Copywriters come from different backgrounds and all walks of life. For many people, freelance copywriting is a second career started at a time when they have fewer financial pressures. Sometimes people embark on a copywriting career as a way of achieving a better work-life balance. A few enterprising young people are brave enough to launch their freelance career straight from university.
But the one thing a lot of copywriters have in common is a lack of marketing knowledge or experience. Many come from backgrounds such as the armed services, administration or teaching, and have little or no marketing experience. Copywriting and marketing go hand in hand. It’s not a stand-alone activity. It’s not enough to be able to write well. If you don’t have any marketing knowledge or experience, you need to get some.
One of the basic principles of marketing involves explaining the benefits to prospective customers. People buy ‘benefits‘ – not ‘features‘. And this is one of the hardest copywriting skills to learn. Do you understand the difference between a feature and a benefit? Have you taken the time and effort to learn when and how to write about benefits? You’ll need to know when to write about features too.
If a copywriter doesn’t understand this concept, let alone know how to write benefits-driven copy, they will be doing their clients a disservice. And unfortunately, there are a lot of clients out there who must be experiencing this very disservice.
A few years ago, I was privileged to work with an internet marketer called Karen Chapple. There was rarely a day went past when she didn’t emphasise the need for writing about benefits. Karen’s clients were firmly told they must never ”wee’ on their websites’. I’d take that a bit further and say if you’re selling your services as a professional copywriter, you shouldn’t ‘wee’ on any of your words!
So many copywriters’ websites don’t mention the benefits of their skills or services. These sites are easy to spot. The copy talks only about the copywriter themselves – how much they love the language, what a wealth of experience they have, how good they are at grammar and spelling, blah, blah, blah. But the prospective clients or their needs don’t get a mention. Almost every sentence starts with the words ‘I’ or ‘We’. In other words, it’s ‘wee-d’ on and that’s not how good marketing copy is written.
It’s not easy to write about the benefits of a product or service. It takes time, skill, understanding and insight. Of course, it’s much easier to take the soft option and write about the features of the company instead. But who said writing good copy was easy?
As a comprehensive copywriting course, the Copywriting Apprentice includes basic marketing skills. Copywriting is, after all, an integral part of marketing. Included in the syllabus is a chapter devoted to teaching students the difference between features and benefits. At the end of that chapter, they must demonstrate their ability to write about benefits by completing a written assignment. And throughout the remainder of the course, the student’s skills in this area continue to be assessed.
So, if you’re a copywriter and you’ve ‘wee-d’ on your website, please either consider investing in a copywriting course, or take the time to learn the difference between features and benefits and how to write about them. Your clients and your professional reputation will thank you for it.
Blog post by Joy McCarthy