Copywriting: Speak the Language, Then Sell

Advertising Writing

You’re a new copywriter. You’ve been hired, and you’re eager to get started.

You open a new document in your word processor, and stare at the computer screen, hoping for inspiration…

After a few moments, the cursor’s still blinking, and you’re wondering where you’ll go for lunch. Maybe the new cafe on the corner…

You pull yourself away from thoughts of sandwich fillings.

“Headline,”, you think. “I need a headline.”

You click your way through the folder listings on your computer, looking for your trusty swipe file. You’ll find some inspiration for your headline there, you’re sure of it.

STOP. Please.

You’re going the wrong way.

You may well find inspiration for a headline in your swipe file, but you don’t need that yet. You need to understand your product, and its audience, first. Then you need to get on your audience’s wavelength, and ensure that you’re speaking their language.

I became a writer because I love reading; a copywriter because I enjoy exploring human behavior and language.

Copywriters sell, using words. Even if you’re writing a script, it all comes down to words. To craft words which sell to an audience, you need to understand your audience: their hopes, challenges, and frustrations.

Research first, write later

Depending on the product, researching can be fun, or challenging. Start by asking your client to send you some representative marketing materials, as well as customer comments and questions. If you’re very lucky, and the product is popular, you can do some research on the Web.

Occasionally, research can be very challenging. For example, perhaps the product is completely new. No marketing materials, no customers, nothing at all.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to be creative. The product has competitors, and fits into a market niche. (If it doesn’t, the product has real problems, marketing collateral being the least of them.)

I’ve had a few copywriting jobs which needed lots of creative thinking. One job required me to write a brochure for a new pet food company; I couldn’t interview anyone from the company, and this was before the Web, so I had to be very creative indeed. I held my breath off and on for three days until the client signed off on the copy.

Depending on the job, you may spend a week or two researching, before you think about writing. Usually, you’ll come up with some wonderful ideas for copy while you’re researching. You’ll get what I call “the click” — everything will fall into place, and you’re inspired.

Sometimes inspiration won’t come, and you’ll find yourself where you started out, staring at your blank document, and the blinking cursor. You’re now primed with research however, and it won’t be more than a minute or two before your fingers start flying across the keyboard.

I love copywriting; it’s a wonderful career. Your success rests on your research, and speaking the language of your audience.

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Do You Need a Copywriter? Not For the Basics

Not that I’m trying to do myself out of a job, but you don’t need a copywriter for basic advertising.

Think about the pain your products solve, and you’re good to go.

As I said in this blog post,Copywriting – Write Ads That Get Customers and Cash Fast | Angela Booth’s Creativity Factory:

Got Benefits? Now You Can Use Headline, Pain, Solution, Action

Your ad’s headline does two things: it stops your customer in his tracks, and classifies him. When he stops and reads ‘Dog Arthritis? Your Faithful Friend Rests Easy On Our Dog Beds’, the customer will keep reading if he’s your target audience.”

Headlines Rule, But…

Headline

Broken a Reader’s Trust in Your Headline? You’re Dead

Beck in the heyday of newspaper publishing, misleading headlines were common, especially in the tabloid press. Anything to sell papers.

Yes, readers were annoyed, but misleading headlines were so common they got used to it.

You’ll still find the occasional misleading headline in even the most reputable of newspapers.

If you decide to indulge in the practice online however, it will kill your business.

Trust is paramount online.

Never break a trust online. It’s death to your business.

If you’re wondering what set me off on this line of thinking, here’s the reason. Yesterday I wrote this blog post about ebook titles.

I said:

The title sells your ebook. It’s what catches attention. In copywriting terms, it’s the HEADLINE. If your customers ignore your title, they won’t read anything else. They certainly won’t buy.

Unfortunately, the temptation to get traffic with an attention-grabbing headline, no matter how misleading, is irresistible to some folk.

Titles are headlines. In a headline, you make a promise. You must keep the promise in the ebook, or whatever it is that you’re selling. Some ebooks I’ve come across blatantly break their promise to the reader.

If you want a successful business online, never, ever mislead.

Occasionally you’ll find that even with the best of intentions, you’ve managed to mislead a portion of your audience. You weren’t sufficiently clear in a headline.

Redo the headline.

Never knowingly mislead.

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Apple’s Wonderful Copywriters: iPad Smart Cover

Apple's copywriters

Apple has wonderful copywriters. Check out the headline above: Apple Smart Cover. One great idea on top of another.

I could weep with sheer envy…

But wait, there’s more Apple — Smart Cover — Cover up, stand up and brighten up iPad.:

Great looks. And even better moves.

iPad is thin, sleek and flat-out amazing. So why hide it in a bulky case? The slim yet sturdy Smart Cover protects your iPad screen without covering up its durable aluminium back. So your iPad still looks and feels like an iPad — just with a little extra protection. “

Beautiful, just beautiful. The line “One great idea on top of another” resonates.

Kudos to you, Apple copywriters. That page is masterful. Totally inspirational to all copywriters everywhere.