If you’ve ever googled something and immediately scrolled through anything with an “ad” tag without stopping, it probably means the copywriters need to up their game. Alternatively—and I do this constantly—if you’re walking down the street and see some posters and do a double-take? Bravo, copywriter.
The most recent stop-and-stare that made me do a double-take. Snaps for tubi.
Copywriting is hard—take it from someone who is desperately trying to get better at it! It can make or break an advertising campaign. That’s why I compiled these 21 tips to help you write more compelling and successful marketing copy.
Let’s get started!
1. Define your target audience
First things first, decide who you’re selling to. Get specific. If the prospects for your offering run the gamut, choose a subsection to target an audience more specifically. College students will react differently to marketing copy than family-focused suburban residents, for instance.
2. Choose an objective
What do you want this marketing copy to compel someone to do? Do you want them to go to a website to make a purchase? Do you want them to sign up for more information? Or go into a physical location? Decide what you want out of your advertisement or marketing copy before you even start writing.
This Mailchimp copy encourages the visitor to choose their plan and sign up now.
3. Create urgency
When you’re writing compelling copy, an easy tactic is to increase urgency. Anything from “don’t miss out!” to “order now to have flowers delivered by Mother’s Day.” You’ll hear a lot of these on the radio, and let’s not forget that those commercials and other video scripts need compelling marketing copy, too.
4. Back it up with data
When it comes to copy, stats are incredibly compelling. People love to know if 57% of their peers hate this kind of avocados—they must know, WHAT KIND?! It’s very clickbaity, but sometimes you gotta do what gets the clicks.
This is actually from Billie’s homepage, which touts razors made specifically for the way women shave. It’s a fact: We’ve got more surface area, and all razors are not created equally.
5. Leverage customer reviews
This has been suggested before as a great technique for persuasive ad copy—which sounds a lot like compelling copy, right?! This is one of my favorite moves when it comes to copywriting tips, because it takes so little effort. You can use existing reviews from your customer base to compel more people to convert.
6. Keep it simple
Make it scannable; this is important. We are constantly getting hit with tons of information at all times—and as someone who loves to read (I watch TV with the subtitles on), even I miss 50% of the words around me. A big paragraph isn’t welcoming to the eye. Break out your copy into bite-sized pieces to make it more digestible for your audience.
7. Use active voice
Using active is something I’m trying to be more conscious of. Let’s try that again.
I try to use active voice.
Way more concise and powerful, right? It’s punchy and less is way more.
8. Pick your adjectives wisely
“‘Tis the season! Get all your back-to-school supplies here.”
“Inhale the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and brand-new composition books. We have all the goodness of back-to-school here.”
You tell me, which one makes you want to head to your closest office supply store?
9. Focus on your customers
While you can brag about your business, a different tactic is to focus on your customer when you’re writing compelling copy. Talk about what problems you’ll solve for them, how you’ll take away stressors, or make life easier.
This Postmates OOH campaign (OOH meaning out of home) focused on all the reasons why people love to order food online, instead of talking to a human. They get it.
10. Grab attention
There are a lot of different ways to grab attention through design, but you can also stop people in their tracks with some eye-catching marketing copywriting (see tubi reference). Lean into the shock-and-awe factor with this tactic.
Sorry, Volvo, but this copy does it for me—shock and awe and admiration.
11. Build interest
Copy should always be interesting, plain and simple. Don’t put useless words on the paper, people! And there are many different ways to make it interesting. That said, write a lot of copy and cross out all the words you find uninteresting or detracting from your story. Create intrigue.
Timothy Goodman had a collection with Zappos, specifically hightops. Instead of splashing images of shoes all over their ads, the copy told a better story. It makes my inner angsty teen want to go straight to the store to check them out.
12. Don’t pander
People know when they’re being sold. No one likes the sickly sweet sales person who compliments every pair of shoes you try even though you KNOW they make you look like you have clown feet.
13. Empathize with agitation
Online marketing is hard.
WordStream makes it easy.
Simple, to the point, we’re here to help you with online advertising because we know it’s complicated and confusing—especially for non-marketers. If you can distill the way you’re solving problems and making life easier for your customers, that’s a copywriting win.
14. Provide a solution
It’s one thing to be empathetic, but don’t stop short of showing how your business can solve a problem. You don’t need to be too wordy to get there because hard problems sometimes require simple solutions. You have your customers’ backs.
The Hustle’s email exists to make your life easier, like most daily morning newsletters. I love the use of the dictionary definition here.
15. Use analogies
I often use analogies to explain complicated ideas simply—it’s my go-to tactic. If your offering is something that the average person wouldn’t know much about, relate it to something they would know about. Alternatively, you can use analogies to increase empathy. There’s a reason people still say, “easy as pie.”
PSA: There is nothing easy about baking a pie.
16. Be funny
People are far more likely to remember what a joke you made than a brand slogan. And who doesn’t love to make their audience laugh? Jokes are so important!
This ad is a personal favorite, especially because I drove around in a minivan throughout college; it did carry the most people to and from the bars (you’re welcome, Villanova students).
17. Choose a CTA
Earlier, I said that you need to set a goal before writing your marketing copy. Sometimes, it’s helpful to go one step further and choose a CTA to set the tone for your copy, too.
Take this example from Spotify.
This is copy on Spotify’s website. It’s direct and urgent: Your fans are waiting for you. We’ll help you. Let’s do this. This whole section has one cohesive message, driven by the CTA.
18. Be wary of profanity
This is simple: Refrain from using obscene language in your copy unless you’re certain it will resonate with your audience. Partly because you’ll have difficulty getting through any digital filters, print makes it something you can’t take back, and it’s likely that you’ll offend more people than you end up enticing for your product.
This PSA went out from KFC after they catastrophically ran out of chicken in their fried chicken establishments. A kind sentiment that worked out—this time. But I’d pass on the “FCK.”
19. Be clear
One of my own pet peeves is when I see a well-designed ad with compelling marketing copy … but I just cannot figure out what they’re actually trying to sell me. Worse, they’ll use words like “Get X for as low as $5.99!” (you’ll pay more), “Receive up to 10 free sessions!” (you’ll get less), or just not caption anything at all.
I had to include the Twitter commentary in this example. It’s too good.
20. Don’t be bland
It is so important to let the personality of your brand shine through in copywriting. An easy way to do that is to think about the most common thing leadership (or management or any employees) say the most to describe your business. A word of warning to the CEOs out there: Let your copywriters have a longer leash to show off the business’s flair. No one wants to be bored by your brand.
21. Trust your gut
You know and love your brand. When it comes to marketing, you already have words and phrases living in your brain that are good representations of that brand. Trust that. You’ll know when you write something that doesn’t sound—well, good. You’ll also know something is on point when you write it—something will just click.
Remember, test all of your marketing copy
Remember to test, test, test. Copy testing becomes harder with print advertising, but anything digital (Google Ads, Facebook, Twitter, you name it) should be A/B tested. You’ll see what resonates the most with your audience and be able to move forward with that marketing copy.