10 Essential Copywriting Tips for Beginners
Starting anything new can be daunting. Luckily, there seems to be a how to book or dummies guide on just about every topic under the sun. Yes, there are even copywriting for dummies books to help all the beginners out there, but why buy a book when you can get a plethora of ideas online.
Copywriting is both an art and a science. Copywriters use words to paint a picture, evoke emotion, create strategy and move people to action. The basic architecture of copywriting includes building blocks like catchy headlines, targeted bullet points, and calls to action.
It’s important to know the lingo and have a basic understanding of what you’ll be doing as a copywriter. A good copywriter tells people what they’re going to tell them, actually tells them and then tells them what they told them in the catchiest and most thought-provoking way. If you caught all that, then you have the makings to be an excellent copywriter.
Tip 25: Be strong and forceful in your sales copy
Take dieting as an example. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that the best way to lose weight is to eat more vegetables and exercise more. But this is obvious so really, everyone’s saying the same thing in slightly different ways.
The main problem with eating more healthily is that people can only hold out for so long. In other words, at the start of any diet, we’re usually quite enthusiastic. We cut out all their sugary foods, but this lifestyle change only lasts a week or a month.
By combining the topic of dieting with something fairly unrelated [chocolate], you can capture attention quickly. Once you’ve done that, you can talk about how humans will be more likely to stick to a diet if they’re allowed some days off.
Tell a story.
A 26-year-old raw copywriter sat down in 1926 to write an ad for the U.S. School of Music selling home-study courses for would-be musicians. He could have used a simple benefit headline, like Master the Piano at Home in 30 Days – Without a Teacher!
He dug deeper. He knew that mastering an instrument is hard work, and that the real reasons people do it is to be popular, to win their friends’ admiration and envy, and to find happiness. That copywriter realized the real product of the ad wasn’t a course or the ability to play, but popularity and happiness. With that in mind, he still could have used the classic how-to benefit headline, such as How to Be the Most Popular Guy of Any Party!
He knew that simply describing musicians’ popularity wouldn’t be enough. He needed the headline to resonate emotionally with prospects. He needed to create a vivid image of a buffoon–the kind of person no one ever dreamed could play – who left his friends stunned speechless by his performance.
That copywriter was John Caples, who was inducted into both the Copywriters Hall of Fame and the Advertising Hall of Fame in the 1970s. That ad he wrote in the ‘20s launched his career and is still considered one of the pillars of the copywriting field.
It worked because it captured prospects’ attention, drew them into a world they desperately wanted to be part of, and left them hungry for more. The story presented the product as doing most of the hard work of learning to play and overcame the objection that you need a special talent to play (since even the buffoon could do it).
Make the copy visually appealing.
Successful advertiser Leo Burnett developed simple icons to symbolize easy-to-understand product benefits and values (such as the Jolly Green Giant and the Pillsbury Doughboy). One of his rules of copywriting was to “make it inviting to look at” – since if the ad didn’t invite and entice the eye, no one would read it.
As writers and content marketers, we like to play with our words. Sometimes that’s okay, depending on your brand personality and the type of content. But most of the time, being clear and concise will return greater rewards than being clever.
“Effective copywriting is salesmanship in print, not clever wordsmithing. The more self-effacing and invisible your selling skill, the more effective you are. Copywriters who show off their skills are as ineffective as fishermen who reveal the hook.”
And, finally, keep these copywriting tips handy!
If you’re writing ad copy or blog posts now, it’s likely you’re going to have to do it again—so save yourself time and energy, and use these copywriting tips and exercises as many times as you need to jump back into writing!
Meet The Author
Céillie is Head of Marketing for Building Ventures , a VC firm focused on funding and mentoring early-stage startups in the built environment space. Previously, Ceillie led content strategy for Unstack and managed the award-winning blog at WordStream.
More Articles Like This
How to Write a Follow-Up Email (+12 Examples & Templates)
30 Awesome Examples of Conversational Copywriting (+How to Do It Right)
24 Unusual (Yet Brilliant) Call to Action Examples You Can Copy