The standard definition of copywriting is that it’s “like a salesman in print”, but I’ve never gotten along with that analogy.
It seems somehow too restrictive.
Where traditional copywritten pieces (direct mail, advertisements, billboards, and the like) are designed to sell a specific product, these days a subtler message is often needed.
The Internet opens up so much choice that a single letter or advert will generally be insufficient to convince a prospect to part with more than a few hours’ worth of pay.
And if you’ve spent any time looking around my site, you’ll notice I don’t work with small-time products. My clients are almost exclusively large tech companies, who sell predominantly to other businesses (B2B).
But all this is not to say that “sales writing” is a waste of time. In fact quite the opposite is true.
It’s just not all that’s needed.
And that’s why I prefer a wider definition, which includes all the facets of quality, modern copywriting:
“Persuasive, Engaging, Educational”
Persuade – Even when you’re not selling, you must bring the reader round to your way of thinking.
Engage – If it’s boring, nobody will read it. Nobody.
Educate – Perhaps the most important word in the tech industry. You can’t sell a product if nobody understands it.
Consider a white paper, or a case study.
Clearly these are not “sales” pieces, but they must still convince your reader. In essence, you’re selling your expertise, your trustworthiness, and your ability to help them.
The same goes for blog posts, research articles, emails and autoresponders, website content… even tender documents.
If you like, copywriting is the ability to sell… even when you aren’t selling.
The real secret is to persuade, engage, and educate your prospects… and then help them to buy.
But we’ll talk about that more in my next post: What is Content Marketing?