Five common copywriting mistakes

If you don't think you're getting results from your print, radio, TV or web advertising, it could be your copywriting at fault. There are several common pitfalls that novices and pros alike can fall into, and it's often a fine line between what works and what doesn't.

Here's some hints:

Focus on benefits.

Here's a pretty common pitch: "Snarkle's Jams are family-owned, Australian made and have been around for 50 years."

These are features, not benefits.

Businesses need to focus on how their products or services benefit a customer. Try this instead: "50 years of family-made jam means the best tasting jam in Australia."

Don't use weasel words.

Is your company synergistically aligned with its customer base? Do you escalate your customers' expectations to the next level,  indulge in blue sky thinking (outside the box, of course), strategically innovate by creating constant change continuum? Hmm, no wonder your customers are deserting.

Speechwriter and author Don Watson coined the phrase 'weasel words' as a mocking identifier of management-speak and bureaucratic guff. In management it's usually an attempt to baffle with bullish*t; in advertising it's usually just lazy.

Take this: "Contact us for all your pharmaceutical requirements".

Uh-huh, whatever. It's 3am and I can't sleep because I have a cranking case of surfer's ear. I don't have a "requirement". I need some painkillers. Drop the hifalutin weasel words and create a tangible difference: "When you need meds at midnight, we're open".

Ditch the lists.

Yeah, yeah, I get the irony: this blog is a list. But in advertising, lists are a risk.

I heard a radio ad for a new Subaru the other day that listed, what?, more than 20 different features. I don't really know how many — I tuned out, which is exactly my point. Bear in mind that I was  thinking of buying a new Subaru so I was already a captive audience, and I still tuned out.

People can't remember 20 different features. You might think all of those 20 features are important, but chances are your audience doesn't — not in an ad. Choose one or two or three compelling benefits and focus on them and you'll get much better results. (Oh, and I ended up buying a Skoda.)

Don't waste your space and spend with nonsense.

"Our friendly customer service consultants are here to help." Of course they are. Being friendly and offering help is part of being in business. It's a given. One would hope it doesn't need to be emphasised.

Better to spend your money and your audience's time on real benefits, not just boilerplate drivel.

Create a tracking mechanism.

Media sales outlets are happy to take your cash, but very few, especially local media, can offer mechanisms that track the performance of your ad.

So you need to do it yourself.

Promote an offer, give something away, provide a loss leader. This lets you know what customers are responding to and why.

And, of course, make it easy for them to respond to that offer. No point having a hundred people excited about your offer and not knowing how to take advantage of it.

Worse: don't make an offer in Saturday's paper if you're not open till Monday. By then most will have lost interest or sourced an alternative from the net.

In brief

Even professional copywriters can miss the mark when it comes to getting the pitch just right. Here's some tips that are worth remembering when writing your sales copy.

Pitch perfect

If your ads aren’t responding or you need an obligation-free critique of your existing copywriting, give saso.creative a call. We’ll make your pitch one that’s remembered.

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