What exactly is copywriting? It's the work of thousands upon thousands of individuals you see splattered everywhere on a daily basis; advertisements, websites, press releases, speeches, and all manner of communication channels that contain a component of influence. As John E. Kennedy put it in 1904, copywriting is "Salesmanship in Print."
Why does it matter? The power of persuasion is a very useful and understated tool in business.
It isn't about coaxing someone into a bad deal or some one-sided business venture, it is the art of selling your product or service, to the degree that the other party understands its benefits. Not only that, agrees that it will benefit them or their business, you want both parties to win and be fulfilled.
I actually believe we're all in a position where this dexterity can be put into action. You may be writing for a website or your personal social media--maybe even a dating website. A carefully constructed email to your boss about that promised raise or even a text to a friend that doesn't really want to go to the dinner party with you. Whatever the case, if you are actively trying to persuade someone to do something, you are exercising this skill.
Perhaps most famous for this skill was Gary Halbert. He was known as "The World's Greatest Copywriter" because of how he was able to use his language so powerfully it was not only convincing, honest, and suggestive, but they also fashion an action and a desire to do something in return.
His 381-word Coat of Arms Letter, now over 40 years old, is still a masterclass in persuasion--and just as applicable today.
If you can understand copywriting and the need for it in a business that is a starting point, but how to actually craft it is the next level. Writing well doesn't mean to learn by heart the dictionary, using big words, and trying to come across as a genius. It's often better to keep it humble, regular, and purposeful.
The fact that I can use a copywriter from the 1970's to illustrate the same points in 2017 shows how universal the art of selling through words can be.
Here are three more specific takeaways:
1. Be conversational.
Halbert spoke naturally; he wasn't robotic or a salesperson. He used a warm tone with his language and this was no mistake, he said that his Coat of Arms letter took him over 18 months to complete before it was posted. Every single word is carefully selected, dowe to the postscript.
Halbert never used waffle words like absquatulate, gobemouche or scrumtrulescent. People would just roll their eyes at these and not pay any more attention. Simplicity is key; short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. That's something Gary's two sons, Kevin and Bond Halbert, continue to preach in Australia.
2. Know your audience.
Think about the audience, who are the people you are persuading? Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and how this would be viewed from their point. Write down ten questions about your target market, think of their fears; what keeps them awake at night? Ponder their desires, daily frustrations and what has made them bias.
One of the main factors of master copywriters is they are all great storytellers. They can captivate an audience and tie the tale around their values, fears and wants. They use simple and persuasive language to ensure a word isn't misunderstood nor do they come off as trying too hard. They understand how to speak directly to a market, not generically, using the word 'you' a lot. Halbert and other brilliant copywriters alike would be making sure they did it every day as it is a learned skill.
3. Use new tools.
Another thing that rolls into copywriting is the usage of web analytics tools, you have the chance to gain greater insight into your audience and the actions they take on your website or the one you write for. This is a tool Halbert didn't have back in the 70's, but we are fortunate to, so make sure you brush up on your knowledge and exercise it.
Practice makes perfect. It doesn't matter if you're an advertiser, a blogger or just someone who likes to participate in many conversations, copywriting skills will give you an advantage in expressing your point, in gaining trust, and in being very, very persuasive. Good copywriting in a remote, online, fast-paced environment is the number one skill you can have.