As you can see from this blog, I do some writing. But I do not consider myself a professional copywriter. In my day job my strengths are messaging strategy, and determining what stories and content themes need to be “out there” to drive business results. And I’m pretty good at writing narratives, scripts and presentations. I’m also good at figuring out the strategy and framework for how best to deliver messaging.
But when it comes to putting pen to paper for delivery channels requiring…short, sharp, pithy copy that hits someone over the head with value and relevance in seconds; I’m okay but certainly not great. This to me requires a unique talent — so for times when I need to break through the clutter with an effective email, landing page, search ad, etc. and want to ensure true greatness in the copy, I get help from those who are freakishly talented at distilling messaging and/or writing compelling, tight copy that truly speaks to an audience.
For example, I once developed a story arc and messaging framework that had been implemented in a webinar and some brochures, and later needed to be translated to websites, emails, online ads, newsletter copy, etc. Now, I know a unique set of best practices exists for each delivery method. For example, for emails I know the subject line is everything; for a website I know organization of content and the ability to scan is important; and so on. However, I didn’t feel gifted enough to write all the copy for these channels on my own, particularly where pithiness was critical (email subject lines, ad headlines, etc.). I knew I needed folks who could look through the proper lens, and either consult or actually write it in a way that would deliver calls-to-action. Whether it was an agency or other 3rd party expert, or someone in the company. And BTW, sometimes it’s not marketers that are best at this stuff – e.g. one of the best thought-partners I ever had for tight succinct messaging was on our tech team – he was a master at listening to or reading long narratives, and pulling out the most important message and true intent (brilliant at it without even trying).
You may be saying, why not just take your best shot using best practices and guiding principles, and test your copy to see if it’s working (since that too is a best practice)? But I then ask, why not also invest the necessary time and money to write something that’s actually worth testing in the first place?
So here is some practical advice to consider if you are responsible for messaging and content and like me, are great at strategy and general writing but are not a true copywriter. I think many miss the opportunity for great copy simply because they don’t step back and consider what it will take to get there.
- Invest in great copy – many spend thousands of dollars and months of time, on research and strategy, but expect great copy to be delivered in a couple of days. None of the work means anything if you don’t get results — so invest at least as much if not more, in great copy as you do on other things. Isn’t copy after all, the “product” that may ultimately get people to take action? Why would you not invest heavily and thoughtfully in that? Try it and see what happens.
- Ensure you have a box to check that says, “I have done my due diligence to 1) consider and incorporate the company’s style guidelines as well as best practices in the marketing industry, our company and our business; 2) consider best practices for each delivery channel and 3) assess what’s worked for others in our business or company.”
- Seek out those on your team, in your company and/or in your network who are great at listening, digging for or picking out the nuggets and underlying point/value of a story or message. Even if you are good at this, it may be better to ask help from someone who’s great at it or at least, not as close to the messaging.
- Solicit feedback from those who can immediately scan a page and dissect its true intent, who are gifted at seeing where extraneous information can be eliminated or made clearer, or who are closest to the target’s mindset. These types of folks can often make you aware of where you may be missing the mark, even if they aren’t writers who can actually fix the copy.
- Solicit feedback from clients and frontline reps—ask them point-blank how/if they would respond to said copy.
- And of course, test and refine.
The point is — if you are out of your strengths-zone when it comes to great copywriting, recognize that and work around it to get the help and results you need.