What Is Copywriting?
Simply put, copywriting is when you write words to sell something. In the business, we just refer to it as writing “copy” though.
When you read a billboard, the words on it are “copy”.
When you see an infomercial, the sales spiel before asking you for your credit card is “copy”. In fact, the whole infomercial is “copy”.
Any time you’re writing with the intention of those words turning someone into a customer, you’re copywriting.
You’re a salesman selling jackets. You tell the customer “this one is made out of Goretex”.
Pop quiz: is that:
a feature? OR
Think about it for a moment. Don’t read any further until you’ve reflected upon the question.
Do you know the difference between features and benefits?
The answer is: (a) – a feature. The jacket is made of Gore Tex, but that doesn’t really describe “what’s in it for me” to the customer – that’s what benefits describe!
If you were going to sell a Gore Tex jacket, you’d want to take the benefits of the jacket, not the features. So you might say that the Gore Tex jacket is:
waterproof (you won’t get wet in it!)
wind-resistant (so it acts like a windbreaker)
breathable ( you won’t sweat as much in it)
lightweight (you’ll feel like you’re wearing a feather)
Copywriting is benefits focused, NOT features focused. Features are nice for techies, but for the everyday consumer, they want to know how it will affect their life.
They don’t need to know that the jacket is made of Gore Tex, they need to know that it will make their sunday-evening hike easier because of how light it is.
AIDA – The Principles of Selling
Invented in 1898 by E. St. Elmo Lewis, the AIDA concept represents how to sell to someone, and any good copywriting follows the principle in some fashion or another.
It stands for:
A – Attention
I – Interest
D – Desire
A – Action
The last step of course is the one you really want – they buy from you (ACTION)!
The process starts by getting your ever-distracted customer’s attention. This doesn’t mean they care about your product yet, it just means that they noticed it. This often comes as a result of placing your ad in front of the right people (perhaps a full-page ad in Gore Tex magazine is the right place to sell those jackets!).
Attention is a result of advertising in some way. Occasionally an advertiser will use a very shocking ad to get people to notice (take this Old Spice ad for example). In most cases you need only design a headline or ad that really speaks to your ideal customer to get their attention.
Once you have their attention, you need to create interest in what you’re selling. This means that they want to know more, and it’s accomplished by positioning your product as the solution to your customer’s problem. If you can’t solve a real problem that a decent amount of people have, then you probably won’t be able to make many sales.
Before you can close the sale though, you need to turn that faint interest into a real emotion of desire: the act of leading your customer to think “I WANT THAT”.
Copywriting puts these fundamental concepts in place to lead your customer into buying something. It is benefits focused, clear, and it understands your target customer very well.
Take Nike’s slogan: Just Do It. This is the result of understanding their target market very well – athletes. They’re people who spend less time “thinking about doing”, but instead just “do”.
Not only is Nike able to relate their brand to athletes through this phrase, but it’s also conveniently subliminal (you know you want to buy our Nike shoes, Just Do It!).
Any time you have written sales material, it will benefit far more if a copywriter writes it (or at least reworks it).
The idea of copywriting can take place in a 5,000 word sales letter, or it can be as simple as the 3 word slogan “Just Do It”.
It’s a vast subject that encapsulates the idea of selling in words. When you read words that are meant to sell, you’re reading copy.