If you’re reading this article, I’m betting that you fall into one of two camps.
You’ve either been writing copy for your business for a lotta years… or you’re brand new, trying to create winning copy on the fly.
Either way, there are some bad habits that you can easily and quickly pick up along the way.
Inundating your copy with exclamation points, perhaps! (Even though a carefully placed exclamation point can be a real benefit to your writing)…
A minimum of 14 different colors and 7 different fonts…
The same headline used over and over… leaving it to feel a little stale each time you write…
Whatever your bad habits, they’re fixable! You don’t have to settle for lackluster copy with lackluster results. I promise.
Instead, here are 11 ways to completely revamp your copywriting, starting today.
1. Check Your Writing (And Your Thinking!) For Uncertainty.
If you want your audience to actually read what you’re writing, you have to have a specific purpose for your writing. Simply stating again and again that the product or service that you’re selling is the best won’t get the job done. Likewise, using a piece of copy to tell your audience every thought that has occurred to you since beginning your business won’t get results either.
Before beginning any copywriting project, you need to write down exactly what you want a piece of copy to accomplish. Do you want your audience to give you their email? Purchase a product? The way you speak to them, from the stories you tell to the statistics you use, will change based on your end goal.
Once you personally know what your copy is to accomplish, you need to write so that your audience knows, too. Your goal for the piece of copy needs to be clear, and your writing shouldn’t detract from that goal.
2. Sit Alone For At Least An Hour A Day
If you never stop working, you’re going to burn out. According to this Forbes article, 8 out of 10 businesses are expected to fail, and at least among entrepreneurs, burnout is quite possibly the number one reason for that failure. You might as well take an hour break every day instead of a month-long break when you just can’t go on any longer.
An hour long break a day isn’t an hour in the evening, though, after the kids are in bed and your favorite TV show is over. Instead, I challenge you to take an hour within your work day, a scheduled meeting with yourself, if you will, to think about your business, your goals, your future. Allow yourself to imagine life with a successful business. You could also use this hour to journal, to read inspirational or business books, or any other quiet pursuit that is more about thinking than action.
The revelations that you have during this time, as well as the books that you read, will spark new life into your business and creativity.
3. Never Assume You Know Your Audience
Just because you think something is cool about a product or service, don’t assume that your audience cares at all.
Unless you know your audience, and know them very well, any piece of copywriting or even entire marketing campaigns can miss the mark because no one is connecting with them. The best (and in my opinion only) way to be sure that what you’re writing will speak to your audience is to have a well-filled out ideal client profile.
Your ideal client profile should list the specific attributes of one single person, the person you will think of when you are writing. You should know how old they are, where they live, what they do for work… all the demographic information.
Far more than that, though, you should know what kind of jokes this person likes, and what their favorite books are. With enough research, you should be able to list this person’s goals for life, what breaks their heart, and what makes them angry.
When you know your audience this well, your copy is sure to rock.
4. Stop Asking Your Audience If They’ll Do Something. Tell Them What To Do.
Quick word of warning: This tip only works if you wrote very specifically to your audience. But if your ideal client profile was right, and your writing matched it, you should absolutely tell your reader what to do. Don’t ask. Don’t give them the leeway to say, “No, maybe later.” Because we humans are lazy, and if there’s a later, we’ll take it.
Instead, tell them what to do, and tell them to do it now. Give them a reason to not put off the action even for a few more minutes. Maybe your offer will expire in ten minutes. Maybe your service is so great that they need to not waste a single extra second before changing their life. Whatever your offer is, give them a reason to understand the urgency and to take immediate action.
Think of it this way: when you go to the doctor, they don’t ASK you to take medicine. They don’t suggest that you take 2 pills and call them in the morning. They tell you what to take, how often to take it, and what to expect. You should be doing the same for your audience. Put yourself in the position of prescriber and you’ll get more compliance.
5. But Don’t Tell Them to Trust You.
Show Them Why They Should.
Telling your audience what to do only works if they trust you and they see the benefit of what you’re offering. Unfortunately, you can’t just say, “Trust me,” and expect your audience to urgently begin to trust you. They already found out Santa isn’t real, and they’re a little scarred. You’re gonna have to prove yourself.
You can prove yourself a couple of different ways, and I think you should try at least two in each campaign you write. One reason to trust you just isn’t enough for most people. Luckily, you can start to build trust with your reader simply by being who you are. Speak to your reader just like you’d speak to your spouse or best friend. If you love curse words, slip one or two in there (if you’re speaking to an audience that also loves curse words. You have to be a little careful here.)
This is the biggest reason most sales letters start like this, “Ten years ago, I was just like you…” Trust! The writer is trying to build trust! A couple of sentences after this one, they’ll probably start with the negative feelings.
I hated going to work every day.
My coffee spilled all over me every time I looked at the cup.
They’re hoping that the same feelings apply to their reader, which they should if their ideal customer profile is complete. And by showing the reader that the person behind the writing has actually experienced the very same feelings, they’re building a sense of, “This person is just like me.”
It’s all about the trust building.
But here's the catch: don't make up negative feelings if you don’t have them. No one likes fake, and most people see right through it. If you’ve always been successful, share a story about your childhood lemonade stand’s first sale. Or if you can share a secret, recount how amazed and excited you were to discover it. People connect with emotions, and showing that you are more than a business is a great way to start building trust.
Don’t stop with personal sharing, though. Testimonials, especially video or audio testimonials, provide social proof that is so necessary today. Knowing that other people have trusted you, and are happy that they did, will help you rise in the eyes of your reader. Hearing all about the specific ways you’ve changed someone’s life is often the only thing people need to hear. The key is that not all of the great things said about you can come from you. Someone else is going to have to vouch for you as well.
6. Show A Little Ankle. Just A Little.
You’ve got to give a little to get a little, they say, and so do I. If you want someone to pay actual money for something that you’re selling, you’re going to have to give a little first. In the world of online marketing, this give is usually the content marketing that accompanies a sales strategy. Content marketing focuses heavily on providing value and seldomly asking for anything in return, but if you’re focused on your sales strategy, you may want to incorporate a little value-giving in your piece.
I’m not asking you to give away the product, in any way. You still should ask top-dollar for your product, because it’s valuable. But give away a few tidbits. Show your reader a little bit of who you are and what you’re offering so that they can see the value in paying for more. This is the equivalent of showing just a little ankle to tempt your customer into wanting more.
Like I said earlier, this can be done in a simultaneously-launched content marketing strategy pumped full of valuable advice and freebies. You could also offer a downloadable gift – a guide to doing something or a template for something else – to start the value exchange early. By showing just a little bit of how amazing you are and all the wonderful things you have to offer, you tempt your customer into wanting more.
7. Do The Work For Your Audience.
You should think of your audience as if they are already doing you a huge favor by signing up for what you’re asking of them or buying what you’re selling. That means you need to do as much of the heavy lifting as you can.
That means helping your reader along a journey. Firstly, meet them where they are. Don’t ask them to jump to imagining something far out of view. Think about them, sitting on the train reading your writing on their phone or at their desk reading on their computer. What are they thinking about? Are they comfortable? What are their top priorities in life at the time that they’re reading?
Bring them from that place to the happier, more fulfilled life that you can offer them through your story. Don’t just expect them to know or understand anything. Hold your reader’s hand and walk the journey with them, explaining what you see and where you’re going as you walk.
Give them all of the information they absolutely need. Tell them about the benefits of your services and the trust and loyalty that so many other happy customers have felt working with your company. Give them reviews to read and social media platforms to check out. Link to the platforms – don’t expect them to search online for them.
Tell them exactly what you’d like from them and exactly what you’ll give in return. Make signing up a breeze. Triple check that your website works well, and that all of your payment processing systems are up and running. Show them pictures of exactly what they are getting so they don’t have to guess.
Hyperlink your email and phone number so that contacting you is as easy as contacting their mom.
In short, don’t ask your reader to do any work at all except that which they absolutely have to. Do everything else for them, graciously.
8. Read Your Writing Out Loud.
Oftentimes, writing that sounds great on paper, doesn’t sound so good when you read it out loud.
Many business owners start writing by trying to make themselves sound as official and professional as possible – and for good reason. They want their customer to trust them. But the very act of being more professional than you are can be a turnoff to most people, who want to know that a real, feeling person is behind their business.
When you read your writing out loud, you can catch those little errors that creep up and just don’t sound like you or what you want your business to represent.
The other benefit of reading your writing out loud is that you tend to catch the little phrases that just don’t work so well. They may be grammatically correct and make sense in the sentence, but read out loud, they turn into tongue-twisters or egregiously long passages. I call these stumbling blocks for your readers – places in your copy that gives your reader an “out” – that takes them out of the copy and essentially makes them stop reading. Avoid these at all costs!
9. Take Some Risks.
Although you want to do as much research as possible before you launch anything, and you want to use the best language possible to get your point across without offending anyone, at some point you’re going to have to take some risks. That could look like putting more of your story “out there” for the world to see, or it could be using new jokes that you’re not sure will land. Or writing in a way that isn’t grammatically correct, but uses that subtle mistake to make a point.
If everyone just stuck to the rules, no one would ever stand out. Every product would be launched with a pre-decided set of templated emails and sales pages, and every commercial would begin to use the same script. And sales would die.
Be creative with your copy and watch your conversion rates soar. We need more than the facts to make a purchasing decision, so give your customers a little something unexpected. If you catch them off-guard, they’ll connect much better than when reading the same old, same ole’.
10. Read More Books.
A near-epidemic I’ve noticed in my entrepreneur and business owner circles is that once we decide to run a business… it’s like fiction doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a business book or no book! We’re far too busy running our businesses and managing our families and doing all the things… that there’s simply no time left for reading for pleasure.
But reading a fiction book can actually unlock creativity within you and help you with your sales writing. (I should know – I’ve read 96 fiction books so far this year and it’s only May. Yeah, I’m serious. Trashy beach novels are one of my not-so-guilty pleasures.)
When you read only business-related books, you’re slowly surrounding yourself in an echo chamber of jargon and sales and marketing… and you’ll see your sales copy suffer for it.
So pick up the first bestseller you see at the store tomorrow. Try out a new author you’ve never read. Commit to reading a book from every country in the world. By remembering to read again, you’ll fall in love with words all over, and have a steady input of creativity and linguistic dances from which to draw next time you’re at your computer.
11. Find A Business Buddy.
Everyone needs a friend to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with, and sorry, but your partner shouldn’t be yours. It’s just far too much to ask of a partner that they be both your romantic/life partner and your business partner, and it isn’t their job anyway. You need to find yourself a business buddy, someone who is also an entrepreneur – maybe a writer but also maybe a graphic designer or small business owner.
Meet with your business buddy for a weekly coffee and talk about all of your new ideas, painful clients, and career dreams. Listen to theirs. Feel free to go off on tangents about your new business idea, and ask for feedback. A business buddy is just outside of your business enough that they can see areas of lack much better than you can, and they can also sometimes offer different perspectives or ideas that you may never have had alone.
When you find someone who can give advice and a shoulder to cry on, and who you can also offer your opinions and expertise, business life seems to flow much more easily.
Sometimes, just having coffee with someone else is enough to allow your brain a break from all the “work,” and it’s in the coffee breaks of life that we often have our greatest ideas.
My business bestie (who's become a real-life bestie, too) and I live in totally different countries – but we still make time to meet once a week to talk about our businesses, brainstorm, and connect. We chat every single day on messenger, share our wins, frustrations, and ideas… and we keep each other accountable. She's an incredibly valuable second set of eyes on my business.
(And in fact, I have multiple business buddies who help me in varying ways. It's sparked deep friendships that are built on more than just business… but they all have helped shaped my business into what it is today.)
Whew. That was my list of 11 ways to completely revamp your copywriting. Did I miss anything? Do you have any words of wisdom to share, or do you profoundly disagree with something I said and want to let me know? I’m all ears! Comment below and let's talk about it.