What is Copywriting?

If we said copywriting is presenting written words to best communicate a marketing concept, such as on a website, in an email, in an advertisement or a direct mail letter, or on TV, radio, press releases, catalogs, billboards, brochures, sales letters, and other marketing communications media, that would encapsulate the essence of the term, but there is more to know.

The word “Copy” itself refers to written material on a website or email or in any other form of publishing, such as magazines, advertising, books, etc. In this usage, copy is simply what is used to differentiate the written words from photographs, graphics or other elements of layout and design.

Purpose of Copywriting

The very purpose of copywriting is to persuade the reader to act: whether to buy a product or service; or call for more information; or subscribe to a newsletter; or download a document; or adopt a certain viewpoint; or to oppose a particular viewpoint.

At first blush, one might consider that anyone can write copy. And, in fact, technically that would be true. In the same way that anyone with a voice can sing, or anyone with a phone can make videos or anyone with an arm can throw a baseball. However, the reality is that a small percentage of people who can sing, create films or throw baseballs get paid a large income because they are so darn good at their respective areas of expertise.

Hence, just like professionals in other careers, high-paid copywriters get better results than most others. To put this in perspective, some copywriters get paid tens of thousands of dollars for writing a few pages of promotional materials.

One might wonder how one person’s depiction of a product or service could be so much better than someone else’s? But in the world of commerce, it’s not a matter of mere opinion. By actual comparative results, better copy generates higher sales. Which is, in fact, how better copy is evaluated.

Copywriting Research

What’s not always so obvious is that a top-notch copywriter doesn’t usually just type out a bunch of words based purely on imagination. Although creativity is an inherent skill, research is where the work begins.

  • Research provides a greater understanding re the specific product or service.
  • Research informs details about the target audience.
  • Research informs what’s important to the target audience.
  • Research informs why a product or service is better than the competition.
  • Research informs whether one feature or benefit that the advertiser thinks is meaningful, may be less so than another feature or benefit.
  • Research informs the whole matter of how to begin and end a sales message, as well as everything in between.

Doing thorough research is no substitute for the experience and creativity a highly competent copywriter will bring to the final result. But it will provide a substantially greater opportunity to be a better copywriter than you would be without doing the work.

Copywriting Formulas

There are different formulas that copywriters may employ to craft their copy. Just do an online search and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore a variety of different ways to present your message.

However, just like knowing a formula for writing a successful song, or movie script, or novel won’t make you a great songwriter, scriptwriter or best-selling novelist, reading copywriting formulas won’t make you a top-notch copywriter.

On the other hand, copywriting formulas do provide frameworks that can help tie your research, features, benefits, and sales message together into a cohesive presentation.

The risk, of course, is that if you follow a popular formula too closely, some audiences will be put off by what they may conceive as no more than hackneyed assertions that belie the true value of your offering.

Copywriting Language

One fundamental point of drafting compelling copywriting is using direct and simple words. Communicating in the language of the target audience just makes it easier to connect with a reader.

A successful salesman is good with communication, whether innately gifted or whether learned through the world of experience. He or she is also good at listening.

So too, successful copywriting includes not only the words themselves and their inherent effectiveness at persuasion, but the quantity of words. Just like a salesperson can talk too much and kill a sale, too many written words can tire a fickle reader. Even though you might be capable of writing an entire book about the features and benefits of your product or service, that doesn’t mean a majority of your target audience will read it.

Hence, another perspective would be, what are the fewest words that can drive interest for your product or service?

Nor does that suggest that you need to restrict your message to an arbitrary word count (other than what may be technically required for an ad placement).

To be sure, there are examples when more words will outsell fewer words. It depends upon the cost and complexity of the product or service being presented in conjunction with the type of buyer who would be reading the copy. More expensive, complex services will generally require a more robust presentation than a simple, inexpensive commodity product.

  • Not only that, but what are the most effective words at inspiring interest?
  • What is the headline and first words that will lead readers into the main body of your message?
  • What’s the ideal sequence of words that will spark interest, show how a product or service will solve a problem or serve a customer?
  • What is the best way to inspire a sale right now?

For certain products and services, persuasion, in itself, can be less effective than simply educating the reader or demonstrating results through case studies or testimonials.

Should You Be Your Own Copywriter?

This article is not an attempt to dissuade anyone from trying their hand at copywriting. Indeed, it’s the best way to appreciate the skills involved.

One clear advantage for modern copywriters is the ability to test different messages, especially headlines, in real time with pay-per-click ads to quickly ascertain a message’s effectiveness.

But even after you’ve crafted an optimized, workable sales message yourself, if you are still desiring even greater performance, you may want to reach out to professional copywriters and solicit some paid copy to test-market against your own best messaging.

If you can pay someone to provide copy that generates more sales than what you can generate yourself, then the value proposition is incontrovertible.