In online marketing – as in many walks of life – it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. With attention spans at an all-time low, the ability to write copy that engages and inspires is more important than ever.
It can seem intimidating to some, but believe it or not, writing great copy doesn’t require extensive training or qualifications. The essence of great writing is great communication – a skill that most entrepreneurs and successful marketers have in spades.
By following a few rules (and maybe breaking a few others…) there’s no doubt that you can write copy that really speaks volumes for your business.
In this article, we’ve put together 7 simple tips to help your brand make friends and influence people.
1. Keep it short
The key to fantastic marketing copy is that it does its job in the least number of words possible.
When you’re starting out, the temptation is to cover every single point in intimate detail. This is hardly surprising – from the earliest days of our education, we’re rewarded for writing in greater volume. School assignments, for example, are set with minimum word counts (never maximum word counts!) and this mentality can be hard to shake if you’re not used to writing.
It’s an old cliché but, with great copywriting ‘less is more.’ According to Nielsen research, the average user will read just 28% of words on a website, with 20% a more likely figure. Isolate the golden nugget behind what you’re trying to say and get there as quickly as possible – cut out the filler and write as if your reader is already hovering over the ‘close’ button. Their attention span is limited so get to the point, or you could lose them.
2. Keep it simple
Similarly, you want to keep your writing as simple as possible. Albert Einstein is credited with the saying ‘If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’
There’s a place for technical jargon and complicated words, but in many cases it can confuse or alienate your reader. Your job as a writer isn’t to demonstrate understanding but to impart it.
Even the most sophisticated product can benefit from being broken down to its core value in order to explain it effectively to an audience.
To quote another great genius, Oscar Wilde, ‘Don’t use big words, they mean so little.’
3. Keep your audience in mind
If you were making a face-to-face sales pitch, the likelihood is that you’d tailor your language and tone to the audience in front of you.
When writing copy, the exact same rule applies. You may be looking at a computer screen, but you need to imagine you’re in front of that customer. The better you understand who they are, and what they’re looking for, the more likely you’ll be able to deliver it.
The language and tone you use in your writing needs to directly reflect the communication style of your ideal customer. Check out our article ‘Why you need to create buyer personas’ for more about why this is important.
4. Write like a person, not a brand
Whether in B2C or B2B, people buy from people – and they like brands with personality! B2B brands, in particular, are often guilty of communicating a little too impersonally. While a B2B buyer may have different considerations and motivations, ultimately, they’re still people, and they need to be engaged and inspired in exactly the same way a consumer would be.
Striking up a personal relationship through your writing is possible, and it delivers incredible benefits when you’re able to do it.
The simple tip here is to write like you speak. Don’t be afraid to break some grammatical rules if it helps you communicate in a style that resonates with your audience. Brands like GE and Intercom prove that B2B businesses don’t have to be stuffy and corporate in their written communications.
If you aren’t sure of the style your audience really relates to, it isn’t too hard to find out. A/B testing is a good way – it allows you to test two different versions of a piece of writing and then use online analytics software to test which one performed best with your audience.
5. Format it properly
This is a very basic step but it’s also incredibly important. In the digital age, it isn’t realistic to expect readers to persevere through long, unbroken passages of text. Great writing doesn’t just need to say the right thing, it needs to be broken up into the right format to keep your audience reading.
There’s no rocket science here – just make sure your headings, sub-headings are on-point. If possible, break up your writing with relevant illustrations and icons.
Makes it easy to scan, easy to read and easy to digest!
6. Tell stories
There’s a great copywriting quote that goes, “Sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress.”
Human beings are hard-wired for stories and, when we’re reading about a product or service, it isn’t just about the technical specifications. It’s about how our life will be improved by the product, which starts with a clear and demonstrated empathy with the problem we’re currently facing.
Problem-agitate-solve is a great copywriting model for doing this well.
7. Back up your claims
Credibility is a big deal in marketing, and there’s nothing worse than copy which is littered with spurious claims and half-truths.
Make sure to use statistics, specific relevant examples and expert quotes to back up what you’re saying. Of course, it’s also important to include the sources for the data, quotes and information you include in your writing. Adhering to this practice not only ensures that the relevant party gets credit for their work, it adds a sense of credibility and persuasiveness that is hugely valuable.
Writing great copy is not a skill that’s limited to professional copywriters – but it’s certainly a talent that needs to be honed over time. By concentrating on being concise, keeping things simple, and always maintaining a clear focus on the reader, you can develop skills that will yield serious results for your business. After all, in the words of William H. Gass, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”