Copy Writing: The Art of Plain Talk

One of the Greatest Skills a Business Owner can Have…

One of the greatest and most profitable skills that any business owner can acquire, is the skill of copy writing. Copy writing is, in its most basic form, writing that is clear, concise, and prompts its readers to action.

Being able to effectively communicate is at the core of Sales, Marketing, and even product and service delivery. And the style that most of us learned in school – the essay style: following MLA format, with perfect punctuation – doesn’t guarantee clear communication at all.

In fact, it can be a hindrance.

The Art of Copy Writing

Copy writing is seldom taught in school. It is less concerned with the rules of grammar and much much more concerned with readability.

In fact, copy writing is the art of writing for the sake of readability, while also skillfully navigating (and at times breaking) the rules of the English language.

Copy writing is the pinnacle of written communication.

The best copy writing requires  the:

  • Language of literature
  • Creativity of fiction
  • Composition of poetry
  • Explanations and evidence of academia
  • Persuasion of essays

Each of these elements play an indispensable role in good copy writing. But how do we write good copy? How do you write a good landing page? An engaging email? A captivating blog post?

There are Two Types of Copy Writing…

The first is Direct Response, in which your purpose is to convince the reader to take immediate action that leads to them becoming a customer.

Examples of Direct Response include:

  • Landing Pages
  • Ads (Digital and Print)
  • Mailers
  • Cold Calling Scripts

The second type is Content Writing. Your goal is simply to attract the right kind of audience that might some day become a customer.

Examples of content writing include:

  • Blog Posts
  • Articles
  • White Papers
  • eBooks
  • Web Pages
  • Emails

When you, as a business owner, sit down to write, the first step is to determine which type of writing you are going to do. Before looking at each type in turn, there is one principle that you must understand:

People buy for emotional, not rational reasons. However, once sold, people need to satisfy their emotional decision with logic.

Direct Response Copy Writing

If you’re doing direct response, you need to remember that a large part of your message is going to be about convincing your ideal customers that your service or product can help them.

I’m going  to give you the sections I recommend in a landing page, but if you’re writing a short ad or flyer, these principles can be used there to.

  • Section 1: Benefit – Explain what benefits the reader will derive from your product or service. Do so in a way that prods at the pain they’re feeling without your solution.
  • Section 2: Impact – Describe how the customer’s life or business will be impacted. You should dig deep to evoke your reader’s emotions and create demand for the relief you’re promising.
  • Section 3: Evidence – Now that your reader has been sold, emotionally, you need to satisfy their logic. Every single claim you make should be backed up with evidence. That could be statistics, case studies, expert citations, etc. And when you provide that evidence, be sure to also include links to your sources.
  • Section 4: Ask for the Sale – Once you’ve sold the reader emotionally, and satisfied their logic, you need to ask for the sale. Do this by telling them what to do. Tell them, in detail, how to complete an order, where to put their email, what button to press, or which number to call.

Writing Content

About a month ago, we talked about how to create content that Google loves. Now we’re going to talk about how to format that content in such a way that it resonates with your readers.

For writing Content, I’m going to provide a basic outline for a blog post. However, just like Direct Response, this outline can be adapted to other formats as well. However, since content writing is such a big part of entrepreneurship, I’m going to go into a little bit more detail.

Write a Killer Headline

The most important element of good content, is a killer headline. In his book “Ogilvy on Advertising“, David Ogilvy says that five-times more people read the headline verses the body of an article – and this applies to all content.

The best type of headline is one that gets the readers’ attention and promises a benefit. However, this is easier said than done. Especially for you, the modern writer, who may be writing for the web. In which case, you also need to consider keywords and SEO.

One way of coming up with amazing headlines is to:

  1. Create a list of 5 headline formats (e.x. “How to…”, “The 5 Secrets of…”, etc.)
  2. For each format, brainstorm 5 possible headlines
  3. Choose your top 2-3 headlines
  4. Polish them up and choose your final headline

Some inspirations for headlines can include:

  • Recent news
  • Shocking facts or statistics
  • Quotes
  • An incomplete sentence (e.x. “One of the greatest skills a business owner can have…”)

Write a Simple Introduction

Your introduction needs to do two things:

  1. Introduce your topic
  2. Explain why it matters

Now this doesn’t have to be long. A few sentences for a blog post, 1 or 2 paragraphs for a white paper, the first page of an eBook, etc.

Write “Scan-able” Content for the Body

There are a few different purposes that the body of your content can serve.

  • Entertain
  • Education
  • Convince
  • Etc

Whatever the purpose, your goal in formatting and composition is to make sure the text is scan-able.

The fact is that the vast majority of your readers will not read every word. They will scan through your content looking for anything that stands out to them. You can write in way to assist the reader in scanning, and help them find the most important details.

Here are some guidelines to help you do that:

  1. Short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs
  2. Headings and sub-headings to break up your text into easily-digestible sections
  3. Lists and bullet points to get your point across in a way that is clear and succinct

It’s also important to remember that if you want to be convincing, you need to provide evidence, just as in Direct Response.

Write Your Conclusion

Just like the Introduction, your conclusion doesn’t need to be very long. For blog posts it can be a single paragraph, for white papers it could be a short concluding chapter, and for eBooks it’s often the last page.

You concluding paragraph should do 4 things:

  1. Summarize the main points that you’ve made in the piece
  2. Remind your readers why it matters
  3. Tell your reader how to apply the information you’ve given
  4. Tell the reader what to do next – how they can continue to get value from you (e.x. subscribe to your newsletter)

Good Copy Writing Can Change Your Business

As you apply the lessons of good copy writing, you will be able to communicate more clearly and more effectively with your audience.

You will be able to showcase your Unique Sales Proposition, and increase sales – whether your using Direct Response or Content copy writing.

And even aside from that – you can use these principles in your documentation, when training new employees, when emailing a business partner, when doing customer service, etc.