How to write more engaging copy: 3 Ways to Improve Today
Many people think they have to be an amazing copywriter who follows a list of fancy "pro-tip" writing rules to boost their content to the next level.
However early on I was give this super profound writing tip: If you read through your own material and are bored, stop writing and start over.
It's really that simple.
Would read your own stuff and stay engaged?
It's unfortunate that small businesses who can't afford a full-time copywriter, often make the same copywriting errors over and over again.
However this will not be your plight... why? Because you are reading this post! You aren't satisfied with just mailing in lack-luster copy just because you have to get content out there. You believe that words actually matter. You believe that people buy products or services only after they read words about products or services. You believe words matter more than anything.
So because of your belief in getting this words thing right... Today we are going to borrow some principles from an all time great in the advertising world: Leo Burnett. Leo created the ad campaigns for the Jolly Green Giant, the Marlboro Man, Toucan Sam, Charlie the Tuna, Morris the Cat, The Pillsbury Doughboy, The 7up "Spot", and Tony the Tiger.
Principle #1 - Make it Simple
I had a communications professor in college who said "If you can't say it clearly in a minute then you probably shouldn't be given the platform for a speech." I couldn't agree more.
If you are unable to synthesize your thoughts down into memorable soundbites then guess what... it's not memorable!
It's funny how many times I am working with a client and I ask, "So if you were just chatting to your 5th grade kid, how would you explain what you do?" So often the words that come out of their mouth next, end up being pretty close to the language we use for the main header of their website!
Unfortunately people struggle with what we call the curse of knowledge. You know too much and therefore are dangerous in your ability to communicate to everyday people. You spend everyday thinking about your business, when everyday normal people spend ZERO seconds thinking about your business on a regular basis.
...except for the random quick 15 second conversation you have in passing, the 8 seconds they have browsing the header on your website, the 2 seconds they have scrolling past your facebook or instagram headline. You get my point?!?
If you don't make it simple they won't stop to pay attention.
It's that simple.
Principle #2 - Make it Inviting to Look at
When writing website copy I don't write in a google document but rather I write content in a website wireframe template I've created. I do this so I can see my words visually displayed in front of me. It helps me write punchy soundbites that are displayed visually.
Large paragraphs of content are killer on any medium. As soon as someone sees a loooonnnggg paragraph in an email, newsletter, sales pitch, blog post, website, or lead generator their brain shuts off and they start skimming to the next section.
Most paragraphs should be 1-3 sentences in length with a random paragraph here or there that is longer.
Because the human brain is trying to make sense of content quickly. This isn't because humans are lazy but rather it's because thats the job of the human brain, to make sense of its surroundings.
If you want people to engage with your content then lay it out visually. It can't be overstated how much good design helps.
For example, we are looking at houses for my mother-in-law who might be moving soon. We could look at two identical houses but one has fresh updated paint and the other has old wallpaper. The one with fresh paint could easily sell for thousands more. The one with wallpaper could actually be the better house.
Good design is an indication of how people perceive your brand.
If you cannot layout your content in a visual manner, people will perceive your brand in these sort of ways: inaccessible, out of touch, and difficult to work with.
Think of the last website that you've been too that is full of clutter, with large paragraphs, tons of pages to dig through, poor color schemes, and outdated fonts... you would agree that you ended up perceiving this brand negatively simply because of how the website was laid out. And like the case with my mother in law, you may end up spending more money simply because someone else's website has better paint (not because they have a better product or service)!
Read 14 Beautiful Content-Heavy Websites for Inspiration. Yes beautiful and content heavy seem like oxymorons! But they don't have to be.
Principle #3 - Make it Fun to Read
If you are bored with your content, your potential customers will be nonexistent. They don't have time to be bored.
The number one way to make your copy more fun to read is to tell a story.
Story is a huge buzz word right now so don't get skeptical here. There is a reason why story works. When you tell a story it follows a simple structure of Problem, Agitation, Solution, Outcome (PASO). There are more elements to pull from but these are the basic building blocks to think about.
Problem - What problems are customers facing?
Agitation - How can you ramp up or agitate that problem in your copy?
Solution - What will help your customers win the day?
Outcome - Can you paint a clear picture of success?
Just following this formula will help tremendously!
You can learn more about the other elements of story we walk clients through by reading about a BrandScript here.
The second way to make your copy more fun is to just not take yourself to seriously.
For real, if you can't make fun of yourself sometimes then people won't be able to connect with your brand! Our world needs more laughter.
In your email campaign feel free to add a funny gif once in a while. Crack jokes. Use sarcasm.
Get someone to keep your humor in check.
There is a fine line between writing with personality vs. being goofy.
The best way to hit your language with the right voice is to try to write in a way you would actually speak. Have a touch of informal but yet professional. Be personal but not overly silly where it feels like you are being patronizing.
If you aren't sure how your words come across, be sure to find someone on your team who gives you great objective feedback. For me... my wife drops the truth bombs anytime I need feedback on how my writing feels.
For larger teams its good to create a style guide that defines the type of tone you want to take with your content.