If you are a small business owner, chances are you’ll be wearing multiple hats – including that of copywriter. At sometime or another you’ll need to write copy – whether it’s copy for your website, adverts, banner ads, newsletter, leaflets, press releases, blog post or email promotions. Following a few simple tips can help make the whole copywriting experience less daunting and enable you to write effective copy with confidence.
You often hear people lamenting that they can’t write – that good writing is only in the realms of highly paid advertising executives or literary geniuses. However, in reality creating effective and engaging copy is within everyone’s reach, since copywriting is essentially just another way of talking to your customers.
Of course, format and length of copy may well vary depending on what it is you are writing. For example online press releases are formatted with a fairly uniform layout to serve a specific purpose. However, I think that there are a few really helpful tips that can apply to all copywriting – from a small banner ad to a blog post.
AIDCA – an oldie but a goodie for direct response copywriting
When I started out in marketing nearly 20 years ago, one of the first copywriting ‘guru’s’ I came across was Drayton Bird – an expert in direct marketing copywriting who advocated the AIDCA formula. Even though it’s been around since the 1920’s the AIDCA is a good starting point – and I still use it today 20 years on. It is easy to remember and a useful model that can be applied to almost any piece of copywriting that needs to illicit a response.
A = Attention
Grab readers attention (usually with your headline)
I = Interest
Develop readers interest in your subject / product / feature
D = Desire
Create desire with offer and benefits
C = Conviction
Reassure that they are making right decision (a summary, testimonials and guarantees can work well here)
A = Action
Have a clear call to action
10 tips for creating effective copy
In no particular order, here are a few universal tips that I use when I’m copywriting. Hopefully they’ll help give you a bit more confidence when you are putting your copy together.
Most importantly keep in mind who it is you are writing for. Think about who your audience is? Knowing this will help you communicate your points more effectively. Imagine you are talking to them in person as this will help you get a feel for what tone to use and what is going to capture their interest.
Headlines. These are the first thing that people see and your chance to grab readers attention. Remember your ads, blogs, email and press releases are competing with thousands of other pieces of online content so you need to spend time creating a good headline. Indeed, “80% of readers never make it past the headline” (Moz.com). There are lots of useful articles available that are worth you taking a look a more detailed look at, but for some basic guidelines I would suggest the following:
- Keep your headline short and to the point – preferably under 10 words. “All in all though, short headlines are easier to scan, and cannot be missed. My general rule of thumb is to write the shortest headline possible that also convincingly conveys a unique benefit to the reader so they’ll read the body.” (Copy Blogger)
- Remember you are writing for search engines too – so try and use keywords that reflect the content of your following copy
- Don’t be try to be too clever. Only really established brands can get away with using off-the-wall headlines. Make sure yours are self explanatory and are relevant to the article you’ve written
Keep it simple. This means don’t waffle on too long using too much flowery language. Write simply and get to the point quickly otherwise you run the risk of your audience losing interest.
Features AND benefits. If you’re talking about a product or service, don’t just focus on a long list of features. You must include the benefits. For example what benefit will a particular feature bring to you audience. This is what will help you convince them that they need to take action.
Write in a friendly manner as if you are talking to a friend. There are of course times for a more formal tone (for example if you are writing a press release you will always write in 3rd person), but for the most part try to write copy as if you are talking directly to a friend as readers will find it more engaging.
Keep sentences and paragraphs short, punchy and to the point. I’m not saying don’t ever include long sentences but if you do follow it with a short one. Too many long sentences and your audience’s concentration will wander.
Back up what you are saying with evidence. For example, including things like statistics, testimonials and reviews will add support to what you are saying and will help convince and reassure your reader.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that those you are writing for will have the same level of understanding on a subject as you. A few readers may have but they will probably be in the minority. Write as if your readers are not familiar with the intricate details of your product or service and don’t use technical jargon or industry acronyms without adding in a definition.
Don’t forget your call to action at the end of any copy that you require a response to. Make sure it is clear for the reader to see and easy for them to take action on.
Finally, try to relax into and enjoy what you are writing – this will help with the flow . For my part I find it useful to write an outline plan first – just so I know what I want to cover, then I tend to just write and leave the editing right to the end, rather than interrupting the flow to check grammar, spelling and repetition.
Hopefully there are some useful tips to get you writing with confidence. And, if you’d like to do a bit more reading on the subject I’ve listed a few helpful websites and articles below.
All Good Copy – Free direct-response copywriting advice
Social Media Today – Begginer Copywriting Tips
Social Media Today – how to write great online headlines
Small Businesses Do it Better – The Do’s and Don’ts of Successful Small Business Email Marketing
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment. Thanks!
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