Drafting effective copy when you’re in the BtoB technology space can be particularly challenging because it’s so easy to fall into “geek speak.” My company is an email marketing service provider, so technology is in our bones. (Ruby on Rails or MySQL, anyone?) But in our marketing communications, we usually write for the non-techy person because many of our customers are not in the business of tech – they are photography studios, construction companies, law offices, real estate agents, you get the idea. The last thing you want is to turn them off because they can’t understand what you’re selling to them.
Here are some tips to make sure that your copywriting can be more easily understood by readers and customers, whether they’re techy or not.
Ask yourself: What’s the point? As marketers, we usually write because we want to sell our readers on something, but that alone isn’t enough to convince them to buy from you. What are you selling on an emotional level? Who are you selling to? Why are you selling this now, and will it make sense to the reader? What do you want your reader to do? Having the answers to these four questions before you put pencil to paper (or finger to keyboard) will help produce better, more effective writing.
Read your copy out loud. If it doesn’t sound natural out loud, it probably doesn’t read easily either.
De-clutter. William Zinsser wrote, “Clutter is the disease of American writing.” I agree. Keep things short, simple and to the point.
Include short paragraphs. Do you enjoy reading large blocks of text? Neither do your readers.
Use the “Rhythm of Three.” Ever notice that examples often come in threes? It’s because groups of three provide great cadence to your copy.
Mix up sentence length. This is a neat trick to keep readers attentive, and adds a little variety to your copy.
Focus on features versus benefits. Features are the things the product has. (The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch touch screen, 5 megapixel camera, 16 GB flash drive.) Benefits are what the product will provide to users. (The iPhone 4 lets you easily take and store high-quality, print-ready photos.) Customers will always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Be sure to tell them.
Don’t bury key points. What are the most important messages you want your readers to take away? Make it loud and clear by putting them in the beginning of paragraphs, and/or segmenting them into bullets and lists.
Write in the second person. Focus on one person (by using “you”/”your”) rather than a group (e.g., “our customers”). This makes your readers feel special and highlights how your product or service can benefit them.
Do you have any copywriting tips that you find useful and want to share? Enter them here in the comments section. Would love to hear them!