Copywriting Mistakes That are Hurting Your Product Experience and Conversion
or A PM's Guide to Excellent Copywriting
Many PMs believe that copywriting is a designer's or marketer’s job. Though designers can write copy, the most effective copy can be written by someone who has the best understanding of the consumer and market. Keeping this in mind, PMs should be the ideal candidates for copywriting.
If we look at the past, a good copy was used to attract consumers. The consumers would read about it in newspapers, come to the store and buy the product. That is why some of the best product marketers have also been the best copywriters. One of my favorite marketers Claude C. Hopkins was also a brilliant copywriter. The same is true about Ogilvy and Burnett. Ogilvy wrote,
“The copywriter lives with fear. Will he have the big idea before Tuesday morning? Will the client buy it? Will it sell the product? I have never sat down to write an advertisement without thinking 'This time I'm going to fail.”
Copywriting had a big impact on product brand and sales because if you couldn’t move the consumer, sometimes literally out of their homes, you knew you had failed as a product marketer.
Nowadays, the consumer journey starts with an ad followed by a landing page. Guess where consumers spend the most time? It’s the landing page or main page of the website. And that is where they form impressions about the product and decide on whether to try or buy the product.
Given that the product team in most organizations is responsible for building these pages, copywriting is a vital skill for them to have. Ogilvy wrote, “A good copy converts users into customers” and isn't that the key role of the PM? But, we don’t see enough talk around copywriting for PMs. And that is where I felt the need to write this post.
This post is an effort to become a one-stop guide for PMs to write effective copy. Before you go ahead, a quick announcement from my end.
Starting Nov 1st, I would be conducting the program on ‘Driving User Retention’. You can check it here — https://bit.ly/3eqtibe
How to Be Good at CopyWriting
So how do you write a good copy? Here are 9 basic things to keep in mind while doing so. You don’t need to remember all of it, you can always bookmark and come back to reference it while you are working on a copy. For now, understand why each of them is important and helps in good copywriting. Let’s go!
Spend a lot of time on headlines. Write it and then rewrite it. Re-write 10-20 versions of the headline. The components of a good headline are:
Showing the benefit
Making readers curious
Keep it short. Blaise Pascal famously wrote: I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time” One way Apple does it beautifully is by focusing on one idea. By keeping the focus on one idea, Apple can communicate its message effectively. Here is one from iPhone 14
Show what can you do ‘for the end user’: No one cares what you can do. Everyone cares what you can do for them. A famous one from Apple is ‘1000 songs in a pocket’. Another one from Apple in recent times,
Simplify by using an analogy. Analogies help users understand how the product helps by connecting something complicated with something known. Here is another one from Apple.
Avoid the passive voice. This is true about writing in general. Stephen King wrote about it, and so did Strunk and White wrote about it in The Elements of Style. Need a ridiculous example? Here is the Nike slogan in active and passive voice.
Create tension. Conflict creates interest. Create tension in the headline if possible. An example of this is the book I wrote ‘Tech Simplified’. Tech is an inherently complex topic. Simplified doesn’t go naturally with that and creates a conflict. That gets people interested because it’s a big promise in that sense.
Add alliteration and rhyming while listing benefits. Rhymes have a great effect on people when they read them. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like rhymes. You can find alliteration in many famous brands — Dunkin Donuts, Gold Gym, Coca-Cola etc. Here is a rhyming done well by Gillette. Can you figure out where they can improve in the image below? (Hint: it ties to point #8)
Make them take action. Don't just get them to read. Get them to take the next step. Use words that drive action. Remember what we said at the beginning of this post -great copywriting moves people, sometimes literally out of their homes. The call-to-action should include strong, specific action.
Tackle the anti-stories. Every customer has concerns before they buy a product. It could be price, safety, durability, warranty, privacy, etc. Address these concerns directly to build trust. This will reassure buyers that they’re making the right decision. iPhone users complain about breaking their screens. Apple presents its new screen as “tougher than any smartphone glass.” Airbnb does it via air cover.
The 9 tips shared above can help you become an effective PM who writes good copy. This would help with product experience and sales both. That said, I know a lot of people who have already read at least part of what I have written above and are still terrible at copywriting.
Why You Would Still Be Terrible at Copywriting
The advice I shared is available a few google searches away for everyone to read. But even then, PMs are still terrible at copywriting because of two reasons. First, they don’t feel it’s their job. Hopefully, I have changed that through this post.
The other reason is that they don’t take deliberate action in improving their skills. To start with, most people are bad at copywriting. And if you aren’t good at something, you would always avoid doing it. Further, knowing ‘how-to’ doesn’t help in good copywriting. What that means is that merely reading this post isn’t going to make you better. The only way to become better accepting you would be terrible at it when you are starting, and keep practicing. Write 100 terrible headlines, and 101st has a chance to be amazing.
With this, I would close this post. In the next one, I would be writing about advanced tips for copywriting. See you then,