In a perfect world you’d probably hire a professional marketing copywriter to write all the copy you need for your start-up business; your website, emails, blog posts, even your investor pitches would all be crisper with a pro doing the heavy lifting.
But the reality is that many entrepreneurs are stuck writing their own copy until they can afford to hire help. So if you’re bootstrapping it, here are three tips to get you started on writing better copy:
1. Read Copyblogger. These folks can write. If there’s one blog you’re going to read on the topic of great copywriting, this is it. Just be careful. These guys are pros and they spend day and night perfecting techniques to get you to buy stuff. Don’t fall for it. Just read their tips, and when you find yourself reaching for your wallet, stop and think, “What just made me want to buy that?” Chances are they used a trick you can use on your own website to get people to buy too.
2. Unless it’s the about page, don’t talk about yourself. Ever. No one cares about your passion or your back story, unless you make Dave’s Killer Bread and you did time in jail before starting a successful bread business. (And even then the bread better taste damn good.)
Stick to the benefits of the product you make. That means you have to explain why it’s good for the customer, not why you are so excited about it. Whenever you find yourself using words like “me” or “our,” try to rephrase the sentence so it says, or implies, “you” or “your.”
Here is one example of a weak home page I just swiped from the internet. (I have changed the location and name of the business so as not to call them out publicly.)
It’s Time to Belong.
As the premier athletic and social club in Westchester County, the Greenwich club attracts the area’s most prominent and visionary citizens.
Deeply dedicated to the well-being of its members, the Greenwich Club merges 200,000 square feet of world-class wellness facilities and innovative restaurants with unique recreational and social opportunities.
From yoga to tennis, the Greenwich Club is a place to play, grow and connect.
That’s it. That’s their whole home page pitch. Thank god they have awesome word of mouth in the community, because this web copy sure isn’t selling any memberships.
Now I happen to know this is a fantastic and popular facility. So let’s re-write this copy, making no major changes except to write it from the customer’s point of view.
Enjoy privacy and quiet luxury at the Greenwich social and athletic club
If you just want a decent place to work out, you can go anywhere. But if you are seeking a social and fitness club designed to serve the unique needs of Westchester’s most discerning clientele, then the Greenwich club is the clear choice for you. Entertain clients in fine restaurants, hold meetings in beautifully appointed club rooms, and of course, relax and work out at the end of the day in the exceptional spa and fitness center.
Whether your fitness routine includes tennis, swimming or yoga, you’re going to love our 200,000 square feet of world-class wellness facilities and innovative restaurants.
Call our membership desk today and we’ll be happy to give you a private tour of the exquisitely maintained, member-only facility.
Can you feel the difference? Don’t you want to just plunk down your money and join? True, it’s a bit longer, but even adding the call-to-action at the end (which they missed) it’s still just three paragraphs.
3. Start a “swipes” library. A “swipes” library is a book (virtual or actual) of writing samples you accumulate over time. Every time you see copy similar to the kind you are trying to write, swipe a copy of it, and store it. (Evernote is great for this.)
Then, whenever you need to write an email, web page or a headline, you can quickly look at the great examples you have found, and learn from them.
Take an especially careful look at the structure, length, form and even the style. Then practice writing copy about your own product that is similar. As long as you are not actually copying other people’s words, there’s no shame in looking at what works and learning from it. Trust me, pros do it all the time and you can too.
So go ahead and tackle that next writing project with confidence. And when you do, send me a sample. I’d be delighted to give you some tips on sharpening the saw in my next post.
Carol Schiller is a partner at Rumble Marketing, a Bellevue-based marketing firm. You can find her on Twitter, and on the Rumble blog, where she writes mostly about copywriting, social media and marketing strategy.