It is probably a truism to state that a significant percentage of companies cut corners when it comes to writing copy for their website and their other sales and marketing materials – e.g. company brochures, product leaflets and corporate presentations – not to mention their direct marketing and advertising campaigns. The reason why is obvious . Everyone can write, right? Then why spend extra money investing in someone else to do your copywriting for you? You can save all that time, money and effort by doing it all internally. The trouble is, however, that although we can all write, we cannot all write well.
Writing good copy is a skill
Writing good copy is a skill. It requires an innate ability to step into the shoes of the reader in order to understand their emotional and rational drivers. It requires an appreciation of the psychological factors that underpin both explicit messages and implicit meaning to persuade a reader to believe in your brand. It requires an excellent command of the English language, so that sentences are written and structured in such a way as to make it easy for the reader to understand the context of what is being said. It demands an absolute understanding of how business works in general, the ability to learn quickly about a particular organisation and the products and services that it sells, and an in-depth familiarity with both the sales and the marketing functions.
Another important consideration to bear in mind is corporate branding. Now, you might think that your logo is your brand, but that’s like saying your skin is your body. It’s not. It’s just the visual exterior for all the different elements that have to be put in place behind the scenes to create a specific personality and character for your business. Virgin is an excellent example of a company with a really strong brand proposition – one of the reasons behind this is the amount of effort they put into making sure they write in such a way as to consistently express core values associated with their brand, such as ‘providing heartfelt service’ and ‘being delightfully surprising, red hot and straight up’.
Thinking about the importance of good copy content from the point of view of digital marketing strategy, search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo are constantly tightening up their algorithms, shifting the focus onto the provision of high quality readable content relevant for specific keywords – it is now a double-edged attempt to find the right balance between robot and person, and this is a real skill in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO). If appearing in natural search results is one of the core aims of your digital marketing strategy (and it probably should be for most organisations), this means that the quality of your copywriting will make or break the efficacy of your efforts.
Good copy is engaging to your target audience. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, consideration must always be given to demographics to make sure that the tone of voice you adopt is appropriate to your customers’ profiles. Do you know who you are selling to? Many larger companies invest a great deal of time and effort in defining their customer segments, and there is no reason why the same approach should not be taken by every business, regardless of its size.
Good copy reflects the brand proposition. In an ideal world, content should always be consistent in the way that it is written, and this consistency should apply across all sales and marketing materials, and all advertising and direct marketing campaigns too. One should have the sense that one is reading different chapters from the same book. Therefore, it stands to reason that one should have clear guidelines in place that define a framework within which all copy is written. This does not mean that the same copywriter should be employed to write all your materials – but it does make sense for the same team to be involved, if at all possible. The end result will warrant it.
More than anything, good copy is an art form. Some people can play a musical instrument or paint technically well, but that does not mean that they have the natural flair to do so, nor a passion that comes straight from the heart. Good copy is highly readable, and creating it is the fundamental aim of a good copywriter. There are also tools you can use to measure the quality of the ‘ease of readability’ of your copy content, such as the Flesch-Kincaid test, but these add little value in most instances to the process, in our opinion.
How should I brief a copywriter?
A good brief really can make the difference between the success and failure of your copywriting project. Begin by introducing your organisation. Add a description of your products and services and give your copywriter plenty of literature to read. Invite them in to your office so that they get a feel for the atmosphere, and make time for them to chat with the key people. Share your business plan with them too – once they’ve signed an NDA, of course. Tell them about your customers, give them a copy of your brand guidelines, and explain the features and benefits you wish them to talk about. Outline any company USPs and core propositions you might have.
Provide them with a list of relevant competitors too. One of the best ways to pick up good copywriting ideas is to check out the competition by reviewing their websites. This will enable you to better understand how they market themselves, and their products and services, to potential customers. You can also conduct a technical audit to identify their primary keywords, which you can then use to populate your content, where it is appropriate to do so.
There are lots of other things to consider too, of course. Outline what needs to be produced. Agree word counts to aim for, and establish a timing plan and deadlines.
Finally, you should always agree on an appropriate call-to-action.
What makes a good copywriter?
One of the primary qualities to look for in a copywriter is their ability to quickly become an expert in what you do as a business. Much like a journalist, this entails research, planning and interviewing skills. A good copywriter is an innately curious and passionate creative, who likes to ask lots of awkward questions with gusto and enthusiasm. As previously mentioned, a good copywriter also has to be a sales and marketing professional. Finally, a good copywriter should be passionate about your brand – and knowledgeable about all the facets that make up a brand – its values, vision, views and virtues.The best writers will question and challenge your brief in a direct but tactful way. If a copywriter doesn’t do so, this may be a sign that you have engaged a ‘yes’ man. This might be good for your ego, but it probably won’t be good for your business…
We hope that you found this article helpful. If you would like to find out more, please email Stephen Brown, our head of strategy and planning, at firstname.lastname@example.org.