How can I learn copywriting?
This is a common question. Here is a quick glance at your learning path:
- Research and create your ideal buyer persona
- Emotional triggers that make people take action
- Find your tone and message
- Feature Benefit Meaning formula
- 2 Use copywriting frameworks you can start implementing today (PAS, AIDA)
- Write with personality
- Make your offer a simple decision with techniques like risk reversal and social proof
- End with a strong call to action
- Develop a copywriting process
- Test, Track and tweak
In this post, we take a detailed look at each of these elements with examples.
Copywriting is a must-have skill if you’re a marketer, and if you’re not a marketer, it’s still an impressive skill to have because you can apply the principles in all walks of life. It can help you with all sorts of writing, ranging from social media copy to writing effective emails and presentations.
At its core, copywriting is all about persuasion.
There is no lack of information about copywriting, but it’s difficult to stitch all this information together and understand how they come together to create the result you want. It can seem daunting with the varying — and sometimes disconnected — advice available on the internet.
In this post, I aim to cover the foundational principles and frameworks that will never change.
So, let’s start with the basics (or go back to the basics).
What is copywriting
Copywriting is the science and art of using words to persuade the right reader to take a specific action. The action could vary from clicking a link to downloading a report to buying your product, depending on your end goal.
Taglines, Brochures, Commercials, Print ads, billboards, and direct mail were the traditional forms of copywriting. With the technology boom, it took various other forms, such as social ads, web pages, and emails. I’ve covered the different types of copywriting in my post about brand copywriting.
What copywriting is not
Copywriting is not what you’d expect if you imagine it to be like an episode of Mad Men, where they smoke a lot of cigarettes and pull amazing ideas out of thin air.
Real-life copywriting is like playing with Legos, except you have to do a lot of research to get the building blocks — such as headlines, bullets, offers, and so on. Then you arrange those blocks in a pattern to produce maximum impact.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of learning copywriting, let’s clarify some terms people confuse with copywriting.
Difference between copywriting and content marketing
Content marketing deals with creating and promoting valuable information in various formats (video, text) through different channels (blogs, social media) to attract and generate interest in your product or service. Whereas copywriting aims for one specific outcome, such as signing up for your email list or buying your product or service.
Copywriting vs. content writing
Content writing refers to the actual process of creating content, usually in text form. Copywriting often aims for a transactional outcome, while the purpose of content writing could be to inform and entertain.
Now that we know what copywriting is and what it’s not. Let’s outline a learning path for future legendary copywriters.
Copywriter’s learning path
Here are the most useful copywriting tips that I’ve come across and continuously use in my work. These tips and frameworks will considerably improve your writing if applied correctly.
Know your ideal customer
This one is like a slow loris which looks cute and harmless but could end up being a troublemaker.
Knowing your customer sounds simple, right? Except it’s not as simple as it might seem. You need to know the pain points, expectations, objections, and sometimes things even they didn’t realize themselves. These are the people who will buy your offering happily and become your brand ambassadors.
There is only one way to understand your ideal customer, and that magic word is…
Once you know who your ideal reader is, every single word you write should speak to them.
We’re all tempted to be safe and to avoid isolating a group of people, but you can’t afford to do this as a copywriter.
If you’re writing for everyone, then you’re writing for no one.
There are several ways to unearth these details about your customer, but my favorite one is one-on-one interviews. You can also mine review sites, use surveys, and several other methods that I have detailed in this blog post about buyer persona.
Emotional triggers that make people take action
Even though every person differs from the next, there are some emotions and triggers we all share. A successful copywriter should be able to use this to move their ideal customer. The main motivational factors are listed below:
- Make (or save) money
- Save time
- Avoid effort
- Escape mental or physical pain
- Increase comfort
- Improve health
- Improve status
- Feel loved
- Be praised/appreciated
Use these triggers when crafting your copy.
Find your tone and message
Your tone should match that of your ideal customer. If your ideal customer is a no-nonsense C-suite executive, keep your copy professional, concise, and to the point.
Make sure to do thorough research because your ideal customer might not always speak the way you’d expect them to do. For example, the CEO of an adventure company might not speak the same way the CEO of a Fortune 500 company does.
Feature Benefit Meaning formula
This could also fall under frameworks and formulas, but I’ve kept it separate because it’s such a handy tool to have in your copywriting arsenal, and you can apply it to any form of writing. The idea is to list the features of your product as the first step, then write the corresponding advantage it gives your customer in the next column. In the third column, spell out the result for your customer. You’ll notice that you have to dig deeper with each column. Repeat this about 5-10 times, and you’ll have a solid list of benefits that you can use in your copy. In the example below, I’ve done this exercise for a business that provides online IELTS mock tests.
|The closest thing to IELTS||So you get the real test experience||Which means you can ace the actual test with more confidence|
|Online test||So you can attend the test in the comfort of your home||Which means it’s easier to balance your work and study schedule|
|Certified IELTS examiners||So your performance will be analyzed on the same criteria as your actual test||Which means your score will be very close to your actual IELTS test and You’re no longer playing the guessing game|
|Get personalized feedback and detailed test report||So you can find your problem areas||Which means you can fix them and get a better score|
|Affordable||So you don’t have to break the bank to take a mock test||Which means you save money by not having to re-take expensive IELTS tests|
Use copywriting frameworks and formulas
To learn copywriting, you’ve got to use frameworks and formulas that have stood the test of time. Let’s look at two super effective frameworks, but you can read all of them here in the ultimate copywriting formula guide, by Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers. For those of you who don’t know her, she is kinda like the Beatles among copywriters.
AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
The framework helps you to write your ad copy precisely in that order.
Attention: You snap the reader out of autopilot, usually with your headline or opening line.
Interest: Then you spark their interest with exciting facts, stats, and intriguing messages.
Desire: Engage the reader even more by showing them how the features can change their lives. Before and after pictures are an example of creating desire.
Action: Once you create the desire to know more, ask them to do the action that you want as an outcome.[cp_popup display=”inline” style_id=”1447″ step_id = “1”][/cp_popup]
Problem: state the problem that your customer is facing
Agitation: poke at the problem by going into the details
Solution: present your product or service as the solution
The below page from Basecamp is a perfect example of PAS in action.
Problem: They state the problem of quickly transitioning the team to remote work because of the COVID-19 situation.
Agitation: they agitate the problem by pointing out the issues that the problem causes, which are stressed-out employees, scattered work, and slipping project timelines.
Solution: they present Basecamp as the solution, and they describe the after-state to drive the point home.
It’s also worth noting that they use Jargon and language that their target audience uses.
Learn to write with personality
You can identify authors and sometimes brands by just reading their copy. This differentiates good copy from an excellent copy.
Copy without personality or robocopy, as I like to call it, will not pull in your customers or keep them engaged. Whereas a good copy with personality is like a good jingle, it will stick with your reader earning you their mind-share. Let’s look at some ways to inject some personality into your copy.
Mimic the person you admire the most
As weird as it sounds, this exercise is useful. Pick your favorite author and study their books. Sign up for their newsletter and see what they are doing and try to rewrite the same message in your own style. You could also try writing as your favorite movie or TV character to flex your writing muscles.
Could I BE more obvious?
Write how you speak
This is an easy hack you can use to get rid of the robocopy problem. Just be your authentic self and write how you would typically speak about a topic. If your brand voice is casual, imagine having a conversation with your friend (or a colleague, if you want to keep it profesh).
Make your offer irresistible
Let’s look at some powerful copy techniques to give your customer that last nudge to take action.
This is a powerful strategy that reduces the friction in a sales transaction. It shows your customer that you’re confident in the quality of your service and makes it easier for them to reach for their wallet.
Some common ones:
- We offer a full 60-day money-back, “No Quibble” guarantee.
- Free trial, no credit card required.
- You get a complete “no questions asked” refund.
- Full money back, and you’ll also be able to keep the bonus incentive just for trying us out.
The idea is to make your offer so good that your customer will feel silly saying “No.”
Robert B. Cialdini’s book Influence (science and practice) covers this tactic as one of the persuasion principles.
Deadline technique: This is where you set a limited-period offer and urge your customers to buy before the window of opportunity closes. The fear of missing out is sometimes more powerful than gaining something.
Have you ever noticed yourself ordering more food or drinks when they announce the last call? That’s the scarcity trigger at play.
Limited-number technique: This is when you increase the perceived value of your product by limiting its availability. Limited edition models and exclusive membership clubs are excellent examples of this technique.
Give incentives and bonus
Offering high-value products or training for free when they buy from you is an excellent way to make your offer a no-brainer. Many SAAS companies do this by providing free access to their high-value courses, which will help the buyer become an expert in no time.
This is a big topic, but in short, people like to have some sort of validation to reassure them they’re making the right decision. That’s why we always read reviews before buying a product on Amazon. Social proof can come in various forms like celebrity endorsements, testimonials, or just stats about the number of people using your service.
The project management tool Asana does this on its homepage by mentioning that its product is trusted by the world’s best teams. They’ve also backed this up by displaying the logos of some of their well-known clients.
End with a strong call to action
Now that you’ve all the building blocks of a persuasive copy, you need to end it by asking your customers to do the intended action. Call to action is not always “buy now.” It will vary depending on the buyer’s journey.
See how Netflix asks their customers to enter their email id to create or restart their membership.
Any successful copywriter will tell you to start with the end goal in mind. All the elements uncovered through your research should strategically move your customer closer to your business goal.
Develop a copywriting process
This might be different for everyone depending on your workflow and the tools you use, but you need to have a workflow if you’re looking to build your career as a copywriter. You could start with research and then create the feature, advantage, and benefits table. The next step would be to create a list of objections, motivations, and quotes from actual customers – usually mined from reviews. Now that you understand your customer, just write whatever comes to your mind. Forget about grammar, punctuation, and accuracy; focus on getting your thoughts on the paper (or google sheets in most cases).
Next, use a framework like PAS or AIDA to create your copy structure and weave your first copy into this structure. Make sure your copy has the below elements.
- A killer headline that makes the reader want to read the rest of the copy
- A strong copy that voices the reader’s thoughts by speaking to their pain points, objections, and expectations
- Intriguing bullets that make the reader want to take action
- A call to action that tells the reader the next step they should take
Once you have all these laid out, edit the copy to your heart’s content and make sure your personality comes through in your copy. You could send it to a friend or colleague to get their opinion, but don’t rely too much on their opinion if they are not your ideal customer.
Test, Track, and tweak
The best way to analyze how good a copy is to look at the results it generates. Test different variations of your copy, see the results and make changes.
Don’t forget to test, track, and tweak.