Why this copywriter will never write an article about copywriting

There, did I say copywriting enough times that Google crawls it and thinks I am one? Great, now that that’s out of the way.

Here’s the deal. If you need a copywriter, you don’t need an article about 10 tips on copywriting. Like, if you need a heart surgeon, you don’t need an article about 10 ways to perform a vascular suture. You need someone who’ll get in there, assess the damage, fix it, and make you better than you were before.

Better. Stronger. Faster.

(For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 70s, that’s a Six Million Dollar Man reference. You know, back when $6 million was a lot of money and we built cyborgs with it.)

What you really want is someone who is a student of the human condition. Why? Because all the people reading these ones and zeroes are still people. They’ve only been around this whole Internet thing for the last decade or so. Not that long.

Measure that against emotions and instincts that have developed over billions of years. (Evolutionarily speaking, of course. If you follow the Bible literally, that’s 10,000 years or so. Still a lot longer than 10.)

You also want someone who is a student of marketing strategy.

Marketing strategy is a combination of rules, insight, attitude, application of said attitude and adjustment to results. Many of the best rules come from direct marketing, of which I’ve been a student for 20 years and counting.

This whole Internet and social media thing has more in common with direct marketing than anything else. It’s about making offers and getting them accepted. (Do I offer to follow you? Do you offer to follow me? What’s in it for each of us?) Brevity or length and knowing where to use which (Twitter vs. blogging, anyone?). Testing and measuring (try something, see if it works. Refine. Repeat.). Structuring arguments, engagement (still with me?).

All good direct marketing skills.

If you want 10 tips that include things like when to use subheads, or how to write a winning headline, there are lots of places to get that.

But that’s not what you need, is it?

7 thoughts

  1. Great insight as usual, Karen. Copywriters who write about copywriting tend to only attract copywriters to their content. That’s about as inbred as [insert your own inappropriate reference here]. And I can’t think of many other industry where this happens. Stockbrokers would be out of business if they spent their time talking about how to be a stockbroker. Hairdressers wouldn’t have enough to do if they focused solely on a market of other hairdressers. The most credible service provider is one who speaks to their target market rather than their peers.

    • Hey Aaron. That’s actually why I made the Google reference in the first paragraph. I think many copywriters are vying for SEO rather than really working to give insight into the more critical and useful aspects of the job. If you’re a copywriter, the writing itself is just the price of admission.

  2. I think the SEO point is still an important one about copywriting. As a copywriter, you not only have to express thoughts and ideas that relate to humans but as well another audience member that is the Search Engine. So one could still conceive of an article that has tips for a copywriter to improve the SEO of their copy. Also to encourage their visitors to leave comments that also use the same copywriting keywords to make the overall article more findable. Hopefully this comment also improves your Google Rank!

  3. My sentiments exactly, good on you, Karen! It always struck me as odd that I should have to provide copywriting tips since I’m actually hoping to provide copywriting SERVICES. Yes, imparting knowledge is a good way to build reputation and good will but I think many times, it falls on deaf ears. People either want their writing done for them, or they think they can do it themselves. I can offer help but sometimes it’s better to be asked for it.

  4. Interesting perspective. I tend to think those “tips” articles are more for young copywriters or inexperienced ones trying to improve or break into the biz. I totally agree with you about knowing marketing strategy. I don’t consider myself simply a copywriter. I constantly stay on top of the latest trends in marketing and social media and apply that to my work. I don’t understand copywriters who don’t do this. Great post!

  5. Love it! I thought I was the only copywriter who wondered why so many copywriters write to and for eachother. Not only that, but those articles give away all of our tips and tricks, which helps to perpetuate the notion too many non-writers have that they can do what we do and therefore, shouldn’t have to pay a writer more than minimum wage to do it. Excellent post!

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