Everyone’s a copywriter.
That’s a common lament among professional copywriters, the people who make a living (you guessed it) writing copy for advertisements and other marketing material. Anyone can try their hand at writing, making for a pretty wide variety of quality on the Internet. So how do you stand out in a field so crowded it’s literally made up of everyone who can read and write? Here are seven copywriting tips every marketer should keep in mind.
1. Tell a story
You may never write a novel, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a storyteller. In fact, every brand has a story, the central narrative that drives everything you do. Sure, you want to make money. But that alone isn’t a compelling enough reason for someone to get invested in your brand.
Let’s say you’re a soda company. What’s your story? Maybe it’s a quest to help people reduce the sugar in their beverages. Or maybe you champion recycling for the good of the planet. Whatever it is, once you decide on that underlying narrative, your story is already half told. The rest is just copywriting.
2. Write great headlines
As the famed advertiser David Ogilvy once pointed out, eighty percent of people will read your headline copy, but only twenty percent will read the rest. Focusing on attention-grabbing headlines, therefore, is a no-brainer. As a side note, including numbers in headlines is one way to grab that attention, and studies show that odd numbers work better than even ones. Go figure.
3. Be clear and concise
Every copywriter likes to think of him- or herself as a wordsmith. But there’s a reason William Shakespeare never wrote billboards, and not just because they didn’t have billboards back in Elizabethan England. There’s a time for flowery prose, and it’s generally not while you’re writing your ad copy. Stick to copy that’s clear, unornamented, and straight to the point.
Some occasions might call for copy that’s a little more highfalutin or grandiose, but those opportunities are few and far between in everyday marketing. You don’t need the Gettysburg Address to optimize your site for search engines. And we probably didn’t even need this second paragraph to state our point. See what we mean?
4. Focus on your USP
If you want to stand out, focus on the thing that makes you different. No-brainer, right? What does your brand offer that nobody else can do quite as well? Think of a few big brands. Slack makes you more productive with less effort. Airbnb aims to immerse travelers in their destinations. And your brand… what? In sales-speak, that’s your universal selling proposition. Put that in your headline.
5. Emphasize benefits over features
Features are important. What cool things does your product do? But more important than the bells and whistles are how those bells and whistles make your audience’s lives easier. Nobody cares that a new vacuum cleaner has fifteen attachments. What they care about is how those fifteen attachments can get the job done quickly so they can sit back and watch the game sooner.
Along the way, remember that an appeal to emotion is a surer bet than an appeal to logic. We’re not Star Trek’s Vulcans; we’re ruled by our emotions. Telling us how a product will make us feel is far more effective than telling us how it’s statistically proven to get the job done more effectively.
6. Establish credibility and value
How do you show your audience that you’re worth listening to? Credibility goes a long way. And it starts even before they read a word you say. For example, having a headline in Comic Sans or Papyrus says, “I skimp when it comes to presentation. How else might I be willing to cut corners?” Cue automatic distrust on the part of the reader.
Once your message starts, that’s where stats, sources, surveys, and other tools can help people know you know what you’re talking about and you’re worth listening to. Not just that, but people need value. Give them a reason to invest their time reading what you have to say. Tell them up front what they stand to gain from not scrolling past your blog post or ad.
7. End with a strong CTA
All the great copywriting in the world won’t do much good if it doesn’t persuade people to take action. And people are less likely to take the initiative than they are to do what you suggest they do. That’s where a clear call to action comes in. Once you’ve established a problem that can be solved and offered a solution, it’s time to tell them what they can do to partake of that solution themselves: come on down to your store, click a button, or call a number.