Copy writing or copywriting (as it is more commonly known in the industry), is a writing skill that combines selling to a particular audience with compelling the reader to take action. It’s different to content writing, in that it influences a specific target market to want to hear more details about a product or service, or inspires them to make a purchase.
Content writing is usually more editorial in nature, more detailed, and sometimes has a journalistic tone. However, the two do cross over and often sit hand in hand, especially in the online world.
Copy writing or copywriting: is there a difference?
To some it may seem like a minor technicality, but you could argue the difference between basic copy writing and copywriting is a skillset that can be characterised by putting the reader’s emotions at the centre of your writing. It also includes learned techniques such as SEO-optimised language to help your content rank highly in searches. But of course, mastering these copywriting skills takes practice and staying power.
Whether you’re starting out in this field, have some level of experience, or are transferring from another writing discipline, it’s important to remember that there are certain secrets to developing the flair and style that will lead to the ultimate aim of your writing; to make a sale based on engagement and a call to action.
Just like learning to drive a car or riding a bike, our muscle memory plays a key role in how we write copy. This is where practice comes in, and training the brain to approach copywriting using a set of principles that will eventually become second nature, will give you the discipline to succeed and develop those killer skills. Essentially, you need to ask yourself whether you are simply writing copy for your website without much thought as to who the intended audience is, or whether you are committed to producing words that don’t just sell but also engage, inform and inspire.
Essentially, you need to ask yourself whether you are simply writing copy for your website without much thought as to who the intended audience is (this can be a very easy trap to fall into when time is of the essence). Or, if you are committed to producing words that don’t just sell but also engage, inform and inspire. And which ultimately increase search engine ranking, drive more traffic, and result in more conversions.
If you need a little guidance to get you started, there are several ways you can craft and structure your copywriting to convert a casual browser into a customer…
How to develop killer copywriting skills
1. Tap into your audience’s pain points
When you receive a copywriting brief, it’s up to you to make sure you clearly understand the details and ask questions if you’re unsure. This will help you research the target audience and tap into what makes them tick. This may mean speaking to colleagues who have previously engaged with the intended audience or carrying out your own desk-based work to establish company objectives or financial information. This will support you in positioning your offering when it comes to copywriting.
If, for example, you’re crafting copy to engage business people to buy IT products, you need to work out what some of their current problems may be, and match up your products, services and expertise that you’re selling, in a way that solves their current issues.
This could be that they want a system with less infrastructure or maintenance required by their in-house IT department.
A simple formula for this is:
- What is the feature that you’re selling?
- How does this benefit the customer, i.e. solve their pain points?
From here, you can then wow them with the ultimate convincing reason to choose you and your products/services; the differentiator. Why should someone buy what you’re selling over your competitors? In the case of IT products, is this that they are the easiest to install on the market, meaning less disruption for those working for the company you’re selling to? Building trust in knowing what you’re talking about will create affinity and a strong reason to buy.
2. Use your inner critic as your own best friend
Writing to sell is fundamentally different from any other form of writing, as it has to resonate with the customer on a personal level. According to Alf Dunbar, people buy people first and products second. If you can tailor your writing to develop an emotional link between your product and audience, you can get them on side quickly and captivate their minds.
This is where your own self-censoring comes into play. Once you’ve written your copy, read it through with these points in mind:
- Does this content create a rapport with the intended audience?
- Would you buy these products/services based solely on this copy alone?
If the answer to either of these is ‘no’, go back and rethink how you can tap into the mind of the audience to greater effect. Does this mean creating more of an effective link between the audience and the people of your organisation? How can you sprinkle in a little more reassurance that your staff will solve your potential customers’ problems?
3. Picture the audience as one person, not a panel
It’s easier to sell to a single person, rather than a group of people. This is because it’ll focus your writing to make it seem like the copy is talking to one customer only. This technique will make them feel special and that you are there to support them exclusively.
4. Don’t leave room for confusion
The smaller the sentences, the better. Longer sentences can confuse people and can even result in contradictory messages. It’s a real skill to be able to write copy that explains concepts and ideas simply, rather than over complicating them. Practice writing one sentence at a time. Read it out loud if it helps to refine what you’re trying to communicate.
5. Use the right language
Knowing your intended audience and how they operate will propel your thinking when it comes to using the right style, tone and language to make a sale. Copy can be written well, but if it’s inappropriate for the intended audience, it will not only alienate the reader and could even damage your brand. Getting it right requires an understanding of what’s socially acceptable within the context of your audience.
A good example to illustrate this point is the use of humour. When used well and at the right time, humour can be a key tool when it comes to delivering a powerful message. Times when this is appropriate may be when selling consumer products to young adults.
The Got Milk range of adverts uses celebrities with the iconic milk moustache accompanied by copy that is both informative and funny. One of these adverts featured Kermit the Frog, with the slogan ‘milk isn’t just for tadpoles’. The effect of this line prompts a laugh but is also telling young adults that milk still has health benefits now, not just when they were kids, encouraging them to drink milk as part of a healthy diet.
Finally, perhaps the golden rule of copywriting; if it doesn’t sell, cut it out. There is a fine balance between telling enough of a story to get the audience’s attention, and including irrelevant details such as what you ate for lunch. The basic rule is that if it overcomes any objections to buying your service or product and builds a picture of trust with the reader, keep it. All the rest can be deleted. Executed well, effective copywriting should instil the reader with the impetus to act.