002 Why Copywriting is the #1 Skill to Learn in 2021

In this episode, we will do an in-depth discussion on copywriting, how it’s different from content marketing and why it’s the number #1 skill to learn for 2021. We will discuss why writing for engagement matters and how copywriting differs from:

  • Content marketing
  • SEO content
  • CRO

Links from today’s episode:

Episode Notes:

I saw this post on LinkedIn recently and it goes: The top 5 marketing skills you should work on are:

  1. Copywriting
  2. Copywriting 
  3. Copywriting
  4. Copywriting
  5. Copywriting

So today, we will do an in-depth discussion on Copywriting, how it’s different from content marketing and why it’s the number #1 skill to learn for 2021. 

Do you really need copywriting if you’re not a writer?

As you know, I’ve done some conversion rate optimization over the last few years, and honestly, if you exclude what’s called the hygiene factor, the functionality issues that would prevent the user from converting, conversion rate optimization is mostly about copywriting.

CRO is all about convincing a user that converting is in their best interest, how else are you going to do it, right? Your message needs to be strong, it needs to be clear, and that’s copywriting, right? It’s not the only thing, but I would say probably the most obvious one.

But for some technical people out there, I know what you’re thinking. I know how to write; I know content marketing; I don’t think I need it.

Here’s the deal. If you’re a marketer, adding copywriting to your list of skills will up your marketing game.

So one of the best marketers I know and follow is Dave Gerhardt, former CMO of Drift now Privy (4 years).

He boldly claims that: “copywriting is the #1 marketing skill.”

A brief background, when he started in Drift back in 2015, his goal was to become a technical marketer to help him advance his career. But his CEO, David Cancel pushed him to focus on copywriting instead. This, he said, was the best decision of his life (of course, after getting married and having kids) but mastering copy allowed him to get promoted faster, sell more and build his now 2000+ strong paid Patreon subscribers.

Here’s a good example of a brand with engaging copy. 

This summer I bought a pair of running sunglasses by a brand called Goodr. The thing about that brand is I spent more time reading their product descriptions than I’m willing to admit. I’ve since started following them on Instagram and everything they do is such a massive part of their fun, quirky brand that I just cannot imagine them being so successful if they went all serious with their copy.

High brand recall means they’re likely crushing at copywriting. 

Content Marketing vs. Copywriting

This definition is by Copybloggers:

  • Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers — and customers into repeat buyers.
  • Copywriting gets a reader to take a specific action. Sometimes that’s making a purchase, but it can also be subscribing to your email list, signing up for your content library, or calling you for more information.

In a nutshell, content marketing is for your blogs, podcasts, and email autoresponders while copywriting is for your sales pages, ads, and direct mail.

There’s another dimension here, however, and I’m curious to get your opinion.

What Is SEO Content? 

There has to be, people talk about it, so it must exist 🙂 It’s all about the acquisition, and sending the users further down the funnel, right?

With SEO content writing, the primary goal is to generate organic traffic via search engines through high-quality, keyword-optimized content.

It takes into account the fundamentals of SEO while writing compelling and informative content. 

While that can help with conversions, it’s no way close to how efficient copywriters are in getting the audience to take action.

With copywriting, the main goal is to convert your existing traffic into leads and sales.

And if this is your goal using keywords, that’s good for SEO might hinder conversions, as it can interrupt the natural flow of the sales copy.

And this for me is the most distinct difference, copywriters get keywords directly from the buyer’s mouth. Think actual testimonials, reviews, support ticket transcripts. This will then be distilled and used strategically wherever they are in the customer journey.

So, what you’re saying is, content marketing is a top-of-the-funnel technique, while copywriting covers the bottom of the funnel, is that right?

In short, “SEO content is “built” to drive traffic. Sales copy is “built” to drive sales”. – Tory Reid

Copywriting and CRO

Right, what you’re referring to is known as the LIFT Model, and there are six factors that affect conversion potential – value proposition, relevance, urgency, clarity, distraction and anxiety. Your button color, even with color theory being as important as it is, it’s just not going to affect your conversion potential as much as being clear about what you’re trying to say is.

Perfect, let me highlight the 2 factors you mentioned, value proposition and relevance. This is where copywriting can make or break your product page. It’s important to be able to communicate these two clearly.

I think this is also why Peep Laja of CXL built copytesting Wynter, don’t you think? 

For those of you who were not aware of it, Wynter is a tool that helps you craft messaging that works, using data-driven methods. I definitely see a lot of value in a tool that is 100% specialized for improving the copy. You need to know what your audience thinks, what their doubts are, what kind of message resonates with them, all of that is really important, and if your website is conversion-oriented, this is the key. 

And a good guide to help us differentiate is to answer the following:

  • If your goal is to get your content found, indexed and ranked in Google, then you need SEO content.
  • If your goal is for your reader to take action on your website (through a mix of visual cues and copy), then that’s conversion rate optimization 
  • If it’s writing copy that sells, then you need copywriting

It’s a very thin line, and you’d argue that they’re somewhat related, but if you look at the specific goals, each is trying to achieve, then it becomes clearer.

Writing for Ranking vs. Writing for Engagement

Can’t do one without the other. They’re like SEO and CRO, but more narrow. One is there to help users discover your website, the other is there to make sure they understand it. Not trying to upset any content marketers, but I’d even dare to say copywriting is more important, because content marketing usually helps with only one channel, maybe a few channels at best, while copywriting dramatically affects the bottom line for all of your acquisition channels.

Writing for ranking aims to understand how people are searching for and how Google interprets this.

When you’re writing for engagement, your core focus is what will resonate with your audience.

While you need both essentially, writing for engagement takes greater priority. 

When you write for engagement, you are forced to be laser-focused on your audience. To make it effective, you’ll need to use words straight from their mouth.

This means you echo their sentiment, surface their pain points which more often than not matches their search intent.

In fact, if you think about it, great copywriting is the trigger that stops you cold from scrolling and lets you click on that headline, ad or email.

Think of it this way, if you win and get the highly coveted top spot in SERPs, get a click but your landing page is laden with keywords that make no sense, your visitor will likely bounce.

I remember an e-commerce client I had before who rode the SEO tidal wave (you know when keyword stuffing was a thing) which worked for them for a couple of years. But once Google introduced E-A-T, they were hit badly and spent $$$ cleaning up old content and unfortunately never recovered its previous traffic and revenue.

Why Should You Master Copywriting as a Marketer?

Going back to Dave Gerhardt, he defines copywriting = selling through writing.

When you write good copy, it will help you:

  • Sell your clients story
  • Sell more products
  • Get promoted faster 

Or if you’re an agency owner or freelancer running your own business, regardless if it’s writing-related or not, it will help you

  • Promote your own story more effectively
  • Productize your knowledge and sell them through courses, books, podcasts
  • And essentially land you more clients

Whether you want to learn to code or be a technical marketer, it’s important to learn how to write good copy first.

Now that you mentioned code, I actually think even coders could benefit from learning about copywriting. There’s a sales page thousands and thousands of tech solopreneurs need to set up for their products, and the one skill they need for that is copywriting.

And it’s all about being able to communicate in a clear and efficient way, which is a skill that goes far beyond websites or sales copy. Yeah, just be clear about what you’re trying to say, spend an hour reading Don’t Make Me Think if you haven’t, or read it again if you have, adopt that mentality, you’re probably going to do pretty well, right?

Copywriting is so powerful because it’s timeless.

With copywriting it’s not really rocket science, great copy doesn’t come from being an amazing writer but from having a deep understanding of people.

This is why I’m personally working on my copywriting skills.

And what I’m learning so far is that people buy with emotions and then justify with logic. Copywriting trains us to zero in on our customer. Not our brand story, not our features, but what’s in it for your audience. Lead in with their pain and use their language, then offer your solution.  

Hopefully, at this point, I’ve convinced you to take an interest in copywriting.

Copywriting Resources To Get You Started  

These 3 people are my go-to and the good news is they have tons of free resources that I can attest are bite-sized, practical but timeless guides to copywriting. 

  • Let’s start with Eddie Shleyner of Verygoodcopy.com. Eddie was the lead copywriter for G2. He’s now focusing on building VGC full time. Since I found him last year, he has been consistently spitting out free tips on LinkedIn. You’ll also see a ton of courses and interviews on his blog.
  • Donald Miller is a renowned author and the CEO of StoryBrand. He has published memoirs and essays but my favorite is a WSJ best-seller called Building a StoryBrand. It is not a copywriting book, but it speaks about a proven process to clarify your message so your customers will take action. For him, there are 7 universal story points all humans respond to. 
    • A Character
    • Has a problem
    • And meets a guide
    • Who gives them a plan
    • Calls them to action
    • That Helps Them Avoid Failure
    • And Ends in a Success

        I highly recommend this book esp if you have your own business.

  • And finally, DG’s Lawsofcopywriting. If you follow him online, you’ll agree with me that he’s the most vocal marketing leader preaching about copywriting. You can join his Patreon group, but I would suggest taking his Lawsofcopywriting guide. Let me end with this tweet from Ryan Deiss, who is another great DM.

“Platforms and markets will come and go, but if you can write good copy and craft a good offer, you’ll probably always be in business.”

Have I convinced you yet?


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