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:
- Asking a question ("Do you want to save money and get fit?")
- Using numbers ("3 simple ways to save this Christmas")
- Giving instructions ("How to create award-winning software")
- 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.
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.