What is copywriting?
Copywriting is the act of writing text to be used for the purpose of advertising or other such forms of marketing. It is the writing of marketing and promotional materials that are persuasive in nature. These kind of writings motivate people to take some kind of action like making purchases, clicking on a link, donate for a cause or schedule a consultation. The written material is called copy or sales copy that aims to improve brand awareness and persuade a person or group to take a particular action. The written material can include written promotions published in print or online. They can also include spoken materials like scripts used for videos or commercials. Copywriting can be found everywhere by default.
It’s surprising to know that you can find copywriting even in your mailbox. The promotions for local restaurants, catalogs, fundraising letters from charitable organizations or sales letters for various products or services are all forms of copywriting. But there surely is more to copywriting than printed materials. We must know that what all we read online too is copywriting including webpages, free reports you sign up for and the emails you get after signing up. Sometimes we see prompts on websites to take action like ‘read more’, ‘get started’, ‘follow us’ on social media. These are all forms of persuasive copywriting. Then tv commercials, product reviews on You tube and short ‘how to’ videos on using a product are all examples of spoken copywriting.
Who is a copywriter?
A copywriter is the person who does the act of copywriting. He/she is a professional writer who is responsible for writing the text used for marketing and promotion of a product or service. He/she helps to create billboards, brochures, catalogs, jingle lyrics, magazine and newspaper ads, sales letters, scripts for television or radio commercials, taglines, white papers, website and social media posts along with other marketing communications. A copywriter is a person who has learned and practiced their craft. None amongst us was born knowing how to write an excellent piece of copy but it’s a skill that everyone can learn by having a bit of persistence.
The use of copywriters?
The art of copywriting is at the core of nearly every business. Because without copywriters businesses can’t share their messages with potential customers to expand their markets or with current customers to keep them engaged. It includes websites, non-profit organizations, service providers and retailers. Some companies which use the services of copywriters are—
- Financial institutions and investment firms
- Medical supply and pharmaceutical companies
- Food manufacturers
- Non-profit organizations
- Local service providers such as car mechanics and hair salons
- Fitness, personal improvement and other kinds of coaches
- Dentists, medical doctors and other healthcare providers
- Self-help authors and speakers
- Producers of supplements and other complimentary health products
Difference between copywriting and content writing
According to many opinions copywriting and content writing are two different things. As a general rule of thumb, copywriting refers to writing marketing and promotional materials. Content writing refers to writing informational or editorial pages on websites like blog posts, article or product pages. Some say that content writing is purely informational and has no element of persuasion and so it is not copywriting. But it is not true totally. All the webpages essentially include some form of persuasion or call to action. We can see that on a product page with a clear ‘buy now’ button at the bottom. And an article page also makes use of calls to action in the form of links to additional resources or suggestions for other pages which you can visit on the site. These are all elements of persuasion. So it will be inaccurate to say that content and copywriting are distinct from each other. It can be said that content writing is simply a different form of copywriting. And like any good copywriting, content writing has the aim to engage a reader and make them take a definitive action.
Is copywriting a flourishing industry?
Yes it is a superfast, consistent and flourishing industry. It has been studied and recognized to be a big influencing part of the process of marketing for decades. Copywriting has been around for a long time and it is not going anywhere. Businesses have always tried to reach potential customers and have a good communication regarding their products and services with them. And it has assumed added importance in this modern information age. Nowadays people keep on getting competing and engaging messages over all forms of media. Most of the businesses try to stand out better in the line with others and so invest freely in marketing and copywriting. And there’s no doubt that copywriting both in the print and online forms has become an integral part of most of the businesses. It is a sought-after skill that businesses need to survive and succeed. And so it has become an industry that is growing fast, pays you well and consists of unending mass of work.
Fundamentals of copywriting
Some of the basic fundamentals of copywriting are:-
- Knowledge of the audience—As a copywriter you must know who you are writing for. It’s not true that you are writing only for the companies that pay you because they aren’t your real audience. You are writing for the customers, website visitors, and other abc people who will read your final copy. The understanding of the audience and connecting with them is important to writing effective marketing material. You need to engage a prospective customer or website viewer and show them the use of a product, service or website which can benefit them. Most of the companies where you will work as a copywriter will be having some type of profile of their ideal customer. It may be called as a buyer profile or a customer avatar or persona. And a company can also have more than one buyer profile if they are targeting different demographics of people. The buyer profile will include details about the company’s ideal customer like average age, gender, education level, annual income, hobbies and interests, buying habits and common beliefs like the name of the political party they support. If the company knows the core details like these about a prospective customer or client then they can craft the marketing message and write copy that can speak directly to them. Copywriting surely does involve elements of persuasion but it is not about manipulating or cheating people. It’s all about establishing a proper, sincere connection with your prospect and sharing information that will benefit the clients.
2.The research factor-–The next fundamental of copywriting is giving proof of the effectiveness of the product or service. And it applies to website content writing also. Most of the blog posts, articles are backed up with supportive facts and proof. When ever you start writing, the process should start with exhaustive research. You should know the product, service or the topic inside out before you draft the outline. When doing research you should answer questions like the details of the product’s features and benefits, the working process, it’s benefit for the user, the factors that upgrade your service from your competitors, the technical, medical, financial proofs that support the claims of your clients about your product or service, the scientific research that has been done on any topic written about on a website. Two good places to start with research are Google’s advanced search page, for general research and PubMed for health related research. Each field has industry-specific sites and directories.
3.Understand the 3 fundamental rules of selling—A solid understanding of the fundamental rules of selling helps to strengthen any kind of content whether it be writing sales copy or website content.
Rule 1:–People don’t enjoy and like the idea of being sold—We generally enjoy buying items we want or need like a delicious meal, a new cell phone or a nourishing massage. But no one likes to be sold because it makes you feel that you are not in command of the process. This can be done by understanding your prospect. To start with you should connect with your customers first and then introduce them to your product or service focusing on how the product is helpful to the customers rather than applying any kind of ‘high-pressure’ sales tactics.
Rule 2:–Emotional vs the rational: what is the switcher for purchases—This can be explained with the case of chocolate chip cookies. If we see in the real context there’s no logical reason to buy a chocolate chip cookie. It has no nutritional value. It has lot of fat and refined sugar which is not exactly good for the health and are quite expensive. People know this but according to research it has been seen that they buy over 3.5 billion chocolate chip cookies every year in U.S alone. Now we are bound to think why does a no-nutrition product like a chocolate chip cookie sell so much? The simple answer is because they make people feel good. They bring happiness and satisfaction to them and that’s what matters the most. So what we learn from here is that effective copywriting needs to appeal to the customer’s feelings and desires. You want to make your reader want the product on an emotional level. And to assist in that there are some age-old emotional triggers with both positive and negative shades that copywriters often use to fulfill their purpose.
Positive—Curiosity, Optimism, Altruism, Love, Whimsy, Confidence, Passion.
Negative—Fear, Greed, Vanity, Pride, Lust, Envy, Laziness.
You need to know about the feelings of the readers who will read your copy. If your website is about watercolor painting you can stick to that only rather than putting in some other random world news or other information. People will visit your website because of their similar interests in your website. So all your content should matter to the audience and not dwindle away to other areas.
Rule 3:— People need to tally their emotional decisions with logic when purchasing a product—We all know that no person wants to be considered like a push-over or a weakling. Everyone wants to be in control of their lives and would like to have a reason to justify their decisions suiting them with a logical standpoint. Because if we don’t justify ourselves with excuses we may feel guilt, shame and regret. So similarly when a customer has taken an emotional decision to buy a product or service the copywriters need to provide them with logical, rational reasons why they are correct to buy that product. Because otherwise your potential customer may not be able to justify the purchase.
So most of the advertising will include factual details about a product like specifications for a new car, nutritional information for a food product, qualifications of a trainer or personal coach.
Rule 4:–The talk must be of benefits and not necessarily features—Now let us know what is the definition of feature and benefit. Features are technical aspects of a product, service or website. For eg, the fact a chair is made of wood, a car wash includes a free shine etc. A benefit is a specific advantage of a product, service or website which can be offered to a prospect. Benefits tell the reader what’s in the product for them. They create a psychological link which is very important. The benefits of the product stirs your reader’s emotional desires and makes them want what you have to offer.
Rule 5:–Start with a bang–dang— No area of copywriting gets more attention than leads and headlines. By their use you can catch your reader’s attention. And if you can’t do so the rest of your writing is pointless. The writing of effective headlines and leads is an art in itself. A lead is the copy directly after the headline. The headline is critical for getting your reader’s attention but once you have done that the lead must be good enough to keep them reading. An effective lead should only take up to 10 to 30% of the final copy. A lead should always deliver the big promise and introduce the big idea. The big promise means the biggest benefit the product, service or website can offer to the prospect. And the big idea is a thought-provoking one you present to your prospect related to your product or service.
Rule 6:-–Clear and personal language should be preferred—The content that you write should feel like it’s written only for your reader. A copy that feels personal and sincere will engage a reader more than a copy that is ‘salesy’, or just a promotional sale material. According to Claude Hopkins sophisticated language has no place in copywriting. Many people are not impressed by fancy prose. You should keep your copy clear and easy to understand by using simple words and sentences as much as possible. Writing from either first or second person builds a sense of intimacy with the reader.
Rule 7:–The end should be with a call to action—The purpose of copywriting must not be forgotten when ending the webpage, sales letter or other marketing materials which is to persuade the reader to take some kind of action. It is known as a call to action or CTA. You need to ask the audience to click on a link, schedule a free consultation, make a purchase or take another form of action.
Types of copywriting
Copywriting is the process of writing marketing material which is persuasive in nature. These materials are used to sell products and services but the amount of selling being done in copywritten material varies. Some types of copywriting are very much focused on sales like the advertisements we see online or in newspapers while the other types are more information-based and do not make use of sales language and tactics. Most of the businesses use both of these approaches in their marketing materials which is good for the copywriters. It means you get a choice of the level of direct selling you want to do via your writing.
1.Direct Response—Direct-response copywriting is a type of copywriting that tries to get an immediate and measurable response from the reader. This type of copywriting is typically very direct. It is a promotional piece of writing that asks directly to take an action immediately like to buy the company’s product or service or sign up for a free newsletter. It is different from ‘image advertising’ or ‘brand advertising’ like glossy magazine ads which only inform or remind potential customers of a brand or product. One other component of direct-response marketing is that it’s measurable. Because a direct-response campaign requires immediate action, a company can know the effectiveness of the campaign by tracking the number of responses. It is also called the response rate. On the other hand, image or brand advertising cannot be tracked. And so direct-response advertising is so important and valuable. The companies can see the way their marketing materials are working and so then they can adjust things accordingly. So there is a big demand for copywriters who can write persuasive copy to help readers to take action. A common type of direct-response marketing is long-form sales copy either in print or online form. Example of long-form direct-response copywriting is a long letter of product description or one asking for donation or charity or a long sales page for a product online. Some other examples of direct-response copywriting include—Video sales letters, catalogs, fundraising letters, magalogs, online sales pages and landing pages, pay-per-click ads, online or print advertorials, sales emails.
2.Content Marketing—The term content refers in particular to informational or editorial pages on websites such as blog posts, article pages or product pages. Content includes some elements of persuasion but the main purpose is to educate and inform the reader about a product or service. The term ‘content marketing’ refers to using informational content to attract and build strong relationships with customers and convert them into future buyers. Most of the content marketing is done online but it is done in print also. For eg, an online company will have product descriptions on their respective websites and alongside they may also print brochures to be handed out at trading shows or other such events. Content marketing is a massive industry.
Some common types of content marketing materials are blog posts, article pages, homepages, order pages, product pages, social media posts, special posts and other lead magnets, case studies, e-books, white papers, news releases, e-newsletters, informational video scripts. One benefit of writing content-marketing material is the fact that most of them are repeating in nature. For eg, if you are hired by a website to write blog posts you won’t end up writing only one. The company would want you to write multiple posts every week or month. Most of the content-marketing projects fall in this category.
Types of businesses and their customers
There are two main categories of businesses which hire copywriters. They are separated by the types of customers they serve. Both the industries have unique needs and characteristics that influence the types of copywriting being used.
The B2C companies sell directly to consumers. Some examples are supermarkets, most of the brick-and-mortar stores and online businesses like Amazon, Zappos, Dell etc. This industry makes use of the complete range of copywritten materials which include direct response and content marketing in print and via online mode.
B2B businesses sell directly to other businesses instead of customers. For eg, most of the heavy-equipment manufacturers will sell their equipment directly to warehouses, factories and other industrial businesses but they don’t sell directly to the public. Many of the service providers deal directly with other businesses like staffing service, logistics consultation, in-house training. The B2B companies use more written sales materials than their B2C counterparts. Some common B2B marketing materials include white papers, case studies, sales brochures and product sheets, e-books, online and print newsletters, infographics, press releases, webpages, social media content, email sequences, scripts for videos, webinars and podcasts.
Job of the copywriter
A copywriter is a professional writer who is responsible for writing the text or copy which is used in marketing and promotional materials. A copywriter can assist a company in marketing, consult on a range of topics and provide services according to their current skill sets. All the copywriting projects will involve these tasks—
1.Researching-A solid research is the foundation for nearly all kinds of copywriting projects. A copywriter has to find out facts to support his claims and include interesting details to include in his copy which can then engage the readers and make out an outstanding copy. The research for writing the copy may include online research like referencing industry-specific databases, reports, online forums and product reviews, Interviews with clients, Review of similar copywriting projects both from the client and other source, studying books and scientific journals, brainstorming what you know about any topic, visiting libraries, museums and other organizations which may have added information on any subject. By doing extensive research one can improve the quality of the final copywriting project.
2.Writing, editing and proofreading
To write the first draft of a piece of copywriting will need great understanding of the requirement of the project and putting each part in the right places. The real writing part will depend on the writing style. So planning the project in detail before the writing of first draft and forming a rough outline of the same is important. The writer should be very creative in writing the copy. And then the copy needs to be edited and proofread. At this stage the first draft is taken from being functional to exceptional. For that the writer should have a good grasp of grammar, a good tone for the audience and proper language.
3.Managing projects and tasks
Whether you are a freelancer or staff copywriter you will need to be able to manage multiple projects at the same time and streamline the daily tasks.
The remuneration factor of copywriters
A better way than crunching numbers and doing wasted analysis on the salary you make as a copywriter is to know your personal income goals. You must know what income you want to make. There’s space for nearly any income goal in the copywriting industry. Copywriting provides more than required income to meet the income goals.
Do the different areas of copywriting pay same?
No, all copywriting works do not pay in the same range. The lowest-paying area of copywriting is working for advertising agencies specializing in giving their customers cheap and substantial written content. Such kind of agencies are also known as ‘content mills’. They pay extremely low rates to their copywriters.
How to price your work?
Being a freelancer you can make use of the chance to set your own salary. But then you will also have to make sure that you charge the right fees. For that you need to review the types of copywriting you want to write and then do a quick check to know the standard fees for them.
How to become a successful copywriter?
The tips to become a good copywriter are:-
- Know the basics in and out—To write a good copy for a B2B or a B2C business or any option open to you as a copywriter, it’s important to study more about the subject and keep on practicing. You need to know the fundamentals nicely. Then reading copywriting classics is also a good way to speed up and update your knowledge of copywriting.
- Get the right mindset–To become a good copywriter it’s important that you believe in yourself and your potential as a copywriter. So you need to have a positive mindset from the start of your career as a copywriter. A successful copywriter should not possess any self-doubt, indulge in negative self-talk and should free the mind from depressing thoughts which question his competency.
- Make the choice of a niche—As a copywriter you need to strive to find a niche for yourself. Or it can be said that you need to find that particular space which fits your capacity in talent, interests and skills. The niche means one of these things. A specific industry or market that you want to write for and a specific type of copy you specialize in writing. A niche market means a specific industry or segment in an industry. Some examples of niche market are renewable energy, baby products, SAAS technology, health and nutrition, travel or real estate. One should choose a niche because it increases your value as a copywriter. By choosing a niche you will be considered as an expert in that field. And consequently companies will pay you more than freshers. By specialization in a particular area you can find high-paying and interesting work, something that you would like to do.
- Have knowledge of the particular industry and offer the required-–When you have chosen your niche area you need to learn about the industry for which you will work. For eg, to write for a health industry you need to do research in that segment, subscribing for health and nutrition newsletters, go to industry events and seminars or read books on the particular topic. And then you need to pay attention to all the advertising copy that you receive in print and mail. It will show the types of copywriting the industry makes use of and which you have to write too.
- Find your tribe or type—None of the copywriters have been successful alone. They all have needed the help of others. So wherever you may be in your copywriting career you will need the guidance of other copywriters. There is lot of value in staying connected to other copywriters. They can provide the support and direction you might need in testing times. You can reach out and connect with other copywriters by joining a critique group either virtually or in person, go to copywriting seminars and related events, join copywriting tutorial groups, participate in online copywriting forums or start own copywriting group. The connecting with other copywriters has many practical advantages. Their suggestions can improve the quality of your writing.
- Know your marketing strategy well-–A USP is important when you write a sales copy for a company’s product but it is very important when you are trying to sell your services.
- Do time management-–It’s very important to do time management. If you are a freelance copywriter you need to be very efficient in doing your work. This control will not happen in a day or even a year. It is an ongoing process which will evolve with your career as you learn the types of copywriting that suit you best.
Copywriting is a lucrative job option. It is quite a necessity for all kinds of businesses. If you ardently want to learn the skills of it and can be dedicated you will surely know it’s titbits. It’s neither difficult nor secluded for any section of people. One needs to work through it and before you know you will be a master of this trade and never have to look back.