10 tips to write killer ad copy that sells

Channel your inner Don Draper and hook your customers with great copywriting
5 minute read
Adam Smith @HomebrandAdam
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for 10 tips to write killer ad copy that sells

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Small changes to your ad copy can mean the difference between success and failure

The way ads are distributed may have changed, but the rules for good advertising copywriting have remained the same. While digital marketing has opened up new channels and new challenges for people looking to advertise their businesses, ad copy will still make or break your campaign.

Follow these tips and you can get the most out of your advertising dollar.

1. Understand the audience's needs

The first step of writing great ad copy is deciding who it's for. You need to determine who your ad is targeting. Be specific here. While everyone wants advertising that appeals to a broad audience, you need to pick a single type of person and gear your advertising towards them.

It's worth conducting some research to find out more about your customers: their age, their income, their hobbies, their goals and their influences. Even if you have a heterogeneous mix of customers, focus in on your highest value customers and learn everything you can about them.

Once you understand who your audience is, think about their needs. What are they trying to accomplish by engaging with your brand or your competitors' brands? What are their pain points or frustrations? How does your product or service address these?

It's likely your product or service addresses a number of needs. That's great, but for the purposes of your advertising copy, focus on one. Pick the most compelling need your product addresses and center your ad copy on this.

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2. Talk up the benefits

Good advertising focuses on benefits instead of features. Don't tell your customers what your product or service does. Tell them how it will help them. Tell them what problem it will solve.

Think about the customer's objective. Their objective isn't simply to buy another product or service. Your brand is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Your advertising should focus on this end.

For example, if you're marketing a scheduling app, your customers aren't looking for yet another app to download. What they're looking for is a way to keep their life more organized and less stressful. Your marketing and ad copy should focus on the outcome.

3. Focus on the headline

Your headline is the most crucial element of your ad. Traditional marketing wisdom holds that 80% of consumers will read a headline while only 20% will read the related copy. You have to make your headline your top priority.

A good headline should be between 6–12 words. Focus your headline on your most brand's most compelling benefit. Keep your headline simple and straightforward, and focus on the intent of your audience.

Make sure your headline emphasizes what makes your product or service unique. If possible, provide specific numbers to back up your proposition.

4. Appeal to emotion

Buying decisions are emotional decisions. As mentioned above, customers aren't engaging with your brand because they want another consumer good or service. What they want is to solve a problem or reach a goal.

Your ad copy should focus on the emotion behind the problem your brand solves. As with the example above, if you're marketing a scheduling app, focus on the emotion people will feel by using your app. Will they feel more successful? Less stressed? More productive? Sell people on the emotional endpoint.

You can also appeal to negative emotions. By not engaging with your brand, how will customers feel? Will they feel frustrated? Disorganized? Time-poor? Paint a picture of the emotional situation your customers find themselves in, and then show them how your brand will change this situation for the better.

5. Be empathetic

This tip goes hand-in-hand with appealing to your customers' emotions. Put yourself in your customer's situation and try to understand how they feel. Your advertising doesn't have to be unscrupulous manipulation. By empathizing with your customer, you can advertise in a way that makes a good faith effort to solve their problems.

Being empathetic also means recognizing that your customers aren't stupid. Don't try to fool them with false promises you can't back up, and don't talk down to them. Your ad copy should treat customers as your peers and equals. Consumers can see through unsubstantiated claims, and will be turned off to your brand if your ad copy comes across as condescending or untrustworthy.

6. Paint a picture

Use imagery to describe how your product or service will improve your customers' lives. For example, don't just tell them that their life will be less stressful with your scheduling app. Show them what that looks like. Is it relaxation, calm and control? Is it time spent doing some other rewarding activity?

There's an old marketing adage that you're selling people a better version of themselves. Your ad copy should reflect this. Don't just tell your customers their life will be better. Paint a picture of what that better life looks like.

7. Address objections

No matter what you're selling, the two most common objections you'll face are money and time. Consumers worry that your product or service will either be too expensive to use, or too difficult and time-consuming. You can preempt these objections with your advertising copy.

Addressing objections can be handled in a positive way. Using specific pricing or time guarantees in your ad copy can allay your customers' fears.

8. Give a clear call to action

Your ad copy should give customers a clear indication of the next step you want them to take. If you want them to buy your product now, end your ad copy with a call to add your product to their cart. If you want your customer to sign up for an email mailing list or a service, ask them point blank. Don't assume your customer knows the next step to take to engage with your brand. Be specific.

9. Test your hypothesis

No matter how great you think your ad copy is, you should test it to make sure it's connecting with your customers. Try different variations of headlines and calls to action and measure the results.

If you're advertising on Google (and if you're not, you should be), you can run an A/B test on your ad copy from your Google Adwords account. Have a look at how different headlines affect clickthrough rate and conversion. Play around with different variations until you find the one that achieves the best results.

10. Hire a professional

While all the tips above will put you well on your way to advertising success, consider hiring a professional copywriter to polish your ad copy. A freelance copywriter will have a wealth of experience in crafting messages that connect with customers. They'll understand how to put these tips into action for maximum effectiveness.

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