Okay, so if you’ve been following the Fast Track to Copywriting series, by now you have a good idea of what copywriting is and how copywriting is used in business.
The next step is to familiarise yourself with the fundamental rules of copywriting.
There are volumes of content dedicated to the subtleties of copywriting but if you want a fast solid overview of the foundations for great copy, I’ve created the 10 commandments for you below:
These rules are in addition to the 3 critical elements every piece of copy needs to have which are:
- Target a Specific Audience
- Promote a Specific Subject
- Have a Specific Goal (Ideally Measurable)
Ready for the big 10?
Here we go:
Commandment 1: Always FOCUS on the Reader
This is a concept you hear A LOT in copywriting and for good reason.
Despite being the most important rule in copywriting, ignoring this rule is also one of the most common mistakes.
As you know from the 3 critical elements above, having a specific audience to focus on helps you tailor a strong marketing message.
For example a company selling CRM software appealing to sales and marketing departments might tell their audience:
“We can make your sales and marketing process more efficient”
Sounds okay, but it’s not nearly as compelling as:
“If you want to improve lead qualification and handling, our tools for list segmentation ensure marketing literature is delivered to the most qualified lead. Automated lead routing also means your employees can follow every sales opportunity within seconds of a lead arriving.”
When you add rich details based on the interests of your target market, you create a persuasive argument that also builds credibility and proof.
Focusing on your reader means researching their likes, dislikes, language they use, fears they have, emotional drivers and many more aspects that help you visualise your perfect customer.
Skip this stage at your peril.
The less focus you have on your reader, the more vague, waffly and forgettable your copy will be.
Commandment 2: Catch the RIGHT Attention
Great copywriting attracts the RIGHT readers and changes them for the better. Tweet this to remind your audience
There’s no point in having more people know about your business, unless those people also want to do business with you.
When we think about catching your customer’s attention in the copywriting world, we’re often thinking about headlines.
Headlines are signals to your ideal customer to stop and take notice.
The rest of your copy is to make them glad they did.
As a general introductory rule, headlines should be:
- Specifically targeted towards your ideal customer
- Offer a strong sense of what will be included in the rest of the advert
- Make your reader want to read it now by empathising with a problem and / or promising a benefit
“Why you can solve bladder problems without surgery or drugs”
“Time-management for chaotic creatives starts today”
“How online businesses lose $bn in lost productivity and what to do about it”
Notice how these examples are speaking to specific audiences as well as highlighting a problem or a benefit?
Headline writing is one of the most important skills you can have in copywriting. If you would like some free headline templates you can sign up to the newsletter and you’ll also receive an action tip each week to help you write better copy faster.
Commandment 3: Be Compelling
There is a longstanding debate over whether short copy is better than long copy. It’s argued that because we are bombarded with information people want short and snappy content that they can digest easily. While it’s true that people do scan copy, people also spend a lot of time reading things which interest them, especially if it’s about something they think they might want to buy.
But you need to understand these 2 things:
- Boring copy doesn’t just happen.
- You don’t need to snazzy catchy phrases and over the top language to be interesting
Boring copy happens when you lose the focus of what’s interesting to your customer. It’s the reason rule number 1 is… well, rule number 1. 🙂
To avoid writing boring copy, ask yourself regularly:
- Is this answering a question my customer might have?
- Is it describing something my customer wants to achieve (that I can help them with)?
- Does it talk empathically about a problem my customers experience?
These questions are a strong foundation for staying focused on your customer’s interests.
Commandment 4: Spell it Out
You know what you do in your business right?
You know that customers get excellent service, a first-class experience and leave happy?
That’s excellent, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of assuming your customer knows what you know.
You have to spell it out in an easy-to-understand.
Sometimes you have to be so explicit about what you do (no, not like that) it might feel like you’re going to insult your prospects.
But do I really have to tell them that when I make a custom banjo, customers know we’ll get together and talk about what they want and have a consultation? Surely they’re going to know that?!
Yes you do have to do that, and no they won’t necessarily know that.
Let me put it this way…
Imagine someone is searching for the kind of thing you offer.
They’re thinking about hiring you. Your site looks pretty good, your testimonials are strong and from reading your blog they think there would be a fit of personality.
But there are still some questions.
They want to know if they need to be local to work with you, they want to know if you can do a bespoke package, they want to know if you’ll visit their company and do in person training.
They can’t find the answers quickly, but do find another site offering a similar service, and the business owner has addressed all of those concerns in plain, simple terms.
If you’re lucky, they persevere with you because they really want to work with you. Most people however haven’t got the time to wait for an email and they’re off working with your competitor.
Make sure you answer your customer’s questions or at least let them know how they can find the answers.
Commandment 5: Lots and Lots of Proof
Overwhelming proof distinguishes strong copywriting from hype.
It’s your job to make sure customers believe beyond ANY doubt that what you’re promising you can do in your business can be done.
Let’s say you offer web design and you promise to create a design that suits your customers needs.
How do you prove this in your copywriting?
One way could be to explain how you work. Give your customer a peek behind the scenes and tell them how exactly you deliver a tailored service. Explain how long you spend in consultation with them, the questionnaires you use to identify their needs, the in-depth analysis of their current design and how you will communicate throughout the project to make sure each stage is aligned with their vision.
There are other ways of building proof for your product or service including:
- Photos of results
- Testimonials of happy customers
- Case studies of previous projects
- Independent studies showing the results of your product
This is an essential rule. If your customer doesn’t believe your copy, no fancy phrase or technique will make them buy.
Commandment 6: Benefits Baby (But Don’t Forget the Features)
“Sell the benefits, not the features” is something you’ll read and hear a lot in relation to copywriting.
Unfortunately, it’s not always explained very well, and sometimes it doesn’t even make sense.
That’s because most of the explanations miss out the vital step of “results” (this step makes it easier to outline your benefits)
- A feature of your product or service is something that it has or does
- A result is something caused directly by the feature
- A benefit is the driving reason why your customer is interested in buying your product
An example I’ve heard used a lot of times is “don’t sell the drill, sell the hole.”
It’s actually, not that great advice.
The suggestion in the above phrase is that the “hole” is the benefit.
Who wants their house filled with holes in the walls?
The hole is the result.
It’s a means to achieving the benefits which may be:
- The ability to put shelves up easily
- The ability to save money on hiring a labourer because DIY is easy
- A spouse who no longer asks you to put shelves up
The feature of a drill is that it has the power to spin a bit around at high speed sand bore through different types of wood.
The result is that you can make holes in your walls.
The benefit is that you can decorate your house with ease and less swearing because your tool makes the process effortless.
Try it with some of the features in your biz and see if those benefits start flowing.
Commandment 7: Overcome Objections
Objections are little areas of resistance, doubt or hesitation when it comes to buying your product.
Left unaddressed your customer might still buy, or they might go to your competitor who spends more times soothing their concerns.
Objections don’t need to be complicated.
Simply think of objections as unanswered questions. Once you have the questions you can then start to weave the answers in your copy.
For example, a customer is thinking of signing up to your web design course. What questions might they have which, if left unanswered may cause them to look elsewhere?
- Is it going to be at the right level for me?
- Am I going to get proper instruction from someone who is qualified?
- Will I get value for money?
- Will I be able to have all my questions answered?
- Will I get materials to take home with me so I don’t have to worry about taking notes during the class?
Can you see how most of these questions aren’t really complicated?
Best of all, they’re easy to answer!
A lot of businesses make the mistake of taking for granted that their customers will know the answer.
Brainstorm as many objections / questions as you can think of and then set about answering them.
Commandment 8: Connect Emotionally
If you rouse someone’s emotions you are more likely to make an impact than if you simply give out the facts.
Humans make all decisions, even big ones, based on emotions first and logic later.
Let’s have a look at the example above of the drill.
Notice how the benefits of the product can easily be translated into things which will make your customer feel better.
Making DIY easy means less stress, it can be done in less time so the customer can spend more time enjoying their newly decorated room. They may even feel proud when others come round and comment on a professional looking job. If they’re interested in what their neighbours think, that result will make them feel good.
If those things are important to your audience, your sales copy would focus on those elements. Then provide all the features so that your customer can then justify to themselves that your drill is the right choice for them.
Different customers will respond to different emotions but you’ll understand that better when you study rule number 1 (which is why you never skip rule number 1).
Commandment 9: You Need a Call to Action
As per the 3 critical elements of copywriting, you need a goal and to achieve your goal you need your reader to take action.
Never assume your reader knows what they should be doing next.
Be specific as possible and where possible, remind them of the benefits of taking that call to action. For example:
To tone up in 15 minutes a day, click here to claim your free report on office-desk yoga…
To get your free web design audit call 1-800 xxx and we’ll give you 5 key actions you can do straight away to improve conversions…
Make sure all your hard copywriting work doesn’t go to waste at the last stretch with a weak or vague call to action.
Commandment 10: Make Them Want to Take Action NOW
When it comes to marketing your business you want the fastest possible results you can get, which is why copywriting focuses on urgency (even if it’s done subtly or under the radar at times).
It’s about nudging your prospect closer to becoming a customer.
Even if the action is small and requires little investment of time or money on their part, you really don’t want people to be spending any longer on the decision than they need to.
Is urgency used to push people into a decision they don’t want to make?
For legitimate businesses, this is not the case.
Human actively don’t like to make decisions. We love putting them off (can you relate?) It’s why deadlines are so important because if there were no deadlines, very little would get done in the world I’m sure.
The reason copywriting instills a sense of urgency is to sharpen your customer’s focus and to have them asking the question, is this really for me?
Urgency can be achieved in many ways.
There may be a deadline for specific promotion, there may be a special offer, or you may just emphasise expedited services the sooner they get in touch for example:
“Call today and we can set you up with your new software by the end of next week.”
So there you go, book mark this page, share it with someone else, but most importantly, don’t forget these rules!