It’s safe to say that no matter how much the world of advertising moves towards automation and digitisation, however much agencies, businesses and marketers alike will rely on imagery and video, there’s always a copywriter (or team of copywriters) behind every campaign. But, what exactly is copywriting?
What is copywriting?
There’s an old adage in advertising that a copywriter is a “salesman in print”.
Copywriters have been around for as long as advertising has.
Copywriting is designed to make the intended audience perform an action. A copywriter is someone who writes advertising promotional materials for a brand to increase brand awareness or to persuade the intended audience to act.
In the past that would have meant brochures, billboard text, coupons, flyers, long-print ads in newspapers, basically anything that was printed, or “copied”; hence, copywriter.
Then, the radio appeared, and they would write radio ads and jingles.
After that, TV, where ads became longer, and first introduced video.
These days, we’re in the midst of an informational and technological revolution, where audiences are bombarded with audio, image, word, and video. It’s never been a more important time to have the ability to write well.
If writing copy is writing to sell, it stands that being good at copywriting means being good at selling.
In this guide we’ll teach you how to write excellent copy in just 7 steps… the kind of copy that can sell anything. Just follow the steps we’ll lay out and you’ll be writing pitch-perfect copy in no time.
1. Know your audience
Before you write a word, you need to know who you’re writing for.
The same principle applies pretty much to everything in advertising: know your audience.
The two main guiding principles of successful advertising are to know who you’re writing for and what you want them to do, i.e. your objective. It’s essential to keep both of these in mind at all times.
Get to know the demographic you’re targeting. If you know who your target audience is, you’ll have already asked yourself a number of questions about them. Questions like:
- What makes them happy?
- What makes them unhappy?
- What do they need?
- What’s their biggest problem?
Modern marketing is underpinned by the incredible depth of research you can perform on a particular audience segment. That means that you can get to know them pretty well before you plan your approach.
A 65-year-old retired mother of three living in Alabama won’t have the same interests as a male graphic designer living in New York. The student in their sophomore year of high school won’t want the same things as the Army vet who now drives trucks for a living (at least it’s likely they won’t).
Drill down your target audience and write to them directly.
2. Focus on one idea only
There’s a term in advertising called the “Power of One”.
Well, copywriting needs to be focused. If a copywriter starts going off on a tangent, not only have they lost their audience’s attention, but they’ll have also wasted money by making poor use of ad space.
Ad space costs money. Your audience’s attention costs money. You need to get across the key message of your ad as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to do it in as few words as you can.
Good writing that expresses things in just a couple of words is one thing. That means that you should use clear, concise language that gets to the point – fast. Focused copy is another thing entirely. It means a body of text that sticks to the point, doesn’t go off topic, and makes clear what should happen next.
Don’t go off track. Keep one goal in mind throughout the copy.
Now that doesn’t mean that you should go at your copy like a hurricane. If it makes sense to write a story, write one. Just know that there might be times when it’s not the best decision.
It everything flows, then go with it.
Cut the excess, keep it focused, but make sure that the copy still makes sense!
There’s nothing more intimidating than a huge block of text.
That’s not because your audience can’t read. It’s because they don’t want to read.
Your audience doesn’t have time to dive into a text like they’re back in a high school English lesson pouring over Shakespeare. I’ll back the Bard for a sonnet, but not an ad.
This rule is a bit of a stickler for copywriters – especially copywriters with a background in Literature – because what I’m about to tell you to do goes against every single writer’s instinct in their body…
… but it works for the audience, and that’s what matters. So here goes.
Break. Your. Sentences. Up.
Well, short sentences are easy to read. Long sentences that go on forever and don’t really get to the point of what they’re saying won’t get you anywhere.
Why? Because they’re not enjoyable to read and people will get sick of them by the time they’ve gotten halfway through. See what I mean?
Don’t be afraid to break grammatical rules when it makes sense to do so. If the effect is good, then go for it. If you get your key point across, then go for it. Don’t be afraid to start a sentence with “but”, “and”, or “because”. No matter how much your English teacher would’ve hated it.
Take a leaf out of Apple’s book.
“Super Retina. In big and bigger. The custom OLED displays on iPhone XS deliver the most accurate colour in the industry, HDR and true blacks. And iPhone XS Max has our largest display ever on an iPhone.”
Why does it work?
Because the sentences are short, punchy. What they’ve done is called a staccato rhythm, short beats that draw attention to each point being made.
Make your copy a pleasure to read.
4. Sound like you know what you’re talking about
Make sure that you know the product you’re selling inside out. And, that if it came down to it, you’d be able to talk about the product confidently.
Adding technical details is an ideal way to do this – it will make you seem more convincing. If your brand looks like an authority on a particular subject, people will associate your expertise with your products.
Apple’s copy for the new iPhone XS goes into great detail about their new A12 chip. Take a read:
“Intelligent A12 Bionic. This is the smartest, most powerful chip in a smartphone, with our next-generation Neural Engine. For amazing augmented reality experiences. Incredible portraits with Depth Control. And speed and fluidity in everything you do.”
I don’t know how this works. I barely know what a processor does. Sounds good though, doesn’t it.
What’s an ISP? What’s a Neural Engine? More importantly, who cares?
It reads incredibly, the staccato sentences with a sprinkling of technological gold-dust. It makes for irresistible copy. Nothing too in-depth. Nothing scary. Just enough to let you know that they know what they’re talking about. No more than you’d expect from a trillion-dollar company.
Use details sparingly and to great effect.
5. So what?
Why should your target audience buy a product?
Why should they buy your product?
What makes your product so special?
I’m sure you know all these things… but your audience doesn’t.
A good exercise is the “So what?” exercise.
Let me give you an example.
Say you offer a music streaming service. It has millions of songs from millions of artists.
The features could be this:
- The ability to download music onto the user’s device.
- A vast library of artists.
Ask yourself “so what?” about these features.
- The ability to download music onto the user’s device. So what? You can listen to it anywhere. You can listen to it offline if you run out of data.
- A vast library of artists. So what? You’ll find what you’re looking for. You’ll discover new music.
Remember the power of one? Well this is that in action, a step deeper. This is you painting an image of how your product or service will work in the user’s mind. You’re helping them imagine just how great it would be to use it.
Ask yourself “so what?” and you might well find yourself thinking about your product in a way you hadn’t before: from the customer’s perspective.
Being clear on what your audience will get out of buying your product will help you sell it to them.
A call to action (CTA) is something that’s designed to elicit an immediate action, response, or sale.
This is an advertising technique that’s as old as advertising itself, that’s very much stood the test of time. Why has it? Well, because it links the offer you’ve made in your ad with the action the user needs to take.
If your copy doesn’t include a call to action, your copy won’t achieve its goal. It won’t make the user want to do anything. It won’t encourage them to click through to your landing page, to call to place an order, to come visit your store, organize a consultation, whatever your objective is.
Think of the call to action as the ending of a letter that you’ve written to a friend.
You’ve listed the benefits of your product and you’ve told them a story. You’ve given them all the reason they need to make a purchase.
Now you just need them to act.
The perfect CTA is clear, stands out, but also fits within the context of the ad. That last part is particularly important. Depending on where a user is in their buyer journey, “Buy Now” might not be the best CTA. Instead, the best one could be “Learn More”, or “Call Now”.
7. Use powerful words
The active voice is always better than the passive voice.
Don’t say “We are going to”. Say “We will.”
Similarly, there are certain words that always crop up in advertising. Words like “you”, “new”, and “today”.
The focus of your copy is as much on the benefits you can provide for the customer rather than the quality of the product itself. Humans are selfish creatures. Use the word “you” in your copy and you’ll create a strong bond between your brand, your audience, and what you want to sell.
Use the word “new” and you’ll immediately tap into your audience’s wish to have the best product available. “New” implies “better”. You want your audience to make those kind of associations.
Finally, you want them to buy from you as soon as possible, right? So, use words like “today” and “now”. Convince the user that there’s no time to waste, that they need to decide as soon as possible – and hopefully the rest of your copy will make them decide to buy.
Focus your copy and draw the reader in through the word “you”. Use vivid language to highlight the benefits of your product. Stress how new your product is. Finally, encourage them to buy today.
Go out and sell
Your copy is one of the key things that will shape your audience’s opinion of your brand.
In doing so, it’ll also make them more or less likely to buy your product.
Now we can’t tell you what will work best for your brand, whether you should focus on creating long-form copy, or whether you should stick to shorter-length articles. Instead, we’ve told you how to write good copy that will draw your user in, rather than pushing them away.
10 words, 10 paragraphs, or 10 pages, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s good. Quality not quantity. Let’s recap.
- Drill down your target audience and write to them directly.
- Cut the excess, keep it focused, but make sure that the copy still makes sense!
- Make your copy a pleasure to read.
- Use details sparingly and to great effect.
- Ask yourself “so what?” to highlight your benefits.
- Always include a clear and relevant CTA.
- Use powerful words to encourage an action.
So go ahead. Go out and sell and write some killer copy.
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