Why do brands spend so much time and money on photoshoots? Because images matter a lot in marketing. The brain processes pictures first.
But words matter too. Alongside those great photos and great design is the copy on the page or screen. And this copy must be interesting, thoughtful and relevant. Most importantly, it must be engaging – driving your reader to take a very specific action (shop, donate, learn more, you get the idea).
Sounds time-consuming to come up with just the right words, doesn’t it? It is. But like the fabulous photos your brand captures, engaging copy is another investment that’s well worth it. Because action from your reader means dolla’ dolla’ bills for your brand.
Here are five tips to help you create copy that truly engages.
Tip No. 1: Be conversational.
We say it a lot here at J.Schmid, but we can’t say it enough: if you want people to pay attention to you, you have to be more human. Knowing this, my best advice for creating engaging copy is to write like you’re talking to a friend. Imagine they’re sitting across the table from you. You’re both enjoying a beer or playing a game of cards. Would you start a conversation with that friend like this?
Since 1970, I’ve been working for a sporting goods company.
Nope. So do you think you should start the “About Us” section of your website or the opening spread of your catalog like this?
Since 1933, we’ve been making the best bread in the world.
If the year you were founded and what you sell are the most important things you have to say, don’t expect many people to stick around. A sentence like that sounds like you’re talking to a robot or to a faceless audience, not to your reader as an individual.
Your reader wants to feel included. They want to feel special. They want to feel like you know and understand them. And right off the bat, they want to know why they should care. Which brings me to my next tip.
Tip No. 2: Involve your reader.
A guaranteed way to ensure your reader does NOT convert to a customer? Talk about yourself and how great you are! Tell them your brand is the best and that’s why they should buy from you!
It’s a common mistake to think that people will automatically care about your brand. Because the hard truth is that people care about themselves. If you can’t relate to them or give them a reason to care about what you’re saying, they’ll move on.
So, how do you tell a great story without rambling on and on about what makes you so great? One way is to do exactly what I just did: ask your reader a question. Make them think, wonder or imagine. Get them involved. Help them understand how your product or service can solve a problem for them.
Here’s an example:
What if you could enjoy delicious, hand-picked citrus for a fraction of what you’d pay at the supermarket? Better yet, what if it could be delivered to your door?
Unlike the “Since 1933…” example, this one introduces the brand in an interesting, informative way…without sounding boastful or selfish. It draws you in with questions, and solves two problems by implying that the product will save you money and a trip to the store.
Asking a question is just one way to get your reader involved, and a tactic that can be applied not only to storytelling, but to email subject lines, headlines and more. Speaking of…
Tip No. 3: Carefully craft your headlines.
Before your reader even gets to the first sentence of your brand or product story, what do they see? The most important copy on the page, screen, postcard or wherever your message appears: the headline.
If your headline doesn’t grab their attention, there’s no shot anyone will read what comes after it. Consider this scenario: you’re flipping through a catalog that sells adventurous outerwear. Are you more likely to read copy below this headline…
… or this one?
It’s also important to consider where your headlines are placed on the page (check out our Physics of Creative post for more info).
Headlines must be active and powerful. They must be carefully crafted, and they should only be a few words long. Clever or informative, they should stop your reader in their tracks and give them no choice but to keep reading.
For more headline advice (and if you’re 21 or older), please enjoy our post about Headlines and Whiskey.
Tip No. 4: Break the rules.
I can still hear the voice of every English teacher I’ve ever had: Write in complete sentences! Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction! Never end a sentence with a preposition!
But when it comes to marketing copy, I’m here to tell you it’s 100% OK to do the opposite of what your teachers taught you. Why? See Tip No. 1. When you talk to your friends, you hardly ever use complete sentences. You start your responses with words like “and” or “because” to keep the conversation flowing in a natural way.
Short, incomplete sentences can also be used to establish a rhythm so that your reader can anticipate what’s coming next.
Here’s an example:
Family is everything. They’re the ones you care most about. The ones you depend on. The ones you wish you could spend more time with. Which is why being together with family for the holidays is so special.
Only two of the above are complete sentences. Three of them end with a preposition, and the repetition and rhythm of “the ones” takes you seamlessly from one idea to the next. I guarantee that allowing yourself to break a few grammar rules here and there will result in more conversational, easily digestible copy that will keep your reader engaged.
Now, there are of course a few rules that must never be broken: spelling, punctuation and capitalization. Break these and you run the risk of losing your reader…and their trust. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Always.
Tip No. 5: Create urgency.
The sole purpose of marketing is to convert readers to customers, and you want it to happen as quickly as possible. That means you need to create urgency in your catalogs (especially on front and back covers), in email subject lines and anywhere else that makes sense. Don’t let your reader feel like your offer will be around forever. Otherwise they’ll shop some other time, or more than likely, not at all.
On a catalog cover, maybe you promote a specific product with a callout that says:
Only here for a limited time!
Or maybe your email subject line reads:
Your 50% off promo ends tomorrow
Simple calls to action can even help create a sense of urgency. These can be SHOP NOW buttons in your emails, or callouts throughout your catalog that tell your reader what you want them to do and where you want them to go:
Shop all colors and styles at MYBRAND.COM
Find gifts for everyone on your list at MYBRAND.COM
Just remember that the more urgent your message sounds, and the more straightforward your call to action is, the more eager people will be to act.
Educational, entertaining, emotional or otherwise, engaging copy has more power than you might realize to increase your ROI, your response and keep people coming back for more.
Now the only question is, what are you going to do with all those new customers?