Why you probably can't write good copy

... or How often do you buy your own product?

Although you probably know your product better than almost anyone, how many times have you gone out and bought as a customer? Probably never.

If you run a magazine, you probably don’t subscribe. If you run a car hire company, you probably don’t hire your cars.

That is why marketing-led companies usually employ outside copywriters.

What is a ‘marketing-led company’?

A ‘marketing-led’ company goes out and convinces new prospects to buy. They do not wait for prospects to contact them through a website or by phone. They actively promote their business via various media. They use outside copywriters to write their promotions.

By taking an outside view, a copywriter can more easily see how the product is viewed by a prospect. He or she can see the whole process and measure it against competing products. He can spot the unique benefits offered, and use that information to win customers.

Marketing, copywriting and sales

In this context, ‘copywriting’ refers to sales copy. It is the written form of face-to-face selling. The information that goes into a written promotion must convince the prospect to buy, or switch to your product. It is the essence of direct marketing.

The most important sources of information for marketers, copywriters and salespeople are: (1) the customer and (2) the prospect. By asking those two groups the right questions, the copywriter can develop the approach most likely to attract more customers. In summary, a copywriter must know his:

He should also know how the promotion should look, otherwise the copy won’t fit.

That list is in the right order: ‘Know your customer and how your product can help him’ summarises the correct approach. Logically therefore, the product will be regularly changing as market forces change, or you will lose customers:

The copywriter as a pathfinder

The copywriter leads. Once the copywriter knows the facts he can create his promotions to test certain premises. Next he must look at what to offer a prospect to close the deal – the price, discount, free gift, risk-free trial and other incentives. Closing the deal, as any salesperson will tell you, is the toughest part of the sale. But it’s made easier if the marketer has laid the ground beforehand.

Why journalism is so often poor

A journalist makes a poor copywriter. If you need proof of the poor standards in journalism, read a news report on something you know about: the more you know about a subject, the more you’ll find factual errors and important omissions. That being the case, do you think the other reports in the paper or website are more accurate? Hardly likely…

Why the internet can’t help

The same is true of articles on the internet. When people ask if I use the internet to research my copy, I try to be noncommittal: “It’s very useful”. But it’s only useful to research the questions I need to ask.

The internet has expanded everyone’s access to specialist knowledge, but has not increased our ability to apply that knowledge appropriately. We know more, but understand less.

How a subscription copywriter researches

A copywriter must be able to write about almost everything, so finding product and market knowledge is important. But although you’ll rarely find useful information in newspapers or through Google, they can be used to provoke and initiate discovery, to learn the truth about a subject.

To learn the truth you need to ask an expert, expert questions.

That is important, because to provoke a reaction among prospects you need to get the real story behind the news and general opinion — in other words, the truth. And only an expert can give you that.

The truth, if used carefully, is highly valuable when selling a product. Truth resonates and connects. But getting to the truth behind news stories and popular opinion is difficult. People are naturally reticent about the real facts and articles are often agenda-driven or merely telling us what we want to hear.

That extra research is the reason, by the way, that copywriters are paid so much more than journalists. The truth is more valuable.

Click here to learn more

Peter Hobday
Subscriptions Strategy Ltd

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