“Mr. Smith was on a 3-hour flight travelling with his baby who needed a diaper change. He forgot to bring diapers. What to use? Maybe paper towels. He couldn’t find anything to hold them together.
“Then he remembered he had a box of our BrandName© Paper Clips in his laptop bag. Non-toxic and environmentally-friendly, these were the perfect replacements for safety pins. Mr. Smith changed his baby, who slept comfortably for the rest of the flight.”
“If our clips are safe for babies, they can handle your most important documents!”
You must admit, you don’t often hear of a paper clip being used as a safety pin replacement. I just showed you a creative way to describe a product and make your content enjoyable. With a simple play of words, you can transform a mundane product into something extraordinary. This is part of a copywriter’s job.
Do you write content for ads, landing pages, headlines, slogans, brochures, scripts, e-mails or videos? Whatever it is, your main task as a copywriter is to promote a product, service and idea. You want to persuade people to buy, join or sign up. The trick is finding the right words and style to make this happen.
Copywriting is not a recent creation … it goes all the way back to when writing was invented. If you want to see an ad from long ago, check this print (selling prayer books) in English from 1477.
If you want to be an excellent copywriter, POOF, choose to be one! Wait – It’s not that simple … but it’s a start. I don’t grant wishes. However, I have been writing ads and successful landing page copy (often over 10,000 words) for almost 20 years. Below, I give tips on great copywriting techniques and how to strengthen your skills.
Aspire and Act to Write Better Each Day
Nobody was born with excellent writing skills. You develop these over time. It begins with a mind open to ideas, the willingness to learn, and copying from the best.
Keep in mind, aspiration should be followed by action. Think of ways to improve your craft. You have to practice, edit and seek feedback.
Start with small steps. Adopt a daily routine of simple tasks that can help you become an excellent copywriter. Try the following to enhance your creativity:
- Look at 10 ads from different fields/industries. Re-write each of them.
- Keep reading books! When reading magazines, study the ads.
- Take a break away from all distractions. Write anything. You might find inspiration.
- Solve any puzzle (crossword, Sudoku, etc.). The mental exercise will do wonders to your brain.
- Take a walk and form interesting sentences in your head. A lot of my best copyrighting headlines come while exercising. That’s how I came up with “turn meh into magnificent!”
- Talk to people. Ask about their needs and wants. There’s always something to learn.
Believe in Your Product
How can you be excited about something you don’t believe in? No product or service is perfect. Focus on the benefits and not on the flaws. How will the product benefit the reader? (It helps to first do market research to see who your reader actually is.) Ideas will come to you if you view a product or service from a positive angle and how it helps the buyer.
Boring, “meh” content is often the result of the copywriter’s ambivalence toward a product. I know this because it’s happened to me. A product may not be useful to you, but it will be to someone else.
Help that person find your product. You are the guide in the wilderness of over-saturated advertising. This alone motivates me in creating ads, content and landing pages.
Empathize and Understand Your Audience
Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience market. It’s no longer enough to determine their age group, income, gender, income bracket and location of your target market. Add to this mix the following:
Baby boomers have different priorities from millennials. Also, the current generation relies more on technology than seniors. I can go on but I know you get my point. Whoever your target is, view the world from their eyes.
Understand the psyche of your customers. If you think there are millions of impulse buyers out there eager to just buy anything … you’re wrong. Impulse buyers only purchase because the ad copy convinced them that this product will fulfill their needs of the moment. Impulse buys are 100% an emotional response.
I highly recommend reading our article on customer psychology. It provides insights on buying behavior to help and inspire you in your copywriting.
Learn From the Experts
I’m not just talking about copywriters. I’m referring to salespeople and writers too. Consider these pieces of advice from Zig Ziglar. He is a great salesman who only sold face-to-face.
“No attempt to close a sale should be made until you have established value in the prospect’s mind.”
And this one:
“Never underestimate the power of a sincere service attitude. Help other people get what they want. Serve and you will succeed.”
Do you agree that these also apply to online selling? They are as relevant as any advice given by copywriting experts today. Aside from Ziglar, I suggest reading Seth Godin, Gary Halbert and David Ogilvy. Remember, you’re not only a copywriter; you’re also a salesperson!
Also, there are significant similarities between writing and copywriting. Some experts claim otherwise but advise aspiring copywriters to shorten their sentences, keep the writing simple, weed out clutter and think of your audience. These are the same tips I read from the book by William Zinsser, On Writing Well. It’s still a bestseller after 40 years.
There’s value in reading books by professionals from different fields. Not only will you learn useful tips, you might gain inspiration as well.
Don’t Just Sell a Product. Answer a Need.
It’s not enough to list down the benefits of a product or service in your copy. In as few words as possible, tell your reader how these will improve his or her life. Here are some needs you can address in your copy:
- Career Development
- Financial security
- Personal safety
- Physiological (food, water, etc.)
- Information / Knowledge
- Technological (e.g. Power cost savings)
It mainly all comes down to either fulfilling a dream or solving a person’s fear or problem. Remember – Your goal is to convince your audience how their needs will be met with your product or service.
Speak as a Friend
Readers like to feel that they are “spoken to” as real people in an impersonal online environment. What better way to do this than to treat them as a friend?
When you talk to a friend, you’re more relaxed and less formal. You also speak as an equal. How would you offer your product to a friend? Would you embellish just to make a sale? Of course not! You’d be honest and straightforward.
Create content as though you’re addressing a friend. This goes back to knowing who your customer is by creating a customer profile or avatar. Give this “ideal” customer a name, and treat them as a friend. Then write down what comes to mind. You can always revise and edit when you’re done with your draft.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Avoid using slang and jargon unless needed for the niche, and only if you are purposefully targeting a very particular audience. Your words need to be short, powerful and emotional. They can be cheeky if the tone calls for it, but they must make sense. How about these headlines:
- A skin you love to touch. (Helen Lansdown Resor)
- The man your man could smell like. (Old Spice)
- Protected by more pre-nups than any other car. (Aston Martin)
- To all those who use our competitor’s products: Happy Father’s Day (Durex Condoms)
- She’s (cough) just a friend. (Ricola Cough Drops)
- Kills bugs fast. (Porche)
- For more information on lung cancer, keep smoking. (The Lung Association, British Columbia)
In case you’re wondering, MEH has its origins from the Yiddish interjection and word meaning so-so.
So-so words and long-winded sentences do not sell.
Rules, of course, are made to be broken … but at second glance, not really. Check out this headline I found on a wine bottle:
Do not let this bottle serve as an inspiration to call your ex in a pathetic attempt to get back together. Some very fine grapes have died in the making of this wine. Show some respect.
Though it’s unusually long, note that the sentence structure and word choices are still simple and powerful, with no clutter. This also works because the tone and audience is set from the beginning. The writer knows it will be sold to folks who have a good sense of humor and who are “in” on the joke.
Tell A Story
This is what I wrote at the top of this article. Maybe there are uses of a product your audience isn’t aware of. Have fun and use a story to sell. Storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful ways to communicate, teach and sell. Everybody loves one.
Create a main character and a situation your audience can identify with. If they find themselves in a similar situation, it’s much more likely they’ll convert to a sale.
Love your Craft
Some call copywriting an art, while others call it a craft. The debate is still on but what matters is you have to love copywriting if you want to succeed. There are many challenges, but there are also opportunities and huge rewards in the form of increased sales, and even chances your product will go viral.
For now, it’s time to put pen to paper (or keystrokes to screen). Come up with a few words and see where it leads you. Happy (copy)writing!