What is copywriting? It’s about shaping words into relevant content for a defined audience for commercial gain.
With that thought in mind here is the first part of my 3-part copywriting tips series.
1). Ignore Old-Fashioned Rules
Forget what you learned in school. When it comes to creating marketing-oriented content it’s ok to break some of the rules you may have learned at school. So, eliminate formal language. I always tell my students and clients to write as you speak but clean up the grammar, and spelling. And yes, it’s ok to start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but.’ Even the word ‘so’ can work. See the next point as I expand on the topic of
2). Use Everyday Language
Unless you’re targetting intellectuals, it’s better to speak to the proverbial ‘man in the street.’ Use everyday language and do not talk above people – nothing turns them off faster than pomposity and cant (‘hypocritical and sanctimonious talk’)
What about slang words? Used properly they can work well. Let’s face it, most people use slang every day of the week when talking to friends and colleagues. I regularly use these words when I write. Words such as Golly, Crikey (Aussie word), Holy Cow, Kapow, Heck, and Crap – are amongst my favs.
3). Who Is Your Target Market?
You can’t hunt for business unless you know your target audience. Just as a cheetah knows the quarry he is searching for, you must have the same surety. Without clarity you are toast. Lack of clear thinking undermines your confidence and robs you of your superpower.
So, who are you looking for? I suggest you write a profile of your ideal customer or client. What are their defining characteristics? Perhaps you can delve into your customer list and identify those customers that gave you the most joy – emotionally, intellectually and, of course, financially.
Look for common characteristics of the people you want to target. This is a vital step because without it you can’t laser target your messaging. To be clear, your aim should be to stimulate the reader to say to themselves, ‘he’s talking to me.’ And if your reader has a life-changing epiphany as
Which brings me back to the core point. If you aren’t crystal clear about your target audience (and what turns it on) you cannot give readers the light bulb moments they crave. See the next point for more ideas about matching your message with your market.
4). Focus On Your Audience
Invoke WIIFM – What’s in it for me?. Do it, and you’ll hit the sweet spot with your target audience every time. A master motivator and sales trainer, Zig Ziglar, said this: ‘You can get everything you want if you help other people get what they want.’ Amen to that, brother Zig.
So when you create content always write with your audience in mind. What turns them on and gives them grief? When you know it, you can tailor your message to suit. Your goal? Score a bullseye with your reader, every time.
People don’t care about you – they think about themselves. So if you’re smart you’ll play the WIIFM game for all its worth. Yeah, baby.
5). Break Up the Text
People hate to read ‘blocky’ text. So they don’t. They’ll leave your page quicker than you can say ‘Í’m outta here.’ This is a seduction process – your initial goal is to entice them to read the first few sentences of your content. If it’s good, they’ll keep reading.
The point is this: a wall of text, is confronting to most people. Many will not read it. A golden opportunity lost. So break up the paragraphs and split long sentences into two, or three. Those two changes will help put the odds in your favor.
Recently I ran a Facebook Live, titled: Join the No Comma Club. What was it about? I spoke about an illustrious group of people who have expunged commas from their writing. How? They break up their sentences – and the commas disappear.
Some people say that some famous writers include lots of long sentences in their content. Yes, true. And sometimes it works for the simple reason that they are brilliant writers. But, for the rest of us, it’s best to keep our sentences short.
6). Understand the Purpose of a Sentence
This may surprise you, but the real purpose of each sentence is to entice the reader to read the next one. Simple as that. If copywriters can’t do that, they not only let themselves down but their reader as well.
The End Goal. If you’re writing sales copy you want the reader to read each sentence till they get to the offer and Call to Action (CTA). Each sentence should build on the last. This will make it damn hard for the reader to resist taking the final step – to buy.
7). Use Emotive Words
Unless you’re writing a tech treatise, it is better to replace cold words with warmer, emotional words. For example ‘want’ is better than ‘like, ‘lovable’ is more potent than ‘likable’. Here is a partial list of emotional words and phrases:
- What no one tells you
- Have you heard
- Behind the Scenes
- Secret agenda
- Secret plot
- No one talks about
8.) Cut the Waffle – Expunge All Non Essential Words
In voice-based conversations, it’s ok to use non-essential words. But when it comes to writing content, you must erase them from your copy.
Here are some example – my first draft: “But when it comes to writing content”, becomes this (my second draft): “But when you write content.”
Here’s another one: “Testosterone deficiency in men is indeed very common.” The superfluous word: indeed – so remove it.
“Thus treating a man presenting with depression secondary to testosterone deficiency with an antidepressant is merely treating one of the symptoms of a PADAM man while missing on all the other clinical manifestations that result from the same root cause.”
“Thus treating a depressive man with an antidepressant is treating one of the symptoms of a PADAM man. In this instance, he has a testosterone deficiency. So, treating him for the deficiency is often the best way forward.”
Malaysia’s caliber in keeping up with modernity while also staying true to its culture, tradition, and history has made it a must go place for every travel junkie.”
“Malaysia is embracing modernity, no doubt about it. But it is also staying true to its culture, tradition, and history. Striking a balance between the old and the new has made it a must visit place for every travel junkie.”
9. Be a Better Editor Than a Writer
Ann Handley from Grammarly says this: “We’re all writers. We all write — emails, texts, social media posts, letters.” Does that mean she is a great writer? Far from it.
In fact, she says she’s “a terrible writer but a great editor.” And that sums it up for me. I’m not a great writer, but I’m pretty good at editing. In other words, I am good at removing surplus words and breaking up long sentences. I also like to fix the punctuation and grammar.
Other than that I’m good at making sure that my message hits the spot with the reader.
In times past I was often more focused on writing for me. Not now. I am not important – my reader is the star.
So this is my message for you. Start. By the time you’ve done your third or fourth draft, you’ll have something that looks ok, even good.
Keep an eye out for the second installment in this series.