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Whenever I tell people what I do, the word ‘copywriting’ typically draws a blank face. If I follow up with the words writing marketing and advertising material there’ll be a flicker of recognition. Yet copywriting is a much, much bigger area, covering a large and rather impressive range of communications, including, but by no means limited to:
- annual reports
- fundraising materials
- marketing materials, such as flyers, invitations, posters, etc
- press releases
- radio or TV scripts
- sales letters
- web pages
- and more.
Put simply, copywriting is the CRAFT of writing advertisements, direct-response sales letters and other communications used to promote, market, and sell products and services. It’s about motivating customer action through (usually, written) words.
Essentially, copywriting involves the process of turning words into cash. Selling your product or service through effective language. Online, it’s the equivalent of your best salesman. Your ‘shop front’, if you like.
So it is certainly worthwhile getting to know all about copywriting (or at least the basics) so you can determine whether or not you are clearly communicating the VALUE of your product or service.
Whatever form it takes, copy has two traits:
1. The author of the piece remains anonymous (there is no “by” anyone to be seen).
2. The language used attempts to persuade the reader to do, feel, or believe something. It’s writing that gets things done: making sales, building leads, stimulating interest . . . and so on.
What’s this got to with you? Put simply, copywriting is one of the most expensive skills any solopreneur or business can outsource. And, worryingly, not all copywriters are created equal: I often get asked to work my magic on copy that a client had previously paid someone else to write in the first place.
With good copywriting, however, anyone can make a connection with their customers or potential customers. A connection that ultimately results in improved business performance.
And the best part?
You can do it yourself. You don’t have to be a great writer to write or identify great copy. And when you can recognise powerful copy you are able to get your message noticed, read and responded to.
That said, you will need a firm grip on the proven copywriting principles in order to write copy that is customer-oriented and customer-motivating.
Here then are some copywriting tips to get you started:
1. Before you write one single word of copy it’s essential that you define your product or service. This is so that you can appropriately appeal to and connect with your target audience. You do this by listing all the features and benefits of what it is you’re selling or offering, and then focusing on a one or several of the strongest ones.
2. Headlines sell. That’s a fact. So make sure you include a strong headline, and write it from your prospective customer’s point of view, not your own.
3. Make ample use of one of the most magical words you can use in advertising, marketing, promotional, or web copy . . . the word “you”.
4. Avoid ‘patting self on the back’ copy at all costs.
5. Ideally, your copy should address at least one of the six main human ‘motivators’: duty, gain/greed, love, pride, self-indulgence, and self-preservation.
6. Make sure you answer the WIIFM proposition. No matter how diplomatically you put it, there’s only question that your readers will be interested in: “What’s in it for me?” Or, rather, what’s in it for your reader? Why should your readers listen to you? Successfully answering that question can go a long way toward establishing a positive relationship, and help get your copy read — and acted upon.
7. Use specific, powerful and — most important of all — genuine customer testimonials (make sure you get permission first) to back up your claims.
8. Use the active rather than passive voice. In other words, make your subject do things rather than have things done to him or her. The copy reads more dynamically that way.
9. Follow the AIDA rule: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
10. Overlook the grammar rules you learned at school. Instead, use sentence fragments, split infinitives, and contractions to make your copy more conversational in tone.
11. Don’t forget the ‘call to action’ — what do you want the reader to do after reading your copy? Ask! Better still, tell them.
So there you have it: As well as dramatically reducing your marketing costs, being able to recognise the fundamentals of effective copy will help ensure your message is something that prospects will want to read . . . and ACT upon.
By Tracey Dooley, Copywriter | Creative Consultant
Want More Detailed Step-by-Step Help, With Examples You Can Model? See my quick-start audio programme, “Better Writing Skills 101 – Write Your Way to Blockbuster Results and BOOST Business to Boot“:
(Why struggle needlessly when you can get expert help and/or affordable mentoring and have fun accelerating your sales through credibility?)
(C) 2008-11 T Dooley, All Rights Reserved
Want to use this tip (or any article, tip or post on this blog) on your website, blog, a message board or in an ezine? Not a problem! But please give credit where its due. You MUST include copyright info above, along with the following:
Tracey Dooley is a freelance copywriter, editor and marketer. She also runs KingfisherCopy.co.uk. She has spent 18-plus years crafting compelling concepts and copy that successfully sell, inform, educate or entertain. Her expertise runs across many different sectors and her client list includes marketing agencies, a leading supplier of personal computers, semi-conductors and telecommunications equipment and the UK’s largest TV and interactive production company =====> www.mediaminister.co.uk
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