Copywriting for Profits
When it comes to marketing, we all know that what you say is just as important as how you say it.
In fact, I would argue that how you say something is even more important than what you have to say.
Think about it. The whole purpose of communicating is to get a message to its intended audience. In business, this means telling your target market why they should buy your product or service, and why they should buy it from you.
You could have the best, most irresistible offer out there, but if you can’t get your audience to pay attention to your ad, it’s worthless. You may offer the solution to their biggest frustration, but if you can’t get them to read beyond your headline, it means nothing.
Effective copywriting gets your message to your target audience and then leads them to act. Effective copywriting gets you the sale.
Good Copy, Bad Copy
There are a number of misconceptions out there when it comes to copywriting for marketing collateral.
The first is that good copy must be clever (or witty, funny, dramatic, ironic, etc.). People get wrapped up in the idea that their ads need to compete with the ads on the pages of Vanity Fair – or the New York Times. They feel that their campaign needs to be littered with clever words that allude to the pop culture of the day, or position their company as “hip” or sophisticated.
This, in my experience, is rubbish.
The second assumption most business owners make is that good copy is the backbone of a successful ad or marketing campaign. I can’t tell you how many good copywriters I’ve seen take the blame for a bad offer, or poorly positioned product.
The third misconception is that you need to be a good writer to write good copy. Or, if you’re not a good writer, that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a copywriter for each of your marketing pieces.
That’s rubbish, too.
So, then, what is good copy? And how do you write it?
The Purpose of Your Copy
Here are the key points you need to remember when crafting your advertisements:
- A good headline gets your readers to read the first sentence.
- A good first sentence gets your readers to read the second sentence.
- And so on and on until the end of your marketing piece; or, the close of the sale.
Simple, isn’t it?
The copy in your marketing materials is intended to persuade your audience to buy what you have to offer – one sentence at a time. Once you understand that copywriting is persuasive writing, not creative or technical writing, you will have much more success with your copywriting efforts.
Persuasive copy can be written in a number of ways – which we will discuss later in the section – but always includes:
- a compelling, shocking, or gripping headline
- a strong promise
- a heavy focus on benefits, not features
- proof to back up your claims
Compelling writing slowly builds a case, and leads the reader down a specific path to the final destination: the sale. The argument or message is built up over several sentences, or paragraphs, until the reader is primed and ready for the question.
For example, if you came right out in your headline and said, “Buy Tommy’s Sprockets to Solve Your Problems”, your highly skeptical audience would not give your ad a second glance. You’ve asked for the sale right up front, before building some trust and slowly persuading your readers.
However, if you took the time to build your case, the ad would read something like this:
DON’T BUY ANOTHER SPROCKET UNTIL YOU READ THIS
Did you know that the average sprocket is made with only 25% authentic materials? To speed up production and reduce costs, sprocket manufacturing over the last decade has begun to rely heavily on artificial materials.
Would you trust the safety of your family to a product that reduces quality to preserve profit?
At Tommy’s Sprockets, we put the safety of your family first. Our sprockets are stronger and safer, because we still make them the old fashioned way – with 100% authentic materials and a lifetime guarantee.
Sure, they cost a little more than the average sprocket, but how much more would you pay for the safety of your family?
This ad isn’t going to win any Pulitzer Prizes, but it doesn’t need to. It engages the audience, communicates benefits, supports with features, and paints a compelling argument.
Headlines are so crucial to the copywriting in your advertisement or sales letter that they deserve an entire section in this chapter.
Your headline is the first chance you have to make an impression on your target audience. Quite possibly, it is also your only chance. Without a headline that grabs your reader by the neck and focuses on what you have to say, the remainder of your ad is useless.
That’s why even the greatest copywriters spend 50% of their time on the headline, and 50% on the rest of the copy.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that your headline needs to do more than simply grab the attention of your potential readers. It also needs to tell them why they should care – your headline needs to send a full message that informs and encourages them to read onwards.
The most effective way to do this is to make an offer or promise to the reader that makes the time they invest in reading your ad worthwhile.
Seems like a lot for 8 to 10 words, doesn’t it?
The general understanding when it comes to headline length is the shorter the better. But this comes from headline creation for newspapers and magazines, where space is crunched and nothing is up for sale.
In fact, based on studies done in the direct mail industry, 40% to 50% of the most effective headlines are more than eight words in length – meaning there are really no hard and fast rules for headline length.
Another marketing example of headline length is in sales letters. I’m sure you’ve seen headlines in sales letters that actually comprise small paragraphs. This is the opposite way of thinking from newspaper headlines, but in this medium it works.
The point is, if you need more than eight words to get your message across, then use more.
Headline Readers: The 80/20 Rule
According to readership statistics, eight out of 10 people read headlines, but only two of 10 will read the rest of the advertisement or letter. This proves the importance of crafting powerful, meaningful headlines. It also proves that an effective headline is the golden key to getting the rest of the piece read.
So, it would stand to reason that the better your headline, the higher the chances of improving the averages in these statistics.
Direct Headlines simply state the offer or proposition in as clear a manner as possible. All winter clothing 30% off.
News Headlines typically announce a new product or piece of information and mimic a headline you would read in a newspaper. Jonny launches new line of improved sprockets.
The Question Headline asks a question that the reader can relate to or would be compelled to read on to find the answer. Do you want clearer skin?
The ‘How to’ Headline tells the reader the body copy or product will explain step by step instructions for something of interest to the reader. How to save $1,000 in energy costs this year.
Command Headline is one of the strongest headline types, and commands the reader to do something. Make your dreams come true today.
The ‘7 Reasons Why’ Headline tells the reader the body copy will include 7 (or another number less than seven) points that will either back up a claim or illustrate product benefits. 7 reasons why your teenagers won’t listen to you.
Testimonial Headlines leverages the power of outsider and expert opinion and quotes them directly in the headline. “Tommy’s sprockets have changed my life” says Brad Pitt.
In summary, your headline should:
- Be immediately engaging
- Be useful and relevant to the reader
- Convey information
- Trigger an emotional reaction
- Include an offer
- Intrigue your audience
Strategies for Better Copywriting
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Good copy is written in clear, simple language with short sentence structure. It’s conversational and reads like you are speaking to a friend or colleague.
Important points – like benefits – are listed in numbered or bullet format and traditional grammar is sacrificed for brevity.
Always read your copy before you finalize it and take out any unnecessary words. Find the shortest way to communicate the most information.
Be More Persuasive
Persuasion is an important technique for structuring your copy. While there is no clear formula for any type of copywriting, persuasive copy consistently includes the following elements:
- Has a reader focus from the very beginning
- Each paragraph or section supports the main argument
- Is highly specific and provides proof to support claims
- Includes credible proof like statistics and expert opinion
- Returns the focus to the reader as often as possible
Persuasive writing convinces the reader that they should believe what you say and do you what you say, and that there is something in it for them if they do. Again, there is no formula for this and no clear content rules, but there are some strategies you can use to make your writing more persuasive.
Repeat your point over and over
Repetition is a powerful and essential tool when crafting persuasive copy. It often will take several attempts at communicating before someone truly understands what you’re saying. The benefit is that the more you say it, and the more ways you say it, the more likely your audience will believe it.
Of course, don’t literally repeat yourself verbatim in your copy. Use a few different techniques to communicate the same point – for example, state it directly, tell a story, then repeat it again in your summary.
Give them reasons why
Backup your claims and requests with good reasons and leverage the power of the word ‘because.’ Studies have proven that even if the reason doesn’t make any sense, or isn’t directly related to the claim, people will be more likely to believe you simply based on the fact you backed up what you had to say.
Make comparisons to prove a point
Use the power of metaphors, analogies, and similes in your writing. This gives you an opportunity to relate the point you are trying to make directly to something the reader can relate to and understands to be true.
This is effective for making comparisons between like subjects, as well as unlike subjects, depending on the point you are trying to make.
Answer silent objections
Show that you understand the reader’s point of view and thought process by answering questions you know they will be considering in their minds.
While you will not be able to address all potential objections in a single piece, or think of all potential objections your reader may raise, you can definitely dispute the most common arguments against what you are claiming.
Tell a story
Storytelling is an effective technique to use in all aspects of your copywriting. People relate to the experiences of others, and strive to learn from or compare themselves to the characters in the anecdotes. The story ends up doing the persuading for you.
Focus on Benefits
This is an obvious aspect of your messaging that you will feature in every piece you write, but it’s not always easy to do well. Many writers end up featuring a slew of fake benefits instead of real ones.
Real benefits are things the reader actually cares about. For example, if you sold cough syrup you would want to explain how it eases the cold or flu symptoms, and not that it cures the illness. The symptoms are what are bothering the reader – that’s what aspect of the product they care about and will make their purchase based on.
Make a Better Offer
Compel the reader to act with a stronger offer – one that they just can’t possibly refuse. Make one that seems just believable enough to take action and reap the rewards.
A strong offer features a product or service with a high perceived value for a low cost. It could be a package of products offered for a lower price than the sum of the individual products, or a “free gift” with purchase.
Use Words that Work
Another misconception when it comes to copywriting is that it needs to be 100% unique. I’m not saying you should blatantly plagiarize other writer’s work, but you should definitely pay attention to what works.
This includes how an ad is structured, how a point is made, or the hierarchy of the content. It also includes word choice. Certain words in marketing have been proven to have a stronger impact on general consumers than others.
There are tools that are easily available to you that will provide a list or database of effective words for use in advertising. Research online or invest in a software programs like Glyphus to use as a resource.
Offer a Guarantee
A guarantee is another technique that will compel a potential customer to take action. A strong guarantee takes the risk involved in purchase decisions away from the customer, and puts it on the seller.
Tell your customer that if your product or service doesn’t deliver the performance or results you have promised, you’ll give them their money back or compensate them in a way that will make it right.