7 Habits of Highly Effective Copy

by 7 10/01/2012

Stephen R. Covey’s landmark book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, gave us numerous valuable insights on effective human behavior and the secrets to success.

Much like effective people, there are some distinct characteristics and patterns about great copywriting.  By mastering these techniques, you can write better, achieve excellence in your work and develop a better understanding of the communication process.

Here are the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Copy:

1 – Great copy is visual

We always hear a lot about ‘action words’ and their importance in creating great copy. But what exactly are ‘action words’? Simply put, your words and phrases have ‘action’ when they conjure a sonic or visual effect. Using the active voice and distinctive, verb-oriented language adds a kick to your copy that makes it more persuasive than other types of text.

Using action words is vital to creating killer copy. You want to command your visitors to follow a course of action but in a way that doesn’t offend your reader.

Hey Indy uses a lot of action phrases(‘check out my mixtape’, ‘create beautiful websites’, ‘give me a shout’, ‘get in touch now’) and emphasizes them through distinctive formatting and design choices to create a commanding and compelling landing page.

2 – Great copy is free of logical fallacies

Good copywriting is about the art of persuasion. And persuasion can only happen when you are credible enough to inspire trust.

You want your website visitors to see you as a rational and honest entity that truly believes in what you are saying. If your visitors suspect you of being untruthful, you’ve lost them.

When you make logical fallacies, you are in the danger of looking deceitful (ultimate deal breaker), unsure or downright stupid.

Some common logical fallacies that you should try to avoid include deriving conclusions from insufficient information, making unsubstantiated generalizations and weak cause-and-effect relationships.

It boils down to this: Your customers aren’t stupid. Don’t treat them like they are.

3 – Great copy uses social proof

The modern reader is looking for evidence that other people have benefited from or are interested in your offer.

Any time you are able to bolster your claims with evidence of social proof such as authentic testimonials, number of products sold, size of your audience you establish the success, popularity and credibility of your product. Facts and figures have always added substance to writing and copy in the digital era is no different.

Salesforce.com dedicates an entire section on its landing pages to highlighting its success stories and popularity.

4 – Great copy is brief

Here’s a motto for the new era: When in doubt, cut it short. The less you say, the more likely you are to remain error-free. Brevity is the soul of wit.

Certainly the long copy sales page has its place, but long copy doesn’t mean bloated copy.

DBA products uses a clean, simple interface with a short tagline to make their point. The result is far more effective than a lengthy sales pitch would have been.

5 – Great copy has an approach

In this article I will discuss two ways to approach your copywriting:

  • FAB (Features, Advantages, Benefits) and
  • AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) strategies.

The FAB approach preaches that you should give proper emphasis to the features (product characteristics), advantages (edge over competitors) and benefits (what it all means for the customers) in your copy.

But, by and large, your main focus should be on the ‘benefits’. You can talk about what your product includes or how its capabilities have higher margins than the competition but it will all be useless unless you properly communicate what your product can do for your customer:

  • Does it make their life easier in some way?
  • Does it help them cut costs?
  • Make more money?

People buy y0ur product or service because they desire an outcome. Identify that outcome and capitalize on it.

The AIDA approach walks you through four basic to-do’s for effective copy: With a catchy hook, you can capture the attention of your visitors, turn it into interest by building a strong follow up, initiate desire by detailing the benefits and then provide a strong call-to-action to yield desired results.

Can you locate the FAB and AIDA elements on this Pointy Design page?

6 – Great copy complements the design

When it comes to the design of digital interfaces, advertisements and certain artwork, effective copy can make or break the deal.

You could have a beautifully designed website but if it has poor copy, you will not be able to convert . By thinking of both the visual and written as parts of the same communication strategy, you can achieve a streamlined cohesion in your message that creates a favorable impression.

Iceberg Quest uses a smart and cohesive blend of design and copy to create its distinctive look.

7 – Great copy is free of errors

Credibility is the cornerstone of persuasion.

Nothing loses credibility quicker than unprofessional copy. While this might seem like a no-brainer to most of us, the fact is that even the largest and most successful corporations routinely make simple linguistic mistakes in their copy.

This is not to say that you have to religiously follow the rules of grammar. Knowing your target audience is a good way of gauging how fast and loose you can play with the rules of writing.

Do you have any contemporary or classic tips to share about great copywriting?  Share your 8th Habit of Highly Effective Copy in the comments!

About 

Babar Suleman is a visual storyteller and a communication planner. He is interested in the interplay of words and visuals in the communication process and uses his diverse experience as a writer and designer in creating meaningful user experiences and effective branding strategies.

You can contact Babar at his official website or on the social media channels below.

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7 COMMENTS

Damien

8. Great copy is all about the reader – not the writer.

I think the free from errors thing is a factor but certainly not a deal breaker. In some ways the occasional error in grammar or spelling humanises the copy and makes the reader relate better.

Some great examples of sites doing things well there Babar – thank you!

October 1, 2012 Reply

joey negros

Words can be sexy too..

October 1, 2012 Reply

terry

I followed the link to DBA products & they don’t support your argument as they seem to be kaput..

October 1, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Thanks Terry, I removed the link. I think the point stands on its own.

    October 2, 2012 Reply

Chuck Kent

Great copywriting isn’t just brief… it starts with a brief (actually, in web writing, it too often doesn’t). If the client doesn’ t provide a strategy statement or creative brief, create one. Make sure it observes not only the client’s objectives, desired messaging and brand personality but moreso the audience’s needs/desires/personality, focusing not on features but how they benefit the prospective consumer. To Damien’s point above, it’s not about you or your client; it’s all about the reader/consumer.

October 2, 2012 Reply


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