INNOVATION

How to em­power your busi­ness with copy­writ­ing

If you’re a prod­uct owner, chances are by now that you’ve heard the term, copywriting’. No, copy­writ­ing does­n’t have any­thing to do with copy­right and le­gal­i­ties around in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. Copywriting is the art of writ­ing words which sell. From mag­a­zine ad­ver­tise­ments to web ban­ners, they all con­tain copy. Great copy can pull in read­ers and build their trust. Poorly writ­ten copy, on the other hand, can lower the per­cep­tion of your prod­uct and brand and send po­ten­tial cus­tomers run­ning in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween copy­writ­ing and con­tent writ­ing is in their pur­pose; copy­writ­ing is ul­ti­mately about cre­at­ing some sort of con­ver­sion for a ser­vice or prod­uct, whereas con­tent writ­ing is ex­actly that, gen­eral writ­ing to ex­plore a topic, no ad­ver­tis­ing re­quired. For ex­am­ple, this very blog post is con­tent writ­ing, as are WorkingMouse’s pages de­tail­ing our tech­nol­ogy and team mem­bers.

Some of our land­ing pages, in con­trast, are full of snazzy copy that serves as that ini­tial hand­shake be­tween us and our awe­some vis­i­tors. Learning how to write good copy will not only help you to sim­i­larly cre­ate this con­vivial tone be­tween your brand and your cus­tomers, but it will also help guide you on any con­tent that is writ­ten to sup­port your busi­ness.

Define a voice

I’ve writ­ten about this be­fore on the WorkingMouse blog, and I’ll say it again here: defin­ing a voice for your brand is es­sen­tial. Your voice is go­ing to be a re­flec­tion of your brand’s per­son­al­ity, which in turn also sets the tone for the type of im­agery and mar­ket­ing col­lat­eral you send out into the world. Is your brand play­ful? Serious? Down-to-earth? If you’d like to cre­ate a fun and quirky brand, but your copy­writ­ing is per­func­tory and mat­ter-of-fact, then it’s likely that what­ever mes­sages you’d like to im­part to your cus­tomers are get­ting lost in trans­la­tion. If you’d like to learn more about brand ar­che­typ­ing and how it re­lates to great writ­ing, check out my ar­ti­cle.

Use head­lines ef­fec­tively

Depending on the con­straints of your ad, ban­ner or email newslet­ter, you’re likely to have a lim­ited amount of words in your head­line. Headlines aren’t just there for show. Their pur­pose is to quickly grab the at­ten­tion of a reader. Some of the com­mon ways smart copy­writ­ers do just that is by fol­low­ing tried-and-tested tech­niques for writ­ing head­lines. These in­clude, but are cer­tainly not lim­ited to:

  1. Asking a ques­tion (“Do you want to save money and get fit?“)
  2. Using num­bers (“3 sim­ple ways to save this Christmas”)
  3. Giving in­struc­tions (“How to cre­ate award-win­ning soft­ware”)
  4. A call to ac­tion (“Warning: what the banks aren’t telling you”)

There are count­less more tem­plates for head­lines, but what they all have in com­mon is that they get to the point quickly and speak di­rectly to the reader. This brings us to the next point…

Understand your read­ers

Understanding who your read­ers are is some­thing that is part of a larger mar­ket­ing chal­lenge, but it is es­sen­tial to cre­at­ing copy that works ef­fec­tively. Sure, you prob­a­bly do have cus­tomers from every sin­gle de­mo­graphic, but you likely also have a core group of users, read­ers or vis­i­tors. These peo­ple are go­ing to have spe­cific rea­sons for en­gag­ing with your prod­uct, so you can tai­lor your con­tent to match what they are likely to be look­ing for. This also comes into play for SEO pur­poses, be­cause cre­at­ing copy which draws the at­ten­tion of your tar­get mar­ket is go­ing to make it that much eas­ier for new cus­tomers to find you.

Edit, edit, edit

Just like any­thing else that rep­re­sents your busi­ness, copy­writ­ing needs to be edited and checked be­fore it goes out into the world. Ideally, a copy­writer would­n’t be work­ing in iso­la­tion but with a team of oth­ers who could help vet the con­tent by beta read­ing it. However, that’s the ideal sce­nario and of course it may not be the case at your typ­i­cal start-up. In these cases, a copy­writer will need to find a way to edit most of their own work them­selves.

There are sev­eral use­ful on­line tools, such as Grammarly, which can help not only your con­tent writ­ers but the rest of your team iden­tify and cor­rect er­rors in their writ­ing. This can be es­pe­cially use­ful for those team mem­bers who are send­ing email cor­re­spon­dence out to cus­tomers. Aside from soft­ware, read­ing out aloud is an old-school method which will al­ways pro­vide use­ful in­sight. When writ­ing is read aloud, is­sues such as sen­tence length and clar­ity tend to make them­selves known quickly. There’s no shame in writ­ing mul­ti­ple drafts un­til the copy is ab­solutely per­fect.

Write nat­u­rally

Copywriting and con­tent writ­ing are not for­mal writ­ing. Yes, en­sure spelling is cor­rect. Yes, use the Oxford comma. Yes, de­velop a writ­ing styleguide. But al­ways keep in mind that copy­writ­ing is about con­nect­ing with a reader and ac­knowl­edg­ing both their goals and their con­cerns. Good copy­writ­ing speaks in the same way as the read­ers do: it’s clear, em­pa­thetic and pro­vides the an­swers. There’s very lit­tle need in copy­writ­ing to use flow­ery ad­verbs or de­scrip­tions. Readers nat­u­rally ex­pect and want to spend a long time read­ing and en­joy­ing text when they’re, for in­stance, en­joy­ing a crack­ing novel. The same ex­pec­ta­tions do not ap­ply when they’re look­ing for an­swers via a Google search or co­in­ci­den­tally com­ing across your bill­board on their way to work. They may not have a lot of time to de­ci­pher your mes­sage, so it makes sense to keep your copy clear and sim­ple.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhiannon Stevens

Creative sto­ry­teller and ex­pe­ri­ence ex­pert

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