In this chapter, we’ll go over some concepts & terminology that will help you in understanding the principles of copywriting.
Read each one in detail. Along with the definitions, I’ve also added:
- Examples and further detail for a deeper understanding of these important concepts.
- Exercises to apply these concepts.
This information will help give you a foundation for all the copywriting you do for your business. Even if you are familiar with some of the terminology, going through this chapter will give you a deeper understanding.
The Basics of Copywriting: Important Concepts & Terms
What does “Target Market” have to do with copywriting? Everything.
Your target market is the group of people you’re soliciting, or selling your product to. Without a clear ‘target’ to write to, you can’t be as effective as you would be when you’re addressing a specific individual.
The more specific you are when you define your target market, the more effective your copywriting is going to be. Thinking of a target market as “women” or “moms” for instance, or even “pet owners”, is too vague.
Which pet owners?
When defining your target market, you want to take into account as many considerations as possible. There are many, many different factors that can make up your specific target market.
- If it’s a woman, her marital status may come into play
- If it’s moms, you might want to have an idea about the age of her children; if she works outside the home, etc.
- If it’s a pet owner, what kind of pet she has, what breed, etc.
In the advertising industry, there is something called “Persona’s”.
- Wants, wishes, and desires *
- Problems she needs to be solved *
*These last two are particularly important because this is what really motivates people to spend their money and buy products. Yes, they buy to satisfy their immediate needs, but the desire is what drives people to spend their money readily.
To help you further, here are some important human motivators that affect decision-making. Considering them in terms of your target market will help you in understanding what motivates your readers to take action:
- Need for approval
Some people might see it as unethical to play on the emotions of their potential customer, but you can use this information to really understand what motivates your target market and do it within your levels of comfort. After all, being a Copywriting Wizard means really finding the right customer for your product and showing them how they’ll benefit from using it.
The more you understand your target market, the easier it will be to sell to them, and this will help you to understand their point-of-view, the problems they have, and how much they’d like a solution.
The Problem with Being Too Vague:
I’ve seen so many Internet marketers who try the vague “be everything to everyone” approach and it’s really tough to make that work as a small business owner.
Consider a business that sells candles or cosmetics; the vague “all things” approach business owner probably considers their target market to be simply women. The problem is, if you sell those things, not all women are your target.
Let look at that a little further…
There are plenty of women who don’t care much about candles and they’re content buying the typical drugstore cosmetics or no cosmetics at all. Those women are not the target market for that business.
Even a woman who thinks candles are lovely and wears a little makeup now and then, but doesn’t readily spend her money on those items, is not the true target market.
That business needs to understand the woman who really wants to buy their product, and then she’ll buy it over and over again.
Imagine Your Typical Customer:
What are his/her wants and desires? What problems does he/she need to be solved? If you don’t already know that, try surveying the customers that you already have. Ask them a few questions about themselves, why they bought the product, what they like about it and what they don’t like. In return, offer them a coupon or a discount to get that feedback. That information will be hugely valuable to you.
Think about your product:
What is the single most important reason your target audience would want to buy it? You need to be able to empathize with your target market, identify their problems and show how your product solves that problem. If you think too generally about your target market, the passion is lost in your copy and it’s tough to get anyone excited about anything.
Here again, a well fleshed-out ‘Persona’ will help you.
Suppose you sell an ebook about getting rid of acne and you simply talk about the embarrassment of acne; you might get some sales. But if you know that your target market for a specific ad campaign is teenagers, you might talk about being teased at school, worrying that they won’t find a date and having a case study of a teenager who overcame that – now your copywriting will be much more powerful.
Here are a few more examples to illustrate how your target market is important and how it can vary from product-to-product and ad campaign to ad campaign:
If you sell more than one product and they’re related (example: skin cream and eyeshadow), each product that you sell can have a slightly or even a very different market. If the skin cream helps reduce wrinkles and the eyeshadow is in a sparkly blue color, it’s likely the skin cream
will appeal to a woman into her 30s who would like to reduce wrinkles. The sparkly blue eyeshadow is more likely to be appreciated by a younger, more trendy audience. Of course, there are exceptions and if you sell make-up, you have the opportunity to know your market best. Regardless, even within your own product line, you can identify differences in your target market and your copy should reflect this.
It is also possible that you have more than one very targeted market for an individual product!
If that’s the case, you can create different promotional materials and sales pages to target those specific audiences. For example, if you sell that wrinkle cream and discover that not only are certain types of women buying the cream, but men are interested too, you can create promotional materials to target the problems and interests of each group. That way, when you have different advertising campaigns or promotions, you can send people the appropriate marketing materials.
You will sell more to a highly-targeted group of people than trying a lukewarm approach with the public in general. Leave general marketing to Amazon.com, Wal-Mart and other huge companies.
Note – Here’s a Big Company That Does It Right: We mention Amazon.com and yes, they target a general audience overall with a wide variety of products, but a visit to their website will show you they customize their marketing right down to the individual visiting their website. They will show you like items based on what you are looking at on their site and they remember this the next time you visit and try to offer you complimentary items. They are about as specific in their marketing as they can get.
Exercise: Start writing a list of all the characteristics of your typical customer. Use information gathered from customer surveys, as mentioned earlier in this section, and write at least 15-20 specific characteristics. This list will help you as you make your way through this guide.
USP stands for Unique Selling Position and this is what sets you apart from your competition. Put another way, a USP is some unique thing you offer that your competition is not offering. Here are just a few examples of a USP. Your USP will likely be very different:
- Are you the only company that offers an unlimited time money back guarantee?
Do you cater to vegetarians when nobody else in your industry does?
- Do you know the secret to a perfectly baked soufflé; what do you do that’s different?
- Do you look for hard-to-find items for your clients in 24 hours or less?
USP is a concept that is often difficult for people because every business is different. You need to really sit down, brainstorm and figure out your USP because if you don’t, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd and compete in your market.
Warning: A lot of home businesses make the mistake of making their low price as the USP. The problem is trying to sell for the lowest price is not often a profitable business model, especially for small home businesses like you. If you’re not buying and selling in huge volumes it’s just not worth it. Again, let’s leave this kind of marketing to large companies like Wal-Mart or Amazon. They can afford it.
Some of the best customers you can ever have, don’t worry about price. In my experience, the best customers are the ones who are more concerned about quality, exceptional service or that just buy because of they plain old trust you and feel you understand them. As a home business owner with a smaller budget, you don’t need to deal with bargain hunters.
Here is one of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself when formulating your USP:
“Why would my customer buy my product instead of a competitor’s?”
Think of what information or education you can provide to people who use your products. Go the extra mile where other big companies may not. Find something different than competing on price because trying to offer the lowest price will likely put you out of business. You want to price your products to receive a decent profit. That way, you’ll need fewer sales to make just as much or more money.
Exercise: Make a list of 5-10 competitors and identify their USP. See how you compare to these companies and their USP. For example, if one company’s USP is that they have the fastest delivery rates, are you able to compete with that? If another company offers the longest
hours of service, are you able to compete with that? If there is a USP where you can outperform your competitor, you might want to pursue that option or you may still want to carve out your own unique position in the market.
Even if you think you’ve found your USP, continue the exercise, by giving yourself 5 minutes to write down what is special about your products, service, etc. You can even invite family members and friends who know your business well to join in this brainstorming. Look at the lists and see what other unique things you can find that might just help you get more customers than one of your competitors.
You probably already have some idea what this word means. It basically describes what your product looks like, how it functions, etc. It is the basic information about your product. Although features may be important to your potential customers, it’s the benefits that will make them want to buy your product.
Exercise: Write down all the features of your product. Include every single detail from color to size to function. You can’t write too much for this exercise to write it ALL down.
Benefits are the advantages your customer receives from using your product. As mentioned in the definition of features, in most cases, benefits will sell your products better than a feature does. Although successful copy combines both, the best copy for most products focuses on the benefits.
An example: You sell a ballpoint pen.
The features are black ink, a felt tip, and it comes with a lid.
The benefits are that it reduces hand cramping and eliminates smudges.
Notice how when I talked about the features of the pen, it sounds like any other pen, but when we talk about benefits, it make the pen sound more interesting. Those are benefits and they help sell your product. People have a problem and they want to solve it by buying your product. Show them the benefits of your product.
What If Your Customers Care About Features?
Sometimes, you might sell a product where customers heavily compare features. One example of this might be Internet service for businesses. Businesses who need an Internet connection want to know the rates, the speed, etc. Internet service is a good example of a very feature competitive and focused business. You can still set yourself apart by illustrating some of the benefits of their service.
If you have a great record of uptime, tell your potential customer about it and that they don’t have to worry about losing sales when their sites are down as frequently as with other service providers. In this example, the feature is the uptime, but the benefit is not losing sales and that helps your potential customers visualize why they might use your service. Someone may think up-time is just a number Internet service provides throw out there, but when they think, “Oh yeah, if it’s not up, I’m going to lose a sale,” that’s when it reaches your target market. That’s the kind of thing you want to talk to them about.
As another example, if you respond to support tickets or calls within an hour, you can say so. You can write about how you are the “stress-free Internet service provider that ensures your business can run as it should be 24-7”. Again, the feature is having the response within an hour, but the benefit is less stress and again not missing out on important business time.
Exercise: Take that list of features you just created in the previous example and then list a benefit for each feature. This list will not only help you understand your product’s benefit but once you’ve done this exercise, you will have a large portion of the copy of your product done.
You can put that information in bullet point format onto your web page or brochure.
And speaking of “bullets”…
Bullets are one of the greatest things you’ll come to love about copywriting. They are relatively easy to write and they can also sell your product exceptionally well.
The following are examples of bullet points:
- What exactly a transcriptionist does and why her services are in such demand.
- Perks of having your own transcriptionist business: Learn about the low start-up costs, how to set your own hours and work with the flexibility this business provides.
Bullets can be about the benefits of your products or the feature and often will include both just like I showed you in the previous two exercises.
Bullet points are an easy way to deliver a lot of information about your product, efficiently and effectively to your prospect. If you formatted all this information into paragraph format, they might not read it as readily.
Bullet points can also “tease” your readers into having more interest in your product. This is particularly effective when you’re selling an informational product, course or book. A good bullet point teases about what’s included and gets them excited to buy, but doesn’t give away the actual information you’re selling. You don’t want to give your product away for free, of course!
For example (This is purely fictional, of course!):
Bad bullet point:
- Passionately kiss your husband each morning and he’s sure to stay faithful.
Good bullet point:
- Do this one thing each morning and your husband’s eyes will never stray to another woman.
The first bullet point gives away what’s in your information product. The other one tells the BENEFIT of what’s included (the faithful husband) but doesn’t tell you how to do it.
Your headline belongs at the top of your sales letter, web page, ad or any copy you are creating. Capitalize all the words in your headline and make it nice and big and bold to ensure it gets attention.
All good copy has an attention-getting headline. People are busy and you only have a limited amount of time to grab their attention. They won’t read the small print on your page if you don’t get their attention. A clear, benefit-oriented headline can help you do this.
A headline that simply says “We Sell X Widgets” doesn’t say enough to get a reader to keep reading. Many people probably sell X Widgets. Why should they learn more about yours?
If you are having trouble figuring out headlines to use, here are a few headline starters. These are very common ones that are proven to work and you can try them out for your copy or do something completely different. These are just a way to start getting your mind going:
- “Who Else Wants to ___ "
This is an easy way to start; relate to your audience.
An example: “Who Else Wants to Save Up to 50% on Their Phone Bill? Try Our Rates Calculator to Find the Best Deals on Long Distance. “
- “How __ Made me __ and It Can Help You Too”
An example: “How X-Brand Weight-Loss Shake Made Me Lose 37 Pounds in 7 Weeks”
- “Are You___?”
An example: “Are You Tired of Unsightly Bags under Your Eyes? Apply Just a Dab of X
Cream Once a Day for 6 Days and Watch the Puffiness Disappear. “
- “The Secrets to____”
Everybody loves secrets…tell them about yours.
An example: “The Secrets to Rekindling the Romance with Your Husband”
- “Give Me __ and I’ll ____”
An example: “Give me 15 Days and I’ll turn Your Ever-Reluctant Child into an Avid Reader”.
Tell them what they have to put into it and what benefit they will get out of it.
More Tips for Creating Great Headlines: Another great way to find good headlines is simply looking at websites, brochures, and other sales copy and see what grabs your attention. You can use some of those ideas in your own headlines.
Be Specific: In one of the headlines, we talked about losing 37 pounds in 7 weeks. The headline mentioned a certain product; the subject lost a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. Being specific is very important in headlines and copy, in general, because that’s what really grabs attention.
Being vague and saying things like “reduce eye puffiness” may grab some attention but telling them how easy it is; “a dab of cream once a day for 6 days”… that’s something people will say hey, I could do that. When you don’t give them that extra information right away; they may not keep reading.
Exercise: Visit a few websites or read ads in a newspaper or magazine. See what grabs your attention. Can you incorporate those ideas into your headline?
Sub-headlines are additional headlines in your sales copy. Usually, subheadlines won’t be as big as other headlines in your copy, but they’ll be bold each word will be capitalized to get attention.
Subheadlines help break up your copy to make it easier to read. It also helps get the attention of people who are skimming, rather than reading your sales copy. Use sub-headlines to draw attention to important sections of your copy every couple of paragraphs. Be specific in your sub-headlines and use benefits too.
Example: If you have written promotional copy for your free weekly email newsletter, you’ll want subheadlines to draw the eyes to important parts of the copy.
When you are about to include some bullet points about what’s included in your newsletter, you might have a subheadline that reads:
Here’s What’s Included in Your Free Subscription to XXXXX
Then, just before you introduce your subscription form, you can have a subheadline that says:
Claim Your Free Subscription by Completing the Simple Form Below
Those are simply examples and copy that is more than a couple of paragraphs can be broken up in that manner.
Exercise: If you have some longer copy is written (or if you’re about to write some) go back and see where you can insert subheadlines. Visually, you’ll see how it draws your eyes in, will help skimmers find the information they are looking for and how it makes instructions clearer for your readers.
A testimonial is a positive feedback from someone who has used your products. Testimonials can be one of your most powerful online marketing tools. When someone is looking to buy a product, she often seeks the opinion of someone else who has used the product, right? If you have testimonials from your previous customers presented in your marketing materials or website copy, you already have a head start on making the sale.
Warning: You need to make sure your testimonials are meaningful. Look at these testimonials and decide if they are believable or would make you interested in a product:
- “I love it.” - Jan
- “This is the best ever.”
- “This is going to be a great product.” - Jim Bob, Florida
As you can probably see, the above testimonials are quite meaningless and probably won’t add much to your marketing message. Here are some problems:
- It’s nice that Jan loves the product, but we don’t know why. Nor do we really know who she is or if she’s a real person.
- The second also doesn’t explain why it’s the best and we don’t know who made these comments.
- The last example at least has a full name “Jim Bob” and we know he’s from Florida, but it looks like he hasn’t even tried the product. He says it is “going to be a great product”. Just asking someone to comment on what your product might be like isn’t an effective use of a testimonial.
A testimonial should include concrete and believable detail:
Testimonials should include information about how your customer used the product and the specific results she achieved.
Testimonials should also provide as much information about the testimonial provider as possible. Consumers are a skeptical bunch and if you don’t convince them “Jan” or “Jim Bob” are real, they might not believe your testimonials. Where possible, include:
- Full names (first and last)
- Location (city and state/province)
- Photos - Before and after photos, if applicable, can be very effective
- Other proof of results – For example, if your product helped a child’s grade improve in school. You can show photos or scanned images of reports showing the improvement.
If you think your customers won’t offer this information, you won’t know until you ask. You might also give them a little gift in return for their details and feedback. It can be a coupon, sample pack or anything you’d like. Just be careful in wording your gift offer. Asking someone for positive feedback in return for a gift can be seen as a bribe and would likely be illegal. Gifts should be offered in return for any type of feedback – positive or negative.
The important thing is to get as much credible information as you can for your testimonials. 10 mediocre testimonials are not nearly as effective as 3 great ones. So, if fewer people say yes to offering their personal information, that’s just fine.
Exercise: Set up a questionnaire for your customers and offer them a gift of a valuable coupon or sample in return for any feedback they provide. Even if you receive some negative feedback, this is your opportunity to view it as constructive criticism and see how you can improve your business.
- How long have you been using our product?
- How has XXXX improved since starting to use the product (X being the main benefit of your product)?
- How do you use the product (ex. at work, to relieve pain, etc)?
- How much time do you invest in using the product on a weekly basis?
- What is the most helpful/useful part of the product?
- What would you say to someone who is interested in buying the product?
- What other information would you like to share with us?
A questionnaire is often more effective than simply asking for feedback. If people are happy with the product, they will say so, but don’t often provide the meaningful detail you need for an effective testimonial.
If you receive positive feedback that is particularly useful as a testimonial, contact the person who gave it to you and asks if you can publish:
- Their full name
- City and State/Province
- Any proof they have
Don’t be shy about asking. You may have to explain the purpose of all the information. Tell them how proud you are of their success and you really want to showcase them a real-life success story.
Your call-to-action is what you ask your reader to do once they read your promotional copy. It can be something as simple as calling you for more information, signing up for your mailing list or buying your product. If you don’t tell people what to do, they are less likely to do it. Even if your copy implies they should buy your product, if you don’t ask for the sale, you won’t make it as often.
Every piece of sales copy should have a call-to-action whether it’s a page on your website, your business card or another piece of copywriting.
Examples: Here are some examples of a call-to-action:
- Click a link to place an order
- Call a 1-800 number to place an order
- Call a number to hear a recorded message
- Fill in a form to enter a sweepstakes
- Enter a name and email address to subscribe
Make sure your call-to-action is written in an enticing way. Make it sound easy; give them a sense of entitlement like:
“Click here to claim your instant access to XXXX”
In the above example, you are giving them ownership by saying, “claim your instant access”. Claim gives them the feeling they already own it, but they just need to claim it. The word “your” has also been added to make them feel like they own it. “Instant access” makes it sound easy.
Here’s another example:
“Simply enter your first name, email address and click ‘Subscribe Me’ and we’ll send your first XXX tip immediately.”
The above example gives them the clear steps they need to make it happen and shows how easy it is and how quickly they’ll get what they are looking for.
Exercise: Take a look at every page of promotional material you’ve written. Ensure it has a call-to-action. If it doesn’t, fix it. If you are just getting started with your business, be sure to remember it as you design each business card, each and every page on your website, etc.
An offer is simply what you are selling/giving to your readers.
Example: You are selling a customized embroidered baby blanket. If your customer pays you $35, they will get a 3’ x 3’ blanket in the color of their choice, the design of their choice and embroidered message up to 25 letters. Additional designs have an extra charge.
Another example: An offer doesn’t have to involve the exchange of money. In return for a first name and email address, you might give out a subscription to free weekly email tips on growing and caring for a garden.
Your offer is related to your call-to-action, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Your offer is what you will give in return for money or whatever you’re asking for. The call-to-action is the specific instruction you give to your potential customer to accept your offer.
Exercise: Take some time to write out all the details of your own offer. Get specific like I mentioned in the examples above.
That’s it for the terminology portion of this guide. Before you start making offers and giving a call-to-action, you need to understand a few more things first…