How to win with words

Good copywriting is vital to any marketing strategy. Get it right and it transforms a brand. Get it wrong and the brand is at best invisible, at worst, damaged and derided. Here’s a guide to winning with words:

  1. Pack a punch

    “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” – G.K. Chesterton
    Don’t be invisible. Great marketing and great copy make your audience stop in its tracks. We are all so used to being marketed to that we don’t always register most advertising. Great copy needs to cut through that malaise and pack a punch.

  2. Step into their shoes

    Know your audience. Write to them directly and personally. Everything that happens in your life is through the prism of one. Don’t talk to a group, talk to an individual.

  3. The art of persuasion

    “Don’t tell me about your grass seed, talk to me about my lawn” – Bill Bernbach
    Behind the façade, we’re all big balls of emotion. If you want to sell something, you need to make your customers feel it in their gut. Talk like a friend or colleague, not a salesman with a brash tie and targets to meet. People don’t buy things; they buy the satisfaction of their wants and needs. Say it with substance, but convey the simple human truth that gets under the skin.

  4. Don’t be a smart arse

    Clever is not complicated. Clever is simple. A clever idea is one that is instantly understood and remembered. This is not debating society. There are no points for intricate language, only words that make you think, feel and act.

  5. Be creative!

    “Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising.’” – Jef I Richards
    Don’t think outside the box, think outside the building. Don’t be boring. Be original. Tell it like it’s never been told. Make customers feel like it’s the first time they’ve heard it. Just remember to be on brief too. Great creative is only great if it sells.

  6. Grammar matters

    “They misunderestimated me.” – George W Bush
    Grammar is the difference between knowing you’re shit and knowing your shit. Bad grammar devalues everything else you have to say. Do we need to go on any more?

  7. Tell a story

    The right words paint a thousand pictures. Great copy has the power to transform. So take your readers on a journey. Make them think beyond the humdrum, everyday world and take them somewhere special. People listen to stories and if you get it right, they’ll listen to you too.

  8. Cut the crap

    What have you just written, what does it mean? Does it pass the ‘so what’ test? Write in a concrete, meaningful way. Back up your statements with benefits. Make it a compelling read. Don’t use flowery marketing mumbo-jumbo. Talk like a real person, because that’s who you’re talking to.

  9. Be you

    “This above all; to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare
    When you step into your customer’s shoes don’t forget who you are. You need a bit of you to make the copy honest, believable, charming and real.

  10. Get to the point

    “I would have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time,” Blaise Pascal.
    Writers like the sound of their own words, but don’t indulge in your writing. Don’t waffle. Be succinct. Edit, condense, re-read, re-edit. Always leave your audience rapt, wanting more. And like this post, know when to stop.

Thanks to Daniel McAllister of The Missing Ink (www.themissingink.net) for his excellent and insightful guest blog on copywriting.