If you want to improve your writing, develop copywriting skills. By “copywriting skills” I mean skills in writing to sell. As writers, we’re selling all the time, no matter what we write: a tweet, an email message—or a novel.
Start by paying attention to what gets your attention, every day.
If you want to develop copywriting skills, pay attention
We see so much advertising every day we ignore it. Stop doing that. Pay attention to whatever catches your eye.
In the old copywriters’ formula, AIDA, the A stands for Attention. (The other letters are I: Interest, D: Desire, and A: Action.)
Originally developed by St Elmo Lewis in 1898, AIDA’s been used by marketers and sales people for over a century because it’s a simple way of thinking about the sales process.
Today, AIDA is used to sell us everything, even news and ideas. AIDA is taken to ridiculous lengths in clickbait headlines.
Tip: avoid clickbait. To get from Attention to Action you need trust… And nothing trashes a reader’s trust as quickly as obvious manipulation.
Let’s look at some ideas to help you to get attention for your words.
1. Use motivation: what motivates your reader(s)?
Before you write, think about your readers and what might motivate them to read your words. Motivations vary. Motivating your boss to read your request for a rise in pay is different from motivating mystery readers to read your just-published cozy.
Thinking about a reader’s motivation will improve your writing instantly.
So, what might motivate your boss pay you more? You might show how you’ve increased the company’s profits over the past year.
What might motivate readers to read your cozy mystery? If you’re an unknown author, try piggybacking on bestselling authors: you’re guaranteeing the experience your novel gives readers.
Piggybacking is a popular strategy. You’ll often see blurbs with sentences such as: “perfect for the fans of… (bestselling authors who write similar books)” or “if you like… (bestselling authors) you’ll love… (this book.)”
2. Target a reader’s emotions (pay attention to your reading and viewing)
Once you start paying attention, emotional targeting becomes obvious. Consider the popular acronyms: FOMO (fear of missing out) and YOLO (you only live once.)
All mainstream advertising targets emotions. Page through any magazine: you’ll see full-page advertisements with an image and 25 words or less of text. The image targets/ manipulates emotions.
Am I suggesting that you manipulate your readers? No: not egregiously. Remember AIDA and the final A, for Action. Always deliver on what you promise readers, otherwise your writing will be ineffective.
3. Beware of curiosity: handle with care
Curiosity works, but do remember that you want to get Action: deliver on whatever you promise readers.
Copywriting skills begin with winning readers’ attention
You can do it, using motivation, emotions and curiosity. But as we’ve said, remember the final A for Action.
Your goal is to take your readers from Attention to Action. Without Attention, there’s no chance you’ll get readers to respond.
Have fun. Copywriting skills will improve all your writing.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.