Copywriting: The Ultimate Guide


Copywriting is both an art and a science.

Great copywriting grabs the readers’ attention, stimulates their interest, creates desire and motivates action.

Copywriting is the voice of your business. Across your promotional efforts in all media – from printed materials like brochures, direct mail, and sales collateral to digital efforts like your website, blog, landing pages and more.

Typically, copywriting is the first thing a prospective customer experiences about your business.

And when done well, copywriting generates sales.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor copywriting on display thanks to a variety of factors.  The result is copy that fails to cut through the clutter and chaos we face each day – and that results in a failure to communicate with your audience.

Yes, you sent the email.  You mailed the package.  You ran the ad.

But no one paid attention because it was not compelling.

What are you going to do about that?

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How to be a Highly Effective Copywriter

A pedestrian on 57th Street sees a musician getting out of a cab and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Without pause, the artist replies wearily, “Practice.”

Like the old joke, becoming a highly effective copywriter takes practice – but that practice needs to be focused on producing quality results.

Here are some critical tips to follow:

Tip 1 Objective

As with all things marketing-related, you are being asked to write something for a reason.

What’s the reason this specific assignment exists?  And what would be considered ‘success’?

For some writing assignments, the results might just be limited to awareness and brand building – but for other projects, different metrics might exist so be sure they are well defined and realistic.

Who is the target audience? Do they have a relationship with your organization or is this project targeting people that might not be aware of your organization or product(s)?

What are their wants, needs, expectations, perceptions?

You want to know how the will use the product. And how they evaluate products before deciding on one over the other.  You are also going to to want to know the selection criteria they used to make that decision.

Without this depth of understanding, you’re going to be working blind.  You will most likely struggle to find the tone and key message points that will resonate with the reader.

If you are a freelancer, you are going to encounter a lot of situations where you lack the insight you need to write effectively.  Any research, buyer personas, examples of past work that was successful will help you understand your audience – and produce more effective copy.

And if you work for the firm – or own it – you need to push for as much audience insight as you can get your hands on.  That even means getting out from behind our desk and meeting with customers.

What are their goals and objectives?

How did they realize they had a need for what your business (or client) offers?

How did they find your business (client)?

What was their experience like? What was good? What was bad? What was missing?

How has the ‘customer experience’ been from their perspective?

What’s their perception of the competition?

Ask these questions. Watch them use the product, if possible.

All of this insight will help you generate much more relevant and effective copy.

Tip 3 Product

What makes the product so unique and valuable to the audience?

Sounds like a rather simple question that should be easy to answer – right?

But typically, it’s not easy to answer.

In some businesses, you will hear “…nothing all that unique about it…”

And in others, you will hear complete and total B.S.


In the first example, you may have encountered someone that has just been around the product too long and has become jaded.

And in the second, you may have encountered someone that believes the hype in their head and has never spoken with a customer or member of the target audience.

My point – never take a focus group of one as Gospel.  Do some research on your own and let the data drive you.

What is the name of the product?

Who is the product intended to serve?

What are the 2 to 3 most important features and benefits of the product for the audience?

This is an area that causes a great deal of confusion for a lot of people – so let’s define the terms so we’re all on the same page.

A feature is “…a surface statement about a product such as physical attributes including size, color, weight…”

A benefit is “…an outcome or result that the user experiences by using the product…”

A few examples…

I recently purchased a new laptop with a faster processor (feature) that will save me time and a little bit of my sanity (benefits).

My 50-year-old uncle just purchased a red (feature) convertible (feature) Porsche because it makes him feel young driving fast with the top down (benefit) while giving other people the impression he’s wealthy and successful (benefits).

Why is this important?

People buy solutions.  They think “What’s in this for me?” 

Yes, my new laptop has a faster processor and a screen with higher resolution than what I had been using.

But I bought it because of the benefits – saving time and sanity because I was saving time instead of waiting for programs to load and hoping they wouldn’t crash.

Effective copy tells your reader the answer to “What’s in it for me?” 

Tip #4 Offer

The offer is the the product and other elements that represent additional value to the customer.  This can include availability, delivery, installation, tech support, warranty and more.

As a writer, you are not typically developing the offer – the offer is typically created by someone else.

But you should make sure it’s relevant, unique, and valuable to the audience especially if the objective is tied to the evaluation of your work.

That’s why you should, know if the offer is unique, valuable and relevant.

For example, if the target audience is a brand new inquirer that has never bought from you before, you might want to offer them some educational information that addresses their problem or need, and positions your business as an subject matter expert that’s trustworthy rather than a “Buy Now, Save 50%”.

Tip #4A CTA

A call to action (CTA) is a marketing term that refers to the next step a marketer wants its audience or reader to take.

Typically this is the “Call 555-555-5555 Now” or “Click here” or “Visit or location at 555 Main Street.”

The CTA is what the customer needs to do to obtain the offer so make it easy to see, easy to understand, easy to do.

Tip #5 Presentation

Some people read everything.  Others scan.  And this information should impact how you present your copy.

For example, since people are busy – chunking can be a highly effective tool for those that scan.

Reports have stated that the average American reads at about a 6th grade level, so shorter sentences and words are important.  This can help both the scanners and ‘read it all’ members of your audience.

Some options are tied to specific media.  For example, with direct mail, you have something called a Johnson Box that can dramatically improve response rates and sales.

Bulleted or numbered lists help people scan.  And the postscript (P.S.) can also have a dramatic impact when used in print and digital campaigns.


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