Copy Critique – More Than Editing

copy critique

We’ve all been there and done that. We hit publish on a piece of copy or content, confident it’s going to take the internet by storm. It’ll be the best thing we’ve ever created, sure to go viral and make our business name known worldwide overnight. Only…it doesn’t.

It sits there like a lump. Its bounce rate is so high you’d think the thing was a friggin trampoline. Its sales results are dismal. And all you can do is wonder “why???” That’s where a copy critique can come in handy.

It pays to have a source for a second opinion, whether it’s your car’s motor’s funny sound, the cause of your daily headaches, or your copy’s quality and potential. I have fellow professionals that I trust to give me THEIR opinion of my copy. Yes, even copywriters and professional marketers get copy critiques. Our copy and content are too valuable NOT to, in my opinion.

What Kind of Copy Can Benefit from a Copy Critique?

  • Emails
  • Web page content
  • Social media posts
  • Profiles – LinkedIn, especially
  • Sales letters and pages
  • Ad copy
  • Fundraising appeals
  • Brochure copy
  • Press releases and other public relations materials
  • White papers, case studies, one-sheets, “lead magnets”
  • Guest posts for other people’s blogs

In short, ANY kind of copy or textual content can benefit from a copy critique. If it’s got a message or offer to communicate to a specific audience with a desired action or end result in mind, it’s important enough to deserve a review.

What Is a Copy Critique?

So what IS a copy critique?

  • A second opinion and critical examination – looking over your text for common issues and concerns, and trouble spots
  • More than editing – it doesn’t JUST look for typos and bad grammar. It delves into purpose, audience, and overall voice/style/messaging issues.
  • Suggestions, comments and advice – possible rewrites, fixing “clunky” bits, telling you when something is good and when it isn’t, how to address the audience better, lower your readability score, etc.

What Can a Copy Critique Do?

  • Strengthen weak spots in your text
  • Help you better match text to its intended purpose and to its intended audience
  • Strengthen your overall writing ability – when you know you are doing something wrong, you can avoid it next time

Can You DIY a Copy Critique?

Sure. You can give your own copy a good going over before you hit publish or send or post. It’s not as good an idea to DIY a copy critique, as we tend to be way too harsh on ourselves, or way too lenient. However, here’s a simple checklist you can use to review your next bit of copy or content:

  1. Read Aloud Time. Read your text out loud, either to yourself or to someone else. Reading aloud can help you find places where your copy doesn’t read well, or needs to be broken up into smaller sentences, or just needs some revision.
  2. Proofread. Look for obvious mistakes like spelling errors, missing words, run on sentences, and punctuation issues. (It’s a good idea if  you KNOW you have issues with “language mechanics” like commas or run-ons to look for them AS you write, to save time in review.)
  3. Watch Your Head(line). There are no hard and fast rules for writing headlines. Even we pros disagree on when it should be written and how. Here’s some tips: Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it descriptive and interesting. Your headline should make them understand what they are going to be reading about, but not such that they don’t need to read. It should also make them WANT to read.
  4. Know Your Reader. Everyone does, or should, have a unique voice and message that resonates with YOUR specific reader group. Make sure the language you are using, the topic you are addressing/offer you are making, and the platform or medium you are using is appropriate for your reader. Keep ONE person in mind as your write. Write to that ONE person as if you were talking to them directly.
  5. Know Thyself. Stay true to YOUR voice and YOUR message. Don’t try to be someone or something you aren’t.
  6. Check for Readability. There are free apps all over the place where you can fill in or copy and paste your text and it will be scored for readability. Keep the readability score at a level compatible with your audience.
  7. Tell, Don’t Sell. Even if your copy is a sales piece, hyped up, spammy, smarmy sales talk went out with the polyester leisure suit and late night infomercials. Don’t be “that guy” when selling. Tell your story, give valuable information, tell them what you want them to do, which leads to…
  8. Be Direct. If there is some action you want your reader to take, if there is some desired end result of reading your copy, don’t be afraid to come out and ask for it. Use clear, concise language that every reader can understand and point them in the direction you want them to go. Make it as easy as possible for them to follow your lead.

If there are any issues with your text as you go through the checklist, stop and see what you can do to fix them. If you are trying too hard to sell, or if your voice is “off’, or if any other concern becomes apparent, backtrack and find a way to correct the problem.

What To Do Now?

Whether you’ve never had a copy critique of your content in your entire business career, or if you never  publish or send without one, the next step is obvious. Start performing a copy critique on every important piece of copy and content you create fro here on out. If you DIY your copy critique, and have trouble figuring out what to do to fix the issues you find, that’s quite common. Don’t worry. There’s a solution for that. There’s also help and hope for those of you with no time or desire to DIY your own copy critiques.

Simply contact me here at Bloomers Marketing. I offer copy critiques as part of my consulting and coaching services. I’ll take my professional eye over your copy or content and give you a thorough review, including rewrite suggestions and possible alternative headlines, if needed. The service is $400 for each typed or published page of copy. Use “Copy Critique” in your subject line so it doesn’t get lost in my inbox.

Together, well have your copy in winning form in no time!

PS I will, if necessary, tell you “It sucks.” A copy critique only goes so far, and somethings can’t be fixed easily or without a complete rewrite.

Everything I Know About Writing Sales Copy I Learned From Star Wars

Awhile back, I wrote a post about the lessons Lord of the Rings taught me as a blogger. Today, we’re going to look at another nerd fandom of mine, Star Wars, and what it has to teach us in regards to sales copy.

Now, I KNOW there have been 5 movies made since the “original” three films of my childhood. (Yes, fans and faithful readers, I just dated myself there. Do the math, if you must. I’ll still deny everything.) We’re going to skip over Episodes 1, 2 and 3 for now, and pretty much completely ignore Rogue One. We’re just going to concentrate on Episodes 4, 5 & 6 and The Force Awakens. They’ve got the best bits in them for this analogy.

EVERY piece of sales copy, every ad, every landing page, even to some extent every email you send out, should have at least 6 basic elements in it, if you want it to sell.

And yes, you guessed it, all of those elements can be found in those good ol’ Star Wars films and characters.

Ready? Here goes…

Star Wars and Sales Copy

1.) The headline…Who can forget those words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….”? We ALL wanted to know how “a long time ago” could have spaceships and battlestars and cloud cities, didn’t we? That headline aroused our curiosity, made us want to watch more, made us forget about going for popcorn. And that’s just what your sales copy headlines should do. They should draw the reader into your copy, make them interested in what you have to say, and yet not give away the plot.

2.) The hook…In copy, the hook is what you use at the beginning to keep them reading once the headline GETS them reading. In Star Wars, old George Lucas keeps us watching with unanswered questions. “What’s this farm boy got to do with anything?” “How’s Han going to get out of THIS one?” “Why is Princess Leia’s bikini so small?” (Admit it, you’ve thought the same thing…) Using story, using questions, using our next element, to KEEP readers engaged with your sales copy betters your odds of getting them to buy.

3.) Imagery…The Star Wars universe gave us some of the most incredible images ever set on film. Luke on Tatooine, the fighters swooping under and around the battle cruiser, Alderaan blasting to bits, Darth Vader’s sweeping cape and foreboding mask. And that’s just the FIRST film! Your sales copy needs to paint vivid, vibrant, unforgettable images in the minds of your readers, too. You have to MAKE them SEE themselves in the future, leading a much better existence since the purchase of your GizmoWizmo3000. You have to MAKE them SEE how much easier, less-stressful, happier they will be once they’ve opened their wallets and followed your CTA.

4.) The hope…”Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” When I work with young, inexperienced copywriters, I actually call this section of the sales copy the “Kenobi copy.” Why? Because in every sales message, you have to tell the readers why YOU are the best, brightest hope for a solution to their problem. YOU have to have SOMETHING to offer that’s special, different, unique to YOU, that they can’t get from anyone or anywhere else. YOU are the ONLY choice any sane, reasonable person could EVER make, and here’s the reason WHY…Otherwise, why should they buy from you, and not some other nerf herder?

5.) The head game…Ready for this? Your sales copy should include at least ONE Jedi mind trick. (No, you can’t force-choke folks into buying your stuff.) There are several universal persuasion tactics that every good copywriter and sales person knows how to employ for the best results. Which one(s) to use when depends on many things, not least of which is what you have to offer and when you are offering it. Some don’t like to think of themselves as “manipulators” but let’s face it – selling IS manipulation. So, we’ll call the things we say and do in good copy that get in the reader’s head and persuade them to take the desired action our Jedi mind tricks. Sounds slightly less “dark side of the force”, doesn’t it?

6.) The how to get it done…The Rebel Alliance always had a plan. Han Solo always had a plan. They always had a way to get the job done. Even when the Empire struck back and things looked their darkest, they planned and schemed their way to victory. In short, they knew the job they had to do, and did everything they could to get it done. Your sales copy has a job to do – get the reader to take some action. Your call to that action has to be crystal-clear as to WHAT that action is, and HOW the reader can get it done. Confusing, or vague copy isn’t going to cut it. Neither is copy that’s aimed in one direction, or at one audience, and a CTA or offer that’s aimed at another. (Shoot like a Storm Trooper, much?) Tell ’em what they gotta do to get what you got that they want. Tell them straight and true. Keep the copy always headed in the right direction, aimed at the right audience for the offer. Your plans will lead to victory, too.

Star Wars and Business

There’s a few other, less specific things that Star Wars taught me about sales copy, and business, in general. I’ll share them here, for the lessons they might give you, too.

1.) Speak Basic whenever possible. Or at least learn to understand the language of your reader enough to communicate. Chewie, R2D2, BB8, the Ewoks – they all got along just fine even though they never uttered a word of Basic.

2.) Some times, old ways are best. Just because you’re scripting a Facebook live, or a Brunson style webinar doesn’t mean that some of the old copywriting “stuff”, the old sales tactics, won’t apply. Jedis have been around a long, long time, and they’re still kicking Imperial ass.

3.) You need friends who can help you out in a pinch. Leia had Obi Wan. Luke had Yoda and R2. Han had, well, nearly everybody. When you get stuck, in a jam, up against a Jabba the Hutt sized problem with your sales copy, give me a call. I’m a Jedi mind trick master and am pretty handy with annoying droids, too.

4.) The little guy CAN kick the big, bad guy’s ass. Don’t be afraid to tackle the competition.There’s no Dark Side too dark to take on. YOU’VE got some Force of your own, remember? No need to be C3PO filled with doom and gloom every time things get tight.

5.) Princesses can kick ass, too. This one’s maybe a bit more personal for me, but yeah…remember, that Leia used that “slave chain” to kill old Jabba, and she did it while wearing that skimpy little metal bikini. God bless Carrie Fisher for a tough, take-no-prisoners princess. And you, no matter what your frailties, no matter what your disadvantages – your niche is too small, your product not innovative enough, your price too high, your business too “boring” to sell – you CAN sell. You CAN slay your own Jabba. Metal bikini optional.

So there, everything Star Wars taught me about writing sales copy.

Remember, if you need another rebel on your team, or just some Jedi training, contact me. And may the Force be with you…