Copywriting for beginners — is copywriting such a “secret” art?
And how does a complete novice start the journey to copywriting mastery…if there is ever such a thing?
Let’s first take a look at the definition of the term “copywriting.”
Here is a definition from copywriting.com and let me know what you think.
You will get the idea that it’s a job, a craft…and it could be compared to “verbal carpentry,” plus it involves the concept of salesmanship, as you would no doubt expect.
For me, copywriting in whatever form you wish to define it, is nothing short of salesmanship…it’s about compelling and persuading your audience to buy…whether that is to your dream, your ideology, or your product and/or services.
It’s nothing less…or nothing more…so the first thing to understand is to live with the fact that you have to accept that you are selling something.
Stop selling and start influencing
Now, I do not believe in the concept of “selling” as such…I believe that instead of trying to be a salesperson, you should try to be an influencer, and to me, there is a huge difference, so before we go into the realms of copywriting for beginners, take a look at my article on how to become a key influencer.
As more and more businesses are moving online, they have to embrace the concept of copywriting and understand the power of the written word — there are thousands of tips and courses out there on the subject of copywriting, some excellent and some that are cringeworthy, so be careful about the information that you choose to ingest.
I am going to give you my opinion on the subject and I don’t really believe it’s that difficult to gain some form of competence if you understand the basics of salesmanship and you can learn to write, pretty much how you speak.
Copywriting for Beginners: The concept
Once upon a time, there was a person, who traveled the land in the hope of earning a living by selling the goods and/or services they provided — there was a certain asset that they had…the “gift of the gab” as it was termed, and the ability to persuade others to buy into their beliefs and of course, their products.
Making a living was tough — there were no salaries, cushions, or any form of “bedrock” so to speak…just the ability of the salesperson to convince their audience to part with their hard-earned dollars and if they couldn’t, well life was far from easy.
I’m sure that early audiences were duped into many a transaction that they shouldn’t have completed, and the term “snake oil salesman” would have not been hard to coin…but…these people had to earn a living (in their own eyes at least) and some would do anything to attain mastery of their craft.
Copywriting: The sales letter
Smart salespeople realized that their efforts could be doubled-down by their ability to put their persuasive arguments in writing…in fact, there was a possibility that they could even be replaced by the “written word,” rather than having to spend endless hours speaking to their audiences.
The concept of writing the same words that are spoken gave birth to what we now term as “copywriting.”
So here is my point:
If you can speak persuasively, then you can write persuasively.
It’s that simple, and I don’t know why there is so much complexity attached to the art of copywriting, other than to turn it into a money-spinning product that serves to line the pockets of those who create the hype and follow-up courses.
Now please understand, I am not dismissing the fact that there are definitely some great copywriters out there, who can write compelling copy that makes millions from product launches, etc.
And the Internet marketing world has a few great copywriters that have stood the test of time.
If you are in that field then you should definitely think more seriously about hiring professional copywriters, but I am talking about writing everyday copy for your website and more simple, functional copy for your day-to-day business.
I believe that times are changing and the public is waking up to the old-school tactics that could easily fall into “sleazy” salesmanship — for me, they want and will continue to demand simplicity in communication and will place far more emphasis on researching and reviewing products or services before they hand over their cash.
But that doesn’t mean that the art of the written word is going away anytime soon — I personally love to read, over say watching a video and that is simply because I can do it at my own pace and in my own time.
Videos are extremely powerful and many marketing gurus are absolutely convinced that they will take over the world and replace traditional copy…but I still think there is a serious place for a good, persuasive, and informative copy.
Let’s get to some simple tips.
Write as you speak
My English teacher would be horrified if she could see the headline of this section and to her, the writing was all about clarity, grammatical correctness, and structure.
It came as no surprise that to get a job in the field of writing and journalism, you had to have a high degree of education and it was pretty much a “closed shop,” when it came down to getting an opportunity.
I used to love hearing stories about the great authors who would travel around the world, living temporarily in exotic locations while they completed their novels, having received a nice lump of cash, in advance and for the pleasure of doing so.
I dreamt of having such a lifestyle, but business and entrepreneurship got in the way!
Those days are, in the main, gone and now we are in a digital world where grammar, structure, and correctness have largely gone out of the window — people have less time, are more pressured and simply want to take in and understand information quickly, make decisions and get on with their lives.
Long and short form
The first generation Internet marketers were quick to see this trend and rapidly learned how to entice customers with simple, to the point writing, that touched the emotional heartstrings of their target audience as well as compelling them to buy.
It didn’t really matter whether the copy was “long-form” and almost like a mini-story, or shorter and straight to the point, they simply crafted information and put it out there, reviewed and tweaked it over time, and started to learn what techniques worked and certainly what didn’t.
Soon, there was a distinct and measurable correlation between written copy and a boatload of sales, which made the copywriter one of the most in-demand skills of any Internet marketing product launch, hence their ability to charge their clients huge sums of money.
Times are a-changing
As I have said earlier, people are waking up to the sleazy tactics of salesmanship and that includes copywriting — they no longer fall so easily for the scams…the “one-time” offer that has an expiry date, only to be re-offered a few days later; the courses that are going to go up in price from the launch date that is later sold at a discount, etc.
Customers are now able to find so much information online and at a touch of a smartphone button that delivers it in seconds…not to mention the growing technology of artificial intelligence (AI).
So what does this mean for you and me, who want to simply run and grow our business?
In my opinion, It means that we need to operate with a high degree of integrity, transparency, and simplicity — we don’t need to “sell” to our customers in the traditional sense; we need to influence our customers with our knowledge and help educate them as to why to buy from us…and the written word plays a critical role.
The first step in writing is to write as you speak, no matter what the opinion of your English teacher!
By communicating in a more natural tone, you will be more natural and put your customers at ease, simply through your writing.
Take a look at the company Innocent drinks.
Here is an excerpt of the copy they use to describe their “blue spark” smoothie:
“What’s that? Blue drinks? Never heard of them. Until now. Say hello to our new blue super smoothie. It’s good for you. It’s blue. It’s delicious It’s blue. It’s made with apple, pineapple, white guava, white carrot, coconut water and a splash of spirulina. It’s blue. It’s definitely not our attempt of replicating the success of a during we made last year but in smoothie form. It’s blue.”
I could easily buy this drink from the copy, even though it mentions “white carrots!”
The copy is fresh, enticing and although it may give your English teacher a heartache, it is certainly compelling and you could easily imagine someone speaking the copy word-for-word.
Your copywriting value proposition
The first thing you have to work out is the answer to the question:
“What exactly am I proposing/selling and what can I do for you?”
If you don’t have the answer to this question then you are literally “dead in the water.”
I am not going to go into too much detail in this article, but you can take a look at this:
It’s a good read if I might say so myself!
But your value proposition is ultimately what will compel your audience to buy from you and most of the value propositions I see are far too “corporate” in their writing and even speaking in videos.
Write down your own value proposition in the more traditional or corporate way, then do all you can to lighten it up!
Have some fun and don’t believe that you have to be “professional,” in your approach, whatever that word means in today’s economic world.
Take a leaf out of Innocent drinks and be bold, captivate your readers, and let’s now get into the meat of the subject and start to create some powerful, persuasive copy.
We are all conditioned to read and hear stories — thanks to our childhood and the great copywriters are also master story-tellers.
Stories make us listen and do not raise our internal barriers in the way a piece of stagnant sales writing does.
A good story will help us relate to a problem, for example, and it will take us through a journey that will clearly show us how the problem was solved and leave us with a happy memory.
During that story, there may be references to the writer…how the writer has been a victim of some form of misfortune, or suffering and then how they came through the ordeal and all was well and good.
All of us have experienced some form of hardship during our lives and I hope that most of us have had some form of success, but what appeals to you the most…a story about success, or a story about overcoming hardship and then enjoying success.
The latter is more believable because it is more likely to be real; our subconscious minds understand the reality of life and when you appeal to the subconscious, you are appealing to reality — at least in my opinion.
Copywriting for beginners: Your website
If you want a great place to tell a story, then start with your “about us” page on your website — not to be confused with the “about” page, which should be talking about your customers, your “about us” page is a place to tell your story.
I love to read stories of how entrepreneurs were inspired to start their business, the challenges and problems they overcame along the way, and their vision for the future.
The best stories will take you through a journey historically and walk you through the “now” and into the future, plus they give some proof points that help the reader to build trust.
Take a look at the story as to how Innocent Drinks got started.
One thing about stories that blends nicely into the next section of this article — keep them real and don’t overplay situations to create unnecessary fear or to gain sympathy.
Ditch the sleaze
You know it makes sense…at least deep in your heart.
Do you really believe that those sickly, sweet, and endearing words and over-inflated promises are meaningful?
Of course not.
Deep down in your heart, you understand the real meaning of words, the reality of each syllable and you are naturally at heart, a realist.
Why then, do those sleazy marketers have such a huge success rate?
Because we all fall for the basic human emotions of fear, of “lack” and we are all vulnerable.
But as I have said…we are waking up.
I would rather you stay true to the “real you” than sell your soul to the devil of the latest copywriting techniques, whatever they are; I would rather you spoke from your heart and really conveyed the message that you want to convey; I would rather that you lost all compulsion to “sell” your products and/or services and truly educated your audience in line with your expertise.
It’s the way of the future…at least for me.
Those annoying Internet marketers
There seems to be a trend at the moment and it’s all about the power of Linkedin and generating business from it.
Linkedin is an extremely powerful tool and I am sure it’s a great way to generate leads and ultimately more business, but there are so many marketers talking about their “secret sauce” when it comes to Linkedin marketing.
And they are playing in one of the most hotly-contested spaces in business today:
Coaching the coaches.
There is a lot of traction in this sector and the number of people who are teaching others how to run their business without having to reach a real end-user customer is growing.
Now, there is no reason why this type of business should grow, but in my opinion, you have to have come from the “real business world” and endured the hardships that go with it before you can teach others.
And you should be on the right side of the success-failure equation!
Anyway, I digress…but what I am really talking about here are the story-telling and marketing tactics that some of these people employ.
I get many that tell me about the misfortune they suffered twelve months ago and how they couldn’t afford “this” or “that,” followed by the amazing new discovery they made which led them to the launch of their program.
They also use scarcity as a tactic and will promote “early bird” offers that expire at midnight on such and such day.
What’s more annoying is that the same offers appear each week and with the same copy and the same bells and whistles that accompany the extremely low price with a huge amount of extra value attached to it.
Don’t fall for these scams and more importantly, don’t use those tactics as these people are rapidly being found out.
Nail your audience
This is not about “closing the sale” and if you have read my “Key Influencer” article, then you will know that I never advocate closing a sale.
This is about building the first and most valuable part of any sales process — trust and then making a simple, genuine offer of your product or service.
You are really trying to “nail” the concept of trust
When you write sales copy, you are trying to do three things:
- Establish a purpose and create an engagement with your target audience
- Convey credibility through a real story that gives proof points
- Build trust and prepare your audience to buy
The sale comes later and please take note of how I’ve used the word “prepare.”
You actually want your customer to feel that they have a way out of any proposal or deal you offer and remember that this “escape” route is embedded deep within our subconscious — this is why we agonize over making certain decisions and also cancel agreements we have made.
It’s natural so please don’t try to fight it by insisting that your customers buy “now!”
I can hear some of you screaming at me telling me that so many marketing gurus tell us that this is the “way” and you have to nail down your audience and make them buy.
Yes, I cannot argue that this system works and it will continue to do so as long as people keep buying through the system…and I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel uncomfortable to speak to an audience using those techniques, let alone trying to sell to them.
I was always uncomfortable with the “closing” aspects of selling and it’s why I was fired or left many of the early sales jobs I had in my early working years.
But over the years, I have come to refine my own methods and also my beliefs about how to sell with integrity, transparency, and honesty.
Nail your audience by all means…but do it the right way and always leave them a choice and your offer should reflect that choice with no “expiry” dates or huge discounts that have been over-inflated to add perceived value.
Putting it all together
So, you should now be able to write as you speak, tell an interesting story to prepare your audience to buy, and then put the offer out to them and leave them a choice as to whether to buy or not.
It’s really that simple.
And there is absolutely no reason to believe that you cannot write extremely compelling copy that will wow your audiences and helps you generate more revenues and ultimately more profits.
Take some time to study the copy of writers and companies that you resonate with — see how compelling their writing is…or not, as the case may be.
The first step to take is to record yourself speaking the words that you would to your audience and then write those words down exactly as you spoke them — don’t worry about how it looks when written and make sure you don’t skip this approach.
Over time, you will see how to craft your written words as well as being far more aware of the way you speak.
It’s a win-win!
Don’t forget the story
Now that you have some basic words to work with, it’s time to create a story and it doesn’t matter how long or short that story is…just make sure that you create one.
Now, creating a story doesn’t mean that you are going to use that story, it simply trains your mind to think in terms of story-telling, which is something we are all familiar with.
For example, you may want to tell a long story about how you got started in your business, detailing the journey and timelines on your “about us” page, but when it comes to describing a product, you will need to keep things far more succinct and simple.
But in both cases, you can extract that information from your story.
Write the story for your copywriting project and then extract the information and adjust it as required.
I’ve written my life story down in a book that one day I would like to get published, but that is a much longer-term goal. In the meantime, I write excerpts from that story for this blog and other blogs that I write for.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of writing “salesy” and sleazy copy, and please refrain from selling fear or scarcity.
Copywriting should be a joy and it is a far cry from the world where it was all about grammatical correctness and perfectly structured sentences and paragraphs.
Enjoy your writing and please contact me if you would like to talk deeper about the subject!
Last modified: February 15, 2021