Quick Thoughts on Copywriting

July 13, 2009 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

A colleague asked me to put together some quick thoughts on copywriting for his staff. Upon receiving them, he suggested that I post them to my blog. So here they are.

Note: I learned writing from my mother, Ellie Hager, a brilliant and prolific screenwriter. My education in COPYwriting came when I went into sales. That said, always work toward the close in copywriting–respectfully, honestly but unambiguously.

Key Questions

Who is reading this?

Understand the prospective customer and speak (write) in his/her terms. This is done by knowing:

  • Who is this person (ideal prospect for the product/service)
  • What is on this person’s mind (need/challenge/aspiration to be addressed)
  • The solution being presented (benefit of product/service).

This understanding will guide tone, word choice, and depth of information.

What do we want the reader to do?

Answering this question forms the “call-to-action,” the essence of every good marketing piece, the grand finale when we tell the prospect in appropriate but no uncertain terms what we want him/her to do. (“Call…” “Visit…” “Ask for…” “Click here…”) If we have done our job right (right words, right prospects, right value proposition), the reader will be happy to do what we want him/her to do.

What’s in it for me?

This question runs through every prospect’s mind when encountering a marketing message. Answer it quickly and convincingly by emphasizing product/service benefits. Descriptions of features must take a supporting role, helping to verify and explain stated benefits. Remember this classic sales/marketing adage:

What does a drill salesman sell? Drills? No. Holes.

Copywriting Process

In advance of actual writing…

  • Identify and understand prospective customer
  • List product benefits
  • State call-to-action; think backwards from call-to-action during preparation and writing
  • Confirm length and configuration of piece

Actual writing…

  • Use “college-style” outline format to organize major points
  • Create headlines and taglines that convey entire marketing message
  • Use subheads and bullets to deliver important information quickly
  • Make sure “call-to-action” is logical, clear and accurate

Recommended Reading

The Elements of Copywriting, Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly

The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, Joseph Sugarman

“Benefits First: Marketing’s Active Voice,” article in BtoB magazine, Jason Karpf

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Entry filed under: Creativity, Marketing, Sales. Tags: , , .

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