Copywriters are only good for writing sales copy. Right?7 min read

What does a copywriter do?

Add-on selling, up-selling, cross-selling, focus-selling, match-selling, selling, selling, selling — that’s what copywriters do right? They write copy with the purpose of selling since they talk about progressing through the funnel, catchy headlines, conversion points, call-to-actions and landing pages.

We, marketers, are selfish, lying, short-term thinking scum. We believe that our job is to manipulate people as we market to them.

– Seth Godin

Marketing is often seen as the snake oil salesman of business and copywriters are seen as the snake oil salesmen of marketing. We are, after all, the ones who craft the message that is beamed into the mind of the customer.

As a copywriter, it’s my job to bridge the gap between what you’re selling and what the customer is buying — but it won’t work if I’m just trying to stuff it down their throat. If getting sales was as simple as randomly stitching together the right words there wouldn’t be so much research into consumer behaviour and brand positioning.

It’s my job to let the customer know what value your brand provides them: how you help solve their challenges, how you understand their problems, and how you have the solution they’re looking for.

Working in cahoots with the art department, it’s my job to make those potential customers look twice. Entice them to come and have a closer look. Make them smile. Make them remember. Make them think, “Oh hey, this is what I need!”.

As a copywriter, I’m part matchmaker, part problem-solver. I need to know who the ideal customer for your brand is, understand how to speak to them and start the conversation between you and them.

By listening to the customer’s challenges, needs and wants, and I can craft a message that showcases how your product is aligned with what they need, and make the introductions:

Online copywriting needs to be measured

Online copywriting is technical by necessity because search engines (read: Google) constantly evolve in order to deliver a better Search Results Page (SERP) to their users. Copywriters have to constantly evolve to meet the demands of the search engines. To better serve the user is the mantra of any decent copywriter.

It isn’t enough to just make online copy that jumps on the bandwagon and repeats what’s already out there. Google isn’t going to show two results that are alike in SERP, because they want to present their users with as many unique results as possible.

You have to answer the query without duplicating what others have already done.

Anyone who tells you that copy doesn’t have to produce measurable results is lying. Converting copy is based on data, and seeing how users react to and engage with the copy is critical because it tells you what’s working and what isn’t. Competition for the top spots in SERP and increased time-on-site is fierce, and you can’t afford to bring anything less than your A-game if you want real business results.

Good copy without SEO is no good because without being optimised it won’t be search-crawler friendly. SEO without good copy is equally useless because it won’t interest any humans. Copywriters need to know how to write content that is visible to both search engines and users, or it’s all a whole lot of nuttin’.

A copywriter is, by nature, a creative soul

If you’ve got someone pumping out content that is as dry as plain toast and cites sources at the end, you’ve got a reporter posing as a copywriter.

A copywriter’s job is to breathe life into your message with words, punctuation, space, colour and rhythm. A copywriter bridges the gap between image and text in order to provide deeper meaning, punctuate image with copy, and deliver the punchline.

Copywriters don’t think in straight lines, they think in squiggly, erratic, all-over-the-place lines that end up connecting dots. It’s their job to think about how the message is going to be received and how they can make it memorable.

Precisely because copywriting is a creative process, most of the work isn’t done sitting by the computer. Your brain best connects the dots when it isn’t under pressure to do so. Doing dishes, going for walks or colour coding legos are all excellent activities for getting that jolt of inspiration.

Sure, people will think you’re a bit odd, but that’s just part and parcel of having a creative job:

This example from Luke Trayser perfectly exemplifies what it’s like trying to explain what you do:

Human: …so I decided to launch my glitterbomb Kickstarter, and the rest is history! HAHAHAHAHAHA. So, what do you do?

You: I’m a copywriter.

Human: Oh, cool! How does copyright law work anyway? I’ve always wondered.

You: No, I creatively construct words and phrases in an effort to get someone to take action.

Human: Like legal action! Got it.

You: [dying inside] Advertising. It’s a lot like Mad Men, except not at all.

My goal is to make a connection

While telling a story — engaging the reader, eliciting an emotional response — is how I do it, enabling the customer journey is why I do it. It’s my job to guide the users through the funnel to a point of completion — but it isn’t about selling you something you didn’t want. Good copy isn’t sleazy or pushy.

A conversion point isn’t necessarily always a sale either: it can be subscribing to a newsletter, joining a social media group or downloading a guide.

Good copy is about showing you how this product or service is exactly what you’ve been looking for and making it easy for you to seal the deal. It’s the copywriter’s job to be the one who says, “Dude, you gotta try this. You’ll love it!”

When customers are as happy as a dog on a trampoline, the copywriter has done her job right.

As humans we’re hardwired to listen to stories, it’s our most fundamental way of communication. People have told stories since forever. Before literacy became widespread, stories taught us morals and passed on critical information.

The most important thing a brand can do is to harness the power of storytelling when communicating with their (potential) customers. It’s what we as humans understand best, and it’s what we as copywriters are meant to do.

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