Copywriting is one of the most important elements of your marketing. Without strong text that compels people to take action, you are sunk.
Not everyone has formal training in how to write sizzling copy that sells and not everyone can afford to hire a professional to produce the sizzle they need.
This outline is designed to help those that want to tackle their own copywriting and need some help along the way.
Work your way through this outline to help you identify the key points and craft some copy that gets people clamoring to buy your product or service.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR PRODUCT’S BENEFITS:
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 1:
Who will my product help?
What will my product do for customers?
Where does my product help customers? (saves time in kitchen, grows business etc)
When will it help? What other time factors are involved?
Why should they care about my product or service?
How will it impact their lives?
How is my product better that the competition?
Tip: List features and break them down into the benefits.
How does my product make customers lives easier or better?
What descriptive words help explain my product?
What emotional triggers affect customers who are considering my product? (determine how each benefit relates to consumers emotions)
- Great copy makes people think they not only want your product, they need it.
- Think like the customer. What would you look for in product/service?
- Examples of emotional triggers:
- Fear (ex: Don’t get left behind)
- Competition (ex: Be the envy of your neighbors)
- Desire to be a leader (ex: Everyone in your neighborhood will want to try YOUR new gas grill)
- Desire to be trendy or cool (ex: Now you too can get the hottest car in Hollywood)
- Need for instant gratification (ex: Drive home TODAY in your new car)
- Desire for more free time (ex: Now you can wash your car in half the time)
- Feelings of guilt (ex: For the cost of one cup of coffee per day, you could feed a hungry child for a year)
- Desire for trust (ex: You’ll get an honest estimate with no hidden charges)
- Desire to belong (ex: You’re part of the family as Mama’s Diner)
- Desire to get a good deal and sufficient value in return for money spent (ex: If you find a better price for the same product, we’ll match it)
STEP 2: EXPLOIT YOUR COMPETITION’S WEAKNESSES
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 2:
Who is my competition?
How are competitors’ products inferior to mine?
What are the benefits to choosing my competitors and how can I counter those benefits?
How can I quantify my differentiators?
Can I obtain customer testimonials or expert opinions?
What are my weaknesses and how can I turn them into positives or strengths?
- Examples of differentiators: Selection, Price, Hours, Customer Service, Delivery hours and rates, Parking, Location, Number of employees, Freebies.
- Use expert opinions to substantiate your claims.
- Attack the negatives – if there are known negatives, don’t hide from them – find a way to turn them into the positive or at least acknowledge them.
STEP 3: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 3:
Who should buy my product or who is likely to want or need it?
What messages will appeal most to the audience who will see my ad?
-Build a demographic profile by noting: Gender, Age, Ethnicity, Family Status, Income, Occupation, Interests.
- What characteristics do your customers share that you can use to specifically target them?
- May need to segment different users of products into groups based on their needs or how they use the product/service (ex: housecleaning service could appeal to elderly who can’t do it, busy/working moms who need help, single men who don’t have the time/knowledge etc)
- Consider new segments that could be introduced to product/service.
- Understanding audience can make or break writing. Use words/phrases that speak to their specific desires, needs and emotional triggers.
- Know the “Four Rights Of Advertising”: Right Message to the Right Audience at Right Time in the Right Place.
STEP 4: COMMUNICATE W.I.I.F.M. (WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?)
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 4:
How can I elaborate on my product benefits and differentiators to tell customers specifically how the product will affect their lives in a positive manner?
How can I make my copy meaningful to customers so they can personalize it?
- They need to instantly know how the product/service will help them: save time/money, feel better, make their lives easier etc.
- Don’t make them guess, clearly tell them in headline to grab attention what they will get if they buy product/service.
- Example of conveying strong W.I.I.F.M. “Our frying pan has an innovative nonstick coating” – this talks about a feature and not what it’s in it for them. Instead use “You’ll never have to scrub a frying pan again”
STEP 5: FOCUS ON “YOU” NOT “WE”
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 5:
How can I word my products benefits and differentiators do they talk to the customer and not about me?
Why would they not buy my product? What are the reasons to counter the objections?
Is my copy interactive?
- Check your copy after you’ve written the first draft: Have I used “you” more than “we” in my copy?
- Make sure every word adds value to the message.
- Copy should speak more about customers and less about you.
- Speak to target audience and not at them.
- Majority of copy should be written in Second Person. (ex: “Through our first rate sales department we can deliver cars within 24 hours” = not good, instead use “You can drive your new car tomorrow”) – 80% of pronouns should be second person (“you”) and 20% should be first person (“we”).
- Ask questions and make copy interactive. Invite people to participate in copy.
STEP 6: AVOID T.M.I. (TOO MUCH INFORMATION)
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 7:
What information is important to me but not helpful in an ad or on webpage copy? (but may be useful in a news article or brochure in the future)
How can I keep my copy from being cluttered?
Have I deleted filler words?
How I eliminated “$10 words” and jargon?
Have I deleted extraneous information?
If I were a customer, what info would I absolutely have to see in order to buy?
- Don’t risk losing interest by providing too much information.
- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)
- White space is good.
- Avoid filler words like: very, really, that.
- Don’t use $10 words when $1 words will be more clear and strong.
- Hook with headline, tease with subhead, deliver key selling points and call to action with sense of urgency.
- Be action oriented, concise, to the point and clear.
- Red Pen Rule: once you have written final copy and feel it’s compelling and tight, get your red pen and delete at least 30% of it.
STEP 7: INCLUDE A CALL TO ACTION
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 8:
What is my call to action?
What do I want my customers to do as soon as they read my copy?
How can I create a sense of urgency?
Is my copy written in the active voice?
- Essential to make it easy for prospects to act.
- Drive to action now, don’t make them think about acting now.
- Use an active, not passive voice.
- Don’t suggest action, demand it.
- Sample words: Act Now, Don’t Delay, Hurry In, Call Today, For A Limited Time, Don’t Miss It, While Supplies Last, Call Now, This Weekend Only, Don’t Wait Any Longer, One-time Offer, Get Yours Today.
- Ex: Younger Looking Skin In A Week? Why Wait? How About In An Instant? (from CoverGirl)
STEP 8: C.Y.A. (COVER YOUR ASS)
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 9:
What are some phrases I need to remember to include in my copy to protect myself?
Is there anything else I need to remember to back up my claims?
Can I deliver on the promises and claims I made in my copy?
- It is essential to deliver on all promises in copy.
- Be prepared to back up claims.
- When possible provide proof and testimonials.
STEP 9: PROOFREAD
Questions to ask yourself as you develop Step 10:
Who can proofread my copy for me?
What tools are available to help me proofread my copy?
- It’s OK to break grammar rules to be conversational.
ADDITIONAL COPYWRITING NOTES:
- Every word and phrase should help move people to action.
- Four Actions Of Effective Copy: Drive your customers to act through your copy, Motivate your customers to act through your copy, Compel your customers to act through your copy, Persuade your customers to act through your copy.
- Elements of copy: Headline, Subhead, Key selling points, Special offer, Call to action, Tracking mechanism, Additional info, disclaimers
- Appeal to 5 senses (touch, taste, see, hear, smell) – create experiences for them using the 5 senses.
- Use descriptive words but don’t oversell or sacrifice integrity of copy.
- Fear of loss and desire to save money are the greatest motivators.
- Most people don’t read brochures cover to cover, so treat each page like a new ad with headlines, callouts, pull quotes etc. Keep hooking and reeling in over and over.
- Use design to create visual cues for readers to follow copy.
- Be persuasive, don’t just list benefits. Make sure customers believe they can’t live without product/service.
- Don’t be modest or subtle.