Copywriting is writing content that is made to captivate, persuade, and convince your reader to take a specific action – call you, book an appointment, buy a product, subscribe to a newsletter, donate, learn more, take an online course, or whatever else you want them to do.
How do you achieve that? By showing your reader how your product or service can solve their pain. By sparking their curiosity. By being interesting and relevant. By understanding them. By helping them get from A to B with the help of your roadmap. And not by running after them or spamming them, mind you.
For this, you need to know your reader, as well as their needs and hopes. You need to relate to them. Being annoying, dull, or pushy – like a spam email, a boring video, or a sleazy salesperson – will make them lose interest and run away quickly. Your email will stay unopened. They’ll close your site in a few seconds.
Copywriting is used to create ads, website content, brochures, case studies, social media content, video scripts, and more.
Writing blog articles can also be a form of copywriting, but it usually falls into the category of content writing. Think of it as the difference between content that is meant to educate vs. content that is meant to persuade. Which is, I’d argue, equally important.
Your copy needs to be a few things:
It is used to build trust, to broadcast your message to your audience, and to express your personality, or the things that make your company stand out. Your tone of voice is what makes you unique – and a good copywriter will know how to help you define and express that.
You can, and many people do. Copywriting is a profession, but more than that, it’s a skillset. You can receive formal education to become a copywriter, or you can also be a complete autodidact. You can teach yourself copywriting – and never hire anyone. However, copywriting takes a lot of effort to get it right.
There are many ways to write copy – as well as many different types and forms of copy. There are many different niches, too. Some copywriters specialize in a given niche, f.e. pharmaceutics, gardening, finance, sports, whatever – meaning that they write all kinds of promotional materials for clients in that niche. Others specialize in different types of copy, f.e. websites, ads, video scripts, and so on – meaning that they write this a given type of material or set of materials for different niches.
I’m a web copywriter: I specialize in writing content for websites, social media, and email. I have a strong background in business-to-business writing, but I’ve also written for a number of business-to-consumer companies.
A good copywriter will be able to quickly switch gears and adapt to a different niche or a different type of content, but specialization helps us develop and improve.
In short, your copywriter is the person who will study your product or service and will describe it in a way that’ll have your readers want to take action.
Unfortunately, that’s what advertising often feels like – and especially when it comes to mass marketing. You’re probably thinking that ads are dishonest, that they’re meant to steal your attention, and that they create needs that weren’t there at all, only to give you a solution that’s halfway effective. If at all. While there are definitely tons of ads that do just that, consider this: your business cannot function if your potential buyers don’t get to hear about it. You can be genuinely helpful, solve a problem, and use advertising to spread the word. You can be relevant and authentic. You need to be. If you aren’t, you’re fighting a losing battle.
Copywriting doesn’t need to be dishonest or manipulative. In fact, I believe that more than anything, your copy needs to be honest.
Because if your copy overpromises and your product underdelivers, your customers will be disappointed. And disappointed customers do not return. They unsubscribe, they cancel their memberships, they don’t place new orders, they don’t buy more courses, they don’t talk about you to their friends, they don’t share your content.
And unless you’re selling a product that your customers don’t have a choice about, you can’t afford to underdeliver. Even then you shouldn’t underdeliver, but eh, we all want to receive more for less, so I understand if that’s what you’re doing. (I don’t like you, though.)
Most companies operate in a highly competitive environment, and customers who are happy might leave a positive review, but customers who aren’t will definitely leave a negative one. So underdelivering is not an option.
You could, of course, have a crappy product, write beautiful copy for it (or hire someone to do it for you), and then get sales, but this is, for me, not a successful long-term strategy.
However, if you have a great product but don’t know how to communicate its greatness to the world and how to attract attention to it, your product will fail. And that’s where copywriting – and marketing in general – come into play.
I don’t believe in advertising bad products. In fact, I refuse to write about products I don’t believe in. If I don’t see the value, I’m not going to be able to produce a good copy.
You can use templates, of course. Templates have their place – and their merit. I encourage you to use templates from time to time. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you’re writing something. There are plenty of great examples out there, waiting to be used, so please make your life easier and use them.
I encourage you to create your own templates. Because that’s the thing with templates: someone else wrote them, and they didn’t write them for you. They do not reflect your own voice. So copy that template, edit it and then save it for later. (I do have a few templates I’ve created for myself).
There are a few instances where you cannot use templates:
Those need to be original. Search engines will penalize you for not using original content. Your readers will lose interest if your content isn’t new. You need to provide value: when you’re relevant and original, you’re advancing the conversation, as Seth Godin says.
In copywriting instead of templates, we’re using something else: formulas. Formulas are elastic and can be used in many different ways. In fact, you are constantly using models and formulas when writing. Does your last email an intro, a body text, and a closing phrase? That’s a formula. Templates are quite restrictive, while formulas can be adapted to your target reader.
Possibly. That’s what the future is like – opaque and unknown.
However, I don’t think this will happen in the next few years, or even decades – if at all. Quality content needs to be unique and distinctive, and it needs to sound human. It needs to spark emotions. It needs to stir you up. To frustrate. To soothe. To excite. To satisfy. To ignite. To give you a fresh perspective. Or an unexpected solution. And I don’t see bots writing emotionally-charged copy anytime soon.
Artificial intelligence can do plenty of things, and do them really, really well, but I believe it will do more in terms of targeting and editing, rather than actually creating. I’m not afraid of losing my job to bots anytime soon.