‘Don’t fluff it!’, and 6 other essential copywriting tips!

I came to Delineo in October 2016 wanting to learn more about the world of digital marketing and copywriting. It’s a tough nut to crack. My background is in teaching English but I recently qualified as a copywriter. However, my qualification on paper was, frankly, proving somewhat flimsy.

One thing I do have is some background in freelance journalism: writing articles about conservation, particularly in Africa. This requires lots of research before presenting up-to-date facts and statistics as well as a story that sells. Using my experience in this as a rudimentary, yet sensible start point, I began to ask myself: what makes a successful copywriter? Revealed below are my seven top tips to becoming a digital copywriting aficionado.

1. Dig deep!

The key to being in the digital know is research. Even experts research audience needs so their copy is appealing and relevant. With a surge in online content over the last few years, you have to know what your audience wants. Accidentally give their vegetarian needs a sizzling steak on a platter and you may as well swap the steak for your head. Legendary copywriter, Gary Bencivenga, said: “The best copywriters are the most tenacious researchers. Like miners. They dig, drill, dynamite, and chip until they have carloads of valuable ore.” Know what your audience needs beforehand and your copy will be a little nugget.

2. Don’t fluff it!

In direct marketing, overuse adjectives and adverbs and you might as well wield a megaphone announcing you don’t know what to say. Being clear and concise reaps far greater rewards. Cut out unnecessary copy and get to the point. Likewise, trying to be clever and using puns might just confuse your audience. We live in a vain world where people tend to describe themselves with pedestrian adjectives. Verbs are specific and harder to ignore – you can actually tell people what you do rather than how you do it. Be succinct, be successful.

3. Create top headlines

An eye-catching headline is an integral part of inbound marketing. Five times as many people read the headline as read the copy – so headlines need to be strong and grab readers with a ‘what’s in it for me?’ message. Headlines are as close to a magic digital wand as you’re going to get. Readers need to know enough about what is on offer as they are more likely to share links to things like landing pages, thus increasing your digital impact and giving you their attention.  Make sure you then match your subject line to the headline after you’ve written the body copy.

4. Listen to your audience - feed the five thousand

To help you picture your audience, imagine their day. Give them a name if you want or even invent a life for them. Know what products they may have used in the past and your copy will be more targeted. Copywriting genius, Gary Halbert, believes that a restaurant needs to provide the starving crowd with food they need and want – it’s the same with direct marketing. Being on the lookout for a product, markets are ‘hungry’ for in forums, websites and social media will increase your success in meeting their desires. With the rise in online content, it’s worth you being in the know with client lingo. David Ogilvy, copywriting doyen said, “speaking in their language helps prospects get to know, like, and trust you because they recognise themselves in your words”. Getting the right vernacular will ensure copy success.  Being up on your SEO words will also support your increase in audience attention through organic searches.

5. Define your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Your offer must stand out from the competition to gain a good response. Rosser Reeves, author of Reality in Advertising, defines the unique selling proposition as a promotion that offers "something that competitors do not, or will not, offer." Once the client is hooked with the headline, it’s all about answering why they need the product on offer to get the reaction you want. Being informative and persuasive answers the many questions the Middle of the Funnel (MOFu) consumers have; making it more likely they will become Bottom of the Funnel (BOFu) customers.

6. Avoid weasel words in copywriting

When writing headlines, subheads and body copy, don't use weasel words that avoid a direct command. These include: but, could, hope, maybe, perhaps and strive. Instead, use words like will and can in product or service copy to emphasise what they will or can do for your reader. Smart copywriters know the most persuasive words that hold sway: ‘you’, ‘free’, ‘instantly’ and ‘new’ are just a few examples guaranteed to turn heads in your direction. Add a tempting call to action and you’ve convinced your audience.

7. Know your ultimate goal

Direct response copy will always serve a specific purpose, with your writing stimulating a specific behaviour. If you want to win, you need to get that behaviour. Know what each piece of content is intended to accomplish – widening your audience, increasing email subscriptions, educating your market about an upcoming product etc.  Some copywriters go as far as to create formulas for different styles of copy intended for different purposes.

Written a brilliant piece of copy and been stumped at the response rate? Read our blog - how to give your content a conversion rate it deserves.