Copywriting is an art. It takes practice and learned skills to manipulate the mind of readers and sell a product they may have never heard of before. It takes talent to turn a no into a yes and to get someone to click that “buy now” button in less than 60 seconds flat. But even if you don’t have the time to devote months—even years—of your life to the art of copywriting, you can become the writer of your own business materials; at least until you can afford to have someone do it for you.
The key is to learn the basics of copywriting before you actually attempt to write your own copy. Understanding the basics is important because it teaches you how to write content that sells your products and services, it teaches you the difference between writing content that is “all about me” and writing content that is “all about the buyer”. And it teaches you the difference between needs versus wants and benefits versus features.
To get started, without spending a fortune on copywriting courses, read books like, “Teach Yourself Copywriting” by Jonathan Gabay or “Kick Ass Copywriting In 10 Easy Steps” by Susan Gunelius. Then you go online and read articles and blogs on the subject—only signing up for the ones that really teach and hold your interest. (Check out Copyblogger.com or Copywriting.com)
Next, test the waters by writing small copy for your business: catalog descriptions, sales pages, press releases, and classified ads. Once you are satisfied with the results, ask a few colleagues what they think or go online and find a private forum that offers free constructive criticism. Take the feedback you receive and improve your copy. Once you’re satisfied with the material, test the waters. Place the copy on your website, send that press release, or deliver your marketing material to the local media, and wait. How does your copy perform? Does it need more ump or has it given you the results you wanted?
A few years back, I interviewed Bryan Eisenberg, of Future Now Inc. (http://www.futurenowinc.com/) about his thoughts on copywriting. His reply was profound, yet simple. “Identify the ‘meat of your message’ and then speak to the dog in the language of the dog about what matters to the heart of the dog,” he said. “Relevance is really the bottom line. And to that end, even mediocre copywriting that communicates relevance is going to out-perform stylish, pricey copy that completely misses the mark. You truly don’t have to be a brilliant writer. You do have to understand the felt needs of your visitors and ‘speak’ directly to those needs in a way that keeps your visitors motivated to continue ‘listening’ and clicking.”
That bit of advice has carried me through many attempts at copywriting. I may not be the most stylish copywriter on the planet, but I’ve learned that speaking to the heart of the buyer speaks louder than any fancy copy ever could! Good copy isn’t always in the length, or the words, sometimes it’s how you target your audience.
If you can’t afford a high-priced copywriter, write the copy yourself. After all, who knows your business better than you? Below is a checklist to get you started on writing your own copy:
Identify the product or service you want to sell. Off the cuff, how would you describe this service or product to a friend? Who would be interested: target audience? Why would they be interested: what’s in it for them? List the most important benefits. List the most important features. List price, warranties, and legal stuff. Write a captivating headline. Write the body of your copy using both features and benefits. Include a call to action—ask them to do something: buy, call, email. Get feedback, take notes, and edit.