5 tips for writing effective copy for your small business

Do you break out in a sweat at the thought of filling a blank page with words?

Yes, it can be intimidating, but written copy is an essential part of any marketing agenda.

Whether you decide to outsource the writing to someone else or go it alone, it’s helpful to know what constitutes good copy.

Here are five tips to write effective copy, so you’ll have those prospects knocking on your door in no time:

#1 Know Your Audience

Before you start churning out your copy, you need to figure out its purpose. Ask yourself a couple of questions. Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to accomplish?

Most importantly you want to give your reader a reason to care. You can do this by letting them know what your company can do for them.

#2 Determine the Best Writing Style

Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to figure out the right style and tone to use for your audience. Decide whether you want to keep it casual or more formal and if you need to keep it short and sweet, or is more in-depth the way to go.

Here are some of the ways you can approach the more common types of marketing copy:

• Web Copy—It can be daunting to look at a giant block of words on the computer. Do your readers a favor and use short sentences and paragraphs.

Break these up further by using plenty of whitespace and throw in some images. Don’t get too wordy. Try to avoid using a bunch of text that forces your reader to scroll down the page.

If you have a lot of information to convey, link to other pages within your website so your reader can get more details if they wish.

• Print Projects—The internet is great, but sometimes you need physical media to share with your prospective customers. Brochures, company literature, direct mail, and newsletters all fall in this realm.

Print is way less forgiving than online. It’s permanent and size matters. You can only fit so many words on the page, so choose your words carefully.

Design also plays an important role. With print media, it’s helpful to separate your copy into sections with attention-grabbing titles for each. To add emphasis, you can pull out quotes and stats.

• Blogs—These are a biggie with inbound marketing. With blogs keep it casual and don’t be afraid to interject a little more of your personality. Blogs are not the place for a hard sell. You want to set yourself up as the expert and provide educational content.

• Email—You need to grab someone’s attention quickly with the subject line. Otherwise, even the best-crafted email will go unopened. Make your meaning and intentions clear early on.

• Press Releases – These are written in the style of news stories and often fit on one page. Press releases usually have a set formula. The first paragraph is a summary of the entire release, and you end the release with a brief paragraph that provides an overview of your company (called a boilerplate).

To add authority to your press release, you can include quotes from company representatives, clients, and industry figures.

#3 Use a Variety of Words

Even if it’s a dreary subject, you’ll want to spice it up a bit. Try to use the clearest and most precise words you can. The English language is robust, so there are plenty of words to choose from. Be diverse in your word choices. A dictionary and thesaurus are your friends.

Also, ditch the buzzwords and jargon. As a business owner, you’re no doubt immersed in your business and its culture. But make sure a potential customer knows what the heck you’re talking about.

#4 Include a Clear Call to Action

Don’t lose sight of your purpose—you want to get new customers. Every piece of copy should include a clear call to action.

Keep the message brief. But make sure your potential customer knows what you want them to do—whether it’s downloading a free eBook, signing up for your newsletter or requesting more information on a product or service.

#5 Edit and then Edit Again

Yes, grammar still matters. Casual writing doesn’t give you free reign to use poor grammar. You can write in a conversational tone, but you still need to sound professional. Misspellings and typos will detract from even the most interesting story.

But things have loosened up. Sometimes you may want to use a fragment to add a little punch, or end a sentence with a preposition, and that’s OK.  You can bend the rules, but it has to look intentional.

If you’re going to be writing a lot, it might be worthwhile investing in a proofreading program such as Grammarly, which is more comprehensive than Word’s spell-check.

Bonus Tip: Try to Have Fun

Writing doesn’t have to be a drag. The more you do it, the easier it gets.  Sure, you may not be the next John Steinbeck or Harper Lee, but business writing is a craft you can learn. So get out there and write some copy!

This article originally appeared on Content Angle and has been republished with permission.