Listen, Solve a Problem, Don’t be Precious: Copywriting 101

Looking to communicate in a way that gets attention and connects? Try a pie in the face and a hand buzzer. No, that’s both annoying and much too time consuming. How about writing that connects and grabs the right people’s attention?

Several years ago when I started out in marketing/corporate communications, I began to hear comments like: “Wow! You really captured the essence of the project/product that we’ve been trying to tell people about.” That’s actually how I found out I have a knack for writing. Sometimes you don’t know you have a strength until somebody points it out. So I’m reflecting on what makes for strong marketing writing and sharing a bit of that here today.

Lesson One: Listen

Listen to the client. I was describing a project to a local reporter once, being diligently, obnoxiously clear about who our target audience was. When I read the news report the next day, the description of our target audience was the exact polar opposite of what I had described. Come on! Just listen, ask some clarifying questions, and then get feedback. In a client relationship, you’ll definitely get feedback, so being a careful listener up front will save some headaches along the way.

Lesson Two: Features are Cool, But Solve a Problem

How will your product or service solve a customer/client’s problem? This is basic, and you probably know this, but it takes some finesse to get your message out this way. In listening to a client recently, I discovered that they were perhaps the one remodeler in the universe who absolutely stays on budget. That solves a big problem! The customer’s pain of “How much is this new sunroom REALLY going to cost me?” is solved. That is a unique position in the marketplace and should be shouted from the mountain tops. So that’s what I encouraged the client to do.

Lesson Three: Less I/We language, more You Language

Related to solving a problem is to focus on the customer. Uber copywriter Sonia Simone gives the advice of writing to one customer. She suggests developing an “avatar” a specific customer to whom you direct your attention. I hadn’t thought of it exactly that way, but it’s a great idea. Make your copy personal. Say what you need to about the company, product, or whatever you’re selling – but it’s really about the customer. Write to them and about them as much as possible.

Lesson Four: Don’t Be Precious

This just came up for me in a meeting last week. There are LOTS of ways to say something. Don’t be precious about your writing. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you love the little flourishes you put into your copy. But you’re probably working on a team, and if not, you’ve got a client to please. Choose your battles. Don’t die on every hill over whether to say “you’ll be pleased as punch,” or “you’ll be happy as a clam” (though think hard before using either of those.) It probably isn’t going to break the campaign. If you’re 1000% sure it will, that’s the battle you should choose!

Ok, that’s all for today. More ideas may come, but I hope this is helpful for you. Let me know!