DT&G Design Department
Current Location: Graphic-Design.com / DT&G Magazine / Business Department / Shaun Crowley / Promoting Your Business / How to write marketing copy 

How To Write Marketing Copy

That Sells Your Freelance Design Services

This tutorial will help you write powerful website copy, or copy for a mailer postcard, to help you sell your freelance design services to new clients.

By the end of the tutorial you will:
* Have a page of dynamic copy that really sells yourself as a freelance designer.
* Understand the fundamental rule at the heart of all copy: thinking in terms of benefits.
* See how quickly you can learn the craft of copywriting, so you can integrate it into your service -- and even offer full marketing agency creative services within six months!

The tutorial is split into four activities. Each activity focuses on an achievable writing task and reveals essential tips for writing persuasively. Practice the rules revealed in this tutorial and you'll be on your way to writing sales-boosting publicity for yourself and your clients.

Activity One

Think of a simple pen. Any normal pen on your desk will do -- maybe a pen that you use to sketch with. Pick it up, take a look at it.

Now try to sell the pen in a paragraph of writing.

Initial reaction: Not sure where to start? Don't worry, the prospect of writing sales copy can be daunting without any formal sales training. Maybe that's why so many designers are easily dissuaded from learning how to write marketing copy, to integrate into their design service. This is good news for you, because it's really simple when you know how. Let me walk you through the process.

Pick up your pen again and take a look at it. Can you identify a feature that helps you to sell the pen? A feature is a fact about the pen, an aspect that makes it useful. For example, my pen has a fine tip. It is also .25-inch in diameter. These are examples of product features. Try to think of another feature of your pen.

When you have a feature in mind, ask yourself what benefit this feature provides you with, as a user of that pen. A benefit describes what the user gains as a result of the feature. So for example, my pen has a fine tip. That means I can sketch fine drawings and write cleanly and crisply. My pen is also .25-inch in diameter, so it's easy to hold and comfortable to write with. Both of these sentences are examples of benefits. They show how the user benefits from the pen's features.

Feature = what the pen has (fine tip)
Benefit = what the pen does (allows you to sketch fine drawings)
Hint: benefits are active; they include verbs (sketch, write, hold).

Now try converting your feature into a benefit. If you're stuck, use the linking phrase... which means that... to help you (i.e. It has a fine tip, which means that I can sketch fine drawings and write cleanly and crisply).

Found your benefit? Then congratulations, you're half-way to being a copywriter.

Activity Two

Staying with the features and benefits model, let's do the same with something a little bigger than a pen. Let's try your computer. Identify three features that make your computer desirable.

Think about the screen, the keyboard, the mouse, the general look, the hard-drive, the programmes, the price, the service package. Try to remember why you bought it. What features attracted you to this computer above all the others?

Now think about the benefits of those features. What do the features mean for you? What do they allow you to do?

Write your three benefits next to their respective features. If it helps, use... which means that... to link the features and benefits together.

Here are the three features and benefits for my lap-top PC.

Feature:It has a laser-guided mouse... which means that...
Benefit: I eliminate infuriating icon flickers and time-consuming cleaning, so the mouse is more pleasurable to use.

Feature: The computer weighs less than 10 lbs ... which means that...
Benefit: I can take it anywhere; I can take it to client meetings without hurting my back.

Feature: It has 3 hours of battery life ... which means that...
Benefit: I can write assignments by an open fire in my local pub -- and write for hours with a pint of my favorite English ale.

I hope you're starting to get the idea now...

Copywriting is all about identifying attractive features, and then saying how the reader benefits from those features. If you can do this, it really doesn't matter if you're a good writer or not; you've mastered the art of selling.
      (Copywriting is simply the art of 'selling in writing', or 'salesmanship in print'.)

But we're not done yet. There are two more activities to go before you're ready to write your own publicity material!

Activity Three

Take a closer look at your three computer benefit statements. For each one, ask yourself: is this the furthest I can go with that particular benefit? Can I continue, turn it into an even bigger, more general benefit statement?

For example, my laser-guided mouse eliminates infuriating icon flickers and time-consuming cleaning, so the mouse is more pleasurable to use. But what does that mean? Is there a benefit to this benefit?

I suppose you could say that a more pleasurable-to-use mouse means that my copywriting assignments run smoother. And if my copywriting assignments run smoother I work quicker. And if I work quicker I earn more money.

So I can continue with this 'pleasurable to use' benefit until I reach an even more persuasive benefit: 'I can make more money.'

Try doing the same thing with your three computer examples. Carry on using... which means that... until you have found your most attractive benefit, as I have done below.

It has a laser-guided mouse
... which means that the mouse is more pleasurable to use
... which means that my writing is smoother
... which means that I finish my assignments quicker
... which means that I make more money
... which means I can go on longer vacations

The computer weighs less than 10 lbs
... which means I can take it to client meetings without hurting my back
... which means that I can avoid aches and pains and therefore stay more active
... which means I play tennis three times a week
... which means I can live my life to the full outside work

It has 3 hours of battery life
... which means I can write assignments by an open fire in a relaxing English pub
... which means working is more pleasurable and less stressful
... which means I can enjoy relaxing with my family in the evenings without feeling stressed.

This activity might seem a little OTT. Clearly, it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that the long battery life of my lap-top means I can enjoy relaxing with my family. But the aim of this activity is to get you into the habit of searching for benefits, even those general benefits that don't appear obvious at first.

A good copywriter not only isolates key features and translates them into benefits, a good copywriter should also question whether those benefits can be taken further. Another lesson in the art of selling.

This advert for Ikea proves just how far you can go with a benefit. Buying an affordable kitchen doesn't just mean you save money, it means you can afford to work less, which means you can spend more time playing with your children, as demonstrated in the visual.

To finalize Activity 3, let's try putting your benefits into a meaningful paragraph of copy. Take your favorite computer feature/benefit example, and try to present it in a few sentences that run together, like this:

The new Dell Inspiron 1300 includes a laser-guided mouse. Now you can avoid infuriating icon flickers and time-consuming mouse cleaning. Your mouse will be more pleasurable to use, your written assignments will run smoother, and you'll work quicker too -- so you can start earning more money!

Hint: Try to write the paragraph the way you would say it aloud. Pretend you are writing to a single person -- use the word 'you'.

How did you get on? Does your paragraph look like a real advert? If so, well done, you're now ready to write your own publicity -- and your clients' publicity! If it needs improving, don't worry, writing trip-off-the-tongue copy will come with practice.

Now, continue with the 4th and last exercise...

Tune in next month, and we'll show you how to boost your freelancing job opportunities and increase your fee on every project

Shawn Crowley
      Shaun Crowley, www.copywriting-designers.com/


100 Copywriting Tips for Designers and Other Freelance ArtistsShaun Crowley has worked as a freelance copywriter, marketing consultant, and communications manager for a major UK publishing company. His new book 100 Copywriting Tips for Designers and Other Freelance Artists is available for download at www.copywriting-designers.com/

Download: How to make your copy easy to read
      Copywriters have their own preferred ways of drafting out their copy. This chapter from Shaun's book provides tips help you to simplify your copy so it can be scanned easily by a casual reader, and so you can improve the fluency of your copy so it is easier to read. Chapter 12 PDF

Copyright ©2006 Shaun Crowley This is reprinted here with permission and kudos to Shaun Crowley for contributing some of is extensive knowledge for DTG readers!

Return to the Design Department, or back to the Front Page

Participate in your Design Center

Lots of fun and information for all... don't forget, any community is only as good as the participation of its members. We invite your tips, tricks, comments, suggestions and camaraderie.

Did you like this article? If you like the kinds of content brought to you by the Design Center and DT&G, why not consider becomeing a friend by making a small contribution? You'll be helping us continue our ten-year tradition of quality content on the web.