5 stages to creating marketing copy and content

Do you rush the writing process? 

You haven’t updated your blog for a while. Or emailed your subscribers. Or added that new page to your website. So you bang together a few words, give it a quick once over and hit publish or send. 

But is that copy really the best it can be? Has it been optimised to get you the results you want? Is it even going to make sense to the reader? 

Why rush your copy and end up with something mediocre when you could take your time and create the perfect message? 

A message that resonates with your reader. That creates interest and desire. That establishes trust and credibility. That inspires action. 

If you want to improve your results, break your copywriting process into five clear stages:

Planning and research:  don’t skip this step – most people do, and it’s a mistake because it’s one of the most important stages. 

Writing: don’t worry about it being perfect at this stage – get your first draft written, then worry about perfecting it later.

Editing: this is where the magic happens – where you can transform your copy from good to great.

Proofreading: the last thing you want is for your message to be diluted because readers are distracted by endless typos. 

Publishing: timing can be a crucial factor in the success or failure of a marketing campaign – be strategic.

Stage 1: 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 2: 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.

Just write

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 hand write 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 3: Editing

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?

Stage 4: Proofreading

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. Here are some proofreading tips you might find helpful.

Leave time between editing and proofreading

Don’t rush straight from editing into proofreading. Fresh eyes are better for spotting mistakes. Take a break from your copy – at least an hour – then come back to it for the final checks. 

Use proofreading software

If you write in Word or similar software, there’s usually a built-in spellcheck. Make sure you have it turned on and set to the right language so it picks up any sneaky typos. Grammarly is a handy proofreading tool, and the free version is ideal for giving your copy a quick once-over. Use it as a backup before or after you’ve manually proofread your copy. 

Use a screen reader

My biggest proofreading tip is to use a screen reader to read your copy back to you. Microsoft Word has one – you’ll find it under ‘Review’, then ‘Read Aloud.’ Some web browsers also have read-aloud features, or you can get free screen reader extensions or plugins. This is ideal if you write straight into your website. If you don’t want to use a screen reader, read your copy out loud. 

Proofread on an alternative device

Some people find it useful to print out their copy and read from a page. If you prefer to be paper free, send your copy to a different device – your mobile, for example – and read through it on that. Seeing it in a slightly different format can help you spot mistakes. 

Get someone else to read it

You know what you’ve written, so it’s easy to miss mistakes. Someone who is reading it for the first time will spot missing words or incorrect spellings more easily. You can always get them to read it out loud to you so you can hear how it reads. 

Hire a professional

You might not have the budget to hire a proofreader for every social media post or email, but for longer copy or copy that is going to print, it might be worth the investment. 

Stage 5: Publishing

A lot of good marketing comes down to good timing – getting your message in front of the right person at the right time. 

And that’s why it pays to put a little thought into the publishing stage. 

When is the best time to share your new blog post? What time of day are people most likely to read your emails? How far in advance of an event do you need to start promoting it? 

If you’ve spent time creating great content, you’ll want to get it seen by as many of the right people as possible, so make sure you shout about it. 

If it’s a blog post, don’t just share a link with “check out my latest blog post”. Tell people why they should read your blog post – what will they learn? What’s in it for them?

And don’t just share your copy once. Look at ways to recycle, reshare and repurpose your copy. (Check out this article for more help with repurposing).

Write to Sell

The whole purpose of any marketing material is to attract and nurture people who are likely to buy from you, so you can eventually convert them into customers. 

Whether you’re writing social media posts, blog posts, emails, eBooks or website copy, you need to make sure your copy resonates with the reader. 

I can teach you how to do that. 

My online Write to Sell course is a self-paced course, taking you through the five stages of copywriting and teaching you how to attract and convert more of your ideal clients. 

You’ll get lifetime access to all the content (plus any future updates or additions). So if your marketing isn’t getting you the results you want, get yourself signed up.  

Hi – I’m Lisa

If this is your first time here, thanks for reading. 

I’m Lisa – owner of Make Your Copy Count Ltd, and author of the ‘A-Z of Blogging’ and ‘The Freelance Fairytale‘. 

I help freelancers and small businesses attract more of the clients they want by providing copywriting training and marketing consultations

If you’d like to get to know me a bit better, sign up for my daily email here