Four ways to improve your marketing copy

Expert tips on how to craft an engaging message

©istockphoto.com/ijeab
©istockphoto.com/ijeab

Marketing your business can feel like a full-time job – a Constant Contact survey reports that small-business owners spend over 20 hours a week in that one area. The goal is simple: attract customers. But writing the message that will bring people to your website, social-media stream or store can be a daunting task.

“Motivating copy is what gets results,” says Toronto-based copywriting consultant Steve Slaunwhite, author of The Everything Guide To Writing Copy, “and non-writers can master it. If you learn the basic principles and you practice, you can get very good and very fast.” Here are Slaunwhite’s tips that will help you make the most of your words – and your time.

1. Highlight the customer’s need

Many small businesses start their marketing pitch talking about themselves: “We have great office furniture at great prices.” But Slaunwhite says you have to put your prospect first: “Identify their problem, what are they looking for?” Try starting your copy with a question, such as, “Are you embarrassed when clients see your worn-out, cheap-looking office furniture? Well, we have great office furniture at great prices.”

2. Write conversationally

“The hard-sell pitch is dead,” says Slaunwhite, who points instead to “conversational copywriting.” This writing style is engaging and invites readers in. “Think of an Editor’s Letter in a print magazine,” says Slaunwhite. “It’s as if the editor and the reader are sitting around a table talking. To do this, he says, you must strip all of the hype and gimmicks out of your copy, and focus on friendliness, familiarity and making a one-on-one connection.

3. Include a call to action – and a benefit

This is a simple rule of copywriting that often gets overlooked. Ask yourself what it is you want your customers to do after they’ve read your Tweet, listened to your radio spot or visited your website. Then put that in your copy – and follow it up with a benefit. “If you’re selling sales-training services,” says Slaunwhite, “spell out the action and the takeaway: ‘Call to book a free consultation and get three great ideas that will improve sales for your company.’ ”

4. Follow a formula

In order to write a clear marketing message, Slaunwhite recommends following a copywriting formula – like this one. “Following a formula doesn’t mean you’re restricting creativity or coming across as inauthentic,” says Slaunwhite. “You’re simply following a best practice in writing copy effectively.” That way, you can get your copywriting done faster so you can spend more time on your business.