March 18, 2015
Most people think writing excellent copy is hard. And, when you go about it the way your average person does, it actually is. Professional copywriters, however, have learned a trick or two over the years about how to cut hours off their writing time while getting better results.
The shortcuts come in the form of … planning. Not what you expected, is it?
But that truly is the most important step and the area where you can save the most time.
Website owners and amateur copywriters typically think about what they want to say instead of what their customers want to hear. They push information out instead of drawing people in to share details. They typically center their copy on what they are trying to get the customer to do instead of what the customer needs or wants.
When you take a little while to do a bit of planning, you enter what pros call the “pre-writing stage.” This is equal to an athlete stretching prior to a game, a singer doing vocal exercises before a concert, or a doctor reviewing a patient’s file prior to surgery. Essentially, it’s prep time.
This magical moment allows you to gather all the information you need into one central place, brainstorm ideas and organize your strategy before committing to a particular direction for the copy.
Describe Your Who
A professional copywriter begins by getting to know the audience inside and out. In fact, if you were hiring a copywriter, she/he would provide you with an audience profile to complete. This can seem like a lot of work, and it is, but the great thing about getting to know your readers is that you can use the information again and again. For the next page of copy you write for your site, you won’t need this step, but you may want to review your answers prior to writing.
Write down detailed information about:
- Your target audience’s demographics. (Age, gender, location, etc.)
- Your audience’s primary concern (with regard to the product or service you’re writing about) right now.
- Why this information should matter to them.
- Your audience’s communication preferences. Do they respond better to long pages or short ones? Video? Audio?
- How they spend their time.
- The likelihood they will be especially distracted as they read.
If you can’t answer some of these questions, ask. Whether you survey your newsletter readers, ask on social media, or call a few of your best clients and get their perspective, you don’t want to guess or make up the answers.
The information you collect will help shape your copy. For the professional, knowing that readers are apt to be distracted means using extra subheads so the preoccupied can easily find their place after an interruption. Being aware of what they’re thinking about lets you “enter the conversation already happening in your reader’s mind,” as Dan Kennedy says.
When you know your audience well, your writing will connect with them in an entirely different way. They’ll be able to trust you — and thus will follow your recommendations — because you’ve demonstrated that you understand them. In today’s noisy world, it’s easy for people to feel misunderstood — taking the time to get to know your website visitors on an intimate level helps avoid this mistake.
Find Your Why
Every page must have one main goal. That’s not to say you can’t expect your copy to do multiple things — for instance, it’s common to hope the home page will welcome new visitors, encourage subscriptions to your list, and lure people into reading your blog. But professionals know the importance of choosing one primary goal for each page they write.
This is one of the hallmarks of professional copy — a singular focus. A scattered voice leaves your readers feeling unsure what to do next, while a confident voice directs them from point A to point B elegantly.
Your goal should determine every choice you make about copy. In this way, you can help visitors follow a straightforward path to the action you want them to take.
Organize Your Thoughts
Once you know who your audience is — in great detail — and you know why you’re writing this particular page, you’re almost ready to put pen to paper. But there’s still one more thing professionals do that amateurs skip: forethought.
Think about what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, what the overall message will be. Jot some notes, practice a few headlines and opening paragraphs, and give some thought to how you (if you were in your customers’ shoes) would respond to the direction of the copy.
- Does the copy answer the specific needs and/or objections of your audience?
- Does the copy engage the reader or does it try to force information down their throats?
- Are you writing ABOUT your products and services or are you writing FOR your target customers?
- Have you included keywords for SEO? Which ones, where and why?
“Wait a minute. How does this save me time?” you might be asking. Because, after you get everything organized and laid out, your copy will pretty much write itself. The entire writing process will flow more easily without the typical frustration and back-and-forth confusion that you may have experienced in the past.
And, because you have taken the professional “pre-writing” approach, the copy is also much more likely to get better results than if you simply put fingers to keyboard and begin rattling off with no direction.
Virtually every professional in every occupation will tell you that — while preplanning and organizing may not be exciting — they are truly the little-known secrets to consistent success.
Karon Thackston is president of Marketing Words Copywriting Agency helping Amazon sellers, eCommerce site owners and content marketers rank higher, convert better and make more sales.