Consult Professor Google and you’ll be rewarded with hundreds of rules for how to write effective marketing copy. Many of these are based on solid, time-tested practices proven to generate positive results.
Well, I’ve got a few to add to the list. In no way backed by science or any well-funded university study, they’re just some things that have worked for me over the years. Maybe they’ll work for you, too.
- Keep it casual. We’re taught all kinds of grammar rules in school. But quite often, going by the book leads to stiff, boring, flat writing. Better you should write like you speak. Obviously, cut out the “ums” and “ahs” and all the other junk that’s part of regular speech. But consider keeping it casual. Even if your client’s personality is conservative or corporate, your copy will read better and be effective if you stick to a natural, conversational tone that’s clear, simple, and interesting. In fact, whenever I challenge myself to loosen up and put aside the notion that I’m writing “marketing copy,” the results turn out better.
- Give them something worth reading. I’ve never agreed with the idea that copy should be as short as possible. Yes, you shouldn’t fill your ad or article with a lot of rambling fluff. But don’t worry about staying under some strict word count guideline, either. It’s generally believed that people don’t read ads (or novels, or newspapers, or subtitles, or recipes) these days. But here’s the thing: people read what interests them. Say you’re writing a college marketing brochure. Your audience has picked up your brochure because they’re interested in what you have to say. They’re hungry for information. It’s not the word count that matters, it’s the quality of the content. So make sure what you’re saying is interesting, informative, and engaging. Effective writing is writing that works. Shorter isn’t better. Better writing is better.
- Make every word count. We just established that people read what interests them. Along those lines, you need to make sure your copy is airtight. Whether it’s ten words or ten paragraphs, your copy should include the minimum number of words you need in order to make your point. The famous style guide Strunk and White advises writers to “omit needless words.” But what does needless mean? Again, it’s not a case of simply cutting. Shorter isn’t always better. Sometimes, editing out too much will actually cause your copy to read slower. If it doesn’t flow naturally and read like speech, the piece can feel choppy, awkward, and confusing. So aim for brevity, but even more so, aim for readability. Then, within that framework, eliminate what you don’t need.
- Write like an introvert. They say that while introverts are less outgoing, they often make better salespeople than extroverts. Why? They’re less pushy and more patient. They’re good listeners, detail-oriented, and highly attuned to their customer’s needs. Which makes customers feel heard, understood, and valued. Typically not so hot at small talk, introverts tend to focus on making genuine, authentic connections with others—qualities that go a long way toward building customer relationships and generating sales. So if you want your marketing copy to be more effective, don’t sell to your customer. Focus instead on making an authentic connection and good things will happen.
- Be a reader. To be a better copywriter, it helps to read a lot. And not just other ads and brochures. Read novels. Read articles. Read cereal boxes. Read things you have no interest in and things you know nothing about. Be a lifelong student of good writing—and of the world in general. You never know where you’ll pick up something that you can work into that website project you’ve got going on. Plus, reading improves your vocabulary and helps you tap into what people are thinking and feeling. It gives you more to draw on, makes your own writing better through osmosis, and offers an endless supply of inspiration and ideas. And, as an added bonus, reading makes you a smarter, better informed, and more interesting person. ‘Nuff said.
So, whether you write copy for marketing materials, blogs, articles, or something else, it doesn’t really matter. Give the above tips a whirl. And if you have some of your own to share, let us know. We’d love to hear what works for you!