What is copywriting? Despite the importance of copywriters, very few people have a clear understanding of what copywriters do, why copywriters are important, and how to become a copywriter.
Copywriting Definition: Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.
Copywriters are salesmen. Unlike a traditional salesman that communicates on a one-to-one basis, copywriters reach the masses at once. They do so via mediums such as websites, billboards, blog posts, and digital advertisements. Never considered copywriters as salesmen? You aren’t alone. Copywriters themselves often argue that they aren’t salesmen. Embracing your role as a salesman is the first step to becoming a truly great copywriter.
Copywriters are vital to your marketing and advertising strategy, especially in the digital world. Designers, developers, and marketers rely heavily on copywriters. Think of copywriting as the rope that ties together all other marketing activities. The most beautiful website in the world is useless without great copy. Beautiful advertising artwork has little impact without supporting copy. It is clear the importance of copywriting, yet many businesses wait as long as possible before hiring a dedicated copywriter. This mistake has caused many businesses to fail despite having rockstars in other positions.
With more content being created than ever before, great copywriting is required to stand out. Copywriting is a career path that more young people should consider but to do so we must first understand how to become a copywriter.
How To Become A Copywriter
Understand The Product
Writing great content always starts in the same place: understanding the product. Great copywriters never rush the discovery and research phase. It acts as a foundation.
To understand the product, start with these four questions.
- How would you describe the product?
- What makes the product unique?
- What are the benefits?
- How is the product positioned in the market?
How would you describe the product?
Each copywriter handles this step differently. Some fill a whiteboard with adjectives that describe a product. Others try to write a concise, one sentence description. The bottom line is this: you need to be able to describe the product you are trying to sell in a couple of words.
A great test in this stage of the copywriting process is to try to explain the product to your mother or spouse. If they are left confused then you know it isn’t clear enough. This product description will drive everything you do moving forward, so take answering this question very seriously.
What makes the product unique?
In all of my years of copywriting, I have never come across a product that had a complete monopoly on the market. That is why answering “what makes the product unique?” is so important. There were plenty of mp3 players on the market before the iPod was announced. What made it unique was its ease-of-use.
Ease-of-use drives everything Apple does. They don’t worry about trying to argue that their products are the best. They just promise that anyone can use them, regardless of their technical skill set.
What are the benefits?
Bad copywriters sell features. Great copywriters sell benefits. Despite this, you still want to start by listing out the features of the product. Armed with this list, you can then start listing the benefits each feature offers. What is the pain-point that consumers are facing that the product solves?
While Apple copywriters could have focused on the original iPod having 5GB of storage, “1,000 songs in your pocket” was significantly more effective. Consumers don’t value 5GB of storage. 1,000 songs in their pocket? Now that is valuable!
How is the product positioned in the market?
Rolls Royce and Toyota position themselves quite differently. Their messaging, imagery and overall brand experience are driven by this positioning. When you are first introduced to a product, it is important to figure out how it is positioned. Rolls Royce doesn’t focus their copywriting on fuel efficiency, because they know their customer base is less worried about saving money on their daily commute. Toyota, however, mentions fuel efficiency fairly often.
Both of these companies have excellent copywriters, but if they swapped their messaging the effectiveness would decline dramatically.
Understand The Customer
Creating buyer personas allows copywriters to better understand the end user and craft concise messaging that will resonate with them and more importantly, make them take action. After all, the goal of copywriting is to convince the reader to take action.
So how do you understand what the customer wants or needs? The easiest way is to ask them directly! Thanks to technology like Survey Monkey, you can easily survey potential customers without ever having to leave your office.
How we sell a product is determined by who we are selling it to, what they want to buy, and what will convince them to make a purchase. It’s all about the customer, not the product or company. Great copy feels like it is speaking directly to the reader. Without a firm understanding of the reader, creating great copy simply isn’t possible.
While some products have a single buyer persona, others have a dozen. Take time to document each of these personas, as they will act as a roadmap moving forward. Don’t make assumptions. Trust hard data. Rushing through these foundational stages will make your job harder, or even impossible, moving forward.
Focus On The Headline
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” - David Oglivy
Think about the way we consume content on a daily basis. We read a lot of headlines, but far fewer articles. The headline is what makes or breaks copy. Do we spend 80% of our time on the headline? For many copywriters, the headline is an afterthought. After hours of research and writing, they slap a generic headline on the post and publish it.
The headlines you write will make or break your career as a copywriter.
The Four U’s of Great Headlines:
The Swipe File
Creative people often think originality is crucial for success. In reality, the best copywriters use the work of others to drive everything they do. A swipe file is a document where you can gather all of the best copy you see on a daily basis. When it comes time to write headlines, your swipe file will be your greatest ally. We are by no means encouraging to steal copy, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel every time you write. See what has worked in the past and tweak it so it fits your needs. A swipe file can save you 100+ hours in a single year.
Other Copywriting Tips:
- Avoid large words: Being understood is much more important than using fancy words. Keep is simple.
- Use social proof: The words of happy customers will always be more valuable than the words of a copywriter. Sometimes the best strategy is to let the customers do the talking for you.
- Make Your Copy Scannable: More people will scan your content than will read it in its entirety. Clear sections, concise text, and headers are ways to make your content scannable.
- Target Emotions: If your copy can make someone laugh or cry, your sales will soar.
- Don’t Forget CTAs: What action do you want the reader to take? Clearly state the desired action via calls-to-action (CTAs).
- Always Be Testing: You don’t decide what is good copy, the market does. Make sure to test several variations of your copy to identify what resonates best.
Copywriting Books We Recommend
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan S. Kennedy
- The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly
- Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins