The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting for Small Businesses
Dominate the fundamentals of copywriting for small businesses with these tips and resources.
Small businesses are often constrained by a tight marketing budget, especially in their early stages. This situation demands small business owners to use every marketing dollar wisely. We believe if owners are forced to choose a single marketing element to focus on it should be copywriting.
Words are the foundation of every other marketing and advertising element, and are the main channel any business uses to communicate with their audience. From your sales pitch, your social media posts, to your New Year’s greeting: the words you use shape the perception your target audience and your current clients have of your business more than any other marketing strategy.
In this guide, we’ll provide an all-encompassing guide for copywriting for small businesses, covering:
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What is Copywriting (and why does it matter)?
Copywriting consists of the words, written or spoken, a brand chooses to use to persuade its target audience to take a desired action. Whether you want your audience to download a lead magnet, to leave a review, or to ultimately choose you over your competitors, you need copywriting to create the right message that influences your audience.
Copywriting does more than just persuade. It showcases the values a business holds, and it helps your audience understand your brand and its purpose. For these reasons, copywriting shouldn’t be left to chance. In order for any marketing strategy to be successful, and for your business to attract the right people at the right time, you need the right words.
The importance of good, professional copywriting is reflected in the statistics gathered in the marketing industry over the years. In case you need more arguments that demonstrate the importance of copywriting for small businesses, the following information will give you a better understanding of what copywriting can do for your business:
- 74% of readers pay attention to the quality of spelling and grammar errors. (Codeless)
- Compelling copy draws 7.8 times more site traffic and produces brand recall. (Copywriter Today)
- 8 out of 10 people only read the headlines. (Copyblogger)
- 59% would avoid buying from a business who made obvious spelling or grammar mistakes. (Real Business)
- Users typically spend enough time on any given webpage in order to feasibly read about 28% of its content. (Whats the Host)
- Users scan web pages following an ‘F’ pattern, hence the copy needs to be adapted to this scan pattern in order to deliver the most important parts of the message. (Nielsen Norman Group)
- Content, driven by copywriting, is starting to be seen as a revenue generator for small businesses. (SEMrush)
- Small changes could lead to big results: ContentVerve switched from “Start your free 30-day trial” to “Start my free 30-day trial” on their call to action, and increased their Click Through Rate by 90%. (Protocol 80)
With 2.5 quintillion data bytes of content created daily, small businesses are in a fierce competition to stand out. With professional copywriting businesses can deliver a clear and consistent message that demonstrates to your audience that you know what they’re going through, explaining clearly why you are the guide they need to solve their problems, and who you are as a brand.
The correlation between copywriting and branding
We’ve mentioned before that good copywriting is key to convey to your audience who you are as a business, and what values do you stand for. However, this can’t be done if you don’t have a consistent brand.
Human brain likes consistency, and we know this by what consumer neuroscience has revealed in recent years: brain scans have revealed that when our audience feels confused by an excess of information or inconsistency in that information, they’re unable to make a choice. In short: sending mixed signals to your audience will lead you to lose potential clients.
If you have a strong and defined brand, every other marketing tactic, including copywriting, becomes easier and natural. It gives you the confidence that you and your team are using the correct words to communicate with your audience repeatedly to connect with them.
Copywriting vs. Content Writing
Before we dive into more details about copywriting, it is very important to clarify what’s the main difference between copywriting and content. Since both use words to communicate a message to a target audience, small business owners tend to believe that they’re the same thing and use pieces of content and copywriting arbitrarily, and this mistake can cost them time and money.
Simply put, copywriting’s goal is to convert. The copywriter chooses words specifically intended to drive action in the reader. On the other hand, content consists of any piece of information you want to give to your audience, and it can have different goals according to the stage of the buyer’s journey. That could include answering the audience’s questions about your products or services, educating them in regards to a relevant topic using a blog post, or interacting with them in your social media feeds.
Anatomy of Great Copywriting
As you may understand by this point, there are some key elements needed to create great copywriting that drives sales. These are the key elements that turn a random group of words into an outstanding copy that sells:
1- It’s Consistent
You guessed it. Good copy delivers a consistent message that reflects your business identity, and aligns with the brand you and your team have put out there. This coherent approach avoids confusing your audience and makes it easier for them to understand and choose you. Consistency also supports another key element: authenticity.
A brand that shows its authenticity through its copywriting is a brand that inspires trust and that’s the first and most important step towards converting a lead into a customer.
2- It makes the audience “The Hero”
Great copy is more about your audience’s story and less about your business’s. As Donald Miller explains in his book StoryBrand, when businesses position themselves as the guide and position the audience as the hero, the audience can see the business as a trustworthy ally to help them overcome the challenges they’re facing.
Honoring your audience’s journey positions your business as a source of wisdom, as well as the source of the products and services they need to thrive. By making the audience the hero in the story you’re telling in your copy, you allow them to see themselves in your message. This makes it easier for them to convert. This magazine ad from the 1970s does a great job of anticipating its audience’s priorities. Gas prices were high, and the maker of the AMC Gremlin managed to sell a lot of famously terrible little cars by tapping into its audience’s fear of prices rising further. I’m sure making businesses could capitalize on this strategy today by focusing on inflation.
3- It has a clear promise (without overpromising)
Few things are as disappointing as being promised the ultimate solution for all your problems by a company and after receiving well… not what the copy claimed.
Many businesses fall into the trap of overpromising in an attempt to get more chances to get leads, without realizing that what they’re doing is misleading. That’s not what copywriting is for, nor will it get you the long-term, loyal customers you need.
4- It avoids boring words
Good copywriting is all about power words. These words are charged with emotion; they’re a bit extra. Their goal is to persuade by provoking strong psychological reactions in the audience that will ultimately lead to conversions. Here’s a list of power words that you have surely read before in eye-catching copy:
Power words are designed to create the fear of missing out on something valuable. However, you should use them wisely and sprinkle them throughout your copy only when it makes sense for the message you want to send to your audience. Overusing power words could create the opposite effect and make your potential leads skeptical of what they’re reading. You’ve likely seen this in hard-sell copy for used car sales or discount furniture outlets. Take a look at this flyer from The Brick:
Ah, The Brick. Canada’s discount furniture headquarters. My writing instructors used their flyers as a bad example of copywriting 20 years ago, and the style hasn’t changed since. This flyer uses several power words and phrases, and also threw in four exclamation points. It’s a bit much.
5- Calls to action
Last but not least, a great copy closes its case with a compelling, strong and clear call to action. All your efforts would go to waste unless you offer a clear instruction of what you want your audience to do.
A good call to action should match the rest of the tone used in your copy, and be a little reiterative in order to avoid being jarring. Overall, a strong copy shouldn’t leave any space for confusion or you risk losing leads.
How to start your copywriting strategy
As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, small business owners tend to have a tight budget. If this sounds like your current situation, you may be thinking of the potential financial struggle hiring a professional copywriter would entail right now.
Luckily, copywriting is a skill and it can be learned. If you don’t have the money, but are willing to invest some of your time, you can start a copywriting strategy for your small business yourself.
Here are our best tips for small business owners wanting to create a solid copywriting foundation in the most time-efficient way:
1- Think Like Your Audience
That is, be relatable. Put yourself in the place of your audience, think about what you want them to do after they read your copy, and write it with that in mind. One way to do this is to touch on your audience’s pain points. What challenges are they facing? How are you the guide to help them overcome those challenges? And why should they choose you as their guide?
Answering these questions in your copy will not only be relatable and show your audience that you get them, but it will also trigger an emotional response that sparks action. Knowing your audience will help you determine the mood and language they respond to and choose the right tone for your copy.
2- Focus on the Headline
Headlines are the first thing people see when they enter a web page and like we said earlier, people are reading less every day. That’s why you need to create irresistible headlines. If you don’t have a good first line to catch people’s interest, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your message is. No one will read it.
It’s equally as important that you don’t lose meaning by trying to cram too much information into your headline. NPR seems to give Britney Spears quite the career change when it tries to fit too many thoughts into one headline.
Besides catching people’s attention, headlines catch Google’s attention too. Make sure you include your main keywords in your headline. And how are you supposed to come up with those keywords? This hack will set you on the right track.
3- Proofread Your Copy and Check Your Grammar
I used to be kind of judgey about grammar and punctuation, until it occurred to me that 1 in 5 Canadians speak two or more languages. Who am I to look down on errors when I only speak one language? Pobody’s nerfect, right?
Unfortunately, businesses don’t get that kind of slack. People are cynical when it comes to advertising or promotional copy, so you can’t afford to make a single error. Bad grammar or typos reflect badly on your brand. For some people, finding a grammatical error in business copy equals instant mistrust and the loss of a sale. Here’s an example. Would you want to visit a “real” doctor?
Taking the time to proofread your copy will help you make sure you sound more professional which means more trustworthy. Another option is to ask a team member (or a friend, if you’re a solopreneur) to read your copy. A new pair of eyes could catch details you miss.
4- Write First, Edit Later
It’s tempting to try to edit as you write, but we actually use different parts of the brain to do these two activities. Our creative right hemisphere is in control when we write. Our analytical left is on the job when we edit. If you try to do both at the same time, it slows the whole process down and we want to be efficient, right? We recommend you write and edit in separate sessions. During your writing session, throw all your thoughts on the page without worrying about grammar or structure. Then use a different session to proofread, edit and give shape to what you wrote.
If you use this approach, you’ll work faster and in our experience, you’ll enjoy the process much more.
5- Keep It Simple
You’re dealing with a (very) limited attention span, that’s why you should keep your copy concise and get to the point .
More Tips: Copywriting Tips for Small Business
The Final Word
No matter what your small business is about, you need words to sell your products across all online and offline platforms. Copywriting for small business is a fundamental piece of your marketing strategy and if done right, can help you get the sales your business needs to thrive.
Although having a professional copywriter handle the messaging aspect of your business is ideal, it’s not always possible. The good news is that with some practice, small business owners can start creating irresistible copy on their own, reach their dream customers, and bring in more sales.
Now, all you need to do is take the tips we offer in this guide and get writing!