How to Write Copy That Sells -  A Beginner’s Guide

Author Dan Hughes

Widely considered the 'original Madman', David Ogilvy is one of the most prolific copywriters in history.

Although today brands and businesses largely deal in digital copy, the core principles of David Ogilvy's art remain the same - and if you're able to write copy that sells, big things will happen.

In fact, three-quarters of web browsers say they pay attention to the quality of spelling and grammar on company websites. It's safe to say that quality copy still counts for a lot in today's world.

If you're looking to improve your copywriting and strengthen your digital skills arsenal, these tips on writing copy that sells will have you turning heads and driving conversions in no time…

"Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals." - David Ogilvy

Remember, the headline counts for 80% of the copywriting pie

On average, five times as many consumers read the headline than the body copy, so writing a compelling headline is a copywriting skill you can't afford to ignore.

To write a strong headline that entices people to read on, engage with your message, and ultimately, convert leads into customers, here are a some measures you should take:

  • Lead with a strong benefit that will make people want to read more
  • Use numbers in your title; not only are these more digestible, but they are proven to help with conversions. Also, odd numbers are seen to be more authentic than even ones
  • Convey a sense of urgency
  • Be as specific as you possibly can

Do your homework

As mentioned at the very beginning, research forms the very foundations of copy that sells.

We've talked about creating buyer personas to target users and understand your audience - and whatever the size or style of the campaign you're working on, you should always take the time to create consumer profiles to know where to direct your copywriting efforts.

By knowing what your target customer wants, how they think, and what they need, you're up to five times more likely to write copy that sells. Research inspires authenticity, and in today's fast-paced digital climate, authenticity counts for a lot.

Kill your darlings

Coined by English writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, 'Kill your darlings' forms one of the most important principles of writing copy that sells: keeping it simple.

Even if you're writing content for a company in the financial sector, you should avoid using too much industry jargon or fancy language - you'll only confuse or alienate people - and they won't stick around.

Also, you need to be ruthless with your copy. We all like to show off our poetic side, but when you're talking about sales copy, simplicity reigns supreme.

Cut down your adjectives by half and try to rid your copy of adverbs as they will only make your message clogged and dull.

In the words of Jerod Morris: “Write what you mean and mean what you write. Use adverbs where they are pretty and unique in their boldness. Then, and only then.”

To help you keep your copy sharp, simple and potent, here’s a quick guide. Always use...

  • A word instead of phrase
  • A phrase instead of a sentence
  • A sentence instead of paragraph
  • A paragraph instead of a page

Never talk down to people

A development on keeping your copy simple, talking down to your customers will make your bounce rate higher than that of an NBA basketball court.

Always remember, customers are the key to any business, and they have a problem to solve - so make sure you tell them how your product can help them solve it.

Treat your customer with respect. You're equal or maybe a bit lower than them considering you’re the one who needs the sale. Reflect that position in your copy, and you'll avoid using terms or language that makes them feel confused or frankly, stupid.

Still not sure? This video from David Ogilvy will explain everything...

Don't get distracted from your goal

This is a vital point - and it's often overlooked.

Of course, being funny, smart and original is important, especially if you're a marketer, but you should never let it distract you from the bottom line.

When people read copy, they're on the go or in a rush, so you need to connect with them and their desires, almost in an instant.

When you write your product copy, focus on how it's going to jump out and tell people how your product is going to enhance their lives. Get to the point, craft a message that carries commercial clout and save the fluffy stuff for afterwards (if there's space).

If you've grabbed the attention of your reader with your headline and introduced your product in all its problem-solving glory, you'll need to sign off with a call to action telling them why they need to buy now rather than later. Much like the headline, your conclusion should create a sense of urgency and have your target customers running to the store or swiping through their smartphones to get their hands on what you have to offer.

Apply these principles when you're crafting your copy and you're sure to succeed. Oh, and always remember:

"Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer." - Shirley Polykoff

As a professional marketer, copywriting is one of the most important skills you will ever learn. If you want to improve your career prospects, gain a competitive edge and delve deeper into the art of sales copy, plus many other priceless modern digital skills, book yourself a place on Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing course.

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Dan Hughes
Content Marketer