Dramatically Improve Your Copywriting—without Writing a Word

Copywriting is about being persuasive.

So if you want to get better at copywriting, practice being persuasive. In person as well as in print.

Practice convincing your friends, family and business associates to try a particular food, accompany you somewhere, watch a certain show, or just to do “A” rather than “B”.

Notice what works.  Notice what doesn’t.  How do you deal with objections? How do you lay the groundwork for persuasion (bonding, getting them into an agreeable mood)? How do you “close the sale”?

Not doing too well? Read up on salesmanship and persuasion.

If you’re really serious about copywriting and you’ve never done it before, get a second job for a week or two in a telemarketing center, selling door-to-door, helping out in a retail store, or selling anything face-to-face.

When have a copywriting assignment, practice “selling” people on the product or service you’re writing about.

Can you get them interested in it? Interested enough to buy it?

Keep refining your ability to “sell” the product or service in person and you’ll be far more able to sell it on the page.

And your copywriting skills will soar.

14 Responses to “Dramatically Improve Your Copywriting—without Writing a Word”

  1. Excellent advice, David! Little did I know my part-time summer jobs in high school and college working in retail or as a telemarketer would give me valuable experience to draw from later as a marketer and copywriter! Also like the idea to practice salesmanship and persuasion by “selling” others…just watch out if your friends and family start avoiding you.

  2. Chris Klaus says:

    This is something I’ll have to try. I’ve avoided selling in person like the plague (can’t take the rejection I guess), but I’ll just have to get over it.

    • Chris, I hope you’ll try it and I’m sure you’ll get over it. Unfortunately, that “fear of rejection” carries over to our writing and makes us, as Carlton would say, “sell from our heels.”

  3. Edgardo says:

    Awesome!!! So simple and yet one of the most valuables advices I have ever read. Made me think that we can practice selling and copywriting skills nearly everywhere. Could improve our copywriting and maybe, as a side effect, many other aspects in life. Thank you and keep up that good work.

  4. Williams says:

    “….If you’re really serious about copywriting and you’ve never done it before, get a second job for a week or two in a telemarketing center, selling door-to-door, helping out in a retail store, or selling anything face-to-face.”

    Thanks a lot.

    I am an introvert. I suck at talking.

    Now I know how to approach this trade better. I thought just reading all these courses is all I need.

    Thanks for your deep insight.

    • Good point. Not everything works for everybody. There are many paths up a mountain.

      One alternative might be to find a way to simply observe salesmanship and how people react to it — in person, listening in on telemarketing calls, or via videos (YouTube has some great salesmanship videos, including a “search for the world’s greatest salesperson” by my old employer, Ogilvy & Mather).

      Or succeed at “approaching this trade” without participating in or observing any sales interactions. You undoubtedly wouldn’t be the first.

    • Ken Hoffman says:

      I was previously an introvert. Hard to sell your services as a copywriter that way. I took some personal growth courses several years ago. Specifically, an NLP practitioner training. You need to interact with other people to get over it. No amount of books or audio courses will do it. Being so introverted that you can’t sell to people creates a bigger problem. Life is about relationships. When you get this handled a lot of other things will improve in your life. A good NLP training will improve your ability to interact with, understand, and relate with other people. So that by itself will help you as a copywriter too. Hope this helps.

      • Good suggestions, Ken.

      • If someone is an “introvert,” that does not automatically mean they are shy or even that they might have trouble in selling situations.

        I’m an introvert, yet selling my services has not been a problem, in fact, I use it to my advantage. ;)

        I suggest anyone who is an introvert read “Quiet” by Susan Cain. It’s a good book that explains the unique personality quirk at a very deep level.

  5. eric barton says:

    Great post david.

    I was just talking about this with a friend the other day and he was asking me why myself and other copywriters study so much sales and persuasion?

    I explained that studying sales and persuasion can help you in person, over the phone and in your copy because after all it’s all related. Your copy is just your “salesman in print”.

  6. Paul Zink says:

    I think it’s safe to say that selling things in person will help you be a better copywriter, but it’s worth noting that being a good copywriter may also help you be a better salesman. If you’re working for an agency, you’ll have to pitch ideas to your CD, and eventually to clients. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll have to sell your capabilities to prospective customers and eventually sell them your concepts and copy executions when they (hopefully) become clients.

    One thing you can do with copywriting that you can’t do in person is conduct valid A/B tests to see which creative approach does better. A person-to-person salesman can never do that with any degree of statistical reliability. And with copy/concept testing, you can test approaches that a salesman would most likely be afraid to try.

    Case in point: I once got an 8.9% response from a credit card mailing — over four times industry average — with an OE teaser reading “FI FO FUM” and inside, a headline on the brochure reading “NO FEE”. Goofy? Yes! But it worked and taught me that humor can sell financial products despite what conventional wisdom says. A salesman might learn from that, or I could use that lesson when pitching/prospecting, etc.

    I think the symbiotic relationship between the two is worth noting and nurturing.

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