There’s a lot of information online about copywriting for free. Unfortunately, if you don’t know anything about it, you also won’t know if you’re learning the right way or not.
Much of the free info is outdated or misleading. Hyping the heck out of something is not copywriting.
Copywriting is a simple process that requires equal measures of restraint and insight.
Learn the basics for free in this article.
Once you know the fundamentals, it’s just a matter of practice and testing.
In this article, you’ll discover the basics of copywriting, how to begin a project, and how to complete it.
You’ll also learn where to find cost-effective resources to improve your game.
Before We Begin Our Journey
Copywriting is persuasive writing. In the context of this article, I show copywriting methods as they relate to selling a product.
However, you can use these same methods to persuade someone to take any action you wish, such as completing an email form or downloading a pdf.
Variations of these methods also work in conversation and interpersonal relations.
The effectiveness persuasion hinges on understanding your prospect and what they want.
When you understand these things and show the prospect how your product helps them get what they want, you’re persuasive.
Copywriting is Selling.
If you’ve had a lousy experience with a salesperson, you might think sales is a bad thing. It’s not. Sales are the foundation of any economy.
Unfortunately, the sales profession has a poor reputation, probably because of aggressive, high-pressure salespeople who treat others as little more than cash on the hoof.
At its best, selling is problem-solving.
A professional salesperson finds people who have a problem or desire and then shows them how his product solves their problem or fulfills their desire.
It’s vital that you understand, process, and internalize this truth about successful sales because this is what you’ll be doing as a copywriter.
Copywriting is selling, and selling is problem-solving.
The most successful copy targets an audience with a problem or desire and then shows them how a product can help.
A successful copywriter will:
- Empathize with the prospective customer, understand her problems, desires, and needs, and then show her how the product addresses these issues.
- Then inspire the prospect to try the product and give her a rational reason why she should.
Keep It Simple.
Copywriting is a simple process. It’s not mysterious, and there are no secrets. The mechanics of copywriting are well known.
You’ll learn them here.
Copywriting gurus do not have magical powers, and taking their course won’t bestow magical powers onto you.
Anyone who can write a complete sentence can write compelling copy. However, like any craft, some people are more talented than others.
Copywriting is clear communication. Keep it simple.
Start with the Right Attitude.
Inexperienced copywriters typically try to bully the target audience into taking action. They throw everything at the reader, blatantly trying to manipulate them into action.
Copywriting is not a battle of wills. It’s a seduction.
Imagine you want a romantic partner. In this extreme example, you have two tactics.
- You can find someone you’re attracted to, club them over the head and drag them back to your place. The transaction may be adequate, but it won’t be satisfying. And, if your mate survives your advances, they’ll escape at the first opportunity.
- Or, you spend time with them, treat them with respect, prove your trustworthiness, and gently show them, step-by-step, you’re what they want. It’s a satisfying experience for you both.
In the second scenario, not only will you get what you want, your romantic partner will stick around and brag about you to friends and family.
Life is good.
Be Gentle. Be Kind.
When you approach your copywriting with a kind and gentle heart, you will naturally focus on technique instead of brute force.
Plus, your writing tone will be friendly. You’ll come across as trustworthy, which is essential.
In a moment, when I show you the traits of successful copywriters, I’ll discuss the importance of empathy.
For now, just know when you begin a copywriting project with a kind heart, you will naturally empathize with your prospective customer.
Empathy is a copywriter’s most potent asset.
Nobody Wants to Be Sold.
“People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.”
The last thing you want as a copywriter is for your writing to sound salesy.
The moment a prospective customer feels someone is trying to sell them something, they become defensive. The prospect activates a psychological forcefield so dense not even a Starship Enterprise photon torpedo can’t penetrate.
You lose them.
Your goal as a copywriter is to capture the attention of your target audience and keep them engaged so they can discover the benefits of your offer.
The Components of Good Copy.
Compelling copy will have the following Components woven together in a seamless flow.
- A headline that captures attention.
- A friendly tone, as if speaking to a friend.
- Simple, straightforward sentence structure.
- A benefit the audience will value.
- An engaging rhythm that gently leads the audience through the piece.
- Inspiration that moves the audience to take a specific action, such as “Download Now,” or “Get Your Copy Today.”
- It’s polished, free of mistakes, and grammatical errors.
- Images, graphics, and video elements complement the text.
- When suitable, a story that stirs emotion within the audience.
Knowledge is Power: Research.
Copywriting is mostly research. The writing part is only about 20% of the process.
A sales message can only succeed to the degree the writer understands the target audience, the product, and the competition.
A well-informed copywriter with average skills can outperform a more skillful ill-informed copywriter.
When you put in the work to fully understand your audience, product, and competition, you’ll find writing persuasive copy a lot easier.
The best copywriters are the best researchers.
The Target Audience.
Focus on your target audience.
The copy you write, whether it is a sales letter, video, email, or something else, is your performance.
When a prospect makes a purchase or performs a call to action, they are applauding your performance.
Research your target audience until they become real in your mind. It helps to create a persona, an imaginary person who represents your audience.
Give your persona a name and find an image of someone online who represents the average person who will read your copy.
Later, when you’re writing your first draft, keep this imaginary person in mind. Focus on them, not the product.
Be sure your writing speaks to the audience.
While researching your target audience, look for emotional triggers that will inspire them to follow through with your call to action.
Most people make emotional buying decisions and later justify their choice with logic. Find the emotional trigger of the target audience.
Why would they accept your offer?
Target Audience Research.
If possible, talk directly with someone in your target audience. Find out what issues they may have that your product can resolve.
If your writing ad copy for a client. Your client may have market surveys and summaries about the target audience. If so, these are a goldmine of information.
On the other hand, if you’re writing copy for your campaigns, consider conducting a market survey.
Another source of information is blogs and forums that cater to your audience. You can hang out and just observe or interact with the community.
Find how your product fits into the life of your target audience and how it helps them.
Another goldmine is product reviews.
Check YouTube for video reviews of your product and your competitor’s product. What do customers like about it, and what are the complaints?
The Importance of Empathy.
If there is a secret that separates the average copywriter from the 7-figure superstars, it’s empathy.
Empathy is the emotional ability to feel what another person is experiencing. We learn it when we are children if we learn it at all.
Unfortunately, some people are incapable of empathy. Not surprisingly, they have endless difficulties with interpersonal relationships.
A copywriter who can emotionally relate to a prospective customer has better insight into the prospect’s problems. Empathy puts them in the shoes of their target audience.
When you understand your prospect on the emotional level, you can write copy that touches them deeply. That’s powerful!
Define the Project.
After you’ve completed your research and have a clear understanding of your target audience, product, and competition, take a moment to define your objective.
What do you hope to persuade your prospect to do? You must have a crystal clear vision of the result you hope to achieve.
Use the following questions below to help you define the project and keep you on track.
- What needs to be created? Sales letter? Video? Email? Other?
- What is the goal of the piece?
- What is the product? Service?
- Do you have a product sample?
- What are the features & benefits of the product?
- Are there different models or versions of the product?
- How does your product differ from similar products?
- Is it guaranteed?
- Who is the prospect? Describe them.
- Do you have testimonies or reviews for the product?
- Why would someone buy the product?
- What are the details of the deal? Is there a special price or limited offer?
The Writing Process.
Once you’re an expert on the product and you understand the needs of your target audience, you’re almost ready to begin writing.
Use a casual tone.
In most cases, you’ll want to write in a friendly, casual style, as if you are speaking to a friend. It’s important to sound human.
The most precious commodity is trust. People don’t trust machines or AI; they trust other people. Be that person.
There may be instances where a casual tone is not appropriate.
If your target audience is a group of professionals, such as academics, scientists, or physicians, write in a manner that is familiar to your target audience.
Organize the Key Messages.
From the research material you have gathered, extract the information you want to present in your copy. Segment the data into three lists.
- Benefits and features.
- Proofs, testimonials, and supporting data.
- Information about the target audience.
You may only have product features at this point. That’s okay.
It’s your job as a copywriter to translate product features into benefits.
Here’s how to create benefits from product features.
Make two columns on a peice of notepaper. On the left, list the features of the product, one feature per line.
Focus on one feature at a time and ask yourself, “So what?” (Why would the prospect care? What would they find valuable about the product?)
For example, a backpack cook set is made from titanium.
It’s lighter (benefit) and more durable (another benefit).
A lighter cook set means the prospect won’t be as tired at the end of a hike (a deeper benefit) and then will have more energy to enjoy their adventure (yet another deeper benefit).
See how that works? Keep asking, “So what?”
Wring out all the benefits because benefits sell.
When you have a full list of product benefits, take a moment to rank them from most important to least important.
The Copywriting Formula.
Now that you have the information organized, you’re ready to begin writing.
There are several copywriting formulas, but you only need one, Bob Stone’s Gem.
You may have heard of the writing formula AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. That’s an excellent formula too, but it’s not as detailed as Bob Stone’s Gem.
At the end of this article, I show you how to use the AIDA formula to analyze your copy.
Now, let’s look at the only copywriting formula you need.
Bob Stone’s Gem
Created by the highly successful copywriter Bob Stone, his formula goes deeper into the sales process and is more helpful in prompting the writer for specifics.
Initially, Stone used the formula to guide his creation of sales letters and direct response ads, but copywriters throughout the industry use it for every form of marketing material imaginable.
When using Bob Stone’s Gem, just go from step to step.
- Begin with the products greatest benefit
- Expand on the greatest benefit from every angle
- Show the audience exactly what they will get, show all features & benefits
- Substantiate your claims with testimonials, proofs, and supporting data.
- Show them what they’ll lose if they don’t act now on the offer
- Again, show them the product’s greatest benefits
- Remind them to act now and give a concrete, logical reason why they should accept the offer.
The Elements of Persuasive Copy
The persuasive copy includes several critical elements. Like a recipe, if any of the details are missing, the result will suffer.
Get Their Attention
Perhaps your greatest challenge as a copywriter is capturing the attention of your target audience.
The competition for our awareness is at a fever pitch. Marketing noise battling for our attention is everywhere.
The key to capturing your audience’s attention isn’t to shout louder. The key is to understand your audience so well you hook them with a whisper.
That’s why the headline is so important.
The All-Important Headline
The headline is the declaration at the top of a sales letter or advertisement. An email subject line is essentially a headline.
The moment a prospective customer sees your headline, on a subconscious level, they ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?”
The headline can either promise an answer to their question or tease them with an indirect promise.
When you know what your target audience wants, you have the kernel of a captivating headline.
Use the 4 U’s headline formula. Read The 4 U’s Copywriting Formula for a step-by-step guide for writing headlines.
Use Eye-Catching Visuals
It possible, use an eye-catching image and a captivating headline together. Naturally, you want the strongest headline possible, but a shocking or intriguing image can bolster a weak headline.
Images speak to the primitive brain and capture the audience’s attention before they have a chance to be critical.
Images also set the mood. For example, smiling people and direct gazes grab attention and set a positive vibe.
Stock images work, and that might be all the ad budget can afford. However, custom pictures usually have more impact.
It’s all About the Prospect
New copywriters often focus on the product and tout its features.
But, it’s not about the product. It’s about the prospective customer and what they want.
When you focus your copy on the product, you leave out the prospect.
Naturally, you’ll convey the features and benefits of the product, but only as they relate to the prospective customer.
Remember, your copy should answer the prospect’s question, “What’s In It For Me?”
People don’t care about how many doo-dads your product boasts. If that’s all you can tell about your product, you’re only bragging.
When you do that, the prospect can’t see how they can benefit. In other words, they believe there’s nothing in the product for them.
Your customer wants to know how your product will help them reach a goal, improve their life, find true love, lose weight, make money, feel better, sleep better, or fulfill a dream.
It’s all about the product and how your product can help them solve a problem or fulfill a desire. As a copywriter, you must show them how their life would be better with your product.
Show them the benefits.
Benefits Sell (Features Tell)
Help the target audience see the benefits of your product. Paint picture words of the product in their life, their problem solved, their desire fulfilled.
The more clearly and concretely you can bring the product benefits to life, the more captivating and persuasive your copy will be.
Your goal, a copywriter, is to anchor your product benefits in the mind of your prospective customer and invite them to buy (or take action).
Rising Above the Competition
In any viable market, there is competition. If there isn’t competition in your market niche, it probably because there is no money to made there.
Remember, your target audience has many alternatives to your product. As a copywriter, you must seduce them with your copy.
Make them fall in love with your offer.
Show them your product is different.
Why would a person buy your product instead of a competing product? Brainstorm your answer.
Here are some ways to make your product rise above the competition.
- No questions asked guarantee.
- History of your product
- Endorsements, proofs, and testimonials
- Easy payment terms
- Your product costs less to own
- More affordable
- More convenient
- Easier to use
They Have to Believe
Poorly created marketing messages hyping one darn thing after another are everywhere. It’s so bad that most people have developed ad blindness.
If it looks like a sales piece, they can’t see it.
People doubt marketing claims because they’ve been disappointed too many times. The sales pitch over-promised, and the company under-delivered.
Online, it’s worse. The internet is synonymous with spam, false promises, hype, and scams.
Give your customers a reason to believe you. Find ways to build belief in the mind of your audience.
Here are three ways to build belief in you and your product.
Support your product claims with proof
Generously guarantee your product
Promise they will be pleased with their purchase
Break the Price Down to the Ridiculous
A car can cost more than the average annual salary. Customers accept the price when it’s broken down into monthly payments.
Likewise, subscription to an investing newsletter might be $350 a year. That’s a big chunk of cash if you pay it all at once.
When it’s broken down to the ridiculous, it’s less than a dollar a day. You can’t buy truck stop coffee for that.
Put price into perspective.
Inspire Them to Take Action
In all its forms, copywriting is about persuading someone to behave in a specific way. In marketing, you must ask for the sale. Tell the prospect what to do.
In copywriting, all roads lead to CTA (Call to Action).
The CTA may be the command to “Call Now!” or it may be a subtle subtext. Regardless, you must tell the prospect to do.
Your copy builds to this point. Ask for the sale.
- Get Started Now
- Join Now
- Call Now
- Order and Save 15%
Inspiring your target audience to act is the central goal of any marketing campaign. Tell the reader what you want them to do.
Checking Your Work with AIDA.
A copywriting formula many people refer to is AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
If you follow Bob Stone’s Gem, you should capture your target audience’s attention, stoke their interest, move them to desire your product, and finally inspire them to action.
When you’ve written your copy, check it with the AIDA formula, just to be sure you’ve hit all the marks.