What is Copywriting?
Technically copywriting is a skill and a field. But for the uninitiated, it can seem like an art. Is it really possible to put just the right words together and generate sales out of thin air?
Well, yes. But there are some strings attached.
No matter how good your copy is, it is only as good as the underlying offer.
That’s the big one.
If you aren’t providing value to your audience, then you don’t have a copywriting problem, you have a value problem. That’s a topic for another day, but it is really the root of writing persuasive copy.
Stop thinking about yourself when you’re writing copy.
There is only one person who matters, and that is the reader. Effective copy is written with the reader in mind. More than that, it is best written by standing in the reader’s shoes.
That’s all well and good, but what does copy look like? How can you spot copy in the wild?
What Does Copy Look Like?
The practice of copywriting produces persuasive messaging known as copy. Copy is used by businesses to communicate with their audience, but more importantly, it’s used to persuade their audience to take action.
And that’s the key. It’s the intent that separates copy from other forms of creative writing.
Creative writing is writing that interacts with the reader for the sake of the interaction. It can entertain the reader, excite them, scare them, or just interest them.
Once that interaction has occurred, there is no follow-up—or expectation of a follow-up—on the part of either party. That is to say that neither the author of the creative writing piece nor the reader needs to do anything once the creative writing has been read.
That’s a mouthful that boils down to this simple fact: creative writing exists to be consumed, no strings attached. We know that copy does not exist with “no strings attached.” Copy exists with a concrete goal.
A call to action is the thing you want your reader to do when they are done reading your copy.
It doesn’t matter where the copy is, or what the call to action is. It could be a sales letter. It could be copy on a website or in a blog post. It could be on a flyer, in an email, in a banner ad, or on a cereal box. If it’s written with the intent to produce an action (any action) on the part of the reader, it’s copy.
Pro Tip: New copywriters are often discouraged when they produce copy that doesn’t shoot conversions through the roof.
That’s okay, but remember this: although copywriting is often seen as more of an art than a science, the harsh truth is that a lot of copywriting (and marketing in general) has more in common with the scientific method than with art. Copywriting is a lot of testing, learning, implementing, and testing again.
Don’t be discouraged by initially disappointing results.
Just because copywriting and creative writing are different doesn’t mean that copywriters can’t be creative. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
People aren’t robots. They are not interested in reading tired formulas or thinly veiled appeals for their hard-earned cash. Whether consuming creative writing or copy, people want to be stimulated.
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.
In just the same way you or I would lose interest in a poorly written novel, poorly written copy can turn off your customers and cause your readers to lose interest in your offer and your brand.