Welcome! So you’ve just figure out what copywriting is and how it can crazily increase the conversion rate of nearly every piece of marketing you ever post.
Well my friend, it looks like it’s time to bone up on your skills (huh huh, “bone”) and start learning some:
Let’s get started!
Watch the Copywriting Exercises Video:
While reading this article you can also watch/listen to this accompanying video:
Copywriting Exercise #1: Mental Ad Re-Writing
This is mental exercise where you see ANY ad, and think to yourself: “How can I make this ad better?”
So if you’re walking by a billboard, you think in your head what ways you can get people to crave that burger even more.
When I started getting really into copywriting, my favorite outlet to practice on was SkyMall (remember that magazine that used to be included on every flight)??
It would have all these funny inventions and gadgets, and then the most boring descriptions. I would frequently re-write them in my head, or directly into the SkyMall whilst sitting on a plane.
Or if you see a Google AdWord Ad that could do better, you can do the same exercise. I typed in “Business Meetings” and these ads came up:
SO as practice we would try re-writing these ads in our head:
Best Online Meeting Software
If you’re holding an online meeting
you should totally try this software.
Seriously the coolest software
…for holding online meetings. It’s like
being there in real life.
They don’t have to be super great, but you need to get in the habit of tackling advertisements in different ways.
Copywriting Exercise #2: Keep your own “Swipe File”
A “Swipe File“ is just a folder you keep cool advertisements or cool pieces of copy in.
Your Swipe File can be physical or digital.
My Physical swipe file….it’s a plain folder I keep in my reading room.
My Digital Swipe file…..it’s a folder I keep on my Mac desktop. Whenever I see something interesting, I do [COMMAND + SHIFT + 4] and do a crop-screenshot of the thing I’m trying to save. I then drag that screenshot into the Swipe File folder:
(yes….Boo The Dog is my laptop wallpaper)
You should save all sorts of stuff in your swipe file that you think is awesome, or that made you take an action. An ad, a webpage layout, a specific choice of words…..anything to to that effect.
Here’s a general rule of thumb for your own Swipe File:
The purpose of your Swipe File is to frequently flip through it for inspiration.
For example, I’m thinking about pricing techniques for a client of mine right now……and a quick dip in my digital swipe file popped up this cool example of how it’s done:
I must’ve briefly seen this sales page and thought, “Hmmmm…..that’s a really nice pricing layout!” and done a quick [COMMAND + SHIFT + 4] and grabbed a screenshot of the layout. Thanks to this one addition to my swipe file, I can now implement a similar strategy on my clients site.
That’s the benefit of having a solid swipe file laying around!
Since mobile web browsing is fast becoming the norm, I also see a ton of stuff I want to save on my phone. For this reason I created a specific folder in my iPhone and made a Phone Swipe File too!
Do this on your own phone. It’ll be a nice place to store screenshots when mobile browsing and you see something that grabs your attention.
Copywriting Exercise #3: State the benefits, not features
Whenever people try to explain what their company does (especially engineers), they tend to brag about the FEATURES of a product.
This sounds like:
“Our software can handle multiple core structures of data at the same time which means during increased load times the server will be stable.”
This is a FEATURE description. However customers are generally more interested in what the feature is AND it’s result.
This would sound more like:
“Even if your site gets featured on the front page of CNN and brings in 300,000 visits per hour……your site won’t go down.”
You need to show the feature, but also explain WHY it helps the customers (because sometimes it’s not so obvious to them).
Here’s an example of Southwest Airlines promoting their membership program. If you signup to their mileage credit card, you get 50,000 points. That’s great….but what does 50,000 points TRANSLATE INTO?
You see how the “Benefits” side also explains what the customer will actually get with those 50,000 points? That’s a good example of explaining the BENEFITS rather than features.
Make sure to practice stating the benefits of what you’re selling, not just features.
Copywriting Exercise #4: Trim Trim Trim to make everything shorter.
Kind of like cramming in words to a Tweet. I show a 3-step formula for this in my how to create a tagline article.
This is the art of making something long into something small.
What is the shortest amount of space you can take to transfer a complete thought into someone else’s brain?
It’s by Trim Trim Trimming……
Good copywriting is about sending information from one brain to another in the most efficient manner. Sometimes that’s going to be text, sometimes it’ll be audio, sometimes it’ll be video.
But we always want to make sure the copywriting is CONCISE. That means giving the most amount of information in the least amount of words.
A lot of people hear things like, “Long copy sells better!!!!” Well it’s true to a degree. The rule of thumb is:
Long copy is ok.
Longwinded copy is NOT ok.
Taking longwinded copy and making it more concise is a GREAT copywriting exercise!
We have higher expectations for ourselves and would like to introduce you to our offering which contain a variety of tools and service for the aviation industry. Our primary purpose is to use computer solutions to make aviation more comfortable and safe for the commanding pilots of aviation vehicles.Trimmed down version:
Our primary purpose is to use computer solutions to make flying safer and more comfortable for every passenger of an airplane.
Trimmed down and concise version:
We make software that automatically flies planes.
You can see how much easier the trimmed-down and concise versions of this page are.
Make sure you mentally do this whenever you see longwinded copy.
Copywriting Exercise #5: Hand-copying famous pieces of copy (this is called “Copywork”)
To get a “feel” of what it’s like to write good copy, you can just COPY good pieces of copy!!
If you want some interesting pieces to start, try some of these:
- Volkswagen Lemon Ad
- Volkswagen Think Small Ad
- These Powerwashing Flyer Ads
- Ogilvy “How to Write Advertising That Sells” Ad
- Old-school Dale Carnegie Ad
We also built a Copywork Generator for you to practice typing out some of these famous ads.
I would also encourage you to write out ads that YOU think are good. Perhaps even from products you’ve bought in the past.
Copywriting Exercise #6: Push The Boundaries (a bit)
Now listen up chump…..I’m not telling you to purposely agitate people with your copy. What I AM saying is you should not always play it so damn safe.
For example, there’s two variations of a piece of copy trying to explain “how to make your ads stand out.” Both of these versions try to explain the same thing. But look which one does a much better job:
VERSION 1: Boring Tone
“In marketing you need to convey your point across to the desired target. You need to ensure your message is targeted and differentiated from the rest of the crowd. This can be accomplished by analyzing the competition in your industry and being different.
We encourage you to make this differentiation in your own marketing.”
That was super plain, and did a very bad job getting the reader excited to try this on their own. Let’s see how we can “push the boundaries” a bit to make it better:
VERSION 2: Sexed-Up
“If your advertisements are the exact same as all of your boring-as-hell competition, something is wrong. Let’s change this up for you:
In the pickup artist industry there’s a term known as “Peacocking.” It means when going out in public, the person wears one article of clothing or accessory that’s slightly odd or attention-getting. Since the man is wearing something very conversation-worthy, it makes it easier for a woman to approach him about it and strike up a conversation.
About 20% of your ads should use this “peacocking” advice. If all the ads you’re competing with look the same, you should experiment with mixing it up.
For example, if the ads for a game look professional like this:
…then perhaps making an ad that’s completely the opposite can work as well. For example, this terrible-looking ad got a 2.5x higher response than the more professional versions:
Make sure to use some “peacocking” in your own ads, you might be shocked at the results. You can do this just by making 10% of your ads completely the opposite of what you’re used to.”
Did you see how different the two pieces of copy were…..and how much better the “Sexed-Up” version did at transmitting the information?
It’s not only because the copy included ads, it was because the copy took risks like talking about something juicy like “pickup artists” and such.
Now I’m not saying this is appropriate in every environment (checkout how to find the proper tone of voice for your copy here)……but what I AM SAYING is the “sexed-up” version definitely gets the point across better!
And remember what I said before…..
“Good copywriting is about sending information from one brain to another in the most efficient manner.”
I’d say at least 10-20% of your writing should attempt to gently push the boundaries you’re accustomed to.
Copywriting Exercise #7: Read your copy out loud
Step 1: Read your copy out loud to make sure it sounds conversational.
Step 2: Realize how ridiculous what you wrote just sounds….then change it up.
This is the most shockingly simple AND shockingly most effective way to kill long-winded copy.
Great copywriting often sounds extremely conversation, as if the person is reading a personal message from you.
You’ll frequently hear someone say, “I can describe it over the phone really easily…..but when I write it doesn’t sound the same.” That’s because they’re not writing conversationally!
The practice here is to read your copy out loud to yourself or others. You can even record your voice on your phone, then play it back for yourself to ensure it’s conversational and doesn’t sound like a boring robot wrote it.
Copywriting Exercise #8: Wear ear plugs
I know this sounds a little silly, but wearing ear plugs when writing is one of my most-used tricks for writing great copy!
I would highly suggest you try buying a $5 pack of earplugs (I like these “Hearos” ear plugs) and write with them on. It’s definitely been a game changer for me!
Copywriting Exercise #9: Become a triple threat
Now that we’ve gone over all these copywriting exercises, I want to talk about something even more important…..becoming dangerous at MULTIPLE THINGS in copywriting.
For example, if you know only one thing, you’re “single threat” person. Your value is relatively low in the world because you only know one thing, and are confined to the knowledge of that specific industry.
Single Threat = Knows a skill. Value = $
Double Threat = Knows a skill + another useful skill. Value = $$
Triple Threat = Knows a skill+ another useful skill + ANOTHER useful skill. Value = $$$$$$
For example, let’s say someone selling a high-priced product in the financial industry is trying to find a copywriter. Which one do you think would be the most in demand?
Obviously the Triple Threat is going to have a greater advantage….ESPECIALLY if the client is trying to sell financial products. Triple Threat guy will be able to bring a variety of experience (client work, psychology, financial industry) into his writing.
Our poor Single Threat Guy only has one trick up his sleeve, and is therefore inherently less valuable than the Triple Threat Guy.
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P.S. Leave a comment below with the different copywriting exercises & examples you’ve found helpful. One’s you’ve tried in the past, or one’s you’re currently doing. It’ll help us all get better!