Copywriting: 5 Important Things You Need To Know
Although copywriting is an important part of marketing and sales, not many people know exactly what it is. You may have heard of the terms “copywriter” or “copywriting” and subconsciously thought that it was in reference to intellectual property rights but this is a misconception. Copywriting is the science of creating written text to convince or inform an audience about something. As a small business owner, you need to know what copywriting is and the psychology of your target audience. Then, you can better understand how a copywriter would create the content needed to effectively address your audience the best way possible. Below are five things you need to know about copywriting to better help you understand it.
1. What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the science of creating written text to convince or inform an audience about something. The most popular form of copywriting would be TV and radio commercials. Many of your favorite commercials include catch phrases created by copywriters. Many commercials are scripted to deliver a specific message, whether it’s to sell a car, give disclaimers about a drug, inform the public about something in a PSA, or anything in relation.
However, copywriting isn’t limited to just commercials. Things like pamphlets at your local government office (e.g. DMV, post office, social security) most likely were written by a copywriter. Things like press releases, whitepapers, departmental reports, even more personal things like personal bios, resumes, and curriculum vitae are written by copywriters.
Copywriting can be informal or formal, depending on the audience and the message. It can consist of social slang or jargon from certain professional fields. Most copywriting is geared towards adults, but some can be written for teens and kid audiences.
Copywriters can consist independent freelancers or they can work for an agency that specializes in copy or marketing. Some larger public and private companies as well as some government agencies also have staff copywriters (more on this later).
2. Can I Do Copywriting For Myself?
People innately have different levels of skill in life. At the same time, some people can learn at higher rates than others. With that said, many small business owners copywrite for their businesses in varying amounts. Some business owners may write a script for a commercial to be aired on the local radio station. Some owners may write a product description for a new service or product that their business offers. The possibilities are numerous. Since many business owners feel like they best know their business and its products, they feel like they should be the ones writing about them.
Small business owners can create copywrite content as well as their writing skills will allow them to. However, copywriting is a science (and some feel that it is an art too). Copywriting is an aspect of marketing just like online ads and website design that needs to be optimized to work at its highest level. Some businesses would be best served to contract a copywriter to assist them with infrequent projects such as website redesign, product/service publications, or new ad campaigns. For businesses that have more frequent copywriting needs (like a pharmaceutical or public relations firm) they would be better off having copywriters on staff.
Copywriting is something that takes a lot of time and effort to do right. It’s not an auxiliary skill that a researcher for a pharmaceutical should be doing regularly, for example. A copywriter’s main specialty is taking tangible items, intangible items, or situations and persuading or informing a target audience of the merits of the tangible or intangible items (and in some cases warning them of something such as side effect disclaimers or a penalty).
A scientist who works in a pharmaceutical may know a medication or treatment inside out, but they can’t write sales brochures and video commercial scripts effectively. Their time needs to be devoted to their specialty which is research and development because they aren’t marketers. They don’t have time to research the best things to say about their product or service that will convince a practice to buy from their company or have a patient pick their product over a generic brand in a pharmacy.
This is why companies like pharmaceuticals pay out a lot of money for R&D departments to develop new products and then pay out even more money to have separate marketing and sales teams sell these products. It’s basically a division of labor to improve efficiency.
3. How does Copywriting Typically Works?
When a copywriter gets a project, she must be able to understand exactly what the client is trying to accomplish. Whether it’s warning a city about the dangers of a pathogen, advertising the signature dishes of a new Caribbean restaurant, or listing the importance of an animal shelter, she must have a great understanding of the client’s business and an even better understanding of what that client is trying to do.
The copywriter and the client will need to be in contact to go over notes and drafts of the copywriting campaign. Depending on how complex the campaign is, the drafting of the campaign can take a few days to a number of weeks to get it right. The copywriter also must do research on the target audience (very important). Even though some clients really know their target audience, many smaller clients may only have an idea who they would like to target (e.g. people in the market for a new car) while some may feel that they should target everyone. For the most part, it is up to the copywriter to have a firm idea of what target market their writing campaign should be focused on.
After the copywriter feels comfortable with the needs of the client and has figured out aspects of the clients business (market, competitors, products/services, etc.), the copywriter then must write to that audience. Depending on the audience and the campaign, this can be the easier or more challenging part of the project. Some copywriters have “cheat sheets” or swap files to help the content creation process. Swap files are collections of proven copy (mainly ads) that the copywriter (or someone else) created for various purposes.
Think of it like this. Things like cars and consumer electronics are made up of a number of parts. When a new model for a car or gadget is introduced to the public, the new model consists of many parts from previous years’ models. Copywriting works fairly similar to this. Writers take bits and pieces of their previous work or even other writers’ work to make a “new” writing campaign. This works well mainly because people like things that are “familiarly new.” You see this with fashion trends, interior design, music, movies, the automotive world, real estate, the list goes on. People in marketing take old things and make them new again. Copywriting does this also.
A good copywriter has swap files where they can draw from certain phrases or other copy that resonates with certain demographics in certain markets. At the very least, this can help a copywriter build a “skinny template” on how a project can start, and then the writer and the client can flesh things out over time to build an optimized piece of copy for the campaign.
4. Do Copywriters Need To Be Certified?
As a business owner, the levels of copywriters available to pick from are vast, but they don’t really hinge on certifications. You will need to do your due diligence to see if a copywriter “fits” your writing needs. Many of the better copywriters are recommended by referrals from previous clients. Other copywriters can supply portfolios or past clients who they have created writing campaigns for.
Copywriters at more “formal” levels were certified by training courses on how to write copy for a number of purposes. These certifications are not industry standards but are simply proof that these particular writers have taken classes to understand the science of copywriting. These writers may or may not have a lot of writing experience, but they understand the basics of copywriting.
Then there are other writers who have graduated college (possibly with an English, Marketing, Psychology, or similar degree) and started writing as a staff copywriter at a marketing firm or in a big company. These are more corporate writers who have more experience with writing pieces in a corporate environment and received most of their training on the job.
There are a number of copywriters in the industry who are freelancers. They have written extensively and have honed their craft by constantly writing pieces (whether it’s for someone else or themselves) and through networking with other writers and learning from them. Freelancers can also come from a formal background (described previously) and then decided to call their own shots or from a corporate environment and then decided to be on their own (like yours truly).
5. What Should I Look For In a Copywriter?
Copywriters, like many professions, have specialists. Some copywriters are great at writing sales letters for online products, for example. They are able to command 5-figure fees from a single long-form sales piece. Some copywriters are more scholarly and write pieces for educational purposes. Some copywriters write reports and standard operating procedures for law enforcement and other government agencies.
Many of the better copywriters specialize in a certain type of copy and specialize in a certain types of audience. A number of copywriters write for products that sells well online. These items can be very lucrative projects for these copywriters. For example, the global dietary supplement industry was worth an estimated $140 billion in 2018 according to this online report. Some of the top copywriters in industries like this are paid with a mixture of a flat fee and the gross percentage of products sold.
As a business owner, you need to find copywriters who are comfortable in writing in the style that you need to effectively deliver your message to your target audience. Like everything in life, there are exceptions. Some sales copywriters who normally write informal pieces geared towards teens, for instance, can also write formal B2B pieces for telecommunications companies. The audiences may be different and the writing styles are definitely different, but the copywriter has developed a skill that translates well into those markets. You just need to look around to find the right copywriter for your project.
Do you have any questions about copywriting or about TWP Digital Marketing? If so, feel free to contact us and ask! Call us at 215-395-1212 or hit the button below to use our contact form.