Introduction to Copywriting

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October 22, 2020

Copywriting: A fancy word for persuasion

Copy is the heart and soul of just about all marketing strategies. It can differentiate between a landing page that results in significant sales and one that consumers decide to ignore. The good news for you is that copywriting is a skill, and like all skills, you can master them. So, before you deep dive into copywriting, here are few beginner tips and tricks that will help you feel more at ease when starting to write copy.

What is copywriting?

There are a handful of writing types, some of which you might already be familiar with. Reports and articles are a form of business writing. Novels and songs are a type of creative writing. Blogs and journaling are a form of personal writing. The goal of copywriting is to encourage the consumer to take action. It is writing copy for advertising or marketing. Let’s expand a bit on what that means:

1. It conveys value to consumers when they most need it. It is persuasive but is most useful to consumers that are looking to take action.

2. It is more than writing copy; it is a strategy too. Have a plan, know your audience, and the primary end goal.

3. It sells. You are writing copy to get consumers to take action.

Marketing copywriting sells a page by grabbing the consumer’s attention and making them want to engage.

Getting started

It is easy to dive right in and begin hammering away at the keyboard. But take a step back and follow these six steps to get yourself prepared as you go into your first copywriting draft.

LOCATION

Find your ideal spot where you feel you will be the most inspired. It could be an office space, kitchen table, or outside on the deck.

PREPARE YOUR WORKSPACE

Gather the tools you need to begin writing. Get your pen and paper out or have your laptop with its charger ready to go, whatever works for you. Have a glass of water, so you don’t have to worry about getting up and breaking your concentration. Getting yourself prepped with the items you need to write will only keep you more focused and engaged in your writing.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS

Writing requires concentration for solid chunks of time, and staying focused is key. Therefore, put your phone in another room, turn off your email, block time on your calendar, let your family know, including your super cute cat, that for the next 2 hours, you need uninterrupted time.

CREATE A PLAN

Take about a half-hour to think about your subject and your goal. Think about its audience, the collateral you have collected, and the style you think will work best or not work best. It will probably change multiple times, but this process will help get your thoughts together when you begin writing. Keep your plan handy, have them on a sticky note, or your second monitor to keep you on track or for a quick refresher.

FREE WRITE

Take a few minutes to wake up your brain and free write. Set a timer for about ten minutes. Once it starts, begin writing, whatever comes to mind. If you can’t think of anything to write, write, I can’t think of anything to write. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or formatting. Just waking up your brain gives you a fresh start as you begin your first draft.

SET A TIMER

It is easy to lose track of time while writing, which can quickly get you burned out and uninspired. So have a timer ready to go so you can set a chunk of time, an hour or so, then take five to ten-minute breaks before getting back into another sprint of writing.

Best practices

Below are eight general rules and tips that will help you as you begin to write your marketing copy.

1. ADDRESS THE READER

Use you and your, not one and one’s. Copy that addresses the consumer works 25 to 30% better on average.

2. USE AN ACTIVE VOICE

That means a thing acts as opposed to an act that is performed by a thing. For example, “Your head will be well protected by the bike helmet.” Edit it to, “The bike helmet will protect your head.”

3. AVOID SARCASM

The only exception is where you’re writing for an audience you know will value that kind of humor. And those are few and far between. Try to stick to easily interpreted emotional tones.

4. TELL THEM WHY

Tell them what’s in it for them. Turn that need into a want.

5. BE CONCISE

While there are exceptions, you generally want to keep your marketing copy brief. For example, “a majority of” can be “most” or “are of the same opinion” can be “agree.”

6. SKIP CLICHÉS

Most of the time, people either don’t understand them or don’t fully relate.

7. CALL TO ACTION

Have a clear call to action. Your audience needs to know what to do next.

8. EASY TO SCAN

People typically don’t read until they’ve skimmed the entire page. When they do that, they need some strong visual cues to tell them that they want to continue. Here are a few cues to consider:

  • A clear headline that is clear and understandable
  • Stay around 15-20 words a line
  • 5-6 lines per paragraph
  • Use bullets or numbering for lists
  • Include subheads
  • Clear images that relate well with your topic
  • If online, link only when it is useful

Selling the page

Sometimes you need to sell the page and give your consumers a reason to keep reading. If you’re writing a large chunk of copy, you need to show your consumers why they should spend their time reading your pitch. Here are three tips to consider:

1. Attract with a fun summary, sell-by promising to entertain. That means your consumer will genuinely see a value in it outside the call to action. For example, “The bike helmet is your perfect relationship. Brains, brawn, and great looks all wrapped up into one.”

2. Have a clear table of contents, basically, a short bulleted list. You can sell the page by giving a crystal-clear picture of what the reader is going to see.

3. Just ask your consumer to keep reading. There’s nothing wrong with simply saying, keep reading, or read this page to learn more, or similar. Sometimes just asking makes the most sense.

Headlines

Your headline is important because it gives a preview of the page’s content and is the first pitch to your audience. Headlines can grab attention, inform, and tie together the entire piece. Still, they can also make or break the rest of your copywriting if not thought through. So, invest the time, write them carefully, and think them over. Below are a few takeaways to think about when brainstorming headlines:

  • The copy should drive your headline, not the other way around
  • Needs to be clear and understandable
  • Should not be mysterious (online, a clear headline outperforms a mysterious headline by about 2:1)
  • Avoid fear-mongering, there is a place for marketing copy that scares the reader, but when selling a product, it can backfire
  • Use formulas, for example, “After ____, you’ll never see ____ the same way.” Or “How ____ turned ____ into ____ with [product name].”
  • Write as many headlines as you can. Some might be crappy, but you might end up combining two of them

Polishing the draft

You’ve written your marketing copy, and you feel that it is complete. But you’re not entirely done yet. It needs some polishing before it’s ready to be shared out into the world. Here’s are some basic rules to follow:

GET SOME HELP

Have others review your copy. They will find things that you don’t.

EDIT AND THEN PROOFREAD

Editing for copywriting means we’re reorganizing, rewording, and modifying the copy. Proofreading means we’re checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Conclusion

Copywriting is a great skill to understand and acquire and implementing these tips and tricks into your marketing strategies will get you off to a great start!

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