What’s the secret to writing great marketing copy? Depends on whom you ask. Some writers will give you a list of specific “power words” to use—as well as avoid. They’ll tell you how many times you should repeat the same idea in a single paragraph, or how to draw readers in by starting with a question (see above). But really, you don’t need to worry about all that. Finicky marketing science aside, writing good copy isn’t something to agonize and analyze over. It comes down to the same basic elements that make any writing good—whether it’s an article, a letter, a tweet, or a note on a windshield. (It’s all marketing copy anyway, isn’t it?) You’ve got to communicate clearly, have something interesting to say, and make a personal connection with your reader. Along those lines, here are some not-so-secret tips to keep in mind:
Know your audience. You wouldn’t talk to a group of bikers at Sturgis the way you would a room full of retired librarians. Same goes for your writing. Make sure your message is appropriate to the audience. Consider the context.
Keep it simple—and concise. Get to the point. Get in, get out, tell your reader what she needs to know, and don’t go on and on about it. Please don’t overcomplicate the message with superfluous information. Just give the reader the minimum amount of information she needs. She’ll thank you for it—by reading your words instead of skipping past them.
Know thy message. You can’t communicate well if you don’t know what you’re communicating. What’s the point you’re trying to make? If that point isn’t crystal clear, your writing will be all over the place. Good marketing copy requires a clear message. Always.
Be likeable. Marketing copy, like all writing, is all about connecting with your reader. You’ve got to say something that makes somebody care—and respond. How do you do that? The same way you connect with anyone. You talk about things that interest them. You charm their pants off. Say something clever, witty, funny. Approach your writing the way you approach your friendships and it will be a whole lot better.
Find the sweet spot. There are two camps. One says you should focus your message on benefits to the reader. Prove what’s in it for them and why they should give a hoot. The other side says you should just talk about who you are and what you have to offer. Don’t tell the reader what to think. Let her discover for herself that place where her needs and your offerings meet. Either approach comes down to the same thing—be relevant. Provide something of value. Find the sweet spot between who you are and what your reader needs and build your case on it.
Less is more. The less you try to say, the greater its impact. Marketing copy is not a Hefty bag. It’s not about how much you can cram into it without it breaking. Actually, the opposite is true. The fewer the messages you put into your copy, the greater the impact of each one. Otherwise, you’re watering it down. If you really want to make your copy memorable, give it a singular message.
It’s a one-sided conversation. The problem with a lot of writing is that it’s sooooo stinking dull. If people would just write the way they spoke, we’d all be a whole lot better off. So take a deep breath, ditch the formalities, and act like you’re sitting next to somebody and talking to them. Because really, when you come right down to it, you are.