October 13, 2021

Back to basics with copywriting

back to basics with copywriting

There is absolute truth in the statement: “Copy is King”. Copywriting is the the fundamental particle of matter when it comes to business, marketing and communication. It is the quark, neutrino and lepton. The Large Hadron Collidor was built to detect copywriting. It’s the beginning and end of effective online marketing.

Copywriting has goals. It’s like the #fitnessmotivation hashtag on Instagram. Motivated! Amped! Ready to CRUSH it! Copywriting wants to be effective, it wants to make a difference.

The hopes, ambitions and dreams of copywriting include:

  • Getting people to take some form of action
  • Giving people information
  • Entertaining people
  • Convincing and persuading people that your stuff is the best stuff ever, and they need to buy two, nay three, of everything

Copywriting is an art and it’s a science. There’s heaps of psychology behind copywriting and bucketloads of creativity. You see and hear copywriting everywhere: text, video, TV ads, radio ads, billboards, advertorials, Facebook updates and Snaps. These messages are out there working hard (or at least trying to) to make you do something. Buy this. Sign up for that. Join us. Believe in us. Follow us. Do more. Be more.

Copywriting works damn, damn hard.

Good copywriting is made by well-paid copywriters. It’s a craft that pays more the better you are. And luckily it’s something you can become good, nay GREAT, at, with the right time and energy invested.

Let’s start your journey to copywriting greatness.

Grab ’em right in the headline

What’s the point of copywriting? What do you want to do, right off the bat? You want to be read, right?

So the point of your headline and the images, fonts and formatting of your content is to get people to get stuck right in. You want to hook them into the very first sentence. And you want to spend massive amounts of effort in getting that first sentence read. It’s a basic. It’s fundamental. It’s your very reason for being  a copywriter.

To quote legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman:

The purpose of the headline is to get the first sentence read

That is all.

But wait, what’s the point of the first sentence? You guessed it: to get the SECOND sentence read. And so on and so on.

You want your copy to be a funnel that grabs them and pulls them right in towards that action, that sale, that sign up or that follow.

That’s the subtlety of the art of copywriting: slowly, slowly catch a monkey. You do everything structurally, thoughtfully and step by step.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE THIS?

When you write copy you need to deliver on the following. Think of it as a checklist. Memorize it and live by it. Be ready to recite it at 3am if I come wake you in the dead of night.

  1. Write a compelling headline
  2. Focus on the benefit to your audience
  3. Make a promise
  4. Provide the evidence

Remember that your headline is the first impression you make and that you only have ONE chance to impress this date, buddy. Make sure you bring your A-game.

Apart from simply grabbing their attention, you’re also delivering a promise with your headline. You’re telling your reader what to expect and what you’ll give them in exchange for the effort of clicking on and reading your article.

Headlines (and email subject lines) are SO important that some people say you should spend half or even more of your total time on the headline alone. Polish it until it GLEAMS. Re-write it many, many times.

You really need to understand the importance of your headline and make it GREAT so that people get hooked into your article.

HEADLINE RULES

  • Be useful
  • Be specific
  • Use numbers e.g. Top 10 ways…
  • Convey the benefit that your article provides
  • Create a sense of urgency

Keep things simple

When you write copy for the general population, you aren’t writing an academic essay and you’re not writing a short story or novel. You really need to know your audience and the language they use. The golden rule is to keep things as concise and simple as possible.

If your writing is easy to understand, your audience will thank you for it by reading, liking or even sharing it.

Ask yourself if you really need that fancy multi-syllabic word or if you can get away with English that Donald Trump could understand.

How to create copy that sells

Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and make sure you understand their pain and empathise with their problems. Your content must deliver on the promise your headline made: you’re going to bring them relief, joy or resolution in some way.

Make it clear to your reader that you have the answers.

Break your content into bite sized chunks – paragraphs! Each paragraph should address an idea and link to the main purpose of your article.

Present the evidence – specifically and in a way that your reader can relate to. Use examples. Give the numbers. Build your case. Be DAMN specific.

Remember to keep focusing on the BENEFIT to your reader.

Present your solution – this is your OFFER. Don’t apologize for it – believe in it. You’re going to make your reader’s day and you’re giving them what they want. Be happy for them! Stand by your belief.

Don’t talk features, talk benefits

Who cares that your blue widget has the latest doohicky. It doesn’t mean a thing unless you can specifically state what your blue widget does to make your reader’s life better.

Nobody buys drills, they buy holes!

Make the benefits real and tangible. Talk about the time they will save, or how much extra cash they will have now for Christmas presents.

Be relevant to your audience – if your audience is technical and you’re talking to a business, you may need to emphasize the features, but do bring in the benefits too.

Always answer What’s in it for me?

An offer you can’t refuse

An offer is a reward. It’s something your reader will get in exchange for something. Buy 3 get 1 free is an offer.

Your offer is a strong weapon. Make sure you present it strongly and sell it well.

Do NOT make hollow promises. Deliver on your promise and honour the offer.

Use personal words like “you” – this places your reader in your story and talks directly to her or him.

Right in the feels

When you add some raw emotion to your copy and create feelings, something magical happens. Your reader’s neurons are all fired up. They release dopamine and this buzzes their pleasure centres. It’s basic physiology but your writing can give people goosebumps. I know. I’ve seen it.

Use words that spark emotion.

Create that personal bond. Be human.

Measure and test

Take the time to do some A/B tests and see what copy works. Test headlines. Test subject lines in mailers. Test copy in Facebook posts. Test Tweets. You can test it all and get results very quickly because everything online can be measured.

Once you have some insight, test again using a slight variation. Keep refining your copy – and don’t stop.

Let me know what works for you

I’m curious and I’d like to hear what your advice is. What have you learned as a writer? What resonates with your audience? Comment below and share your wisdom.