When you think of the words “five dollar footlong,” what comes to mind?
If you’re a millennial, then chances are you thought about Subway.
While Subway doesn’t even offer its five-dollar footlong deal anymore, this one phrase still has the power to draw customers into the store, if only for nostalgia’s sake.
That—in a nutshell—is the power of copywriting.
What is copywriting?
Copywriting is the process of creating persuasive copy, usually for marketing or advertising purposes. Copy can take numerous forms depending on the channel and goal.
For example, a copywriter might be responsible for creating a few short, catchy sentences for an ad campaign that drives people towards a free trial of a new software. Or, the same copywriter may be tasked with writing the copy for a website, using his or her words to keep visitors engaged.
What skills are needed to be a good copywriter?
No matter the type of copy they’re responsible for writing, successful copywriters have to first understand who they’re targeting, what they want their readers to do, and how to best convince them to do it. All this requires a mastery of:
- Ability to communicate value
- Ability to inspire action
Understanding your audience is the first step to writing persuasive copy.
Think of it like gardening. You could walk outside and dump an entire packet of seeds on the ground, but you probably won’t get many healthy plants that way. If, instead, you spend time researching the specific needs of your plants and providing the right soil, location, and care for them, then your plants are more likely to flourish.
Similarly, researching your ideal audience will help you identify what their needs are and how to speak to them in a way they’ll respond to. Use tools such as website data, surveys, customer feedback, results from previous campaigns, and buyer personas to fully understand who you’re talking to and how to evoke the right response.
People have an easier time remembering commercials (or other forms of marketing) that make them feel something.
Once you understand your audience’s needs, learn what emotions drive them to take action. Determine how these feelings change the more someone uses a product or service like yours. Then, consider ways that you can appeal to these emotions in your copy to strengthen the impact of your message.
Ability to communicate value
Good copy doesn’t just insist that your product is the best. It shows your readers how it’s the best.
For example, imagine that you and a competitor offer software that simplifies eCommerce for online merchants who run their own stores. While your product has a full-feature mobile app allowing users to monitor their stores on the go, your competitor’s app is limited.
You wouldn’t want to simply list out all the technical differences between your apps. Rather, you’ll want to demonstrate how your software has a real, tangible impact on users’ day-to-day lives. It gives users total control over their stores, relieving them of stress and anxiety.
Whether it be to schedule a call or sign up for an email newsletter, readers should clearly know what next step they should take in order to progress their relationship with your brand. You as the copywriter need to know what that next step is—and what’s realistic to ask of your reader.
Take the time to understand what mindset readers are in when reading your copy. Are they ready to jump on the phone with a sales rep? Or, do they need more time to warm up to your brand (e.g., read a few case studies or learn more about your products)? Make informed predictions and constantly monitor the impact of your copy.
When are copywriters needed?
Any business that uses marketing could use a copywriter to effectively craft their messaging. How they invest their copywriting resources, however, may vary. Below, we’ve outlined a few different projects you might be assigned to as a copywriter.
Print ads may seem like a thing of the past, but it’s not uncommon for companies to still create printed media like:
- Magazine and newspaper ads
- Storefront advertising
Since you can’t tell readers to click on the ad itself and instantly learn more, print ads have to be memorable. You want viewers to remember your ad so that they’re more likely to google your site or inquire for more information on their own. However, one handy tool for print ads is the QR code, which can connect people directly to your website from printed material.
Online ads can involve various channels and mediums, including:
- Search ads
- Social media ads
- Website banners
- Video ads
Your greatest challenges as a copywriter: online advertisers face tremendous amounts of competition, and each channel has its own rules of engagement. For this reason, reaching the right people with the right message at the right time is critical.
Use data from past campaigns and/or the ad platform itself to better drill into user behaviors. Make sure to tailor your messaging toward their expressed interests, demographics, search habits, and more.
Needless to say that Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and other social channels offer tons of opportunities for brands. You may find yourself supporting social campaigns by creating copy for components like:
- Image text
- Video scripts
When doing so, keep the copy short and snappy. Remember that social media is fundamentally—well, social. Get creative. Invite user engagement. Avoid parading around your message, like a camp counselor yelling into a megaphone. Find a way to connect with your audience on a deeper level.
Any marketing or sales email features several, critical lines of text:
- A compelling subject line
- Engaging headlines
- Concise, yet memorable body copy
- Clear, powerful CTAs
You may be asked to provide several variations of each for A/B testing, or create a series of multiple emails intended to re-engage existing contacts. One (perhaps obvious) piece of advice: think about the type of marketing emails you actually engage with. What makes them stand out from the rest? What stops you from marking them as spam or drives you to take action?
Getting leads to visit your website is only half the battle. Once visitors are on your site, you need to capture their attention. The problem? You have less than 15 seconds to do so.
For this reason, any copy above the fold (the first thing that people see without scrolling down the page) needs to be bold and relatable. Moreover, your copy needs to address any expectations that someone may have when clicking to your page. After all, you don’t want them to click on an ad thinking that they’re going to see one thing, only to read a headline that’s totally unrelated to what the ad promised.
If working on website copy, you could be focusing your attention on:
- Product pages
- About us page
- Landing pages
Top 4 copywriting strategies
1. Learn to persuade your audience
Your job as a copywriter is to sell to potential buyers without making them feel like they’re being sold to. That means avoiding copy that sounds like an infomercial or what you might expect from a used car salesman.
Avoid using hyperboles like “incredible,” “the best,” or “unbelievable.” Stop yourself from using words like “very” as a crutch. Don’t get lazy with your copy and be precise with your words.
In other words, rather than wasting your time fluffing up a piece, focus on actually persuading the reader. As mentioned earlier—don’t tell readers that your product is amazing. Describe all the benefits that will make them say, “Wow, this is amazing!”
2. Connect with readers
Find a common ground with your audience and speak directly to their needs. Remember that it’s not how customers use your product, but why that matters. Speak to the heart of the problem that you’re looking to fix, evoking and recognizing the emotions it creates.
Your copy should make the reader think yes, they understand me and want to strike a conversation with your brand. Much like going on a first date, you can’t just brag about yourself and expect your date to eagerly listen; put yourself in your viewers’ shoes, uncover what’s important to them, and speak to their values in your copy.
3. Hit ‘em hard and fast
People see dozens of ads, websites, articles, and emails every day. If you can’t capture their attention within the first few seconds, you’ve likely lost your chance.
Focus on creating an emotional connection as quickly as you can. Whether the first bit of copy is a headline, subject line, image text, or script intro, give your audience every reason to keep their attention fixed on you.
4. Don’t get too technical
Some of the simplest words can be the most powerful. Unless you’re specifically targeting a technical crowd, avoid using jargon that’s overly technical and will lose your readers’ interest—fast.
Keep sentences direct and focused. When appropriate, use the “mom” test, i.e., imagine saying what you wrote out loud to your mom. Would she understand what you’re trying to say? Would she think you’re speaking genuinely from the heart or, conversely, see through the BS?
The future is bright for copywriters
As long as organizations have something to offer, they’ll need copywriters to craft their messages. Find the tools you need to start or grow your copywriting business with Hectic.