There are different types of copywriting for different purposes. An expert in copywriting and web writing, Nick Usborne (UZ-born) has written copy for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Citibank, Apple, Chrysler, MSN.com, New York Times, WebEx, the U.S. Navy, and others. He attributes his success to “conversational copywriting,” and he’s here today to share his approach to help you write persuasive and effective copy for clients.
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The Craft Of Conversational Copywriting with Nick Usborne
We have with us Nick Usborne. He is talking about conversational copywriting. Nick, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
Nick, as an engineer that went into a business, the term copywriting gives me fear. Tell me what is copywriting and why is it so important?
I’ve been doing this for many years now. When I was a beginner copywriter, I’d say to friends and family. They’d say, “What are you doing?” I’d say, “I’m a copywriter.” The unspoken answer sometimes was, “I’m sorry.” Copy is the words that persuade. It’s the words we put on our websites, on advertisements, TV commercials or whatever. When there are words to get people to do something, to try something, that’s the task of a copywriter to write copy. Sometimes it’s not always hard selling. Sometimes I write a blog post as a copywriter. Basically, my role in life is to encourage people to buy something or sign up for something. When I say it’s yucky, as a freelancer, which I am and have been forever, I find it awkward selling myself because I didn’t like to sell myself because I’m always thinking forward to the relationship I’m going to have with my clients.
When you’re talking about heart-based businesses, we’re all in the business of having relationships with our clients, our customers. It’s not like we’re selling steak knives or lawnmowers. We’re going to engage with our customers. You can feel uncomfortable the idea of pitching, of selling, of being perceived as a salesperson or some marketer because that’s not how we want to be perceived. We want to be perceived as an honest purveyor of our skill. If I’m a therapist or a coach or something, I want to be real me. I don’t want to be seen as a marketer.A good copywriter writes about what it is that they can offer their clients that will make their lives better in some way. Click To Tweet
How would a business owner know they need a copywriter or what results would they get with a copywriter versus maybe trying their own stuff?
The same difference if you were trying to hide a painter to paint a painting as opposed to trying to paint it yourself. The weird thing is that as all of us write, whatever we are writing, we’ll think we’re good writers, which we’re not. I’ve been doing this professionally for many years and I’m still trying to get better at the craft of writing and the craft of copywriting. Sometimes, let’s say you’re a coach, maybe you’re a natural-born copywriter and you can do it yourself. Usually you’d be better off either finding someone who is a professional or at least getting some training so you can be trained in the craft of copywriting.
I feel that when someone else writes copy for me, they see me in a different light and usually a little better light than I see myself. Do you find that true? Give a new perspective.
We’re called professionals. As I said, I’m guilty of this myself. We constantly undersell ourselves. We’re embarrassed to sell ourselves. We’re embarrassed to say that we are wonderful. We are good at something. It just seems awkward. We take that from day to day life and conversation where maybe it’s frowned on a bit to blow your own horn too much. This is marketing. This is what we do. If you look at an analogy, I quite like our comparison. If you drive into a McDonald’s drive-through, they have this microphone and they have these beautiful pictures and you have this amazing photograph of the Big Mac.
If you then drive through and you buy the Big Mac, take it home, put it on the kitchen table and take a photograph of it, it looks nothing like what they had on that beautiful glossy board at the drive-through. It’s this miserable, dry, skinny little excuse for a burger. What are they doing? They’re showing that burger in its best possible light. As marketers, if we’re marketing our heart-based business, it’s our duty to present the very best version of ourselves so that we do look our best, so that we are attractive to our prospects. Not to the point where we’re being misleading or lying. We have to present ourselves in the best version of light, the best possible version of ourselves.
What are some of the best copy? What are some of the attributes of good copywriting? How do you know that this is the good stuff?
There are different types of copywriting for different purposes. If I’m selling steak knives on late-night TV, I’m going to be all over you. “Wait, there’s more. Buy in the next thirteen minutes and you get two sets,” that real hard selling. If I’m a used car salesperson, I’ll have a particular pitch that I use that’s uncomfortable for most of us. For most of us, if you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, heart-based business, what you want to do is you want to be that enthusiastic next-door neighbor. The next-door neighbor comes by and says, “Did you see such and such a show on TV?” They’re super excited and enthusiastic about it. They’re not going to make any money out of telling you how great the TV show was. They just want to share it with you or maybe the next-door neighbor likes to cook and she says, “I tried this recipe. It’s amazing. You’ve got to try this.”
There is a natural enthusiasm we’re all capable of particularly when we are in conversation with people. For people like us, like solopreneurs who want to build meaningful relationships with our clients, the best way to sell is to imagine ourselves in that mindset. We are super excited about what we have to offer. We cannot wait to share this with people so that we can help them. The way I encourage people to think about our conversation with copywriting is to imagine the prospect is sitting across the kitchen table from them. They’re looking at them eye to eye and you’re getting all excited and sharing this so you don’t feel like you’re pitching. You feel like you’re enthusiastic about what you want to share with them.
Sometimes when I write my own copy, my message is inconsistent. I’ll do something for a site. I’ll do something for a flyer. For some reason, I feel like I have to say something different. Do you think having a professional copywriter blends those? What are some of the benefits there?The best way to sell is to get super excited about our offer that we cannot wait to share it with people so that we can help them. Click To Tweet
Certainly, it can do but even then, you can run into trouble because some copywriters are good at print and some copywriters are good at digital media, like writing for social media. I may not be the same person. Sometimes you end up having different copywriters, but then as the client, it’s your task to clarify that message because you can end up with a slightly different message in different places and that it’s not an entirely good thing. A good copywriter can talk with you about this and they can help you frame this. You just say, “What is the message? What is the language that I should use? What are the words I should use to best describe the value I can offer to my clients?” It’s not about you. You don’t write about you. You want to write about, “What is it that I can offer my clients? What is it that will make their lives better in some way? How do I articulate that?” When you have that statement, it’s almost like a mission or a vision, that’s what you work from whether you’re working in print or digital media.
You’re writing with the client’s result in mind. What is conversational copywriting? That’s what you’re known for. Is it that like a next-door neighbor conversation?
Old school copywriting is what I grew up with because I was writing offline before I was writing online. If I was writing for TV or radio, basically it’s adversarial. I’m pushing a message at you. It is adversarial. It can be slightly uncomfortable. The web itself is certainly social media. It’s multi-way, it’s interactive. I should be speaking to you in a different way. That way is what I would describe as conversational. I’m treating you with more respect. I’m not being so pushy. I’m trying to engage you or at least you feel that I’m trying to engage you and that I’m listening as much as I’m talking. I may not be listening at that moment, but I’ve been listening to you to understand you better so that when I talk to you, when I sell you with conversational copywriting, you get a sense that I get you.
You look at that page or that email or whatever it is and you think, “He totally gets me. He understands me.” That’s what I’m looking for in conversational. First of all, as a conversation copywriter, you want to do your research, you want to listen to the voices of your customers or prospects, which you can through social media, through discussion lists, whatever. Once you have that language, you understand that emotional touchpoints, what excites them, what upsets them. Now, I know their language. I know who they are and I can talk to them as if I were in conversation. I bring that enthusiasm into it and now I’m selling in a way that’s emotionally engaging and doesn’t feel adversarial or pushy at all. That’s what I advocate. That’s what I work on.
With so much social media and all the connections there are, reviews and what people are saying about you are so important. It’s very easy to get some feedback on how people are perceiving a procedure or a product your business and use those words to bring them into your copywriting.
In fact, if I can mirror the language of my prospects, if I can use the exact phrases and language they use, that immediately is disarming. That’s what triggers that sense of, “Finally, someone who gets me.”
We’re all looking out there for some of them that get us.
Whether it’s in our personal lives or business lives, it’s such a relief to find someone or even a prospective, business partner or someone who can serve to finally have that sense of, “It is so much more comfortable to work with someone that you feel understands you and gets you.”
Someone who gets you versus talks at you. Nick, how do people find out more about you?
They can find me at ConversationalCopywriting.com. I have a blog. There are tons of content there. I’ve put together a page for your audience, which is a ConversationalCopywriting.com/heart. You’ll find there’s a download there and some more information. If anyone wants to reach out to me one-on-one, I try to become sensational myself. I try to walk the talk so they can reach me at Nick@ConversationalCopywriting.com.
With conversational copywriting, you want to mirror their words, you want to have a professional so they can get your message clear across all platforms. You’re not painting the picture yourself. What other thoughts do you want to leave our audience with?
Let go of the idea that marketing and advertising have to be pushy in adversarial. It doesn’t. You’re far better off particularly with digital media, which is by its nature interactive, by its nature social, almost conversational. You’re much better off engaging. Sometimes, you need to hire professionals. Other times you can learn some of this. You can learn the fundamentals of copywriting. Maybe it won’t come naturally to everyone, but there are some people who can learn this craft for themselves. Somehow that makes it even more personal and engaging.
Thank you so much. We have been with Nick Usborne. Go to ConversationalCopywriting.com/heart. Be sure you get his free download gift. This is Sam Mak, a diversity and inclusion consultant. You can find out more about me at www.SpeakerAuthorMotivator.com and be sure to join Nick and us on #Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine on Facebook where you can connect to other Heartrepreneurs building their businesses and making a difference.
- Nick Usborne
- #Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine – Facebook group
About Nick Usborne
Copywriter | Web Writer | Coach | Speaker
Key Focus: Teaching the craft of conversational copywriting
Nick Usborne is an online copywriter and trainer who wrote his first website in 1995. When his book, Net Words, was published by McGraw-Hill in 2002, it was one of the very first to address the new profession of writing for the web. After writing web copy for nearly two decades, Nick began teaching companies and organizations how to write better websites. A few years later, he began converting his corporate training materials into courses and programs for freelance writers and copywriters. Today, Nick continues to immerse himself in teaching the craft of conversational copywriting.
Having worked with clients like Citibank, Apple, Reuters, WebEx, and New York Times, Nick has seen it all in the world of copywriting — and he knows what works. He’s earned 15 awards in direct response marketing — both in Europe and North America — and he’s worked as an advisor and consultant to various startups — primarily in online consumer product sales. He’s spoken at numerous online marketing conferences, as well as conducted in-house seminars and training sessions for companies like Yahoo!, Novartis Pharma, John Deere, Walt Disney Attractions, and more.
Nick lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he’s not always sitting in front of a keyboard. When he’s not working, and if the weather is being kind, he can often be seen enjoying the outdoors via kayak or bike. In the winter he’s out on his cross-country skis most days.
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