I was in a client meeting recently when I found myself tuning out the conversation and becoming increasingly distracted. It wasn't by anything happening outside or even an odd outfit in the room, but by the typos I kept finding on a new client's current website.
My colleague was speaking on how we'd fix it and all I could do was go page-by-page, grimace-by-grimace through the website wondering why this was happening. Why hadn't anyone fixed this yet?
Despite what some experts will tell you, people do still read on the Web. Therefore, the copy on your website matters.
The copy you use in ads, in video scripts, in blog posts, and in infographics matters. Your customers are reading and hearing your words and making judgments on whether they can trust you and what kind of business you are based on the words you use.
Present the right image by writing better copy.
1. Write for Your Audience
There are many reasons why, as a business, you need to understand your audience. Doing so will help in every step of your marketing process, but most especially in writing copy.
Great content is content written to make your customers feel smart. It solves their problems, addresses their needs, and does so in a way that makes sense to them. It doesn't hawk your product or use language designed to make you look like an expert while making them feel dumb.
To write content that is targeted toward your audience you must understand:
- Who are they?
- What do they want?
- What do they need?
- What pain are they experiencing?
- How do they find solutions?
Once you know this, you can write for your audience, based on where they are in their educational process – not content that is over their head or not advanced enough for their needs.
2. Master the Opening
What's the important part of any content piece?
Well, the headline. But after the headline? It's the lead sentence.
The purpose of your lead sentence is to get someone to read the rest of what you've written. If you can hook them right then, you can pull them through the rest of the content. If you don't, you've lost them.
A good lead sentence gets the reader into the content quickly. It may be posed as:
- A personal experience
- A bold statement
- A problem that needs a solution
- An opinion
- A riddle
- An announcement
- A quotation
Whatever form it takes, it is engaging. It is compelling. And it pulls the reader into the rest of the piece.
3. Write About What's at Stake
You're writing landing page copy for a product you'll be releasing next month. Great. You write about how the product works, its features, the colors the product comes in, how it bends, how it moves, how much the product weighs, and the songs it sings when you press the blue button on its head.
This is all valuable information. But if you're telling your customer this story (the story about what your product does), you're telling them the wrong story. Instead, tell them what's at stake – the benefit they'll experience if they buy your product and, just as important, what they'll miss out on if they don't buy it.
- If you're selling a new coffee pot, it's not about how quickly this pot will brew your coffee; it's about how faster coffee means more morning time spent on your deck talking to your spouse.
- If you sell electronics, it's not about the size of the television screen; it's about how many people you can crowd around to enjoy the big game.
Use your content to show people what's at stake and what they're risking by not acting now. We all suffer from FOMO. Use it.
4. Present a Complete Story
I don't mean present a story in the sappy "show your customers who you are" way. But in the more technical "your copy needs an arc" way. Whether it's a landing page, your home page, or an animated explainer video, your content needs a recognizable structure that your customers (and your marketing team) can follow.
It should look something like this:
Scene One: We meet the protagonist. [Look at this cute puppy.]
Scene Two: We meet the problem or the situation. [The puppy is at an animal shelter.]
Scene Three: We meet what's at stake. [The puppy will die if you don't adopt it.]
Scene Four: We meet the solution. [Rescue the puppy.]
That doesn't mean your homepage needs to be a novel in length, but it should include these elements. It should identify the problem, show the benefit of taking action, showing what the correct action is, and then make it easy for the customer to act.
5. Write. Then Edit. Then Write Again.
Writing copy is a process and it can be hard. Commit to your vomit draft – or that first draft you use to spill out every idea, every phrase, every benefit point, and every idea you want to try. Write it out and let yourself keep writing it out without interruption.
When you're finished, then edit. Do not write and edit at the same time. It breaks your process, stifles your creativity, and ruins any chance you have of working up a good flow for the content to come pouring out. Commit to that vomit draft and its potential.
Once it's out, then you can go back and check your copy for things like:
- Redundant sentences or ideas.
- Bad grammar.
- Unnecessary use of the word "that”. [If the sentence reads properly without it, you don't need it.]
- Adjectives that say nothing.
- Sentences that say nothing.
- Wimpy language.
- Awkward phrasing.
- Anything you stumble on when reading out loud.
Editing is important, but not while you're writing.
6. Cut Out the Jargon
Yes, I know we just discussed the importance of editing, but this needs to be stated: Cut the crap. I mean, the jargon.
The only thing your state-of-the-art, groundbreaking, holistic, results-oriented groked product is doing is losing everyone currently reading your copy. As humans, we don't take to that.
We shouldn't be writing copy other people won't absorb. And we wouldn't have to if we understood our audience and understood what they wanted, who they are, and why our product or service is a match. If we knew that we wouldn't have to rely on words that take up space but ultimately say nothing.
Your copy matters, whether it's a script, a page, or a social media update. The copy you write is your opportunity to connect with a customer, to break through the noise, and to create an impression in a customer's top of mind. Don't waste the opportunity with weak words.