“Tom, how do you do it?”
This was the question asked me by a friend the other day.
He wasn’t marvelling at my ability to eat a starter, main course AND desert.
Nor was he asking about my excellent collection of humorous T-Shirts.
He was wondering how I wrote copy for a living.
He sees writing in the same way I see plastering walls… grooming dogs… or baking cakes.
I couldn’t do it.
Haven’t tried, wouldn’t want to, don’t need to.
As a copywriter I don’t need to plaster walls, cut the hair off Mr Woofles, or wrestle with flour.
Whatever business you are running, from dog grooming to accountancy, you DO need to write at some point.
The Internet revolution is a wondrous thing that allows you to reach new customers anywhere in the globe… around the clock… beaming your messages into handsets they carry around with them.
But it means that all online businesses must become publishers.
And that means to market your business you’ll hugely benefit from writing regular content, such as:
• Tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn Posts
• Blog posts
• Product descriptions
• Advertising campaigns
• Website updates
• Email newsletters
• Press releases
Every piece of communication is a stepping stone towards a sale. That process starts from the second someone follows your Facebook business page, follows you on Twitter, or signs up for a free report.
To succeed online, all those little bits of content have to be persuasive. They have to show that you are human, passionate and credible, with something to offer your followers and subscribers.
To achieve this, you do need to have some understanding of how good copy works.
Ultimately you’re looking to get that customer to buy something, which requires some sales copy.
This could be a promotional email or blog post, a web page or squeeze page.
Now if you’re lucky enough to have copywriters to hand, that’s great. Or if you’re doing well enough to outsource copywriting to freelancers, brilliant.
In both these cases, you won’t have to write anything yourself…
But it doesn’t quite let you off the hook!
If you can recognise good copy when you see it and understand the core principles of persuasive communication you’ll have a huge edge over the competion.
It’ll help you to effectively critique the work you outsource and get real value from your freelancers.
However, you might be like my friend…
You might find writing utterly tedious, baffling, and just not your thing. Maybe it’s not your first language. Maybe you’re dyslexic. Maybe you’d rather chew your own arm off than spend the day tapping away on your computer like I do.
So what then?
How do you run an online business?
Well, the simple answer is to find a shortcut by using templates, checklists and swipe files based on stuff that already works.
Now, there’s a lot of that kind of advice for free here on Digital Upstart, so I highly recommend you have a look around this site.
For members of the Digital Upstart premium service there is a comprehensive action plan for good copy which includes examples and templates. It’s called Promo Mastery and you can access it by starting your risk-free trial here.
But today I want to give you a useful checklist that will help ensure that any piece of sales copy you create does the job for you, whether it’s something you wrote or something you’ve received from a copywriter or agency.
• Headline (this must be at the top, or thereabouts) – Does the headline make a bold promise with a clear benefit?
• Promise – Do your opening paragraphs offer a series of benefits to the reader?
• Introduce yourself or your business – Is it clear who the sales pitch is coming from and why you are addressing the reader?
• Picture – Have you tried to get the reader to imagine how good (or bad) their life will be with your product or service?
• Proof – is what you promise or claim believable? Have you offered evidence, illustrations, quotes or statistics?
• Risk-reversal or reassurance – have you answered any potential objections or fears that might stop someone from buying your product.
• Call to action – Have you made it clear what the prospect has to do to order the product, sign up for the service or subscribe?
• Offer – Do you make it clear exactly what the customer is going to get and when? Do you state precisely how this will be delivered?
• Price – have you made sure the price is framed against the big benefits and also seen as value for what they get?
• Urgency – Is there a good reason for the prospect to act on this now rather than later? If you can’t do a limited stock offer or limited time offer, perhaps find a way to tell the reader why waiting for these benefits until later could mean they lose out.
• Bonus (optional, but recommended) – can you offer them something extra to entice them to buy?
• Testimonials – if you have them, use them, if not consider giving your product out for free for people to trial or test.
• Sign off – is it clear this is coming from a real individual?
• PS (optional but recommended) – can you sum up the benefits and offer?
• Is the headline large and in bold? – It does 90% of the work and must stand out. No clutter, no images behind it. It must be in black or a dark colour.
• Is there an eye-catching image that’s relevant to the product? – an image of the happy customer, a cartoon, an infographic or illustration that’s relevant to the theme of the sales pitch.
• Is there a photo of you, your product, customers or team? – Not all are essential, but the more visual proof the better.
• Does the letter address a single “you”, rather than being aimed at a group or audience?
• Is the copy broken up with subheads that flag up benefits?
• Are the sections linked with sentences like “Here are some examples”… “let me show you what I mean”… “Now, here is the next step” . . . “But there is one thing more”?
• Are there any sentences that you struggle to read quickly and easily? If so break them down into simpler pieces?
• Are the paragraphs in a variety of different lengths?
• Are there any flowery words, jargon or business-speak? Find a simpler, more natural way of saying it.
Run this check over all your current sales copy and do the same to any new drafts you receive. It’s not fool-proof, but it’s a start.
For a full guide with templates and shortcuts, make sure you check out our Promo Mastery action plan in the member’s area. If you’re not a member yet you can start your risk-free trial here.