5 hot takes on copywriting from Copyhackers founder Joanna Wiebe
By Daniel Murray
I’m stoked for you guys to get to know Joanna.
She’s the founder of Copyhackers, a conversion copywriting agency she started to serve the Hacker News community.
Joanna has worked with some of our fav companies like Canva, Intuit, and Sprout Social to optimize their copy.
Early in her career, she had no idea WTF copywriting was.
Starting out as an English major, Joanna found copywriting by accident, and her first title was… ~Creative Writer~
Which made her think copywriting was all ART. But, it’s a SCIENCE.
Here are some things she’s learned (and unlearned!) on her copywriting journey, in her own lightly-edited words.
1. Copywriting ≠ creative writing:
“Think designing a webpage versus painting portraits. Very different things (FYI I cannot paint AT ALL).
The challenge is that the word writing is in both.
So everybody’s like, oh, you’re a writer — no. Copywriting is SALES IN PRINT.
The tool that we use to sell is the written word.
The goal is to get our client’s vision across in words — and then we edit, edit, edit so that the message actually works.”
2. What copywriters DON’T do:
“Copywriting exists to get the yes — generate leads, generate sales, get people to come to your demo.
The challenge is, the people who are signing off on copy think they’re signing off on stuff that sounds good – when in reality it’s bleh (yes, I just said bleh).
When I was A/B testing emails and getting good results, someone said, “Can you fluff this up?”
I could have been a diva and said, “That’s not what I’m here for.” But instead I chose to be a lot more open with teaching people what copy exists to do.
That means sharing your A/B test results and making it clear that THIS IS A SALES EXERCISE.”
Besties, listen to Joanna. ^
3. When to test copy:
“The general rule of thumb if you want to test copy successfully: dramatically switch up your copy
It’s helpful to isolate something — start with DRAMATICALLY changing the headline.
There is a caveat, you won’t get statistically significant results with a headline test, UNLESS your new headline is absolutely different.
If you try something like “We’ll help you along your journey” versus “We’ll help you along your path” — you won’t learn jack squat.
But if you’re saying different things, in different ways, you’re more likely to see statistically confident results.”
^^ (which is what we want!!!!)
4. How to set goals for copy:
“The entire conversion journey is a lot like the making of a customer.
So if you think of it as a factory line, everything exists in order to create that product.
But each element along the way only has one job that it can be responsible for.
Sometimes an element does more — like a headline that brings in leads on the following page — but that’s REALLY RARE.
Typically for a headline you ask it to grab your audience’s attention so that they keep reading on the page. That’s it (some call it clickbait, others call it a hook – I’m others).
If you ask a headline to do more than that, you’re probably setting yourself up for a failure (aka a confusing ass headline).
So it’s tricky. Everyone wants a paid conversion as the result of every effort, but we all know that’s as unrealistic as you refraining from binging The House of Dragons.
That new headline, that different Facebook ad, whatever it might be — those don’t have to bring in the sale to still be a valid new asset.”
5. Listening to the customer is critical:
“When I get hired to work on projects that are targeting ENGINEERS or TECHNICAL BUYERS, I don’t know anything about them.
The best thing you can do is realize you don’t know anything.
Go LISTEN to your target audience.
Pull out the parts that are most interesting in what they say.
Run it by the person internally who best understands the customer.
Make sure that you’re not going off on some weird tangent — because there’s confirmation bias.
You need to go listen to people in order for your copy to stand a chance of SOUNDING LIKE THEY DO, or like something they would trust.”
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