Most people think of branding and corporate identity from a design perspective: the logo, the colors, the website etc. These are very important, but copywriting is often undervalued. Some smaller businesses or startups will spend money on a designer but write the copy themselves . . . with mixed results. Do you actually need a marketing copywriter?
We asked one of our experienced copywriters, Matt Stanley, to answer a few questions about the importance of copywriting in branding, sales and marketing.
Q: Matt – What is copywriting?
A: It’s strategic writing. That means writing designed for a specific audience and with a specific purpose in mind. Copywriting uses various techniques – tone, structure, keywords – to achieve its aims, ideally without the reader noticing the techniques. For example, instructions on how to use a face cream would need to be very clear and easy to follow while also being limited to a set number of words to fit on the packaging.
Q: When do I need a marketing copywriter?
A: Whenever your text needs to have a business-specific effect on the reader: to sell, to persuade, to entertain, to grab attention, or to inform. Your brand is also your copy: the tone of voice and the style across all consumer touch points.
Q: Can anyone write copy?
A: In theory, sure. Anyone can learn. But it’s a dangerous assumption that being able to write is the same as being able to write professionally. Good copy looks easy because it’s the product of long research, experience and/or strategic input. The best copy is good because it leaves out all irrelevant content, filtering it for a pure message that’s easy to read.
Q: How does copy fit with design?
A: The two are very closely linked because text almost always exists alongside visual elements such as photography or page layout. A copywriter should know how to work with a designer to create the best experience for the consumer. For example, copy will need to adapt its shape and size according to whether it appears on a mobile screen or desktop, in an email or in an Instagram post. The designer may tell the copywriter exactly how many words are needed.
Q: Are there different types of marketing copywriter
A: Some copywriters specialize in video, or sales conversion, or social media, or long-form content (articles, reports etc.) If you need copy for all of your brand output, it makes more sense to look for one highly experienced copywriter. This way, your website, your emails, your social and everything else will speak with the same consistent voice.
Q: What is the most difficult copy to write?
A: Perhaps it’s a paradox, but shorter copy is the most difficult. Taglines and titles need to contain a lot of information in few words. Direct mail is also a challenge because it’s a form of communication that many people may not want to receive. You have to persuade the recipient to open the email with a good subject and then keep them reading line by line until the call to action. Every word is critical.
Q: What are the most important skills a marketing copywriter must have?
A: Better grammar and punctuation than the average person is essential because these create effective sentences. Copywriters also need a powerful sense of narrative, which is how meaning flows from line to line and paragraph to paragraph. A copywriter can see immediately if text is professional from these things. It’s also crucial to understand the business case of all text and what job it needs to do.
Q: What’s the difference between good copy and bad copy?
A: It could be the order of words or clauses in a sentence to control the reader’s focus. It could be how well the message is targeted according to the audience and the desired effect. The best copy is “invisible” – the reader doesn’t notice the words, only their meaning and significance. For example, a subtle variation of sentence lengths can create a mood or a feeling, but the reader doesn’t necessarily know how this was achieved.
Q: What are the most common mistakes in copywriting?
A: There are many – often when the copy hasn’t been written by a qualified and experienced copywriter. Here are a few:
1. Translated copy – A company sometimes has copy translated from its original language into another. Even if the translator is totally bilingual and there are no mistakes, a copywriter needs to check or rewrite the new copy. Not all translators are copywriters, and occasionally the original copy wasn’t suitable anyway.
2. Late changes – A business will sometimes add some extra words or lines after the copywriter has finished and upload the copy without having it checked. This is how mistakes happen.
3. Micromanaging – Some companies tell the copywriter exactly what to write and how to write it, not listening to feedback about best practices. The result is often poor quality, inconsistent copy that does not achieve the desired results.
4. Bad proofing – At least two people should check all copy for obvious mistakes before being released to the end user. This is how books and newspapers are produced.
5. Amateur writing – Some startups decide to write their own copy or employ inexperienced copywriters to save money for other things such as design and website building. It’s quite common to see websites where the product or service isn’t clear on the homepage, causing potential customers to leave immediately.
6. Bad briefs – If the client and copywriter don’t clearly understand aims and contexts before the copy is written, the process goes into an endless cycle of rewrites and almost always ends with rushed, poor-quality results.
Q: How can I get the best results from a marketing copywriter?
A: A good copywriter will have many questions for you about your audience, your product, your competitors, your platforms, your brand and what you want to achieve long term and short term. Provide these answers and you will get the copy you need. Also, ask your copywriter for ideas occasionally rather than telling them what to write. They will often have experience from multiple sectors and products that they can use to help your business.
Q: How doI know if a copywriter is good?
A: You can ask for samples of previous work or set a task to test skills, but these methods work only if you already know how to recognize high-quality professional writing. Another way is to talk to the copywriter. If they ask you good questions about your business (perhaps questions you haven’t considered), you will know that the copywriter understands the strategic aspect of the work.
If you would like to discuss improving brand, sales or communication through your copy, we’d be delighted to talk. See more about copywriting here.