Why copywriting isn’t all about selling, and you shouldn’t be either
- Mat Baxter
- 9th July, 2019
The internet is a noisy place. In any given location or any niche that exists on the web, there are thousands of businesses competing for impressions, clicks and conversions.
They want your money. Of course they do. They’re businesses. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a business wanting people’s money, but the way they go about earning that money has changed enormously over the years. It’s my opinion that in the past decade, this has changed more than ever before. Never before have so many businesses been able to position themselves in front of so many people at the same time.
Before I go on, I have a confession to make. I’m a copywriter who doesn’t believe in cold, hard selling. I’ve written for some of the biggest brands in the world in a variety of industries, and never have I been more uncomfortable than when writing copy where the sole and solitary objective was, ‘sell fast, sell hard’.
For starters, I believe the best way to sell something online is to not sell it. It’s to build a relationship founded on trust and ultimately earn the respect of your audience, so that when they want to buy they wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else. With so much choice out there, it’s the only way to secure actual customers instead of one-off mindless purchases.
This takes time, and therein lies the problem. Businesses are in a hurry, and they see ‘growth’ as a silver bullet. The bigger the better, right?
Content marketing isn’t about hits on YouTube or followers on Twitter. It’s possible to have a million followers on Twitter but not connect in any meaningful way with a single one. I see businesses doing this day in, day out. For me, businesses spend too much time fumbling over likes and followers and not enough time genuinely engaging their audience. I once worked in an office where an employee’s sole objective was to gain more social followers; how or why weren’t even considered.
Yes, reach is important. Yes, exposure is essential. But it’s only 10% of the game.
Okay, I hear you.
“What’s wrong with a snappy headline?!”, “I want my landing page to sell, sell, sell!”
Of course, and that’s okay. I’m not saying that the art of copywriting shouldn’t involve turning clicks into conversions. In fact, there’s nothing I love more than analysing hits and bounce rates on a landing page before tweaking the copy to get better results. Data can be useful and exciting, and there’s nothing more satisfying for a copywriter than penning the call to action that seals the deal time and time again. It’s just that too many businesses tend to sprint before they’ve learned to crawl, firing snappy headlines and heavy calls to action before they’ve built up a rapport. It’s like expecting someone to totally invest in you when you haven’t so much as shaken their hand or introduced yourself. Even car salesmen do a better job than that.
Stop. Think. Plan. Develop.
Copywriting isn’t like the set of Mad Men. We’re not all standing around smoke filled rooms knocking back whiskey trying to come up with the next big headline. It’s not 1960. This may have been the case when all we had to worry about were billboards by the side of the road, magazine spreads and product labels, but times have changed. A lot.
To ‘stand out from the crowd’ online these days it’s not about shouting louder than everyone else, and it’s not necessarily about saying things differently to everyone else (though that certainly helps). It’s actually about speaking to your audience in a meaningful way and giving them a reason to remember, respect and choose your business. It’s about time and effort. It’s about making friends.
That’s what copywriting needs to be about in 2019.