Stop Pretending You’re a Copywriter

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Freelance Copywriter

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m a pretty smart guy and I know a lot about a lot of things. My wife says she doesn’t need Google, she has me. And my daughters make a big deal of it any time they hear me utter the words, “I don’t know.” I’m not telling you this to brag, but so you can understand where I’m coming from.

You see, I know I don’t know everything. For example, I don’t know how to change the oil in my car. I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the U.S. tax code. I don’t know how to alter or manipulate images in Photoshop. And I absolutely don’t know how to do a French braid despite the fact that I have four teenaged daughters.

Now, given the proper time and resources, I could absolutely learn how to do all of that and more. But the question is, why should I? There are experts out there who already know this stuff (Fast Lane, Proline Tax Advisors, Brett Briley) and it’s worth it to me to hire them to do it.

The reason I’m telling you this is simple. You need content written to advertise your products, sell your services and promote your business. But do you know how to do that? No? Then stop pretending you’re a copywriter.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Freelance Copywriter
Stop! Step away from the keyboard.

Writing good content is more than spelling, punctuation and grammar. And it takes more than just a decent command of the English language. Writing good content means creating relevant and engaging content that brings a fresh perspective, communicates your message, connects with your audience and persuades them to take action. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Yeah, I thought so. And that’s precisely why you should hire a real copywriter.

If you google “why you should hire a copywriter?” you’re going to get a lot of results that tell you a copywriter can save you time and prevent grammar mistakes. While that’s absolutely true, copywriters do much more than that.

First of all, we’re really good storytellers. Speaking for myself, I’m a published author and I used to be a member of the DFW Writers Workshop, learning weekly from amazing authors like Arianne “Tex” Thompson, A. Lee Martinez, Rosemary Clement-Moore and Russell C. Conner. Granted I know that writing a novel isn’t the same as writing copy, but the concept is the same. Draw in your audience, get them invested in what you’re selling, then hook them into acting.

We also know how to reframe the value of something. Even though you know your product or service, do you know why your customer loves it so much? It’s like the “Sell Me This Pencil” challenge. We all know that a pencil writes. But break it down further and you’ll know that the bright yellow color helps you keep track of it, the flat sides help prevent it from rolling off your desk and the special graphite in the lead writes smooth as silk with little chance of it breaking or cracking.

Then there’s the persuasive language we use. For example, using you and I makes this blog more personal, like a conversation between two friends. Reading content in 3rd person, whether it’s digital or in print, is like reading a text book. And for the most part, that’s just really boring. Plus, there are certain words and phrases that hook you. It’s like getting whammied by a Jedi mind trick.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Freelance Copywriter
You will hire me to write the content for your next marketing project.

Plus, there’s knowing the different formats and mediums. Blogs. Website content. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Marketing emails. Direct mail. Flyers. Landing pages. Advertorials. Case studies. Press releases. Each one is a completely different animal and writing for each takes a certain amount of knowledge and skill to not only pull it off, but to be successful.

Combine all of these things… storytelling, value framing, persuasive language, formatting, Jedi mind tricks… and you’re going to get some really good content that’s going to boost your online presence, generate more leads, increase your sales and improve your business.

Bottom line is you hire good people to do the work you don’t have time for, you don’t know how to do or because you need an expert. Your marketing should be no different. So do the smart thing. Don’t try to write your own content. Hire a copywriter. It’s worth the investment.

What is Copywriting?

What is copywriting?

If you’re not exactly sure, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. Even my dad was a little fuzzy on this and we’ve had frequent conversations about my business, clients and projects. Plus, he’s a pretty smart guy.

Before we get into it, let’s clear up something right away. Copywriting has nothing to do with copyrights. Like trademarks, copyrights are a form of legal protection that protects an author’s writings and ideas. So while copywriting can be copyrighted, they are not the same thing.

Copywriting is written content, called copy, created specifically to persuade the audience to take a specific action. In other words, copywriting is a written sales pitch.

Found practically everywhere, copywriting is part of a $2.3 trillion industry and exists in many different forms. Web sites. Brochures. Billboards. Sales letters. Magazine ads. Catalogs. Direct mail. TV and radio commercials. Social media posts. Plus, there are different types of copywriting (conversion, direct response, branding, SEO, digital, etc…)

Regardless of type, medium or delivery method, every piece of copy is written with three key rules:

Get the audience’s attention.

This can be done in a number of different ways. A catchy headline. An engaging anecdote. An intriguing open line. Take the following for example: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Freelance Copywriter
One of the original Ogilvy Rolls Royce ads.

This headline by advertising legend David Ogilvy implies that the engineering of the luxury car was so precise and exceptional that you could hear the whir of the electric clock in the dashboard over the hum of the engine. And if you’re into automobiles, this definitely hooks you in.

Communicate the message.

To do this, you need to know your audience and respect their intelligence, experience and devotion to a product or the company. By uncovering what they want, need or desire, a good copywriter can use those motivations to connect with the audience and provide them with the information or experience they feel is important.

Think of the backlash Lucasfilm faced when Darth Maul was killed off at the end of The Phantom Menace. The new villain, with his red and black facial tattoos, crown of horns and double-bladed lightsaber, was the new face of the massive marketing campaign that revitalized the Star Wars brand. And it had fanboys and fangirls really excited… until they killed him off almost immediately.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Freelance Copywriter
This guy ended up being so popular, they had to bring him back to the Star Wars universe three different times!

This was hugely disappointing to millions of us around the world because Lucasfilm failed to realize that we wanted a new iconic villain, not a floppy-eared frogman.

Persuade them to take action.

The ‘call to action’ is the difference between informational content and a sales pitch that will increase your revenue stream. With the exception of branding, copywriting is always about getting your audience to act. Order now. Buy now. Don’t wait. Come see. Click here.

It might be simple but getting your audience to act really is as easy as telling them to do it. And while elegant prose have their place in literature, being creative will never be more important than being persuasive.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Freelance Copywriter
You better listen to the lady. She knows what she’s talking about.

By following the three key rules, plus knowing everything there is to know about the product or service and keeping the content tight and concise, a good writer can craft copy that connects with the specific target audience, presents arguments on why they should invest in it and convince them to do it as soon as possible.

What Fishing Taught Me About Being Persistent

My wife, Amy, and I have been fishing at Lake Texoma for about a year now. Yeah, I know. This isn’t typical geek behavior, but I’m not your typical geek. The lake, which borders both Texas and Oklahoma is famous for their striped bass. So you know there’s good fishing there. Well, for most people anyways.

The truth is that all we’ve really been doing for the past year is feeding the local fish with a fancy, silver hook. Despite the hours spent casting our lines into the water, baited with worms, hot dogs, raw bacon, stink-bait and balled-up white bread, we’ve yet to catch a single fish. But the nibbles have been strong and plenty, keeping us optimistic and going back for more.

Last weekend, we headed to the lake with our gear, a couple of chairs and fresh cups of coffee. It was a perfect morning. The temperature was in the mid-70s. The water was mostly smooth. Geese flew overhead in V-formations. And fish were breaking the surface catching water striders.

As Amy settled in with a balled-up piece of bread on her hook and a red-and-white bobber on the line (she’s old school), I clipped a small lure to my line and gave it a light cast before reeling it back in. On my second cast, I sent it out a little further. As it got closer, I could see the silver and white rattle trap weaving through the water. Suddenly, the lure disappeared and I felt a quick tug on my line. I quickly reeled it in to find… the smallest striped bass I have ever seen in my life.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Dallas Copywriter
I’ve seen bait bigger than this little guy.

Most people who fish would have been disappointed or even embarrassed to catch this little guy. But I’m not most people. I was elated. After a year of persistence, I FINALLY caught a fish. And that little striper wasn’t the only fish I caught that day. I also caught a little flathead catfish that I could have swallowed in one gulp and Amy, on her last piece of bread, caught her own blue catfish that was as big as both of mine combined.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what this little fishing story has to do with business. Simple. It’s all about persistence.

Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly building up steam, picking up clients, learning new marketing tricks and eventually creating my brand. But things haven’t always gone my way. I’ve lost clients. I’ve had projects cancelled. I’ve even had a client stiff me. But the worst part are the slow periods and dry spells. They make you question everything.

I’m sure you and your customers have gone through the same self-doubt at some point. But here’s the deal. There’s going to a point in your business when you make a mistake. That’s part of business. For example, as wildly popular as Star Wars is, they still have to live with the fact that not only did somebody think Jar Jar Binks was a good idea, but somebody else approved of it. But they got through it, redeemed themselves with The Clone Wars animated series and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (and there’s my obligatory Star Wars reference).

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Dallas Copywriter
Meesa tinks you’re A-okie-dokie.

So despite all the doubts and second guessing I’ve had while fishing for the past year, I’ve persisted and finally caught my very first fish at Lake Texoma. And if I can land that six-inch monster, I know that can do the same with your business. You just have to stay positive, focus on your goals, ignore the competition, try new things, acknowledge your limitations, learn from your mistakes, focus on your strengths and recognize every single success.

After all, a fish, no matter how big or small, is still a fish. And persistence is the key to finally landing it.

Is This Blog Really Necessary?

The ancient art of blogging has come a long way since the early days of the Internet. For every industry, occupation, niche, interest and hobby, there are countless companies and individuals posting their thoughts, experiences and opinions about everything they can think of. From the sustainability of cryptocurrency to the best things to see and do in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to the controversial subject of who shot first, Greedo or Han.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Dallas Copywriter
And don’t you forget it. (Image courtesy of Steven Hayford Plastics)

But with so much digital saturation, are blogs still a viable marketing tool? Do people still read them? Are they worth the time and energy it takes to craft each carefully worded sentence?

The answer to these questions, dear reader, is absolutely, undoubtedly and for sure, 100% yes.

In 2016, Blogger, the nation’s largest blogging platform, reported that they receive 46 million unique visitors every single month. That’s like the combined populations of Texas and New York. That’s why 67% of B2B marketers and 56% of B2C marketers use blogs as a tool in their social media campaigns.

But why are blogs so critical to online marketing? I’m glad you asked.

Blogs build a stronger relationship between you and your audience

You wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing if it weren’t for the passion you have for it. Sharing that passion with your customers, especially ones that feel the same as you, creates a connection that goes well beyond that of business owner and customer. It creates a bond between the two of you that’s more than a simple transaction.

Plus providing content that’s relevant to your industry or niche puts you in the position of expert, teacher or mentor. And while you can have some fun (I’ll get to that in a minute), I can’t emphasize the importance of the word relevant enough there. If you’re an astronomer, you can’t just post a bunch of pictures of your dog in a pirate costume and expect people to believe you when you tell them you know everything about the Westerlund 2 star cluster.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Dallas Copywriter
Arrrgh… Thar be starrrs here. (Image courtesy of Brett Briley)

Blogs enhance your SEO

Blogs are also an incredibly powerful tool for improving your SEO. To understand why, you need to know that Google currently runs eight search algorithms, codenamed Hummingbird, Pigeon, Mobile, RankBrain, Panda, Possum, Penguin and Fred. Honestly, they sound like the worst collection of superheroes ever, but together they work together to check your website for keyword, relevancy, age, location, originality, mobile-friendliness and quality of content.

So of those factors that Google uses, which do you think is the most important? If you said bacon, I like the way you think. Although it’s completely wrong, I will give you partial credit for thinking outside the box. If you said quality of content, give yourself a gold star. And a piece of bacon.

Quality content that is relevant, original and engaging is king when it comes to Google’s search rankings and marketers know it. That’s why there’s so much online. Check out some of these fun statistics about life in the digital ether:

  • 1 billion+ web pages in existence
  • 2 million+ blogs posted every day
  • 70,000+ videos viewed every second
  • 2 billion+ active users on Facebook alone
  • 35 million emails sent every second
  • 5 billion google searches every day

That’s a lot of noise. So to be heard above all the clamor and clatter, you have to provide real content to appeals to your audience. In fact, 80.5% of marketers list ‘writing amazing content’ as one of the top three keys to a building a successful blog.

Posting regular content on your blog also keeps your site fresh (another important search factor) and lets your audience know you’re still in business. And because you’re building up an archive of content for you site, those blogs will help drive more traffic to your site, ensuring long-term success.

Blogs support your social media campaigns

For those who live for social media campaigns, a good blog can go a long way towards more clicks, shares and retweets. Sharing a blog on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn gives your followers something with substance, teaching them the secret knowledge you’ve promised them so they can finally start that cult of all things you. Or it could just persuade them to buy your product or service.

Posting links to your blogs through your social media also gives your followers an easy way to share your products, services or brand to a potentially huge audience. All it takes is a few people to share your post and the exposure begins to grow exponentially. Shares and clicks turn into more traffic for your site, which converts into sales, which turns into great success. Why do you think all those B2B and B2C marketers love blogs so much?

Blogs help you be more… you.

When you write a blog, you have the unique opportunity to humanize your business. Let your hair down, bring the music down a notch and get real with your audience. Tell them your brandstory about who you are and what you’re about.

If your great-grandfather started the company selling nose-hair clippers out of a burlap sack outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago, embrace that quirky origin story and share it with the world. If you’re passionate about the plight of the rare slow jam lizard (Reptilius chillaximus), let people know about it.

David C Justin, The Copy Geek, Dallas Copywriter
Ohhhh… I got me some scaly blues… cuz some gecko stole my baby.

And remember that time you were reading this post and I said you can have some fun with your blog? Yeah, that was awesome.

But seriously, if you want to inject a little humor in there, do it! Who am I to judge? Besides, laughter triggers the brain’s emotional reward center and delivers whopping amounts of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, all of which make you feel like a rockstar. And if your audience can feel that way just from reading your blog, imagine how they’ll feel when they use your products or service!

Bottom line… there are no rules that say you have to have a blog to help your business. I’m sure Coca-Cola, Nike, Starbucks and Target could all do perfectly fine without one. But a blog can do a lot of good for your business. Besides, to quote Matthew McConaughey, “It’d be a lot cooler if you did.”

Do Your Words Even Matter?

Studies have shown a direct relationship between positive/negative words and the impact they have on the growth of things. In essence, if you tell a plant how much you love it, it will grow and flourish in comparison to a plant that is given nothing but negative critique and feedback.

So what does this have to do with copywriting? Simply put… Everything.

As a copywriter, the most powerful tools you have are your words. Despite the antiquated philosophy of ‘sticks and stones,’ the truth is words are powerful things with the ability to harm, heal, educate and persuade.

When you write, you should always do so to accomplish one of three goals (bonus points if you can knock out more than one at a time). I call them the Three E’s:

  • Entertain – Just like that friend that makes you laugh so hard you rupture your spleen, content that entertains your audience will draw them in so you can connect with them on a personal level.
  • Educate – In today’s Google-savvy world, information is never farther than a click away so take the time to show off your knowledge. They’ll come to depend on you because they trust your expertise.
  • Engage – While entertaining and educating your audience is important to draw in interest, it’s a waste if you don’t engage them. You have to challenge them to act because if you don’t, someone else will.

To accomplish these goals, your words have to matter. They mean the difference between connecting with your audience on an emotional level or creating a disconnect so great that they click back, turn the page, change the channel or close the book, never to look back.

But connecting with your audience isn’t always easy. You have to know them well enough to elicit a subconscious reaction that resonates on a personal level for them. In other words, they have to feel what you’re saying. And the only way to do that is by using the right words to make what you’re writing about them or about what they want or what they need, even if they themselves don’t even know it yet.

The best way to do this is to use specific words that connect with your audience, words that will intrigue them, interest them or convince them that reading on is in their best interest.  Some of these ‘power’ words are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Love
  • Power
  • Guarantee
  • Easy
  • New
  • Safe
  • Discover
  • Healthy
  • Save

By learning the best way to use these words to persuade and influence your audience, you’ll discover you have the power to attract new leads and generate new business.

And I guarantee you’re going to love it.