How to write binge-worthy marketing copy

We’ve all been there.  

Lounged out on the couch, wrapped up in blankets, snacks scattered across the coffee table. Your favorite show automatically plays one after another on the TV. Netflix has the gall to ask if you’re still watching. You glance at your phone and it tells you it’s 1 a.m.  

1 a.m.? How did that happen? You just couldn’t look away from the screen. It’s that good.  

Marketing copy can be just as compelling, especially when you borrow these three tips from the small screen:

1) Appeal to emotion 

If you’ve never had a physical reaction to a TV show, you’re not watching the right ones. (I’m looking at you, “Scandal” and “Orange is the New Black.”) The best shows stir something up in you, whether it’s a gasp or happy tears. 

Good marketing copy will connect with audiences on an emotional level. Studies have shown that advertisers have more success when they appeal to emotions rather than logic. By the numbers, 31 percent of advertisers report significant profit gains with emotional campaigns, versus 16 percent with rational campaigns. 

In general, some of the best emotions to invoke include belonging, trust, competition, fear and guilt.

2) Charge up your language 

You don’t have to go R-rated just to trigger an emotional reaction among your target audiences. With some carefully chosen words, you can build emotion into your story, and improve the effectiveness of your advertising.   

A quick and easy rule to follow is to use shorter, more basic words, rather than intellectual ones.  

For example, change additionally to there’s moreConcerned to worriedDifficult to tough or hard. These common words carry more emotional weight, and are proven to be more successful when getting consumers to act on their emotion.  

Other powerful words in marketing copy include: you, new, save, love, results and guarantee.  

3) Throw in a plot twist 

An unexpected plot twist never fails to catch people’s attention and get them talking. This was the case in “How I Met Your Mother” (still not over it), and it also holds true in marketing copy.  

One of the first lessons copywriters learn is how to take a well-known phrase and give it an element of the unexpected. It’s a clever way to get the reader to notice your message.  

For example, a straightforward line for an anti-drunk driving ad could be: 

“Be responsible. Don’t drink and drive.” 

It’s solid and concise, but there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it to catch the reader’s attention.  

Instead, see how this turn of a phrase is more effective:  

“This one’s on you. Don’t drink and drive.” 

Instead of telling readers to follow the rules, it walks an entirely different line. It inverts the jolly bar phrase “this one’s on me” and turns it into something more tragic. (Plus, it plays on the ever-motivating emotion, guilt.) 

Whether you use one or two of these techniques or go for all three, emotionally charged copy will bring you better results. All you have to do is borrow from the small screen.   

Need help elevating your copy with engaging techniques? Contact WordsFresh for a creative approach to meeting your business goals.  

 

 

Fewer words, fewer problems: How scaling back your word count can increase clarity and creativity

Show of hands: As a reader, who thinks long copy is good copy? Chances are not many hands are up right now. So why do so many writers tend to drone on (and on, and on) before making their point?

In many cases, they layer on more words in an attempt to make their writing clearer or more creative. Left unchecked, it almost always has the opposite effect.

Here are a few mistakes people make when trying to infuse creativity into their writing, along with more successful alternatives.

1) They lean too heavily on adjectives and adverbs.

Mark Twain had it right when he said, “As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.” More often than not, adjectives become a problem when writers pepper them throughout their pieces in an attempt to be more specific or creative. The result is an over-seasoned sentence that overwhelms the reader rather than impresses them. Writer’s Digest gives this example:

He gently expressed his love by whispering sweetly in her ear…

Do the readers get the point? Yeah, sort of. But see if this is more successful:

He whispered words of love… my dear angel… he purred his contentment, his joy.

 Why is this better? Because the static adverbs “gently” and “sweetly” are replaced with more impactful verbs and nouns like “dear,” “angel,” “purred” and “joy.” By using powerful, action-oriented words, writing becomes more direct and engaging.

2) They don’t vary sentence structure.

In an effort to sound precise, writers will sometimes write long sentences with multiple clauses, and give the readers little room to absorb the information presented to them. (Exhausting, right?)

Writers should let their words breathe. The best way to do this is by varying sentence structure. Switching up the lengths of sentences, throwing in questions where appropriate and providing other variations help keep readers’ attention.

One rule of thumb is to look back over a finished draft and ask yourself: Can I break these sentences down into shorter sentences without it sounding choppy? If so, then do it. The more dynamic the piece, the more engaging it will read.

3) They bury the lead.

Take another glance at the intro to this blog. How many sentences do you have to read before you can identify the topic of the blog? That’s the lead. And readers will jump ship if they can’t find it quickly.

Although it’s easy to get caught up in crafting the perfect hook or a tantalizing anecdote, it can easily become a mess of words that readers have to wade through. If they have to try that hard just to identify the topic, chances are they won’t read on.

Instead of junking up your intro, a more effective approach would be to write the lead first and then give yourself the challenge of only building up to it in three to five sentences. Chances are you’ll come up with something much more creative and clear.

If you’re having trouble infusing creativity or providing clarity in your writing, these three tactics are the first you want to try. You’ll see that streamlining a piece, rather than layering it, will give you the result you need.

The science vs. the art: Improve writing projects by developing your project management skills

Peep our job titles here at WordsFresh and you’ll find something quite fascinating. Many of us have some form of the title, “Writer and Project Manager.”

Yes, you read that right. We employ those mystical creatures that can somehow bring together creative brainpower with practical and disciplined project management skills.

Not everyone can tap into both of these skill sets, and a lot of writers prefer to only live in the artistic realm (which is great – keep those creative juices flowing!). But for those of us who embrace the more scientific aspects of our writing projects, it helps to be reminded of some best practices.

Here are three ways writers can keep their project management skills fresh:

1) Ask all the questions

As writers, we need to become experts on any given topic before we can communicate about it. However, as project managers, we also need an added level of knowledge. We need know all the nitty gritty details about the project.

In rare cases, we get all the information we need served to us on a silver platter. With most projects, though, we have to actively seek out the information we need in order to deliver amazing results. Things we might need to know, include:

  • What is the timeline for each step in the process, as well as the final deadline?
  • Will multiple people need to review or will there be single approval? How much time should I account for that?
  • What are the design needs? Do we need to shoot new photography, or do we want to use stock images or illustration?
  • Are there deliverables that need to be printed or shipped via mail?

Asking these kinds of questions at the start of a project will save a lot of headaches by the time we deliver the finished product.

2) Find your system

Post-it notes and to-do lists are great – believe me, I consider them dear friends – but to keep your arms around your project, you need a system that keeps you on track. It needs to host all your information, such as background docs, different drafts, design files, etc. More than simply a filing system, though, it also needs to keep you on task (something all writers could use a little help with, am I right?).

For these purposes, there is an unending list of project management software. At WordsFresh, we primarily use Trello. It allows us to set up boards per project, with lists and assignment cards that keep everything organized and in one place.

For budgets, we use a time tracking service called Harvest. Not only do we keep track of our own time there, but we can set up budgets and view our progress on a project at a glance.

And then there’s the tried-and-true spreadsheet. Even in its simplest form, it can be the perfect tool to keep track of costs, orders, etc., without having to use overcomplicated software.

3) Follow the money

Even though it’s not as glamorous as creative writing, minding clients’ budgets is a huge part of our project management services. In past projects, we have been the single point of contact for copywriting, design, printing, programming, video shoots and more. Having that many responsibilities means our clients look to us to keep close track of where their money is going.

Different project managers have their preferred methods tracking budgets, but I’ve found a handy dandy spreadsheet does everything I need. Once you tailor the format to meet the needs of a project, you can track status, capture costs and create an end product that you can reference on future projects. Although continually updating it might take some discipline, your future self will thank you in the end.

When put into practice, these reminders help project management become a smooth process. You’ll be able to marry the art and the science of writing for a truly remarkable end product.

Throw Perfectionism Out the Window

Three ways your perfectionism hinders your writing process and how to kick the habit.

Hi, my name is Faith, and I’m a recovering perfectionist. Whew. Feels good to share.

I feel the need to tweak, fine-tune and tinker with words, until time completely slips away from me.

Sound familiar? You might be a perfectionist, too.

Chances are, whenever you’ve been told you’re a perfectionist, the subtext was that it’s a good thing.

“Perfection is what drives you and motivates you to do your best work,” they say.

In many ways, they’re right.

Perfectionism only becomes a problem when you approach the peak of productivity and go too far, tip over the edge and roll (quickly) down the other side.

Here are three ways that perfectionism can hinder your writing and some steps you can take to prevent it:

1) You focus too much on the details and not enough on the big picture

When writing, it’s important to mind the details. However, sometimes you can get too in the weeds and lose sight of the overall strategy of the piece. It’s easy to get hung up on individual words, even the articles like “the,” when trying to find the perfect language to connect with your audience.

Although healthy amounts of tinkering can help hone the message, it can have the opposite effect when done in excess. When you double- and triple-guess your word choice, you potentially move farther from the target with each change. Your language becomes too formal or clunky. It may also veer away from your brand voice.

The solution: Write your first draft like you have the world’s best editor who will mind all the details for you. Don’t worry about changing one word three times to get the exact meaning across, or if you should move a sentence in the middle to the top. Just write.

Once you have everything down on paper, take a break and revisit it after a few minutes. Then, become your own world’s best editor. With the full picture in view, it will be much easier—not to mention quicker—to make the nitty-gritty decisions while staying true to the strategy.

2) Your creativity takes a hit

When you feel the need to get everything just right, you start to lose perspective. Your mindset shifts from “I can do all this” to “I can’t do it, at least not today.” This negative perspective will seep into your writing, and your words lose their impact.

The solution: Once your piece is in the editing stage, take a moment and ask yourself if it passes the “Toddler Test.”

Often when talking to toddlers, you have to compete with a million different stimuli for their attention. Sometimes you have to explain one concept a few different ways to win their focus. In this same vein, you can review your piece by asking questions like:

What will get the audience’s attention?

When I have it, will I keep it?

Do I need clever words to draw them in?

Is the message strong enough on its own?

Asking yourself these simple questions will help you think about your writing in fresh, new ways. Your words will pop from the page in ways they didn’t before.

3) You start to miss deadlines

The more you dissect your words and reformat your piece as you go, the longer it takes you to arrive at a first draft. By that time, your deadline is likely to have already passed or is quickly approaching.

The solution: Give yourself mini deadlines and one overall deadline for the piece. Structure your writing process so that you only allow so much time for writing, editing and proofreading.

Start off by writing two or three hours, depending on the project. Then, take a break and move into editing, and give yourself about the same amount of time as the writing phase. Once you have your draft where you like it, allow time for one last proofread.

If it helps, you can set a timer for each step to keep yourself accountable. By setting individual deadlines at each stage, it helps keep you on track and motivated to hitting your overall deadline.

Perfectionism is a hard habit to break. The impulse to tweak and tinker won’t disappear overnight. But with practice and some handy tricks, you’ll be able to focus on the big picture, stay on top of your creative game and hit those deadlines. You’ll be able to approach peak writing productivity time after time, without tipping over the edge.

Just don’t have time to take on writing responsibilities for your marketing project right now? Contact the WordsFresh writing team for compelling, audience-focused content that works for your schedule. Get started today.