11 Keys to great copywriting.

Posted on: June 14th | Filed under: Copywriting

My clients seem to have an appreciation for high quality copywriting — the words and phrases that help sell products and services. While many of them know great copy when they read it, many can’t seem to put it into words. Perhaps they should hire a copywriter to help them make their point. Or maybe they should read my list…


1. Great copy is clear.

This can not be emphasized enough. Too often I read or see ads that, sadly, someone paid a lot of money to produce, and sound ‘ad-like,’ but make no sense at all. Sometimes clarity is sacrificed in the name of supposed creativity. This should not have to be a choice. Being clear means being truthful, authentic, accurate and understood. Settle for nothing less.


2. Great copy is creative.

Great copy articulates a thought or sells a product with a unique point of view. One that will resonate with its audience. Creative copy can be funny, clever, conceptually unique, but most importantly, it makes the audience feel special and emotionally connected in some way.


3. Great copy is concise.

My father, a retired industrial salesman once told me you should “Make the sale and leave.” Writers take heed. Be respectful of people’s time. And try not to get paid by the word.


4. Great copy is persuasive.

If your copy isn’t proving a point — “My product is unique because…,” “This will make your life better by…” — then fire your writer. Your words should drive action… a phone call, an email, a purchase! I should caveat this by letting you know, my dear potential clients, that the writer will need from you — in plain English — what point you’re trying to prove, and all supporting information. Which brings me to my next point…


5. Great copy comes from great direction.

No, you don’t have to be a master at writing a creative brief (and who is anymore?). But you do need to be clear who you are selling to, the habits and buying triggers of your audience, and all of your supporting data. Asking your copywriter to guess at all of this can lead to mediocre work. And mediocre work can lead to awkward silences during presentations. Or worse, no sales. It’s not pretty.


6. Great copy is accessible.

Does your copy use words people know? Can your audience relate to it? Can Google bots scan it and know the topic you’re discussing? Good. We’re done here.


7. Great copy has legs.

You know that banner ad you just had me write? Well, guess what. With a slight tweak here and there, that message could be easily tailored to work on your home page. Or, better yet, let’s make it the basis for a mini-site that serves as an extension to your campaign. Oh, and it’s also useful on that tradeshow sell sheet too. With great copy, you pay for it once, but it can have many lives.


8. Great copy works with its key visual.

Often, copy, especially headlines, have to work well with a visual. They need to work together to tell the story. The copy should not — under any circumstance — repeat what the visual has already said. One has to add more dimension to the other. Let’s take an ad for a local builder, for example. The visual is of a carpenter sawing wood. Instead of a ‘We build homes’ kind of thought, maybe play off their years of experience: “Over 30 years behind every cut.” Yin. Yang. Bing, bang, boom.


9. Great copy works in your absence.

Small businesses and B2B companies rely heavily on face-to-face interactions to sell product. Still, you can’t be everywhere at once. And great copy on a postcard, a website, a slide presentation, an ad, etc… can effectively represent you, your company and your product when you’re somewhere else.


10. Great copy can take time.

Writers choose words carefully. It’s often a painful, slightly narcissistic process by which the writer feels every word being judged. But the pain eventually gives way to the ‘Ahhhh’ moment when the words seem to flow together like gravy on mash potatoes. If your writer asks for four days to write a new page for your website, or needs a week to come up with new taglines, give it to them. We’re not just dashing off an email here. Chances are, the copywriter won’t need all that time, but writers need some cushion in order to get in the ‘zone.’


11. Great copy is poofread by all.

Did you catch that? Writers do know how to spell check, but they need project managers, art directors and clients to read — and proofread — the copy too.
There you have it, folks. Learn it. Live it. Write it (or hire me to do it for  you).
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