Here on the internet, words and pictures are all you have to sell your product. So your writing is the backbone of your marketing efforts.
However, plenty of people still have misconceptions about it. Despite what many people believe, copywriting is not bragging, it’s not trying to force your product on the customer, and it’s not all about keywords anymore. In fact, it never was.
But enough on how not to write effective copy. Here’s how to do it. Start by asking yourself these four questions:
1. Does It Follow the Process?
Most copy is written along the same lines. First, you need an eye-catching headline. Then, you should move on to a customer-focused pitch that demonstrates your unique selling proposition, or USP, which is what sets your products apart from your competitors. You need to include any service or satisfaction guarantees you may offer in order to reassure the customer that they won’t be throwing their money away should they not be satisfied with their purchase.
Finally, make sure you have a clear call-to-action. We say this often, but we’ll say it again: you need to finish up with a big, bold, efficiently-worded statement about what you want the reader to do. Preferably one that also links to the place where they can do it.
2. Is It Customer-Focused?
…Or are you wasting your reader’s time trumping up your company and stroking your ego?
According to Forbes, 80% of your copy should address the reader directly, and 20% or less should talk about you. When you talk about your products and your company, make sure that its benefits are touted in a way that shows how they benefit the customer in a concrete way.
For example, if you sell garments, you may want to list how easy they are to wash. If you sell auto parts, durability and reliability would be the obvious selling points. Even the fact that something was “Made in the USA” benefits a certain subset of the customers, due to the satisfaction they get from buying products that aren’t outsourced.
Here, it’s particularly important to know your customer base and what they value in a product. As a very simple example, we covered the three types of buyers: spendthrifts, tightwads, and regular people. Each one responds to a different set of benefits.
Spendthrifts want to know about how intricately hand-crafted and fine-tuned the product is, and how much status it will give them to be seen using it. Tightwads want to know how effectively it’ll get the job done, and how much money they’re saving by buying from you instead of the competition. Everyone else responds to a balance between the two. You’ll run into situations like this repeatedly while working on your copy, so it’s important to know which subsets you’re writing for.
3. Are You Being Too Hard or Too Soft?
Don’t be afraid to push the values of your product. If the business you’re running is fair at all, then buying from you will benefit your customer every bit as much as it benefits you. So tell them that—don’t be shy in trying to create a win-win situation.
But on the other hand, if your marketing strategy sounds like something out of Glengarry Glen Ross, then you really should tone it back. With the infinite variety of choices available on the internet, customers don’t appreciate the feeling of having a certain product thrust on them against their will.
You don’t want to ask for money too soon, either. That will come off as aggressive or desperate, neither of which are desirable qualities. And don’t feel the need to use superlatives. In fact, those are often a sign of laziness, especially when there are no facts to back them up.
For example, if you claim to be the best widget provider on earth, it’s almost mandatory that you explain what makes you that. And if you don’t, it might just become clear that you couldn’t think of any specific value to present to the customer, so you just settled on the first boast you could think of.
4. Is it Easily Readable?
The common sense test. Remember, you’re not writing for machines, and neither are you writing to show off all the psychological tricks up your sleeve. You’re writing to present the value of your product to your customer. If it’s not easy to read, while still being informative, it’s not effective.
Jargon is poison for a copywriter. Excessive verbosity is almost as bad. In the words of usability researcher, Jakob Neilsen, “users behave like wild beasts in the jungle.” That’s not as insulting as it sounds—animals make decisions on their hunting based on highly optimized formulas.
The people viewing your site want intuitive design that gives them what they’re looking for with minimal time spent figuring out difficult design elements. And part of that is your copy. They shouldn’t be sent running to a dictionary or to look up what a particularly long acronym means, because that takes them away from your sales funnel.
Copywriting uses a uniquely visceral style. More than in any other type of writing, you want to describe how things feel, sound, taste, or smell instead of merely saying they’re good or bad. You want to describe the emotional impact that things will have.
Once you’re done writing your site’s copy, you need to know…
How to Test Your Copy’s Effectiveness
Testing is the only way to tell if your copy actually works. But how do you do it? There are so many methods, metrics, and tools. ConversionXL’s Tommy Walker laid out a detailed process that you might want to check out. And Neil Patel offers even further insights over at QuickSprout. However, I’m offering you a condensed summary of all that right here:
Tests for email copy can be done with quite a few mass mailing clients. For example, by selecting MailChimp’s “A/B Spit Campaign” option, you can select your winner based on “open rate,” “click rate,” or another metric that you manually define. Click rate is usually best, but you can decide for yourself.
To test your website copy, one of the best ways might be the simplest: sending out direct mail to some of your most avid customers and asking them if they think it works. Conversion XL provides a template for that kind of email, if you’re interested.
You can also use a scroll tracker to figure out how long the average customer spends reading key sections.
Finally, if you wish, you can just track conversions over an extended period of time, alternating between versions of your copy to see which ones sell more. But that’s a risky strategy, and you have to be willing to gamble with sales.
First of all, I highly recommend that if you have the money, you hire a professional copywriter. They know a plethora of tricks and secrets that someone who hasn’t studied the art would never have guessed.
However, if you’re a fairly competent writer, there’s nothing wrong with learning how to do it yourself. In fact, I encourage it, as copywriting works on the same principles as most marketing, and learning how to do it will improve your results all around. Just remember to keep asking yourself the questions I’ve outlined above.
Now over to you. What has your experience been with writing marketing copy for your online store? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image: Simply CVR
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