Copywriting for Beginners Part 1 of 3: Seven Vital Questions | Alan Sharpe | Skillshare

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Copywriting for Beginners Part 1 of 3: Seven Vital Questions

teacher avatar Alan Sharpe, Copywriting Instructor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

17 Lessons (1h 12m)
    • 1. About this Class

      3:35
    • 2. Copywriting Defined Part 1

      2:50
    • 3. Copywriting Defined Part 2

      2:59
    • 4. Specialized Copywriting

      5:37
    • 5. Types of Copywriting

      2:59
    • 6. Your Two Audiences for Copywriting

      2:42
    • 7. What kinds of promotional writing are not copywriting?

      3:41
    • 8. To write great copy, ask seven questions

      5:25
    • 9. Q 1: What are you selling?

      6:17
    • 10. Q 2: Where are you selling?

      4:28
    • 11. Q 3: Who are you selling to?

      5:45
    • 12. Q 4: Why should they buy?

      4:30
    • 13. Q 5: Who is your competition?

      6:05
    • 14. Q 6: What is the most important thing to say?

      4:11
    • 15. Q 7: What do you want your prospect to do?

      3:24
    • 16. How to research a product or service so that you write great copy

      5:41
    • 17. Study your prospect more than your product

      1:49
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About This Class

The hardest thing about copywriting isn't knowing HOW to write. It's knowing WHAT to write. Your challenge as a copywriter isn't your ability to write compelling copy. It's your ability to discover insights into what you are selling and who you are selling to. The best copywriters are the ones who ask the best questions.

About me

I'm your instructor, Alan Sharpe. I got started as a copywriter in 1989. In the years since then, I've worked as a freelancer and as an in-house copywriter at an ad agency. I have written in all of the channels—offline, online, outdoor, mobile and broadcast. I have written print ads, radio commercials, email sales letters, banner ads, brochures, slogans and plenty more. I got married, bought a house, and raised two kids on my copywriting salary alone. I have been teaching copywriting since 1995.

Why take this course

This course answers the two biggest questions that beginning copywriters have. Number one, what is copywriting, exactly? And number two, how do I discover what I should write about?

At the end of this course, you will know what is expected of you as a copywriter. And you'll know the questions you need to ask before you start any copywriting assignment.

Course structure

This course is divided into two sections. Section one defines copywriting, describes the major types of copywriting, and discusses specialized types of copywriting. It then introduces you to the two main audiences who will read your copy, and describes the types of writing that some people mistake for copywriting. Section one ends with a handy glossary of common copywriting and marketing terms that you need to know before you offer your services as a copywriter.

Section two goes into great detail about the seven questions you must ask before you can write great copy. We'll cover what you are selling, where you are selling, who you are selling to, why they should buy, who your competition is, the most important thing to say in your copy, and what you want prospects to do after reading your copy. Section two ends with a lesson on how to research a product or a service so that you can sell it with effective copy.

This course is filled with practical, step-by-step advice, tools, tips and tricks that I've learned over the years as a professional copywriter. I use dozens of examples from the real world of copywriting to help you understand what copywriting is, and how to get started on any copywriting assignment.

Ideal student

I designed this course for writers who want to write compelling advertising copy, but don't know where to start. If the thought of having to write one thousand words of promotional copy each day before lunch time fills you with dread, then this course is for you.

Meet Your Teacher

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Alan Sharpe

Copywriting Instructor

Teacher

Are you reading my bio because you want to improve your copywriting? Bonus. That makes two of us.

Are you looking for a copywriting coach who has written for Fortune 500 accounts (Apple, IBM, Hilton Hotels, Bell)? Check.

Do you want your copywriting instructor to have experience writing in multiple channels (print, online, direct mail, radio, television, outdoor, packaging, branding)? Groovy.

If you had your way, would your copy coach also be a guy who has allergic reactions to exclamation marks, who thinks honesty in advertising is not an oxymoron, and who believes the most important person in this paragraph is you? 

Take my courses.

I'm Alan Sharpe. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I'm a 30-year veteran copywriter who has been teaching pe... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. About this Class: The hardest thing about copywriting isn't knowing how to write. It's knowing what to write. Your challenges. A copywriter isn't your ability to write compelling copy. It's your ability to discover insights into what you're selling and who you are selling to. The best copywriters are the ones who ask the best questions. Welcome to copywriting for beginners, part one of three. I'm your instructor, Alan sharp. I got started as a copywriter in 1989. In the year since then, I've worked as a freelance copywriter and as an in-house copywriter at an ad agency. I've written in all of the channels offline, online, outdoor, mobile, and broadcasts. I've written print ads, radio commercials, e-mail sales letters, banner ads, brochures, slogans, product packaging, and plenty more. I got married, I bought a house, I raised two boys on my copywriting salary alone. This course answers the two biggest questions that beginning copywriters have. Number one, what is copywriting? Exactly? And number two, how do I discover what I should write about? At the end of this course, you will know what is expected of you as a copywriter. And you'll know the questions you need to ask before you start any copy writing assignment. This course is divided into two sections. Section one defines copywriting, describes the major types of copyrighting and discusses specialized types of copyrighting. It then introduces you to the two main audiences who will read your copy and describes the types of writing that some people mistake for copyrighting. Section one ends with a handy glossary of common copywriting and marketing terms that you need to know before you offer your services as a copywriter. Section 2 goes into great detail about the seven questions you must ask. Before you can write great copy. We'll cover what you are selling, where you are selling, who you are selling to, why those people should buy. Who your competition is. The most important thing to say in your copy, and what you want your prospects to do after reading your copy. Section two ends with a lesson on how to research any product or any service so that you can sell it with effective copy. This course is filled with practical step-by-step advice, tools, tips, and tricks that I've learned over the years. As a professional copywriter. I use dozens of examples from the real-world of copyrighting to help you understand what copywriting is and how to get started on any copywriting assignment. I designed this course for writers who want to write compelling advertising copy, but don't know where to start. If the thought of having to write 100 words of promotional copy each day before lunchtime fills you with dread. Then this course is for you. 2. Copywriting Defined Part 1: Copyrighting his texts that advertises a product, service, or brand. The word is easier to understand if you first understand what copy is. In the newspaper business copy is the words that journalists, right? Don't ask me why it's called copy. I don't know. But in the newspaper business reporters write copy and copy editors edit copy. In the advertising business, the words that are used to promote a product, service, or brand, or also called copy. When you pick up a magazine and start reading one of the ads, you are reading advertising copy. When you leave through a product brochure, you are reading brochure. Copy. When you read a product page on an e-commerce website, you are reading copy. What is copywriting? Copywriting is simply the act of writing copy. Copywriting is the act of creating the text that is used to advertise or market a product or a service, or a brand. The one thing that makes copywriting different from other kinds of writing is its intent. Copywriting aims to sell something. That something might be a car, which is a product. It might be a restaurant, which is a service, or it might be a brand such as Nike. Typically, copywriting asks the reader to do something such as byproduct, visit a website, or call a toll-free number to place an order. If a piece of text does not asks the reader to do anything, it is probably not. Copywriting. Creative writing entertains. Technical writing explains news writing informs, but copywriting asks readers to do something. Copywriting also differs from other kinds of writing in its tone. Marketing copy tends to be informal rather than formal. It takes liberties with grammar. One, word, sentences, for example. As for style, copywriting tends to feature simple words, short sentences, short paragraphs. Copywriting also has a sense of urgency about it. The sense you get in reading effective marketing copy is that you face a challenge or a problem, that there are consequences that you want to avoid and that the manufacturer or the advertiser has a solution for you. Copywriting tends to end with an imperative call now by today. So I'm going to end this lesson with a call to action. Enjoy the rest of this course. 3. Copywriting Defined Part 2: What is copywriting? Copywriting is any words in any medium that are designed to sell something. That includes print, online, mobile, and broadcast. Any message designed to sell something or market something features copywriting. Promotional messages include newspaper ads, magazine ads, brochures, fact sheets, fliers, catalogs, online banner ads, online text ad sales letters, promotional postcards, television commercials, radio commercials, billboards, advertisements, bus shelter advertising, product packaging point of purchase displays, mobile advertising, facebook and Twitter ads, YouTube commercials, promotional messages on the sides of commercial vehicles. Slogans, product names, company names, radio and television jingles, product videos, scripts, company promo video scripts. I think you get the idea. Someone wants to find copywriting as salesmanship in print. There are two things wrong with this definition. Of course. Salespeople aren't just men, women also sell, and copywriting is no longer limited to print. Copywriting is seen offline online, but the essence of this definition is correct. Copywriting is selling with words. A copywriter is a salesperson behind a keyboard. Copywriting configure the written word and the spoken word. Promotional messages in a newspaper or an online ad or there to be read. Whereas promotional messages in a radio commercial or a television commercial, or there to be heard. But those promotional messages, whether read or heard or copyrighting inaction. Writers who write promotional messages are called copywriters. The profession they are in is called copy writing. One writer may say, I want to get into technical writing. Another writer may say, I want to get into script writing. And yet another writer might say I want to get into copywriting. Some colleges offer courses in copywriting, not that many. And some colleges include a class on copywriting or a course on copywriting as part of a diploma program in marketing. Most copywriters learn the craft on the job, either as freelance copywriters or working as copywriters in-house at an advertising agency marketing firm. I learned the craft firsthand as a senior copywriter at an ad agency. And then I improve my skills as a freelance copywriter over time. Doing work independently self-employed. If you apply yourself, you can learn the craft of copyrighting as well. 5. Types of Copywriting: There are five main types of copyrighting. Print, outdoor, online broadcasts, branding. As a copywriter, you may be asked to write copy for any of these channels. Print copywriting, as the name implies, is copywriting that appears on printed sheets of paper. Print copywriting includes newspapers, magazines, both consumer and trade. It includes brochures, fact sheets, specification sheets, and other sales collateral. It includes point of purchase displays, promotional messages in theater programs, for example, promotional messages in retail flyers, direct mail, case studies, catalogs, telephone directories such as the yellow pages, which are kind of old school. Outdoor copywriting is promotional messages that appear in public spaces. Outdoor includes billboards, bus shelter ads, ads on the sides of buses, Subway ads, portable sign adds the kind that are placed on the side of the road outside the businesses in front of businesses. An elevator adds signage, vehicle signage, telephone booth ads. Online copywriting is promotional messages that appear on or are sent through the Internet. Intranet copywriting includes banner ads on websites and social media platforms such as Facebook. It includes text ads, such as Google AdWords ads. It includes online display ads, promotional messages that are sent by e-mail, mobile ads that appear on smart phones that you see on your smartphone. It includes text ads that appear in texting apps on smartphones and e-commerce product pages. Broadcasts, copywriting is promotional writing that as broadcast to an audience. Using electronic means. It includes radio ads, television ads, television infomercials, cable television ads. Branding, copywriting is promotional writing that promotes an organization or an event as opposed to a product or a service. Brand copywriting includes creating names for companies, trading names for products, creating names for services, creating slogans, creating themes for conferences, conventions, and other meetings. As you can see, there's lots of variety in copywriting. That's one of the things I like about the profession. 6. Your Two Audiences for Copywriting: Advertisers aim their promotional messages at two audiences, consumers and businesses. These two types of copyrighting are usually referred to as business to consumer or B to C, and business to business, or B to be consumers and businesses are your two main audiences for copywriting. Business to consumer copywriting. Copywriting that is written by a business and directed at a consumer. That consumer is generally an individual. John Deere, for example, manufacturers a line of riding lawnmowers that the company markets directly to homeowners. In consumer magazine's, John Deere places advertisements that are written for individuals who are in the target market of individuals who might want to buy a riding lawn more. These ads are business to consumer ads. And they stress the benefits that individuals enjoy by buying a John Deere riding lawn more. These benefits might include the comfortable seating, the easy operation, good fuel economy. Business to business copywriting is copywriting that is written by a business and that is directed at a business, a business buyer. In keeping with our example, John Deere also markets the very same line of riding lawnmowers, but they market them to dealers and retailers. John Deere promotes its line of mowers using business to business promotional messages. These messages might include, well actually they do include product announcements, sales letters, promotional announcements. These messages are business to business messages. And they stress the benefits to the business that buys them, namely the dealer or the retailer who will be selling the John Deere line. These benefits might include a generous wholesale pricing, easy financing, simple return policies, reasonable payment terms, and a great warranty. My recommendation to you is that you specialize in one of these two areas. Specialize at selling to consumers or specialized at selling to businesses. Find the audience that you enjoy writing for. Then focus on helping businesses reach that audience with great copy. 7. What kinds of promotional writing are not copywriting?: What is copywriting? Copywriting is any words in any medium that are designed to sell something. But what isn't copywriting? What kinds of writing are there that people confuse with copywriting? I'll tell you. Content marketing is not copywriting. Writing a blog post is not copywriting. Writing an article is not copywriting. Writing that is designed simply to inform or to educate. As most content marketing is, is not copywriting. Copywriting always sells something. Technical writing is not copywriting. Technical writing is designed to explain how something works. Some copywriting promotes products and services that are technical. Software, for example, is technical, but that is not technical writing. That is technical copywriting, copyrighting, that happens to be about a technical product or service. Public relations writing is not copywriting. Someone writing a news release is not writing marketing or advertising copy. Someone who writes speeches, position papers, media briefs, and news releases for a living is not a copywriter. They are not involved with copy running. That's because the goal of public relations writing is to inform, to persuade, or to change perceptions. But the goal of copywriting is to sell something to someone. The end result of copywriting is that someone buys something. The easiest way to understand the difference between copywriting, content, marketing, technical writing, and public relations writing is to see them in action. Let's say that netflix offers a new service that caused $91 a month and requires a rotor, a piece of hardware that you attach to your TV. A copywriter writes a promotional message that advertises the service and asks people to start their paid subscription. The copywriter sells the product. The goal of the copy is sales. That's copywriting. A content marketing writer crafts a blog post about how the service compares with maybe competing services. The goal of the writing is education. That's content marketing. Writing. A technical writer writes a guide or a manual that explains how to connect and setup the router. The goal of the copy is understanding that's technical writing. A public relations writer writes a news release that invites the media to a launch event for this new product, this new service, the goal of the copy is publicity. That's public relations, writing. If you want to earn your living as a copywriter, remember that your job is to persuade people to buy something. You may occasionally be asked to draft a news release or write a blog post. Just remember that your job as a copywriter is to sell something to someone using some words. 8. To write great copy, ask seven questions: Someone once asked Margaret Atwood, the famous Canadian author, how do you write a great Canadian novel? Oh, that's easy. She replied. To write a great Canadian novel, you just sit in front of your keyboard, two drops of blood appear on your forehead. Writing good copy is hard for two reasons. You always start with an empty page with no words on it, and you always have a deadline to meet. That's the reality of being a copywriter. You're expected to create terrific copy from scratch, and you're expected to do it before lunch. The prospect of starting each day with a blank page and having to fill it with one hundred, ten hundred words before lunch fills lots of copywriters with dread. Writing copy from scratch is tough enough, but writing copy to deadline is even harder. So here's the secret. You don't have to sit in front of your keyboard until drops of blood appear on your forehead. Instead, you have to ask seven simple questions. Once you have answers to these questions, you have what you need to start writing. Great copy. These seven questions taken together form what is known as a marketing brief or a creative brief. A creative brief is a written document that tells you the copywriter what to write about, to who and why. Every project you work on must feature a creative brief. You can't write effective copy without one. If you write for an advertising agency, that creative brief you receive from your client will likely be three or four pages long, and it will usually describe everything you need to know to start writing. If you freelance for smaller clients, the creative brief you get from your client will likely be much shorter and less thorough. In my experience, you rarely get the brief you need the first time around. For example, a client will come to me and say, Allan, I need a brochure for my new product. It's for a trade show. The brochure needs to be 8.5 inches by 11 and it needs to full twice. And I want to have a picture of the product on the front. And I want to list the product features inside and have our website and address and phone number on the back. That's it. That's all they tell me. But that isn't enough information for me to write. A brochure is, for example, who buys the product? Who is the prospective customer? Why should they buy the product? How does the product compare to competing products? What evidence can we show to potential buyers to persuade them this product is superior? You get the idea. Your job before you write a single word of copy is to get the answers you need from your client. By asking seven simple questions, you get to vital things, you get facts, and you get insights. All good copy contains compelling facts and all good copy contains at least one insight into why prospects should buy the product or service. Here are the seven questions. Where are we selling? First, you need to discover if you are writing for an offline audience or an online audience, then you need to drill down and discover what medium you are writing for such print brochure, a direct mail sales letter, a Facebook ad, or a landing page. But you also need to discover where in the sales cycle you are selling. What are we selling? Naturally, you need to discover if what you are selling a product or a service, but you need to go beyond that. Good advertising, all B cells. A solution to a problem. Your job is to find out what that problem is. Who are we selling to? You have two main audiences, businesses and consumers, but you need to know a lot more than just that. You need to discover every relevant facts and every insight about them, such as their gender, their age, their income level, where they live, what they think is important, those kinds of things. Why should they buy it? People buy for rational reasons and for emotional reasons, you need to discover both. You also need to discover every feature and every benefit of every feature. Who was our competition? You face three main competitors. Inertia. The buyer doesn't want to do anything. Your other products, your potential buyer might be happier with the buying one of your older products than your newer model and you have marketplace competitors. What do we want the prospect to do? All good copy is designed to change behavior. You want your reader to think something or feel something or do something. What is it? What is the single thing we must communicate or demonstrate to our audience? Effective copy is single-minded. It communicates a single-minded proposition. You must discover the one thing that your copy absolutely has to communicate. Take my word for it. If you ask these seven questions before you start to write, and if you keep asking questions until you get the answers you need, you'll never be afraid of a blank screen or of a deadline ever again, as a bonus, your copy will be more effective. 9. Q 1: What are you selling?: When you buy a ticket to see a movie, what are you buying? Are you buying the opportunity to sit from 19 minutes in a dark room eating overpriced popcorn. Are you buying the services of a producer, a director or a screenwriter and actors? Are you buying a product or a service? What are you buying? When you buy a car? What are you buying? Are you buying an engine for tires, two doors and a moon roof? Are you buying a necessity? Are you buying transportation? Are you buying convenience or safety or utility or something else? As a copywriter, one of the most important things you need to know is what you are selling. And the answer is rarely simple. Movie theaters don't sell movies. They sell escapism. Car manufacturers don't sell automobiles. They sell convenience, utility transportation and immobile way to express your values. The first thing you need to do when you answer this question is to find out if you're selling a product or a service. Again, the answer isn't always obvious. At Home Depot, for example, you can buy scaffolding or you can rent scaffolding. One is a product, one is a service. For example, a contractor might by scaffolding. And he's going to ask different questions than a homeowner who rents scaffolding. A contractor wants to know the load factor, which is how much weight can be placed on the scaffolding. Contractor wants to know about the strength of the steel, how easy it is to get replacement parts and the type of warranty that's being offered. A homeowner, on the other hand, has different concerns. The homeowner wants to know how much does it cost to rent the scaffolding for half a day or for a full day? Will Home Depot deliver the scaffolding to my home and will they pick it up when I'm finished? These are different questions and a contractor, your job is to know whether you're selling a product or a service so that you can write copy that sells what your customer is looking to buy. Whether you're pitching a product or a service, you need to remember that what you're selling is a solution to a problem. You need to think of what you are selling from your customer's point of view. As someone once said, carpenters don't need a one inch drill bit. They need a one inch hole. There problem is that they have a piece of wood and they need to put a one inch hole in it. They need a one inch hole. So they buy a one-inch, a one inch drill bit to make that whole. The hardware store isn't selling a drill bit. It's selling a solution to a problem. Let me give you another example. Let's say you're buying an old house and your real estate agent recommends that you hire a home inspector to go through the house to discover any faults or hazards that will cost you money to repair. You are someone with a problem. You want to buy the house, but you don't want to buy the house. If doing so will endanger your life or empty your bank account through costly repairs down the road. The home inspector isn't selling home inspection services. He's selling a solution to your problem. Now let's talk specifics. Your copy is going to be specific rather than vague. It's going to be concrete rather than general. The only way to make your copy specific and concrete is to discover every fact you can about the product or service that is likely to influence a buying decision. There are plenty of features of every product and every service that the client cares about, but that potential buyers don't care about. Manufacturers of industrial products, for example, often have large engineering staff that want every product feature, no matter how obscure to be included in their promotional messages, it's not a good idea. Your job is to gather all the facts about the product or service and rank them in order of importance to your potential buyers. Start by creating a simple table featuring two columns. In the left column. Put a product feature in the right column. Put the benefit of that feature, and continue this exercise until you have an exhaustive list of features and benefits. Then sit down with the folks in sales and marketing and discover which features and which benefits are most important to potential buyers. Move these to the top of the table. But the most compelling feature and benefits first, followed by the second most compelling feature and benefit and so on, right down to the end of the table. For example. Let's say Apple has asked you to write some promotional copy to the launch, the new iPad Pro. So you ask them to list the features and benefits of the new iPad. They tell you the following. The 10.5 inch display is 20 percent larger than a standard iPad. The refresh rate is a 120 hertz compared to a standard LCD display which is 60 hertz. It features and a Tenex Fusion chip. So what are the benefits of these features? Well, the larger display gives you more room to work with and delivers a full-size keyboard. So you don't have to switch back and forth between the letters and special characters. The faster refresh rate means the Apple pencil feels even more responsive and natural. No other digital pencil lets you write markup and draw with such pixel perfect precision. The faster chip means you can edit for k videos on the go, you can render elaborate 3D models and you can create and markup complex documents and presentations. Once you've completed this exercise, you will know what you are selling and you'll know what your buyers are buying. Whenever a client asks you to write copy to sell something, always take the time to discover what you are selling. Go beyond the obvious specifications and features to discover what the customer is really buying. And always discover the problem that the customer is looking to solve by buying the product or service that your copy is promoting. 10. Q 2: Where are you selling?: You can't write good copy in a vacuum. You need facts and you need insights, and you get these by asking questions. And one of the first questions you should ask is, where are we selling? Sometimes the answer to this question is obvious. Your client approaches you and says, I need a direct mail sales letter. I'm going to mail it to lawyers. Where are you selling your selling offline business, the business through the mail. Or your client says, Alan, I need you to write a lending page for me for my new line of pet shampoo. That straightforward. You're selling direct-to-consumer online with one page on a website? This question is important because it tells you the scope of your project. For example, if your client wants you to write a billboard for them and only one billboard, you know immediately that the amount of copy you're going to write is small. On the other hand, if your client wants you to write all the copy needed to launch a new product, you know that the scope of the project is likely large. You may be writing a product fact sheet, a direct mail postcard, a news release, an online landing page, a Facebook ad. You get the idea. The first thing you need to discover is the channel you are working in. And the four main channels, or offline, online, mobile, and broadcast, then you need to discover which tactic you are using. For example, if you are writing offline copy, are you writing a brochure, a whitepaper, a case study, a direct mail sales letter, a catalog or something else. If you are writing online copy or you're running a banner ad, a Google AdWords ad, an e-mail sales letter, a landing page or a Twitter ad or something else. If you're ready for mobile, are you writing a pop-up ad, a text-only add, or web copy that is optimized for mobile. If you're writing copy for broadcast, or you're running a 30-second commercial or a 60 second commercial. Is it radio? Is it TV? Is an infomercial or is it something else? Which brings me to my next point? The question you are asking here includes the mechanics of the piece. Your Creative Brief has to include the specifics of what you are being asked to deliver. If it's a sales letter, how many pages does your client want? What size is the mailing envelope are you writing the reply device? Is there a buck slip? Will the package including business reply envelope, if it's a landing page, how many words does your client want? How many images will there be? Does your client want you to caption the images? And so on. If it's a mobile ad, how many words does the client need? How many is too many? How many is too few? If it's a radio commercial, How long is it? Is the voice talent going to say a bunch of legal stuff at the end that reduces the length of your scripts. Is there a budget for sound effects? The final reason you need to ask this question before you start writing copy, as you need to know the context of where and when your copy appears. Most of the copy you write is part of a sales cycle. At the beginning of a sales cycle, you write ads and other messages that focus on raising awareness and branding. Further into the sales cycle when prospects are comparing products, you write spec sheets, sale sheets, and other collateral. And late in the sales cycle when prospects are ready to buy, you craft offers him an email announcements, online ads, and other pieces that have strong calls to action. Before you start writing, you need to know where in the sales cycle your prospect is when they see your copy. If you're writing for someone at the start of the sales cycle, your copy needs to raise awareness. But at the end of the sale cycle, your copy needs to drive sales. So you need to know that before you start writing. One simple question gets you started towards writing great copy. Ask your client, where are we selling? And you'll discover the scope of your project, the mechanics of what you're going to write, and the context of where your copy is appearing in the sales cycle. 11. Q 3: Who are you selling to?: In the world of sales and selling, they have an expression to describe a salesperson who has superior selling skills. They say that salesperson could sell ice to Eskimos. That's a funny thought. Obviously, Eskimos live above the Arctic Circle, where they are surrounded by ice and snow for ten months of the year. They don't need ice. So any salesperson who could sell ice to Eskimos must have superior selling skills. But you and I both know that any salesperson who tried to sell ice to Eskimos would be a fool. Eskimos don't need ice. They don't need an ice salesperson. And he salesperson who try selling ice to Eskimos is guilty of one of the dumbest mistakes in sales and marketing. And that is not knowing your customer. Before you can sell anything to anyone, you need to know who you are selling to. We call this group of people potential customers or prospective customers, or simply prospects. Your job before you write a single line of copy is to learn as much relevant information as you can about them so you can sell them what they want to buy. The main question you are trying to answer is this, what type of person needs and can afford what I'm selling? Start with your existing customers and build a profile of what a typical customer looks like. Look for common denominators among your customers. Start with demographics. Demographics describes what people are, things like gender, age, income level, profession, and where they live. Now move on to psychographics. Psychographics describes why people are, what they are and why they do what they do and includes beliefs, values, fears, and motivations. Finally, look at transactional metrics such as when they buy, how much they buy, where they buy, and how they pay. The best place to find answers to these questions is your front-line sales people. They know your customers better than anyone else. The best way to make sense of all of this data that you've collected is to create a persona for each type of potential buyer you're hoping to reach with your copy. The person to name, and describe them using only those details from your research that are relevant to engaging your prospect in your sales cycle. For example, let's say you are writing copy to promote the new iPad Pro. Look at the data about Apple's current customers. Talk to the salespeople in the Apple stores, then create a persona for what a typical buyer looks like. Here's an example of what I mean, meet Amanda, gender, female, age 26, profession, freelance photographer and videographer, lives in New York City. Annual income 80000 dollars. Psychographics. Amanda is a free spirit who likes being creative in visual ways. She sketches, draws, and shoots, video and photos all day long. She voted for Bernie Sanders. She donates to Planned Parenthood and she bicycles everywhere. Amanda owns an iPhone 6 and iPad and an Apple Watch. The problem that Amanda needs to solve. Amanda needs a way to store, organize, and edit her photos and videos while she's on the go. She needs a device with a large display. The images and videos that she works on are large in size. She needs a long battery life because she's away from the office for hours at a time. Weight is also important to Amanda because she's tired of lugging a heavy laptop around all day. Transactional data. Amanda buys the hardware and software she needs to shoot, edit, and produce amazing photography and videography. She upgrades to the latest version of Apple hardware within six months of release. She uses the Adobe suite of imaging products. And she prefers using industry standard tools over cheaper competitors and prefers quality overprice. Notice that everything in this profile is relevance. We've left out all sorts of things that we might know about Amanda, but that are not relevant to helping her make a buying decision. For example, Amanda was born in Albany, New York. She has three siblings. She's married, and she hates Seinfeld. None of these things are relevant. Your job as a copywriter is to craft a profile for every major type of perspective customer that you're hoping to reach with your copy. Remember, you can't sell something to someone who doesn't need it, doesn't want it, can't afford it, or doesn't want to buy it right now. So spend your time and energy and creativity only on the people who are likely to buy what you're selling. When you know who you are selling to and when you know what they are looking to buy your ready to start writing great copy. By the way, at the beginning of this lesson, I mentioned the expression selling ice to Eskimos. Just for your information. The indigenous people of Canada's North hate being called Eskimos. They called themselves into it. If you ever have to sell anything to the Inuit, you'll need to know that about your customer. 12. Q 4: Why should they buy?: Your greatest enemy and your copywriting is inertia. Inertia is the tendency of a body to resist acceleration. That's the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in motion to stay in motion in a straight line, unless acted upon by an outside force. Your prospects are likely to resist your sales pitch. If they are doing nothing, they are likely to continue doing nothing. If they are walking past your ad in a straight line, they are likely to continue walking past your ad in a straight line. That's the problem with inertia. Your copy has to overcome this inertia. And the most effective way to do so is to answer the question, why should my prospect, by what I am selling? Start with the rational reasons? Is your product the fastest to slowest, the lightest to the heaviest, the smoothest, the roughest. Is your store open longer? Is your warranty better, or your prices lower? Is your quality better? Are you the market leader? Do you sell more units than your competition? Have you one more awards? Is your product safer? You get the idea. List every reason a buyer chooses you over a competing product or service. Now turn to emotional reasons. Does your product make mothers feel safer or seniors feel younger or teams feel older or men feel more masculine. Does your service help buyers avoid pain or prevent them from losing money? List all of the emotional reasons people buy your product or service. Now rank both lists in order of importance to your customers. Put the most compelling reason that the top of each list followed by the second most compelling reason, and so on. Let me give you an example. Let's say you're writing copy for the Apple iPad Pro. So you create two lists of reasons that people buy. You do your research and you discover that people buy the iPad Pro for the following rational reasons. One, it delivers a better experience with the Apple Pencil 2. It has a larger display. Three, it has a faster processor for, it has a faster refresh rate. And five, it's more powerful than most laptops. Now you list the emotional reasons. People by the iPad Pro. One. It's the latest product from Apple. To, I did a presentation in front of a client on my cheaper tablet and it was sluggish and clunky. I was embarrassed. I don't want to feel that way. I get three. Owning an iPad Pro makes me look cool for. I'm afraid of being out and about and not having my laptop with me because it's so heavy to lug around all the time. Now you talk to the folks in marketing and Apple who know which of these reasons are most important to potential buyers. And you rank these reasons accordingly. 13. Q 5: Who is your competition?: Before you sit down and write a single line of copy, you need to discover who you are competing against. Every product and every service has competition. Your job as a copywriter is to learn as much as you can about your competition so that you can explain why your product or service is better. You face four kinds of competition. Other brands, other options, your own brands, and those who do it in house. Let's start with other brands. When I say other brands, I'm talking about the other companies who manufacture a similar product or who offer a similar service. When you hear marketers talking about competition, this is usually who they are talking about. They're talking about other brands or other companies. Your potential customers likely know who these competitors are. They see their commercials, they read their ads, they see their names turn up in search engine results. And because your potential customers know who your competitors are, you must know who they are as well. The first thing you want to know when you're writing copy for a product or service is the names of the top five competitors for what you're selling. Then you need to create a simple table that compares your product or service with what the competition offers. What you want to accomplish with this exercise is to discover where you have a competitive advantage and where your competitors have a competitive advantage. You aren't simply looking for differences. You are only looking for differences that matter to your potential buyers. Let's look at an example. Imagine for a moment that you are writing copy to sell the Apple iPad Pro. So you create a table with the iPad Pro in the first column, followed by its competitors. Down the left side, you will see a list of all the features that are most important to your potential customers. You rank them in order of importance. In this example, we're dealing with just one aspect of the Apple iPad, and that is the display. So down the left-hand side you see a list of the features of the iPad display compared with its three closest competitors. As you can see, the iPad has the largest display size in inches. It also has the finest resolution. As you go through this exercise, you will discover that there are some things that set the Apple iPad apart and there are some things that don't. Your job as a copywriter is to know the difference so that you can spend your time and energy describing the features and benefits that make the iPad Pro a better choice than its competitors. Now let's talk about another kind of competition you face. I call it other options. Sometimes you'll be asked to write copy for a product or service that can almost be replicated by something else. For example, manufacturers of small utility trailers have two types of competition. Other trailer manufacturers and pick up trucks. Now, you're thinking to yourself, a pickup truck isn't a trailer, but it does the job of a trailer. Most of the time. Someone who owns a small car and who regularly needs to buy a utility trail or rent utility trailer, might instead just sell their car and buy a pickup truck. Instead of having a car and a trailer. You need to be aware of this competition. For example, if you are selling utility trailers, you have to discover why a car and a utility trailer is better than having just a pickup truck. The third type of competition you face is your own products. In the example that we just looked at, for example, the iPad Pro, this 12.9 inch model competes against Apple's other iPads. Why should someone by the new 12 inch iPad when they could, instead, just by the smaller, cheaper iPad. You need to be aware of any other models made by the same company that you are competing against. You need to be able to persuade potential buyers Y1 model that you sell is better than another model, and ideally without hurting the sales of either model. The fourth and final type of competition you face is the do-it-yourself crowd or the, the folks who think they don't need what you are selling because they do it themselves. This type of competition is more common in services than it is in products. Not that many people build their own tablet computer, for example, that's something they have to buy. But plenty of people mow their own grass, do their own taxes, clean their own offices, and change the Royal in their cars themselves. Some businesses even write their own copy. If the product or service you are promoting is something your potential customers can do themselves or think they can do themselves than your potential customer is your competitor. And that brings me to my final point. In many cases, your potential buyer already has what you are selling. You'll be selling cars to people who already own a car. You'll be selling tablets to people who already own a tablet. So your competition isn't just other brands or similar offerings. It's the status quo. Your competition is inertia. Bear that in mind when you are getting ready to write your copy, because the copy that you write has to be better than the copy that competing copywriters write. Even copywriters have competition. 15. Q 7: What do you want your prospect to do?: The main difference between copywriting and just about every other kind of writing is that copywriting is designed to make people do something. Good. Copywriting doesn't just inform people. It motivates them to take action, such as download a white paper, call a toll-free number, visit a website, or buy a product. This means that your copy must always have a goal. Imagine that your copy is a small soccer ball and you're playing a game of competitive soccer. Do you have a goal for your copy? Yes. Your goal is to kick the ball into your opponent's net. The ball serves no purpose. If you and your team mates just kick it around the soccer pitch for 90 minutes, you have a goal. The same goes for your copy. Before you start writing, you need to discover what the goal of your copy is. The easiest way to find this out is to ask your client, after reading the copy, what specific, measurable action do we want the reader to take? The goal of your copy must be specific as opposed to vague. An example of a vague goal is, after reading our copy, we want the prospect to become a new car buyer. A vague goal because no one including your clients and including you is sure about just how that is going to happen. If you make this example specific, it sounds like this. After reading our copy, we want the prospect to visit our dealership this week and buy a new car. That goal is specific and it's also measurable. The car dealer can measure how many cars are sold in the week after the copy appears. And they can know for certain if the copy generated any sales. You need two things. When you set a goal for your copy, you need a call to action, and you need a method for responding. The call to action tells your prospect what to do and the method tells your prospect how to do it. Common calls to action include by now, order now order your free sample. Now subscribe to our newsletter. Join our frequent flyer program. These calls to action tell you what to do, but they don't tell you how to do it. You need to add a method. Here's an example. Call 1800, 56, 57, 85 for and by now, or do your free sample now by completing this form and returning to us in the postage paid on envelope, subscribe to our newsletter. Just enter your email address and click subscribe. Join our frequent flyer program visits, frequent flyers.com today. If you want your copy to be successful, don't write to inform, don't write to entertain, don't write to lecture, right? To inspire action. Inspire action by giving your copy a goal, make that goal specific, make it measurable. And then tell your perspective customer what to do and how to do it. Hey, I just finished this lesson with a call to action. 16. How to research a product or service so that you write great copy: Should you spend three weeks writing a headline? Probably. When David Ogilvy landed the Rolls-Royce account. He spent three weeks learning about the car. In his reading and his research, Ogilvy came across this statement written by an engineer at 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise comes from the electric clock. Ogilvy made that elusive fact the headline for what became one of the most famous car advertisements of all time. All great ads contained a big idea, well executed. So how can you find that elusive big idea or that product or service you are promoting through exhaustive research. First of all, learn firsthand if it's a cruise, take it, if it's a car, drive it. If it's a drink, drink it. If the shoe fits where it. Visit the manufacturing plant, work in the store. Read the label. What exactly is antibacterial fluoride anyway? And why she's your perspective, customers care. Ask questions. Talk to customers. Why did they buy the product? Service? Schmooze with dealers and distributors. Ask them, how does your product compared with competing products? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? What's single benefit motivates customers to gladly handover their cash. Sit behind the one-way mirror. During focus groups, participants often say things that you can take word for word and turn into winning headlines. And subheads. Talk to sales people who sell the product for a living. They usually have the best grasp on what differentiates the product in their marketplace. That's what Ross or Reeves did when he worked at TED Bates and company. And he worked on the M&M candies account. He interviewed the President John McNamara. And only after careful questioning to grieve discovered that the creative idea for M and M's advertising was inherent in the product. M and M's were the only candy in America that had chocolate surrounded by a sugar shell. Thus was born the memorable and profitable positioning line. M&m candies melt in your mouth, not in your hand. You can also study the literature. Read the marketing plan. How does your product or service standout from competing offerings? Read the company annual report, look for piffy, testimonials from satisfied customers. Read articles about the company. What does the trade press say about your features and your benefits? What do they say about customer service, reliability, warranty, or reputation? Read questionnaires and surveys conducted with customers and partners. What are people satisfied with? What are people upset about? What can your advertising do or your marketing messages do your copy do to change that? Read the ads, the brochures, the sales letters produced by your competitors. How do they position themselves against what you're offering? What can you do in response. But Robins had well-known competitors. He worked for an ad agency on the eolian piano company account. The National Sales Manager for the Piano Company explained to Robin's that the only real difference between an eolian grand piano and a comparably priced Steinway or Baldwin was the shipping weight. The eolian was heavier. Bob asked, why why is it heavier? The kapo Astro bar replied. The sales manager, he then crawled under the piano and he pointed up to a metallic bar that was fixed across the harp and bearing down on the highest octave. And he said, it takes 50 years before the harp and the piano warps. That's when the kapo Destiel bar goes to work. It prevents that warping and made a superior products. So Robins took that product feature and he made it a differentiator in his first ad. And that ad was so successful that it created a six-year weight from order to delivery. You should also study the category that you're selling in. So visit libraries, bookstores, go online, reviewed books that describe the category that your product or service occupies, discover what consumers are doing, what they are buying, and what appeals to them. Read the consumer and trade publications that your target audience reads, discovered the issues that affect their lives. And think of ways that you can position your product or service to meet those needs. Visit industry websites looking for changes in consumption and purchasing behavior. You can capitalize on. Read white papers looking for technology trends in your industry. The wireless revolution, for example, the mobile revolution or the imminent disappearance of 35-millimeter film in favor of digital photography that took place a while ago. You can't jump from nothing to a great idea. You need a springboard. And the best springboard around is information that you gather through exhaustive research. 17. Study your prospect more than your product: The sweetest sound in any language is the sound of your name. That's why the most important word in copywriting is you. Since your prospective customers care about themselves more than they care about what you are selling or your company. Your copy should make your prospects, the hero of every ad and have every marketing piece that you're right. Which means that your prospect is more important than what you are selling. You can commit to memory every feature of your product. But if you fail to discover who your prospect is and what she wants to buy and why she buys it, you will likely walk home without a sale. So study your prospect more than your product. What problems does your prospect face that you can solve with what you are offering? What keeps her awake at night, that you can solve with what you are offering? What is he afraid of? That you can solve with what you are offering? What is she angry about? Who was she angry at? What are their top three daily frustrations that your prospect faces, that you can solve with what you are offering. What trends is your prospect facing and her business life or personal life can solve with what you are selling. What does she secretly desire most that you can give her with what you are offering. You see where I'm headed. Your job as a copywriter, as someone who sells on paper and in pixels, is to understand your buyers and what makes them buy and what makes them not by. As you know, the single most important factor in your success is your target audience. Who you pitch to is more important than what you pitch.