I had the pleasure of doing a Brand Shoot with Belinda that helped her launch her fabulous site, Copywrite Matters. She’s a lovely, down to earth woman who’s also super sharp with her business. She regularly posts tips to help folks with their copy so I thought, instead of just showing you the photos we created for her site, I’d ask her if she’d be willing to share some tips for those of you who have websites and want to strengthen your copy. She was kind enough to agree so what follows is some seriously useful and actionable info to help you polish your site’s copy, including links for further reading & access to the questionnaire she uses with her clients.
Hi Belinda. Thank so much for doing this. Writing copy is something so many business owners & entrepreneurs (myself included!) struggle with – I think a lot of people are going to be interested in what you have to say. So, to begin…
Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into copywriting & what niche you write copy for.
I’m an Australian living in the US with my husband and young daughter. I run my own business – Copywrite Matters – offering copywriting courses, coaching and content. I’ve been a marketing copywriter freelance for many years but recently pivoted to focus on sharing my writing and business experience.
I actually started my career in IT and then moved into Marketing while living in the UK. When I was in marketing I had the chance to write copy every day and I loved it. When I wanted to get away from corporate life, copywriting was the perfect choice!
While I was a freelance copywriter, I focused on online and SEO copywriting but I also wrote a lot of offline copy too. I loved the variety of jobs and industries I got to work with.
You can read a little more about me here.
To me, copywriters seem like magicians pulling out the gold of what their clients are trying to say but can’t quite land on. How do you do this magical act of pulling out the gold & saying it succinctly?
It’s not as mysterious as you might think! I certainly can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, which is why I have developed a strong process to get great information from my clients so I can write the copy they need.
My first step is to get a really detailed brief. The brief confirms what the project is and gives me everything I need to know about my client. There are big marketing questions to answer but the answers are the key to compelling and persuasive copywriting. Questions like: who is your audience, what problems do they face, how do you solve them and why would they choose you over your competitors?
(You can read more about the questions I ask here).
I’ve found the “trick” to getting gold from my clients is to get them talking. Once passionate people are talking about their passion, they often explain it in the simplest and most enthusiastic manner. That’s the vibe and language I try and capture in their copywriting.
Then I get on with the task of writing. I tend to imagine a great sales person being persuasive, charming and most of all, sincere. Finally, I tackle editing to say more in fewer words. Editing can feel like the most time consuming part of the copywriting process.
The point is that an organized and methodical process is what gets results!
For those who aren’t yet ready to hire a copywriter, I’m wondering if you can share some tips to help small business owners & entrepreneurs write better copy for their websites & marketing materials.
– What’s the most important thing to communicate to your audience when you write copy & why?
There is marketing acronym WIIFM, which means What’s In It For Me? Your copywriting isn’t about you – it’s about how your clients will benefit from what you do. Because, as consumers, that’s all we really care about!
For example, Robin did my business photography but the benefit to me was more significant than physical photos. Robin gave me a professional business image, unique headshots that reflected my personality and my brand and the opportunity to attract my ideal clients.
For your products and services, think about how they impact your clients in a meaningful (and possibly life changing) way – and write about that.
– What’s important to communicate on a home page?
Your website homepage is often the first page people see so it’s really important. Remember that people aren’t going to read a lot of copy so you have to keep it brief. From your homepage people want to know:
• That they’re at the right place. Be clear about what you do and how it will help.
• That you get them. Share a pain or challenge that helps readers to see that you understand them.
• What you’ll be like to work with. This comes through in the personality you show on your homepage. Show off your uniqueness and your personal flare rather than being bland and boring.
• Where to go next. Your design should make it easy to get around your website and find more information.
– An About page?
Your about page is probably the second most important page on your website. This is the page where people get to know you and decide if you’re someone they want to work with. Rather than listing your qualifications, share a personal story. Maybe why you love what you do, or how you got started. Make this page about your uniqueness.
– A sales page?
A sales page is all about conversions – turning visitors into customers. There are lots of ways to write a great sales page but I like to follow a copywriting formula called PAS – Pain Agitate Solve. You can read more about it here but in summary, you lay out a pain that your target audience is having, you agitate the pain with plenty of detail then you introduce your solution.
The key to all copywriting, but especially for great sales copywriting, is to understand your audience and to demonstrate that you get them. You can do that by talking about their pains and frustrations before you talk about your product or service.
Then of course you want to give people enough information to make a decision and tell them what to do next. The call to action (what to do next) is essential.
What are 3 common copy mistakes you see on small business owner’s websites & how can they be improved?
A tone of voice that’s way too formal. Being overly formal and using business speak leaves readers feeling cold about taking the next step. I recommend people use a conversational tone of voice in their copywriting, especially online – so it feels like a real person talking. Friendliness and enthusiasm isn’t unprofessional!
Too much copy. It’s easy to just keep writing once you get going but it’s important not to overwhelm your readers with lots of lots of text (that is really just waffle).
No formatting. As people have less time they need to understand how you can help them, quickly (see no.2). Part of that is making sure your copywriting is formatted in a way that makes reading quickly, easy. There are few things more unappealing that a block of text! People just won’t read it. You can read some formatting tips here.
Is there a process folks can walk themselves through to get clear about their own stories & messaging before they start writing so they can write awesome copy?
I recommend people read through the questions I ask clients in my copywriting brief. That will show off the big marketing questions that need to be answered when persuading new customers to say yes.
You can read them here.
What do you have to say to business owners who aren’t yet clear about their ideal client, niche, &/or message?
Make the time to work through these areas before you jump into marketing yourself. If you don’t know, how will your customers know?
These questions are the foundation to your marketing. Make sure they are solid before you build on them.
What are your top 3 copywriting resources or books you recommend for business owners/entrepreneurs to read & why?
I encourage people to hop over to my website Copywritematters.com as it has tonnes of free content. I publish copywriting tips on The Copy Detective blog and offer a free copywriting cheat sheet with 20 incredible copywriting tips when you subscribe. If you like podcasts, I host a copywriting podcast called Hot Copy.
I also have a free copywriting course that is probably the best place to start. I’ve chosen my 3 TOP tips and they really will immediately improve any copy that you write. You can register here.
In terms of books and other resources, I love: