How to write killer copy in 5 easy steps

Writing copy for your own business: it can be a daunting (never mind stressful) affair. Whether you're pulling a few words together for a flyer or are re-writing your website, I maintain that it's one of the hardest things to do for your own business - just to know what to say, never mind getting the grammar and punctuation tip-top. Whenever I ask a client if they'll be supplying their own copy, a look of utter terror spreads across their face just as soon as they realise that writing truly powerful copy takes more than jotting down some bullet points. So how do you clear writers' block and create compelling copy?

1) Know your audience

Just who exactly are you writing for? It pays to be clear on the type of person who will be reading your copy - start by thinking about whether you're writing for a business person in your own industry (who would therefore expect a bit of jargon and industry-speak) or if you're writing for a consumer who you're trying to sell to. Too many websites contain industry-specific words which your average consumer would never understand - this doesn't impress them, it'll just make them cold. By identifying your target audience you'll start to get a better feel for the right tone to achieve - whether that's chatty, formal, humorous, authoritative or somewhere in between. Know what problems of theirs you're solving and know what it is that they need from you.

2) Be clear on the core values that drive your brand

I always encourage our clients to be clear on their values - the values by which you run your business and want to be known for. These are attributes that hold high importance to you - from integrity and service to creativity - these are values which create a resonance with your prospects and allow you to connect on an emotional level with them. Writing in a way which really hits a note with your prospects is miles more effective than simply listing the features and benefits of what you do - trust me!

3) Know your message

What is it that you're actually trying to say? It's absolutely imperative to have a clear and concise message. I'm currently working on a brochure for one of our clients who has a lot to say . I've encouraged him to produce a separate piece of literature for each message - not to boost my order sheet but simply because this way he can give each message room to breathe and ensure that his copy doesn't get confusing for the reader. I can guarantee this will be worth the extra cost as I know that his prospects will truly 'get' his message, rather than switching off when they're bombarded with 10 different marketing messages on the same piece of paper.

4) Be concise

Cut out the waffle. Critique your copy honestly and cut out anything that doesn't really need to be in there. Get rid of meaningless words and phrases - anything that won't resonate with your prospects is just a waste of space. Be succinct and your audience will thank you. I recommend asking a friend to read your copy and ask what they understand it to mean; a really valuable exercise in ensuring you've successfully conveyed your message.

5) Get the basics right

Ironic, really, that when I proof-read this post I'd written '5) Get the basics write'. And so there's proof in itself that a sloppy mistake like that has the potential to completely undermine everything else I've just said. I'm a big believer that basic errors in spelling and punctuation can do untold damage to how you're perceived, so take a moment to run a spell check and ensure everything makes sense. I always read my own copy out loud to ensure I've got commas and full stops where they're needed - only by reading something aloud will you know whether it flows or needs some tweaking.