Sometimes the task of writing copy falls to you. Maybe you don’t have time to farm the work out to a copywriter, or maybe you don’t have the resources. Either way, I’m betting you’re also not especially interested in learning the ins and outs of copywriting. That’s why I’ve boiled it down to 4 essential things you must pay attention to when doing it yourself:

1. Focus on Benefits, Not Features

This cardinal rule is familiar to many people in sales as well as copywriting. The idea is that you need to focus on what’s interesting to your customer, and not necessarily what’s interesting to you. What are customers interested in? They’re interested in a product or service that will make their lives easier or solve a problem they have. When you write copy, think of what you’re writing from your customer’s point of view.

They are probably not interested in how your widget uses nothing but the best Brazilian titanium (if indeed there is such a thing) and is accurate to 1/10th of a micrometer (if indeed that’s even possible). So what? Leave the technical talk to the engineers. Instead, write copy that focuses on what your titanium does that other titanium doesn’t, and how that benefits your customers. Tell them what such incredible precision means to their product quality or bottom line.

Also, watch out for too much discussion about the certifications and awards you have. Unless it’s an Oscar, most people don’t care, and it’s boring. (Sorry to hurt your feelings, but you know I’m right.) They are not interested in the fact that you were the nth person to be certified by Anonymous Unknown Organization. That might be fascinating to others in your industry, but it’s not going to impress Joe Blow. Mention your accolades, awards, certifications, and certificates – just not at the start. Save it for the end, once they’re already hooked. (You might want to mention what state you’re licensed in if your job requires a license or certification, however, like a CPA or massage therapist.)

To do: Think of a problem your customers might have, and how your product or service solves that problem, then write about that.

Uncapped pen on white background2. Write Copy Simply

To me, this is a very close second to the “Benefits, Not Features” rule. “Write Copy Simple” means that your writing will be more effective – more persuasive, easier to read – if you use simple words and write simply. Using multi-syllable words that show off your huge vocabulary in complex, multi-clause sentences is one of the fastest ways to get people to stop reading. I think people mistakenly believe that if they write like this, they or their company will be seen as Serious and Professional. That’s not the case. All you’re doing is turning potential customers off.

To do: Keep it simple. Keep it readable. Keep sentences on the short side. As for word choice, don’t use “beverage” when you can use “drink.” Don’t say “utilized” when you can say “used.” And be careful of the words you pepper your résumé with, words like “implement” and “strategize.” They sound phony.

3. Think About the Next Step

If you write copy that is clear and simple and focuses on benefits, you’ve got a great start, but you’re not quite there yet. Your copy should be persuasive as well as informative. What about the next step? What would you like your readers to do once they’re finished reading your copy? Get clear on what that is. You might want them to call for a chat, call to set up a face-to-face meeting, email with more questions, or buy something immediately.

To do: Decide what you want, and then (politely) invite your readers to do it. This is your call to action. Include a link to your contact page or email address, or give your phone number or street address. Give them the information they need to take that step right away.

4. Have Your Copy Proofread – By Someone Else

The fact is that it’s extremely difficult to proofread your own work. You can’t count on yourself to catch little errors that need to be fixed, like a missing verb or a repeated word. If you must, make sure that after you write your copy you put it away for a while – a week or two – and then come back to it. At least that way it will be a little fresh.

To do: Get someone else to do it! Again, you don’t have to choose a professional, and you don’t even need to choose someone with a PhD in English from Yale. You just need someone who knows how to read, knows how to spell, and hopefully owes you a favor. He or she may not catch everything, like dangling participles and faulty subject-verb agreement, but at least the major errors will be caught.

If You Still Need Help…

…I happen to know a copywriter and editor who would love to hear from you!

To do: Contact me and let’s see how I can help you.

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