When I talk to people about copywriting, it always surprises me. Not that some people think I work in copyright law (I’m very used to that mix up), but that a lot of people don’t consider it as a skill that requires a lot of learning to do well.
In some cases, they’re right. If you have a natural inclination towards writing, you don’t have to go through training to do it professionally. But you should. Because copywriting is about much more than making words sound good on a page. It’s about understanding how the human mind works – how to get into the head of a reader and convince them to take the action you want them to – to buy, to call, to vote.
So with that in mind, I wanted to share some of my favourite copywriting tips with you.
Use The Active Voice
If you write in WordPress a lot, you might be used to seeing the sad face icon in Yoast pop up in your copy, labelling something as ‘wrong’. When you hover over it, it will then tell you you’ve used the passive voice, and suggest you use the active voice instead. The difference between the two in technical terms is small at best, but the effect can be very different. Let’s look at an example phrase:
The passive voice would be: “Some useful copywriting tips will be discussed in today’s presentation.”
Whereas the active voice would be: “This presentation discusses some useful tips to improve your copywriting”
Do you see the difference? Just by flipping from the passive to the active, you are creating copy that feels more alive, more real, and more… well, active! This in turn means you are more likely to inspire emotion and action in your reader and it makes your content more meaningful. If you’re not sure if you’re writing in the passive or active voice, try pasting it into the Hemmingway Editor online, and it will highlight all uses of the passive voice for you.
Repeat Your Core Message, But In Different Ways
You’ve probably heard the idea that you need to make contact with a prospect multiple times before they will be ready to buy from you. The same goes for your content. Instead of just saying your core message once, you should be repeating it multiple times within your copy. But mix it up a little – as you don’t want to come across as repetitive. For example, you might say ‘I’ll help you get found on Google’ is your core message, with ‘I’ll help improve your search rankings’, and ‘I can help your customers find you on Google’ woven in there as well. Psychologically it takes a few repetitions for the message to really sink into your reader’s heads. If you’re struggling to think of a way to achieve that, try this formula:
Tell the audience what you’re going to say.
Tell them what you said.
It’s kind of like writing an essay in school – explain the points briefly in the intro, write the main message, and then summarise it in a conclusion. This way you have more of a chance of your core message being read and remembered.
Use Metaphors To Make Your Point
Take a minute and think for me. How often do you see on websites words like quality, powerful or reliable? Really they’re all words that everyone uses so much now that they have almost become meaningless. Honestly, who’s going to say that their product is not quality or reliable? So rather than rely on these overused words, try using metaphor instead. So, if you want to talk about a super soft pillow, you say it’s like laying your head on a cloud. No one’s laid their head on a cloud, but you’re painting an image in people’s minds. Just be careful not to go overboard, or it might get silly. But when done properly. Using metaphor in your copy can evoke a lot of different emotions, and inspire confidence in your products. Don’t be afraid of metaphor – be bold. Tell customers your solutions have Zeus-like power, or the strength of a lion, instead of saying your solutions are innovative, powerful or high-quality.
Make Concrete Claims
This tip flows nicely from the one before, as it’s important to be able to back up any claims you make in your copy – both generic and bold ones. Those same phrases like affordable, reliable, and quality still don’t mean a lot, which means when you say ‘we’ll respond to you fast’ or ‘our customers love us’, you’re likely to get a lukewarm response. But if you say ‘we’ll respond within 23 hours’ or ‘our customers love us – or at least the 572 who left Google reviews do!’, people will be more likely to believe you. Use concrete claims to back up when you’re saying, and be specific where you can. This will encourage people to actually believe what you’re saying, instead of filing away in ‘heard it all before’.
This is one of my favourite points and frankly, it’s underused in a lot of copywriting because it toes the line of being ‘bad grammar’ (see my last blog for my opinion on that!). But the word because is very powerful, mainly because it gives a chance for you to justify yourself and your claims.
Let’s look at some data. In 1978, a group of scientists did a study to illustrate the effect of justifying things by using the phrase ‘because’. In the study they had a group of people lined up to use a photocopier, and 3 planted people who were going to try and cut in. Plant 1 says “Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the photocopier first because I’m in a rush?”. Plant 2 says “Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the photocopier first?”. And Plant 3 says “Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the photocopier first because I have to make copies. So you’ve got one person in a rush, one person with no ‘because’, and one person who needs to make copies. Which is what photocopiers do, you know?
But here’s the thing. 94% of people agreed to let Plant 1 who was ‘in a rush’ to go ahead of them. 93% of people agreed to let Plant 3, who had a fluff reason of ‘making copies’, to go ahead of them. But only 60% of people agreed to let Plant 2, who gave no reason, go ahead. It just goes to show that even the flimsiest justifications will get a result. In your copy, this means using ‘because’ to tie in a reason, a secondary point or advantage to justify why the reader should do something.
I know all of this might seem like a lot – and it is. It’s not easy to get into the head of a customer and really understand what makes them tick, and then to use that to influence their actions. But with the right copywriter, you don’t have to worry about that. And I reckon I am one such copywriter. So if you like what you see and want to be able to use it in your own business, give me a call.