One of the least talked-about areas in copywriting education isvoice. This is probably because it?s tough to set general rulesfor something that?s so personal to each of us. After all, thesame things go into building your copywriting voice that go intomaking you who you are!
Personality, upbringing, environment, education, audience,purpose?all these and more go into forming your voice, no matterwhat kind of writing you?re doing.
In this article, I?d like to try to tackle the subject of voicein copywriting. I?ve identified a couple of areas that I believeare the most important when it comes to making your voice morecredible when writing copy -- style and tone. By improving these two areas, you'll connect with your customer in a much more genuine way.
In my conversations with successful copywriters and marketers,I find that practically every one of them has an uncanny abilityto communicate on a gut level with their customer or prospect.And that is one of the main keys to their success.
How do they do this?
By removing internal editors, and writing as if they werespeaking to a friend.
When you sit down to write, you need to make a psychologicalleap and forget everything you ever learned about writing inschool.
Yes, I know that you?ve got those ?ghosts of English teacherspast? sitting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear abouthow you should write. But those internal editors need to betossed out.
Instead, you need to write like you talk. This is much easiersaid than done, and requires some practice and work. If you havea hard time doing this, one possibility is to record yourselfspeaking your sales message first, and then to transcribe itafterwards. That way you?ll get the spoken spirit of thelanguage.
You?ll still need to edit it though, to get rid of ?hesitationmarkers? like ummmm, uhhhhh, etc. You don?t want those sounds inyour copy?
But more than anything, writing like you talk means beinginformal. One thing I see with novice copywriters is that, eventhough they might start to get the idea of writing like theytalk, they?ll still ?speak? formally, as if they were giving a(dull) public speech.
It?s true that ad copy from 50 years ago, especially direct mailsales letters, may have been a bit stiff and formal. And theremay still be times when a certain level of formality is needed,depending upon your target market. But with Web sales copy, and especially with email copy, informal is the right way to go.
Informal style means breaking a ton of grammar rules. Which iswhat you do when you talk, anyway, at least in conversationalspeech. Use contractions (like can?t and won?t and I?ll?). Andfragment sentences. And you can start sentences with ?and?. Orwith ?or?.
And you can tail off sentences with ellipsis markers (thosethree dots)? Which is also a good way to show hesitation whenwriting, by the way, since you can?t use the hesitation soundsyou normally use in speech.
And you can have sentences that have only one or two words. Likethis!
And you can use really short paragraphs to express a quick thought.Or a bit longer paragraphs to express a longer thought.
There are also things you can do with language. Like using specialterms or jargon used exclusively within a specific marketing niche.Customers know immediately if you're "one of them." Jargon andspecialized knowledge help give them the clue for that.
There?s an awful lot you can do. And you?re really only limitedby that internal editor/critic. So the sooner you throw thatcritic out the door, the better.
Also, when writing like you talk, you need to be able to keep awarm tone. One way it?s put by sales professionals is to imaginethat you?re making ?a referral to a friend? rather than making?a sales pitch to a customer.? The examples you?ll usually hearcopywriting educators use for this are the kitchen tableconversation or the barstool conversation.
The best way to develop this warm tone is through identification.
Getting to really know your target market (or ?tarket?, asLorrie Morgen-Ferrero calls it) allows you to identifyfirst-hand with their hopes, dreams, wants, and needs. Thiscomes from study and research, although a certain amount ofintuition comes in handy too.
You really do need to be able to put yourself into yourcustomer?s shoes in order to be a good salesperson, whether inprint or face-to-face. As the old saying goes, ?Become yourcustomer.? They need to become real in your mind -- as real asthat person sitting across the kitchen table.
There are plenty of ways to identify with your customer orprospect. Reading the trade journals or magazines they read is agood place to start.
But what this skill really amounts to is empathy. Identificationand empathy are two peas in the pod.
In business, you develop empathy simply by putting your customerfirst. By actually caring about your customer and making it youravowed goal to help them. By going the extra mile to find outwhat it is that keeps them awake at night. By becoming obsessed(in a good way) with bringing them a product that will solve aproblem and make their life easier.
And by listening.
How do you listen to your customer when they're not there? The sameway you would if they were there. By asking a question. And then listening for the answer. From inside you.
Whenever you write sales copy, you need to continually ask "So what?" after every single sentence you write. The person sitting across the kitchen table or next to you at the bar is a skeptic. Which is normal and healthy!
By keeping your customer's possible objections in mind every single minute you write, you establish a kind of dialogue. And that's when your customer will really get pulled into your copy. That's when they'll say, "Hey, she's talking to me!"
You'll be getting that empathy. And with it will come that warm,familiar tone.
So practice writing like you talk, keeping in mind that you want to be informal and familiar. Get to know your customer better soyou can identify better with them and build empathy.
Eventually you'll get "over the hump" and your "right" voice willstart to come naturally.
And that's when you'll start to see a steep rise in your sales numbers!
Copyright ? 2005 by Bruce Carlson
Bruce Carlson is a freelance writer and writing coach living in Finland. Visit his website at http://www.dynamic-copywriting.com and sign up for his free newsletter The Dynamic Copywriter!