The other day I came across a 5-step guide to more effective copywriting. It made some valid points. I’d like to take things even further, because after I finished it, five more pointers instantly sprang to mind. After all, I’ve been doing this for a good while now, and even teach it on a regular basis in the journalism school at UNC. Let’s face it–copywriting is one of those things everyone thinks they can do. “How hard can it be?” said Joe Client. “String a few words together about my product? Who knows my product better than me?”
Your customer, that’s who. And when the client writes the copy, guess who it’s not about?
But, clients have always written copy and always will, so with that in mind, here are a few things to remember to get that copy working as hard as it can. Be forewarned: some of the following may run counter to your instincts.
1. Your audience isn’t you. Sounds simple, right? But so often the client writes the copy for themselves, glorifying the company or product in ways that self-flatter but do little to connect with the customer. In essence, “know your audience is not you.”
2. Don’t forget the benefit. Again, no-brainer. Why would anyone want to hear about a product that had no benefit? Ah, but remember: the benefit to your customer may be very different from what you perceive it to be. What you may find earth-shaking, your customer may find irrelevant. And notice I said “benefit,” singular.
3. Make unexpected connections. There’s nothing new under the sun. But there are new ways of putting the old things together. Of course, it still has to make sense and be relevant. What did frogs have to do with beer? Nothing, until this was written.
4. Remember to entertain. The last thing you want is someone to wish they hadn’t wasted time with your ad. If it’s irrelevant or boring, that’s exactly what they’ll do. They’ll blame your product for lost minutes of their lives. You’ve got their attention, so make it worth it. I hate to be the one to say it, but your product is only so fascinating on its own.
5. If appropriate, don’t be afraid to use humor. This doesn’t mean every ad has to be a script for funnyordie.com, but chances are, there will be humans reading/viewing your efforts. In general, humans have a sense of humor. They will appreciate it if you get them to smile or laugh. Be careful, it can be a minefield: avoid tasteless and ethnic jokes and humor at the expense of the audience or product.
Or, if adhering to all these rules sounds like a lot of work, you can just hire me.