If you don’t love language, stop reading.
A passion for communication is the ultimate requirement for anyone who’s aiming to level up from a good copywriter to a seriously good copywriter. And everything else? You can start polishing those skills today.
You might have read our previous posts about writing content and copy for the web, but for the purposes of this piece, we’re considering all marketing writers to be copywriters. Whether you specialise in copy for email marketing or you’re a whizz with a whitepaper, to become seriously good, you’ll follow the same formula.
So let’s get started.
8 traits of seriously good copywriters
1. They listen more than they talk. Much more.
The creator of the product you’re selling through your copywriting is the best place to start. This person will be a fountain of knowledge and could easily provide you with the points that inform the bulk of your copy.
But remember who you’re writing for. Listen to them, too. The audience will tell you about what they want or need, even if they don’t do it directly. Social media has given us a way into these conversations (which often helps us get to grips with the ideal tone of voice).
Which brings us onto our next trait of a seriously good copywriter…
2. They have exceptional interviewing skills
Even if you’ve got a well-defined speciality as a copywriter, you’ll step outside your core subject matter from time to time. That’s part of the joy of copywriting: the constant opportunity to learn about something new.
A few Google searches don’t make for effective research. It’s a great first step, but the best copywriters will then seek out appropriate stakeholders and industry voices for interviews. It contextualises desk research (all of those preparatory Google searches you did to begin with), sheds light on things you never would have known before and provides different points of view, which can often lead to the ‘hook’ of your copy.
No, not the ‘news hook’ a journalist might write. In fact…
3. They understand the difference between being a writer and a copywriter
And that difference is huge.
Both writers and copywriters are creatively-minded and have a true passion for the written word. But unlike journalistic or fiction writing, copywriters are ultimately selling a service. You might be writing a blogpost, but its end goal is a lot more aligned with a slogan than a piece of investigative journalism – despite the fact that the format can be so similar to the latter.
When you see the work of someone who is a great writer but a terrible copywriter, you’ll see strange literary devices that work fabulously in a novel, but have no connection with an audience member’s day-to-day vernacular. Often, they’ll be misty-eyed about the ‘golden age of advertising’ and fight for long-form copy, no matter what the audience.
Audience-neglect is the cardinal sin of copywriting. That’s why it’s important that…
4. Great copywriters take extra steps to understand their audience
Because there is only one person more important than your client. It’s the person they’re trying to reach.
David Ogilvy, one of the most quotable copywriters of all time, has said:
“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”
Undertaking ‘Buyer Persona’ research is step one for a copywriter. It defines ‘vertical interests’, which can be defined as what your reader thinks about when they’re not thinking about the product you’re trying to sell – which is a lot of the time. It seeks to emulate the language they use among their most trusted circles. Perhaps most importantly of all, it taps into an audience member’s pain points.
When writing for a new client, ask if they’ve done any research on their Buyer Personas. If not, show initiative by doing some of your own and explaining why you’ve gone for more (or less) colloquial language than they may have used before.
5. Top tip for effective communication with a specific audience
As we wrote in one of our previous posts about copy writing or copywriting, picturing the audience as one person, not a whole congregation, is a brilliant little device often used by top copywriters. It’ll feel personable and trustworthy: two of the greatest hallmarks of fantastic copywriting.
6. Becoming a seriously good copywriter means brushing up on your SEO – all the time
Mad Men, we aren’t. The days of scripting TV advertisements, writing press releases to post to a journalist and printing brochures are (for most of us) long gone.
Content managers, web editors and SEO copywriters make up the bulk of opportunity in copywriting today. Writers who understand the latest movements in SEO and social media consumption will have an edge for as long as online content remains king.
7. All hail the headline: it’s the most important part of your long-form copy
This one’s for the long-form writers: those who spend most of their time on blogs, articles and press releases.
To borrow some information from David Ogilvy (again – told you he was quotable…):
“On average, 5 times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”
Wow. Better get it right.
Start with a working headline. Once you’ve written the body copy, come up with around 5 headlines that you think could work. You might want to include a number, which will indicate that the content is digestible; or perhaps a pull-quote from the article itself. Keywords are important (see our post on SEO copywriting) but so is standing out on the SERP (search engine results page) or social platform. Once again, knowing your audience and where this piece of content is most likely to draw views from is absolutely crucial.
If your client’s CMS has the option of A/B testing a blog post’s headline, that’s great! You can show them that you’re always looking to improve on the end goal: informing more viewers about their business.
8. Seriously good copywriters are always learning
And that means following copywriting hubs and influencers like:
- Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger: @BrianClark
- Ben Settle, email marketing guru: @BenSettle
- And last but not least, Copify: @copify
You should also check out our post on the top copywriting experts to follow for tips and advice when you want to know how to become a good copywriter.
What are your tips for becoming a seriously good copywriter? Let us know in the comments section below.