Don’t try to be all things to all people. Or all things to some people. Or even some things to all people. Enough, already, I hear you say – you get it. But set yourself a little test – whenever you feel yourself trying to be too ‘widely appealing’ when writing your copy (you will), make a tally of it. You’ll end up with a big count. Learn from that.
Get into the head of your potential reader. Really try to relate to him or her and understand precisely what he or she wants.
An excellent way of doing this is to survey existing readers/customers/users if you have them. A superb industrial-quality survey tool which is used by small and large businesses is SurveyMonkey. Of course there are lots of other ways to poll your readers (WordPress has more polls than you can shake a stick at).
Ask your users a few, focused questions about themselves. Ask customers why they bought the product, what they like about it, what they don’t like, what they would suggest. Obviously you can, in return, offer them a coupon or a free gift or something. Whatever it is, get that feedback – it’s really very important and will be very valuable to you.
If you don’t have customers, there are still ways and means of getting information about your prospective customer base. Or reader base. Basically whoever you’re targeting.
Laser-focus on your offering
Let’s take an example of a typical sales situation. Targeting readers is similar – there are core principles. What is the single most important reason your target audience would want to buy it? You need to be able to empathize with your target market, identify their problems and show how your product solves that problem. If you think too generally about your target market, the passion is lost in your copy and it’s tough to get anyone excited about anything.
It can’t be said too often that you will sell more to a highly-targeted group of people than trying a lukewarm approach with the public in general. Leave general marketing to the big boys: Amazon.com can focus their attention on “buyers of consumer electronics”, but you want to focus on, for example, buyers of a particular model of digital camera.
Though, do note, that Amazon is more than aware of how to target you as a specific customer. If and when you buy something from them, you’ll notice they remember that, to such an extent that if you buy a particular type of product they will, on your next visit to their site, offer you similar or complimentary products. They’re very good at it.
Start writing a list of all the characteristics of your typical customer.
Use information gathered from customer surveys, as mentioned earlier in this section, and write at least 15-20 specific characteristics. This list will help you as you make your way through the forest with us.
Sorry to break it to you, but if you don’t have a unique selling position for your blog, product or service then you could already be dead in the water. The USP is what sets you apart from your competition (essentially, the thing you offer that your competition is not offering).
Once you really understand your USP, or USPs, you can write good copy much more easily, focusing on the real benefits of your offering.
Of course, USPs vary from market to market, product to product, but here are just a few examples, by way of illustration:
- hiring expensive sports cars to rich drivers under the age of 25
- providing customer support via agents who have at least 5 years experience in your industry
- good value life insurance for skydivers
- sourcing hard-to-find products or services with a quick turnaround
- selling ice to Eskimos (sorry about this one)
USP is a concept that is often difficult for people to grasp initially because every business is different. You need to really sit down, brainstorm and figure out your USP because if you don’t, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd and compete in your market. Again, mind-mapping can really help you in this area.
Yes, price may be a USP. But, unless you really do “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” and you have a successful business model for this, the problem with this is that simply focusing on trying to sell for the lowest price is not often a profitable business model, especially for small.
The layout of your copy needs to be clear and to pack maximum punch. Two really fundamental weapons of the copywriter are:
Powerful copy is often based on a powerful headline. In the modern world, particularly in the online world, people are busy and you only have a tiny amount of time to grab their attention. Fact: they won’t read the ‘small print’ on your page if you don’t get their attention. A clear, benefit-oriented headline can help you do this.
You need to stand right in the shoes of your reader. Imagine you’ve just gone online to buy something or check your email. Would you take a minute to read your copy based on your headline?
There are some tried and tested ‘openings’ to headings. Try these for size:
“Who Else Wants to…..” This immediately steers the reader’s mind to a relationship. He or she thinks: people have already “done X” and now I, too can “do X”.
“Are You…..” Similarly, the immediate impact is for the reader to relate to the writer. For example, “Are You Constantly Tired?” – he writer understands the reader is, in fact, always tired and has a solution for him waiting around the corner.
“Give Me 1 Week and I’ll…..” Provided that you can deliver, this is one of the most powerful messages. It’s a promise. “Give Me 1 Week and I’ll Build a Tailored Exercise Regime For You”. But DO deliver. In fact, as we explained earlier in this guide, you should in fact over-deliver.
Even short paragraphs of constant, line-by-line text are generally not recommended for good copy. Of course, it depends who your target audience is, but breaking up the text and the message into nice, bite-size pieces is a well-used device for one reason: it works.
Pick your top five or so messages and set them out in nice short bullet points. You can expand on the detail later, should you wish, but unless your reader is hooked from the start he or she won’t even get to the detail.
- Don’t be insular. Look at other well-written headlines out there, whether online or in the print media, perhaps, and learn from them. Look out for those ads which appear time and time again. Why do you think they’re appearing time and time again? Because they’re successful.
Keep a ‘scrapbook’ (yes, of course it can be digital, not pieces of paper, but even today quite a lot of writers still like the latter) and use it for inspiration.
- Make the message compelling and easy for the reader to respond to with action. You’re not just writing for fun. You want action, you want results.
- Analyze and understand your copy. If you’re not getting the desired effect from it, don’t flog a dead horse. Learn and adapt, just like you should and must with the rest of your business.