Have you ever read sales page, an email from a company, a product description on Amazon or seen clicked on a Facebook ad whilst browsing through your Facebook newsfeed?
They are fall under one umbrella: copywriting.
It took me YEARS to realize this: the best copy is written focusing on customer… and customer research!
Great Copywriting Comes from Customer Research
It’s not uncommon for marketers and copywriters to want the fast tactics: let’s run Facebook Ads! Entirely without considering WHY people purchase and click on ads in the first place.
This is why customer research is of utmost importance:
- Who is your ideal client?
- What do they look like?
- Their age range?
- Job status?
- Job titles?
- Spending ability?
- Their ability and willingness to pay?
- What are their hopes, fears and dreams?
- The exact language they use when describing their problems in your market?
When I started my first business, I used SEO and outranked all my competitors within six months on search engine optimization… and yet… ZERO sales.
I had one of the biggest business lessons then: you got to meet your market where they are at, and NOT where you’re at.
You see, what I didn’t understand:
- No one wakes up and say: ‘I want to be a better person’. Everybody wakes up and say: ‘I want to get more girls’.
- No one wakes up and say: ‘I want to be financially literate’. Everybody says: ‘I want to be a millionaire’.
Understand the language of your audience and then putting that down into copy is going to make the difference between mediocre and great copy.
How to Write Great Copy: The Language of Your Audience
So how can you figure out the language of your audience?
- Real life conversations
This is simple, simply pay attention to what your customers are using. What are their fears when it comes to your service or product? One of my ex-clients blurted out: am I too old to learn SEO? Is it too technical?
That’s extremely important data. Some of these business owners are worried that SEO is too technical, and someone their age isn’t able to learn it. That’s one of my target market’s fear.
- Forums and Reddit Conversations
You can Google ‘X keyword + Forum’ and look at the threads on a forum. You can pay attention to the actual phrases and terms people use. Their hopes, dreams and fears.
You can do your research on:
- Amazon Reviews of Similar Products
- Reddit or other online posting sites
- Facebook groups
I literally wrote my sales copy for an investment company by studying a sub reddit on investments in Singapore.
Thank you Reddit!
Note: it’s helpful to record these data points on a Google docs document and collate them through your research process.
You can learn about your customers by surveying them.
You can blast out an email to your current subscribers by asking them what they want to hear from you.
I get on calls with clients 1:1 and I pay attention to what they say to me and the exact language they use. This can also help with your company’s market positioning.
You’ll want their words, not your interpretation of them. The key here is to interact and start conversations with your target audience.
You should want to always be listening to customers responses!
Stop thinking ‘internet marketing’ and start thinking: your customers and audience.
Yes, behind all the analytics, there are real human readers. Stop thinking ‘email marketing’ and start thinking of building a real relationship with your readers.
Copywriting – The Basics
When I was an SEO consultant, I used to go around mouthing off technical SEO terms to business owners.
I also read nerdy SEO blogs filled with SEO jargon. I soon figured that if I wrote and spoke like an SEO technician:
“Citation sources, conversion rates optimization, backlinks acquisition, HTML coding, bounce rate, time on page and etc.”
These business owners look at me and got no I am talking about.
- Business owners know nothing technical SEO
- They aren’t saying to themselves: ‘how to identify low-effort/high yield pages for quick SEO fixes’
- They are saying: ‘I want to rank high on Google’
Yes, I can write long nerdy technical guides.
However, am I selling to SEO nerds, or am I selling to small business owners? It’s the latter.
If I wrote and spoke in manner that’s understandable by my target audience, then I’ll have a higher chance of closing the sale.
The Frameworks of Successful Copy
The majority of copywriting advice sucks. They focus on blinking spam-my button, flashing lights, false scarcity plays and all of that. The worst of all, they promise you the moon, the earth and seven virgins.
Totally persuasive… NOT
Well, you bet you’re going to asking for your money back with those kinds of promises.
You don’t have to be scammy or flashy to write great copy. Here are some frameworks I keep in mind when writing just about anything from a sales page or a blog post.
- Focus on the reader
I used to only write my opinion on my projects. It’s called the I, I, I syndrome. Here’s the truth: no one cares about your opinion. People that click on your site want a problem to be solved. Unless you’re a hot girl, you can’t constantly be writing about yourself. Poor writers only care about themselves. Good writers write about what they’re readers care about.
Remember: good writers focus on their audience, and not on themselves.
- Bar Stool Test
One of the elements of a successful copy passing the bar stool test.
This means: not writing in corporate jargon. Nothing is more boring and dry than corporate speak.
How many SEO or digital marketing blogs out there are dry and boring? Yes, 98% of them. If you flip through the usual SEO marketing blog, usually what do you get? You get technical terms like Google panda, penguins, canonical tags and analytics, blah blah blah.
There’s so many technical guides out there already.
How can you make technical details relatable?
When I launched a dating advice for men years ago, I used big philosophical terms hoping that my readers will find me articulate, intellectual and knowledgeable. However, it backfired.
Instead, I got feedback from one of the site owners I reached out to say that he felt like he was reading a college thesis.
I took a step back, studied some copywriting advice and came across the barstool test.
Imagine if you were sitting in a bar and chatting with a friend. He asks you: What business are doing?
If you said: I help small medium enterprises in Singapore optimize their H1 title tag on their content management platform so they’ll be able to attain higher visibility on search engines.
He’ll look at you crazy.
However, if you said: I help small medium sized companies in Singapore generate leads on Google.
That’s it. Plain simply English. Understandable within a sentence.
Good copy works the same way. It’s not about writing super dense material. Good copy is actually similar to how day to day people talk. One other trick you can use is to read everything out loud. If it’s something you wouldn’t say, then it’s probably not good copy.
When I consulted in search engine optimization, I had the tendency to use technical jargon and complicated terms. I thought that’ll make me sound smart and sophisticated. However, I quickly realized that the average SME owner in Singapore (my target audience) isn’t going to understand what the hell I was saying.
Ask yourself, who are you writing for?
You should be writing for your clients, hence you should write content to fit your audience needs.
- Understand Benefits Versus Features
When someone purchases a Mercedes Benz, do you really think they are buying the features of the car such as horsepower?
Or are they buying the benefits of owning a luxurious car: status and class?
Features: Advanced dating modules in our dating course
Benefits: Advanced dating modules to help you approach, meet and date beautiful women without the fear of being rejected
No one cares if you have 9 advanced dating modules in your dating courses…. at the end of the day, what’s in it for them?
Features: Financial literacy class to educate you on the 4 factor models in investing
Benefits: How to build a portfolio of steady income returns without any prior knowledge to investing
Nobody gives a crap if you got a hundred factors in investing, but every cares about building a steady cashflow from the markets.
- Be Specific
Boring: I can help you rank your website on Google
Specific: Imagine the day you wake up and you see leads automatically in your inbox. You no longer have to worry about pushing flyers out or hoping a relative or a friend of yours ‘support’ your business by purchasing your product half-heartedly.
Boring: Having a website isn’t enough
Specific: Okay, let’s say you have a website, or a business card even. However, what are these things doing for you? Is anyone viewing your website? Is anyone contact you about your services through your website? What about those fancy business cards? How many of them have you given away without hearing back from the people you gave them away too?
These simple tweaks will make all your writing much more persuasive.
- Use Case Studies
If you’ve gotten results for your clients, you can showcase case studies on your site. You can write about the process of how you got them results, the obstacles you guys face and how you overcome them.
- Use Your Own Voice
The majority of writers on the internet are not writers, they are marketers. They aren’t writing with a unique voice.
If you aren’t going to write with a voice behind it, then what makes you different from every other writer that is taking content, rehashing it and paraphrasing it?
- Personal Stories
From time to time, I make fun of bad advice and overweight internet marketing gurus. I’m also quite sarcastic. These are my personal ticks and I enjoy it to an extent.
However these stories make my content unique and stand out.
- Tutorials and Helpful Content
Tutorials can range from how to get backlinks to how to write copy to branded techniques and solutions that solves a common pain point.
You can include in your copy real life case studies, line by line scripts and/ or techniques that you use in your own niche or industry.
Note: I don’t think every post has to be a 5000 worded essay filled with practicality, it’s hard to read. There are various ways to do it ranging from the methodical to the inspirational. The serious to the light hearted. The logical to the emotional.
Positioning is determined by 1) how your company is different/ better/ unique as compared to your competitors. and 2) what the market thinks of you.
I used to go around screaming and ranting about how important SEO to business owners without understanding that SEO is just one part of the huge puzzle of marketing.
I attended SEO courses, paid multiple thousands and thought that business owners would trust me if I was SEO certified.
However, apparently not, nobody gave a crap.
I didn’t understand the concept of positioning.
I was going up against hundreds of others of “SEO experts’ pitching $500 a month SEO deals, guarantee-ing Google page one rankings within weeks or days.
I was also getting constant objections: someone else was willing to do it cheaper.
That was when I realised that I had to market myself and position myself differently from all competition that I face.
However, I intuitively knew that it isn’t going to be enough. I had to build my own brand, my own case studies and get my results using my own SEO strategies.
You should always be asking yourself: how are you going to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition?
Then, are you able to elaborate your position in the market on copy?
Lee Luan Yew as a Master Copywriter
You can study great copy by studying great persuaders, politicians and business leaders of your time.
Since I am Singaporean. There’s no need to look further than Singapore’s first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Like him or hate him, he’s a MASTER of persuasion:
Let’s breakdown a simply speech by Lee Kuan Yew: Youths Don’t Know What it’s Like to be Poor
Copywriting Skillset 1: Specific and Vivid Descriptions
Great copy relies on specific and vivid descriptions. If you noticed, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is always using specific, real life and vivid descriptions to get his message across. Instead of relying on some esoteric statistical data, he uses real life, day to day examples.
Some of his quotes from this speech:
‘Your grandfather probably worked harder than your father.’
‘Had we not had people with that ruggedness, that robust attitude, we’ll make it, do or die, we won’t have today’s Singapore.’
‘I’m not sure if I went back with 1959, and started with today’s generation, bred and brought up in comfort where there’s no discomfort with a HDB flat with an air conditioner, and there’s a covered walkway.’
Copywriting Skillset 2: Passing the Bar Stool Test
Secondly, your copy has to pass the bar stool test. It has to be as simple as talking to a friend over a beer at a bar. Forget about writing like a professor. Write like a layman. That’s great copy.
Here are some quotes from his speech:
‘Very few people had homes of their own. In Chinatown, you have cubicles 8 or 10 people in the room sharing 4 bunks. Because they do shift work. Save money.’
‘So Lim Kim Shang, once went to a HDB cubicle and asked a man who was covering himself with a blanket. So he asked him why? He said because his friend was using his trousers.’
‘If you lived in those conditions and you get a flat with one room, communal bath room and communal kitchen, running hot and cold water. From that you go to a three and fourth room flats to executive condominiums, just like how you go from a bottom of the ship to the deck of a ship.’
‘As I flew over to New Zealand, I watched the green fields, the sheep, and the cows, and the small little houses dotted around. 3 million people there. I thought to myself, if come back in a hundred years, I’ll see the same scene.’
You can see that Mr Lee Kuan Yew uses a combination of simple and ‘big words’, with numbers, to get his message across.
Copy Skillset 3: Write to Your Reader
Secondly, some sites tend to get too technical, and they make their content seem like a University lecture
Lastly, you’ll need to write to your reader. Great copy uses the ‘you’, a lot more than the word ‘I’. You’ll see that in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s speech, he uses ‘you’ and ‘we’ a lot more than ‘I’.
‘Many of the parents who are living in the HDB flats. They understood like the people in Chinatown. They understood what it’s like to be poor. Today’s children do not understand what it’s like the be poor.’
‘And no other country does that. But we have ministers out of 3 million people who can talk to Chinese ministers, American secretary of state, secretary of treasury or any European nation at the same level intellectually, and we’re not inferior to them.’
‘Now we need these 2 things, then you got today’s Singapore. Then we got this cultural hall. Then you can sit down and talk about what will happen in 50 years. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching a living. So please don’t forget that’.
The Hemingway Method
Your copy is going to determine the quality of clients you’re going to get into your business.
Unknown to many, the hardest and most valuable parts about copywriting are keeping it simple.
Taking statistics, research and plonking it onto a blog post is easy. Other than a broken recorder machine, you’re going to sound like a history textbook.
However, refining the ideas into simple words that are able to persuade and move others. That’s difficult. This is why simple copy is MUCH HARDER to write than complicated copy.
This form of copywriting is also known as the Hemingway method.
Let’s take a look at this two examples:
Copy 1: ‘Get Rich in Singapore with 3 Never Seen Before Secrets in 3 Days’
Copy 2: ‘Get Rich in Singapore with this 3 CEO Level Strategies’
One of the big ideas I got from a book about luxury marketing is the language use when it comes to copywriting:
On luxury brands, you’ll never get copy such as:
’30 Hacks in X Dates/ Numbers of Secret/Hack/Formula’
However, for some reason, these sort of copy is celebrated across internet marketing blogs. Why is that so?
The first copy may ‘convert’ better on the front end: your email list/ squeeze page blah blah.
The second copy will be why people will transact with you: trust and brand.
The copy you use is going to determine the kind of clients you’ll attract, the price point you command and the type of brand you want to build.
You want high quality, qualified clients.
Start writing. Stop marketing.
Outsourcing Copywriting and Hiring Writers
In my experience, SEO agencies, consultants and business owners alike detest writing and much prefer to outsource it.
I once outsourced my SEO content and hired someone cheap to write.
The quality turned out to be piss poor and I hated it.
I then decided to write everything on this blog from scratch.
If you are outsourcing your copy to writers that are willing to do it for as low as four dollars per X number of words, you’re going to get low quality copy.
If you don’t stand out in your copy and bore your market. You get no attention, and no one purchases from you.
Great copy is worth it, pay up for it.
Fun fact: every single paid customer I interviewed in my life told me that they liked something controversial about my articles or the way I wrote.