How to write copy that sells
Much of my work comes from well established capable intelligently run firms – but most find it difficult to write about themselves. I can bring some dispassion to the task, and write from the user's point of view. And because I have helped clients in so many fields – from care homes to coffin makers – I can pull in techniques that are well proven in areas that perhaps my new client has no experience of. (It's OK to finish with a preposition: Fowler says so. Don't worry about it.)
Firms may need a skilled copywriter in six main areas:
- sales letters
- publicity or PR
- text on websites
Here's some guidance:
- Write from the reader’s point of view. I’ve seen 72 page newsletters from Blue Chip companies that gave the results of a darts match in Abu Dhabi. Who cares?
- Come to the point straight away. Certainly for press releases and sales letters, you have about 1.5 seconds to grab the reader’s attention. Don’t leave the punch line to the last paragraph: you’re not writing an Agatha Christie mystery.
- Use short words rather than long. You’re not writing an essay on philosophy.
- Spell out the benefits, answer the question “What’s in it for me?”
- But for press releases, you can’t write how wonderful the product is. Put those words in a user’s mouth, otherwise it becomes an advert for which the editor will expect payment
- Copy for ads is a highly skilled (and paid) art. Put most effort into the headline for that is what counts (along with a strong illustration). Think about your target segment and what turns them on.
- Try and encourage action. Close the sale. Make them an offer they find difficult to ignore.
It only takes a second to delete an email newsletter (without reading it), but an attractively presented, relevant and illustrated newsletter does bring results.
I have produced the simple A4 trade newsletter shown above right for more than fifteen years, but each mailing (to upholsterers and soft furnishers) more than pays for itself. The secret is to write in short paragraphs, with technical spec, on topics that interest the target audience.
It only needs to be mailed twice a year to alert customers of new products and keep in touch. And the odd joke helps to maintain interest.