What’s the Difference Between Copy and Content?

Remember back to the last time you bought a car.

The salesperson met you in the parking lot.

He asked you about what kind of car you were looking for.

If you didn’t know the answer to that, he prompted you with questions about yourself — your family, how much commuting you do, your personal style, your likes and dislikes. His questions helped you zero in on the right kind of car for your lifestyle.

You picked a handful of cars to test-drive.

You liked one enough to start asking more questions about it. The salesperson was happy to answer every question. He also told you about the features you might enjoy, given what he knew about you.

After spending this time with the salesperson and falling in love with one particular vehicle, you asked about the price.

The conversation shifted.

Now the salesperson told you about the sticker price, the sale the dealership had going on, and the discount he could get you if you signed today.

The first part of the process built the relationship between you and the salesperson. It took some time, but it was an absolutely critical phase in the sales process that built trust, grew your understanding of what the dealership sold and the benefits/drawbacks of each model, and helped move you toward making a purchase that was right for you.

The second part of the process was probably lightning-fast (up until it came time to deal with the financing, at least). You asked about the price, and you had all the answers you needed within minutes. You then made your decision.

Content and copy work much in the same way.

Content grows the relationship between the buyer and the business.

It warms the buyer up. Builds trust. Grows the buyer’s interest in hearing about “the deal.”

Content comes in many formats, including:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Social media
  • E-books
  • Guides
  • Articles
  • Some email marketing and newsletters

Copy provides the information the buyer needs in order to make the decision to purchase.

It’s directly related to the sale. It provides the benefits and features. It details the deal.

Copy is found in many places, including:

  • Sales pages
  • Website copy
  • Ads
  • Brochures
  • Some email marketing

Where the Line Gets Blurry

The line between copy and content is sometimes a blurry one.

Direct response sales pieces are a great example of this.

Those immortal ads from the likes of David Ogilvy, Victor Schwab, Eugene Schwartz, Martin Conroy and Gary Halbert often begin as content and wrap up as copy.

This classic piece from David Ogilvy is a great example of something that starts out as content and wraps up in (rather subtle for the time period) call-to-action copy.

The world-famous “billion dollar sales letter” written by Martin Conroy is another great example, and it’s much heavier-handed on the sales copy side.

(Read the rest of the letter here. The original source for this PDF is Ryan McGrath’s post here.)

Like I said — the line can get blurry.

But still, copy and content really function to do two different things.

Content builds the relationship between the buyer and the business.

Copy provides the information the buyer needs to make the decision to purchase.

Where Copywriters Fit In

Copywriters write content and copy.

I have actually played around with this language a bit over the years, just out of curiosity to see how people respond to different phrasings. I’ve tried …

  • Content writer
  • Content marketing expert
  • Content copywriter
  • Copy and content writer

It all came back to “copywriter” in the end.

Why is that?

I believe it is because “copywriter” is a familiar term for writers who write for businesses. Whether that’s marketing assets, sales materials or user guides — most people who hire writers for their business know they’re looking for a copywriter.

That’s actually a good thing.

You see, the skills you need to write effective copy are the same skills you need to write engaging content.

So many copywriters don’t realize this. They’ve written website copy or sales pages for years, thinking content writing is somehow different.

Sure, that content serves a different function.

But the skills required to write it are still the same.

You still need to be a good writer and have a mastery of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

You still need to have an understanding of human psychology.

You still need to be aware of the typical sales cycle.

You still need to know who you’re writing for and why so you can give them the right information at the right time, in the right format.

If you can write copy, you can write content. It’s a matter of shifting your focus from making the sale to building the relationship.

If you’re already a copywriter, you are in the unique position to master content writing.

In my next post, you’ll learn the secret many people don’t realize about the content technology companies are creating.

Read that over at The Content Lab.

This post was originally published at The Content Lab: http://thecontentlab.co/whats-difference-copy-content/

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