26 January 2011

TIPS: How to Get Great Copy Without Hiring a Copywriter

Most business owners now understand the importance of strong copy. What many business owners don't realize is there are other alternatives to paying a fortune for great copy.

Most of these do require a nominal investmént. But nothing compared to the huge fees for copywriting. A big part of the value a copywriter brings to the table (aside from marketing knowledge and being a wordsmith) is a fresh perspective. It's that second set of eyes from a new perspective that can catch mistakes and provide more successful approaches.

Unfortunately, copywriting is deceptively simple. Almost anyone that can write to any degree thinks they can write great copy. Creating a piece of copy that causes the reader to take the action of spending their dollars simply from reading words on a page is no easy task.



1) How a Simple Copy Critique Can Improve Your Copy

Perhaps the simplest way to improve your copy is getting a copy critique. In the direct marketing industry this is a common term. Professional copywriters use copy critiques to sharpen each other's skills and copy. You can either hire someone to do this for a few hundred dollars typically, or you might be able to find someone to do it for free. Just be careful that you are getting someone who knows what they are talking about.

The biggest value here is having things pointed out to you that you missed. It could be a headline that's unclear. Or a part of the copy that causes the reader to stop or bail out. Even your entire approach may be all wrong. These are all things you can find out with a simple copy critique.

If professional copywriters can improve from a copy critique, imagine what it can do for someone who's not a copywriter.

2) How a Simple Rewrite of Your Copy Can Help

The next step up from a copy critique would be a copy makeover. Not all copywriters provide this, because sometimes if the copy is way off track, it's more work to rewrite it than just starting from scratch. The key to this is you are doing most of the legwork. Not recommended for rank beginners at copywriting. However, if you've got a sense of good copy and you can get something together in rough form, sometimes a simple rewrite of your rough draft can produce some great copy. And again, because it takes a lot less time than writing from scratch, you'll save a bundle on copywriting fees.
Be careful because not everyone has the same definition or scope of what a rewrite entails. Some just fix the worst parts. Others do a complete rewrite and edit of what you've written. So read the fine print and find out exactly what you are getting before you commit.

A rewrite is more expensive, but still a fraction of hiring a freelance copywriter to create your copy from scratch.

3) Get a Free Consult from a Marketing Consultant or a Professional Copywriter

Most copywriters and marketing consultants provide a free consult upfront. There's nothing wrong with calling a few of them to get some contrasting opinions. In the process you'll most likely pick up some great ideas that you can apply to your copy. Just having a short conversation with someone who knows marketing can give you some great insights.

You can generally tell pretty quickly whether you are dealing with an experienced copywriter versus a rookie. Be careful in putting too much thought in anything they say. Test it out for yourself first. Make sure that it's a direct response copywriter/marketing consultant. They are the ones who use methods proven to sell, as opposed to just creating general awareness of your business.
If you are speaking with a marketing consultant, focus the conversation on the salés strategy and positioning of your product. If you are speaking with a copywriter, focus more on the specific aspects of your copy. The most important parts of your copy are the headline/opening and what you're offering.

4) Model Your Copy After Proven Marketing Promotions

If you have to do the copywriting yourself without any help, be sure to have a successful model available. Avoid generic templates. Model your copy after an example that's already proven to work. Then will you be sure to at least have the structure in place that follows proven sales formulas.

What you want to do is copy the structure, not the content. Try to stay close to the structure because the further away you get from the original the less likely you'll end up with a winner. For example, when modeling this classic headline, "They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I played..." I've seen some people leave off the second half of the sentence. That destroys the curiosity building power of the headline.

Also changing it from "laughed" to some other emotion like cried can be risky. So be careful. Try to make a fill in the blank template out of it.

Here's a simple example. "They laughed when I _______, but when I _____." Do this with every sentence in the copy, not just the headline.

This is probably the single best way to write your copy if you aren't a professional.

5) Record Your Best Sales Pitch and Then Have the Recording Transcribed and Edited

The other simple way to write copy yourself is to do this. You need someone that knows how to sell. If you aren't good at sales, then have someone else in your company or a friend help you.

The key to this working is to have a good sales person, record their best "pitch" live and uncensored. Then have it transcribed and edit it to take out the um, ah, etc. Do NOT edit into something that takes away the conversational tone. Be careful to maintain the essence of what they said.

That's why you really don't need to write copy. You can record it being spoken by a sales person. You end up with the same end result. Just make sure you have a good sales person and they know your product well so they can make the best pitch possible.

These are the five best ways I know to improve existing copy or create it from scratch. The power is in getting an outside perspective, using proven principles of selling, and using the time saving of rewriting rather than starting from scratch.
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About The Author:
Ken Hoffman, is a strategic business advisor and direct response copywriter. He is the author of "Scientific Advertising For The New Economy." Download his free report, "17 Website Conversion Strategies To Boost Your Bottom Line."
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Sources: SitePro News, Vol. October 08, 2010