Copywriting is one of the most vital skills any company can possess, but it’s often an underrated skill. Whilst many brands focus on creating a website, employing a developer, and other marketing experts, many companies fail in a key area. Copywriting.
From the moment someone lands on your website they’re going to be reading your content and if this content is not on point, you’re going to be losing lots of potential revenues.
What exactly does a copywriter do?
Copywriters spend their days crafting and honing copy that sells goods to consumers. In effect, a copywriter is the equivalent of a salesperson but they are the salesperson who uses the written word rather than face to face.
Some of the key areas that a copywriter produces content for include, sales brochures, email newsletters, email campaigns, landing page copywriting and Google Ad campaigns. A copywriter will continually be coming up with slogans and cool word plays that will increase the likelihood of readers making a purchase.
Great copywriting encompasses several disciplines. Great copywriting takes a hunger for knowledge that would make an obese man in Mcdonald’s look like a food conservative.
How do I become a copywriter?
To become a great copywriter you’re going to have to read, read, and read again. But don’t just read academic college type books, read books written by great copywriters like David Ogilvy and Joseph Sugarman.
Read books that teach you how to craft content that sells. Once you have learned some fundamentals of the craft, you can then work for a copywriting agency or you could, if you’re brave enough, decide to set up your own copywriting agency.
The best copywriters in the world are those who are interested in a vast number of areas in life. These copywriters read a lot, experienced a lot, travel a lot, and are always open to mastering new skills.
In order to become a great copywriter, you must not be afraid of failure. In order to win in life, you must first be willing to accept that you may fail, but in failing you’ll learn from your mistakes and these failures will catapult you on to greatness.
Know your customer
Whilst knowing your product is important, knowing your customer is equally important. Copywriting not crafted with the customer in mind is bound to fail.
You’ll need to discover what are the likes and dislikes of customers. What excites them about your product? What are the pain points of your customers?
So how can you discover this information?
The primary way you’re going to get inside a customer head is via researching. A handy way you can accomplish this is via visiting forums such as Reddit and seeking what potential customers are saying.
Any place where customers are giving their opinions on whatever goods or services you’re trying to sell is going to be a gold mine for information that can increase the power of your copywriting.
Once you have built up a dossier of information, you can then create a user profile or avatar and then use this information to create great copy.
Headlines are the most important part of copywriting
You’ve only a very short time frame, usually about 5 seconds, in which to get people’s attention. If the reader finds nothing of interest after 5 seconds they’re going to run quicker than a starved Cheetah when he spots a limping Antelope. In copywriting the primary aim is to produce a great headline. If you produce a great headline, you’re 90 % on the way to success.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter how informative, how persuasive your article is if the headline is weak your article or blog is going nowhere.
As the great copywriter David Ogilvy stated, “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80cents in every dollar. If you haven’t done some selling in your headline you have wasted 90% of your clients’ money.”
Ogilvy said that putting a new headline on the same article has increased the selling power tenfold.
What headlines are most effective in copywriting?
If the headline doesn’t excite or intrigue the reader then the chances of them abandoning your article are greatly increase. If the headline offers news, helpful information, or promises some enticing reward this will increase the chances of a reader engaging with your article.
Many copywriters fall into the trap of trying to create cute and funny headlines, but these kinds of headlines rarely work. For example, when you make a purchase from a clothes shop, would you want a salesperson acting like a comedian, or would you want a salesperson who clearly conveyed the benefits and costs of the clothing they were selling?
The fact is, most people will side with the salesperson, who reveals that the goods will satisfy their needs and budget. If people want to be amused, they will see Coco the Clown at the Circus.
Invoking a sense of urgency is vital in copywriting
The best copywriting will always invoke a sense of urgency. The fact is, most humans are very lethargic and need to be prodded and cajoled into action. For example, the headline “make 10,000 working from home this month” is a lot more effective than the headline “make 10,000 working from home.”
The first headline invokes a sense of urgency and would be far more likely to be effective than the latter headline.
Of course, we can also create a sense of urgency with a time-limited offer such as a special discount, limited-time offer, or some other discount premium.
As a copywriter, if you’re not writing clearly then you’re going to fail.
So how can you ensure you write clearly and effectively?
You should start writing to people. Imagine that the person you’re writing to is standing right in front of you. Ask yourself the question, ‘Does the copy tell the reader something useful, something that might help persuade them to take an action?’
One common technique to help enhance your copywriting is to insert the word “you” into your copy because this will help the reader feel that you’re directly addressing them. Copywriters call this the “you” technique.
For example, if you’re ever reading through a magazine you’ll soon notice that they created a large majority of the magazine with the word you inserted into it. This technique creates a personal effect and makes the reader feel that you’re talking to them.
Short sentences are very effective in copywriting
Another very effective technique is using short and snappy sentences to hammer home a point. If every sentence of your writing is the same, readers will get bored.
Most of the world’s best writers are trained to use short and crisp sentences.
Long sentences have the tendency to puzzle readers and will have them losing interest. There was study conducted several years ago where it was discovered that sentences that go beyond 34 words become increasingly hard to read and comprehend. Keep your sentences short.
A major trap that many new copywriters fall into is they continue using the same language they used when they were at University or School. Whilst your teacher or Professor may have been impressed with long windy words, your average person is not. Don’t write in academic language. Write in a language that sells.
Your selling points
A copywriter should always try to get the key selling points into their copy.
So how should you organize them?
Usually, this depends on the relative importance of the selling points. One technique that many copywriters use is that they hammer home the main selling points by repeating them. You tell users how you’re going to solve their pain points and then you tell them again.
A great technique to use is before you craft any content you make a list of your key selling points. Organize them logically and then present them in the body of your copy.
Copywriting needs to give detailed specific information
The best advertising will persuade by giving specific details about a product or service. The more facts you include in your content the better. Copywriters who produce content that is not immersed in facts produce content that is ineffective and weak.
When you write you should have a mountain of facts and information at your disposal. This will allow you to inject your copy with the most relevant facts and information. When copywriters have little factual information, they will fall back on using puffed-up empty phrases that are essentially meaningless.
Great copywriting sells from the beginning
From the minute you write something down on the page, attempt to make a sell. The best copywriting will constantly try to hammer home selling points so that the chances of a sale are increased. Why waste precious lines, when you should use these lines to increase your chances of making a conversion?
A copywriter should write like they talk
Many great copywriters have advocated writing as they talk. For example, if you’re having a conversation with someone, you’re usually talking in a language that is pretty basic and easy to understand. If, suddenly, your friend started talking like a member of the royal family and plastered their language in long technical words- would you be impressed? I bet not! It would irritate most people.
The fact is, the printed page is a substitute for a salesperson, and no salesperson worth his salt will talk in a language that is full of long windy words. A light conversational tone is much easier to read than any academic stiff formal tone.
If you’re getting involved in the copywriting business and you think that the wording you used at college will cut the mustard when attempting to sell to people, you’re badly mistaken. When you write like a pompous twat, your writing becomes boring.
Everyone can understand and enjoy simple language. Not everyone appreciates technical wording. It loses sales.
A simple test you can use is, say to yourself. “Would I ever use these words If I was speaking to a person face to face?” If you wouldn’t. Don’t use them.
Sentence fragments can add texture and power to your words. When all sentences are the same length readers can get lulled into a stupor. Asleep. Comatosed. A one-sentence paragraph can provoke readers out of this stupor.
It can shock them.
Mix up your language and you’ll increase the effectiveness and power of the copywriting that you’re using.
Use graphics to highlight your copywriting
Highlighting words can make them stand out and make them more powerful. Many readers simply scan through a blog, but if you highlight these words, it will increase the chances these words will penetrate their minds.
They’ll remember your key points.
Of course, you shouldn’t be underlying every word, otherwise, this will defeat the purpose of using graphics and highlights.
Use graphics sparingly and this will increase the effectiveness of your copywriting. You should always try to surprise your reader. They’ll remember surprises.
Copywriting should focus on crafting words that sell
You may be used to writing words that entertain, inform, or impress people, but with copywriting you should write words that sell. The entire goal of copywriting is to get readers to make a purchase and if you’re not getting them to make a purchase, your copywriting is failing.
So how can you accomplish this goal?
There are many variables that you’ll need to take into consideration. For example, should your copywriting be long or should it be a shorter piece? If your product has only a minor advantage over the competition should your copywriting focus on this or should you focus on the overall benefits of your product?
Ok, let’s figure this out.
Benefits, not features
One of the key things your copywriting should accomplish is writing about benefits and not features. A benefit is what the product does and what the reader will gain from the product if they purchase it. Elite-level copywriting should always try to hammer home what the benefits are because this will increase the chances of readers making a purchase.
Most novice copywriters have a tendency to write about features but a more experienced copywriter will write copy about the benefits.
A top copywriter will turn all the features into benefits and will know how to maximize this information so that readers will make a purchase.
A handy technique that many copywriters use is they list on one side of a piece of paper all of the features of a product and on the next side all the benefits.
The question the copywriter should ask is how does this feature make the product more attractive, enjoyable, useful, and affordable?
When the list is complete, the copywriter should then use this information to sell the product.
The best-known formula for copywriting is the AIDA formula, which means Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
A copywriter must first be able to get a reader’s attention via a snappy headline or some other piece of wording that will draw the reader into reading the copy.
The next stage is generating interest in the product that’s being sold. This can be done by extolling the benefits of the product. Desire to own the product can be created by ensuring that you once again hammer home the benefits of the product and how it’s going to heal the reader’s pain points.
The slippery slide technique is a great copywriting strategy
The slippery slide is a concept developed by the legendary copywriter Joseph Sugarman, which basically describes getting potential clients onto your slide and then letting them slide down into your conversion nets. Every element in an advertisement from the heading, from the images to the first sentence must cause the slippery slide effect.
The headline must be so compelling that readers will read the subheading, the subheading must be so powerful that readers will then read the body of the copy, and the body must have the power to cause the reader to read through the rest of the copy.
What the slippery slide will cause is increased traffic and any shopping center will tell you that increased traffic equals more sales for the shops in the center. Creating this slippery slide effect is not that difficult once the reader gets into the body of your copy.
It’s proven that once a reader reads 20% of your copy, the chances of them reading the rest of it are greatly increased.
So what strategies should I use to generate the slippery slide effect?
Some copywriters suggest using a peculiar or interesting piece of information tied to a product to produce the slippery slide effect. A good copywriting practice is to save those offbeat articles and then in the future maybe incorporate them into your copywriting to produce the slippery slide.
Another tactic many copywriting agencies use is images that appear incongruent with the message they are attempting to sell.
Quirky images can draw readers towards your content and then draw them down into the slippery slide.
Whilst this tactic can be very effective, the key is that you have to make your copy very interesting so that when readers read it, they won’t be able to put it down.
Seeds of curiosity is another great copywriting technique
A great way to increase readership is to apply the principles of “the seeds of curiosity.” The seeds of curiosity will always offer the reader an incentive to read on. For example, many copywriters will use sentences such as:
- Wait, there’s more.
- If you keep reading to the end, we’ll reveal the secret.
- Let me explain.
What the seeds of curiosity accomplish is they get the reader to read the next sentence because it intrigued them what we might write next. The ideal situation is that you won’t have to consciously think about the seeds of curiosity and that your content will be so interesting that people will want to read it anyways.
But if this is not the case, using the seeds of curiosity in your copy might be the best strategy to employ.
But if you decide to use this technique, use it sparingly because if you’re constantly inserting cryptic clues into your copy this will annoy the reader and will cause them to take flight.
A good way to use this technique is to include it at the beginning of your ad, as this will entice readers into the rest of the copy.
An example of the seeds of curiosity is this story. I was working in my office one day when an attractive blonde, with a short miniskirt and high heels walked into my office. She sat down on the seat and begin dangling her shoe from her foot. She smiled at me and asked me…….
Do you see? The seeds of curiosity are invoked and you’re probably wondering what happened next.
Emotion in copywriting
The best copywriting will be infused with lots of emotion and this emotion will be used to increase the chances of a sale. Whilst we might like to think that consumers always purchase through logic, more often than not, this is not the case.
For example, if someone purchases a 100k sports car and by law, they aren’t allowed to go faster than a 5k Ford Fiesta, there doesn’t seem to be much logic to this purchase. But the buyer will justify his purchase emotionally by imagining heads turning as he’s driving down the road.
Each word that a copywriter uses has an emotion attached to it. Use the power words that will increase the chances of users engaging with your copywriting. For example, when you hear the word “lawyer”, what emotion seeps to the top of your brain? Perhaps, conman, liar, etc, etc. But if you read the word “nurse”, what emotions and words spring from your unconscious? Probably words like kindness, help, smiling, etc.
You need to choose your words carefully because sometimes even a single word can change your sales rates. But what you don’t want to do is become hung up over every single line that you craft. Getting a feel for the nuance of words takes time, and it is a skill that your copywriting will eventually become infused with.
Use psychological triggers in your copywriting
Great copywriting takes the readers into another world. In copywriting, get your readers to imagine holding, touching, feeling, and smelling whatever it is you’re attempting to sell.
The reader’s mind is like a vacuum waiting to be filled and you want to fill their mind with images that will help sell your product. Your copywriting should take readers right into the product, allow them to taste the dessert with the orange and strawberry slices embedded in the creamy crusty texture, and finished with liquid chocolate poured on top. Allow them to imagine the spoon digging into the dessert and the delicious scoop of mouth-watering dessert that is ready to be placed into your welcoming mouth.
Allow readers to imagine “Take a ride in the Ferrari. Feel the power of the engine as they press down on the accelerator. Smell the leather interior finish. The roar of the exhaust. The heads turning.”
This technique in copywriting is often referred to as the “involvement device.” For example, a technique that many marketers use to get readers to commit some kind of action like putting a sticker on some section of the leaflet.
This may seem rather ridiculous but the fact is such an action has been proven to increase sales rate 3x. The reader is taking direct action based on your words and this action will lead to increased conversions.
The great copywriter Joseph Sugarman once asked readers in the Wall Street Journal to find all the spelling mistakes in an article that he wrote and if they found the mistakes, the price of the product would be reduced. This technique has proven to be spectacularly successful and increased sales tenfold.
Another great copywriting technique is pointing out the flaws
Another great copywriting technique is to point out flaws upfront. If you think there are flaws and problems in whatever product you’re selling point them out and then show why they’re not such a problem! This technique also creates a trust with the reader because they’re thinking if “they’re pointing out the flaws in the product. Maybe I can trust them.” The fact is if you come across as more honest and truthful in your ads the chances of you making a sale is greatly increased.
There are many techniques that you can use to power up your copywriting, but in reality, the only way you can discover what works for you is via trial and error. If you continue to write and use some techniques listed in this blog post, you’ll soon discover the sweet spot in crafting your own copywriting.
The fact is, copywriting is less a science than a performing art, but despite this, there still are some fundamentals that you’ll need to infuse your copywriting with. If you use some tips and tricks that I’ve listed in this blog piece you’ll soon find that your copywriting will be on to a winner.