Writing effective copy – the kind of copy that grabs the attention and interest of the reader, then motivates them to take some appropriate action or next step – doesn’t just happen.
Successful writers don’t just “sit down and let great copy flow”.
A process is required. Certain factors need to be addressed up-front so the writer knows what to do and can do it efficiently and effectively.
And when that happens, success typically follows.
Here’s a walk through of the key factors you should be addressing and why, along with some tips that address how.
Who is the audience?
Seriously, can you imagine sitting down to write something without understanding if the intended audience is
Consumers. Business buyers or users or influencers or decision-makers? Other?
The point here is you need to know who your audience is before you can determine tone, style, content. Don’t get swept up with someone pushing for “…an email on our new service…” because the way you will present that new service will vary based on the audience.
For example, the new service is tech support for businesses. The users may have different wants and needs than the decision-maker or influencer. Without knowing the audience, the wrong presentation of the wrong features and benefits can be created and sent, causing a great deal of lost opportunity.
Ideally, a persona is great to have so you can base your writing on demographics, psychographics, behavioral factors and geographic factors. Next, understanding their wants, needs, expectations and perceptions are extremely helpful because it will help you focus your writing.
Where are they in the decision-making process?
Someone that is contacting your business for the first time will most likely have different wants and needs than someone that has is in the middle of a 30-day trial – so make sure you know where they are in their decision-making process.
This has a significant impact on your offer, which has a significant impact on motivating the reader to take the desired next action step.
Think about it – someone that’s in the early stages of gathering information regarding buying a car or enrolling in college is most likely interested in information, not a “Buy now, save $$$” or “Start Your Online App Today” because they are both trying to figure out “What are my options?”
What do you know about their selection criteria – and how can you put that to use?
At each stage in the decision-making process, people have a list of things they need so they can determine which possible solution provider deserves further consideration and which possible solution provider isn’t going further in the process.
Take the example above with the person considering purchasing a car or enrolling in college. In that early stage, the potential car buyer might want to understand options such as buying or leasing a used or a new vehicle. The potential college student might want to know if your institution has the program they are searching for, and if it’s available at a convenient time for their schedule.
Address those issues, and the car shopper can decide if your dealership stays in the running and the potential student can decide if your institution remains in the running.
But fail to address the car shopper’s key criteria, you increase your chances of losing this potential sale. Same for the college/university – start talking about financial aid or the social life available on campus instead of the program of interest and modality, you can lose an enrollment.
What’s Being Tested?
Since testing is always going on to improve performance, make sure you know what’s planned for the specific assignment. Are you testing tone? Length? Headlines? Subheads? Bullet points? Call-to-Action button copy? Other?
What will be tested in the email and how? This will have an impact on your messaging/copy and offers. In one version, your copy might be less than 100-words and focused on one benefit. In another, your copy might be 1,000-words and focused on several benefits.
Develop & Follow A Style Guide
Consistency over time pays dividends, especially when each member of your audience is being buried under 5,000 sales and marketing messages every day. Making sure the same logo is located at the top right corner of every email sent helps you cut through the clutter and grab their attention. Same for the font you use.
Making sure this style guide addresses all communications, offline and online, is important too. There’s nothing worse than having every department creating their own version of a logo, or using a variety of fonts – because this confuses the recipient and causes them to ignore you.
Chunking works…for some.
Perhaps you’ve heard the old riddle about what the best way to eat an elephant? (Answer: Bite by bite.)
Chunking is the term used to describe a writing style where the copy is presented in small bite-sized bits. No long paragraphs. Just short sentences and paragraphs.
This article is an example of chunking.
This approach helps make reading and understanding occur faster and easier.
The Power of Emotion.
“Time is running out!”
“Are you as safe from intruders as you think you are?”
“Offer expires today at 5 PM (ET)”
“Be part of the Pepsi Generation.”
“Are you up to the challenge?”
“Be all that you can be.”
“Last night, one home in your neighborhood was broken into.”
As you read these statements, you should experience a range of emotions from urgency to fear, to belonging, competition, leadership, to fear again. Emotional triggers can move your audience to the desired action. Facts are important, but many overlook the emotional factors – and this can be an opportunity for your copy to generate tremendous results.
Lists. Bold. Underline.
We consumer content differently…some people love to read sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph.
Others prefer to skim until something catches their eye.
The visual flow of words can have a tremendous impact on the impact of your copy. Bulleted lists, bold, italics and underlined words all grab the eye and the reader’s attention to key points.
However, a little goes a long way – and too much can cause readers’ eyes to miss the mess. And that can cause you to miss out on the sale.
Write to your audience
How does your audience communicate? How do they present similar concepts to your own in writing and speech?
Use that insight and understanding as a guide.
This will impact your tone and manner, word choice and content.
For me, the best example is when I take my car in for repairs. I know next to nothing about cars, and when it comes to explaining why my car is making that funny noise, I prefer being told by the mechanic that makes it easy for me to understand versus the mechanic that is telling me that “…the connecting rod to the crankshaft dislodged the cylinder head causing the ball joint bands to spindle along with the bellhousing….”
Remember the purpose of copywriting is to effectively communicate and motivate – not show off your superior intellect and ability to use words few others understand.
Storytelling has been all the rage in marketing for a few years now – but it has been around for many years and generates tremendous results when used properly.
Notice I ended that sentence with “…when used properly.”
Sometimes a good story will educate your audience, help them better understand your message and lead to more readers responding to your offer.
Sometimes a story isn’t necessary.
For example, you are sending an email to your customer base about a new upgrade to an existing product.
“Product A will be receiving several important upgrades starting DATE that can save your business time and money while increasing performance. To learn more about these upgrades, download our product information sheet here.”
Straight-forward. Simple. Clearly communicates rewards for the reader/customer.
Does it need more? Does it need a story about how the upgrades came about over a late-night brainstorming session between a couple of customers and engineers of the firm?
Sure, maybe you test short-form vs. long-form copy and include a story in the long-form version…but you get the point.
Proofread. Spellcheck. Repeat.
You’re busy. We get it. So are your readers – so do them the courtesy of respecting their time and make sure what you send them is well written, grammatically correct.
Just today, I received more than twenty emails from businesses that want me to become their client. And 50% have spelling and/or grammar errors.
Have a professional proofread the copy. Turn on spellcheck. Take an extra few minutes to make sure everything is correct before hitting “print” or “send.”
Some Parting Thoughts
There are a lot more copywriting tips to be shared, but I hope these will help you improve your work and improve results. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.