Writing is the easiest thing in the world, isn’t it?
You’ve been doing it since before primary school. Your skills have developed from the scribbles and lines your mum swore blind was your name to lengthy essays about the fermentation of yeast.
It’s something you do every single day so writing for your business can’t be that hard.
Really, you think?
In that case why is no one finding your website, no one ringing you and no one responding to your ads?
The problem is you, and many others like you, splurge your thoughts onto a Word document, give it a quick scan and then publish it.
You haven’t written anything. All you’ve done is put a few random thoughts in a document along with a scattering of connecting words to create paragraphs of text.
That’s only the first stage of creating copy; that’s the easy bit.
Developing your ideas
Stage 1 – splurge
That first document you have created is just a platform from which your finished copy will evolve.
To you it may appear finished, but trust me, it’s not.
The first stage of any copywriting project (the actual writing bit because the very first stage is research) is to get ideas on paper/screen. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it’s just important to get all the information and ideas that are floating around your head into a document.
Stage 2 – wander off
The initial document you have created will have titles, sub titles, bulleted lists etc., and will look, to the untrained eye, like a finished piece of work, but there’s a long way to go yet.
Once you’ve splurged, walk away.
Give yourself a break from it; go and do something else. Coming back to it with fresh eyes will help you shape it into a strong piece of copy.
Stage 3 – let the edit begin
Now’s the time to return to your original brief:
- What was the aim of the piece of copy?
- Who is the audience?
- What do they need to know?
Have you succeeded in ticking all those boxes?
Think about the tone – is it right for your audience? Does it speak their language or have you fallen into the trap of using jargon?
Does it make sense? Have you highlighted the benefits?
Go through the copy again and make sure you start with a bang. Unlike academic essays where you have an introduction that gently leads the reader into your ideas, your sales copy has to hit them hard straightaway.
Cut anything that doesn’t add value. Clear out all the waffle and keep your writing simple.
Stage 4 – step into your customers’ shoes
Now you have your second draft, it’s time to slip on your customers’ shoes.
Think about why they would need your product or service. What issue/challenge do they have that it will help them with? What’s the end result for them? Have you highlighted that in your copy?
The best way to convince your customer to buy is to show them how they are going to benefit from your product or service, so make sure your copy tells them.
Stage 5 – back to the edit
It’s time to edit again.
In stage 3 you should have cut out all the waffle and been left with powerful, straight talking copy. Now is the time to make sure your spelling and grammar are up to scratch.
Read it out loud as this will help you identify any areas of repetition, poor flow, nonsensical sentences and other errors.
Yes, you’ll feel a right Charlie, but it will save your blushes in the long run.
Stage 6 – wander off again
Yup, it’s time to go off and do something else again. If time permits, leave it alone for a further 24 hours.
Coming back to it with fresh eyes will help you spot any errors you missed first time round.
Stage 7 – final edit
Although that says ‘final edit’ don’t forget you’re still working on the first draft.
If possible, get someone else to read through it for you because they may be able to spot something you’ve overlooked.
Once you’re happy that everything is spelt correctly, your grammar is spot on and your message is rock solid, it’s time to pass it up the line (to your manager if you work in-house or to your client if you’re a freelance copywriter) for feedback.
Stage 8 – ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Once you have the feedback it’s time to go back to the copy and make any changes that are necessary whilst making sure it remains on message.
Again, it’s important to go through the editing stages again before passing it back up the line for approval.
Stage 9 – you’re good to go
Once you’ve had the thumbs up it’s time to get your copy published.
Not so simple after all
And you thought writing copy was easy.
There’s a lot more to creating powerful content than just stringing a few words together. You have to also get into the heads of your customers and work out what it is that they want. Once you know that, you can tailor your copy to show them you have the answer they’ve been looking for.
Next time you have some copy to write remember these 9 stages. It might seem a lot of faff, but trust me it’s worth it if you want your copy to sell.