Whether it’s a brand slogan, a promotional giveaway, a marketing email or a highway billboard, the best marketing copy is rather short and simple, but it can be far from easy to write. Effective marketing copy can take a long time (maybe even several days) to produce and revise, and it sometimes requires a draining amount of frustrating effort. But improving your copywriting skills can add a significant boost to your business’s success, so it’s important to continuously refine and hone your work.
I’ve recognized three key principles throughout my career that have helped me improve my copy over time. Keep these principles in mind the next time you write to help you boost the quality of your work (see the #copywriting tips page for more).
Don’t Start with Words
+ Don’t start with words; start with a feeling. You shouldn’t write if you don’t know what feelings you want to evoke, but if you identify and target a specific feeling, such as relief or confidence, you’ll have a much better idea of what you are really trying to say. After all, that’s the point of marketing copy (to evoke or sell a specific feeling, not really the product itself). People don’t care much for products or services, but they love the good feelings certain products or services bring them.
+ The example above doesn’t feature any marketing copy, but it does a good job of evoking the the childish joy and wonder of one’s imagination. Actually, the intentional lack of marketing copy amplifies the feeling, so it’s also a good example of the “less is more” principal described later in this article.
Short Verbs Are Safe Bets
+ Get in the habit of starting your copy with an action word; it’s beneficial to your writing process to start your copy with a short verb, such as “win” or “boost”. That’s because good marketing copy gets to the point fast, but the practice can also direct your writing process in a positive direction. You may find that this rule is too formulaic in certain situations, but most of the time, it’s a safe bet - especially if you’re pressed for time and not feeling super creative.
+ The example above is a perfect illustration of this concept, and it gets right to the point. The feelings being evoked are joy and laughter, and that emotion leaves a positive impression with you as it associates joy and laughter with the name “Chick-Fil-A”. Furthermore, when a customer creates an emotional association to a brand, it makes the brand more memorable.
Less is More
+ I can’t stress this principal enough: use less words whenever you can. The shorter your message, the more people will consume it and understand it. It’s not a difficult concept to understand, but it seems to be a difficult concept for newer writers to apply.
+ In the above Nike ad, the writer could have written: “It doesn’t matter what you do. It doesn’t matter how or why you do it. It doesn’t matter how good you are when you do it - as long as you do it and you do it for yourself.” But the standard Nike slogan, “just do it”, works much better. It communicates the same message in a fraction of a second, so the team that designed the ad effectively maximized the audience that will consume and understand the ad.
Here’s an extra bonus tip that can apply to any creative professional, not just writers: develop amazing, outstanding taste. Simply by improving your taste (for example, learning to enjoy more sophisticated books or higher-quality blogs), you will improve your creative work. That’s because you can more easily and quickly identify bad ideas, so you can trash those ideas before you finish them. The best creatives kill almost all of their ideas, and they only keep a few shining gems to refine. Similarly, you should find a thick pile of unused ideas in your trash bin at the end of any writing session.
For more copywriting advice, check out "10 Ways to Improve your Marketing Copy."
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