Writing Tips

17 Tips for Compelling Copywriting

1. Research your competition:  Comparison shop online as if you were the customer. Examine your competitor’s benefits, strengths and weaknesses. What benefits have they listed, that you accidentally left out or haven’t considered? How can you make your own benefit statements stronger and more specific than your competitor’s claims? Analyze their keywords, back links, page ranking, social media promotional strategies for insights into improving your own marketing campaigns. Read your competitor’s customer reviews. Negative reviews of their product or service may suggest an area where you can emphasize your company’s strengths.

  2. Know your audience and make it clear you are talking to them: Are your customers primarily men? Women? What age? What income level? What are their interests? Where do they live? It’s very difficult to target a massive, general audience. Do your research to find the group most interested in what you offer, and then craft your marketing message to appeal specifically to them.

3. Grab attention with compelling titles and headings to make people stop and focus on you: It’s hard to be heard over the thunder of a million marketing voices, so your headlines needs to be the equivalent of yelling “Fire!” in a crowd. Here are six ways to create attention-grabbing headlines: Provide the promise of a solution, arouse curiosity, warn of danger, deliver unexpected news, stir controversy or negate a common believe. (And of course, integrate your keywords into your titles and headings.)

4. Be specific. Avoid buzzwords and generalities: To entice readers to stick to your page, you’ve got to give them something juicy to chew on. Be very clear on what your company is selling. Don’t just say you’ve got an Italian restaurant in Beaverton, say your restaurant is an inexpensive, fun night out for families — and that you serve the best minestrone soup and garlic bread this side of Italy.

5. Know your customer’s pain points: Go for the feelings. What is your audience most afraid of? What’s troubling them? What’s their ultimate desired outcome? By going for the feeling, it’s easier for your audience to connect with you and see themselves in your message. If you’re selling an asthma medicine, paint a picture of how an asthma sufferer ultimately hopes to feel. Don’t just say this medicine will open the lungs and promote easier breathing… instead, use words and images that portray a laughing couple running up a hillside together!

6. Talk benefits, not features: Most customers don’t get excited over the latest flat screen television technology, but they do get excited over eye-popping color that’ll make their Avatar DVDs look outrageous. Every feature can be translated into a personal benefit, whether you’re talking about airbags, dual core processors or coffee beans. Whenever you’re writing a marketing message, ask yourself, “Is this a feature or a benefit?” If it’s a feature, translate it into a benefit.

   7. Surprise your readers with unexpected words, ideas and images: No matter what business you’re promoting and who your audience is, there’s a way to make your marketing message deliver the unexpected. Also, people learn best when they’re entertained and laughing. Just be sure that your marketing message is cleverly tied to your humor. Many times marketers get so swept up in their originality, they forget the bottom line of what they want their audience to remember.

8. Don’t talk about your company, talk about your customers: People aren’t interested in your company’s goals or how many distribution centers you have. They want to know what you’re offering them. Businesses that emphasize themselves in their marketing messages are a lot like dull party guests who would rather talk about their net worth and their last trip to China, than to find out about you and your interests. It’s hard to establish a meaningful connection to a self-centered person (or business), so you find yourself searching for an excuse to walk away. (I think I heard someone else yell, “Fire!”) In the online world it’s much easier to get away, all you need to do is yawn and click.

9. Provide colorful case studies: Customers are interested in hearing about other people’s outcomes. That’s why people can’t tear themselves away from infomercials, and often find themselves buying hair products — as much as they try not to. Human interest stories are compelling. They give hope. Oddly enough, people also enjoy negative case studies where a person fails, but then learns a valuable lesson that makes them stronger.  This is a common plot in movies, but it can also be applied to marketing writing.

10. Write “You” Copy: Use customer-focused language. Talk about your audience’s circumstances and their needs and desires. Write in a natural, conversational style, as you would if you were talking with them in person. To check your level of online customer focus, enter your website in Futurenow’s “WeWe Monitor” to determine how customer-centered your marketing messages are.  (Notice – there are nine usages of “you/yours” in this bullet point, including the two in this statement.)

11. Use numbers lists of benefits: Many people find titles such as “20 Laugh Out Loud Videos” irresistible. Organized lists of information provide instant gratification, which encourages your audience to commit to reading it. Bulleted lists are also faster to skim, easier to comprehend, and often shared with others through social media.

12. Make information easy to remember using stories, analogies and visuals. People naturally connect to stories. They want to know what happens next — so they keep reading — and if it’s a good story, they’ll share it with others. Analogies and visuals make information easier to understand and imagine. Which of the following do you think is easier to remember: “The Eiffel Tower is 1063 feet high” or “The Eiffel Tower is as tall as three football field lengths”? That’s the power of analogies and visuals.

13. Engage readers with polls, open-ended questions and surveys: Readers come alive when they can interact with you, which also helps your SEO efforts. When they are allowed to participate, they feel a sense of ownership — and they are more likely to come back and read more. In addition, featuring survey results from reputable outside groups, such as scientific studies from Harvard, subtly affiliates you with them, giving your message increased credibility.

14. Get clear on what you want your audience to remember: Keep it simple. When working with clients, ask them for a maximum of three key thoughts that they want their audience to walk away remembering. For example: “We offer the largest selection, so you’re sure to find what you want.” “We’ve got the most informed staff to help you find the best product for your needs.” And, “We always have a full line of products in stock, so you’ll always find what your looking for.” If you can boil down your message to three key ideas, it’s easier to design your marketing campaign and help your customers quickly grasp what you offer.

15. Make your copy easy to read: You want your copy to almost absorb into a reader’s eyes, so they can’t help but get your message. The best way to accomplish this is to use small blocks of information, headings, subheadings, bolded text, images, color, indents, bulletted lists and readily readable font sizes and styles. With the right combination, your information will jump off the page into the unsuspecting reader’s eyes, whether they wanted to read it or not!

16. Read your copy aloud to make sure it flows well: It’s easy to not do this because you’ve got time limitations, or because it just seems unnecessary. But, if you take a moment to read your message out loud, any clunky phrases, unnecessary or repetitive words, or awkward grammar will leap off the page. Ultimately, your message should sound easy and lively to read — and you should feel proud to read it. That’s when you know you’ve got it right.

17. End with a simple, clear call to action: When writing your message, be clear on exactly what you want your audience to feel and do after they’ve read it — and what benefit they’ll get for following through. It often helps to include some sort of limitation, such as an expiration date to encourage the reader to act quickly and not put it off until later… when they’ll be less motivated. When creating website copy, also make sure your offer is easy to see from wherever a reader is on your page. You may want to have your call to action, such as a newsletter subscription box or “order now” button, in multiple places so the reader can easily find it and take the next step to connect with you.

– Article by Joan Gale Frank