Copywriting – i.e. the writing of publicity material, is an art and a science. Becoming proficient at it requires time and effort.
Great copy can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Unfortunately, however, in the very early stages of your startup usually you wouldn’t have the resources to hire an expert just to do your copywriting. This means that you as the founder would have to get up to speed very quickly.
The goal of this article is to give you an overview of the cornerstones of good copywriting.
1. Brevity And Clarity
“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” – Blaise Pascal
Your first goal as a copywriter should be to communicate information clearly. Your readers wouldn’t have the patience to put extra effort into figuring out what you are trying to say. Any confusion would likely result in your potential clients bouncing away to the next piece of content or an alternative solution, which needless to say is a disaster.
Because of this, being easily understood is your number one priority. Everything else is secondary.
To achieve that you need to synthesize your message as much as possible. Trying to say too much and to cover all possible concerns and questions is a common beginner mistake. Avoid that by figuring out what the main message you need to convey is and by concentrating on it exclusively.
After doing that, go over your copy and try to eliminate any unnecessary words you are using. Avoid the passive voice, complex sentences, and overly-descriptive words and phrases.
Editing your stream of consciousness writing into short, punchy, deliberate sentences takes time and effort, but it’s mandatory for good copywriting.
It’s a good idea to keep your language as concrete as possible. Don’t use a lot of generic statements and abstractions. Try to get to the point straightforwardly.
Another good rule of thumb is to frontload the meaning-bearing words of your sentences – e.g. “We do our best to provide good customer support” becomes “Customer support is our highest priority”, etc. This makes your text easier to skim-read, especially if you use bullets.
2. Serve Your Reader
Consider why your reader is reading the text you are writing – why is this text needed? If you don’t have a good answer to that question, you are unlikely to write good copy.
We naturally approach writing from our own perspectives. However, in practice readers want you to solve their problems – they don’t really care about your side of the story.
So, to write effective copy you need to give them information that convinces them that you understand them and can best solve their problems.
“We created the world’s first portable music player” becomes “1000 songs in your pocket.”
Finally, after you have achieved the first 2 goals, you can think about putting some flavor into your text. Try not to be sterile – let your character, values, and culture show in your writing voice.
This is risky, as you might alienate some readers, which is why corporations generally don’t do it. However, trying to appeal to everyone is a common startup mistake. Professional sounding, soulless text is what you get from most corporate copy. As a startup, you need to differentiate yourself. Putting some character into your writing is a good idea. Most readers would love you for it.
In summary, to write good copy you need to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and communicate your understanding of their needs and wants through concise, precise, and soulful writing.
Keep in mind that any efforts you spent trying to become a better copywriter wouldn’t be wasted even if you transition out of this role when your project grows. Understanding copywriting would help you to become a better communicator in general, which is arguably the most important skill for startup founders.