Copywriting may not seem flashy or glamorous, but it is a crucial element in branding, and when marketing copy is done poorly, people notice. This short article shares 4 copywriting tips that can be used as a guide for you and your team as you work to finetune your copywriting skills.
Writing About Writing to Make Better Writers
Writing about writing is fun, said no one ever. Except maybe Stephen King. Stephen King can write on writing like nobody’s business. In fact, Stephen King did write On Writing. That’s the name of his book…about writing.
The rest of us non-Stephen Kingers sit at our desks and stare at the blinking cursor until inspiration strikes and the white space on the screen starts to fill with letters that make up words, sentences, whole thoughts, and eventually arguments and conclusions. Or, if you offer copywriting services, words that will compel the reader to action.
That’s what effective copywriting is—writing that leads to action. That’s what we marketing copywriters strive to achieve as we stare at that blinking cursor and begrudge ourselves for not being Stephen King. Our goal is to produce written content that makes people do stuff.
And folks, copywriting ain’t easy either. We want to make it look easy, sure, but finding the right combination of words and phrases to inspire a specific result is a lot like shooting fish with an especially weak water gun.
The words you use to craft your message might not be as obvious a tool as a compelling website or a Telly award-winning video campaign, but they are a crucial ingredient to your company’s image and need to be given as much care and consideration as any other part of your business.
With that said, here are some copywriting tips that brands often learn the hard way.
Copywriting Tips #1: Every Word You Use Matters
You know the words you use matter on things like, say, a sales page or a brochure. That much is a given.
What you might not know is how much words matter everywhere. This includes your social media platform, your digital marketing, the videos you have produced, the blog posts, and even the emails you send. It all works together to tell the story of your brand in one way or another, and an inconsistent story is one that customers are likely to remember.
We all know bad writing when we see it. Like, there’s a reason the final two seasons of Game of Thrones pretty much sank the series. You don’t need to be an expert to identify when something isn’t working or isn’t congruent with the experience you had before. You might not have the words (ha, pun) to articulate why it failed, but that doesn’t mean it failed any less.
In the same way, you need to make certain the story you’re telling about your company is consistent across all platforms. Spelling and grammatical errors might not be a deal-breaker for a lot of people but encountering them on a brand’s social media platform can leave a lasting, not-great impression, no matter how splendiferous your writing is in the places you think actually matter.
It’s important to be mindful of the marketing copy you use no matter where it is or what the intended outcome—you’re always selling, even when you’re not.
Copywriting Tips #2: Copywriting Takes More Than Good Grammar
When you’re a copywriter, you’re constantly meeting people who will tell you that they plan on writing a book one day. Seriously, it’s a thing that happens a lot. And if people aren’t announcing their intent to write a book, they’re laboring under any number of assumptions about the amount of work that goes into writing anything worth reading.
It’s not that people don’t know bad writing exists. They know. They just don’t appreciate that they could be the ones producing it.
There are plenty of good reasons for the brand owner to feel drawn to writing their own marketing copy. After all, who knows their story better? Writing might not be their full-time gig but they know basic grammar and can run spellcheck like the best of them.
But here’s the secret few people will tell you in school—there is more to writing than grammar and spelling. A lot more.
Take this infamous example from the late Gary Provost:
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands variety.
Gary’s example expertly identifies the problem in a lot of amateur writing. However, he doesn’t touch upon another common occurrence that often comes up in these five-word sentences (or six, seven, eight, even ten-word sentences) that causes the same sort of internal echo, and that is starting each sentence the same way.
Mr. Smith graduated from SMSU in 1978 with a degree in Engineering. He went on to form his company XYZ in 1987. He sold the company in 2008 but stayed on as president. He retired in 2012.
All the sentences used in these examples are workable sentences. They have the grammar and spelling down pat, but none are interesting to read. Do you care about Mr. Smith enough to read more paragraphs written in the same fashion? What about product pages like that? Blogs?
That is what good writing does—it makes people, customers, care about what they’re reading enough to keep reading, and eventually to take action. Buy a product. Invest in a service. Trust the brand can deliver on what it promises, and that when they say they care, they aren’t blowing smoke.
That takes doing. Which leads us to…
Copywriting Tips #3: Copywriting Starts with a Concept
Remember when Chandler on Friends finally got his advertising gig? He tried coming up with slogans for everyday products. Some of the winners include:
“Bringing you closer to people who have phones.”
On bagels and doughnuts
“Round food for every mood!”
“It’s milk that you chew!”
The problem isn’t with these slogans—they were written to get a laugh, and they did. The problem is when people write things that, if not directly comparable, are close enough in spirit, and declare their work here is done. What Chandler has is a concept. He doesn’t have copy.
Finding words is hard for everyone, writers and non-writers alike. Whether you’re writing marketing copy for a brand, drafting a script, or trying to pen the great American novel, the act of drafting something worth reading isn’t one to take lightly. And as with anything else, the people who succeed the most have first failed the most. A lot of people will come up with a serviceable start, decide it’s good enough, and move onto the next thing.
Good enough is never good enough. This leads us to our last and most important tip.
Copywriting Tips #4: Good Copywriting Involves Little Actual Writing
For any piece of writing to be compelling, it has to know what it’s trying to say. It can’t flounder or grasp or take stabs in the dark.
This is one of the reasons business leaders may decide they, or someone close to them, is best qualified to write marketing copy for their brand. As we said, no one knows the brand better. They know that.
Thing is, though, a good copywriter will learn.
A copywriter’s job isn’t just to put the right words in the right order. Industry research, client interviews, internet courses, competitive reading, and so on and so on and so on.
A good copywriter will do more than take a crash course in the brand—they will immerse themselves in it completely, to the point they can speak as intelligibly on the subject that is your industry and your business as you can. And only after they have done the work to become an expert can they put concepts and products to words in a way that is memorable and effective for the purpose of promoting your brand.
That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
This is just the tip of the ‘how to write compelling copy’ iceberg. If you read these copywriting tips and feel overwhelmed, concerned you don’t do words good or could do them more better, or just want someone else to oversee all the words, reach out to ADsmith Marketing & Advertising to learn more about our copywriting services. Our copywriters are ready to become the experts you need to do your brand justice.