Clever copywriting as opposed to what?

Well, a while back I was asked to take part in an online Q&A session with The Guardian about copywriting as a career. During this discussion the question was asked whether copywriting should be clean or clever.

Clean copywriting is all about producing very tight, concise and compelling sales copy. Where as clever copy is there to impress.

Which is best will stem from personal experience and what your audience dictates. As a copywriter, my career to date as mainly seen me involved in creating copy for commercial print or web based media, so here is my point of view.

Always short and sweet

When I receive a copywriting brief, the resulting sales copy generally follows a tried and tested formula which is designed to give maximum impact.

There is one fact about an audience that is true regardless of how my copy reaches them – through SEO website copy, brochures, emails, newsletters, direct mail etc. They all lead busy lives.

Not only that, but we are all bombarded with sales messages. They are in our newspapers, on the Tube, on buses, in magazines, on the internet….Every day our minds become saturated with these messages, so if yours is to get through, it has to be powerful, memorable and concise.

The secret formula

Before I divulge my winning formula there is one thing you have to remember. Every audience you write for is different. An approach that wins one group over would fall flat on its face with another. So always think about who you are addressing before you begin.

Creating your copy is just like writing a story – you start at the beginning…

1. Headline

Your headline is the hook to entice your reader. If your headline is weak you’ll lose your audience before you start. If you are stuck for ideas get inspiration from magazines, adverts and even the home page of Digg.

Your headline must grab their attention and draw them in.

2. Beginning

Once you have their interest hit them with the benefits of your product or service. Tell them precisely what it is going to do for them (don’t confuse these with your features). The main thing your reader wants to know is what they are going to get out of your product/service – what’s it for them?

3. Middle

By now your reader is interested in your product, so now all you have to do is make them want it. Helping them to visualise how it will change their life will tip the balance in your favour. Use testimonials and case studies to drive your point home.

4. Finale

If they’re poised and ready to buy but you don’t tell them how, they’ll walk away. The final step is your call to action – call now, buy now, email now.

If you want your copy to work – keep it tight, keep it strong, keep it simple – remember:

Headline + benefits + want factor + call to action = SALES