I have dabbled in considerably varied content flavours since I started my writing career at SPH (Singapore Press Holdings) a good decade ago. From covering consumer tech to penning romantic advice for the lovelorn, it has been a rather peculiar editorial journey. And as an IT engineer prior, I reckon I have come a long way from tinkering with computer parts and messing with capricious code.
What’s truly unexpected, however, is my recent transition from feature writing to copywriting. So here I am today, spinning yarn after yarn of copy in the hope that readers will feel
seduced inspired to snap up the clients’ products or services after consuming my scripts. Even a subtle boost in click-through rates makes everyone a happy camper. That’s generally the desired endgame of a copywriter.
Nevertheless, I have miles to go before I will be confident enough to write a bona fide copywriting guide. What I can do now is simply share with you some of my pains and musings on its process.
Words Don’t Come Easy
Copywriting is not a cakewalk. If you are an ancient crone like me, you may have heard of the morose ballad Words by F. R . David, a tune penned back in the Eighties. Words don’t come easy, as its lyrics go; this is especially true when you have to work within the confines of a grossly limited word count to describe how fascinating that lawnmower is.
Marketing copy has to be witty, engaging, concise, brand-conforming, and more importantly, sound like music to the client’s ears. Anyone who’s ever had trouble cramming text into Twitter’s 140-character limit will empathise, I’m sure. Most times, you are expected to write about the same old features and rehashed promos in refreshingly new ways.
How does one manage that? Well, they say a soldier’s best companion is his rifle. I say a copywriter’s trusted sidearm is his thesaurus.
Enchanted Copywriting Formulas?
Is there a secret formula to copywriting then? The AIDA marketing model is probably the most popular one around, brainchild of American sales guru Elmo Lewis who conceived it in the early 20th century as a means of writing effective marketing copy. AIDA, in essence, stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. It takes aim at consumers’ cognitive functions and material desires, and ideally, translates them to sales.
While it is still relevant today, I don’t believe there is a holistic solution for every marketing situation. Take electronic direct mailers. It is obvious you already have your reader’s attention since the mail was directed to them personally. Likewise, the same applies to websites your readers visit, and doing anything more to garner their attention may make them feel like they’re being unsubtly hammered over the head with messaging. Think tenacious pop-ups and bothersome ads that follow every scroll you make — no thanks.
In cases like these, only the “IDA” bits in AIDA apply. Meaning, you are mostly likely to enjoy a “click” from your audience if you have grabbed their interest and roused the right desires for them to spring into action via your CTAs (call-to-actions). That is, without annoying the heck out of them first. Easier said than done.
Conversely, there are copywriters who subscribe to the PAS formula—Problem, Agitate, Solution. PAS presents readers with a real-life problem they can identify with (this is key), then offers them a viable solution as an irresistible hook.
This is just as effective as AIDA in my book, if not more, provided the brand you are writing for is amenable to such an approach. So instead of praising the perks of a lawnmower, PAS homes in on the unruly grass crisis in your yard, and offers you a perfect solution — which just happens to be that shiny V-Twin John Deere.
Wrapping Things Up
Well, whatever your technique is, my advice is to keep the copy on point and free of ambiguity.
Avoid flowery language, and make every darn word count under the word count (sorry, couldn’t help myself there). Witty expressions are nice but do use them sparingly. You are courting trouble when they are open to interpretation.
Come to think of it, copywriters aren’t that different from used car salesmen. To sell your wares effectively, your pitch needs to charm a wary customer and hit that veritable sweet spot each time. We are in it for the bait-and-hook.
In the end, copywriting is a song (and dance), one that is all about allure and seduction. Why do you think click-bait posts are so very hard to resist?
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