Stage One: Planning
Before you even put pen to paper or fingers to your keyboard, you need a brief. Without understanding what you want to achieve from your copy how on earth will you achieve it? Taking time to answer the following questions will help you create more effective copy.
What type of copy are you creating?
Is it for inbound or outbound marketing? Is it a website, brochure, blog post, advertorial, flyer, social media post, email or video script? Different types of copy need to be approached in slightly different ways.
What is the purpose of the copy?
Do you want to raise awareness, provide information, promote a new product or service, offer a discount, generate leads? Think about what you want to achieve from your copy.
Who is the target audience?
Consumer or business? New or existing customer? Student, employed or retired? A business owner or employee? Start-up business or corporate? Homeowner or parent? Build a profile of your target audience.
Where will your copy be read?
Will your audience be at work, at home, at an event, on their commute? How much time will they have to read your copy? Will they be expecting it or are you contacting them for the first time?
What do you want the reader to do after reading your copy?
What action do you want readers to take? Visit your website, call you, make an enquiry, sign-up, donate, subscribe, request more information, place an order, book an event? Think about your call to action.
What services or benefits will you promote?
You won’t promote every service or product you offer in every piece of copy. Equally, different benefits will appeal to different audiences. Think about which services, products and benefits are most relevant.
What concerns might the reader have?
When you are trying to sell a product or service, you need to be aware of what concerns buyers may have; cost, time, effort, risk. What are the main objections you come across and how can you manage these?
Stage Two: Writing
Now you have built a brief, you can start to write your copy. Here are my top tips for perfecting the writing stage.
Stick to the brief
You’ve got a brief so stick to it. Think about the purpose of the copy, who the audience is and where they will be reading your copy. Remember to include your call to action at the end.
Many people struggle to get started. They stare at a blank screen, hoping the right words will eventually come to them. The trick is to just start writing. As you write, you’ll get into the flow and ideas will come.
Find your style
There is no right or wrong way to write. Some people start with bullet points and then build on them. Other people start at the end and work backwards. Some people prefer to handwrite ideas first and then type them up. Do what works for you. Try different ways until you find your unique style.
Picture your audience as you write
It can be useful to picture your ideal client as you write. If you can use a real person even better. Think about what questions they would ask, what language they would be comfortable with and what concerns they would have.
Don’t edit as you write
Get all your ideas down and then go back through and edit. You can rearrange ideas, cut out repetitive sections, find better words, check the grammar and improve your copy afterwards. Write first; edit later.
Sell the benefits, not the features
People want to know how your product or service will improve their life or business. Don’t talk about extra padding, talk about extra comfort. Don’t tell people what something does, tell them how it will add value.
Stage Three: Perfecting
Now you have written your copy, you get to the most important stage; perfecting your copy. Here are my top tips for editing.
Leave it overnight
The longer you can leave between the writing and editing stages the better. This allows you to return to it with fresh eyes. You’ll find it easier to edit when you haven’t already been working on it all day.
Cut the waffle
People want information quickly. You aren’t writing a novel, so cut unnecessary waffle and make your copy as concise and engaging as possible. Focus on the most relevant and interesting points.
Remove the jargon
If your reader needs to Google every other word or phrase, they will soon give up. Use reader-friendly language. Cut out technical jargon and acronyms.
Check the flow
Make sure your information is presented in a logical order, guiding your reader towards the call to action. Don’t jump backwards and forwards between information or ideas.
Refer to the brief
Refer to your brief. Does the copy serve the purpose you intended? Is it written for the right audience? Have you included your call to action?
Once you are happy that you have covered everything and made your copy as concise as possible, make sure you proofread. The last thing you want is to put readers off with spelling and grammar mistakes, or order 1000 brochures to be printed, only to find a typo on the first page.
Plan, write, perfect
Breaking the copywriting process into the three stages I’ve suggested, makes it more manageable. Creating copy is easier if you have a plan and writing is less daunting if you aren’t under pressure to perfect it the first time around. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, write and perfect your copy if you want to create something that gets results.
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