Sell your benefits NOT your features!
When working with a new business this is one of the first pieces of advice I give.
You see, in order to sell, inform, influence or persuade, you have to make it crystal clear how what you are about to say will add value to your target reader.
Achieve this, and you’ll open the channels of communication and encourage your audience to start thinking how your product or service may be worth a closer look. Fail, and your reader will turn off and tune out.
So just what does a copywriter do?
Now bear with me, this isn’t a sales pitch!
You see, if you write your own advertising or marketing, understanding exactly what a copywriter does will improve your approach and help you write better.
Let me explain…
Yes copywriting is all about writing words. But that definition is just too simplistic. You see it’s not just about writing words.
It’s about writing the right words.
And here’s a further distinction. It’s not just about the ability to write good English.
In fact, a number of tools and techniques you learnt at school can actually undermine your ability to write to persuade. And if you strip away everything else, that is precisely what good copywriting is all about.
Copywriting is a skilled form of writing that uses words to persuade the reader to take some form of action.
So what are the right words?
OK now we’re starting to get into the real nitty gritty of what a copywriter does and how this skill can add real value to your business.
We’ve established it’s about writing the right words…
And here’s where the complexity starts. Because to find those, your first have to work through a process. This involves:
- Choosing the right angle to present your sales message.
- Uncovering the right approach so your target customer reads your advert, editorial, blog, sales letter, website etc. and feels you’re speaking directly to them.
- Finding the right initial hook to entice your reader to take a closer look.
And so that 500 word sales letter may not look that long. BUT the length disguises the amount of thinking time, idea generation and research that goes into making it hit the spot and sell.
And here is where the skill of copywriting will add some serious value to your business.
I work with a lot of micro businesses who are looking to improve the message their customers read. I enjoy working with a variety of clients, but I always like to talk with the business owner and talk in depth about what the business does.
Here’s an example.
I recently spent some time advising a hypnotherapist about the right angle to use to sell her stop smoking services. Whilst hypnotherapy may be an effective technique, to communicate that message we needed to get the approach right.
First we talked about how the hypnotherapy works. We discussed some of the reasons it may be preferable to other cessation methods. Next we identified the type of people who would most likely benefit. We pinned them down to people who had tried other methods but failed, but were committed to quitting and wanted to find a method that could really work.
Next we focused on some of the phrases and words that would work, and some of the approaches we could use to get her flyer noticed and acted upon.
You see it’s not just about telling someone what you’ve got to sell and inviting them to buy. Instead it’s about working up a concept that positions your business as the solution to their problem (or creating desire) and then telling them what they need to hear to respond and action.
So in reality copywriting is a process of discovery. Of asking the right questions and finding the right content. Of getting the right structure and the ordering of the words. Of embedding the right call to action and using the right tone, language and phrases. It’s not just about the words that end up on the paper.
It’s about the thought process that goes on behind the scenes. Because that’s where the real magic happens.
What’s the lesson?
If you need to write something for your business don’t break it down into a word count. All this does is chip away at what’s really involved with the job.
Instead factor in the time you’ll need to build that winning concept.
Always start a copywriting job with some thinking space. I grab a really sharp pencil or a fine nibbed biro and have a scribble. I often use mind-maps to jot down top level thoughts and then let my mind laterally take me to new ideas or make new connections. Other times I’ll make a list of key points or probing questions to see what that uncovers.
Then I’ll question what I’ve written. I’ll look at it from different angles and always take a look from the target customer’s perspective and get a feel for how they will respond. This helps me work out what’s a winner and what won’t work.
So you see successful copywriting it’s not just about writing
You also have to be able to understand people. In fact the more experience of different jobs, lifestyles, individuals etc, the more ideas you’ll have to draw upon. And so you have to be a good listener. You have to be able to ask the right questions that cut through the noise and hone in on that little gem that could transform your message.
So next time you need to write some copy for your business, check your approach.
Do you automatically grab the keyboard, bash out a few words and consider it done?
Or do you take the time to plan, create and craft your approach.
The first will get your message out there – but the danger is it may not be the right one. At best it might get read, but worse it may damage your reputation or your product.
Or do you allow the time to find the right angle, look through your customers eyes and edit ruthlessly. If the idea of doing that fills you with a cold sweat, or if you simply do not have the time or passion to fall in love with your words. Do your business a favour and hire a copywriter!
Now tell me about your writing experiences. How do you write copy for your business? What works for you? What do you struggle with? Please share and tell me in the comments.