The Biggest Secret of Stellar Copywriting

The Biggest Secret of Stellar Copywriting

Do you ever wonder why so many ads, web pages and emails sound the same? And why is it that some copywriters get their content to sound so much better?

Is there a secret copywriting conspiracy going on? Do they know something we don’t know?

Yes.

Yes, they do.

And I’ll tell you what it is… right after I tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, I wasn’t on the inside.

I began my copywriting career in PR. I wrote press releases for the music industry, which was pretty cool. But, I was never initiated into the uber-secret-mad-men-esque clique known as “agency copywriters”.

I didn’t get the secret memos. Or the decoder ring.

Sure, I could tell the difference between average copy and stellar copy, but I didn’t really see what that difference was.

And as I began writing more and more website copy, I became frustrated and fascinated by this one missing piece of the puzzle. What was the secret I wasn’t seeing?

I needed a clue – fast.

It wasn’t that my copywriting was poor or anything. I had clients, I received recommendations, and my business grew.

I was doing something right.

Then I met a copywriter who had worked in agencies for his entire career. One sunny afternoon over coffee, we talked about the biz and I said something about how when my clients wrote their own copy, it was all self-focused and myopic.

He replied that, in his experience, clients write self-focused copy because it’s very difficult for most people to write from another person’s point of view.

And that’s when the secret was revealed to me.

Perspective.

Most website copy seems like same-old advertising because do-it-yourself businesses are trying to write website copy that sounds like advertising.

And of course, most businesses are also comfortable simply writing about what they know best: themselves.

What separates the average from the great is copywriting perspective, because great copy focuses only on the prospect’s problems, and then it shows those prospects how the product or service solves that problem.

Delving deeper into perspective

My instincts were right, I just didn’t know why.

I could see that most businesses write about themselves: “We do this; we make these; our products solve these issues,” but now I knew the secret ingredient.

Brands that stand out and knock their competition to the ground are the ones who write about their customers: their challenges, their needs.

Have you seen website copy like this before?

Business123 offers our customers the top solution to distribution problems. By combining our knowledge and expertise in supply chain management, we have created a platform solution that gets results.

Yep. You’ve read something like it before because that’s the default website copy for most businesses.

Now here’s the same company speaking to their customers’ perspective:

When your margins keep continuously eroding while you search for new suppliers and spend time managing a growing global distribution network, you need a solution. Fast.

Can you see the difference perspective makes? Rather than telling the prospect all about themselves (which is boring at dinner parties, so why do it in advertising?), the business shows the prospect that they understand what’s happening.

This then infers that they have the solution.

Try copywriting perspective for yourself.

The next time you find yourself writing copy that isn’t quite clicking, take a look at its perspective.

Is it self-referential? Could it speak to a prospect or customer about their problems instead?

Ask questions. Get their attention. Show them you know what’s going on inside their company, that you know where the pain is.

Then show them how you can take the pain away.

Post by Derryck Strachan

Derryck is Managing Director of UK copywriting agency Big Star Copywriting. He provides web copywriting, articles writing, blogging, press releases and content consultancy services to several leading UK search agencies, brands and SMEs across a range of sectors.

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  1. Hi Derryck,

    I enjoyed your post very much. It was quite informative and something I imagine I knew but had to be told I knew it. In any event, not only is it a terrific marketing message but also is a great writing tool. Next time I get stuck on copy I plan I changing my perspective – a user or potential customer might just be the thing to freshen up my copy.

    Thanks,

    Alan

  2. Great points Derryck. Point of view is not only the secret to copywriting, I think it is the secret to life. Love that you use specific examples–helps me see exactly how to write copy.

  3. There are other important differences between web or email copy which copywriters need to embrace. In the web world the user inhabits a different mindset. The balance of power is with the potential buyer not the seller. Browsers tend to be more skeptical and suspicious, don’t like being lectured to and like to be treated as smart and in the know. They are often in a hurry and regard hyperbole as vacuous padding.
    The practical consequences of this means a more intimate direct style is acceptable, but not to the point of over familiarity. Corporate speak and jargon are a turn off along with over hip insider language which makes the reader feel like an outsider. Above all get to the point and say what the proposition is going to do for the customer. That said it does not mean that familiar tools like guilt, irony and buyer’s remorse can’t be used, but they need to be used with the browser’s permission. The same is true of humour. Make sure it is not patronising or demeaning. Once you have unlocked the browser’s permission they will go along with the flow of the argument, but beware of bogus facts, dodgy statistics and pseudo science. Remember that in the web world the reader can bite back and a flimsy and false claim or reputation can savaged in an instant by the blog and electronic rumour mill.

  4. Hi Derryck, great post. Sounds to me that the “perspective” u speak of is what everyone means by “benefit writing.” You have explained it in a fantastic way. :)

  5. Exactly what I was looking for today as I am in the process of updating some old marketing content.

  6. Hi Derryck,

    Important info for folks.

    Corporations teach folks to write like this for some bizarre reason. Then smaller companies copy it thinking it will help them. It’s like having a conversation and never asking the other person a question or paying any attention to them. S/he would probably get up and leave.

    Thanks! G.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone – very glad you found the article interesting and useful. Jed – humour is a tricky one but I generally find that as long as you are congruent and don’t go overboard then it can be an effective tool. As you allude to, it’s more effective once you have permission, for example with opt in email, white papers or blog posts.

  8. Incredible! Reading your article made me realize that I need to write copy for my web site and blog in the same manner that I strive to connect with each of my coaching clients in-person! Thank you so much for coaching me back on track!

  9. I like to poke the bear a little bit more and I usually advise my audience that they should pour lemon juice on the customer’s pain. It’s not always enough just to recognize it.

    Sometimes, in order to get great copy, you’ve got to show the prospect how lousy their life will be without that thing you’re selling. Not only is in in their perspective, but they’ll also see the potential for loss.

    -Joshua Black

  10. True, the first task of a tyro copywriter is to slip out of the client’s shoes and into those of the client’s customer. The client can’t do it. Some 30 years ago as a copywriter I had the task of launching the UK’s first mobile phone. Mobile? It was as big as a brick. By chance, the client mentioned that a customer had once – by accident – dropped it out of a hot air ballon at 1000 feet. It fell into a muck heap. And it still worked.

    That was our story. The phone you can rely on, whatever the circumstances. Would today’s toy-like mobile phones pass that test?

  11. Derryck,

    Too many businesses fail to remove the ego from their writing. I’ve been told non-stop to always think about the other person. Whether it’s writing or networking, it’s about them, not you.

    When someone comes to your website explain how your product or service will benefit them!

    Cheers
    Jordan

  12. Mr. Teacher aka Bob says:

    I just received an email from Nightingale-Conant offering a course in copywriting. I have surfed around Men with Pens and perceive that there are good writers and top professionals here. So, if you will induldge me, is the copywriting biz a feasible solution to all my financial concerns?
    American Writers and Artists offer a course that teaches you the essentials of direct market copywriting and offers a host of services, such as job boards and support for new writers. The course is inexpensive, if it can me me the skills needed to make a successful living. It may not be proper to ask about another company on the Men with Pens website, but professional advice before “taking the plunge” would be a necessary part of the research process.
    I love to write, I teach writing every day. A way to supplement my teacher salary and, possibly, move into a new career that could be substantially rewarding would be something that fits my personality. To put it in perspective (;)), when your skills and talents can sustain you, but you know, deep inside, that you have the ability to receive the compensation of a top-tier professional is always in the back of your mind. Would you take the opportunity to realize that dream? My answer, is yes and when can I start.

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  1. [...] P.S. Perspective is good for loads more than just business strategy. Those words in your advertisements and on your website? It counts there too. [...]

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