But this doesn’t mean you need to rigidly follow a set style, or shoehorn a certain way of writing where it just doesn’t fit. For copywriting to be effective, you need to consider its context.
Whenever you write, the reader should be at the forefront of your mind; they’re the reason you’re writing in the first place. This should be obvious. What’s less obvious is that you also need to think about how context will affect the way your reader interacts with your copy.
While you may think you have your audience pinned down – you know their demographic, pain points and the kind of content they like – changes in their context need nuanced approaches in appealing to them. It affects the optimal amount of copy, style and, of course, messaging. So you need to figure out where your words fit into your readers’ experiences.
ToFu, MoFu and BoFu. The funnel is a hackneyed marketing metaphor so I won’t get into it too much, but it’s still useful when thinking about writing. At the top of the funnel, your reader isn’t ready to buy. You need some snappy, collar-grabbing copy – light on the details and soft on the sell – to pull them in. Once they’re in the middle, you can start gently turning the volume up on the sales message and the information. And as they reach the bottom, you’ll want to seal the deal with direct calls to action and a slight sense of urgency – discounts, free trials and whatnot are good BoFu tactics.
What they want
While the funnel is a great starting point when thinking about copy, it’s never that simple. People rarely move through the funnel in a wholly linear way and some content has to appeal to top, middling and bottom funnel-dwellers at the same time. So instead, think about what the reader wants from any particular piece of content.
Some things are clear. On a contact page, people are looking for something specific: extra content is clutter. Others are a bit more complex: someone might pick up a product brochure to browse, gather more information or look for the order number. Here, you might want to split the content visually so that readers can find the bit relevant to them. Whatever you’re writing, think ‘What is the reader here for?’ and make that the focus of your copy and the way you frame it.
Where will your audience be interacting with your copy? Thinking about the channels your audience is using and the way they find your copy helps you to gauge their intent. People on Twitter are looking for quick, topical tweets to engage with, not a heavy sales pitch. Someone Googling ‘roof repair quote’ is likely further down the funnel than someone just Googling ‘roof repair’.
Different channels, mediums and forms also have their own vernacular, and users are often more receptive to styles that fit with the channel’s overarching tone as well as their own way of talking. A good analogy is fashion – certain ensembles are more desirable in certain situations: your swimming cossie is acceptable on the beach, less so on the London Underground.
To get back to copy and marketing, it’s OK to use emojis on social media (brand personality permitting) but in an important white paper they’ll look ridiculous. That said, doing something out of the ordinary could catch your audience’s eye where you’d otherwise blend in; but you need to know what you’re doing. And no one can pull off wearing Speedos on the Circle Line.
Somehow, over all these shifting contexts, your brand tone of voice stays consistent. How? Well, the fundamentals don’t change. All the technical bits like language, syntax and grammar still hold true. And your personality remains intact, you’ll just need to apply it differently, turning up some traits and dampening others.
For example, if your voice is bold and authoritative, you’ll be dealing with complaints and concerns in a deft and effective way, rather than being stubborn or standoffish. If your brand is friendly, funny, understanding and enthusiastic, you’ll know which traits take the lead in a Facebook competition post, an FAQs page or an important business-based announcement.
It’s still important, however, that your personality comes through in all contexts. Everything should be written in your voice, even though it shifts in tone. From contact details and job descriptions to dry legal information, there’s no excuse for not giving it at least a little personality. Follow innocent’s example: their fun, fruity voice is everywhere, even in the call to action in their website footer.