10 Things You Should Expect From Your IT Copywriter
Anyone who’s ever tried marketing IT products or services knows that it’s a specialist field. Your customers in the IT industry have very unique and specific requirements, and that means you do too. In order to write compelling copy around your offering, you need a copywriter with a solid understanding of the IT world – someone who’s not afraid to call themselves an “IT Copywriter”.
So how do you know when you’ve found an IT copywriter? And – more importantly – how do you know what to expect from them? The following 10 tips will give you a good understanding of the qualities to look for – the things that make a copywriter an IT copywriter.
1) IT background
Perhaps the most beneficial quality in an IT copywriter is a solid background of some sort in the IT industry. If your copywriter shares an understanding of your domain, you’ll spend far less time explaining the benefits of your product or service. Remember the last time you watched someone glaze over as you waxed lyrical about the wonders of your latest technology? You don’t want that to happen when you’re briefing your copywriter. More importantly, you don’t want that happening when your potential customers read your copy!
2) Technical writing experience
Good technical writers are experienced in bridging knowledge gaps. This means they have to understand the technology, but they also have to be able to talk about it in the layperson’s language. A copywriter with technical writing experience in the IT industry is likely to have domain knowledge and an ability to hit the ground running. They’ll be quick on the uptake, so they’ll understand your product or service more rapidly than most.
Of course, not every technical writer is a IT copywriter. You need to be sure they can write compelling copy – not just dry instruction manuals. Take a look at their samples and testimonials before making a decision.
The other important consideration – especially if you’re after a website copywriter – is, do they have online writing experience? Writing for an online medium is entirely different to writing for print. Readers have different requirements and objectives, and reading conditions are very different. Many technical writers have written online help, so they should know how to cater to these differences. To be sure, ask them to recommend a maximum page length or word count per page. The correct answer should include some comment on the trade-off between the problems of scrolling and the need for a high keyword count for SEO. Ask them whether they prefer long sentences or short (and hope to hear “short”).
3) Further Education
IT products and services are generally very complex in themselves. What’s more, the needs of the end-customer are also very complex and unique. This means there’s normally quite a steep learning curve for anyone new. Ask your IT copywriter if they have tertiary qualifications. It’s not essential, and – by itself – it’s no guarantee of quality copy, but it’s generally a good indicator of someone who’s been trained in the art of learning (i.e. researching, information filtering and modelling, knowledge retention, etc.).
The flip-side of that coin is to be wary of people who are technically qualified. Don’t discount them on sight (many technical people have made great IT copywriters); just remember that technically trained people have a tendency to take a lot of things for granted when speaking to lay-people. Your IT copywriter needs to be able to understand the technology and its complexities, but still relate to the issues of the non-technical customer.
4) Management Experience
Anyone with management experience – at any level – has dealt with decision makers. They may even have been a decision maker themself. In any form of promotion, you need to appeal to the decision maker. Your IT copywriter needs to develop an understanding of the needs, influences, pressures, problems, work environment, and constraints of your typical decision maker(s). The more understanding your IT copywriter brings to the relationship, the less time you’ll spend schooling them.
5) Marketing Experience
Actual marketing experience is a big plus. It brings with it a broader understanding of strategic marketing and the realities of working with a range of challenging people and evolving products and services. Look for an IT copywriter with corporate experience as a marketing manager or marketing coordinator, or someone who runs a copywriting business with a heavy marketing focus.
Anyone can call themselves an IT copywriter; few have the client testimonials to prove it. Testimonials are a great way to validate your IT copywriter’s claims. Ask to see some and read them carefully. Don’t just look at the company name and logo. You need to determine if the clients’ words back up the copywriter’s claims. And make sure the testimonial relates to the type of work you’re commissioning (or something with similar requirements).
7) IT Samples
The proof is in the pudding. ALWAYS ask potential IT copywriters to send you samples of their work. And – as with testimonials – don’t be fooled by flashy packaging, big names, and recognisable logos. Read the words. Are they relevant to your project? Do they convey a clear understanding of the subject matter? Do they convey benefits or just features? Are they written in a style that you find easy to read, yet compelling? And after you’ve read the words, double-check exactly how much input the copywriter had in their writing. Not all copy is written from scratch. Some copywriters work in teams, and others do more editing than writing. Make sure you get a clear understanding of your IT copywriter’s abilities and experience before commissioning them.
8) Understand Benefits
Your customers aren’t interested in what you do; they’re interested in what you can do FOR THEM. In other words, they’re interested in what benefits your product or service will deliver. How will it make their day easier, more enjoyable, less stressful, safer, or more profitable? Identifying benefits is one of the hardest tasks in any advertising project. In fact, many people rely on their copywriter to help them uncover the most compelling benefits. Does your IT copywriter truly understand the benefits you’re promoting?
9) Contributes value
A good IT copywriter should have solid professional experience. They should bring value to your marketing push which goes far beyond the written word. Strategy, tactics, imagery, contacts, anecdotes, corporate identity… Your IT copywriter must bring more to the table than grammar and punctuation. Expect them to make suggestions, not simply take notes and say “Yes”.
10) Plus all the normal copywriter requirements…
Of course, your IT copywriter must be able to satisfy all the normal copywriter requirements. Ask for a contract of works to be completed, a time estimate, a plan of attack, a CV, and SEO copy skills (if search engine presence is important to you). For more information about what to expect from a normal copywriter, see http://www.divinewrite.com/websitecopywriter.htm.
Traditionally, copywriters have been seen as a small cog in the big advertising machine. As a result, most copywriters have risen through the ranks of generic advertising agencies. These days, however, more and more people are sidestepping the agency and going direct to the copywriter. This approach gives them consistency across all of their written collateral, more compelling and engaging copy, and more responsive service. Within the industry, this change means that copywriters aren’t confined to ad agencies, and are able to specialise. The end result to you? While finding a good IT copywriter with an IT background is still a big challenge, it’s certainly becoming easier. You simply need to take the time to ask the right questions.
How To Get More People To Trust What You Say
One of the biggest challenges you need to overcome in order to create more sales in your business is getting people to trust what you say. Now you may very well have a great deal of integrity and be very trustworthy when it comes to your business (and I’m sure you are). But do your customers know that? And how can you make sure that they do?
‘Lack of trust’ is a big problem in advertising. You probably don’t realise how many customers DON’T believe what you say or claim in your advertising. In fact, the best rule of thumb to go by, is that NO ONE BELIEVES YOU. We often see on TV current affairs shows, people who get ripped off by businesses. And it might only be 1 in 1000 businesses in that particular industry, but of course it’s that one that will always get the headlines.
Then the general public see this and make a broad judgement on that industry to protect themselves, and then they become wary of every business. So it’s not enough to just tell people that you have this fantastic, well-respected
reputation… and so therefore you’re the company to choose. It just doesn’t work that way anymore, you need to go much further these days. Here are two powerful tips that will have more people trusting what you say.
1. People believe more of what other people say about you…
than what YOU say about you.
If you were to tell me that you are the best basketball player in your state, that you score more than everyone else and hand out more assists, I would have a fair bit of scepticism as I haven’t heard anything about you. But if 10 people came up to me and say stuff like, “Have you seen this guy? He scored 40 points last week! He was simply amazing. Plus he handed out 12 assists, he was on fire!” then you can see that makes it more readily believable right away. So go to your customers and ask them for their opinion of you. Get them to write down the wonderful experience they had dealing with you, then you can use it to show others why they should do business with you!
There is however, good and bad ways of writing a testimonial, so I’m going to tell you the best system to use. It goes something like this – ‘once I was lost, now I’m found’. For example, if you’re promoting a weight loss program, tell people how your customer ‘once weighed 180kg, and just by eating this amazing fruit bar, I lost 80kg in 2 months!’ That’s just an exaggeration of course, but just to illustrate the point. Plus, you should always include the full name and suburb, and if possible a phone number. The more information you provide the more realistic it is, and therefore more believable for your customer!
2. Simply guarantee what you do.
You are required by law to guarantee your product or service. If something doesn’t work, or breaks, or goes wrong, 99.9! A guarantee takes the risk off the customer and puts it on you, and if your customer knows you’re prepared to take the risk then they’ll feel more comfortable doing business with you.
The reason most business owners will keep their guarantee hidden is that they are worried about their customers taking advantage of them. Let’s say you’re getting a very low return rate now like 1, and by offering a guarantee it goes up to 6%. So your returns go up by 3 times, but by doing so you also triple your SALES, doesn’t it then make financial sense to offer that guarantee up front?
Make Or Break Headlines
“Learn one FREE technique that INCREASES PROFITS by $1,000s or more in under two minutes!’
Did that headline grab your attention? Are you anxious to learn what this amazing free technique is?
Why, it’s the headline itself!
You have one chance and one chance only to grab your audience’s attention like our headline grabbed yours. If your heading doesn’t draw readers in, odds are that they will never even get to the second sentence. Instead, they’ll move on–right to your competitor.
A strong headline guarantees that you will never lose a visitor before they stop to learn more. More people stopping translate directly into more sales and more profits!
By keeping just a few key points in mind, you can start writing engaging, money-making headlines in minutes. The sooner you improve your headlines, the sooner you can enjoy the wealth that has been waiting for you inside them.
Key Point #1: Be Specific!
 Stand out from the competition!
 Real numbers and dollar signs attract the most attention.
Chances are you have some competition selling something similar to the same people you are targeting. Get ahead of your competitors by specifically telling customers what they have to gain–and lose–from you right upfront.
In our example headline above, we didn’t simply say that our technique increases profits. Instead, we said it increases profits “by $1,000s.” By adding this tiny detail, it immediately changed from a generic headline to an enticing offer.
It’s easy to overlook the thousands of messages we come across each day. They all promise to create undisclosed amounts of money in undisclosed amounts of time. However, it’s hard to pass by a headline promising to reveal how to make $1,000s in under two minutes. (This second headline detail drives home the idea that our technique is *really* fast!)
Leave the vague promises that everyone else is trying behind. Today, start to attract customers’ curiosities with headlines full of concrete facts and figures.
Key Point #2: Choose Your Words!
 Choose positive (“winning”) instead of negative (“not losing”) language.
 Headlines should always be upbeat and inspiring.
Always keep your headlines positive, upbeat, and full of inspiration. By the time a visitor gets to the end of that very first line, they should not only want to keep reading–they should be *eager* and *excited* to keep reading!
Think carefully about how you word each portion of your heading. Focus on the verbs, or action words. How are you currently describing the action? How else could you describe that same action? Which wording sounds most attractive?
For example, say that you stay home to watch a football game instead of going out to the grocery store. You could describe your action in two ways: “staying home to watch the game” or “not going out to the store.”
The former (“staying home to watch the game”) is the more upbeat of the two and makes a better headline. It involves a positive action (“staying”) and a positive result (“to watch the game”). In contrast, the second option involves a negative action (“not going”) and a boring result (“to the store”). Negativity and boredom will not interest the reader, and they’ll quickly be headed elsewhere.
Key Point #3: Longer Is Better!
 Never skimp on the critical first sentence.
 Highlight key points.
 Use a sub-headline if necessary.
 Four key questions your headline MUST answer.
In most writing, we are taught to be “short and sweet.” In other words, to say as much as possible in as few words as possible.
Not with headlines!
You only have one sentence to hook a reader–make it count!
By the end of that first line, the reader should know what they stand to gain; how easily they can benefit; and how fast they can start benefiting!
Touch on as much of the following as you can:
– What your product is (i.e. “an e-book,” “a technique”)
– How it’s used (i.e. “right from your browser,” “effortlessly”)
– What’s required to use it (i.e. “less than two minutes of your time”)
– Benefits from using it (i.e. “increases profits,” “doubles memory”)
Make the main ideas of your heading stand out! Pepper your headline with uppercase letters, underlines, italics, and/or bold text.
Too many important details? Consider adding a sub-headline. The real headline should include the most captivating points, but a sub-headline can add information to really seal the deal. When positioned close together, many readers can be “tricked” into reading both sentences right off the bat!
Your headline is ultimately what makes or breaks a sale. If it cannot capture your readers’ attention, it cannot bring in sales. If you think your current headline is doing its job, think again. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much success you’ll enjoy–all from taking just two minutes to incorporate the above key points into your headlines.
One Product, Three Customers, Three Different Ways To Write
My soapbox is just about worn out. I’ve been preaching the necessity of knowing your target audience for at least 10 years. “You can’t write effectively to someone you don’t know,” is how my spiel would normally go. When one day someone asked me to show him what I was talking about. “I’m writing copy for computers,” he said. “Everybody needs and can use a computer. How could a general product like that possibly have different target audiences?” I’ll show you exactly how.
<B>Be Specific With Your Definition</B>
Don’t ever begin an analysis of your target audience with the word “everybody.” The people who fit into your target group are individuals. They certainly share common traits, needs and wants, but they are unique. When defining your customer base, and the segments within it, be as specific as possible.
If we go back to the computer example, we would surely find several segments within the target group who buy computers. One would be senior citizens. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Report, 54% of Americans ages 60-69 go online. In fact, 21% of those over the age of 70 also go online. In order to surf the Internet, these people need a computer.
What concerns do seniors have when it comes to computers? Fear is a big emotion that comes into play with this crowd. While they love the idea of being able to keep in touch with family and friends, many in this age bracket have a hang-up with learning to use new technology. Ease of use and a low learning curve are some things that must be communicated clearly.
<B>High School and College Students</B>
Having grown up using computers in the classroom, and most likely at home, students are generally very comfortable and confident with this technology. If something breaks, they’ll figure it out themselves or just get a new computer. Portability, the latest technology and speed are the biggest factors for students.
With many younger users, gaming is a primary function, so the computer they want/need has to have large amounts of RAM, hard drive space and virtual memory. What about cost? Mom and dad are almost always the money source for a student’s computer, so the student isn’t interested in the price. If mom and dad can’t afford it, there is always grandma and grandpa.
While computers are a tax-deductible business expense, small businesses are still concerned with price. They are also leery of low price points and special offers because, most of the time, small businesses will need to add a good bit of additional equipment to a basic computer which ups the price.
Small businesses also normally have no full-time IT staff, so support is an issue that comes into play. Is help available to answer questions or troubleshoot if and when networking doesn’t go smoothly? What about repairs? If the computer requires any service, is it done on-site or does the computer have to be shipped to some nameless service center? Is there a guaranteed time for repairs to be completed?
As you can see, each segment has its own concerns about buying a computer. While “everybody” may need one, every person does not have the same concerns or needs when making a computer purchase.
Before assuming that every member of your target audience is alike, take some time to do a little research. Conduct an informal survey, ask questions and talk with customers one-on-one. Find out what their wants are, what concerns they have or what they’d most like to see you offer. Once you find out, write so that you communicate directly with them on their level. You’ll find your conversion rates rise when you give your visitors the information they want.