6 Copywriting Shortcuts That Will Help Your Business Stand Out and Get Noticed
You have a beautiful website. You’ve been sending emails to your list on a regular basis. And you’ve been tweeting and posting every day (or almost every day) on social media. So, why does it seem like nobody’s paying any attention? Odds are it’s because the content you’re delivering isn’t connecting with your target audience. Even when they look at what you’re putting out there, they:
- Don’t think it pertains to them in any meaningful way;
- Don’t understand what you’re trying to say—and aren’t going to put in the time or effort to figure it out; and/or
- Don’t see how what you’re saying is any different than what everyone else is saying—which makes you just another voice they tune out
So, what’s the solution? A great place to start is by looking at your copy. Is it communicating what you think it’s communicating? What I find so often is that the answer to that is a resounding “NO.” But, the good news is that there are some simple things you can do to improve your copy in ways that will help your business stand out and get noticed by your ideal prospects. Here are five tips you can use right now to get started:
Use proven headline formulas
If your headlines (which include email subject lines!) aren’t getting noticed, then neither will the rest of your content. Being able to write a headline that captures the attention of potential customers and pulls them into your website, email, brochure, etc. is a superpower. But it doesn’t have to be super hard. You can create headlines using formulas that have proven to be successful time and time again.
Let’s say you run a web-based business that provides people with information about how to save money. These folks aren’t looking for ways to earn more or for tips about how to invest their money. They just want to learn how to make their current income go further. Here are three basic formulas you could use to write headlines that will get their attention:
People love to learn how to do something that will make their life better in some way, shape or form. So, for our budgeting website, some “how-to” headlines might be:
- How to Save Enough Money in the Next Three Months to Take Your Family on a Summer Cruise
- How to Find the Best Discount Offers that Everyone Else is Missing
The post you’re reading right now uses a list headline: 6 Copywriting Shortcuts That’ll Help Your Business Stand Out and Get Noticed. And you’ve probably seen a few other list headlines online or in your inbox today. Why? Because they work. People gravitate toward them. So, use them!
Sticking with our example of a budgeting website, some list headlines might be these:
- 5 Coupon Apps You Need to Have on Your Phone
- 3 Ways You Can Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Store Bill
Writing a headline that calls out something your audience is worried about can be incredibly effective. People want answers to the things that challenge them—so be their hero and provide the solutions they’re looking for.
Back to our budgeting website example, here are some potential headlines that tap into the fears and concerns our audience might have:
- Are You Making These Budget-Killing Mistakes—But Don’t Even Realize It?
- Don’t Fall Prey to These Budgeting Myths
Writing strong, relatable and intriguing headlines is one of the most powerful ways to improve the results you get from your copy. Just be sure that you follow through on delivering the information that you promise in those awesome headlines you’re going to be writing.
Break your copy up with subheads and bullets
Let’s be honest. Most people just don’t like to read. Well—they’ll read a great book. But they have very little patience for reading a ton of copy on a website, in an email, or in a brochure. This is particularly true if your copy looks like one great big gray blob on the page.
One effective—and easy—way to make your copy more enticing to readers is to break it up into sections. You can do that by using subheads and bullets.
Make Your Copy Scannable with Bullets
Bullets are a great way to make it easy for readers to quickly scan your copy and get the information they need. Use them for things like:
- Listing features and benefits of your offer
- Pointing out your qualifications
- Drawing attention to important copy points
However, don’t OVERUSE bullets. If you use them too often, they’ll break up the natural flow of what you’re writing and make the piece seem very mechanical and cold.
Tell a Better Story with Subheads
When you think about using subheads, think of them as a storytelling element. If the reader only looks at your subheads, can he or she get the gist of what you’re trying to communicate? That’s how I try to approach them.
Subheads are useful for:
- Breaking up long blocks of copy
- Allowing readers to scan your copy
- Providing a roadmap that helps your readers follow your thinking
Although clever subheads are fun to write, try to resist the temptation. You never want to sacrifice clarity for cleverness.
Use less “me, us and our” and more “you”
Here’s a newsflash: Your customers (and potential customers) don’t care NEARLY as much about you as they do themselves. So, when you write things like “our solution”, “we strive to do our best”, “we know what you need”, and on and on—you might as well be doing something else with your time and energy. People don’t care about what your business goals are or how awesome you are or what’s important to you and your business. What they care about is THEMSELVES!
They want to know this: How are you going to make their lives easier or better or happier?
Go through the copy in your sales letters, in your emails, on your website and any other place where you promote your offering and see how often you’re using the words “me”, “us”, “we” and “our.” Then, look at how often you use the word “you.” You might be surprised at how often you’re focusing on yourself instead of your customer.
What’s the fix? Simply write to the “you.” Here’s an example using our budgeting website:
We know everything about how to save money. And it’s all right here on our website.
You want to save money and make your paycheck go as far as it can possibly go. Now, you can find all the tools you need to do that right here.
Write like you talk (Really. It’s okay.)
Forget what you learned in high school or college English classes. (Well—not everything. Grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence structure are still important.) When people read the copy you write, it should sound familiar and comfortable to them. It shouldn’t read like a term paper—unless your audience is really into that kind of thing. Instead, try writing like you talk. What does that mean? It means:
- Using contractions—like don’t, hadn’t, you’ll and we’ll. When we talk, we rarely say things like “I do not care for that.” We say, “I don’t care for that.”
- Starting sentences with “and” and “but” and “because.” Really. It’s okay. Because that’s how we talk to each other. And that’s how we can write in a way that feels more conversational. (See how that worked?)
- Don’t use long words or phrases when a shorter word will do. Instead of “at no charge”, just say “free.”
- Avoid technical terms or jargon that your audience is going to be confused by. It won’t be helpful. And it doesn’t show how smart you are.
- Use short sentences intermingled with longer ones. Even one-word sentences are okay. Really.
- Let your personality shine through. You’re uniquely you—and that will help set your brand apart.
Tell them how their life will be improved by using your product or service
So many businesses want to tell us about every single feature their product or service offers. And that’s okay—to a point. But features aren’t what sell a product. Benefits sell—because those are the things that connect to our heart and soul (which is where most purchase decisions are made).
If you need to list features, that’s fine. List the benefit beside the feature, tell how that feature is going to make your prospect’s life better.
Back to our budgeting site example:
|Proven tips for saving money||Extra money at the end of the month for doing things your family will enjoy together|
|The most coupons of any site||Everything you need is in one place so that you don’t have to spend hours and hours scouring the internet for the information you need|
Be clear about what you want the reader to do
What if you’ve invested time into reading an email or a page on a website and when you get to the end, you have no idea what the business wants you to do. Or—if you do know—there’s no clear way to do it.
If you want readers to subscribe to your email list, make it clear that that’s what they should do. And make it EASY! Same thing if you want them to call you, or visit your store, or read a blog post. Whatever action you want them to take, make it clear and make it easy to follow.
Button copy can be another way to let your personality shine through. Instead of just saying “DOWNLOAD”—have a button that says, “GIVE ME MY FREE STUFF!”
So, there you go. Six simple ways to improve your copy to help you be heard in a VERY busy marketing world. Those ideal prospects are out there looking for the solutions you offer. Now—go make your copy so awesome that they’ll have no doubt they’ve found the right place when they find YOU.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Email Marketing.
About the Author
Michele Lashley is cooking up all kinds of great copywriting and content marketing advice and tools in The Smarter Writing Lab. You can also download her free PDF “The Simple Formula for Writing Copy that SELLS” right here, right now!