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Pen writing "Once upon a time"

“Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.” —Shirley Polykoff, American advertising pioneer

As professional marketers, we sometimes forget that advertising is a two-way street. We get frustrated when our customers don’t engage with our products and services and then blame it on them not understanding the value that we’re bringing. But in reality, we’re the ones to blame. We’ve forgotten how to talk with customers rather than at them.

I had the opportunity to attend National Seminars Training’s (NST) Copywriter’s Workshop in January. During the two-day workshop, I received insights on how some of the world’s leading brands communicate with their customers.

I’ll be sharing my top four takeaways from the workshop and how you can use them to write copy that inspires your customers.

1. Every Story Needs a Hero

Which type of ad are you more likely to engage with? One that tells a story or one that takes a more direct sales approach? If I had to choose my most impactful learning from the workshop, it’s the idea that stories help brands stand out from the hundreds of marketing messages people receive each day.

Storytelling takes an added level of creativity and won’t be perfected overnight. But don’t let that deter you. Here are some great tips for telling your brand’s story:

  • Tailor your story to your audience: think about who your story is meant to appeal to and how your story can motivate them to act. Communicate with them in the way in which they’re expecting to receive your message so that they can process it in the way that’s best for them.
  • Create a compelling protagonist, a plot twist and hero: the senior living industry is full of stories. Think of your community’s residents and their paths to move-in. The customer journey is rarely a straight road. What were some of the challenges faced on that road and how were they overcome? Those are the real-life stories you should be adapting for your content.
  • When advertising fire extinguishers, open with a fire: otherwise, what would be the point of the fire extinguisher? Your story should hook readers from the start and then show them how your product will help them solve a problem they’re facing.
  • Start writing your story from the middle: start your story at a point when the “fire” is in full effect and then work from there. You’ll find it’s easier to craft the beginning of your story once you’ve decided how your hero will extinguish the fire.

firefighter

2. Copy Should Appeal to Emotional and Rational Judgment

People make purchase decisions based on their emotions. It’s not until after the purchase is made that they begin to rationalize their decision.

When writing copy, use language that appeals to both emotional and rational attractors. First, determine what motivates your audience. What is a need they are looking to fulfill? What do they hope to achieve? Once you’ve identified this, craft your copy to focus on the emotion that will resonate most with your audience.

There are 46 core copywriting emotions, including curiosity, optimism, envy, urgency and insecurity. Choose your approach wisely; writing with the wrong emotion in mind could result in your message missing the mark with your audience.

Would you try to evoke fear out of your audience when communicating the possibilities of independent living at your community? In most cases, no. You’d likely take a more aspirational approach and appeal to the part of your prospect that yearns to make new friends or learn a new skill. Cater to your prospects’ aspirations and they’ll find a way to justify the purchase rationally.

grandfather with grandaughter

3. Say More with Less

After visual content, your headline is the most important part of your content. Eighty percent of readers are lost before they can find out more about a product because the headline doesn’t do these four things:

  • Grab their attention
  • Create an immediate impact
  • Identify the product’s unique selling point
  • Give readers a reason to continue to the body copy

Summarizing your content in a headline of just a few words can seem a little intimidating. How are you supposed to grab someone’s attention, convey the benefits of your product and create a lasting impact with such a limited amount of words? That was one of the questions I had before attending the workshop. Luckily, the instructor provided a handful of tips that I know I’ll be using when writing headlines from now on:

  • Use a headline style: whether using a more direct approach or attempting to appeal to the reader’s emotions, there are several headlines styles you can use to capture attention
  • Mix and match: think of all the words that describe your product and combine them to make a headline that stands out (and makes sense)!
  • Use the tried and true formula: when all else fails, you can create a compelling headline using the following formula: number+adjective+keyword+promise

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules

Think of copywriting as an opportunity to throw all the rules you learned about writing and grammar out of the window. Ok, maybe not all of them. But copywriting is a different beast than proposal writing or writing a research paper. Some rules only apply sometimes.

Consider rebelling against commonly accepted rules of writing by doing the following:

  • Starting a sentence with a conjunction
  • Ending a sentence with a preposition
  • Establishing camaraderie with the reader by writing in the first and second person
  • Using sentence fragments and contractions

This less rigid approach opens up new possibilities for you to maintain a conversational tone with your customers while being more creative with your copy. Creativity is what will entice your audience to engage with your content and will set you apart from your competitors.

With this power comes responsibility though. While we encourage you to skirt the rules a little when copywriting, it’s best to do so in moderation. Don’t stifle your creativity by being too creative. Breaking too many rules at once could make it difficult for your audience to understand the message you are trying to convey to them — another way in which they can be turned off by your copy.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend the NST Copywriter’s Workshop and spend two days focusing entirely on how to become a better copywriter. It was an opportunity for me to step outside of my comfort zone and have my writing critiqued by other people who were also looking to enhance their copywriting skills. I’m excited to experiment with the techniques highlighted in this post, as well as others learned during the workshop, in order to create compelling content that converts!

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About The Author

Kevin Williams

As Manager, Copy & Content, Kevin works with client services, creative and media to produce copy and content solutions that meet the unique needs of each client.