8 copywriting fundamentals

Copywriting is not rocket science. You can do it, you just need to get the fundamentals right and your marketing content will improve immensely.

This post will cover eight copywriting best practices. Techniques used by professional copywriters to write persuasive text. Follow along and the result for you is better engagement, more shares, more traffic and ultimately, more sales. Yeah, we all want that.

Copywriting principles used by professionals

I have used these same copywriting tips throughout my copywriting career. I will share the same techniques that I use every day to develop copy for multinational companies. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing emails, writing for social or writing blog posts for your company, these copywriting fundamentals are the basis for any marketing content.

If you want more specific copywriting tips for writing emails, email funnels or writing for social, click on the links. Okay, so let’s dive in with the first copywriting fundamental tip.

No.1 - Think like your audience

Copywriting is about getting into the head of your audience.

You have to think like them, talk them to make a connection.

The first job I ever had was writing for white goods company, selling microwaves. The Creative Director of the agency told me, “Imagine you are having a conversation with your mum. What would you tell her?”

That was a massive help. I could picture the conversation, the meals she would make, the time it would save her, the words she’d use.

It made it much easier to write. The copy had personality and warmth – exactly what the client was after.

A great place to study your audience and the language they use is Reddit. Hop on a related forum, see what the issues are, the problems people are looking to solve and the language they use. You’ll find lots of ideas.

No.2 - Keep it short

There is a huge temptation to show how clever we are with words and wax lyrical about all the details that you find fascinating about your products or service.

But before you go there, remember, the typical consumer is bombarded with 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day. Our attention spans are under siege, so no matter how good our copywriting skills are, your potential customer will not give you much time to make a point before they move on.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, once someone is interested they want to find out more – so website copy will go into much more detail. Copy for charities is much more effective if it is long.

That said, 90% of the time, shorter is better. People do not want to read if they can help it.

Short, succinct copy that get to the points wins the day. Which brings us neatly to our next point.

No.3 - Be single-minded

You want to get people’s attention, right?

Throw lots of different information at someone and they won’t catch on but keep it simple and your message is much more likely to stick.

Go into an ad agency and they will write a creative brief before they do anything to make sure the communication is focused.

The first thing the copywriter will look at is what an agency calls the single-minded proposition or unique selling point or disruptive thought. They all have different names for it but it is basically the same thing, a single-minded benefit. The one thing you can say to get someone’s attention.

No.4 - Don't use industry jargon

I remember the first time I sat in a Procter & Gamble meeting, the table surrounded by highly educated marketers.

Everyone used acronyms to describe the product. It was their language to describe their product.

I was like “Wow, slow down, can someone translate?” They used technical language all the time to describe their products, it was natural to them – they had heard it so often they thought everyone understood.

Of course, everybody didn’t. especially the home carer they wanted to reach. Use the wrong language and it will fly over your consumer’s head. You’ll waste your time and theirs.

Avoid anything that complicates your message, gives your reader an excuse to move on.

No.5 - Don't scream

If you are walking down the street and someone STARTS YELLING in your face, “LOVE ME, LOVE ME, LOOK AT ME, AREN’T I AWESOME, HEY LISTEN TO ME!” How are you going to react? They could have supermodel good looks but 99% of the time I know I would shy away. You want to get noticed, I am sure you want to be appreciated and listened to. IF I WRITE EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT IT JUST BECOMES DIFFICULT TO READ.

If I use a little restraint and only use emphasis when I want to make a POINT it becomes much more effective.

No.6 - Focus on benefits not features

Features are the technical aspects of your product, what it does. The stuff the engineers or designers labour so hard to produce and you are probably really proud of.

But it is the benefits, how your customer’s life will be improved, that are the real motivators to act. For that reason, it is usually best to lead with the benefits.

Your customer is coming to you with a problem they would like you to solve. Let them know you’re on to it.  

Features are useful when you are in a saturated market, they will differentiate you from your competition. A feature can be a price or dietary requirement (gluten free). 

Example. A car company can talk about having seven airbags – a feature. But you can sell that as keeping every member of the family safe – a benefit.

With a feature the customer has to work out the benefit themselves, so a slower communication. 

No.7 - Add some polish

You finished, the temptation is to publish and move on but take a moment. Give it the overnight test or at least a coffee break and re-read what you have written.

The first thing you want to try and pick up are typos. Spell-check will pick up the obvious ones but it doesn’t always get it right.

After reading and re-reading copy I can get blind to mistakes. I learned a good trick many years ago which is to read your copy backwards. Start at the last word and move to the front. That way you check every single word.

Grammarly is a great app to help you improve the flow of your writing. I would definitely recommend using that. There is a paid version and a free version. Both are good.

Then ask someone else to read your copy, it is always good to get a fresh set of eyes on it. In an agency several people will read the copy before it goes to client. They check for understanding, tone and make sure you haven’t left anything out. Your copy will be better for it.

No.8 - Call to action

Always let your customers know the next step to take.

Ask yourself, what do you want your customer to do? Make a phone-call, check your website, buy, get a quote, subscribe, click on a link?

There is no harm in prompting action. How often you do it will depend on how much room you have to get your message across.

If it’s an email you can drop that message in a few times. You’ve spent good money on the ad placement, the action your customer takes pays that back.

Conclusion

The truth is, copywriting is just a lot of common sense. A copywriter always keeps in mind they are talking to a person – probably a very busy person that is not that interested in reading a lot of boastful prose.

Are you using any of these copywriting fundamentals? It would be great to hear.  Share your experience in the comments below.

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