Tuesday, January 29, 2008

10 Tips for Emergency Copywriting!

If you are looking for some quick tips for copywriting, check out this 10 tips.

I saw them on iContact.


By Pete Savage

Sometimes the deadline, or the budget, for your next promotional piece is just too tight to hire a professional copywriter. When this happens, it’s time for some emergency copywriting! But sitting down to a blank page (or screen) can be intimidating for the occasional writer. For just this type of emergency, here are 10 tips that will get you started and keep you on track…

1. “You” can make a difference. The word “you” is perhaps the most important word in copywriting because it involves the reader with your message. So instead of writing about what your company offers, write about what the customer gets. Whenever you’re tempted to write something like, “We offer the most advanced…”, stop. Instead, begin the sentence with “You” as in, “You get the most advanced…” .

2. Features tell, benefits sell! Good copy clearly communicates the benefit that your product or service delivers to the customer. Poor copy, on the other hand, merely lists features and leaves them dangling, with no explanation as to how they will benefit the customer. Here’s how you avoid that trap… as you write about the attributes of your product, ask yourself, “So what?” Your answer will lead you to the benefit. For example, “This car comes with automatic four-wheel drive.” {“So what?”} “…so you’ll enjoy safe, worry-free driving, in all weather conditions.”

3. Keep your message clear. Focus your message on those benefits that deliver the highest value to your customer. Leave out everything else. Otherwise, you’ll overwhelm the reader. Here’s a real life example of what I mean… I once wrote a corporate brochure for a company that cuts and forms sheet metal into various components, for large manufacturers. The president of the company insisted that we list the attributes of every machine in their factory! Granted his machines are worth millions, and they do some very impressive things to sheet metal; however, such detailed information has no business being in a corporate brochure. Instead, we agreed that I should write about the main benefits that these extraordinary machines help deliver to the customer. See the difference?

4. Energize your copy with action verbs. Action verbs help readers picture themselves using your product or service. “Our expert investment advisors provide reliable advice,” is dull. “Get expert guidance from our investment advisors and watch your assets grow,” is much more exciting. “We have seven waterslides.” Boring. “Let the kids slip, slide, and splash the day away on our seven waterslides!” Fun!

5. You will not be graded for grammar. Good copy not only avoids many conventional rules of grammar, it torments the daylights out of them! This means you can do things that would make your grade three teacher squirm, such as starting a sentence with “And”. And writing sentences that aren’t proper sentences. Like this one.

6. Reinforce your USP. Make sure you remind customers of the reason(s) why they should buy from you. Your Unique Selling Point (USP) is the characteristic of your product or service that sets you apart from the competition. For example, “…the only downtown dry cleaners with in-by-noon, same-day service!” is a sound USP.

7. Prove it! With testimonials. Naturally, new prospects may be skeptical of your offer, especially if they have not heard of you before. One of the best ways to overcome this skepticism is with a testimonial. Make sure the source of the testimonial is someone the reader can relate to, or aspires to be like. For instance, if you’re selling to businesses, quote people whose titles closely match (or are more senior than) your target buyers. Or, if you are selling to consumers, quote people from the same town as your targets.

8. “That’s” the problem. Here’s one of the simplest editing tips around. When you’ve written your copy, look it over for all occurrences of the word “that”. You can often make a sentence much more readable by simply deleting this word. And sometimes, you can delete whole phrases connected to “that” without losing the meaning of the sentence.

9. Tell your reader what to do. How often have you seen a television commercial that ends with, “Now run down to the corner store and buy a Coke today.”? Never. Why? Because brands like Coke have decades of user experience attached to them. By now, their customers know what to do, so Coke can afford to spend millions on an awareness ad with no ‘call to action’. Your ad or promotional piece; however, must have a call to action which tells the reader what to do. Some examples are: “Call today for a no-obligation quote.”, “Call now while supplies last!”, “Visit our website and enter this password for your free subscription!”

10. Ask for help. Everyone needs an editor. When you’ve created your copy, have someone you trust review it. This person need not be a fellow employee; in fact, look for someone who reflects your target audience (a friend, spouse, business contact, or client). When you give them your copy, do not preface it with any sort of background information, or description!

Resist the urge to say, “This is what I’m trying to say…” because you will bias the opinion of your reader. When your writing hits the streets, it will have to stand on its own merit, so test it under these same conditions. The time to discuss the copy is after your “editor” has read it, and given you some feedback.

And then, go back and make revisions. And when you’re convinced your copy is as perfect and polished as it can possibly get… repeat tip #10!

Pete Savage is a freelance copywriter who writes e-newsletters, case studies, direct marketing materials and more for F500 companies, as well as small and medium businesses who want to drive growth with smart marketing campaigns. A variety of FREE marketing resources are available on his website at www.petesavage.com.


© Copyright 2007 Pete Savage

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