Whether you’re interested in starting a career in copy writing, or you’d like to up your game and increase your salary, these tips are for you.
Related: Read our review of FlexJobs –a great source for copywriting work!
1. KNOW WHO YOU’RE WRITING FOR
You don’t need to be clairvoyant to get into the mind of the audience you’re writing for. Just as you would do in fiction writing, try creating a character sketch of your target customer in your mind, or write it down.
Before I write any copy, I ask myself the following questions;
- What gender and age group best describes my audience?
- What personality traits shine when you think of them?
- From start to finish, what is their typical day like?
- What obstacles do they face most often?
- What is important to them, and what are they passionate about?
- Are they a B2B client, and if so, do you understand their lingo or corporate speak?
The longer you mentally walk around in their skin, the more relevant and targeted your content will be. Using market terms may make your copy feel familiar to the reader, or it may deter them, so use it wisely. If you can’t explain it simply enough, you may not appear to understand the subject matter in a way that your reader finds trustworthy.
2. FIND A UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION
You need to know your competition well in order to know how to set yourself apart from them with your proposition. Be mindful of your own shortcomings, and look to strengths you may have in common. The key is to innovate, not imitate.
Look for areas where you can add value, and identify gaps in their offering you may be able to exploit in your message. Learn how to research your competition.
- What can you do better than your competition?
- Where does your competition lack?
- What do you have in common?
3. SPEAK TO ONE PERSON
Yes, you are writing for a broad audience, yet, you’re not. You’re speaking directly to Joe A. Consumer, your next client. The impact of your copy will be greater if it’s written in the language and style of your target customer. Highlight pain points specific to their role, and emphatically relate to them as an individual.
4. USE AFFIRMATIVE LANGUAGE
People have a tendency to remember negative language in a way that may not be instrumental to your desired outcome. Since its awfully hard to discuss a pain point your reader may be facing, remember that it is possible to turn a negative statement into a positive one.
For example; “Don’t run out of printer toner again” may sound better if you spin it as “Always have printer toner when you need it“.
5. TELL THEIR STORY
People also have a tendency to tune out when they’re being sold to —but everyone enjoys a good story, especially one they can relate to. Stories slip past our critical defenses and take us to another place through the use of metaphors, detailed imagery, suspense and modelling.
A story can incite a desired action when the listener can imagine themselves as the person of interest, the main character of the story.
6. MAKE THEM FEEL SOMETHING
The easiest way to make your reader feel something is through the use of trigger words. Trigger words are the exception when it comes to using affirmative language, and are easily identified when you know your audience. They may include vocabulary such as “over budget”, “scope creep”, “below average”, “frustrated”, “stuck”, “embarrassed”, or “tired” —words with deep emotional ties associated with them.
7. BE CONVERSATIONAL
In addition to telling a story, be sure to sound human and more like the readers internal narrative. Don’t over hype anything, just put it to your reader as if you were talking to them in person.
8. INCITE CURIOSITY
Human curiosity is an absolute wonder. It can make us drop whatever we’re doing to observe something happening outside our office window, or it may trigger a desire to better understand particular subject matter.
Simply put, curiosity makes us spend time on something. Go too far with the curiosity angle, and you may appear that you don’t grasp your subject well enough to gain trust or become an authority in the mind of your reader.
9. BE VULNERABLE
Going back to your character sketch again; If you can put yourself into the mind of your reader, you can identify what makes them feel vulnerable and you can leverage it within your content to become relatable. Illustrate concerns that your reader may have as your own.
Some example vulnerability statements might include:
- “I was broke..”
- “I used to weigh 300 pounds..”
10. FOCUS ON BENEFITS, NOT FEATURES
While it might seem logical to provide a list of technical features or functionality your solution may be praised for, don’t. Focus on the benefits of using your product or service, and don’t be afraid to get emotional. This is probably a good time to lay off corporate speak, and let your reader know what’s in it for them, personally. Focus on how your offering will remove doubt or worry, save time, or instil a feeling of belonging.
11. ADDRESS OBSTACLES
In other words, focus on the elephant in the room. Identify objections that prohibit your target customer from buying from you and prove your value by addressing them throughout your copy. For example, if your reader thinks you’re too expensive, explain how your solution will either reduce over all costs or generate more revenue.
12. REDUCE FRICTION
When you ask anything of your reader, it’s important to make their compliance flow simply and seamlessly. A few examples of effective execution of this rule are as follows:
- When collecting email addresses for your mailing list, make your submit button read “Sign up for free”; This clearly reinforces what’s in it for your reader
- Embed lead collection forms directly into media; An ebook can have a call to action within its first few pages, and videos can have a capture form appear when a video is done playing
- In ecommerce, store customer payment information for one-click purchases; 46% percent of online shoppers insist on a rapid checkout process
- Allow website visitors to sign in with a social platform they already use
13. PROVIDE EVIDENCE
One of the most effective ways to address any consumers’ need for assurance is to provide social proof. This form of persuasion comes in many forms; case studies, testimonials, endorsements, client lists, portfolios, awards, reviews, examples and statistics. Your copy should have social proof woven throughout, and examples may vary from vocabulary as simple as “as seen on” to “our product/service eliminated 33% of Company X’s operating costs in the 2013 fiscal year”.
14. STRESS ACTION
Verbs are the best way to encourage action, and a great way to flex your metaphors. Verbs can visually illustrate your copy effectively:
- “How to avoid being slapped with a penalty from the Google Panda update”
- “Crush your sales quota with our lead generation platform”
- “Cut production times in half with our proven manufacturing process”
15. DON’T BE TOO DESCRIPTIVE
Hemingway is famous for his short, straightforward sentences that get rid of unnecessary descriptive words for a more concise, minimalistic style of writing. While verbs are all well and good, too many adjectives will wind up saying less with more, and lower your perceived value.
Be your own worst critic. When editing your copy, read each sentence and ask yourself what it really means. If you can’t come up with a good reason to keep a specific sentence in its place right away, delete it.
Don’t use trendy catch phrases, either. Give it your reader straight, and try to use smaller words which appeal to a wider audience.
16. USE NUMBERS
Using digits and specific facts rather than broad statements make it easier to skim, digest, and remember your content. Using numbers in headlines also paint more accurate expectations for what the reader is about to experience.
17. CREATE A CALL TO ACTION
Every article of marketing copy you write will likely include a call to action. It may be a contact form, newsletter sign-up, online purchase, or a reply to an email. A solid call to action will include urgency. It will make an offer such as a discount for acting now, provide free information, overcome an objection, stipulate an offer or supply with limited availability, or a short window of opportunity. Don’t be too subtle, or too polite; tell your reader exactly what you expect them to do, and why. Using the word “because” is particularly effective in gaining compliance, even when your reason isn’t very good. This is because it taps into our automatic behaviour.
18. BALANCE TEXT AND IMAGES
Images help illustrate your message and meaning in ways text cannot, and the captions below them are prime real-estate to provide concise, informative messages within your copy. They also provide additional opportunities to have your content syndicated through search engines like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook —and reach a wider audience.
19. DON’T EDIT AS YOU GO
Nothing is more counterproductive than adhoc editing. Editing on the fly prohibits free-form thinking, it’s a huge distraction, and it’s so time consuming that you may never finish what you’re writing! Think about what you want to say and write it, don’t think about how it should be said. Creating your first draft in point form notes often helps, you can always go back and refine it when you put it into sentences.
20. MAKE POWERFUL HEADLINES
When writing, be direct. Avoid using words that prohibit a direct command, like “may”, “could”, “hope”, “perhaps”, or “try”. Instead, use powerful words, such as “you”, “instantly”, “free”, “because”, or “new”.
There are three key headline types:
- The QUESTION headline: “What does Facebook know about you that you don’t know?”
- The HOW TO headline: “How to win friends and influence people”
- The REASON WHY headline: “10 reasons why you don’t fit into last years bathing suit”
21. LINK TO REPUTABLE SOURCES
At present, it seems there is little one can say online that hasn’t been said before. Anything you write is an opportunity to align yourself with high quality websites.
When you link to a reputable source it makes you appear more credible by association. A link to a credible source is also another opportunity to eliminate doubt and enhance trust.
What do you think?
If you’ve got a few sage tips, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. If not, perhaps you might like to read more of our marketing and blogging posts.
Next steps: Copywriters need websites and picking a theme looks deceptively easy –most people redesign after a year because their first pick didn’t suit their needs. Forget that time vampire. Read this!