What does “copywriting” mean to you? Copywriting is the act of producing text that moves people to take action in copy. It’s a sales pitch in writing. The specific action you want to elicit is your choice: to get someone to make a purchase, to opt into your newsletter, to enroll in your webinar—the list goes on.
More specifically, this article will teach you the basics of direct response copywriting, which drives people to a single, specific and measurable action, as opposed to, say, advertising copywriting, which may simply be about establishing a brand.
In direct response copywriting, your goal isn’t to be cute. Or clever. Or funny. The only measure of successful direct response copywriting is the response. In other words, did someone read what you wrote and think, “Huh?” Or did they click, call or buy?
Copywriting is a discipline that many writers work to perfect over a lifetime.
For your purposes, though, This Guide will help you:
- Understand how to create a winning copy with good content, flow and tone—all measured by the yardstick of response
- Recognize which words move people to take action in copy—and which words you should never use
- Spot the most common mistakes people make when writing copy
- Find additional resources to improve your skills
Let’s get started with the basics of good copywriting.
Creating Winning Copy
Writing successful copy is all about one thing: getting people to take action in copy. It sounds simple enough, and, in some ways, it is.
Great copywriting is a bit more than that. It’s a story. It takes your readers by the hand and leads them point by point through why their lives would be so much better with your product in them.
When you’re copywriting, it’s your job to take your reader from where they are now—with all the pain and desire for more in their lives— to a better future, all thanks to your product. Writing a copy is the breadcrumbs that mark that path and show them the way.
It’s about building a case, then sealing the deal, with words.
Let’s start with the WHAT—the makeup of great copy.
8 Tips for Copywriters That Moves People to Take Action in Copy
1. Make sure you have a message-to-market match
One of the founding principles of successful direct marketing is that you need to be selling the right product, using the right messaging, through the right channels to the people who need your product.
If you’ve gone through the other modules of Market Launch, you should know who your ideal customer is, what their major pain points are and where you can find them and how to communicate with them.
If you don’t get this right, no amount of persuasive copy will set you right.
Oftentimes, this is also a great place to troubleshoot if your campaign is not going as planned. Do your prospects truly need your product to improve their lives? If the answer is no, tweak your audience and your copy accordingly.
2. One message, one link, one action
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The confused mind doesn’t buy.” This is the single most important principle to keep in mind when creating a copy. You are building a single case for a single action—for example, a single click on a single link. That’s it.
Many, many people get this wrong. We can’t tell you how many emails we see that offer multiple messages, three different links different web pages, etc. Guess how many of those options prospects take? NONE.
Remember, in each medium, whether it’s a letter, an email or a sales page, you have a limited amount of time and energy. Focus it on a single purpose and you will see massive results.
Two additional points Yo should consider:
- When choosing what you’re asking the reader to do, remember to crawl before you walk.
Judge the commitment level of your reader. If they’ve never bought anything from you, you might not want to offer them a $4,997 product right out of the gate. Evaluate where you are in your relationship with them and choose your request accordingly.
- Ensure that this step is as simple as possible for them to take
Give them a link to click, or swipe copy to forward on. If there’s a password required, put it right in the email (unless this represents a breach of significant personal data). The more you ask of people, the less response you’ll get.
3. Remember that you’re telling a story.
Even when you’re writing a 10-line email, never forget that you’re telling a story. There’s always a logical flow to things. It might help for you to think about Writing a copy as a conversation with a friend. You wouldn’t just call someone and jump right into your conversation. You say hello. You ask how the person is. You introduce your idea.
The same is true of good copy.
Don’t front-load short pieces with a lot of introduction, but consider acknowledging your last email to kick things off . “You may have received my email last week letting you know that Traffic Geyser is open for business.” For longer pieces, an outline can help you build the flow of your ideas.
Writing a copy is bringing someone else into your world. Lead them through it, step-by-step. They’ll respond to you for it.
4. Focus on silver-platter benefits, but balance with believability.
One of the first things you’ll learn in any copywriting book or course is the difference between features and benefits. It’s an old lesson, but a good one—because so many people still hammer on features and forget about the benefits.
Remember: people are ultimately selfish. They want to hear about themselves. We call it the WIIFM factor—What’s In It For Me? If you don’t cut to the chase, and get right to the benefits that matter, people will tune out.
To take this beyond the basics, you want to use a silver-platter benefit that knocks the reader out of his or her socks. We also call this a “big fat promise.” It’s important to craft one that’s believable, so you don’t blow your credibility. The best way to do this is to illustrate your promise, then back it up with proof. Social proof, in the form of testimonials, is a great way to accomplish this.
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The last important thing to remember about benefits is this:- save the best for last. Many people are tempted to put their best stuff first. Remember that Writing a copy should build like an argument. Use your smaller benefits up front to get your prospect warmed up. Your best benefit will close them.
5. As long as it takes. As short as possible
When writing a piece of copy, focus on the outcome: the response that you’re after. Don’t obsess over length. In other words, don’t cut your piece short and fail to get the outcome, but get the outcome as quickly as you can.
With that being said, attention spans are getting shorter. Assume—rightly—that your reader is consuming your copy while the television is on, the phone is ringing, the kids are coming home from school, etc.
Also, don’t forget to edit. Read it back to yourself. Eliminate every single extraneous word. Make it a game to see how many words you can do without. You’ll surprise yourself. Are you getting bored when you read your own copy?
Go back and spice it up—or cut it entirely. In your first draft phase, you are your best audience. Trust yourself . . . then confirm it with a colleague, friend or spouse—often your toughest audience.
6. Build drama, but keep it real
There’s a reason that reality television has taken over the ratings. Everyone loves drama. Use this to your advantage and use teasers to build curiosity in your readers.
Some of the best subject lines You can sent out (i.e. highest open rates) include:
- Embarrassing (but important) message
- How to miss out on getting what you want
- What I wish I knew 20 years ago…
- Unique social media method people forget about
There’s only one thing to be careful about with drama. It has to be honest. Never, ever fool your readers. It might seem funny to send out an email with a subject line that says, “Embarrassing secrets exposed! Open now!” And yet when they open the email,
the body copy has nothing to do with embarrassing secrets. No one likes to be tricked. Don’t do it.
You can also build drama by using urgency. Your communications should always answer the question, “Why this? Why now?” Not directly of course, but indirectly through your messaging. If there’s no reason to do it right now, people simply won’t.
7. It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.
It’s true in relationships. It’s true in your promotional copy. Your message is only half the battle. Even if you have the right elements, if they’re written in awkward, stilted language, you’re done.
Remember: the goal of copywriting is to get a response. How do we do that? By making a connection. How you talk to someone is a critical part of that equation.
So how do you build a relationship with someone you’ve never met before?
No one wants to be treated like a nerd. To get yourself out of that mode and into a more personal frame of mind, imagine that you’re writing to a single person. Take one of your named avatars and pretend you’re writing them a personal note.
When you write to a friend, you naturally:
- Speak in your own voice
Sometimes, when people sit down to “write copy,” they adopt a flowery tone of voice that we suspect came from your 4th-grade composition class. Remember: you’re talking to a friend. Write how you would speak. Keep it simple and colloquial.
- Use small words
Okay, maybe your friends are of above-average intelligence. But if you’re sitting around sharing a couple of beers, how many big words do you usually pull out? We would hope very few. Remember short attention span. So, write as you speak, but maybe even simpler than you speak.
Write simply enough that someone could quickly scan your email and get the idea.
- Keep it short
Remember that any marketing you to is the equivalent of being a guest in someone’s home. Don’t drone on. Speak long enough to get your point across while sustaining the emotion. Then get out of there.
- Read it aloud
Notice where you stumble and tweak those spots until they flow.
If you follow these tips, you’ll end up with a chatty and conversational piece of copy that establishes a relationship with the person on the other end—and that’s how you really begin to make a change in someone’s life.
8. Use a direct command
Once you know what you want your prospects to do, tell them to do it! That might sound silly. It is, but only if you DON’T do it.
It’s simple. People do what they’re told:
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If you don’t tell people what you want them to do, all your work will be for naught. Don’t assume ANYTHING. Ask for the order— even if it’s just a click of the mouse.
Most Common Mistakes while Copywriting
When you first start out, you’re going to make mistakes. Writing a copy takes time and practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. (And if you truly hate doing it, there are plenty of people who would love to do it for you!) The following list of the most common pitfalls will shorten your learning curve and get you sounding like an expert in no time.
The Four Most Common Copywriting Mistakes
1. Using the Passive Voice
Quick grammar lesson: the Passive Voice means using any form of the verb “to be,” such as “The audience was blown away by his presentation,” or “The carts are now open on our new product.”
The problem with passive voice is this: it lacks power. It has no punch. Compare the results if we turn these sentences around and make them active:
Whenever possible, turn your sentences around and make them active. A little passive voice now and then isn’t a bad thing. But when it takes over your writing, it will kill response rates.
2. Overusing the Word “Free”
Two words: “spammy” and “boring.” Free isn’t really a benefit. If your product is a piece of junk, no one wants it, even if it’s free. Don’t focus on free. Focus on what it can do.
3. Not Doing a True Test
When you’re testing the launch of your copy, you need to run as real a scenario as possible. Send the email to yourself, with all the links. Read it over and test every link. If you go back and make a change, send a whole new test email and re-test everything. One keystroke can break a link, so don’t assume that everything is the same from test to test.
The same principles go for webpages—don’t assume that if it looks fine on one server, that it will look fine—or even work—on another server. Test your cart. Run your card. Don’t simply assume that your tech guys know what they’re doing.
If you’re running a print ad or creating a brochure, get a final proof from the printer and look at it carefully. Don’t just assume that they’ll do a good job. Assure that they will by checking everything out.
You’ll notice a theme here. When testing your copy, don’t assume anything. You’ll save yourself a ton of heartache—and look way more professional in the process.
4. Using Incorrect English
Spelling and grammar errors are the worst. The best way to catch them is to have someone outside the project proof for you.
Here is a list of the most common errors we see—and hope you’ll avoid:
- The comma splice. Connecting two full sentences simply with a comma,
- Dangling participles.
- Lack of agreement between pronouns and antecedents.
- Capitalizing Every titles.
- Word misusages.
Check more:10 Best Practices for Website Copywriting
Check more: Importance of a Headline in Copywriting
Conclusion: Your Shortcut to Results
The beauty of copywriting is instant feedback. You know pretty quickly whether your copy was effective or not—simply by gauging
One of the fastest ways to pinpoint ways to improve your copy and deepen your understanding of what your market is looking for is by split-testing. To conduct a split test, take your copy and change one thing, such as the headline, or the way in which you give a direct command for the order. Divide your list in half. Send the old version to one half and the new version to the other. Wait for a response and see which copy performed better.
Then, play the game all over again: tweak something else and send it out again. The best marketers do this repeatedly, until they know the exact elements that move their specific group of prospects to action.
Email management systems also give you additional statistics that allow you to get yet another glimpse into the minds of your prospects. Try split testing subject lines and see which gets a better open rate. Same with your call to action, or even the way you display links in your emails. Just make sure you test only one thing at a time, so you can be sure which tweak is causing the statistical change.
Email management systems are also great tools for troubleshooting your copywritng copy. Experiencing low open rates? It’s your subject line. Low click-through? It’s your body copy. Low conversion? It’s your sales page copy. Be a detective with writing a copy and investigate your problem areas. If you take advantage of the clues that these statistics provide, it will pay off.
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