For copywriting to really earn its money on your pages, you need more than just words.
After all, most people can come up with some words. The hard part is knowing if they’re any good. And then putting them in the right order.
That might sound like a bad joke – so let me explain.
Imagine you’re in a restaurant, for a meal with your partner. It’s your one-year anniversary, and you’ve booked somewhere classy in the centre of town.
There’s soft lighting, gleaming thin-rimmed wine glasses on your table, faint traces of classical music in the background.
You both sit down, take a minute to get comfy, soak up the surroundings. There aren’t many people in, so you’re expecting a good service. Then, out of the corner of your eye you see the waiter walking over. You take a breath, preparing to ask for a couple of aperitifs.
And then you stop. Because hang on, what’s this?
The waiter is carrying two plates of food.
One has chicken on it; the other fish.
You look around the restaurant, thinking he’s destined for another table. But no, everyone else is eating.
The waiter’s heading straight at you.
Without even looking you in the eye, he puts the chicken in front of you, and the fish in front of your partner. And then he goes off into the kitchen.
Within seconds the same waiter reappears with a tray of drinks.
Again, without any acknowledgement, he pours you a glass of white wine. Your partner gets a bottle of fizzy water.
The waiter races off, like you don’t exist.
You and your partner look at each other, both wearing “WTF” faces.
Your customer experience is that the waiter didn’t take the time to find out what you wanted.
He made a judgment based on preconceived ideas – “Oh they look like they like chicken and fish. That one’s obviously a white wine drinker, and the other looks like they’re staying off the booze.” How likely are you going to return?
It’s the same with copywriting. So if you want the right words in the right order, you need a writer who gets inside the head of your target audience. No assumptions. Someone who works out what problem, pain or desire they’re experiencing.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs gets you started:
This is about working out where your business belongs in the hierarchy. Then deciding what your audience needs. Finally, supplying words in a way that positions your business as the obvious answer.
That’s what makes copy jump off the screen.
Describing your business in a way that a blind person can visualise it. Guiding your reader along the path, from casual browser, to motivated shopper, to loyal customer.
Features tell, benefits sell
People make buying decisions based on emotion, which they justify using logic. Which means writing about your product in a way that explains the benefits first, features second.
For example, someone buying a luxury car makes their decision based on emotion, which could include:
- wanting to project an image of success
- joining an exclusive group
- attracting a partner
These are benefits of owning a luxury car.
Then they justify their decision based on logic:
- power steering
- heated seats
- fuel efficiency
These are features of the luxury car.
You get the idea. Emotion, then logic. Benefits, then features.
Covering the angles
When it comes to writing for the web, a copywriter needs to see the big picture. Headlines, sub-headings, call to action buttons, form fields – it all has to come together.
Because everyone who lands on a website or webpage has the same 3 questions:
‘Where am I?’
‘What can I do?’
‘Why should I do it here?’
After all, people rarely read websites; they scan them. If they don’t find what they want, they leave. Quickly.
What’s more, we only have a few seconds – 40% will leave your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
That means telling your audience what you’re offering, why it’s great, and what’s in it for them. In short sentences, like this.
We also need to add some oil in the form of formatting, to keep everything running smoothly:
- bullet points
- bold text
Taking your audience on a journey to other sections of your website, but not in a way that distracts them or makes them want to leave.
So there you have it. Alongside words, you need to know what’s going on inside your audience’s head. And you need to know about laying out a web page.