Tips For Entrepreneurs: How copywriting works

When you write copy think about what your customers want, and who they are.

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October 29, 2012 22:59
4 minute read.
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Most business owners, at one point or another, need a piece of copy written. It may be for the homepage of their website, for an advertisement or for a brochure. When they need it they either write it themselves, or hire a writer who (hopefully) has a reputation for good writing.

Writers get paid for knowing how to write. Copywriters get paid for not knowing how to write, but rather, for knowing how to convince readers to act.

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Personally, I am well aware that I am not the world’s best writer (not even close…) and yet, I’ve written copy for some of America’s best writers. Why? Well, because when you want to push someone’s buttons in a way that will make them buy something or do something, it’s not going to depend on the high level of words they use, but rather on the style and underlying psychology, which is what makes good copy zing.

And for that you need someone for whom words can be used to draw someone closer, even if he got less than an A+ in school (Ahem!).

In fact, when you write copy, you should always make sure that an eight year old can understand every word.

Hard words are bumps in the road to a smooth sale. You want it to be smooth, all the way from the first impression of whatever it is, all the way to being happy with the action they ultimately took.

Think about what your readers want, and who they are. Think about their pain points, and what keeps them up at night.

Then, develop your product as the solution to that pain.

One of my favorite diagrams is the “good, fast cheap” triangle. It’s simple to explain, and useful in business all the time. Some of my clients have it on their wall in their office.

You draw a triangle and write one word on each corner. One corner “good,” the second “fast” and the third “cheap.”

Then, you pick the two you offer best.

You never get all three when you buy something. Think about your own experiences and you’ll see how one is always sacrificed to achieve the others. If you get something fast and done right, it’s not cheap. If it’s both cheap and fast, it’s fair to say that the craftsmanship is bad or work is sloppy. And if it’s good and fast, properly done, it won’t be cheap.

Those are your selling points that are the solution to you client’s needs that your copy is built around. Inversely, you can open a new business or reposition an existing one by looking at what the competition is doing well and using the alternate point as the Achilles heel to have a strong proposition of your own that will appeal to a segment of the target market that they cannot match.


The goal of copy, be it a long sales letter or 10 words in a clothing catalogue or describing a real estate listing, is the same: How can I work the maximum amount of imagery as to why “I need this!” to cross the readers mind? My friend and master copywriter Colin Theriot introduced me years ago to “the secondary promise” and it’s that powerful.

(You can Google the words “secondary promise” for a good explanation about it from Bob Bly.) A strong secondary promise is an additional item, not in the headline or the main feature, that still puts the message in their head that “even if they don’t deliver the value they promise in the headline, this nugget alone will make it more than worth my investment.”

(Always use the word investment if you legally can, based on where you are – but try to skip the words “cost” or “pay,” which people dislike. But investing in their business by buying “x,” or investing in weight loss by buying an exercise bike – that’s something they can hear!) Then, when you deliver both the full promise and the secondary, they are smitten by the knowledge and insight you’ve shared, and they become loyal, lifelong customers.

Marketing and all business really, are mind games. We don’t need all the stuff we got; fairly recent generations (even some of us!) survived without smartphones, tablets, computers, and even (gasp!) refrigerators and air conditioning.

Suddenly, its “I can’t live without it.”

Why? Marketing.

How’d they do it? They took a human challenge and introduced the solution.

They changed the way we live by making it something horrible to be without.

Diamonds are the same way – it’s considered horrible when someone getting married doesn’t buy a diamond engagement ring… which, form a financial standpoint, is a bad investment.

Ahh, but the mind games we fall for shape the way we live, and the ways we think.

issamar@issamar.com Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi who has been published in more than 50 business publications.

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