By Maril Vernon, Regular Columnist.
One of the main laments I see in my business communities on Facebook all the time is, “I put out all this content and make no sales. Do I actually need a copywriter? What is the difference?”
The truth is you may be putting out too much content without any copy or the right copy; because there is a big difference between the two.
What is Content Then?
Content is there strictly to educate or get a specific piece of information out about a certain topic; such as finance, marketing, networking, branding, leadership, etc. This often takes the form of a blog, ebook, article, info-graphic, or a dozen other mediums. It can be a guide, recommendation, recipe, learning experience, or tutorial. Its defining aspect is that it is there only to provide value as its main function.
Think of it like this: if you bought a mastermind course from someone, and in the group page they kept hitting you with their ad copy, pointing you towards buying their other services or products- wouldn’t you say to yourself, “I’m already here, where is the material?” THAT is where your content belongs. When you’re trying to build credibility, or a brand, or heck if you’re boiling over about budgets and have a burning need to share yours- that is content. (Pro tip: I’ll do a future article on using content or copy on Instagram specifically).
Take it from the Guru of Giving Value: Gary Vee
Looking at Gary Vee’s LinkedIn nowadays, he’s a big proponent of leadership and management philosophy. His 15-second interview clips show his views on how the company is or ought to be managed. Nothing else. He isn’t relating to you or showing you his products or courses to help you run your business the way he does. He doesn’t even offer consulting services. That is because his content isn’t driven by copy. He has a need to say, “When I see x problem, y is my solution.”
Okay Then, Miss Smarty-Pants, What is Copy?
Oh, well I’m so glad you asked.
Copy, on the other hand, is specifically aimed at a sales or revenue-generating action.
Copy points people toward making purchases by establishing a relationship of trust that you understand your audience and ties their need to your product. It’s subtle, yet powerful; it’s also simple to execute and yet it eludes business owners on how to write it properly. The anatomy of effective copy has 4 crucial parts.
The Keys to Copy City: Meet AIDA
Not all copy is created equal. There are plenty of bad examples out there. AIDA is a widely-used and well-referenced formula for determining if your copy hit all the marks to be successful. It stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
This is perhaps the most important piece- it stops the scrolling. With truncated Facebook ads and 10-second teaser videos, the window to stop someone in their tracks long enough to show them anything is small. Facebook is also cracking down on sales tactics like too many links, ALL CAPS, and the words “free” or “limited-time only.” If you already have a brand, this may be enough for the reader to stop and see what you have to say. If not, you have to entice them in with one key feature and build from there.
The easiest way to do this is focusing on the target audience’s main pain point that your product can ease. That comes from (yep, you guessed it) good old-fashioned market research. Would it be nice if everyone bought your product? Yes, in an ideal world. But in the here and now a much easier customer to win is one who is already looking for your solution. This is your ideal customer or buyer persona. But, if you don’t know who this person is, what they want, or where they go to look for it- then you won’t know how to effectively grab their attention.
(By the way, insider tip: this step is supposed to take a long time, and when it’s done correctly, everything else falls in to place much quicker. Every “overnight success” you see spent months or YEARS getting really specific on exactly whom they serve. You’re welcome.)
Now that they’ve stopped, the burden is on you to give them a reason to stay. You have to illustrate how the problem they face is negatively affecting their lives. Don’t assume they will come to this conclusion on their own- give it to them. Make it personal, make them feel connected to it as if you’re speaking only to them.
This is usually done with storytelling or illustrating the headaches of how life is now, with this problem invading their lives.
How many times did I just use “they” or “them” in Interest? Ten! (My writing tool hates it.) Up until now you should not have talked about yourself, your product, your business, or anything stating with “you” at all. It should be all about them.
Now is when you introduce your solutions.
This is where you answer the question on how your products can make their lives better. Show them before and after photos, video demos, testimonials, bouge-ily photographed spoils of your success; everything that highlights where they want to be and how you can help them get there. Build on their desire to have what they see.
Action (aka CTA)
Ideally, you want them to take immediate action. This is typically done by creating a sense of urgency saying it’s “filling up quickly,” “only has so many spots,” “available today only,” offers a discount, etc. If the desire part is done correctly, they will be ready to buy- but make it easy for them!
Include a blatant CTA (call-to-action) button where they can “Learn More,” “Get the Book,” “Show Me How,” “Take the Quiz,” or anything else to get them to your landing page where it’s wham, bam, take-my-money please ma’am.
Do you know how terrible it is when I, as a consumer, am ready to buy the thing and have to HUNT for where I actually DO it? And I’m savvy, I know where to look. Most people will abort mission in 2 seconds flat. (But many websites have plugins for this!) Don’t miss out on the sale because you didn’t make it easy to buy.
In Other Words:
Without any one piece of AIDA, think of your message as walking right up to someone off the street, giving them a ring and saying, “Marry me, because you’re single and I’m single.” Or going on a first date and practicing your deeply troubled monologue for an upcoming theater class. You could be writing ad material that addresses the wrong audience, wrong need, wrong solution, or at the wrong time. AIDA is your friend to make sure that never happens to you.
Great, So How Do I Do ALL of That, Every Time?
When it comes to your content, many business owners are in the good habit of including at least some bit of copy in each piece- but we have already illustrated where this can definitely hinder more than help. It’s crucial to be able to identify the purpose of each piece of messaging so that you can tailor the same piece of content, with or without copy, for different platforms, audiences, or purposes. (Side note: no one generates new content every day, they just recycle old content with new copy- gasp!)
If you still have questions or need help- consult a writer. And if you’re going to try to write copy on your own: never leave your AIDA at home.
Maril Vernon presently works as a Security Risk Analyst and also inter-weaves her love of writing, technical knowledge and eidetic memory by offering freelance services for digestible, highly informative pages of market and industry knowledge, self-help literature, tech manuals, copy writing, editing and more. Find out more at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marilvernon/