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Old-School Copywriting Tips to Improve Your Content Writing

April 04, 2017


It’s common to take a look into the past to try and help solve modern day issues, and while you may not consider doing that when it comes to “content writing”, there is a wide range of benefits to be found. Yes…many of us internet types seem to feel as though we invented and perfected the art of engaging mass audiences and persuading them to sign up or make a purchase through writing, but it is time to pull our heads out of our asses and give credit where it is due.

Before everything moved online, direct mail was a massive sales tool that managed to sell billions of dollars’ worth of merchandise. If you are old enough, you probably recall getting direct mail packages selling encyclopaedias, lawn care equipment, vacations and just about everything else under the sun.

Those copywriters were masters when it came to engaging an audience and persuading them to take action, and if you want your content to perform as well as possible, you’d do well to copy some of their techniques. It’s true, that not every email, blog post or e-newsletter is designed to make a sale, but you do want your prospects to take some action, and including these tips will work wonders.

Benefits vs. Features

It seems that most content writers confuse benefits with features, and the result is content that is not as effective as it could be. People buy things for emotional reasons, and back that up with logic, and it is the benefits of the product or service that push those emotional buttons.

A new, state-of-the-art braking system is a feature of an automobile that is often listed as a benefit. The true benefit is that drivers will be able to stop faster and keep their family safe. To go a little deeper, you could say the benefit is that you will be a better parent or spouse. 

When considering the benefits of a product or service, list all the features, then come up with benefits for each feature and emphasize them in the content. That’s how the old-school copywriters did it, and it works.

As an example, The Content Company provides consistent, high-quality content by our North American freelancers at affordable prices, on time, every time. Those are some features of what we do. The benefits would be you don’t need to waste time editing and rewriting sections of content, you won’t need to manage a team of writers and you always look good in the eyes of your clients because you allow them to put the content aspect out of their mind and do what they do best. Dig for the benefits and you’ll be pleased with the results!

Speaking to Only “You”

A great piece of direct mail is written in the 2nd person, and it feels as if the company, organization or writer is having a one-on-one conversation with only you. It makes you feel special, and it helps create a connection that can carry you through the buying process.

So many content providers write web pages and blog posts in the first person or third person, and it messes up the engagement factor. Check out this post about having a conversation with your readers to get a good feel for how to apply this old-school technique.

Grammar Schmammar 

Content writing can be a lot of things and works to accomplish a range of goals and objectives, but it always has to be about communication. You know that target audience intimately, and you are communicating with them through the written word. And sometimes during that communication, grammar is going to have to take a back seat.

Now, I’m not saying just write however you want and forget about grammar altogether.

For some clients, impeccable grammar is essential and the audience demands it. But as the old time masters of copywriting learned, communication is the key component, and if an unnecessary ellipsis or sentence fragment happen from time to time to help with engagement, then by all means, go for it!

Easy on the Eyes

This may be a message for the web guy or uploader girl or design person, but your posts and pages need to be spaced nicely, so they don’t make people want to run away when they glance at the page all at once. Successful direct mail pieces were always well-spaced with just the right amount of white space, text and images. Here is a post we wrote about it that goes into more detail. 

Consider the 4 U’s

If you have never heard of the 4 U’s then you probably haven’t studied old-school copywriting very much. The 4 U’s are urgency, usefulness, uniqueness and ultra specificity, and while they were created with direct mail promotions in mind, they can be incredibly effective if you apply them to online content writing. If you run posts, landing pages and emails through the 4 U’s filter, your content will be much more engaging to your target audience. 

Headlines and Subheads

We have said it before and will likely say it again…and again. Headlines and subheads are crucial. There have been a great many posts dedicated to headlines and subheads. There is one here and another onehere. The masters of copywriting relied on headlines and subheads to grab attention and then hold it until they were finished with their message, and you should do the same.

Mixing the Old with the New

If you apply all of these old-school copywriting techniques to your online content, you will notice a marked improvement in quality, engagement and results. Of course, there are elements of the new way of doing things that differ from direct mail and similar promotions. Luckily, you can apply those writing and sales techniques and still incorporate the proper keywords, place buttons strategically on your pages and use effective SEO techniques.

When you combine them all together, the results will be magical. If you’d like to discuss our views on content writing, old-school copywriting, martial arts, Zumba classes, shopping in New York or family road trips to Florida, just give us a call at 1 888.221.5041 today!




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