5 keys to writing great copy

If you’re like many business owners who struggle to entice customers with their website and marketing communications content, you may think there is a magic ingredient that’s missing. A magic ingredient that is so powerful that if you can find it and include it in your content, customers will knock down your door to purchase your services or products.

Is there such an ingredient in writing great copy? Perhaps there is – it’s called hard work!

David Ogilvy, a man considered the original and perhaps greatest advertising agent, wrote about the hard work required in writing great copy in his book, ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’. Among his secrets to success at producing advertising copy were:

  • Looking at every competing advertisement produced in the past 20 years and gathering substantial amounts of research material.
  • Defining the issue and a statement of purpose or goal for the campaign, that must be signed off by the client.
  • Writing down every conceivable fact and selling idea, which he would thoroughly organise and research.

That’s before a single line of copy was produced. Even David’s writing of copy could be considered laborious and often involved producing 20 alternative headlines, throwing away the first 20 attempts of the copy and getting grumpy at his wife, drinking rum and playing Handel! If David Ogilvy struggled so much to produce great customer copywriting, what hope have us mere mortals got?

Rather than get disillusioned by David Ogilvy’s musings, what we can glean from this is that producing great copywriting is as much a result of hard work as clever writing or magic ingredients.

So, if you’re writing copy for your business or for a customer’s business, take a leaf out of David Ogilvy’s book and do the groundwork before you start:

  1. Look at competitor’s websites, brochures and other marketing communications material. More particularly, note what they do well and what they don’t do well. You’re not looking for material you can copy (there’s a law against that!); what you are looking for are ideas and motivation.
  2. Know your target customers. If you have a clear understanding of your target customer you’ll have a much better idea about how to engage them in your copywriting.
  3. Define clear, measurable goals that you want your copywriting to achieve. An example might be a 50% increase in the number of customer leads from your website.
  4. It’s also important to have a clear idea on what you want people who read your copy to do. Do you want them to purchase products online? Do you want them to phone the business?
  5. Then, define every feature, customer benefit and selling idea you can think of. Why should customers choose your products or services? Why should they choose your business? Is there a clever way you can get your key messages across to customers?

Once you’ve done this pre-work you’ll most likely find the copywriting process a little easier. Will it be easy? Probably not. There will still be times when you’ll be staring at a blank screen or clean piece of paper wondering what to write and you may, like David Ogilvy, throw out your first 20 attempts.

Welcome to the world of copywriting!

Leave a comment