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10 Sure-Fire Ways To Improve Your Copywriting Skills

10 Sure-Fire Ways To Improve Your Copywriting Skills

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” –  Leo Burnett

Admit it — no matter how good online marketer you are, being asked to write a blog post chills your spine. Marketers prefer to stamp their fists on walls than to work on a compelling blog post that would convert – but why?

Content marketing has been growing as the most important skill required for marketers to land a job. Having copywriting skills is surely a benefit because writing compelling articles is intimidating and not everyone can do that. However, there’s always some room to make improvements even if you feel that you are not good at writing. Your writing does not need to be agonizing and there are several small hacks you can use to hone your skills and all you require is a little discipline and a will to learn.

Check out these 10 sure-fire ways to improve your copywriting skills.

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1. Write for one

You need to treat copywriting just as if you are writing to one person and trying to grab his attention. Copywriting is all about sharing your knowledge in the best possible way to make your marketing campaign effective and if you grab attention of just one person, the rest will follow. Write as if you are writing an email, be personal, add humor and try to include details as much as you can. Consider your copy as a cover letter and you surely will see a lot of improvements in your writing.

“Someone once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, “I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?” For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha.” — Stephen King

2. Brush up on the basics

Before you start writing an incredible copy, you need to learn the basic principles of writing. This does not mean you need to have an university degree in literature, but you surely should have a strong grasp of grammar and spelling. You need to go through good books and learn their styles and try to refine them and add your touch to your copy. Improving your grammar and spelling will make your copy more compelling as well.

3. Work in groups

Writing is basically a solitary activity, but when you work in groups and have a reasonable sized company, you learn from them and gain much-needed feedback to make improvements. Find someone who is also trying to improve his writing and work together. Talk to your coworkers or friends and ask if they want to check your work. This will ensure if your copy has mistakes or points that you overlooked.

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4. Write a killer headline

If your headline is not powerful, all you get in return for your copy is crickets. Try to hone the skill to write headlines that attracts; learn the art and master it. You can start reading different popular journals and magazines and see how they prepare their headlines. Analyze the work of others and see what works best to your readership.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” ~ David Ogilvy

5. Keep it short and interesting

Most people don’t go through paragraphs that are long, no matter how stellar the content might be. If you keep it short, it sounds simple and sweet, of course. Generally, when you keep the first paragraph short, chances are people will find it interesting and read through the complete post.

The opening of your copy should be hypnotic and you can do what you feel best; include an intriguing question, show stats or an outrageous claim that will keep your reader interested.

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6. Imitate writers you admire

Wait there, imitation is not the same as plagiarism. There’s no way you can rip off anyone’s work and call it yours, ever. What you can do is try writing like the same writers you read on regular basis. Dissect what part of their work you enjoy best and see if you can use similar strategies in your content.

If they add humor, do that if you like it. If they are always serious, try that too and see if it will impact your readers as much as it did on you.

7. Use bullet points

Try different search query about foods you want to eat or travel destinations you want to visit this summer, the search engines are filled with list posts. Believe me, such posts have been successful since…forever. Yes, from the very early days of copywriting to now and in the future, copies that have bullet points guarantee success than copies filled with paragraphs only.

Using bullet points will make it easy for readers to scan the article and if they oblige to your readers, they’ll oblige you too.

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8. Edit ruthlessly

You have to do this for once and for all if you want to become a great copywriter. Editing is a tough skill and is considered a waste of time by many. But in fact, editing is what can place immense value to your copy and you don’t require a lot of rewriting as well.

Editing copies will give you tons of ideas about your writing level. Start eliminating extraneous words and try making sentences short. Make sure to get your message to the point and wax it lyrically. You need to be harsh on yourself and the more ruthlessly you edit your copies, the better results you’ll see.

9. Do your research

Most articles I read today are plagiarizing someone else’s work. Well, they even credit the source and if they don’t, they make sure that no sentences in their work is present in someone else’s article; that’s cheating. You can rewrite any articles, rephrase sentences and make them yours, but that is still plagiarism. Learn the fact that there are no shortcuts when it comes to success.

Try doing your own research, add statistics to your copy and make sure you source or attribute the details. Even if you are an amateur, researching and adding them to your articles will make you look like a professional.

10. Find a good editor

Everyone needs an editor, even the best writers in the world. If you are trying to improve your content strategy or looking to guest post on your favorite site, make sure you are working with a good editor. This will ensure that you deliver the best content and see improvements in your work where necessary.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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