You’ve built the perfect product. Your website is flawless. It’s as smooth as a baby’s butt. Your product photos should be in the Tate. But there’s a wrinkle, and it’s something all product-obsessed founders miss.
Your copywriting sucks. And, it’s often the difference between creating a business and a brand.
Here's your field guide to navigating the expansive world of copywriting as a time-poor entrepreneur. It’ll set out some of the basic things you should consider when crafting your copy. If you need something comprehensive, there’s this thing called the internet. It’s vast, and once you’ve consumed enough cat videos, you should be able to find a guide that's as long as a Dickens novel.
Copywriting is simply writing words to compel the reader to take an action—usually to purchase a product or service.
Your goals for copy are simple, too. Copy must compel. Copy must be clear. Copy must be read. In the elegant words of the revered Joe Sugarman:
Your readers should be so compelled to read your copy that they cannot stop reading until they read all of it as if sliding down a slippery slide.
Your product isn’t for everyone. So, you shouldn’t be writing copy that tries to appeal to every Tom, Dick, and Mowgli.
Think of it this way. Would you sell a doggy-gym membership to a geriatric German Shepherd? I mean, it’s very unlikely that Rex is scrolling Facebook in his free time, but you get the point.
Define your audience.
If you know your product inside out, you probably already know who you’re selling to. Identifying your target audience is crucial to writing copy that compels. It’s also the driver that’ll steer the remainder of your copy—the tone, writing style, and generally, the content.
What’s more, when you know your audience, you’ll understand their objections. And when you understand their objections, you’ll naturally try to address those doubts in your copy.
Ok—but how do I actually write the copy?
That’s the fun part. If your audience is between 18 and 25 years old, don’t write for everyone. Write for someone. What do I mean?
Give your prospect a name. And describe your prospect in words that represent your target audience. Let's take Amanda Huginkiss as an example. She’s an influencer. She’s really into TikTok and Instagram. She likes gin, without the tonic. She eats raw chicken for its nutritional benefits, and she thinks salmonella is a type of artichoke.
You’re speaking to Amanda. And your tone, language, and style should naturally change to suit Amanda.
Tone (of voice) is how you communicate the personality of your business. And it’s another critical element of copywriting for an e-commerce brand.
Now, I know I said that your audience steers the rest of your copy, and this is usually accurate—but not always.
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve, and you should really think about this point. Would you use humour and poop jokes to sell legal services for a law firm? Probably not. But it might be what’s needed to differentiate your product from the herd. And to create a brand and not a business.
Poo~Pourri does this well:
It sounds like a dirty word, and it is. Poppycock means nonsense, and it’ll ejaculate fluid over your copy, making it opaque and difficult to read.
Here’s some Socrates-level wisdom for you. There’s little benefit to being the smartest person in a room if no one understands what you’re saying. And the same is true for copywriting.
Your job is not to sound smart. Your job is to translate the complex into the simple. So, your copy should be conversational. Use short sentences and contractions. Don’t use obscure metaphors and analogies. Avoid big words.
Whether you’re a cinephile or not, this iconic scene from Good Will Hunting perfectly sums it up. In short, don’t sound like a wanker because your customers will stop reading.
4. Features v Benefits
The tug of war between features and benefits is considered copywriting 101. Features are facts. Benefits give your customers reasons why the product will improve their lives. Benefits are what your customers desire (eg, saving time, saving money, and being more productive).
Both features and benefits are important, but emphasise the benefits to your customers.
There’s nothing that highlights this better than the original iPod ad from 2001. The iPod had 5GB of storage, which in those days was a lot—you could say, it was an incredible feature. When Apple introduced the iPod, they didn’t highlight the storage capacity. Instead, with the usual hallmarks of Apple’s elegance:
Henneke at Enchanting Marketing also provides a really great trick to convert features into benefits. To do so, you just need to keep asking yourself: “So what?”. The iPod has 5GB of storage. So what? You can carry 1,000 songs in your pocket. It’s that easy.
5. Use Frameworks
Using copywriting frameworks will help you churn out copy quicker. And, it’ll just generally improve your copywriting. They’re particularly helpful when you’re selling multiple products across several channels, and there’s just too much copy for one human to generate.
There are tonnes of frameworks out there, and Copyhackers has summarised every copywriting formula ever. There are formulas for body copy, headlines, and everything in between.
AIDA and PAS are probably the most commonly used frameworks.
Get the customer’s attention (e.g. a headline). Build interest in your product or service. Create a desire to buy that product or service. Encourage your customer to take immediate action (e.g. a CTA button).
Present the problem. Poke at the problem. Present a solution.
In short, pick a couple you like, and stick to those. Otherwise, you’ll spend weeks learning too many formulas that you’ll never get to practice.
We love stories. We’re emotional creatures, and stories create deep connections with the subject matter. They also strengthen the relatability of your brand. And they’re just plain fun.
When your customer connects with your brand on an emotional level, they feel compelled to support your mission. As an e-commerce brand, you want these ‘sticky connections’ with your customers—it’s organic advertising.
So, you should consider using storytelling in your copy (when appropriate). It seems obvious, but storytelling works best in your about us pages. Storytelling can be a hit or miss in product descriptions, but there’s no harm in testing.
7. Copy Copy and Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
Great copywriters are even better copiers
I’m not saying that you should plagiarise another business’s copy. But you should turn to other brands, and especially competitors, for inspiration.
As Naval Ravikant remarks: “The number of iterations drives the learning curve.”
Your first about us page will never be your last. Your first product description will always be a work in progress. You must iterate and test your copy regularly. It’s the best way to know whether your copy is actually converting.