Good copywriting can be split into two parts. First up, there’s the actual writing bit. And just like a foreign language, writing is a skill that can be refined with practice.
But copywriting is as much about psychology as it is putting pen to paper. It means persuading an audience. With this in mind, here are seven useful copywriting tips:
1. Have a clear goal
Simple, if not slightly obvious. Yet if you don’t know why you are writing something – and what you are trying to persuade people to do – then you shouldn’t be writing it. Without a clear goal, a copywriter will always fall short of the mark.
2. Write for people, not search engines
Yes, SEO and search engine visibility is important. But a copywriter understands one thing: good content means always writing for people first. Search engine criteria changes. People don’t.
3. Know who you are writing for
Imagine you were sitting down to write a letter to a family member. You wouldn’t write it without thinking about the person you are writing to. It informs what you write, the things you leave out, and the style. Copywriting is no different.
So, if a copywriter is writing for the average Home and Gardens magazine reader, they would likely choose a different tone than if they were writing for an FHM reader. Only by thinking about your audience – their desires, their emotions, their joys and fears – can you write copy that will appeal to or persuade them.
4. Learn to tell a good story
Humans have been seduced by good stories since before we could even communicate verbally. By creating a situation where something needs to get resolved, a story makes the reader or listener want to read on.
Chances are, your business solves a problem. Through good storytelling, we connect to people using the shared problem. And then we resolve it for them. This is an extremely persuasive tool for a copywriter.
5. Show, don’t tell
None of us like being told what to do, least of all when it comes to making purchasing decisions. But using adjectives to try and persuade people can come across as pushy – at worst, insincere. Consider this sentence:
‘John is a caring, considerate guy.’
Sounds a bit like a mate selling her new boyfriend to you. Something inside makes us not believe it. But the same thing can be said with more credibility by showing our reader why:
‘John volunteers for a homeless charity.’
This second sentence makes John sound like what he is, without shoving it in the reader’s face. Don’t underestimate your audience. They will be intelligent enough to make the link and will connect much better with it. Stealing from one of fiction writing’s basic premises, this is a lesson that any copywriter should heed.
6. Value over savings
Contrary to common perception, people buy into value and experience over cost savings. Don’t believe me? Nike trainers and Apple Macs are among the most expensive products in their respective markets. Yet we fall over ourselves for them. Why? Because we buy in to the quality of these companies, they way they talk to us, and the way they make us feel.
7. Honesty is best
Most of us see straight through unadulterated sales copy. In fact, it can be downright irritating. But when we take the time out to address our audience’s genuine concerns, we can show them that we understand. In this sense, honesty sells better than perfection.
Even a simple sentence like: ‘We’re not the cheapest on the market, but…’ appeals to our inherent desire for quality over price. You are not hiding anything either – and you eliminate that niggling doubt about price from the off. This way readers can focus on the good stuff. We evoke a picture of quality and value without spelling it out – or sounding ‘salesy’.
Keith Lewis is a freelance copywriter.