COPYWRITING IN ACTION® COURSE INSIGHT #91
Part III: The Last 3 Reasons You're Not Great at Copywriting.
Like any good communication, properly practiced copywriting employs focus, intention and empathy — three essentials easily overlooked when the mind is wishy-washy and the heart is half-half. The next three pointers are the difference between the forgettable and the memorable. There’s nothing new here that hasn’t been practised by accomplished copywriters for decades, yet they are easily overlooked in the race to a deadline. And Not-So-Greats #8, #9 and #10 can lose you the race before you even start.
NOT SO GREAT COPYWRITING #8: POINTLESS HEADLINES
If your comm-piece doesn’t headline a clear, concise and compelling proposition, if it doesn’t tell a story, if it doesn’t have meaning for the target audience, the chances are very high that you’re not going to arrest attention.
So the question is — what’s your point? That’s all we want to know.
Get it crystal clear in your own mind first. That’s where a Hi-Fi Communication Brief: comes in. That’s where all the data and information is turned into knowledge and insight. And that insight is the makings of a clear and compelling proposition (the point).
It’s the promise of what will benefit your target audience. All they want to know is what’s in it for them.
What are you offering that will benefit them?
What will they get out of it?
What desirable experience are they going to have as a result of becoming your client?
If you’re not making an attractive proposition that out-shines the competition’s proposition, there is really not a lot of reason for people to pay further attention to you.
NOT SO GREAT COPYWRITING #9: LOOK-WHAT-I-CAN-DO HEADLINES
As soon as we’re asked to write a headline, our first instinct is to get clever with funny puns, clichés and bon mots. We want to impress instead of express. Hence, confused reader doesn’t buy in.
As you know from the read so far, to properly express, we have to be crystal clear about the point. One born from knowledge and insight.
That one insight is worth a thousand clever headlines.
And the best of these insight-driven headlines are headlines with a benefit in them. As long as the propositional content is expressed clearly and concisely (what I call a responsible headline) then the job is done, and done well. But if you can stretch your copywriting skills and make the headline compelling as well, then you’re up there with the best of them.
The job of the headline is to get them to read the first line of the copy (be it an editorial, a post, a sales letter or a report). And the job of your first line of copy is to get the second line read. And the job of your second line of copy is to get the third line read. And the job of your third line of copy is to get the forth line read. And so on, all the way to the final full stop.
NOT SO GREAT COPYWRITING #10: NO PROOF NO EXPERIENCE
I’m going to cover these two No-No’s under one sub-head because they’re closely related.
In case I haven’t already said it enough, copywriters are talking to a reluctant and impatient audience; the last thing they want to do is read your copy. Unless it’s interesting. So right from the get-go, you’re faced with an audience that’s in a state of disinterest, disbelief and distrust.
So you’re going to have to earn their permission for you to keep talking (that is, they keep reading or listening). In short, you have to prove you’re worth their precious time.
Proof is in the substantiation part of the Anatomy of Body Copy.
Substantiation sentences follow the introduction copy, and talk about the features and benefits of your product or service. Most copy stops at features — instead of proving the point, it’s big-noting the brand. But by adding a benefit, the substantiation sentences become meaningful, valuable and/or useful to the reader. Only then are you proving your point and, as a result, earning their buy-in.
In the social media world, meaningful proof is what other people say about you or your brand. This is far more believable than what you say about yourself.
There is no way you can counterfeit hundreds of people hash-tagging, “Man, this webinar is great. I’m getting good information. It’s really a good use of my time. Thank you guys so much.” That’s social proof.
Another type of proof is specific numbers. So don’t say “up to (or around) 50% more efficient”, quote the actual statistic. 48.7% or 52.4% shows accuracy and credibility. The more specific your copy, the more credible and sincere the take-away.
When it comes to the verb “experience” don’t say it, show it. The experience is in the descriptive sentences.
Descriptive writing is showing what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like, tastes like.
Here’s an example from a Copywriting in Action® course participant writing for his tour guide website:
Where do local heritage buffs go to uncover modern Singapore’s forgotten past?
At the edge of the Civic District, they trek up an ancient hill called Fort Canning. They walk along a winding stone pathway through a mystical forest. After the short walk, they arrive at the summit to enjoy panoramic views of the iconic Singapore River and Marina Bay.
On my private tour, you too can discover the historic heart so dear to Singaporeans.
Notice you’re already on the tour. You’re experiencing the place like local Singaporeans do. The benefit of seeing Singapore through Singaporean eyes is laced throughout this piece of copy. In short, you have just had a Singaporean experience without ever mentioning the word.
Of course, descriptive writing takes advanced writerly skills. If you’re not a natural at it, don’t worry; just remember: when you write about experiences, you’re telling a story. A story has a series of images (like a movie). And your reader is the protagonist. You put them in the picture and direct them to see for themselves what the experience is made up of.
In short, great copywriting requires discipline, creativity and humanity enough to find empathy in all humans, good and bad.
Meanwhile, my online copywriting course’s latest timetable is up and running and ready to take your booking now. It’s a smart way to get your copywriting to arrest attention and make people want to buy-into your stories.