See those two life coaches over there who recently started their businesses? Both seem to have impressive qualifications, tons of experience and great testimonials. Both are publishing content regularly and seem active on social media. But notice one seems to be doing really well. They are usually fully booked and have a wait list and so it looks like people can’t wait to be work with them.
The other? Not so much. You know why there is a big difference between their levels of success? All things being equal, it’s the words on their website. Words that persuade people and convert. Words that make them want to buy. Also known as copy. And the process is called copywriting (and not copy writing). Specifically, writing words with the purpose of getting your audience to take a desired action. You use words like these all the time without realizing that you are actually creating copy.
Get on your email list? Subscribe to your newsletter? Contact you for a quote? Book a service? Buy a product? These are all examples of what copy looks like – words asking people to perform a certain action. Every single entrepreneur with a website should know the basics of copywriting. There. I said it. It doesn’t matter if you are heart-centred business, if you hate selling or if you want to change the world. Copywriting will help you do all of that.
Copywriting is not sleazy, it is not hard sell and it is not just for copywriters. If you have done everything in your power to optimize your website, created a fantastic content strategy as well as guest posting one, you’d be doing yourself no favors if you don’t get your head around copywriting. You really have two choices here:
- Learn the basics and improve things slowly over time
- Hire a copywriter.
I am going to assume you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars hiring someone just yet, so really, you have only one choice. And that means that you’ll have to spend time and energy studying this craft. But worry not, in this post, I am going to teach you all you need to know about copywriting and no more. Copywriting is a huge topic but I am going to give you the most important rules of copywriting that will help you transform your copy on your website.
Let’s get started.
Start with your prospect in mind
This is the first rule of copywriting. You cannot write good copy if you want to appeal to everyone. You know what’s going to happen right? You end up appealing to no one.
Let’s say you are a Career Coach but you specialize in helping mothers get back to work. You have gone through it yourself so you know how it feels. This is the target market you want to help. Your ideal customer profile could be a mother with two kids aged 5 and 18 months. She wants to find a part-time job or job that has some flexibility. She would also prefer a company with in-house childcare facilities or a workplace that doesn’t require her to drive for 90 minutes – one way.
Your job is to picture this woman clearly in your head every time you write a single word on your about page, your sales page or your blog post. Then use language that will make complete sense to this lady and have her nodding her head in agreement.
If you writing a blog post, you might commiserate with this woman on how hard is to find a workplace that really wants you to come in rather than hire a single, 27 year old. In your sales copy, you will talk to the core of her issue. She has two young children. She may or may not need extra money but she is struggling with guilt because she has to put her kids in day care so that she can find some work. Don’t address the surface problems only, go deeper and really connect with her. Explain how you can help her because you ‘get’ her so well.
Get your first sentence read
According to the legendry copywriter and direct response marketer, Joe Sugerman, what’s the primary purpose of your headline, or anything else you have written? “Every element of copy has just one purpose — to get the first sentence read.” That’s it.
Write every single sentence with the intent of getting the next one read, and the one after, and so on .. That’s the job of your headline. To get your readers to read the first sentence. Your headlines don’t have to be sleazy.
Remember you are writing headlines for a people who are most likely to be interested in what you have to say. When you are writing to a warm traffic, you don’t have to worry about converting that extra 0.01% of your traffic. It won’t make or break you. Your headline’s job is to get your first sentence read. It doesn’t have to scream in your reader’s face.
Bob Bly has a very useful formula for writing effective headlines. He calls it the 4U formula.
- Useful – They should state a clear benefit. Why should they read it?
- Urgency – There should be a sense of urgency. Why now?
- Unique – Convey an idea that is unique. Is it something new?
- Ultra specific – Do it in a very specific manner. Does it make sense for them?
Now, it is not always possible to combine all four Us in one, single compelling headline but do your best. At its most basic, your headline should spell a clear benefit or arouse curiosity in the reader.
Some examples of benefit-driven headlines are:
- The how to headline
- Top tips to … or the list headline.
- The step by step to …
- The ultimate guide to ….
- Why you should …
Whereas the following get our attention like no other headline does.
- The shocking truth about …?
- Are you making this mistake …?
- 5 little known facts about …?
- Lady Gaga’s guide to … ?
- Is your business safe from ….?
- Warning! ….
- Secrets of …
Solve a specific problem
In your messaging, you want to meet people where they are at and take them where you want them to go. This means you have got to talk about their problem clearly and help them solve it. Often times, people have difficulty coming up with the perfect words because they are not entirely clear on what it is that they are helping people with, what exact problem are you solving.
I often see this on new life coach websites. They want to help you get unstuck. They want you to move forward. They want to unlock your inner potential and be the best version of yourself. This is all fine, but what it is exactly that people are hiring you for?
What might their problem look like? Could you maybe give an example?
What does it look like for others? Could you talk about others in the similar position?
How would they know if they are improving their situation? What will it look like in terms of going from point A to point B?
Could you make it concrete so that your readers or prospects know exactly what you are talking about when you say ‘unstuck’?
Use their language. How are your readers referring to their own problems? Pour through your competitor websites. Look at the reader reviews for books on your topic on Amazon. Really discover their pain points. When you do that, your message will be that much powerful.
Give them a story
When was the last time you told a story on your website? It could be a client success story, or it could be a story of something that happened to you. It could be a human interest story that taught you a valuable lesson. Maybe you finally added your story on your about page?
Stories work for a simple reason, we, as humans, are wired to tell stories to also pay attention when one is being told. We feel more connected to the storyteller. We believe in them even more. We cheer for them. What do stories do for us?
- Stories make everything easier. They make teaching easier. They make learning easier and they make your words less boring.
- Stories have clear beginnings, middle and endings. They also have a point. You cannot tell a story and not make a point.
- Stories don’t have to be very long. The longer they get, the more chances of people losing interest.
- Stories have details, colourful language and a world of emotions.
Go tell a story in your next blog post and see what happens. Do yourself a favour and make it short.
Hone your voice
You may have heard the advice: Write like you talk? Well, I say, write like you talk, only better. Generic copy is boring. Nobody wants to read that. You get to decide what your copy should sound like. Soulful? Down to earth? Playful? Cheeky? Over the top? Full of attitude?
First take a closer look at yourself: how would you describe yourself? Take your time with it. There is no rush. Jot down some words that come to your mind that your voice is like. Also make a list of what your voice is not. For example:
- My voice is: colloquial, casual, concise, friendly, inviting, inspiring, thoughtful and quirky.
- My voice is not: businesslike, formal, authoritative, serious, snarky, cynical, offensive, zen-like, dark, dreamy, snobbish, lyrical, abstract or literary.
If you blog, you shouldn’t have a problem coming up with a list of words. For people new to blogging or online writing, this might pose a problem but keep at it. Think about the famous people whose voices really resonate with you. Whose style do you really admire? This often gives you clues in terms of your own voice.
Next, pay attention to yourself speaking to different people. How does your voice change when speaking to a child, your spouse, your next door neighbour, a colleague, a reader or customer? Pay attention to the last one because this is the voice you want to adopt in your marketing materials.
Finally, create an online persona or avatar for yourself (remember to keep your ideal reader in mind). This needs to be authentic or it won’t work. Your avatar is you – only a better version of you. The qualities or traits you choose to bring to your content are heightened. Now write like nobody’s watching. Bring out your emotions. Pretend you are writing in your journal. This is your truest, most authentic voice. Edit for clarity and flow.
Inject clarity and Brevity
Do you ramble? Do you take forever to get to the point? Do you use fancy words and jargon in your writing? Write to express, not to impress.
You are writing to connect with your reader, not to show off your literary prowess. This will do you more harm than good. Always write so that everything is clearly understood.
- Use simple words. Use the first word that comes to your mind as that will often work best.
Don’t look up fancy words in thesaurus as you go – write naturally. The only way you can get a better understanding of language is through your reading habit. Read more to increase your vocabulary organically.
- Avoid clichés and jargon.
- Be specific.
- Use short sentences. Use clear sentences.
- Use short paragraphs. Connect them in a logical, seamless flow. For every new idea you explore, start a new one.
- Write in the active voice – this will make the most difference to your writing. In active voice, the subject performs the action – it is the most direct, straightforward way to write.
“The laptop is sold by the sales rep.” This is passive.
“The sales rep sells the laptop.” This more direct. Remember to use active voice whenever possible. Passive voice is usually slow and boring, and often doesn’t fully convey the message.
Brevity is the secret of good writing. Do not waste words, do tight editing where every word means something. Avoid unnecessary words. Do not get attached to your sentences. Edit, edit, edit. Anything that doesn’t make sense, anything that doesn’t sound right to your ears; kill it.
Spruce up your sales copy
Stress benefits rather than features What are you really selling? When you say you are a health coach, what does it mean? Will you help me get fitter? Will you help me eat better? Will you help me fix my health concerns? All of them? What sort of results will I get by working with you?
Copywriting 101 states that you should stress on benefits, rather than features of your services or products. Emphasize on what the customer is going to get as a result of buying from you rather than product specifications.
Make your prospects experience your product or see themselves using your service even before they buy it. In some cases, when talking to experts for example, you can’t go wrong with pairing both.
Create genuine scarcity and urgency. Use principles of scarcity and urgency in your sales copy to motivate people to take action now, rather than later. But do it ethically. If you are opening a class, there is only so much people you can teach – genuine scarcity. Enroll by Friday because the class starts on July 1st – genuine urgency.
Sprinkle social proof. Have many people already bought your product with pleasure? Have you sold out classes before? Intersperse your copy with testimonials to make your copy work on steroids. Not only does it raises your credibility, your prospects look at the testimonials and see other people – just like them – using your products and services. They begin to imagine themselves doing the same.
Overcome objections and offer a guarantee. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes for a second. Or even think about buying something completely unrelated for yourself. Notice how many reservations start coming up? Well, your prospect is no different. Same things are going through their mind as they contemplate their purchasing decision. Make it as easy for them as you can by doing two things. Address every single objection of theirs in your copy and offer a rock solid guarantee.
You stand behind your product or service, 100%, right? Then offering this guarantee should not concern you one bit. It will only give your prospects peace of mind that in the rare event this is not right for them, they could easily apply for a refund later, so that they can purchase with confidence now.
So there you have it. Your complete guide to copywriting. Funny, that doesn’t seem that sleazy, or off putting or boring …does it? It wasn’t all that bad – not bad at all. Remember, copywriting is just a process – a methodology, how you use it is up to you. Now try these techniques and tips for yourself and see what difference.
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