What is copywriting?
‘What exactly is copywriting?’ asked a friend the other day, as I told her for the nth time about my business.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that, outside of my bubble of podcasts and blogs, many people don’t know what copywriting is.
Or they just have a vague idea that it involves words.
I should know – I wondered the same just a few short years ago before I became a copywriter…and I worked in marketing! That’s embarrassing.
Of course, if you don’t know what something is, then how can you know if it is something that can help grow your business?
First things first: copywriting ≠ copyright
Copywriting and copyright are not the same thing. Two homonyms, two very different tools.
Copyright – a legal right that grants creators of original work exclusive rights over it – is equally important to entrepreneurs and creative businesses.
But while copyright can help stop people nabbing your ideas, copywriting can help grow your business.
So, what is copywriting?
In a nutshell, copywriting is the art of writing effectively to get someone – usually a potential customer – to take action.
That action could be making a purchase, signing up to your newsletter, donating to your cause. It could even be turning up at your front door and cooking you Sunday dinner in a frilly apron if that’s the action you desire.
You can see copywriting on the tube, each time you open your web browser, on social media… It sometimes turns up in unexpected places like sandwich boards. In short, anywhere a brand communicates directly with potential or existing customers.
It can even turn up while you’re waiting for search results to load:
So, how can the power of copywriting be harnessed to help your business?
Copywriting can convert browsers into customers
Many businesses make the mistake of concentrating on what we freelance copywriters call the ‘features’. They might describe the size, the exact shade, or all the different functionalities it has.
If a customer is unsure if the product is for them, these types of descriptions won’t help them make that decision.
Copywriting uses methods that help convince those who are teetering on the edge that they need your product or service before they go and check out what your competitors are offering.
Once they do that, they’re likely lost forever.
Good product descriptions, where the customer is centre-stage and where the benefits of your product or service are clearly communicated, are much more likely to convert customers.
Once you have that nailed, you’ll be much more likely to make the sale.
Copywriting makes it easier for customers to buy
Copywriters put user experience at the top of their list of priorities.
Like a tour guide conducting tourists straight to Big Ben, they guide customers through the various decision-making steps to make it as easy as possible for them.
The things customers aren’t interested in seeing – the pound shop, Greggs bakery – are kept hidden because they’re not useful or interesting to the customer at that time.
You would be surprised at the number of small businesses that take their customers on a detour to Greggs, where they get waylaid buying pasties and don’t make it to Big Ben.
In plain speak, if you don’t include the right messages at the right time then you may lose a potential sale.
A freelance copywriter can help you understand exactly what those messages are and how to communicate them.
Copywriting helps customers find you
Copywriting techniques such as the scary-sounding on-page SEO (search engine optimisation) can improve your findability on Google.
By optimising your website with the right words, customers looking for your products are more likely to find you. And when they do, they are more qualified leads, closer to making a purchase.
If the right customers can’t find you then you can’t make any sales.
Optimisation is more important than ever as many markets are becoming saturated.
If you haven’t optimised your website, the chances of customers stumbling on it are much lower. After all, there are a lot of websites out there, even for small niches.
And if you don’t optimise your website, then you can bet that a competitor will.
And they’ll be taking the business. Smugly.
Copywriting is only one part of the SEO puzzle but it can take you quite far in terms of letting customers find you.
Copywriting helps customers connect emotionally with you
If copywriting is done right, then it is written with the customer at the front of mind at all times.
A good freelance copywriter will make sure they understand your ideal customer in great detail through research. This means they will be in a better place to connect emotionally with them.
Connecting emotionally can be a bit of a slow burner. Perhaps you will be bookmarked, favourited, or liked.
But the connection is there and it can lead to sales down the line (especially if you nail all-important newsletter signups).
‘What is copywriting’ is not the question you need to ask. Instead ask ‘how can I write in a way that encourages my customer to purchase/sign up/ donate?’
Whether you decide to hire a professional freelance copywriter or go it alone, copywriting is something that you cannot afford to ignore.
Although there are never 100% guarantees, it is worth investing the time and money in it. If only to wipe the smug look off your competitors’ faces.