Join Ian Lurie for an in-depth discussion in this video What is copywriting?, part of Learning to Write Marketing Copy.
According to Wikipedia, copywriting is writing copy for the purpose of advertising or marketing. I need to expand on that just a little bit. First, marketing doesn't mean selling to people who don't want your product. Great marketing delivers value to people when they most need it, period. So understand that great marketing copywriting is persuasive, but it's most persuasive to those who want to respond. And those people are the ones who will most value what you have to offer. This kind of copywriting is also a heck of a lot easier to write.
Second, copywriting isn't just writing. It's strategy too. You must be able to plan what you're going to write. The tone you'll want to use and other overarching requirements. Even if someone else dictates the plan, you'll still need to understand and adjust as needed. Third, copywriting sells. Selling may mean getting customers to buy, getting voters to vote, or getting people to agree with my cause. Regardless, you have a good outcome in mind. And your writing copy to achieve that outcome.
You communicate that outcome with a call to action. A call to action could be buy, vote, or fasten your seatbelt. But all copywriting has that call to action. Copywriting that really supports the call to action is four things wrapped into one. First, it's writing. It's about putting words on a page. That's the basic element. But if you stop here, you're missing some of the critical nuances you must understand to be good at it. It's also an attention getter. You know those essays you wrote in high school? This is not that.
Nor is the best fiction newspaper article or text book. Why? Because all of these types provide an introduction. The reader is already committed. Marketing copy must sell the page by grabbing the reader's attention and making the reader want to continue. And it's a handshake. Marketing copy is often the first thing a customer encounters, or the reminder after a sales call. In either case, it's a handshake. And that handshake can be a bit sweaty and limp, or it can be warm and firm. And it's visual creative.
Marketing copy, generally has to fit into a larger piece of creative. A web page, a print piece, or a letter. In all of those cases, your copy is both content and visual creative. The layout, yes, even in a letter, can have a profound effect on the message. To successfully communicate that call to action, copywriting has to do three things. It must deliver significance. It needs to be worthy of attention to those who may never buy but will spread the word. Some people call this the unique selling proposition, or USP.
The customer behavior has changed a bit. And merely stating your USP isn't enough anymore. Instead, deliver significance. Appeal to just the right niche audience. Not every single potential reader on the internet. Aim for people who, if they start to read, will always finish. Provide value in the form of a return on time invested. Remember what I said about the USP and how it's no longer the key driver of marketing copy? This is why. Marketing copy is the first product a customer buys. It's their first investment in your product.
And they pay with their time. The value delivered can affect their entire relationship with your brand. A lot of folks think marketing copywriting isn't a creative art. They think it's some kind of mechanical, formulatic discipline where creative writers go to die. That is so wrong. It can definitely be creative. Some of the greatest, most successful copy in history is brilliantly creative. This piece tells a story. Aruthur had just played The Rosary. The room rang with applause. I decided that this would be a dramatic moment for me to make my debut.
Not creative? Whatever. I know this is all written on a page, and these days it'd probably be turned into a video or a set of illustrations instead. But it still starts with the writing. Someone still would've had to write all the stuff down. Whether it's copy for a page, a video, a storyboard or something else, marketing copy is definitely creative. But, as David Ogilvy famously said, if it doesn't sell it's not creative. Keep that in mind, a lot of writing explore creativity.
I love doing that kind of writing, but copyrighting requires that you balance creativity with a real focus on call to action. That makes it one of the most difficult writing disciplines. That balance can mean a lot more customers, which is probably why you're here. Learning to write marketing copy will help you become a more comfortable, able writer, and it will grow your business at the same time.
- What is copywriting?
- Writing the first draft
- Writing and testing headlines
- Structuring copy for print vs. online delivery
- Using typography effectively
- Rewriting copy
- Managing a team of copywriters