One of the biggest challenges many clients come to us with is the content of their printed piece. Here at Ambit, we can make almost anything look great and work visually, but once we’ve grabbed the recipient’s attention, what does the piece actually say? Over the years, our team has developed some copywriting tips. Check them out, and let’s make that copy sing!

1. Establish an objective – and go back to it when you’re stuck.

Before you do anything else, figure out what your objective is. Write it down. When you’re stuck, go back to it. When you edit, go back to it. Check it against every line of your copy and ensure that you’re clear, focused and targeted.

Examples of objectives include: Make a purchase, make a phone call, sign up for an email newsletter, enter information into a contact form for more information, follow on Facebook, etc.

2. Talk about the benefits

Before you start writing, jot down the benefits the reader will get if he or she follows through with your CTA, and use that to inform your copy. This shouldn’t be confused with the benefits to you, which often make their way into copy. Stay focused on the reader and get them excited about what’s to come.

Scrutinize your copy with these benefits in mind. Do they communicate what’s in it for the customer, or are they vague? Here’s an example: “If you want better skin, check out this face cream.” It’s not a bad statement, and it does mention a benefit, but it’s not specific enough. Try this instead: “Customers of XY face cream see a 50% reduction in wrinkles within 2 weeks of using it.”

3. Discern what really matters to your target audience. (Hint: it’s not always price.)

The go-to for many people when writing copy is price. Whether it’s offering a discount or promoting the fact that the product is a better value than others, we all assume that price is the selling point for everyone. As it turns out, this assumption is wrong. Price matters, sure–and for some products or services, it matters most–but what’s important is understanding your audience and what they value. Then, tailor your copy to that.

What else matters to a potential customer? Their time and how your product can give it back to them is #1 on the list, but other important things to consider are quality, trust and convenience. Understanding your audience’s pain points is essential to good copy.

4. Tell a story, don’t instruct.

People are intelligent, and they can tell when they’re being patronized. No one likes being told what to do, but many of us are convinced of something once we hear about someone else’s experience with it. Instead of telling the customer they should hire you as a coach because you can help them increase their leads on social media, for example, tell them about another client of yours who was able to generate ROI using your specific techniques.

5. Focus on verbs

You’ve probably heard the term, “Show, don’t tell.” Seems impossible with copywriting, right? But in fact, if you choose verbs over adjectives, you’re showing. Instead of saying what something is, talk about what it does.

Confused? Here’s an example: “John is successful, smart and well-liked.” OK, but it doesn’t get us too excited. How about this way? “John led the sales team to triple its yearly revenue, implemented new systems that increased efficiency and gained the respect of the entire company.”

6. Be specific

Stay away from vague, throwaway phrases like “a lot,” “many,” “help you to increase/decrease/etc.” Instead, get specific about the benefits–and even better, use numbers when you can. By examining your copy for throwaway phrases, you’re automatically editing it for length, sharpness and effectiveness.

Never say “many” or “fewer” when you can insert a specific number. If you’re not able to use numbers, try percentages. When all else fails, fall back on examples (see #4) or challenge yourself to tell the story in a new way that reduces these types of phrases.

7. Use the active voice

If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken high school grammar, you may have forgotten about active versus passive voice. When writing copy, you must remember it. It makes for stronger, more direct writing and provides a feeling of action throughout the copy. Avoid the passive voice whenever possible.

Need a refresher? A sentence in passive voice might say: “Great strides are being made by the company to reduce its carbon footprint.” The sentence is clunky, and frankly, just not super exciting.

Changed to active: “The company is making great strides to reduce its carbon footprint.” Immediately, the company sounds like a player in this process as opposed to an idle object. If you need a bit more background on active versus passive voice, check out this article.

8. Use a clear, concise Call-to-Action (CTA)

Going back to your original objective in #1, write a clear, concise CTA. Don’t be wishy-washy; be direct. Tell the reader exactly what his or her next step is after being moved by your copy and ready to act. This is where the reader converts to a lead, follower or customer so it’s some of the most important copy in the piece.

Consider the difference between this less clear, wordy CTA: “If you’d like to get more marketing tips, you can sign up for our newsletter on the right sidebar!”

… and this more direct version: “Get marketing tips delivered to your inbox weekly. Sign up to the right for our free newsletter.”

9. Make your copy short, simple and scannable

While design plays a large part in the readability of a marketing piece, email or website, the copy sets up the structure. Use short headlines, bullet points and simple sentences to make your copy scannable and quick to digest.

10. Track, test and tweak

Even small tweaks to copy can make a huge difference, but you’re unlikely to know what resonates with your audience unless you test it. A/B test your headlines, copy, offers (but remember – only test one thing at a time) on landing pages, in emails, on social ads and even in print campaigns. Track which get the best results and use that to inform future copywriting.

Want to know more about A/B testing? KISSmetrics has a great beginner’s guide.

Great copy is a process, but when you hit it right, the results speak for themselves. If you’re struggling with copy, our creative team is available to develop the right copy for your campaign and specific medium. Get in touch today for more information and to discuss your project.

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