You don't need to be a professional copywriter to write great content that sells. Here are six tips to get started.
As a digital marketing consultant, you read a lot. You read about your client’s businesses, industry trends, marketing disciplines, and one thing you can’t escape is bad copy. I’m not talking about horribly written articles online (although there is plenty of that), but websites and landing pages that seem to have no desire to 1) connect with their audience and 2) sell something.
It’s OK; it’s not their fault. At some point along the way we decided that talking to our customers in a cryptic corporate jargon was completely acceptable. That’s why I use this cartoon with my clients:
Image courtesy of Hugh MacLeod
Yes. If you walked up to someone and said, "Buy this now!" or "Customer story: Performance boost through fast implementation," they would probably look at you confused or punch you in the face out of anger or fear (or maybe both). I have talked about the importance of writing good headlines, but after you’ve gotten your user to click, you need to engage them and then push them to act.
The Best Techniques I Have Found for Writing Copy That Sells
You don’t need to be a professional copywriter to write good copy. A few changes in simply the approach have proven to be very successful in my experience.
1. Enter the conversation where users are. Think of selling online as you would sell on the street. If you walked up to a stranger and said, "Buy my accounting software now," they would likely have lots of questions: What software? Why should I? Who are you? If you walked up and said, "Do you own a small business? I’ve created an award-winning accounting software for companies in the U.S.," you’ll likely get a much better response. Not only did you qualify your user, you presented them with two great reasons they should continue listening to what you have to say. The same applies online. Your user will be landing on a page and you won’t be there. Make sure your copy approaches the user the same way you would in person.
2. Do your research. You can’t sell anything unless you know why a qualified user won’t buy your product and the benefits the product has to offer. Make sure you’ve learned everything you can about a product, the consumers and market before you sit down and start writing.
3. Write copy when your juices are flowing and don’t stop. When you feel the urge to write, do it! Writing because you have a deadline in the morning never produces your best work. A lot of writers choose to write in the morning or change their location to help spur this situation. Do whatever works for you, but remember that once you start don’t worry about grammar or editing. Just get it out while you feel the urge. You can always come back and edit later.
4. Write as if you were writing to a friend. One of my favorite tips is to write as if I was writing to a friend. It’s a lot less scary to sit down and think you’re writing an email to a friend about an awesome new product you found than it is to produce copy that you know will be critiqued by others. You’ll also be more likely to write in a language the user will understand, because you’ll be less worried about sounding smart and more concerned about getting your point across.
5. Copy is like a piece of steak, let it rest before you start making cuts. It’s easy to get lost in anything when you’ve been working at it too long. Once you’ve written something, walk away. Don’t start editing. Take a break then come back and rework it.
6. Test it and get users to read it out loud. After you’ve reworked your copy, test it out on anyone that’s willing to read it. Don’t defend what you’ve done. Let them tell you what’s convincing, what’s not and ask them to read it out loud. You’ll quickly find the areas where users will stumble by hearing someone read what you’ve written.
Good Copy Shouldn’t Go It Alone.
If two men came up to you wanting to sell something, one in a suit and one who looked like a homeless person, who would you be willing to listen to? Most people would say the man in the suit. Why? Because first impressions are important. Looks are important. I have had this debate with many people in the industry. Copywriters hate to admit that good design can have a powerful impact, but the truth is that it does. Your users will make a judgment about your site and it’s content based on its appearance in a fraction of a second. No matter what a site says, if it looks like a scam, your users will think it’s a scam. And, I hate to say it, but with so many free website templates out there, you don’t have an excuse anymore.
With that said, say you’re willing to listen to the man in the suit. He looks smart, but you’ll likely not buy anything if he doesn’t give you a good reason to do so. Design and copy work the same way: Make a good impression up front visually, and then have compelling copy and content to engage and sell your users by following these 6 techniques.
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Breanne Maliniak is a user experience and conversion rate optimization consultant. With over 5 years of experience in the digital space, her passion is balancing business and consumer needs to improve her clients’ profitability. With years of consulting for clients of all sizes in B2B and B2C industries, she firmly believes that a company’s success relies on happy customers and works on helping organizations discover and connect user experience to every facet of their business. By doing extensive research, Breanne’s passion for creating targeted data-driven optimization strategies has led to successful projects with marquee clients such as SAP, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Yves Saint Laurent, Hewlett-Packard and Aberdeen Asset Management. In 2010, Breanne was recognized with the HSMAI Adrian Award for the Best Search Marketing Strategy.
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