Good writers don’t always write compelling marketing copy. No matter how much you know about grammar, storytelling, or the five-point essay, marketing copy can be elusive because it’s a completely different beast. Understanding what it is, getting practice writing product descriptions and landing pages, and learning from copywriters who excel at marketing can help you tame that beast and put it to work toward freelance earnings.
What is Marketing Copy?
Marketing copy is writing that is meant to sell or convert. It doesn’t just inform a reader about goods, services or a brand. It pairs information with description, benefits and other writing that entices, entertains or educates.
Not all marketing copy is created equal, and that also makes it difficult to write well. You must know what the client’s goals are: do they want to push a product via the hard sell (think infomercials), inform and convert with a soft sell (more common than the hard sell) or just build an audience or brand awareness? Some tips for understanding what your client needs include:
- Asking them what their goals are for the content
- Reviewing examples of content already performing well for them
- Looking at content they like from other brands
- Knowing who the target audience is so you can adjust copy to meet their needs
On a Related Note: Freelancers: Do You Know How to Write Thought Leadership Content
Features and Benefits: The Bones of Marketing Copy
Most marketing copy starts with features and benefits. This is especially true for product descriptions (PDs) and many landing pages. We’ve found that many strong writers new to marketing do well describing features, but they often leave out benefits. Remember that neither one stands alone well.
Features are the actual specs, physical aspects and parts of a product (or service).
Benefits are why the features matter — the advantage they offer or the things customers can do with or because of the features.
Consider these two short PDs for a pair of scissors.
- These DuraSharp scissors have a plastic molded handle and stainless steel blades.
- Cut through paper, cardboard or plastic with these DuraSharp scissors. The colorful plastic molded handle makes them easy to find and comfortable to grip, and the stainless steel blades stay sharp over years of use.
The first PD is description only, making it informative but bland. The second PD provides numerous reasons someone might want to purchase these scissors and is more likely to convert. The bulk of marketing writing you’ll do as a freelancer will include feature/benefit writing of some type.
Convert: to cause a reader or consumer to take a desired action such as clicking a link, signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a product.
Read On: Keyword Optimization for Freelancers
Tips for Writing Marketing Copy that Clients Love
Mastering feature/benefit structure helps you write better marketing copy, but stellar marketing writing does take practice and skill. Here are some tips from some of the best marketing writers we’ve worked with.
1. Don’t overthink — or overwrite — it.
Erin Wallace is a marketing machine. Her product descriptions are concise, packed with features and benefits and well-researched. Here’s what she has to say about writing great PDs.
“Don’t overthink it — highlight the most important features of a product and stick to that. Don’t worry about including everything, but think about how you’d use the product if you bought it. For example, if it’s an electric kettle, I want to know the capacity, how fast it heats water and if I can carry it from the counter to the table. Also, be succinct and don’t waste time being flowery.” (Unless the client specifically wants all the flowers.)
*Clients can find and hire Erin on the writing platform under the name Emma Lynn.
2. Get excited — or at least informed — about the product, service or brand.
Jeanne Loganbill regularly inspires us with her storytelling style and true passion for each project she undertakes. The level of interest she pours into her work shows up in her marketing copy, and here’s the advice she has to offer.
“When I write marketing copy, I try to put myself in the client’s shoes. Something that doesn’t seem inspiring to me may be their absolute passion. To write inspiring copy, I have to get excited about the product or the service I’m writing about, and I also need to understand I’m an integral part of my client’s success.”
*Clients can find and hire Jeanne on the writing platform under the name Katharine Rochemont.
3. Use the right word instead of the convenient word.
When we need someone to turn a clever phrase, amble through some alliteration or write copy that pops from the page, we often turn to veteran freelancer Alana Luna. Her advice has to do with choosing the right words.
“Never write without a thesaurus nearby. If you can complete an hour’s work without once checking to see if there’s another way to say flavor, you’re likely boring your audience. Boring doesn’t sell. Wake your audience from a coma of commercial sameness with a word they don’t expect, and suddenly your copy is memorable.”
*Clients can find and hire Alana on the writing platform under the name Carrie McCarthy.
4. But use words, metaphors and phrases logically.
Katelynne Shepard has edited tens of thousands of marketing pieces over the years, and her advice is short and to the point: “Don’t make it sound like a sex toy.”
She’s not joking, either. The Crowd Content admins have had to triage a surprising number of PDs for completely innocent items because a weird turn of phrase made them sound like adult specialty toys. But this tip goes further than “keep it G or PG rated.” When you’re putting Alana’s thesaurus tip into action or reaching for a creative turn of phrase after writing about your 24th phone case, pause a moment and consider the logic. Does what you’re writing actually make sense, and does it apply to the project, feature and benefit at hand?
*Clients can find and hire Katelynne on the writing platform under the name Verle Hartley.
Marketing copy isn’t something every freelancer enjoys writing, and some people truly have skills better suited to general article and blog writing. However, if you can master the feature/benefit structure and put some of these tips into practice, you might find yourself with more work opportunities in the future.