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July 17, 2020

Copywriting for Startups 101: Hands-On Tips & Tricks

You write code better than headlines? Are you a rockstar at product development and negotiation but feel like you can’t write a convincing sentence to save your life?

This is the case with most startup founders that we onboard at the digital marketing agency I run. And it’s perfectly normal: we all have a different skillset and we all ace at a few things.

You know what they say: Jack of all trades, master of none. 

Ideally, you should be able to pay the best copywriters you can find to take your startup to the next level. Copywriting and content marketing for startups can be a goldmine when done right! You can soar from zero to hero in the span of a year.

But here’s the catch: bootstrapped startups rarely have the budget to pay great copywriters and content writers. So they’ll have to make do with in-house skills.

My advice? If your budget is very tight, hire professionals to create your mission-critical web pages and a couple of blog posts to get things started. Write the rest yourself until you can afford to stop stretching yourself too thin and outsource every part of web writing.

How are you going to do that if you’re not that good at writing?

I’ve got you covered!

Check out these practical tips and tricks that you can implement even if you have zero background in copy or content writing.

4 Tips to Ace Your Startup’s Copywriting

By the way, I’m hosting a copywriting masterclass on DueDash. It’s exclusively dedicated to startup founders. If that’s you, sign up here. Classes start in July and we have limited spots available. 

1. Make the benefits clear from the beginning

When you’ve been immersed in developing a product or services for months or years, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. This is why most startup websites have this type of copy:

“The innovative solution that you’ve been waiting for.”

(Reader response: I haven’t really been waiting for anything. Also, what does it really do?)

“The seamlessly integrated cutting-edge tool for marketing agencies and business owners.”

(Reader response: Integrated with what? Who is it really for? And why?)

A lot of startups have the tendency to get lost among big buzzwords and forget about the essence. What are you really selling? Make it clear from the very beginning. Hook people with a single sentence or phrase that describes the main benefit.

Here’s how the headlines above could be rephrased:

“Access all your gadgets from a single dashboard with a single login, even when you’re miles away from them.”

This kind of phrasing tells you exactly what the solution does. No one wants yet another innovation. But if you tell me that I can access my home computer when I’m on a holiday, then you have my attention. I’ll keep reading and perhaps you’ll even have my money.”

“Schedule and post marketing messages on social media, websites and email using a single tool”

There it is! Simple words to describe a solution that is cutting-edge. You don’t have to use bombastic words and praise your product. Simply describing it is far more efficient. As long as the description is on-point, of course.

2. Talk benefits

Don’t overcomplicate things. Very few people want to know how you did it. They want to know what it will do for them.

Here’s an example from none other than PayPal in the Elon Musk era.

Boring, right? Also, what’s my benefit?

PayPal fixed it by focusing on its simplest feature, the one that took the least time to implement:

Brilliantly simple, right?

In fact, even writing such headlines is simple enough. As a startup founder, you tend to focus a lot on your product’s features. You know them by heart.

To get a great headline, all you have to do is reverse the point of view. Don’t say “our tool does X”. Instead, tell people what they will be able to do with your tool. “Send money to an email address” is the perfect example.

3. Cut the jargon

Unless you’re selling engineer-made products to other engineers, technical terms should be kept to a minimum. Sure, explain why the material your product is made of is awesome but do it in simple terms and without being arrogant.

Don’t forget that you are introducing a new product. Be conversational about it.

Write as if you speaking to a friend of yours. When you show off, you put potential clients off.

4. Use copywriting formulas when stuck

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are dozens of copywriting formulas that have been time-tested and vetted. Even if you have zero copywriting experience you can easily implement them.

My favorite formula is PAS (Problem-Agitation-Solution).

Here’s how it works:

  • Identify a problem
  • Agitate – explain why it is a big problem
  • Offer a solution

You can add things to this formula, like an extra S at the end, which stands for Social Proof. If you have it, you can (and should!) always add proof to describing your solution. Testimonials, media mentions, reviews – all these are gold!

Let’s see it in action following up on the example above:

Problem: Spending too much time posting the same message across multiple channels?

Agitate: Just imagine what you could do with those hours you now spend on menial tasks

Solution: It takes five minutes or less to post to ALL your social media profiles using our tool

Yes, it can be that simple. You can expand on the framework above or you can simply post it as a tweet. Great tools and products can shine through long- or short-form copy.

You can check out other copywriting formulas here. 

Wrapping things up

Copywriting is only as complicated as we make it. Simplicity will always win the day so never forget to lead with the gist of what you’re trying to communicate.

Keep the PayPal example in mind. It’s always a good reference when you start writing long, convoluted and jargon-filled headlines or copy.

And, if you want to really get your hands dirty, sign up for my copywriting masterclass. We have a lot of great bonuses, including the creation of a conversion-oriented landing page for your own startup.


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Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.

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