Key takeaways from Learning to Write Marketing Copy by Ian Lurie

Here is my review of Lynda.com’s Learning to Write Marketing Copy featuring Ian Lurie from Portent Inc., who is an extremely accomplished Marketing Copy Writer. The key points we will be covering is: Preparation and tools, Writing marketing copy, Free writing, Basic typography, Collateral, Medium, Style, Make a plan, Polishing your copy and testing headlines, Active versus Passive voice, editing someone else’s copy and rules for Social Media copy. Let’s get into it!

Preparation and Tools

Ian was very deliberate in blocking the time in his calendar to be able to sit down and focus on the task. In addition his point of putting his phone in a different room, telling his family that he needs immense privacy to work, a pencil & paper, laptop with power cord and a cup of water to prevent him from being distracted. I grew up with A.D.D. so I have always struggled with maintaining my attention and he lays out the preparation he does to avoid those simple distractions that take away from having a continued thought process to develop a consistent sequence to copywriting. Ian Lurie’s focus concepts are very much aligned with the author Cal Newport and his book Deepwork. Cal Newport explains his Deep Work Hypothesis, which is “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasing valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

Writing Marketing Copy

I really like how Ian pushed forward that whatever you are putting out for marketing copy has to have real value to it. For so long I found ad’s were so much clickbait and with very little information actually be interesting on their website. I believe this is a sustainable model and as Ian says even if I don’t buy something if it’s interesting and has value to it I will share it with my friends, who may purchase the product or service. On top of that Ian explains that good copywriting delivers value when it’s needed, has a strategy behind it, Is clear that is selling a product or service and has a call to action. Free writing is an important take away from Ian Lurie, he explained that we often stop ourselves to edit while we write and this can stop us from getting our ideas out on paper. Even if it means you are writing “I can’t think of what to write, I can’t think of what to write…”, it helps us get in the habit of writing down our thoughts and our writing pace to keep up with our ideas. Basic Typography can really help with keeping your page scan-able while getting across the key points of what you are saying and selling. It also lays out how through simple design you can grab your readers attention. Understanding the difference between editing and proofreading.

Ian doesn’t go into too much detail but makes it clear about what Collateral, Medium and Style are. Collateral is what type of material are you using, a brochure, webpage or even a letter. Medium which is how is this information getting to you, is it a podcast, YouTube or Instagram video, or is it in print. For Style, Ian focuses on three types, one being the hard sell, two is the scare tactic and third is the straight shot at the ways to approach the customer. Collateral, Medium and Style are all important as often times the marketing copy that somebody is looking at is the first introduction of the company to the customer.

Make a Plan

Ian explains that the point of making a plan doesn’t have to be this overbearing session to try and think of every possibility and what to do about it. He says take 30 minutes to think about who your audience is, what collateral are you going to use and your writing style, on how you are going to approach your customers. It’s okay if you change your plan, even a few times, but it’s important that from the beginning you are looking at your approach to the customer and how to deliver value to them.

Polishing your copy and testing headlines

Ian re-emphasizes that once you have written your copy, take a break even a day before you look at it again. If you can have someone else proofread and edit your work, even better. This may be basic but I thought it was worth differentiating the two; proofreading is checking the document for spelling, grammar and syntax errors, while editing is involves checking the document for overall continuity and fact checking that material. Check over what you’ve written to see if you have written it in an Active Voice or Passive Voice. After you have a solid version of your copywriting it is a good idea to test your headlines, you can do this if you have a customer base with email, split the customers into two or more groups depending on how many headlines you are testing, then send them each out the same content but with a different headline and see who is making it to the bottom of your email and who is clicking on your links and actually going to the content. From there it should be pretty clear if you have a good headline or if it needs some work.

Editing someone else’s Copywriting

I’m always so tempted to restructure another persons paragraphs and often re-write some of their sentences. Each writer has their own style and that is important to keep when looking at someone else’ marketing copy. How Ian explains the benefits that you will get out of it by improve without restructuring. When a writer is coming to you asking for editing help, it’s important that you ask them some questions about it, such as, what is the collateral and what style are they trying to give off. Additionally, it’s likely you will not know the product or material as well as they do so if there are clear questions that you have about the product or service, ask them. The writer is almost never asking you to completely re-write their work and likely you wont have the time to so it’s best to keep it higher level and point out things they can change without getting too much into the weeds, it’s likely you will have to work with them in the future and you don’t want to harm your relationship, on a product you may not fully understand. In the editing stage, look for unnecessary words and passive voice. Then proofread and know that the spellchecker is not enough to prevent simple mistakes like ass instead of mass. Also, the grammar programs are still a work in progress and your work needs to be reviewed. Ian has some helpful rules for Social Media Copy: Enjoy it, readers can tell when you don’t. Don’t be offensive, treat it like a first date. Be sincere. Keep your message brief, you will get your message across faster. Pair words with images, in all of his test cases words with images gets a better response, keep the image relevant to your subject. Use active voice. Address the reader, make it clear you are talking to them and not about them.

The art of writing Marketing Copy

I hope you’ve enjoyed my review of Learning to Write Marketing Copy from Ian Lurie. If you’re interested in following up on a specific chapter here is the link to his Lynda video.

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