7 Essential Tips for Reviewing Copy

7 Essential Tips for Reviewing Copy

Nothing can turn strong copy into a 97-pound weakling faster than a flawed review process. The result is severely handicapped marketing efforts and, alas, fewer sales.

How can you avoid this dire marketing situation?

By having a smart and consistent review process that preserves the selling power of your marketing communications.

Following are 7 essential tips for reviewing and approving copy.

1. Review the copy from the customers’ perspective.

On the first pass, read the copy (all of it) without your red pen in hand or editing hat on. That’s how your customers or audience will read it. Now, what do you think? Does the concept work? Did the headline grab your attention? How was the tone? Does the copy flow? If you begin by editing the first sentence or sweating the details, you will do your clients or customers a disservice.

2. Don’t get hung up on grammar and usage.

If you think the copywriter broke a writing rule, 9 times out of 10 there was an excellent reason. Copywriters are sales people in print, so if we take liberty with the English language, it’s for effect. Plus, be aware that copywriters (and proofreaders) review and correct the copy before you see it. For example, I consider spelling, grammar, style issues, trademark usage, and more to ensure the quality control of every piece of copy I write.

3. Avoid copy by committee.

There’s that old joke that says if you want to kill an idea or project, start a committee. Copy by committee is no different. Conflicting and misguided comments put the copywriter and creative team in the awkward position of trying to please everyone except who matters most — the intended audience. One way around this is to circulate informational copies to people who would like to see the copy. They can make comments without being part of the formal approval process.

4. Minimize the rounds.

Provide complete feedback on the first round, forwarding all your comments, suggestions, and changes to the copywriter. That way the copywriter can consider everything when he or she rewrites the copy and you can shorten the review cycle. Copy is typically stronger when it’s created in three or fewer rounds.

5. Provide specific comments.

When you provide specific comments, the chances of succeeding on the rewrite improve dramatically. For example, instead of saying, “This isn’t strong enough,” say, “The tone needs to be more authoritative” or “These are additional benefits the copy should cover.” Often times putting your comments in writing will help you be more specific than if you just provide them orally.

6. Let the copywriter rewrite the copy.

Instead of trying to “write” the changes yourself to be incorporated, tell the copywriter your concerns and let him or her address them. The copy will benefit when the copywriter does the rewriting.

7. Judge the copy based upon your objectives.

In the end, the copy was written with particular objectives in mind: to build your brand, generate leads or sales, inform about your company, products, or services, and so on. Make sure the copy is technically accurate and factually correct. Then critique the copy based upon what you want it to accomplish, not on the number of superlatives, your competitor’s latest ad campaign, or how it compares to your previous brochure.

A Novice Guide to Become an Effective Content Writer

If there is one role to be filled in the Internet which matters most to a website, it is none other than content writers. Of course we could not ignore the fact that web designers and programmers are also important in giving a good website. However, it is the content that matters to the audience.

Contents are the traffic producers of a website. In this age of information technology, almost everyone needs to get some information. Likewise, it is always a must to hire content writers to fill in the page of a website.

The website might have a good design. It might also be interactive, however without something to read on it, the website is as good as nothing.

Being a content writer does not only entails that one knows how to write. It also means that one knows how to keep in touch with millions of audience worldwide.

Here are some good tips for an emerging content writer who wants to pursue his profession in Internet writing

1. Write Clearly and Direct to the Point

If a content writer would consider the millions of audience who will be reading his articles, the important goal for him is to communicate to his audience in simple and understandable words.

Some audience are not native English speakers, likewise, local slangs should be avoided. Standard English must be the language to be adopted for content writers

While some writers has the habit of writing long paragraphs just like a treatise, in content writing, this is one of the pitfalls the article would not be read by the audience.

The audience does not care about explaining further just like in a term paper. They need to know the facts directly. Writing straight to the point is a must for content writers.

2. Know The Purpose of Writing

One mistake most content writers have in content writing is the inability for them to stick on the bread and butter of the content. The basic rule of content writing is to know the purpose of what a content writer needs to write. The ideas must be centered on that purpose.

Some content writers are take so much time in the fancies to the extent that a reader will be detoured on the its purpose. If one would like to sell a product, a content writer must write something that would make it sell a product.

If promoting an event is necessary, a content writer must write something interesting to the audience that can help promote an event.

3. Style of Writing

One of the most important aspects of a content writer is his style of writing his piece. Some writers are just content enough to write anything about the subject matter to the extent that coherence and transitions are ignored.

While content writers might have different style of writing, it must always take into consideration the organization of the written piece. In this way, the audience can better understand if the written piece has the form and the substance.

Most of the content writers in the Internet are writing in a conversational tone. Indeed, this is very helpful to readers. However, personal clichés and expressions must be avoided by the content writers. In this way, the written piece can be understood universally.

Perhaps, these three guides will help a content writer in his profession of pursuing his writing career in the internet. But the most important thing a content writer must possess is his passion.

It is passion that drives him to do his thing. One’s creativity is crafted because of the passion for the thing. Likewise, it is a must for writer to have be passionate in his writing endeavor.

Copywriting 101: How to Get Your Customers to Take Action

If you want people to buy, you gotta ask for the sale.

Truly, it is that simple. Yet I can’t tell you how many ads, Web sites, brochures, sales letters, etc. are floating around out there that aren’t asking.

So, what is a call to action? It’s telling people what action you want them to take. Typical calls to action include:

Hurry in today.
Buy now.
Call now.
Visit now.
Click here now.

Nothing terribly sexy, I agree. However, if you want to see an increase in your customers, leads, income, etc., this is an essential component.

But, you might be thinking, isn’t it obvious? Why else would you be running an ad if you didn’t want people to buy what you’re selling?

Good question. And it’s true, people do know (if they stop to think about it) that you would probably like them to buy from you.

However, the unfortunate truth is your potential customers aren’t going to spend that much time thinking about it. People have too much going on in their lives to spend very much time and energy on your business.

If they do read your ad or promotional material and it doesn’t contain a call to action, they’ll likely say, “Oh, that’s nice” and go on to the next thing.

And even if they were interested in purchasing your offerings, they may not know what their next step should be. Do they pick up the phone? Go to a specific Web page? Visit a store? And if they don’t know what they should be doing, chances are they won’t do anything at all.

So you need to tell your potential customers what you want them to do. (Remember, people are busy, and if you don’t make doing business with you easy, they probably won’t do business with you at all.)

So, back to the above call to actions. Did you notice they all had something in common? The word “now” (or, in the case of the first one, “today”).

If people think they can buy from you anytime, they’ll say “oh, I can do this later.” And later rarely comes. You need to give them a reason to buy from you right now, while they’re interested.

Adding the “now” or some other urgency or scarcity technique (maybe a limited time offer or few copies left statement) is a great way to push people into doing what you want them to do right now and not later.

While we’re on the topic of calls to action, I want to talk about one other type of advertising campaign where you rarely see calls to action. These are called branding campaigns.

Typically they’re shown on national television by big corporations (MacDonald’s, Nike, Starbucks, Target). In those instances, the businesses are building a brand that will cause you think of that business first when you’re interested in purchasing their products.

For instance, when you’re hungry, you think MacDonald’s. You need new athletic shoes, you think Nike. You’re dying for that cup of joe, so you think Starbucks, etc.

While there’s nothing wrong with branding campaigns, they are tougher to track than campaigns with a specific call to action (Sale ends Saturday, call before Friday to receive your free gift, etc.)

Those campaigns are also called direct response because you’re asking the customer to respond directly. Direct response campaigns can be tested, so you have a good idea what’s working and what’s not (and can tweak the campaign accordingly).

And, if the campaign doesn’t require getting a salesperson involved (i.e. if the call to action is for the customer to whip out his wallet right there) the campaign will just run itself (and make money all by itself).

(One note: You do need to do more than add a call to action to have a strong direct response campaign, but that doesn’t negate the power a call to action can bring to your campaigns.)

Branding campaigns are nearly impossible to test, track and tweak. They either appear to work or don’t appear to work. And if they don’t appear to work, it’s very difficult to start tweaking to improve the response rate.

However, branding is still very, very important. As a business owner, you need a good brand and you need to communicate that brand effectively. And sometimes it makes sense to run a branding campaign.

However, my advice for most situations is to combine branding and direct response. Your brand is clearly communicated in your ads and promotional materials, but you also take advantage of some direct response techniques at the same time.

If nothing else, make sure you don’t forget the call to action.

Creativity Resources — Write Your Call to Action

Want to include a call to action in your promotional materials but don’t know where to start? Here’s an easy step-by-step formula:

1. Figure out your purpose for the ad or promotional material. Why are you running this ad, creating this Web site, printing this brochure? (And no, an acceptable answer is NOT because everyone else has one.) Is it to generate leads? Get your name out there? Get people to buy? Or what?

2. Now write it down.

3. That’s it. That’s your call to action. Whatever the end result you want for the campaign is what you should be asking people to do.

How To Ethically Use A “Swipe File” For Your Ad Copy

Did you ever wish you could afford to hire one of those professional copy writers who charge $5000 or more to write a simple sales letter? Or worse, have you laid down your hard-earned cash for a self-proclaimed “professional” writer, and gotten back something your 3rd grader could have written?

If you spend countless hours staring at a blank page trying to come up with compelling ad copy for that “killer” sales letter (you know, the one that’s going to make you rich beyond your wildest dreams?)… STOP!

Why drive yourself nuts and give yourself a major headache trying to train yourself to be a professional copy writer overnight? Do what the gurus do… start a “swipe file.”

That’s an unfortunate name, swipe file. It sounds unethical. Please understand, I am NOT condoning plagiarism! But every so-called “internet marketing guru” openly admits to having a swipe file that they use when they need a little inspiration.

So what is a swipe file and how do you use it legally and ethically?

Basically, whenever you come across an ad or sales letter that makes you want to run and grab your wallet… stop and print out that copy first! Highlight or circle the parts of the ad that have you excited and eager to make a purchase. Then put it away in a folder or notebook. This is your swipe file.

Eventually, you’ll accumulate quite a stack of great professional quality ads. Then, when you’re staring at that blank page trying to compose your next ad campaign or sales letter, you can leaf through your swipe file and MODEL your ad copy after some of those ads… but DO NOT copy them word for word.

Substitute your own words and put your own stamp on them. Mix and match different approaches from different ads.

Remember, this is meant to be inspirational, not criminal. NEVER out and out copy these ads. Just analyze how the ad is structured, what TYPES of words are used, and then create your own UNIQUE sales copy by emulating the successful advertising techniques from your swipe file.

The idea is to study copy writing techniques as you go. Eventually, you’ll find you won’t need to refer to your swipe file as often. Your blank pages won’t stay blank for long because you’ll have learned how to write killer ad copy of your own! You learn best by doing it. Then it becomes second nature.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll get so good at writing sales copy that soon other people will be adding YOUR work to THEIR swipe files!

Is There Really a Difference Between Online Copywriting and Copywriting for Print?

One of the biggest copywriting mistakes I’ve seen over and over again is writing about features rather than benefits. But, you say, I want everyone to know all about my great product. How do I get them to buy it if they don’t know about its great features? Sorry to burst a bubble, but the truth is they just don’t care.

What they do care about proves a basic truth about human nature–we’re basically selfish creatures. We care about benefits instead of features. “What’s in it for me?”

That’s what’s really important. What that means is that you need to know exactly how your product or service will benefit your readers, and then be able to convey it to them in terms they’ll understand.

Another common mistake is writing to everyone. Your target market cannot be “everyone”. If it is, nobody will truly get the message. And if nobody gets your message, nobody is going to buy either.

Determining who your target market is before you start to write will at the least, focus your writing. And go even further than determining a broad target market if you can.

Narrow your target market to a niche market instead. Who are your most important potential clients? Determine who your most important target is and write directly to them.

Pick one topic and stick to it.

Prove your authority. You can use case histories, testimonials, cite important studies or use your own published articles. The point is that people buy from experts. Make sure that’s what you are.

Whether it’s print or online copywriting, make it easy for them to respond. Send a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope or business reply card if your copywriting a direct response piece. If it’s online, use convenient order forms and make them accessible from every page.

And while we’re on the subject of ordering, if you don’t tell them why they need to order now, they most likely won’t.

Procrastination, it seems is a basic human tendency. So, if you don’t tell them to order now, they’ll most likely put it off until tomorrow and tomorrow and yet another tomorrow, until finally they’ve simply forgotten.

Entice them to order with limited time or quantity specials. Create a sense of urgency about it so they really will order today.

There’s an old copywriting formula to keep in mind while you’re writing. It applies to any type of copywriting that sells. That old formula is AIDA

  • Attention. Grab attention with interesting headings, photos, subheadings, etc. Your first headline really makes or breaks your copy. It’s the first thing read and possibly the number one deciding factor for your reader staying or leaving.
  • Interest. Create interest with your first sentence and your first few paragraphs.
  • Desire. Stimulate desire with benefits, testimonials and case studies.
  • Action. Ask for action now with special pricing, combinations, limited time or quantity offers. Give them a really good reason to buy Now.

Repeat your main benefit, and ask for action again with a P.S. Interestingly the P.S. is the second-most read line in print and online copy. Some experts say one P.S. is best, while others use two or three.

So those are similarities for all copywriting that sells. How is online copywriting different from print?

Various studies have shown that the internet is a culture of its own. The internet was originally a place for sharing free information, and it remains that way today.

In keeping with its culture, freely share information you’ve gained and you’ll get more visitors. And that also means to eliminate the hard sell, and practice the soft sell instead.

Remember that internet visitors are usually impatient for information. They generally prefer shorter pages than you’d usually write for such things as a direct response package.

A general guideline is to use half as much as your printed text. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Break long copy up into more than one page, or use modules instead.

Don’t overload your readers with irrelevant content or links. People came to your site for a reason, and that reason was represented in their search term. Your page needs to be completely relevant to the search term, or they’ll simply leave.

The internet is graphics-oriented, so use pictures, diagrams, graphs, and anything else visual to help convey your message. And, unlike print, the internet can be interactive, so if it applies, use it.

But, you don’t want to over-do graphics either because your web site needs to load quickly. If it doesn’t load in less than 10 seconds, your potential sale is most likely gone. He or she is probably checking out your competition!

Possibly the biggest difference between copywriting for any type of print and online copywriting is in the research. You can write any print copy without using particular phrases, but you can’t do that online. Your online copy needs to be written around keywords that are put into search engines by prospects.

Remember that there are lots of copywriting tips you can find free of charge simply by searching with you favorite search engine. And there are several very good copywriters who have free copywriting tips on their web sites. Two that come to mind are Bob Bly and Allan Sharpe.

So those are a few tips for your copywriting. And I’d like to leave you with one final tip. Many would-be copywriters worry too much about their writing. Fear of seeing their copywriting in public, or even on a letter can freeze you into inactivity. I would encourage you to give it a try.

If you’re copywriting for your web site, remember to research keywords first. And then start with an outline if you need it. Start by just writing a few phrases. The point is–just start. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. That’s what editing is for.