An typewriter writing out copywriting – an imperative feature of email marketing campaigns.

Would you rather have an plain-looking website with great copy or a beautiful website with lousy copy?

I’ll take the plain website every time. Why? Because I know of countless plain websites that drive action and convert sales at spectacular rates. But if the copy is weak, your website and other marketing content will fail — no matter how pretty it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my website, emails and other marketing content to be professional looking and attractive. But I will always focus on the copy first.

Too many businesses take the opposite approach. They focus on good looks while investing little or no effort on substance — headlines, sub-heads, bullet-points and other copy.

Why? Because business people take writing for granted. We all learn to write. And even though writing comes easier to some than others, most of us assume we’re competent enough.

If you ask a business person to write the copy for the “About Us” page or for next month’s email, most say they can handle the job or can pass it to someone else in the organization.

Ask those same people to design the “About Us” page or that email, and most will say, “I can’t do that.” So they’ll invest in someone with web design and graphic art skills to fill that void. That means hiring someone with those skills to join your staff or outsourcing the work.

I met recently with a small business owner who was struggling with his email marketing. He recently hired a talented web designer to “make the emails look better,” but he had not invested a minute or a dime in making his copy better. Does this sound familiar?

My challenge to you: Invest a few minutes (or hours) to assess the copy in all of your marketing assets — your website, emails, print materials and so forth. If you want to do this in-house, educate your team and yourself to understand how to write good copy. Hire someone to help, if necessary.

To help you get started, here are a few quick copy tips:

  • Focus on the “why,” not the “what” and the “how.” Why does your business exist? Why should someone buy your products and services? The answers should focus on outcomes and benefits for the buyer. Your sales copy should lead with this. Too many businesses lead with a description of their products and services — what they sell and how it works. No one cares about what and how unless they already have bought into why.
  • Learn about emotional triggers and persuasion techniques and incorporate them into your copy. Concepts like reciprocity, social proof and scarcity trigger responses and should be part of your marketing copy.
  • Minimize the lingo. This ties closely to the first tip. When you write about what you do and how you do it, avoid industry-specific terms and acronyms that might be lost on the reader. Too much of that junk will quickly turn prospects cold. I recently received a marketing email with the following sentence.

Here’s an example of marketing copy that violates tips 1 and 3: “High quality data is the backbone to having the most effective ABM strategy. Our proprietary TWIN Caching technology provides the most accurate IP address intelligence and B2B firmographic data in the industry.”

“ABM” stands for account-based marketing. Why should I care? No mention of that in the email. And after wading through all the lingo about caching technology and firmographic data, I don’t want to learn more.

The email with that copy looked great, by the way. Very professionally designed. But with that copy, I’m not buying.

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