Copywriting as Strategy
In this article, we explore copywriting in support of business goals and company branding strategies. Brand tells the story of how you came to be. It shows why you exist and what you do. Your corporate brand incorporates a name, logo or trademark, signage, graphics, video, and words designed to increase sales.
There are five stages in every sales cycle, whether one-on-one or attempting to move whole populations. Here are the five stages: Awareness, Knowledge, Credibility, Trial, and Advocacy. Let’s call these the five stages of influence. It’s no secret that copywriters attempt to influence the reader’s attitude and behavior in favor of a particular brand or point of view. Below I explore each stage in the sales cycle with an eye on copywriting.
Awareness. No one will buy your products or services if they haven’t first heard of you and know where to find your offerings. There are dozens of strategies available to increase brand awareness, but one of the most common today is content marketing. Copywriters engaged in this approach hammer out keyword-rich articles and posts designed to influence search engine results and guide customers to a call to action. Another strategy is stimulating referral paths through social media. Before the Internet, marketing relied on advertising and word of mouth to attract customers. Today that is best accomplished through social media engagement. Copywriters know that concise, witty, and often entertaining content is more likely to receive a like or retweet.
The Brothers Grimm had no idea in 1812 that their tale of Hänsel und Gretel could one day inform content marketing strategy, but consider this. A clever tweet can include a link to a Facebook article, including a second link to a page on your website. Social media is like scattering breadcrumbs into the Internet. Each crumb of information can lead potential customers away from whatever they are doing at the moment toward your web pages and deeper information.
Knowledge. However one becomes aware of a company, concept, or product, the very next stage is acquiring necessary information. What are the facts? The definitive answer includes who, what, when, where, and why. It’s challenging to draft all that into a tweet, thus the breadcrumbs. Copywriters prioritize which facts are most influential. If the product or service exists in a unique market space, what is most important? If trying to sell into a crowded and competitive market, begin with what makes the product unique. Write about what makes your products the best.
Knowledge informs the reader. Highly specialized products, an automobile or a new home, for example, require extensive information. A soft drink, not as much. Creative copywriters incorporate critical information into short-form for a reason. The average amount of time web surfers spend on any given page is 15 seconds. For this reason the most critical information appears at the top of a web page or brochure, then expands below. Even so, it is imperative to present enough material so that any attention span or learning style is satisfied. Without adequate information, the reader will not readily advance to the next stage.
Credibility. The interplay of knowledge and credibility are critical to copywriters. Writing to impart knowledge tells the story behind the company or product. Writing to promote credibility demonstrates how well the offering fits the reader’s need.
In the case of a soft drink or food item, nearly every reader is a potential customer, so the art of persuasion is vital, but not every product has broad marketing appeal. Niche markets for specific medical devices can expect a high bounce rate among visitors that don’t have a particular medical condition.
We’ve all had the experience of researching a product category with dozens of alternatives. Let’s use stand mixers as an example. Amazon and other online box stores offer dozens of stand mixers, some with numerous attachments, some without. If bread making is a critical criterion for purchase, only those mixers with a kneading attachment will do. If making sausage is desired, then attachments for grinding meats and feeding the mixture into sausage casings are required. Budget is another consideration. What makes one product more credible than another is best governed by what needs are met. Sometimes the copywriter can convince the reader of a need they didn’t know they had.
Trial. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could try every product before purchasing? Unfortunately, we can’t go to Walmart with a bag of flour and a bottle of water to test drive every mixer. Some manufacturers conduct demonstrations, but that is neither common nor practical. More common, the copywriter creates a narrative, or the company produces a video designed to increase knowledge and suggest what it is like to use their products. In our illustration, videos are available for stand mixers. Videos show how easy it is to change attachments and how effortlessly they knead bread dough or whip up egg whites. Copywriters use adjectives like simple, easy, reliable, and sturdy to convince their readers and give them a feel for use.
Advocacy. The fifth stage in the sales cycle is advocacy. We all know this in the form of testimonials or Facebook likes. People retweet entries and share coupons with friends. Copywriters know how to design the flow of their content across all touchpoints. They are consistent, clear and convincing. The reader is in good hands with a writer that never loses track of this goal. The goal is to elevate the brand and attract business.
Copywriting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Most savvy marketing departments engaged in content marketing strategies that build campaigns around well-conceived communications and preapproved communication blocks. What is a communication block? Comm blocks begin with a comprehensive product description. The result is marketing language that articulates features, pricing, and availability. Technical products are often many pages long. Copywriters are free to interpret defining factual language into bits of information designed for sales engagements. They do this without changing the product definition.
Comm blocks are an editing exercise, a way of parsing and scaling essentials into readable bits. Facts get edited into smaller and smaller bits, each suited for a particular communication. A product landing page, for example, may have 500 words augmented by graphics, diagrams, and product comparisons. A piece written for an advertisement on Facebook may have 100 words and a link for more information. Astute writers distill essential components from the source document then add adjectives like healthy, inexpensive, reliable, colorful, or durable to the text. They are aware of short attention spans and bounce rates, ensuring that the most marketable facts are quickly absorbed. They are also mindful of keywords and search engine result page (SERP) language. Everything the copywriter includes is for a reason. Fluff is left out unless that happens to be a strategy.
In summary, copywriters make products come alive. They remain focused on branding and influence. They generate their copy using a consistent tone and follow established editorial styles. They know where they are in the sales cycle and write accordingly. They know how to position a product or service within a market and what it takes to lead potential buyers and constituents toward a point of view and call to action. Finally, copywriters stay on mission. They execute marketing directives and strategies flawlessly. Day after day, week upon week, they elevate a company’s brand and make everyday products sound indispensable.