How To Elevate Your Copywriting From Good To Great

A money-making tip for noobs and reminder for pros.

Luke Trayser
Jan 2, 2018 · 4 min read
Photo by Braden Barwich on Unsplash

I’ve got a game for you. Find a professional copywriter and ask what it takes to be good at it. Now see how long it takes before they scream “DO YOUR RESEARCH” at you. I’m betting it’ll be one of the first things out of their mouth.

Funny thing is, those same copywriters who preach the value of research often don’t bother with it. Sometimes they’re too busy and need to get work off their plates. Sometimes they’re too lazy and don’t want to bother with it. And sometimes they’re too proud and think they have it all figured out.

Bad move.

Okay. Do your research. But what does that actually mean?

From now on, whenever you hear “do your research,” assume it to mean “care about and get to know your audience.”

Research accomplishes something vital: It lets you talk to people in a way that’s authentic and 100% free of cheese.

Cheesy copy is all around us, and it’s guaranteed conversion death. Your audience can spot it from a mile away. It was written by a pretender, someone who doesn’t actually know them. Immediate and irreparable turnoff.

Every audience talks and acts a specific way and cares deeply about certain things. It’s your job to uncover that dialogue, behavior, and desire before you write a single line of copy.

And to do that, you’d better get comfortable with something that sucks:

Copywriting requires you to become an expert in subjects you don’t care about. Like, at all.

Writing for the machine tool industry? Get ready to learn all about spindles, coolant, and five-axis machining. And the fact that rigidity, while a bad trait in humans, is an excellent trait in machine tools.

Writing for a line of hair straighteners? You’d best learn all the pain points, including the time it takes, getting burned by a shoddy product, and literally getting burned by skin-torching metal.

Be a professional. Make yourself care. These are actual humans you’re talking to, so feel free to remember that their success and happiness will be impacted by the words you put in front of them.

A practical example: the end result of good research.

Let’s say you’re tasked with writing copy for a social media app and the ads will be targeted to Maple Leafs fans in the Toronto area. The client is running a cash giveaway to encourage app downloads and active users. Your job is to write ad copy that gets noticed and clicked.

Option 1: Lack of Research

Fandom challenge! Download this app and post a pic of yourself in your Leafs jersey to be automatically entered into a $100 cash drawing.

Analysis: This isn’t totally embarrassing. It’s fine. There are no typos, you correctly spelled “Leafs” without an apostrophe, and the cash is enticing. Someone might even click on it. That said, it took you minutes to write and there isn’t any evidence that you truly know your audience.

Option 2: The Power of Research

Fandom challenge! Download this app and post a pic of yourself in your Leafs jersey to be automatically entered into a $100 cash drawing. Bonus points if it’s a Wendel Clark sweater.

Analysis: Now we’re talking. See that one extra detail at the end? It means everything to a die-hard Maple Leafs fan. Wendel Clark matters to Toronto hockey. If you need proof, here are the first four results when you YouTube his name.

It wasn’t hard to get here. All we did was google “best Toronto Maples Leafs players of all time” and look up a handful of them on YouTube.

Research made this possible. We spent a few extra minutes getting to know our audience, and we came away with a name and a face that will punch them right in their nostalgia centers.

They will see Option 2 and immediately feel known. That’s great copywriting, and it’s what gets results. Even if they never click on the ad, we made their opinion of our client better today. Big win.

Recap: Take extra time. It’s worth it.

The lack of research makes you look cheesy and lazy. Your words will immediately be forgotten. Proper research makes you believable and savvy. Your words will ultimately be remembered.

Choose research.

Words for Life

20% inspirational, 80% not.

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