When it comes to copy you see every day the “bad stuff” really stands out, right? Think of an ad or article as a great movie: the scenery, musical score and on-screen action all work together to create a seamless experience. Effective copy melds with the other components to create a visually and mentally engaging experience. The last thing you want to do when writing copy is stick out and “break the spell.” With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few common mistakes copywriters make—and how to fix them.
Mistake #1: Watering down copy to avoid scaring off potential customers.
If you’re trying to cast too a wide net, let’s face it—your copy’s going to be boring. The equivalent of advertising airline food. If a potential client is scared away, they were probably never your target audience anyway. Compelling copy will attract the kind of customers who will enjoy your products or services and create a loyal customer base. Repelling clients who aren’t a great fit for you isn’t always a net negative—if anything, it’s more effectively targeting the right person. This leads us to the next point.
Mistake #2: Failing to hold your customers in mind.
Who reaps the greatest benefit from using your products or services? Get in their mindset. Write for your favorite customer—what exactly are their goals? Why should they be attracted to the product or service in the first place? You can’t please everyone. Make sure you’re pleasing the right people.
Mistake #3: Selling your services instead of the dream.
At the end of the day, you’re not selling clothes—you’re selling the image your customer wants for themselves. You’re not selling a home alarm system, you’re selling security and the peace of mind that allows your customer to sleep at night. You get the picture. Bottom line: sell your audience on the intangible benefits, not the specific features of your product or service. Carefully consider the goals your customers have for their purchase and the problems they want to fix in their lives.
Mistake #4: Forgetting the technical aspects of your copy.
You’ve carefully considered the message you want to send and have created some compelling, thoughtful copy. Awesome! Now, look critically at your work: Is it digestible to the audience? The reality is that no one’s going to read your work like they’d read a best-selling novel. If you’re writing online copy, remember this if nothing else: People scan. So, make your work scannable! Lay things out in easy-to-parse bulleted lists and brief paragraphs.
- Use your headlines, headers and bullet lists to guide the eye down the page.
- Don’t sacrifice information for wit; give your reader the most important tidbits in headers and bullets. It’s what your reader will see first, and frankly it’s the bulk of what they’ll remember later.
- Headers should accurately describe the information contained in that section—no more, no less.
- Keep sentences shorter than 3 lines long at maximum.
- Break it up! Cap paragraphs off at 4-5 lines. Brevity, the soul of wit and all that.
Whether you’re a novice or an old pro, can you identify any of these common mistakes in your own work? If so..great! We learn and grow all the time, and the first step to improving your work is recognizing your growth opportunities. Always keep your eyes peeled and your mind open so you can actively identify great copy when you see it. Figure out how and why it’s effective to you, and learn to apply your observations to your own work.