7 Copywriting Lessons from a Really Good Conversation

"A great conversation is a collaborative effort. It’s a deeply creative activity." – Nick Usborne

The easy part of this process is following the seven lessons below.

It’s much harder to find a good conversation.

The sad truth is, most of us are terrible at holding even a half-decent conversation.

We’re in too much of a hurry. We’re too anxious to get our own points of view across, and we tune out when the other person talks.

But just occasionally, we’ll find ourselves taking part in a really, really good conversation. We not only listen to the other person, but encourage them to dig deeper and develop their thoughts further. And they do the same for us.

A great conversation is a collaborative effort. It’s a deeply creative activity. It’s also incredibly bonding and rewarding for the people involved.

If and when you’re fortunate enough to have one of those conversations, there is a great deal you can learn from them … about copywriting.

Lesson #1: Don’t assume the other person sees the world the same way you do

When you’re part of a great conversation, you listen intently. It’s part of the experience.

You don’t just hear what you want to hear. You really get to understand the point of view of the other person, even if you don’t agree with it.

You need to do the same as a marketing writer.

Put aside your own beliefs and point of view for a moment. Listen carefully to your prospects and customers. And be aware that they may not share your own worldviews.

When you understand how they see the world, you’ll be in a better position to write to them in a way that truly connects.

Lesson #2: Ask open-ended questions

Bad conversationalists don’t ask questions. They just talk.

But in a really good conversation, both people ask questions. The best of them are open-ended questions.

Something like:

“Wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way. How might that work?”

This gives the other person space to explore their thoughts in more detail. It also signals that you care about their point of view and value their contributions.

You can do the same as a copywriter.

You may not be in an actual conversation with your readers, but you can still send those positive signals by asking open-ended questions in your copy.

For example:

“I’ve had terrible trouble trying to load apps on my Chromebook. How about you?”

I don’t ask the question with the expectation of a reply. But I’m still engaging with the reader … asking her to add her own experiences to the mix.

Lesson #3: Pause and create space for the other person to respond

This is a close cousin to the last lesson. It’s about slowing down and pausing, allowing the other person to take part and feel valued.

In a real conversation, you’d actually pause. A little silence can work wonders when you want the other person to keep talking.

As a writer, you can try a couple of things.

First, you can be explicit about it. Say something like:

“Take a few moments. Stop reading; look out the window and give this some thought.”

Or you can just slow down the pace.

Like this.

Nice and easy.

Lesson #4: Show empathy

One of the simplest ways to show empathy is to mirror what the other person is saying or thinking.

It turns out, we’re actually hard-wired to do this. Researchers have found we have dedicated “mirror neurons” that light up when we feel empathy for others.

Empathy is a powerful force in conversations and it can also be used in copywriting.

“I’m guessing you and I aren’t too different … our first drafts of copy are almost never the best.”

I’m just suggesting we’re alike.

I’m showing empathy for your own struggles as a copywriter and mirroring your own concerns about not getting your text right in your first draft.

Lesson #5: Avoid being adversarial or overly pushy

When you’re selling online, there’s a temptation to push too hard.

In our eagerness to make the sale, we cross the line and sound like a car salesman on speed.

That’s a real conversation-killer.

In a one-on-one conversation, nothing kills the moment as quickly as when one person suddenly starts pitching something. The other person immediately slips into defensive mode and stops listening.

Essentially, the conversation has come to an end.

The same thing happens with copywriting.

As soon as the reader feels you’re only interested in pushing the sale, they’ll disengage and stop reading.

Be less salesy and more conversational.

Lesson #6: Express gratitude for what the conversation brings you

Over the course of a good conversation, we’ll share signals of appreciation and gratitude.

We’ll smile or laugh. We might even reach out and touch the other person. A light touch on the hand or arm.

More explicitly, we’ll say “thank you,” or find some other way to tell the other person how much we value the conversation.

Within the one-way environment of a sales page or email, it’s a little harder to express that kind of gratitude.

But from time to time, why not just come out and say it?

Try something like this in your next email:

“I know I don’t say this often enough … but I truly appreciate the fact that you’re still opening and reading these emails. It means a lot to me!”

Lesson #7: Harness the power of short words and sentences

When you’re deep in conversation with someone, you almost certainly don’t pay attention to the length of the words and sentences you use.

And unless you’re talking about a highly technical subject, I bet you’d find that your language is surprisingly simple.

You don’t need to get all fancy when you’re having a conversation. In fact, the simpler the words and sentences you use, the more easily you’ll be able to convey complex and persuasive ideas.

In conversation, we put aside all of the clever writing habits we’ve learned.

Instead, we use everyday language.

You can do the same with your copywriting.

Keep it simple, as if you were having a conversation with a friend.

Conversations are the perfect model for good copywriting

Who knew, right?

There are so many books and experts on the craft of copywriting.

But if you study a simple conversation, you’ll likely observe essential copywriting skills.

Good conversationalists make great copywriters!

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