Even if you have no intention of making a living as a copywriter, it’s worthwhile to learn how to communicate more persuasively.
Copywriting is the use of words to sell. Copywriting techniques apply to both the written and the spoken word.
Copywriters write the ads you see in magazines and newspapers, commercials you hear or hear on radio and TV. And nowadays, copywriters also write the web pages and other online copy that tries to persuade us on the ‘net.
You can use the same principles copywriters use in your daily life as well. For example, when you’re writing to your neighbor asking him to keep his dog from doing his business on your front lawn, it helps to have some copywriting skills.
Here are a few simple (and some fun) tools that can help you become a better copywriter:
The most logical place to begin, of course, is with a few books on copywriting. There are tons of how-to books on copywriting, but you can’t go wrong with one of these:
- The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells by Robert Bly
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America’s Tops Copywriters by Joseph Sugarman
- The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost Your Sales by Dan S. Kennedy
Aside from these, I also recommend the following:
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Words That Sell: More Than 6000 Entires to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas by Richard Bayan
As a copywriter, you’ll also need the usual reference books any other writer needs: a dictionary and a thesaurus.
Models for Storytelling
They say selling is all about good storytelling. Therefore, your copywriting tools include good models of storytelling. These may be bestselling novels, home shopping ads, high-rating TV shows and even blockbuster movies. Just by regularly exposing yourself to these examples, your instincts for powerful copy will improve.
Every copywriter needs a swipe file, or a collection of ads you can use as inspiration–not to copy from. How do you build a good swipe file?
For starters, keep a keen eye on your mailbox. Don’t be quick to toss those direct mailers you receive. Keep those that grab your attention and tempt you. Always keep the mailer that’s repeatedly mailed to you. That means it’s a winning mailer, or one that has gotten a good response, which is why they use it again and again.
Keep a swipe file of various things: headlines from magazine covers, email subject lines, guarantees, PS’s, openers, and even testimonials.
Pen and Paper
You may type your copy into your computer, but to sharpen your copywriting skills, you need pen and paper to copy good ads in longhand. Yes, you read that right. When you find an example of an excellent piece of copywriting, copy it entirely, word for word, by writing the entire thing by hand.
Don’t ask me how this works, but great copywriters swear by this method, and it’s one way I learned myself. There’s something about the act of handwriting that hard-wires the words into our brains. So, you absorb good copywriting, almost by osmosis. Try it.
Mind Mapping Software
I rely on mind maps to write almost anything. Of course, you can use pen and paper to create a mind map — and that may even be the better way, given the hand-brain connection. However, I like the convenience of being able to export my mind map into a text file, where I can type the rest of the piece directly.
Getting a Greater Awareness
Anyone can learn to become a more persuasive communicator. The tools above not only teach you the principles of copywriting, but they also help you gain an increased awareness of human nature: how we think and make decisions.
Ultimately, being a good copywriter means understanding what it means to be human.
Are you interested in sharpening your copywriting skills? Which of these tools are you most interested in? Or have I forgotten anything? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image by spaceamoeba