Business Women 2007 – Seven tips to help strengthen your marketing copy

  • By Stacy Karacostas Guest Columnist
  • Monday, March 24, 2008 8:41pm

Have you ever had this experience? You decide to place some ads, send out a sales letter or put up a new Web site, so you spend hours agonizing over what it should it say. Then you spend even more time designing the layout, or you fork over the cash to have a graphic designer do it for you.

Finally, you’re pretty happy with the end result, so you put it out into the world. And what happens? Absolutely nothing. Or, at best, not enough. All those people you were sure would be banging down your door are nowhere to be found.

What went wrong?

Chances are good that a big part of the problem lies in the copy writing.

What, you ask, is copy writing (or copy for short)? Fundamentally, copy is writing that is designed to sell. And having effective marketing copy is critical to the success of your business. Because whenever you can’t be there to speak to clients or prospects in person, it’s your copy that does the job for you.

The tricky part is that copy writing is completely different from any other type of writing. And it is the polar opposite of the writing style most of us learned in school.

That’s because powerfully effective copy does far more than just educate or explain. It speaks directly to the ideal customer’s wants, needs and problems. It reinforces your brand and why someone should buy from you instead of the guy down the street. It’s designed to be easy for both readers and skimmers to grasp the key information quickly. Plus, it convinces people to place an order, call a number, make an appointment or click here now.

In order to write copy that does all that you have to know a good bit about the art and science of copy writing. Otherwise, it’s really hard to develop the kind of marketing materials that grab people by the eyeballs, keep them reading and convince them to take action or buy from you.

Luckily, there are a few simple tricks you can use right away to improve your own copy — and the money-making ability of all your marketing materials. Below are seven of my favorites.

– Grab their attention — Always use benefits-oriented headlines and subheads that speak directly to your ideal customer’s wants, needs, problems or goals.

– Write like you speak — The best copy writing reads like a one-to-one conversation between the reader and the writer. Test your copy’s tone by reading it out loud or having someone else read it out loud to you.

– Keep it simple — Sad to say, but these days most publications are written at an eighth- or ninth-grade level at best. And the last thing you want to do is confuse the reader or make them feel stupid. So whenever possible, use one or two short words instead of one long one, i.e., “better” is better than “preferable.”

– Make it skim-friendly — Keep paragraphs brief (four to five lines) and most sentences short (18 words or less). And don’t list more than three items in a sentence or paragraph. Create a separate list of eye-catching bullet points instead.

– Add oomph — Whenever possible, choose powerful action verbs over static verbs. For example: Use “act” or “acting” instead of “to act,” “grab” or “grabbing” instead of “to grab.”

– Sell the benefits — Promote benefits, not just features. Features are the specific details of your product or service: what it’s made of, how fast it runs, etc. Benefits are what those features can do for your customers. Here’s a quick way to hone in on your benefits: Make a list of features, then for every feature put yourself in the customer’s shoes and ask, “So what? What’s in it for me?” The answer is the benefit.

– Ask for the sale — Don’t assume people will take the next step; include a “call to action.” Invite customers to call you, ask them to send in a coupon, tell them to click here for more info. Always include your contact information or link right there with your call to action — even if it’s listed elsewhere on the page.

Stacy Karacostas, founder of SuccessStream, is a marketing strategist, copywriter, speaker and author with more than 20 years of experience growing small businesses. Learn more and sign up to receive free, info-packed articles like this one each week at

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