I was asked recently what my process was for developing content ideas — and I got to thinking that this particularly nosey client might not be the only one wondering how the gears and wires all go together behind the scenes. After all, we don’t really discuss idea generation much, we just assume it’s a thing that happens without effort. Ideas magically populate, we send them to our writers to write and BLAM!, we’re done.
Oh, Dear Reader, how I wish it were so…. but it’s not. Generating content ideas takes genuine effort, real dedication and knowledge of your particular subject matter, whether that’s the mating rituals of assorted beavers or performance boating. Continue reading “Where Do Content Ideas Come From?”→
I’ve had a keen eye for marketing as long as I can remember. As a child, I reached for the Want Ads before the comics and always paid far more attention to commercials than the programming they were embedded in. After three and a half decades of watching, it drives me crazy when I see big name advertisers consistently misusing a marketing form. I’ve found that to be especially true in video content.
Everybody, large and small, has seen the little commercials that YouTube forces you to watch before you can click through to get to your video of dancing cats. They’re the little annoyances that we all wait impatiently through, until the “Skip Ad” button pops up. According to a TubeMogul report in 2013, up to 85 percent of all those ads are skipped with glee. Continue reading “Marketing for The Tubes: Improving Your YouTube Video Skip Rate”→
Landing a copywriting job is the real deal – now you have to produce. If you’re lucky, the job is in your niche, which should make things a lot easier. And it does … at first. Exulting in the glories of an HVAC service with outlets in every town on the map requires fresh copy – for every location.
Before you know it, your highly informational, sincere copy has turned into a sleaze-filled pitch worthy of any greasy-haired, plaid-suited used car salesman. Me? No way, creepy marketing prattle is beneath me … I routinely sneer at such dreck.
But wait, there’s more! Let’s face it – the constant need for quality content is part of effective copywriting. Your job is to attract visitors to a website and convert them into leads and customers. Consistently producing powerful, high-quality copy is tough, but not at all impossible. Here are several tips on how to lose the drivel and write honest copy that sells.
Do more research
Yes, more. Even if you’ve been a factory-certified Mercedes mechanic for the last 20 years, someone out there may have streamlined a process or invented a new tool. The more information you have, the more ideas you can play with.
Simplify your copywriting
This step needn’t involve ditching pertinent technical jargon and writing to a seventh-grader’s comprehension level – it means getting your message across clearly and concisely – especially when you have a specific audience. Don’t oversell or talk down to an audience already familiar with the product or process.
Don’t be overly clever
Writers play with words – it’s what we do. Sometimes that’s okay when writing copy, although it depends entirely on the brand personality and the type of content you’ve been asked to write. Most of the time, though, being clear and straightforward works better than being a clever wordsmith.
Break those grammar rules
This cannot be stressed enough, although this goes against every grammar rule you ever learned. Some of the best all-around writers know how and when to break the rules of proper grammar, syntax and mechanics. Speak directly to your audience in easily understood language.
Write in the vernacular
No, this is not a continuation of the above tip. Speaking to an audience in a style they recognize helps you connect and build a relationship. They know where you’re coming from – they dig what you’re saying and will be more open to your message. If you’re selling retro furniture to baby boomers, learn the lingo.
Focus on the benefits
Talk about what your product does, not is – and demonstrate this with descriptive copy. Everyone knows what a kitchen blender is, but what does yours do that makes it special? Make every feature you mention into a benefit to anyone who owns the product or uses the service.
Set the instant gratification hook
Give your readers satisfaction from merely reading your copy. When you promise them something valuable right up front, they’ll keep reading because they believe you’ll deliver on your promise. This curiosity factor drives them right through the meat of the copy and into your call to action.
Use the right words
All too often, writers use adverbs or adjectives in order to make an okay word better. Stop doing this. Now. Hunt down the best word you can find in order to convey an image, emotion or your message. It will not only strengthen your copy, it takes you (the writer) out of the picture by letting the words speak for themselves.
Use active voice
Here’s another tip that cannot be stressed enough. Writing in an active voice necessitates using short, strong sentences, which improves your writing right there. It’s fast, firm, on point and to the point. “We are” beats “We have been” every time.
Stand your ground
Don’t take the easy way out by avoiding the use of strong words like “can” and “will” when referring to your client’s services or product(s). It not only makes your copy flat and flavorless, it makes you sound like your client is unable to deliver. Confident writing builds trust and a customer base.
Confident writing is one thing – backing up a promise with facts and/or statistics is another. Your credibility grows when you can back up benefits or claims with concrete proof. Facts, numbers, case studies and success stories can win over skeptics while demonstrating that you know what you’re talking about.
Watch your “you” and “we”
Effective copywriting connects with the customer in the first sentence, not the business you’re writing for. That’s why copy that speaks directly to the audience gets more results. When you make sure your copy uses “you” at least twice as often as “we” or the company name, it’s obvious that your focus is aimed at your customer’s needs and desires.
Copywriters read other copywriters’ work all the time while doing research, looking for ideas or checking out something of interest. Why not consider building a swipe file containing the best examples of copywriting you come across. In addition to building a collection of great copywriting techniques, tips and references, you can keep better track of your own creative ideas. It’s a great way to keep everything under one roof, as it were.
“Resist the usual.” – Advertising wizard Raymond Rubicam.
Works for me.
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