The real value of good copywriting

I usually get one of two reactions when I tell people what I do. The first is a blank look then 'oh like the product laws and stuff, I didn't know you were a lawyer', no that would be copyrighting my friend. The second is 'oh like in Mad Men', closer but not exactly the reality, even if I do quite like the idea of drinking a martini, cigarette dangling from my lips as I carve out a winning creative pitch on a napkin in a dimly lit bar! For the general public, these reactions are a good thing, it means us copywriters are doing something right. No company wants their marketing literature and promotions to look fabricated and forced. The goal of a marketing message is to resonate, inspire, attract and compel the right audience in the most natural way possible. But what always surprises me is how even those who manage a business or even work in marketing are either unfamiliar with copywriting or don't understand how fundamental good copywriting can be the ticket to success for all businesses.

Good copywriting is about so much more that filling in the gaps in your marketing literature. And a good copywriter can also do so much more than coming up with that great ad copy line. Savvy business people know that good writing is the key to meeting their overall marketing, and even business objectives. It's about having a consistent brand message that permeates their organization, inside and out. It's about communicating that brand message and selling that product or service in a way that sticks with the audience and reels them in to make the sale. Every company has a story to tell to entice their customers. Copywriters tell that story and adapt and amplify it so that it works across every piece of marketing literature, from an internal sales kit to an email promotion through to a full blown integrated marketing campaign. Because at the end of the day once you've hooked that customer, the rest is history. 

To illustrate how important copywriting is to every business, let's take it back a notch. The 4 P's of Product, Price, Place and Promotion are traditionally used to build the marketing plan for every company. Any marketer who is worth their salt will have cut their teeth on this stuff. Many believe that copywriting would just fall under the promotions category. Of course it is super important to effectively communicate the brand and product message in all promotional collateral, but good writing in fact plays a part in everything a business communicates, both internally and externally. Let me show you how: 

Product

So you've come up with a great idea for a product or service and found a target market. Now, how are you going to tell the story of your product? How are you going to translate all those features into a unique value proposition for your customers. This could be right at the start of the food chain. Do you know how to establish and communicate the value proposition of your product in your business plan, in your presentations to potential investors and internal staff and, finally, to your end customer? A freelance copywriter can work closely with you to help with the correct positioning and messaging of your product from conception through to sale. All too often companies rely on the marketing or product teams to generate all of the written collateral for a product, but this may not be their forte. Hiring a copywriter will free up your staff to concentrate on what they've been hired to do - develop and market your product/service. By filling this gap you become more efficient and effective, putting you in the right direction towards achieving your business, not just your marketing, goals. Now I can't pull out confidential company documents, but I bet the messaging documents for these two otherwise standard products helped bring the marketing copy to life in these examples:

One simple grey coat from the J Peterman company. One web page that tell's this simple grey coat's story so well that I want to hear more!


Often companies struggle to communicate the technical benefits of their product in a way that actually interests their non-technical audience. Take a look at how the Magic Wand TV remote tackled it with some great, engaging web copy:

Price

Ok a copywriter isn't going to help you come up with the right price for a product, they'd be in the wrong career if they were experts at crunching numbers not words. But what about once you've established the right price for your product, how do you communicate the value of that price to your audience? If you've decided to set your price high, how are you going to convince your audience that it's worth the investment? What about if you've set your price fairly low, how are you going to convince your customers that it is still an effective or decent quality product or service? You will need to take a look at the tone of voice for your brand first and develop or adjust it to one that not only appeals to the market you are trying to attract, but also suits the price bracket of your product. A copywriter can help establish or adapt your tone of voice with the price of your product in mind. Of course Brand Tone of Voice is about more than the price and a whole new post can be written about that, but the price of your product or service is certainly a factor. 

If your product is priced on the high end of it's segment, an effective tone of voice will communicate the brand in such a way that the customer is so convinced by the quality of the product that they'll pay a premium price for it. Take this example from Innocent smoothies in the UK. I've always loved their tone of voice and they continue to stay top of their game and fight off the competition with their friendly, simple and conversational tone of voice that is consistent in all of their marketing communications:

On the other hand when companies want to highlight their low cost value proposition, their brand tone of voice often veers towards a more direct and brash tone. Price is usually the focus of their message. Take a look at the large swathe of mattress companies that bombard us daily with their offers. They use price and special offers to stay ahead and hook that ever valuable customer. Take a visit to any of their web pages and you'll read their prices or discounts before anything else:

Place

Whether your product or service is sold online or in a traditional brick and mortar, or both, a copywriter can help write for your chosen method of distribution. Writing printed collateral and writing online is very different, timing being the key ingredient. There's a reason the worldwide web earned it's name. Your audience literally has the world at it's finger tips. The time they have to read your message and for that message to stick and encourage them to take action is fleeting. Print communication is, of course, not without it's challenges, but both are very different beasts and need to be treated as such.  

Maybe you're looking to shift from brick and mortar to online. A copywriter can adapt your traditional literature to appeal to the digital marketplace. A solid copywriter with a marketing background can even work with you on an online content strategy across all digital communications, including social media, that will shape your online business for you and double the odds of making that sale.

Some companies do a great job of communicating their message both on and offline, engaging and creating a loyal customer base. Dollar Shave Club and Poo Pourri are some of my personal favorites. Take Dollar Shave Club. The Razor, an every day commodity for most men, but for some reason decent quality blades are bloody expensive! Well enter Dollar Shave Club, an online mail order for razor blades affordable, real, with monthly delivery to your door..as they say themselves - no BS. Bye, bye the shiny, unrealistic Gillette man! Look how well simple and to the point their message is:

And look at how quirky and engaging their delivery boxes are...talk about a great customer experience:

 

Promotions

Lastly, the no brainer. Promotions is clearly where copywriting stands out as the most important component of your marketing strategy. But it's still surprising how many companies forego copywriters and land this crucial role in the laps of their marketing team. You may have the best marketing people in the business and a strategy that is spot on, but how do you bring that to life and translate it into a message that entices the customer and compels them into action? Without good copywriting, it doesn't matter how great your strategy, product or idea is, chances are you'll stumble and waste valuable manpower and funds trying to make that sale.

Under Armour are currently doing a great job with their latest campaign 'Rule Yourself. I Will'. The campaign is emotional and kicks us into action with direct, kick ass copy, after all getting active is all about motivation:

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If you don't already work with a copywriter, hiring one may be the missing ingredient in that recipe for success that you've been waiting to cook. Go one step further and hire a copywriter with marketing management expertise and you'll be elevating that recipe to Iron Chef standards!

I'm Siobhán Corley-Richards, freelance copywriter and marketer with over 13 years experience in global branding agencies and marketing teams. I hope you've found my words useful! For copywriting or marketing help drop me a line here or find out more about me and take a look at my portfolio at www.stickyglu.com.