How Thinking Like a Copywriter Can Improve Your Marketing

Copywriters optimize each word they write to best connect to their audience. Learn how marketers can employ similar tactics to reach their users.

Copywriting inherently involves marketing. Beyond putting words on a page, copywriters have to portray, and sometimes even develop, the right voice and tone for a brand. They also have to describe products and services in ways that make people want to read the words they’ve written.

Think about the people who write product copy for Steve Madden, for instance. They constantly need to find new and exciting ways to name and describe black  heels.

Steve Madden 1

There are thousands of pairs of black pumps out there. Season after season new shoes are added with just the slightest adjustments and someone is there to make them sound like the greatest shoes you will ever put on your feet. Not only that, but they’ll make you think you need five different pairs of black pumps because each has it’s own unique benefits.

steve madden 2

So how do copywriters do it? Let’s dive into the techniques they use when writing and look at how we can apply these ideas to marketing on a broader scale.

Get Specific

Copywriters know that details paint a picture for the audience–making it easier to visualize, relate to, and connect with. For example, using the word ‘Collie’ is stronger than ‘dog’ because it narrows down the range of size, color, and other factors that the reader can imagine.

Details can also make data more believable. 75.6% is better than 75% because neater numbers seem rounded off, making people skeptical.

So in addition to making sure you’re choosing words and numbers carefully on your website and within the content you’re producing, think about how you can make your marketing strategies more specific. Decide on the target areas you want to cover and don’t spread yourself too thin.

For your content strategy, stick to the subjects you know best. If you have a great idea for an unrelated blog post, don’t muddle your brand’s message; publish it on Medium instead. If, even worse, you have a terrible idea that’s not related, but think that some content is better than no content, I urge you: do not publish it.

Example A: Mint.com helps you manage your money. Not sure why they would be experts in where to hide your keys…


Such an article does not foster trust in a brand that you want to be depicted as secure, intelligent, and capable of advising you financially.

Similarly, stick to brand-relevant topics and current events on social media. A prime example of what to not would be what Kenneth Cole does here, mixing politics and war with fashion:


KC tweet

Aside from the fact that you may offend your audience by insulting their intelligence or making light of a serious situation, they are following your brand for your expertise in your field and don’t expect you to be a strong voice in other areas. If you post irrelevant updates on a regular basis your followers can lose interest quickly.

I’m not saying that people who like fashion don’t care about the news, I’m saying people will follow fashion icons for fashion updates and news outlets for updates on global wars. While you do want to get to know your audience, you can never be all things for all people. Let your users know they can depend on you to consistently fill a specific need.

Appeal to Humanity

The ultimate goal of marketing should be to connect with your audience on a deeper level. Copywriters can help achieve this by crafting the message in a way that draws attention to a fundamental ideal or common scenario that universally connects the audience to the brand.

Copywriting instructor Kim Taylor  asks her students to consider the following example:

Which is a more effective sign for hitchhikers?
 a) To San Diego
 b) Home for the Holidays

While “To San Diego” may be more informative, “Home for the Holidays” works much better because people can relate to wanting to be home with people they love during the holiday season. The sympathy it creates is far more powerful as a motivating force.

Marketers should weave this type of sentiment into their content strategies to reach people in a personal, more memorable way. Some organizations, particularly nonprofits, are masters of using testimonials to create a bond between past or current users and potential users, or in the case of nonprofits, beneficiaries and benefactors.

St. Judes does an exemplary job of using patient stories to breathe a human element into their funding campaigns. Pictures, videos, and stories of innocent children in need make for content that tugs at most people’s hearts.

st judes 1

On top of the patient profiles, the CTA at the bottom of the page doesn’t ask people to “donate,” “sponsor,” or “give,” but rather prompts people with the much stronger and emotionally-charged phrase, “become a Partner in Hope.”

st judes 2

The more that you can work in a connection to your audience as a fundamental principle of your brand and marketing strategy, and not try to use it as a promotional gimmick, the better you can build relationships and brand loyalty.

Make Recommendations

Another way in which copywriters aid in overall marketing efforts is by communicating the use of products or services in relation to other products or services that the company offers. They can demonstrate to consumers how the product or service will easily fit their specific needs as well.

Kate Spade is known for using the “wear and pair” method whereby they put together outfits and accessories for different occasions.

Springing off of this idea, think about how product pages can be not only written but also designed with the user in mind. Even better, how can you serve users with different needs–those who are looking for a visual appeal, those who want more information, those who are price conscious–all at once. This piece from Joel Klettke on building better product pages will steer you in the right direction of what types of elements you should include.

Consumers are bombarded with advertising and have an endless array of possibilities when it comes time to make a purchase; gently nudging people in a certain direction and answering their questions about when, where, and how they can use a product can greatly increase conversion rate.

Inform Design With Data

Copywriters work closely with creatives to develop content that is guaranteed to be visually appealing. They rely on studies and data that show how people interact with text and images online and in print to select the right color to set the tone or to place important text in the position where the most people will look.

For example, people look at the bottom right corner of print ads first as they’re flipping the page — which is why most companies put their logo in that spot. Similarly, it’s important to follow psychological cues associated with color such as blue helping to communicate a message because it has a calming effect.

Employ similar information when designing site pages. Heatmaps of how people use your site, which you can get from a company like Crazy Egg, will help you put key elements in the best positions. Testing designs based on the knowledge of where actual users click, hover, and scroll is the ultimate way to cater to your audience.


Find Inspiration in Other Brands

Copywriters also look to successful brands to look for stylistic clues as to what works for readers. They often “pattern” other brands by following a similar format.

You can follow this your own way by exploring what other businesses are doing. They don’t have to be in your field, they just have to be doing something interesting. Jot down notes every time you see an example of marketing that inspires you — just like a writer or artist might do when they see work they like. I, for instance, have a document in my Google Drive where I keep track of things I see other brands doing that I might want to test in the future, such as incorporating elements from emails I get or landing pages I come across.

To use this technique successfully, remember you’re not copying exact words or branding. Instead, you’re paying attention to a layout or pattern, like how many CTAs someone uses and where they’re placed in the copy.

Beyond this subjective way of finding inspiration in what inspires you personally, seek out case studies and tools that give you a formula that has already proven effective.  For example, LeadPages.net allows you to sort landing page templates by historic performance, thereby eliminating some of the guesswork involved in determining things like the number of form fields you should use.

By paying attention to what your competitors and other innovative brands are doing, especially what you know for sure has lead to success, you have the foundations and potential to make something even greater.

refocus your strategy

Copywriters achieve their goals by putting themselves in the shoes of their audience. They use the voice and tone guidelines of content strategists, personas of market researchers, and structure of SEOs to make the most concise and yet influential pieces of writing they can.

If you approach your marketing holistically and combine each of these disciplines strategically, you will find that you’ll connect with your users in the most effective way possible.

Full disclosure: I recently took the Mediabistro class Copywriting: Creative Ad Writing and gathered these tips during my time there. I definitely recommend it for people in the NYC area looking to strengthen their writing skills and get their creativity flowing.

What other tips can marketers learn from copywriters? Let me know in the comments!

responses to “How Thinking Like a Copywriter Can Improve Your Marketing”

  1. Rachel D says:

    I definitely agree with the idea of ‘recommendations’ that can be made to a potential customer, it’s a great way to continue their search throughout the site and help aid conversions!

  2. Salmaan Aslam says:

    Great post Amanda and some great examples you’ve put up.