Growth Hacking, Retention, Acquisition, Conversion: Growthmint

Day 11: Copywriting

While a picture may be worth 1000 words, much the of communication between SaaS companies and their customers happens through text. Text provides details and takes away much of the abstraction that can result from relying on non-text to tell your story alone.

In marketing and growth work, text is referred to as copy. Good copywriting leans heavily on consumer psychology and customer research. Switching out just one word in your headline can either turn off your audience or draw them in. You need to know how they think to write good copy.

Pro Tip

Watch Mad Men. It’s a very entertaining education on copywriting.

Pro Tip

People are being bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day, so you need your copy to be short and effective to earn their attention.

Action

The next time you go grocery shopping, take a walk down the cereal aisle. Look around for more commonly used words. You should quickly spot trends. How many things are crunchy or toasted?

Your customers' brains are processors

Just as your computer has to spend resources processing a web page, your brain has to spend resources processing copy. The more resources a web page takes to process, the slower it’s processed. The same goes with copy.

Your brain can only process the writing you read on a website so fast and poor grammar and awkward sentences will slow your reading pace down. This is frustrating for the reader and can cause them to leave.

Prioritize your writing for speed and understanding - the understanding is the basic functionality base that has to be achieved with code, while the speed part is the optimization of the code/copy without losing that functionality.

Things that can slow you down:

  • Large words
  • Unfamiliar words
  • Awkward sentences
  • Unfamiliar idioms (they tend to be culturally specific and bad for international audiences)

Keep in mind that not everyone has to understand or be able to read copy easily, just the market you’re targeting. This is especially true with technical products.

Pro Tip

Know your audience - do they describe your product or features with the same words you do?

Characteristics of great copy

Ever come across an ad or landing page that was so hard to read you just stopped? You were a victim of bad copy.

Bad copy requires more brain power to process as more energy is spent understanding it. Good copy clearly and concisely conveys the message whereas bad copy turns people off.

Using internal jargon, awkwardly phrased sentences, and long, meandering sentences frustrate the reader and distract from the point you’re trying to make.

Characteristics of great copy:

  • Promotes benefits over features - You still need to mention features, but you lead with benefits - what your product allows your customers to do.
  • Uses the reader's own language - It’s quite common for companies to use industry jargon or internal language to describe product features and benefits rather than the words their customers actually use.
  • Short and to the point - Use as few words as possible in your copy without losing its meaning. Think of words as a limited resource.
  • Clear and easy to understand - The more effort your reader has to spend to understand what you’re writing, the smaller the chance that they’ll actual put in that effort.
  • Addresses your customers' fears about buying - For example, a potential customer may see startups as too unstable to buy from.

Writing Headlines

The "Father of Advertising", David Ogilvy, said “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.“

Headlines act as middlemen between your customers and your content. They draw people into reading your content, whether they see them in search results, tweeted on Twitter or in an email from a friend.

Word and character lengths both affect how many people click on headlines as do tone and sentiment. Tell a story in your headline, but don't give it all away. Talk like a human and have fun - boring headlines don’t get clicks.

Pro Tip

Headlines are what draws a person in, while the content is what gets them to share.

Tools

Tools for writing headlines:

Action

Upworthy has its writers produce 25 headlines for every post they make. Yes. 25. It’s such a high number that it forces the writer to think out of the box and draw on their creativity to find headlines they’d never think of.

Once the 25 have been written, things get more reasonable - Upworthy has an editor then pick out 5, which are tested in real time to pick out the winner.

Reading level

Did you know that the average American reads at a 8th grade reading level? Depending on your market, you may be writing your copy at too high a level.

Lowering the reading level doesn’t mean taking out the meaning of your copy, but rather using more generally known and understood words to describe your benefits and features.

There are different formulas for figuring out reading level with Flesch-Kincaid readability test being the most well known.

Pro Tip

At Readability-score.com, you’ll find a tool to calculate your content’s reading level. It uses several different formulas such as Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and averages out their scores to produce the reading level of your content.

Action

Use Readability-score.com on some of your content to calculate the reading level. Is it above an 8th grade reading level? You should test copy at a lower reading level.