Copywriting 101

In this series of guest blogs, SavvyG’s go-to copywriter Sara Howard shares her top tips for getting your business message across.  

 Sara HowardJust about everything you write for your business, from emails and newsletters to flyers and web pages, involves copy. These are the words that inform or persuade your customers, investors or staff. So how do you make sure your words cut through the clutter and make the impact you’re looking for?

Tip #1. What’s in it for them?

The sad truth for us copywriters is that no one is rushing home from a busy day at work to read our unsolicited email or flyer. If your business message is going to persuade someone, it needs to be read first. And it won’t be read unless it’s relevant and useful.

You could go on about how your amazing gadget prints labels at 6,000 dpi, or about your innovative techniques and dedication to customer service, but to your audience what matters is whether you can save them time, save them money, or make them look good to their colleagues or clients. Focus on the benefits in your message, not the features.

Tip #2. Say the important stuff first

We’re all busy. So we usually scan messages to see if there’s something in it for us, and within two seconds a decision is made whether to bin it or act on it.

That’s why headings are so important. Your heading needs to tell the whole story in a few words, and as that can be quite tough I usually write the heading last.

The first paragraph is the hero of your message. If you think that first paragraph sounds a bit waffly, bin it. It’s quite likely your second paragraph should be your first.

If there’s a really important point you want to highlight, like a special offer, testimonial or three key selling points, create a ‘highlight box’ in the margin of your page. The eye will be drawn to it first, then to the opening paragraph, and then to the end.

Tip #3. Say the important stuff last, too.

Don’t forget a strong call to action at the end. What do you want the reader to do? Be clear and make it as easy as possible to contact you or make a purchase. Adding a PS to the bottom of a direct mail letter is an old trick that still works – it’s a great place to remind the reader of a deadline for action or a promotional deal.

Tip #4. Read it out loud

Have you ever noticed how some people talk quite naturally about their business, but then write in a pompous style stuffed with technical terms? It makes your copy sound like a legal contract, which isn’t much fun to read. If you wouldn’t say something out loud, don’t write it.

Telltale culprits are words like ‘utilise’ and ‘stakeholders’ instead of ‘use’ and ‘you’, talking in the third person, and using clichés and weasel words. The idea is to make your copy as easy to understand and pleasurable to read as possible. Talking directly to your reader (using words like ‘your’ and ‘we’) is just one simple way to do this.

Tip #5. Read it again the next day

I give copy the overnight test, because when I read it the next day I’ll always see something to cut. Always. I may even come up with a better heading. Plus, the next day is when you’ll spot those spelling and grammar mistakes with fresh eyes.

Have you got any top writing tips for your business?  What have you found works best?    Let us know!

For more copywriting tips, check out the Writers blog at www.writers.net.au

 

 

 

Comments

  1. denny hagel says:

    Excellent article and tips! I always remember what I was taught in college…”tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them!!”

  2. Sherie says:

    I really like your idea of letting your content sit overnight. I know that when I do this, I can always see changes that I need to make to my blog post. Awesome tips, thanks for sharing!

  3. Kim Hawkins says:

    I get hung up on titles. I over analyze how I feel about cliches’ and quirky titles–which is they are not my draw…therefore I have a hard time coming up with something catchy. I’ll have to just keep working on it. Great tips Vicky!

    • I can relate to that sometimes. Thank you Kim!

    • Sara Howard says:

      Hi Kim, I have the same problem and I write them every day! I often realise I over-do it with trying to find an idiom or alliteration, when all it needs is a simple statement that really summarises the next few sentences.

      I also find the best ideas come to me at inconvenient moments – a billboard I spot while driving, or an idea that pops into my head while I’m in the shower… Thanks for reading the post and making a comment.

  4. Lorii Abela says:

    Excellent tips, Vicky, Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great tips. I am not a writer and would never claim to be one. For me, if it doesn’t sound right to me I usually won’t write it. Now to incorporate the other tips you give like the call to action which is one that doesn’t sound right to me. That’s fear based though and I’m selling myself short but it’s something I can correct. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I think I should start doing the overnight test, I like that!

  7. Sue says:

    These are great tips and right to the point. Every one of them is right on… Thanks for reminding us the key ingredients for getting copy read! Awesome post

  8. Like you I always read my copy the next day, or at least hours later. And I always cut something. Also I have lost good readers of good articles of mine because I do not do good titles. I have many in Ezine and believe with better titles I would have better bounce rates.

  9. Love your tips, especially the one where you must share your message or your point right away because we don’t have time to scan long and lengthy pages or emails. I can’t tell you the emails and pages I have exited because the page went on and on and on and never told me what they were selling or why I needed to continue reading…thanks again for your straight forward and no sugar coated tips 🙂 Hugs!

  10. Wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing such implementable nuggets! It does not matter how good it is unless people read it. 🙂

  11. Edmund Lee says:

    Copywriting is such an important skill. People have such short attention spans nowadays, especially with all the info out there *BEGGING* for their attention. If the info isn’t highly relevant or easily broken down, OH YEAH, you can BET that people won’t be running to read content.

    Love your post by the way. Breaks it down so easily and concisely. =D

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