Few people are born brilliant copywriters. While many have a natural skill for the written word, for most of us, it takes time to learn a craft whose teachings last a lifetime. Copywriting plays a vital role in marketing. It’s what draws in potential customers, keeps them engaged and tempts them to press the ‘buy’ button.
But, how do you become a better copywriter and avoid the common pitfalls of creating word-based content in the digital age? We’ve saved you some time by deciding to compile a list of the most effective writing exercises that can make you a better copywriter.
The following tips can be used whenever you need to write something for your website – be it a blog post, product page or how-to guide.
The call-to-action (CTA)
We’ll start with something with which you’ll typically end a piece of web content, because it’s probably the most important skill you need to work on as a copywriter.
Without a CTA, everything else you’ve written – no matter how stellar – has been a waste of time. Sorry.
A well-written call-to-action will ask for the sale, state any terms and offer some benefits. It’s what encourages action on behalf of the reader and makes your hard work worthwhile.
Try practising a few CTAs of this sort:
“Reserve your new mobile phone tariff today and start saving more money than you thought possible. This rolling 30 day contract comes with zero risk.”
Sometimes, you’ll need to write copy that paints the dark side of a customer not investing in your product or service. This is the only time you need to be deliberately negative when marketing your business, so make the most of it.
What is your solution saving the customer from?
“Ignore the cost of your current contract and you might be spending money on thin air. That’s money wasted – thrown down the drain. Wouldn’t you rather keep it for something more special?”
Comparing and contrasting is a classic copywriting technique, and one you should always put into practice when writing for your website or marketing campaigns. The key is to hold up your product against an old one. What stands out as the key differences that will benefit the buyer?
“Phone tariffs used to charge you by the minute, text and MB; you wouldn’t know what you owed until that hefty bill dropped on the doormat. Our revolutionary take on the phone tariff means you’ll always spend the same amount every month, no matter what happens.”
Call on the experts
Working block quotes into copy is a brilliant way to backup whatever it is you’re saying. Even if you’re just practicing, spend time working relevant quotes into your copy.
“As veteran phone network expert, David Davis, once said, ‘customers should know how much their tariff will cost and be saved from any surprises’ – a motto we live by.”
There’s a brilliant technique used by copywriters to force prospects into proving the claims made by the business. The trick is to challenge the prospect to test your claim. For example:
“Don’t believe you’ll save money with our tariff? Take the 30 day trial today and see for yourself how much spare cash you’re currently spending!”
Everyone likes a challenge – particularly prospective customers – and text of this nature tempts them into investigating your claims by purchasing your product.
Bring the reader into the story
As we’ve often noted, great copywriting is about telling stories, and a brilliant technique you can practice again and again is pulling the reader into your story. This puts them right where you want them (within your world) and starts to build a connection that fosters trust and advocacy.
Here’s an example of the technique in action:
“Picture yourself looking at your list of direct debits in cost order and realising that your phone tariff is right at the bottom. Then, think about how the old tariff used to always sit at the top, gobbling up your hard-earned money.”
Put product benefits in context
A simple list of product features and benefits is all well and good, but you can improve your copywriting considerably by expanding on the latter.
Pull out a few of the key benefits and put them in context for the reader. For instance:
“That call you just made was free, and it’ll always be free. And the fact you can make calls abroad to three chosen countries at no extra cost means your long-lost friend won’t be quite so far away anymore.”
A little bit like the process of ‘going dark’, being blunt in advertising copy is often viewed as a no-no.
Unfortunately, if you’ve followed that rule, you’re missing out on a copywriting technique that can bring big rewards. In the phone tariff example we’ve been using in this post, we may need to be blunt when it comes to describing the downsides of not opting for our service.
“If you continue with your expensive, fixed-length phone contract and something happens that means you can’t pay the bill, you may end up in debt. And some people never get out of debt.”
A bit much? Not at all. Some copy needs to be as blunt as the above in order to make people sit up and take notice. Practice your most blunt, startling lines, but use them infrequently enough to grab attention when it’s most needed.
Bonus: simple creative writing exercises
Lastly, we’d like to provide a few fun creative writing exercises that won’t result in usable copy for your business website, but which are to copywriting what practicing scales are to the piano:
Be someone different. Take on the persona of someone else and write a mini story from their perspective, in the first person.
Write: “I remember when…”. And let the words flow.
Free write: Just… write! Even if it’s complete gobbledegook, it’s worthwhile, and something inspiring might poke through.
Write a letter to your future self: You’ve got the chance to write a letter to you, ten years from now. What will you tell you?
Journal your holiday: During your next holiday, take time each day to write down some thoughts about what you got up to.
Cut-out story: Grab a newspaper or magazine and cut out random words from different stories. Jumble them up and write a mini story based on what emerges.
Describe a first: Your first bike ride, pet, kiss, day at school – they all make brilliant writing exercises.
Imaginary definitions: Pick up a dictionary and open a random page. Find a word that looks interesting and write your own definition. Keep doing this for half an hour or so.
The 7x7x7 task: Grab the seventh book from your bookshelf. Open page seven. Find the seventh sentence on the page. Write a poem that begins with that sentence and ensure the poem is only 7 lines in length.
Most of the exercises above will probably result in content you’ll never show anyone else, but that’s entirely the point. These are exercises for you and the more you do them, the better you’ll become at writing.
You don’t need to put all of the exercises above into practice each day, but whenever you have some downtime or a spare half-hour in your diary, make time to refine your ability to write words that will attract, convince and convert.
p.s. We should point out that the phone tariff example used in this post is entirely fictional. Sounded tempting though, didn’t it?