When I think back to my first job, I realise how much has changed over the years. As an advertising copywriter I was responsible for creating print adverts that get noticed, direct mails that sell and multi-channel campaigns that make our target group flock to our banner.
Nowadays, every business owner, freelancer and blogger encounters the challenges of writing compelling copy that engages the audience, builds your reputation and sells your products and services. It’s a vital part of our businesses — so let’s make sure we get it right!
We are writing all the time. But while notes, emails and other correspondence rarely have the goal of selling or advertising, social media posts on our company profile, newsletters, press releases and blog posts definitely do.
So let’s have a look at the essential rules for writing copy that actually works. No matter if you want to create a subject for your email campaign, a headline for your homepage, a call-to-action or your next Facebook post — these 12 steps make sure it’s worth your time.
1. Know your reader
First of all, always consider the person you are writing to. What do they need? What are they looking for? Do you need to get their attention or are they open to what you have to say? When and where will they read your message? Achieve your goals with a tailor-made copy.
2. Don’t show off
Speak your readers’ language. Avoid using abbreviations they never heard of or your industry’s lingo, speak a language they know and understand. And never assume they know as much as you do, always explain what you’re talking about.
3. Be personal
To make your readers relate to your message, speak to them directly when you write. Use ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘we’ as much as possible to create a link, show your understanding of their situation and that what you have to say is relevant to them personally.
4. Know your goal
Make sure you know what you want to achieve before you start writing. What is your message? What do you want them to do after reading this? Don’t forget to add your call-to-action and avoid confusing people by offering too many options.
My favourite marketing abbreviation (sorry!): Keep It Short and Simple. Seriously, be clear, precise and don’t overcomplicate things. Simple and straightforward is the way to go when you want to get your message across, and you only have one try to get their attention.
6. Talk about benefits
When talking about your products, don’t talk about their features, talk about their benefits: Explain what your customer gains from using them rather than describing what they do. Think “This alarm clock is reliable!” vs “Never be late again!”. Lead with the strongest point and repeat (paraphrase!) throughout the text.
7. Be positive
In line with concentrating on the benefits remember to always be positive. Don’t use negation and negative words: “Escape into the sun” for a travel agent sounds better than “Get away from work”. And sell savings: “You save £50!” is preferable to “Now only £249!”.
8. Set the right tone
Your writing needs to represent your brand AND fit the medium it is written for. What works on your website doesn’t automatically work on your Facebook profile or in your press release. Make sure to adapt your tone of voice not just to the format but also to the tonality of the channel.
9. Be creative
Nothing works better than being funny and creative. Even conservative target groups want to be entertained and not bored to death by your latest newsletter. Make sure to tell a story with your copy, engage the reader and create images in their minds.
10. Use visuals
Also, use actual images to support your main message if possible. Make sure they work well together with your headline and remember to be positive. Don’t show them what they will avoid by becoming your customer, show them what they will get.
11. Be thorough
Never publish without giving it a proper proofread. If possible go away, do something else and read it again with a fresh mind. Look for typos and grammatical errors, repetitions and check if it conveys your message clearly. Or get feedback from somebody else.
12. Be competitive
Last but not least keep an eye on your competition. What are they up to? What do they promise their readers? Are they using a similar message to yours? Make sure to set yourself apart from them and concentrate on what you do differently.
Additional to the general rules of copywriting, there are of course some specific things to keep in mind when it comes to headlines, call-to-actions, email subjects and social media posts. Here are a few links to get you started:
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
4 Steps to a Successful Web Copy
Do You Know Enough about Your Target Groups?
Are You Getting Lost in Translation?
9 Quick & Easy Tips to Attract More Customers Online