Copywriting, the most effective marketing technique you've never heard of

(October 23, 2019)

I meet plenty of business owners through Brew Copy, my copywriting business. And when I tell them I’m a copywriter, I’m surprised at how many of them stare blankly at me as if I’ve asked them for the definition of ‘Brobdingnagian’. 

Yes, it’s a word. Look it up.

Despite knowing what marketing, branding and design are, these business owners don’t know what copywriting is.

“So,” they say. “Is it like legal documents or something?”

No, copywriting isn’t protecting people’s inventions against theft. That’s copyright. And I’d rather go back to my 12 year-old-job as a milk delivery boy than look at a legal document for longer than 5 minutes a day.

And neither is copywriting making websites sound nice. (Another common misconception.) While we are wordsmiths, if our sole job were to make words sound good, then the best freelance copywriters wouldn’t be able to charge $35,000 for a single sales letter, or $15,000 for a landing page on a website. Many do.

You see, copywriting is a very specific craft. A craft that works, that gives brands a return that’s far more than $35,000. I’m speaking in the millions.

The famed Gary Halbert, arguably the greatest copywriter in history, brought in 40 million off a single 300-odd word sales letter.

Claude Hopkins, the author of Scientific Advertising, wrote an advertisement for a beer brand with 5 pages of solid text. In a few months, the beer brand moved from being fifth int eh market share to first.

Chris Orzechowski recently created an email sequence for a Kickstarter launch which raised over 5 million in 30 days.

And these are just examples on the top of my head.

While the number of sales is the ultimate way to measure whether you were effective in communicating your value, copywriting is not just about making money.

Copywriting is about helping people think about things in a different way, which is why I want to go back a moment to the word ‘craft’.

Just as a premier wine-maker has a palate that can detect the faintest defaults in a wine with a single sip, an expert copywriter can pull apart an advertisement that’s not working with a single look. Okay, the copywriter would have also have to look at the research first too.

Copywriting, after all, is a foray into psychology and human behaviour.

Why copywriting is a damn hard craft

Imagine you’re hiking through a national park and you stumble across your city’s water reservoir. The entire city drinks the water in this artificial pond.

And you notice something disturbing. The water is contaminated. There is a poisonous plant growing next to the reservoir’s bank. You know this because you’re a botanist and you also know that digesting .05 grams of this plant can severely compromise your immune system.

You take a sample of the water and find traces of the poison. Contamination is not at any dangerous levels yet. But you need people to take action. Luckily, you also have a solution. You already know of a proven antibiotic.

Now you have to convince people to take this antidote. So you begin with the people you know. If you’re a decent communicator, you’re probably going to be able to convince them for a few reasons:

  • You already have their attention and trust as a friend or family member.

  • They already know you’re an authority on the subject, so they listen when you tell them there is a problem as well as a solution.

  • They can see you’re very worried. That this is a serious matter.

But what if you didn’t know them. That, in fact, you had to convince a stranger.

Okay, now we’re getting to the more complicated stuff.

So you have to walk up this stranger, get his attention, gain his trust, demonstrate your authority, explain that there is a problem (even though he has never heard of it) and that there is a solution—your solution—that can help. And he needs to buy the solution NOW if he doesn’t want to compromise his health.

Sound challenging?

Now for another obstacle.

What if you only had 2 minutes to do that.

Here’s another.

What if you couldn’t be in the same room as this stranger, that you had to write him a letter instead.

And now for the final kicker.

You didn’t know where this person lived, or the location of the other strangers you needed to alert. So now you need to find these people, somehow get that message to them, and merely hope that they take 2 minutes out of their busy day to read your letter.

And if you’ve done your job right, a good proportion of these strangers will buy your antibiotic.


my friend,

is copywriting.

Not just a string of nice-sounding sentences, huh?

Now, the nature of the letter (or advertisement) changes depending on the consumer’s awareness level (of the problem, solution, and the brand), the medium of the advertisement (website, email, letter, facebook ad, billboard), and the marketing budget, plus a few other things.

But, at the heart, marketing, advertising and branding is an act of changing a consumer’s mind to take action.

And you can’t do that with just pretty pictures, can you?

There is a cultural trend, especially in Australia, to be cool and minimal and, therefore, to focus on just design or photography—to look beautiful. That’s incredibly important. And perhaps warranted if you have such an incredible reputation you don’t need to convince people anymore.

But you’re probably not one of them. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.

Most brands need to tell a compelling argument. That’s where great copywriters come in handy.


P.S.  Sign up for my newsletter for more articles, tips and tricks you can use for your brand. It’s the next best thing to a copywriter giving you hand-written scrolls delivered via owl. Hoot. Click HERE.

Brew Copy, a storytelling studio that helps you build your brand—with words. Contact me at Stay in touch on Instagram. Or on Linkedin.