When you’re looking at how to harmonise content and copy in your marketing, have you ever really thought about the job each is doing in your business? Defining the purpose, audience and occasion for everything you communicate is super powerful for connecting with your target audience, and building trust.
If you need more clarity on the distinctions between content and copy, and how to harmonise content and copy to drive sales, this article will show you some of the success factors you may not be harnessing.
In recent articles, we’ve focused on defining your ideal client avatar or ICA, and then moved into the arena of content marketing, content that helps people to discover you and get on your email list.
But how do you go from there to encourage the right people to take action?
Let’s turn now to how to harmonise content and copy so they are mutually supporting your customer’s journey towards buying from you, signing up for your program or service.
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When we were looking at content marketing, we looked at what is the JOB OF CONTENT and what it’s supporting you with in your business.
The JOB both content and copy do for you, is to CONNECT with your perfect people, to COMMUNICATE in a way that resonates and creates trust with your audience.
Content and copy both need to be fully client-centric, aligned and mutually reinforcing with where in the customer journey your prospect is.
When we talked about content marketing, I emphasised that the job of CONTENT is way more than just getting people to your landing page and lead magnet, which might be loosely construed as audience building.
But moving that audience to action, moving people along the intuitive path – that’s the JOB OF COPY: the messages, the customer’s journey – raising their awareness and belief, and creating the desire and trust required to make a purchase decision.
So, essentially, what I’m saying is that there’s a part of content that is actually copy. So let’s start by understanding what the difference is…
The Difference Between Content and Copy in the Marketing and Sales Process
Breaking down the differences between content and copy can certainly illuminate two crucial aspects of marketing and sales processes. Here’s an explanation that delineates their distinct roles and the skill sets involved.
In the dynamic world of marketing and sales, content and copy are two pivotal elements that, although closely related, serve distinct purposes and require somewhat different skill sets. Content refers to the creation and distribution of material designed to inform, educate, and entertain your audience, fostering a deeper relationship and engagement with them.
Content, found in blogs, eBooks, podcasts, and videos, to name a few, largely caters to potential customers who are at different stages of the buyer’s journey, guiding them gently towards making an informed decision. The skill set for content creation leans heavily on storytelling, research abilities to offer value, and a knack for engaging audiences over a longer period, nurturing a relationship grounded in trust and expertise.
On the flip side, copy is crafted with the primary objective to persuade or entice the audience to take a specific action, such as purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or engaging with a brand in a particular way. The realm of copywriting encompasses product descriptions, advertising scripts, sales pages, and email marketing, amongst others.
Copy is generally shorter, more direct, and honed in on conversion, requiring the artful construction of words that resonate with the potential customers, stimulating their interest and nudging them to act. Copywriting demands a deep understanding of the psychology of selling, mastery in crafting compelling calls to action, and a meticulous approach to language precision and framing, seeking to optimize every word, and the flow of those words, to serve the intended purpose.
The big picture objectives here are to understand the key distinctions between content and copy that you may not be mindful of, how to harmonise content and copy to connect with your ideal customer avatar. Then, I’ll share some of the success factors you may not be harnessing.
Key Principles for Creating Great Copy
Copywriting is a critical skill for any business owner looking to effectively market and sell their products or services. Even if you hire a copywriter to sell in print, or written form, you still need to be able to speak passionately about, and articulate the need and value of your own product, right?
Great copy can engage, persuade, and convert potential customers into customers who want to keep working with us or buying our stuff.
So first, let’s frame some of the key principles and then we’ll explore the key steps involved in approaching a copy project.
Whether you’re crafting a compelling website landing page, an engaging social media post, or a persuasive sales email, understanding the copywriting process will help you create impactful and results-driven messages.
Three key principles for great copy:
#1 – Understanding the difference between content and copy ….
#2 – Practice … the more you practice writing copy the better you get at it
#3 – When to outsource copywriting
Understanding the JOB of COPY in your business
In the article on content marketing, about being strategic about CONTENT you’re creating – I asked what’s the job of content in your business. So I want to ask the question again, this time with regard to COPY too – WHAT IS THE JOB OF COPY in your business?
Take a short minute to think about this now. What do you need copy for? What do you count as copy as opposed to content?
Make a note for yourself, if you can write it down, go ahead and do that now.
Content and copy are two important components of marketing and sales, each serving a distinct purpose in communicating with your target audience. In a practical sense, content and copy serve different purposes in the jobs they perform but they work together harmoniously.
Content allows people to discover you, and it builds a foundation by providing value and establishing trust, while copy takes that foundation and drives specific actions, ultimately leading to conversion to buying from you or hiring you.
A simple way to think about it might be that content drives engagement, education and trust, while copy drives conversions into signups and sales. As an analogy: content will load up your delivery truck and put some fuel in the tank, but COPY is the ignition and engine – it’s what drives it forward.
Content engages, educates, entertains even – and copy can be an important part of that. For instance, a content piece – be it an article, report, or a webinar, needs to be compelling, capture attention and move people towards an action that’s aligned with what they want or need.
Let’s say you have a thought leadership piece – a beautiful, well-researched white paper of some kind, or a lead magnet maybe a super actionable checklist that really helps your audience get something accomplished… it can be the best piece of content in the world, but if no-one picks it up, it won’t do much for your business.
The job of copy is to make them pick it up.
From the title to the design, from the structure of the narrative to the layout, visuals and use of white space to the call to action. The content, design and copy all contribute and work together towards the end goal of the next step in the customer’s journey with you.
While content provides the information and the education, the “copy” is what grabs someone’s attention, connects and persuades them to action. So, in every piece of content, there’s always a copy element – a psychology woven through it to connect your message with your audience’s needs.
Content + Copy that Converts into Action
Depending on where they are in the customer journey, when you harmonise content and copy you are supporting the action you want people to take next, such as to opt-in to download something, to stay subscribed to your email list or click on a link, to register for a workshop you’re running, or to buy a product or program or book a call with you.
That’s what your copy needs to focus on and achieve for you.
COPYWRITING is … the art and science of PERSUASION. It’s the ability to write words that get people to take the desired action.
Persuasion means having the desired effect at the desired point in the customer journey is not about manipulation, it’s about really helping the customer to do what they really want to do. If there’s no alignment with the customer’s needs, the best copy in the world won’t convert.
The primary goal of content, on the other hand – the broader category of material that a business creates and shares to engage, educate, and entertain its audience – more is to provide value, build brand awareness, establish thought leadership, and nurture relationships with the audience.
The Job of Content:
- Positioning the business as an expert and trusted source of information.
- Building Awareness: Content helps raise brand awareness by increasing visibility and attracting new audiences. It can be optimised for search engines (SEO) to drive organic traffic and reach potential customers.
- Discovery: Engaging and entertaining content captures the attention of the audience, encourages interaction, and builds a connection with them. It can be shared on social media platforms, fostering discussions and increasing brand visibility. It can be used in speaking engagements, where you’re able to get in front of other people’s audiences.
- Nurturing: Content plays a crucial role in nurturing leads throughout the customer journey. It guides prospects through the sales funnel by providing relevant and valuable information at each stage of awareness raising, helping them make informed decisions, and to keep going with consuming your content.
The Job of Copy:
Copy refers to the specific written content created with the intention of driving action or eliciting a response from the audience. It is concise, persuasive, and focuses on selling or promoting a product, service, or offer. Copy is typically found in advertisements, sales emails, landing pages, product descriptions, direct mail, and other promotional materials.
There are four key ways that great copy can serve your business:
Effective copy captures attention right from the start. It uses compelling headlines, engaging introductions, and attention-grabbing hooks to entice the audience to read further.
Enhancing Brand Voice:
Copy is an opportunity to showcase the brand’s personality and tone of voice. It should align with your brand values, resonate with your target audience, and create a consistent brand experience across different touchpoints and channels.
Copy taps into the emotions, desires, and pain points of the audience to create a sense of urgency or desire for the product or service. It highlights unique selling points, competitive advantages, and the value proposition to demonstrate why your client might need it.
Persuading and Converting:
Copy is designed to persuade the audience to take a specific action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or requesting a demo. It uses persuasive language, benefits-driven messaging, and strong calls-to-action (CTAs) to drive conversions.
How to Approach a Copy Project
Any copy project should focus on:
- Customer journey
- Resonant language
- Demand narrative
- Call to action
WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO as a result of reading/hearing this copy?
In marketing, we talk a lot about all four things. But what I hear a lot from entrepreneurs is they get confused and overwhelmed, so they can’t see the wood for the trees, and end up second guessing themselves. They’re missing the secret sauce to harmonise content and copy. To aid us in this, we need to use a framework, structure or check list to make sure we are attending to each and that everything flows.
Take a deep breath, relax and think in simple terms: what do you want them to do as a result of reading your copy – whatever it is, wherever it comes in the process.
Always go back to that question to get back in focus. And then ask, does it make sense given where they’ve just come from (the step before).
And this is why we talk about customer journey – because you want to write copy based on where are they in the process. What do they already know about you – have they just joined your list or do they already know, like and trust you. AND based on this, what level of awareness about the problem they have and how to solve it?
Because you want to be mindful of using resonant language to connect with your Ideal customer and create the narrative for them to keep moving forward.
This is what Danny Iny, CEO of Mirasee refers to as the “demand narrative” and I love this concept because it keeps you clear on the structure and flow of your copy (be it a sales page, email sequence, webinar or video script) – what they need to know, understand and believe to move towards a next step.
This creates the emotional drivers that keep people moving forward in their awareness – from symptom to problem to solution – while the specific wordsmithing persuades them towards action
You may be thinking – this sounds hard, why not just have someone else do it for me?
Well, you really do need to become reasonably competent in creating good copy yourself for two big reasons:
1. You know their business and audience better than anyone else, so will have best insight [with support], but most importantly…
2. if you don’t know how to articulate why people should be interested in your product in writing when you have time to think about it, it’ll be very hard for you to articulate why they should buy when you talk with them.
Articulating Your Ideal Customer’s Needs
Here’s a narrative process you can use when it comes to presenting your offer and opportunity. It’s a simple yet powerful copywriting framework that helps you harmonise content and copy to create a story arc for the person – the ‘heroes journey’ if you like.
|The Symptoms||Describe the reality as they’re experiencing it.|
|The Problem (as Your Customer Sees It)||Their self-diagnosis of what the problem is, including their rationalization for why it’s not their fault. Articulate what’s in their heads, the story they’re telling themselves.|
|A Deeper Understanding||Show them the whole picture or a different perspective that they may be missing. Introduce a deeper understanding of their problem/desire that points to your unique mechanism.|
|The Solution||Introduce a solution or a category of solution. This is not specifically your solution.|
|Call to Action||Tell them the next step they need to take. Re-open the gap; show them how far there still is to go. They can either bridge the gap on their own or choose to do it with your help.|
The COPY WRITING process in a nutshell
- Purpose, Audience, Occasion of each communique
- Customer touchpoints that interweave and harmonise content and copy
- Swipe copy
Tips, Tricks and Tactics for Success
The origin of the above framework came from when I first started up as a consultant back in 2007. A department head at the university where I’d been working approached me to teach a communications course for a final year module. If you want the specifics: this was Warwick University one of the Russell group, where I used to work as Head of Educational Development & E-Learning.
This is a top research-led university and the teaching is very much geared to developing the next generation of researchers. So, I was really pleased they were offering this course, because mostly the students don’t have a clue how to communicate research when they leave In fact, most lecturers don’t either, but that’s another issue …
So I said yes and went about developing this course. Well, I discovered that teaching it is far more difficult than doing it yourself or for clients. Many of the things I did came naturally experience or instinct but were a complete mystery to my students. So I had to come up with a process for them on how to go about a piece of writing or speaking.
I shared the first framework Purpose, Audience, Occasion – meaning the use case or setting for the piece. I shared this in the content marketing session, and it’s the same for copy.
This gives you context. Then there are five steps in the actual writing process: Prepare, Assemble, Write, Edit, and Refine.
Another key thing to remember is that nobody is going to read your stuff word by word, line by line, especially online. They skim and scan, flick around – so put the main point right at the top in your heading or title so they know the page is RELEVANT for them.
When we did an exercise on writing press releases, the students were agog when I said that Editors will only read the headline and opening line and even if you get their attention, they cut from the bottom up. Because they were used to giving some introductory waffle at the start, and putting key messages at the bottom as a concluding summary.
To be honest, it’s no different really to any reader, especially nowadays with so much information available on the internet and social media and email newsletters. Our attention span is severely crippled, and only the sexiest stuff gets our eye time.
This is also why it’s important to repeat your message multiple times in your copy, but in different ways. To give additional angles to what you’re promoting, as well as letting people who are skimming to receive the message.
How to Get Better at Copy Writing
Besides going on a comprehensive training course, reading books about it, or working with the greats, there are a few ways to get better at copy and knowing how to harmonise content and copy.
Read a bunch of copy from businesses/marketers you know, like and trust, and enjoy hearing from.
Subscribe to their email lists and really pay attention to the structure and flow of how they build a relationship with you, the subscriber, how they move you from a lead magnet into a sequence of emails, and how and when they invite you to take action or buy something.
Follow a few campaigns from marketers that do successful launches in your niche, both small ‘soft’ launches or very big well-known launches that happen every year. You’re not looking to copy or emulate these, but simply looking at the structure of the campaign and how each email is playing its part, can be super insightful.
Get involved in a launch as a Joint Venture partner with someone who is well known, so you see the whole campaign from the inside rather than just the outside. You’ll need to refine the copy to align and connect with your own audience, clients and followers. That gets you into at least some copyediting.
Create a swipe file with your favourite resonant copy.
Practice, practice, practice!
And there is now a 4th way – and I’ll be talking about that in our upcoming episodes diving into the power of artificial intelligence and generative AI tools like ChatGPT to help you research, outline, draft and optimise your content and your copy.
The potential to leverage these tools is HUGE – it’s like having a part-time marketing assistant at your side. But – there’s an important caveat you should learn about.
So I will see you soon with some juicy creative strategies on this topic.
Ciao ciao and best of success with your copy endeavours!