Improve Your Copywriting Skills (3 Tips and 10 Books That Can Help)

Improve Your Copywriting Skills (And Other Marketing Skills You Might Need)

Scroll to the bottom if you just want the actual list of recommendations to improve your copywriting skills, although I suggest you enjoy the fun way I meander my way to get to that list!

If I see one more person say copywriting is the #1 most important marketing skill to have, I may scream. 

Why?

Because it’s an oversimplification.

There is no #1 marketing skill that will make you more successful than having a well-rounded arsenal of skills that will join forces to make you an unstoppable marketing force (great visual: imagine the Planeteers uniting and shouting, “Goooo, Planet!” Shout out to you if you understand and appreciate the random pop culture reference). 

Copywriting skills opened doors for me, true. But in my experience, some of the most beneficial skills for a marketer to have include:

  • Eager to learn (I spend nearly every day teaching myself something new to make myself better at my job)
  • Resourcefulness (It helps to be scrappy when you’re working at a startup or small business)
  • Ability to negotiate (Comes especially in handy when working with a sales team that’s less than fully sold on your marketing strategy)
  • Customer service (Want a great case study? You can’t have a stellar NPS or reviews to brag about if your customers aren’t happy)
  • Verbal communication (I’ve had to pitch a lot of wild ideas to get buy in)
  • Motivational speaking (Getting the crowd pumped and behind your ideas is so key!)

Those are just some of the soft skills. If we’re talking technical, copywriting skills is high on the list. But some of the other skills that have been an aid in my career:

  • Ability to read data and pick out the best highlights to share that others care about
  • Light coding (Thank you, MySpace, for the early push into html/CSS)
  • Knowledge of SEO and how to do it right
  • An eye for design (You should know a little about the Adobe Creative Cloud apps, even if you’re not a Photoshop whiz)
  • Little bit of insight with numbers (Not saying to break out the TI-83, but you should be comfortable with percentages, dollar signs, etc, since so much of justifying your livelihood will come down to mapping your activity back to revenue)
  • Social media savvy (Knowing your way around the social platforms is a big deal. When done right, they can be a massive lead generation tool. When done wrong…well, just don’t do them wrong.)

So anyway, copywriting skills are important. I won’t deny that. But I just can’t bring myself to say they’re the most important marketing skill to add to your repertoire. 

Not to say you shouldn’t make it a priority to improve your copywriting skills.

Written communication is a HUGE channel for marketing and branding right now. Nobody wants to pick up the phone and talk to you anymore. It feels like an invasion of privacy to get a marketing call in this era of robo-spam-nightmare callers. And we also probably aren’t going to be attending many in-person events with a pandemic still leaving us all feeling uncertain and even debating the future of the handshake.

So written communication for digital channels will be key for marketing.

And with all of us vying for attention on social channels, emails, ad platforms and the like, it’s really important to have some strong content marketing and copywriting skills. Most people aren’t going to give you a second chance, so you only get one shot (🎶🎵do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a…). 

So here are my tips, tricks, recommendations, and stuff you need to improve your marketing skills and be a top-rate marketer who can cut through the noise to leave a lasting impression (the ultimate goal for all of us).

  1. Start following people who are great writers. The people who write stuff that makes you keep reading, not skim over and then get distracted by cat videos because…well, cat videos rock, right? Or general videos of any animals if you’re like me. Don’t just follow people on one channel either. You need to write differently depending on the channel you’re writing for. Blog writing is different than LinkedIn writing is different than Twitter writing is different than white paper writing is different than…you get it. And don’t just follow great copywriters. Follow great writers in general. Authors, business people, influencers, regular folks with interesting stories. Follow all of them and decide what works, what you like, and where you can incorporate it into your own copywriting.
  2. Read something every day. Not just books. I read news articles (long form and short form), social media posts, ad copy, email newsletters, regular emails, comic books. Exposing yourself to a variety of writing styles for different mediums can help you improve the flexibility of your copywriting technique. It also helps you be more innovative in how you approach copywriting by blending different styles. Read something every day with an eye for studying the words and their form. Extra tip, there are a lot of apps you can use to be more efficient in how you approach reading, too. I’ve become a fan of Readwise. It helps you save digital highlights from what you read, including fantastic Twitter threads you want to save. Check it out here
  3. Write every day. This seems like an obvious, dumb thing to say. It’s not. It is really hard to discipline yourself enough to write with purpose every day. I’m not talking about a DM to your Facebook or WhatsApp friend group. Write with purpose. Practice some conversion copywriting. Begin blogging. Post to your social media accounts every day. I try to post to LinkedIn every day. Start an email series to people who subscribe through your website. It’s a way for me to test what people in the marketing community respond to and tweak my writing style in a way that encourages engagement. Basic principle but difficult to commit to: you have to work out your copywriting muscles if you want to improve your skills.

So those are 3 things that seem really simple but can actually help you go far when it comes to becoming a better writer.

On top of that, here’s a list of 10 books you should read that can level up your copywriting:

  • Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
  • Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
  • Everybody Writes by Ann Handley (She also wrote Content Rules, another great find)
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Positioning by Ries and Trout
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  • Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing by Mark Shaw
  • Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
  • This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better by Neville Medhora
  • Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman

Those are my tips and my suggestions. 

What about you? I’d love to hear what you think. Tweet me with anything you think I missed.

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