It’s Thursday morning. You promised yourself you'd finish that blog post by the end of the week. You sit down with your laptop, open a Word doc, and end up staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor. The harder you try to start writing something, the harder writing anything starts to feel. You write a sentence, then immediately delete it. Sound familiar?
Join the club.
What if I told you that you’ll never have to stare at a blinking cursor ever again? Here are 3 concepts that will transform your copywriting.
If I were to ask you, “Who is most likely to buy your product or service?” what would you say?
Most people would say, “anyone who wants my product or service.” For example, if you are a real estate agent you might tell me, “anyone who needs an agent.”
On the surface, this may seem like a fine answer. In reality, it’s terribly flawed. I'd even say that trying to appeal to everyone is sabotaging your business. It’s tempting to think about your audience as broadly as possible, but narrowing your focus to a specific audience is what allows you to be truly persuasive.
So how do you find your audience? You find the one person who represents your target market.
Gender? Age? Career? Lifestyle? Attitude? Hobbies? Family? Income?
Does she save every penny or swipe without thinking twice?
Hit the town on the weekend or cuddle up by the fire?
Then ask yourself: What are her needs, fears, frustrations and pain points?
Now, imagine she is who you're speaking to every time you create content.
Street Easy, a New York-based company, nails this. Here is one of their ads:
They are speaking directly to the guy who is shifting his lifestyle from bachelor pad to a home for his family after meeting a girl. It's GENIUS. And it's relatable.
If finding your target customer feels impossible, think back to some of your favorite clients you ever worked with. What did they all have in common? Did they all live in a certain area? Did they all work in a specific industry? Did they all love one particular hobby? You may be surprised at what you uncover.
I know. You’re probably thinking “But wait! I don’t want to be too specific! My product IS for everyone!”
I hate to break it to you, but you cannot talk to everybody.
Let me put this into perspective for you. What if the sign outside your town’s brand new night club said, “Tuesday Night is Everybody Night!” Would you go?
What if it said, “Tuesday Night is Trivia Night!” Now it’s a little easier to make a decision, isn’t it?
Or imagine this...
Your customer is nearing the end of her visit on your website and is about to hit 'Buy Now.' Do you picture her surrounded by a group of people cheering her on? Probably not. You most likely pictured her sitting alone at her desk or on the couch with her laptop on her lap. That's because 99% of the time, when you are making a decision to buy, you are alone. So stop writing as if you are presenting to a crowd.
If you are still holding onto the idea that you want to hit as many people as possible, don’t worry. We’re going to do a deep dive on defining your ideal customer next.
Why is it that when we were children, we were taught to write so formally? It’s as if they were preparing us to be the White House Secretary or something. Well, guess what? We are giving you permission to throw away all your rule books surrounding proper grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation right now.
Read these two sentences out loud:
Would you ever say the first one in a casual conversation with someone? Maybe...but you’d definitely get some weird looks. If you want to be memorable, then don’t fall into the trap of using sophisticated language. Using stiff, formal language and important-sounding words will scare people away.
Instead, try writing as if you’re talking to a friend. Envision them across the table and act like you're explaining the topic to them. Then read it out loud. It will immediately become obvious what sounds funky or unnatural and you may even get a good laugh out of it.
Let's look at a real life example: recently I was on vacation and went to a restaurant called Hawksmoor. I couldn't decide what I was in the mood to eat. Take a look at their menu and tell me, what do you think I ordered?
The Steak Sandwich, duh! It felt as though the cooks and owners were talking directly to me and it was incredibly powerful and persuasive.
As you can see, the smallest shift in language can change someone's entire decision. In fact, the use of one simple word can transform your copy alone. It has actually been used throughout this entire article. Can you guess what it is? (Hint: It’s bolded)
What’s so special about the word 'you'? Marie Forleo uses a powerful example in her course, Copy Cure:
When someone yells “Hey, you!” I bet you immediately turn your head and assume they are talking to you. That’s because as humans we’re trained to think of ourselves first. Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re selfish. When you hear the word ‘you,’ you’re jolted into paying attention.
'You' is one of the most powerful words you can use in your copy because it helps mimic a personalized, one on one, real conversation.
Eager to give it a try? Here’s a great place to start: Go look at piece of content you wrote recently and read it out loud to yourself or to a friend. Does it sound like you? Does it sound conversational? If not, here are some pro tips to help get you on the right track:
- Shorter sentences sound far more natural than long, wordy sentences
- Ask questions within your copy, don't just talk at them. This will trigger their connection with the topic
- Don't be afraid to start some sentences with a conjunction (But, And, So...)
- Stick to basic language
- Break up text more than you normally would
Bottom line? If you keep writing like a pretentious know-it-all, then you will lose engagement (and business) right away.
People should hear your voice when they read your words. It's that simple.
It may not come natural at first, but like anything, practice makes perfect. Once you nail it, writing copy will not only be easier, but also much faster.
Imagine with me for a moment...
You’re watching basketball and your team’s point guard goes for the game-winning point, but he slams his knee on the gymnasium floor on the way down, dislocating it.
Aren't you cringing just thinking about it?
See what I did there? I set up a visual scene that completely transported you.
It's easy to put the word "Imagine..." before any old sentence, but it's much harder to execute it successfully. Gregory Ciotti of Copyblogger said it best: "You have to speak to a feeling that’s already there, not try to force one on your reader." You must understand your customer, what makes them tick and address this by speaking directly to them.
Once again, Street Easy executes this flawlessly. By cleverly poking fun at one of the major challenges many New York residents can relate to, they've added humor and empathy to an otherwise dreaded topic -- in this case, the size of apartments.
In the ad below, they help ease the pain of a frustrating reality (small apartments). They get it. And oddly enough, you kind of trust them because of it.
By playing into your customer's emotions, you make an immediate connection with her. You make her feel special and as if you’re talking to her--and only her. Because of that, she’ll respond.
So... start thinking about that one customer you want to talk to.
Perhaps this is a customer you already have, one you absolutely loved working with or it could even be an earlier version of yourself. Envision having a conversation with this person as you write your next piece of content and don't forget to tap into her emotions as you write it.