Punch Up Your Content Marketing with These Copy Writing Tips
Are you struggle with your marketing copy? Copy if half of every social post. And while we love the art of design (we are biased, after all), we can't underestimate the craft that is copywriting. Good copywriting can be the difference between a public announcement and a pubic announcement. 😬
And while we can't fix typos. We can give some advice on breaking writers block. On writer's block, the marketing genius Seth Godin once wrote:
"I write like I talk and I don't get talker's block." — Seth Godin
Lucky for you, dear reader, I DO get talkers block, which makes me the ideal person to write about writer's block. So here are my top suggestions for coming up with copy to supplement your designs.
Show, Don't Tell
This is one of my favorite writing tips. Years ago, I was lucky enough to be selected for a fiction-writing course. My professor was adamant that we show, not tell the reader what was happening. Here's an example:
Telling: I struggled to earn an A in Professor Coake's writing class.
Showing: Each night I stayed up for hours staring into a Microsoft Word document until prose appeared, to my surprise, by my own hands. I delivered my assignments every Friday with extra room for proof marks, expecting the worse. The following Monday I received my grade–a C.
Show Don't Tell is a great writing practice for long-form writing, like case studies and blogs, but not so much for ad copy. So in marketing, we have a similar tip: sell the sizzle, not the steak. It's a way of describing the product's effect on your consumer rather than the product's features. So ask yourself, does this copy describe the product's features or the benefits of those features?
Stephen King famously wrote, "I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.." That's because a strong verb is always better than an adverb.
You might write: Dick quickly ran and Jane slowly walked.
The reader is going to visualize someone running and someone walking.
Instead, write: Dick sprinted and Jane trudged.
Now the reader has a better visualization beyond running and walking.
Adverbs clutter your writing. If you find yourself using too many adverbs try the next tip.
Short, Clear Sentences
Ernest Hemingway would have been a successful ad writer. Hemingway wrote short, clear sentences to illustrate a scene or feeling. He avoided jargon, and his paragraphs were equally short. This is an excellent style for email copy.
Rewriting is a great way to keep your copy short. Next time you draft an email, rewrite the email and make it half as long. Then do it again. You find ways to cut out adverbs, improve clarity, and cut the fluff.
Remember, a consumer's attention span is short. Keep your sentences and paragraphs equally short.
Use a formula
In marketing, we love a good formula to standardize our content. Here are a few great formulas to write common marketing headlines.
[What you do] + [what makes you unique] + [Geographic reach]
Ex. An interior design firm specializing in the Maximalism design style serving the Bay Area.
Promise to your consumer
[End result the customer wants] + [Specific period of time] + [Address objections]
Ex. We'll find your dream home in less than 30 days, or we'll take 20% percent off our commission fees.
[What something is] + [What something does]
An annual plumbing subscription for rental agencies that promises 24/7 access to our fleet of plumbers 365 days a year.
Among [target market], [x] is the brand of [frame of reference], that [point of difference] because [reason to believe].
Ex. Among rock climbers, Climbing Turtle is the brand of climbing harnesses that offer the most protection because each harness is reinforced with Dyneema® fabric.
Jargon doesn't belong in your copy. The great ad writer, David Ogilvy had this to say about the use of jargon, "Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are the hallmark of a pretentious ass."
Ask yourself, will the average consumer know what this word means?
The exception to this rule is the consumer. If you're selling legal firm management software, you might sprinkle in some legal jargon. If you're selling particle accelerators, you might use some physics jargon, or whatever it is that particle accelerator operators use to talk about their work.
Don't Bury the Lede
In journalism, the lede is the who, what, where, when, and why, condensed into a single sentence. It's the most important single sentence of any story. As a reader, you want to see the lede in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence.
Some writers will bury a lede to get you to scroll further down the page. This is especially true for publications that rely on ad views for revenue.
In marketing, this should be more of a philosophy than a rule. If you're writing a white paper, you may need to set the scene before presenting your argument. But if you're writing a blog post and your headline promises an answer to a common question–make sure you give the reader the information they're looking for in the first paragraph. Likewise, if you're writing a social post, you might ask the reader to "Click here to learn more." Make sure the lede is evident on your landing page.
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