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If you haven't yet learned to discern good copy from bad copy, you will have a difficult time writing your own. Tim, a graphic designer friend of mine, recently learned the difference when he tried to write his own web copy.
Tim had a phenomenal website. His work was not only the best in the state, but the best in all the surrounding states. He had done high-end graphic work for a number of national clients. But suddenly the work dried up.
Tim asked me to take a look at his website to tell him what I thought, not of his web copy, but of his work. However, being a professional copywriter, Tim's real problems glared out at me. His work was great. His copy sucked.
Not only was Tim's copy filled with spelling and grammar errors, but most of it was fluff. He included copy just to fill space, ignoring the fact that potential clients would want substantial information that could not simply be provided in samples of his work.
Tim made all the mistakes of a novice copywriter: awkward sentences, too much technical jargon, misused words and punctuation, and the worst mistake that any copywriter can make, lack of clarity and failure to communicate.
If copy doesn't communicate there is no purpose in it's existence. The number one communication barring culprit is unclear writing and confusing ideas.
When you write your own copy, keep in mind that, just because you know what you're thinking doesn't mean anyone else will. Most people can't get away with simply writing what they think. It's better to consider what your audience needs to hear.
Highly skilled copywriters follow approximately 7 basic guidelines. They may not follow all of them all of the time, or they may follow all of them all of the time. But you can be assured that they follow at least some of the 7 all of the time:
1. Know Your Audience - Society is broken into different demographics: men, women, teenage girls, teenage boys, single moms, working moms, middle aged men, business people, Gen Xers, etc...The tone and focus of your copy depends on which demographic you need to target.
Before you even begin to write your copy, you must ask yourself:
*Who will be interested in my product or service? *Why will they be interested (Price, delivery, performance, reliability, service maintenance, quality efficiency, etc...) *What motivates the buyer?
2. Understand Your Product or Service - You may think you've considered all aspects of your product or service, but here's a list of questions to ask yourself just in case:
*What are all the features and benefits of my product or service? *Which benefits are the most important? *How does my product differ from the competition, and if it doesn't differ, how can I make it seem different? *Is my product/service a need or a want? *Does my product/service solve any existing problems? *Is my product/service reliable, efficient, economical, etc...? *Have people bought my product or service, and if so, what do they say about it? *Is my product available in different materials, sizes and models? *How quickly can my product/service be delivered? *Is my product/service guaranteed? If not, should it be?
3. Find your USP (unique selling point) - This is your product or service's most attractive and unique benefit from the buyer's perspective. The USP should be the focus of the copy, around which the mention of other benefits hover.
4. Write Benefit Oriented Copy - Inexperienced copywriters tend to focus on the featured product, company, or service, failing to mention how it will actually benefit the buyer. People are only interested in a product that says, "This is what I'm going to do for you."
Your copy should appeal to one or more of the buyer's basic needs: love, acceptance, security, recognition, attractiveness, health, sex appeal, happiness, fulfillment, etc...
Don't make buyers do the work of figuring out what benefit your product or service offers. Most people devote only a fraction of their mind to marketing and advertising. They won't put forth the effort of discerning what's in it for them. You have to do that for them.
5. Use Active Verbs - I will keep this short as I don't want to cause any high school English flashbacks. Your copy should motivate people to take action, therefore, you need to stick with action verbs as much as possible.
Here are two sentences, one using an active verb and one using a passive verb:
"Johnny was knocked to the floor when he was punched in the face by Chuck."
"Chuck punched Johnny in the face, knocking him to the floor."
The first sentence, using passive verbs, is wimpy. The second, using action verbs, is powerful and concise. 'Nuf said.
6. Use Short Sentences and Short Words - Just because you are writing doesn't mean you should turn into John Faulkner. Save the excess verbiage and utter confusion for pretentious literature. The last thing you want to do is confuse your reader.
Eliminate irrelevant and redundant words and don't add fluff for the sake of puffing up your copy. Write your copy the way you would talk to a friend. Say what you mean and keep your copy lean.
7. Tell Your Reader What To Do - Your readers needs to know exactly what you expect of them. Don't be shy. After you spent all that time writing your exceptional copy, don't let your reader go off saying, "What was the point of that?"
Instruct them to call, write, reserve, visit, buy, order, fax, or whatever you want them to do.
After reading all these rules and regulations, you may have come to the conclusion that copywriting just isn't your cup of tea. Don't feel ashamed. That's what professional copywriters like myself are here for.
If you choose not to write your own copy, then it's important to have a reliable copywriter on call. Otherwise you'll be stuck if an important project comes up and you have no one to turn to.
The time to choose a copywriter is before you need one. When choosing a copywriter remember that not all of those who claim to be professional copywriters actually are professional copywriters. Ask to see samples of their work before you make your decision. Now that you know the rules of good copywriting, you can make an accurate assessment of the work's quality.
Ask around to friends and business associates. Chances are they will know writer's to investigate as well as those to avoid.
Don't let geography stand between you and the copywriter you prefer. It's nice to find a local, but when all is said and done it just doesn't matter. Choose the writer who fits your needs. Don't base your decision on whether or not you could drive to the their house in 30 minutes or less.
Once you do choose a copywriter, always treat him/her in a professional manner. Many writers are used to being treated like second class citizens, but that doesn't mean you should perpetuate that treatment. Writer's perform an important and necessary function in society, one which most people can't appreciate.
But if there is one thing that will make you appreciate the work copywriters do, it's attempting to write your own copy.
Jenny Bosworth NEED HELP WITH YOUR COPY? Internet Writers can handle any project, from sales letters to web copy, autoresponders to articles. Check out our services online at http://www.internetwriters.com.