Writing Marketing Copy
Marketing copy is any text, video or images designed to make contact and connect with customers or potential customers. In recent years, with the growth of the internet, marketing copy has expanded hugely in both scope and importance.
Far more customers now use internet searches for information as an important part of their buying process. This means that providing the right information has become much more important. At the same time, customers expect to be treated as individuals—and that means you need the right copy, every time.
This page discusses the process of producing marketing copy. It explains how to create compelling copy that will improve your chances of attracting and retaining customers.
What is Marketing Copy?
Traditionally, marketing copy is written information designed to elicit a specific action from your customers, such as buying, or phoning for more information. It was distinguished from marketing content, that might simply provide information.
However, these two have now blurred thanks to a growing realisation that effective marketing copy comes in many forms.
It may even not appear to be written. In other words, it may be a video (although of course, videos need scripts) or images, which convey a message without words. It may also not have a clear ‘call to action’ associated.
This page defines marketing copy as any text, images or video aimed at customers. It may have several purposes, including increasing brand awareness and loyalty, encouraging action, and building relationships with customers.
Marketing copy may therefore take many forms, including adverts, blogs, emails, websites, social media posts, videos, case studies, white papers and infographics.
Top Tips for Writing Compelling Marketing Copy
The real question for anyone charged with creating marketing copy is how to create compelling copy. This section provides useful and practical tips.
1. There is no ‘one size fits all’
Perhaps the most important rule to remember when writing marketing copy is that there is no single form or style that is always ‘perfect’.
Both form and style need to vary to match the type of content, the situation, the audience and the purpose of the copy. In other words, you need to tailor your copy—and that means writing new copy for each new publication platform or audience.
When tailoring your copy, the two most important elements to consider are your audience, and the purpose of the copy.
Some copywriters recommend that you should use technology and analytics to enable you to personalise communications to individuals. However, this can come across as a bit ‘creepy’ unless you already have a relationship with them.
Crucially, though, your copy needs to speak to your desired audience—and that means connecting with them in the right language, and focused on their needs.
You also need to fit your content to the form. Twitter and Facebook need very different content from each other—and each also needs different content from a company website.
Short or long-form content?
The growth of the internet has led some people to conclude that nobody is prepared to engage with long-form content anymore.
This is not the case.
Neither long-form nor short-form content is always right. The answer is that sometimes long-form content works very well—if that is what your audience wants, and if they are prepared to engage with it. However, at other times, short-form is needed.
2. Use customer-centric language
The primary purpose of most marketing copy is to build a connection with your audience.
You therefore need to understand your audience, and make clear that they are your priority. You can do this by using ‘customer-centric’ language, which focuses on their problems, and how you can solve them. Consider these two phrases:
“Get updates when and where you want them”
“Exclusive information delivered to your inbox”
In a marketing test, versions of the first one performed significantly better than the second—because it focuses on what the customer wants, not what the company can deliver.
It is equally important to use the right language at the right time(see box).
Changing a word can make a big difference
Diamond ring marketplace RareCarat found that there was a huge difference in clicks from a button inviting customers to ‘Buy Diamonds’ compared with one inviting them to ‘Search Diamonds’.
Customers were 17% less likely to ‘bounce’ (leave the website immediately) and stayed 25% longer with the use of the word ‘search’.
The term ‘search’ was therefore much more effective.
Why? Because buying diamond rings is a big decision. There is a lot of browsing involved first. Customers don’t want to be pushed into buying before they are ready—and using the word ‘buy’ made them feel pressured.
3. Focus on clarity
Some websites appear almost to have been designed to confuse potential customers. Generally, when people are searching for information, they want clear content that answers their questions.
Focus on providing clear information—and particularly information that tells customers how your product or service solves their problems.
It is also worth considering clarity of purpose. Look at whether your copy really delivers on your objectives. For example, if your purpose is to get customers to click through to another page, or a webform to download a white paper—then give them the option to do this early on.
Descriptive writing in copy creation
Clarity does not have to mean short, sharp, business-focused writing.
Using metaphors, analogies and more descriptive writing can often be a very good way to help your audience to understand your point.
Make your copy consistent with your brand image
It should be obvious. However, it is worth setting this out.
Your content needs to match your brand image—especially if that image is key to making connections with your chosen customers.
If your image is jokey and streetwise—then make your content similar. However, be careful that you don’t cross a line, and risk offending people. This can be particularly problematic with social media, because of the risks of going viral.
If you do get it wrong, you may be interested in our page on recovering from a social media disaster.
5. Write for your purpose
Some copywriting experts will stress that you should create urgency with all your copy. However, this does not necessarily follow.
Instead, you want to create copy that serves its purpose.
If that purpose is to drive people to act, then by all means create urgency. If, however, your purpose is to start building a relationship with your customers, you don’t want to come across as pushy. Marketing copy should be designed to move people towards a purchase—but they may still be a long way away, and an obvious push could deter them. Write for your purpose, and you are unlikely to go far wrong.