Copy is the easiest way for you to communicate with your target audience. Words never have and never will be an afterthought that follows brilliant design. They are always well considered and are the primary means of expression. They are purposeful and take ground-breaking design to new heights. Write well and you will go far. Write really well and you’ll notice improvements in your ROI.
Words can comfort, they can disturb, they can inspire, and they can perturb. There are over 171,000 words in the English language, so there are countless combinations you can conjure up. And, if like me, you’re a monolingual Brit, you’d do well to have an extensive vocabulary and a range of writing techniques to call upon to vary delivery.
Despite what those supposedly in the know keep saying, words aren’t dead. They aren’t about to die and there are no plans to swap the alphabet for hieroglyphics. Words are still as important as they ever were. The only thing that has changed is the way we consume and communicate words. We don’t sit in candlelit rooms reading literature or penning letters. We digest restaurant menus and read Twitter threads. We text, DM and write Facebook statuses.
To communicate effectively in marketing, it’s fundamental to understand the difference between writing and copywriting. Writing is the use of words to educate, inform or tell a story. Whereas copywriting is the use of words to persuade someone to do something. Simple, right? Now that distinction has been made, let’s press on with exploring some techniques to help your writing persuade and drive response.
How things feel matter more than facts
No one wants to read something devoid of emotion. Instruction manuals are devoid of emotion. Channelling emotion in your writing – be it happiness, sadness or anger – is a clever way to engage your audience and inspire action. Think of a time where you used reason, logic and copious amounts of facts in an argument so eloquently formed that it wouldn’t look out of place coming from a barrister in a courtroom. And yet, the person you’re arguing with digs their heels in and doubles down, failing to agree with the point you’re making. Chances are you didn’t inject enough emotion in your pitch.
Emotion is a powerful motivator. Exposure to emotion makes people click, like, share, buy and do. Preying upon normal human fears can help you achieve what you want to. One of the most iconic political adverts of its kind in the UK did exactly this; the Conservatives positioned a group of people in a snaking queue from the dole office with the headline, ‘Labour isn’t working. Britain is better off with the Conservatives.’ Direct and concise, the ad was successful in swaying voters and re-electing the Conservatives.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Repeat to remind. Repeat to reinforce. Repeat because the deal is that bloody good. Repetition is a fool proof technique to solidify your core message in the mind of a consumer. Our brains are wired to seek out patterns and patterns are memorable. Why do you think we have such a fascination with music?
‘Education, education, education’ – you may not be interested in politics, but I’d be willing to wage that you’ve heard of this phrase before. That’s right, Blair’s mantra in which he built his 1999 PM campaign around. Politicians absolutely love repetition. Why? Because it’s effective in reinforcing a central message they’re trying to communicate.
The inverted pyramid
Pyramids conjure up contrasting images depending on what you think of. The Pyramids of Giza, the peak of human endeavour and engineering, or a pyramid scheme, a business model that recruits new members with undeliverable promises. However, if you stick with the inverted pyramid when writing copy, you won’t go far wrong. The inverted pyramid will help you prioritise and structure information.
Turn a conventional pyramid on its head, split up into three sections with horizontal lines. The top section (the biggest) should contain the most important information, the middle section should include important details like quotes and dates, and the bottom section should be background information like a call to action. Lead with the most pertinent information upfront and give people a reason to read on. The more they read, the greater your ROI is likely to be.
It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you
Unless you’re penning a shameless vanity project, your focus should be on the reader. Any benefits or advantages should be relayed with them in mind. The easiest way to do this? Use the word ‘you’. Lots and lots of times.
Using the word ‘you’ helps you remain focused on what you can do for your audience. It helps you not be a selfish writer and limit the self-indulgent narrative so many brands are guilty of in their communications. Ultimately it will help you write benefit led copy, which should make your words irresistible to the reader as it will solve an issue they are currently experiencing.
Variety is the spice of life
This lesson is best explained through the words of renowned American writer Gary Provost:
“This sentence has five words. Five word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is losing appeal. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.
Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is interested, I will engage him or her with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals – sounds that say, “Listen to this: it is important.” So, write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.”
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