Copywriting and Email Tips for Non-writers

Writing compelling copy and engaging email content isn’t easy … and that’s true for the professionals that do it every day for a living. For people whose jobs are in other areas of the company, being asked to suddenly write copy for a customer can be terrifying. When it comes to sales copy, just because you CAN write does not mean that you SHOULD write. In other words, just because you’re educated and literate, doesn’t mean you can write persuasively to your customer.

However, we live in the real world, and things that aren’t necessarily part of our jobs get dumped on our desks all the time. If your boss just delivered a nice writing project to your desk, and expects it to be done by the end of the week, there are some tips to help make it a little easier on you.

These tips can be used for almost any writing done for, and to, the customer.

Put the customer first 

How many marketing pieces have you gotten in the past where the sender automatically kicks in to telling you how qualified they are? Too often businesses write advertising copy focusing largely on the company or product. While this may seem like a strong strategy on the surface, it leaves out the most important part of the equation: the customer.  You must start out every piece by showing the reader, W.I.I.F.M? (What’s In It For Me?)

Every ad should be about the customer and the best way to do this is using the customer’s actual name. Don’t have access to a comprehensive list of customer names? No problem. Next to the word, “FREE”, the most powerful word in advertising is the word, “you”.

Using the word “you” speaks directly to consumers as individuals and draws them in. The word “you” also evokes empathy; it lets the reader know the business understands exactly what he or she is going through and how to remedy a problem.

Author and Sales Force blogger Geoffrey James added to this concept of empathy in a piece he wrote for Inc. magazine. James encouraged copywriters and marketers to get away from using self-centered language, as this drives the reader away.

“The first rule in selling (by email or otherwise) is that ‘it’s not about you,'” James wrote. By this he means it’s not about your company, it’s about the customer.

Focus on structure

This means that every piece of business marketing writing should have an intriguing hook at the beginning, practical information in the middle and a clear call to action at the end. The hook is responsible for getting the customer’s attention so it MUST be relatable to them. Let them know you can solve a problem of theirs and you’ll get their attention. For perspective, James stated the first 20 words, or 10 if possible, of an email message must deliver a strong hook.

For an Internet ad with limited space available for a text hook, marketers may want to try out a more visual tactic. Many people reading emails, ads, articles and other online materials tend to scan phrases for buzzwords. Presenting these readers with compelling visuals can eliminate the possibility that they’ll miss the purpose of the message by showing them what they need to know, instead of asking them to read about it.

Be brief and to the point

If it’s an online piece you’re writing, you have about seven seconds to catch the reader’s attention before they move on. If it is an email, you’ll have to capture their attention with the subject line in less than a second, otherwise it gets deleted. The key to good writing is knowing when to stop. Keep it brief. You’re virtually eliminating every unnecessary word, so be ruthless in your editing.

Here’s a list of editing tips to get you started:

Eliminate unnecessary words

A lot of writers use fluff words that only muddle the true meaning of a message. Here are just a handful of the most commonly-overused words that you can eliminate:

  • As a matter of fact
  • Furthermore
  • Truly
  • Very/really
  • Actually
  • In fact
  • In my opinion

Be wary of buzzwords

There are dozens of business buzzwords writers can delete. Jargon can be used if you are writing to a very specific target audience that not only is familiar with the jargon, but uses it every day at work. In this case, using familiar terms correctly gives you more credibility with the reader. However, if you’re not sure if you’re using the term correctly, find someone who knows or eliminate it. Using jargon incorrectly gets your piece deleted in a nanosecond.

In the same vein, jargon can confuse consumers that aren’t familiar with it and the last thing you want is for them to have to Google something when you’re trying to sell it. It would be a very rare occasion where someone will take the time to look a term up and then go back to your piece to make a purchase. V-E-R-Y rare!

Also, some words and phrases are grossly overused and have lost almost all meaning in advertising. When writing for customers, try getting rid of words and phrases like:

  • Innovative
  • Best-in-class
  • Synchronicity
  • Multi-channel campaigns
  • Distributive marketing
  • Business development efforts
  • Or any other words that appear in a corporate mission statement!

Look for clarity

Good editing clarifies ideas and product perks. Every copywriter should be able to effectively demonstrate the benefits a product offers, not just the features. Editing is the best way to figure out how well a piece of marketing writing conveys a business’s value to consumers.

Finally, be sure to proofread everything you send out at least twice and have someone else proofread what you’ve written. There is nothing you can do to turn off a potential customer quicker than send out something with typos and misspellings.

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