greater? By solving problems in such a way that makes you the reference point – that makes you unique? A great copywriter knows how to do this.
19. Make it ultra-specific
Is it ultra-specific? Do you get down to the nuts and bolts of a problem that your lead is facing? Or do you merely skim the surface? Specificity in how to help your lead solve their problems is what will ultimately go a long way to making your product shine brighter than your competition.
“Boost profits by 37% and lower churn rate by 22%” means so much more to the prospect than “Boost profits and lower churn rate,” don’t you think?
Points 14 through 17 of course make up the 4 U’s of copywriting – these are your go-to guidelines that should inform your entire content strategy.
20. SEO, SEO, SEO
If your copy isn’t optimized for search engines, how will people find it? You must do research on keywords and strategically follow a comprehensive SEO checklist to optimize your work.
Check out Blog SEO best practices: the simple 15-step guide for success for more.
21. Spend up to half your time on the headline
What? Did he say half?
Yup, I did. And nope, it’s not crazy.
It is in fact completely sensible. The headline is what grabs your prospect’s attention. Whether it’s sales copy, an article title, social media copy or anything else, it’s the headline that turns your prospect’s head and makes them want to read on.
Put simple, if you don’t nail your headline, your copy will fail before it even gets started. Rushing it is a recipe for mediocre-at-best copy results.
22. Use social proof to write copy that sells
Social proof is using validation from people to influence other people. Client testimonials, social media shares, client number, sales, growth figures and so forth are all forms of social proof.
“Trusted by 9,483 CEOs to improve employee productivity” tells a non-customer CEO that this product is so good that 9,483 CEOs just like them are using it. That number makes for a more powerful argument, don’t you agree?
23. Leave your copy to rest afterwards
The ability to objectively review your work is much more difficult when you’ve been looking at it for hours. Do yourself, your client and your prospect a favour and come back to it for a review in a few hours, or better still if you have time, a whole day. By doing this, you will see where it can be improved and where it can be culled.
Writing and publishing is only half the job. Then it’s up to you and your team to get it in front of your Ideal Reader!
Now, over to you
With these 23 powerful tips that you can start putting into practice today, you can transform your business with the power of great copywriting.
If you’d like some professional help with your copy and content, please get in touch via this form:
If you’d like to see some of our work, check out our partial portfolio page here. For more specific work example requests, such as white papers, please don’t hesitate to ask via the contact form.
Here’s to your success,
Tim Woods, Woods Copywriting founder and copywriter