This is a guest post from Thomas George.
When creating copy, or blog posts or any content you want to grab attention with, you must write as though your audience are as smart as fish. This was the first thing I learnt.
Your title and first few words are your bait. If you haven’t slapped hard enough, you’ll lose. If you make it too long, you’ll lose. If you make it too complex, you’ll lose.
I’m not saying that my audiences are idiots. Never confuse the writing structure with personal opinion.
When I started in marketing, I used big words, complex analogies, structured sentences that would give Jane Austin cause to salivate much like a Pavlovian puppy with irony and wit weaved in more subtly than a deft pickpockets fingers.
And I was told it was all crap and wasted effort.
The art of copywriting is to engage the majority of the audience. You do that by being punchy and quick. People are much more likely to read an article that spans a few paragraphs than a few pages, so get to the point and do it fast. They have fish memories of around 2-3 seconds.
Attention spans are getting shorter, this is one of the sad things about the new technological age and the entire mission here is to get your whole article read. You do that one sentence at a time and each sentences primary purpose is to get the next one read.
Some people can do this easily and without effort. It took me a while to get the hang of it because I utterly despise reducing my vernacular range and lexicon. I’m a smart guy who grew up in an area of Sydney that promotes and celebrates both mediocrity and stupidity so I naturally have issues with it. I always will.
But the key to remember is it’s not about you.
You’ve got to make copy as engaging as possible and your primary tool is language. Adapt to the product or service your promoting and look at it from a fishes eyes.
You have to make the choice of being smart or getting results and when other people are paying for your time, they couldn’t care less about your brilliance.
Controversy always gets the most attention so use titles that cause outrage. Make hyperbole your best friend because if you use him well, you’ll do great. But always do it appropriate to the product your pitching.
For example, I use wild, in-your-face, language with my friends because they “get” me and understand my sense of humor. However, if I ever used that sort of hyperbole for a client, I’d immediately lose the client and damage my reputation as a writer. There is always a line and it moves around, which is something I’ve covered on my own semi-offensive copywriting blog.
So the essence of what has worked for me is to be short, simple and direct. Don’t allude to anything, don’t be overly clever, make the focus the client and audience. Read what other people say, take it all in and filter out what works for you. Remember the fish will come and eat out of your hand, if what you have to offer is tempting enough.