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10 Copywriting Tips I Learned From My Cats

Mar 12, 2008
Copy refers to the words on a sales page or advertisement. Copywriting refers to creating the message and writing up the actual words.

Disclaimer: This article is based on my own cats. Yours may be different.

1. Walk on the edge and take some risks.

My cats balance precariously on narrow ledges. They leap to the top of the refrigerator or the cabinet. Often I never know how they got up and how they get down. They just appear.

Good copy calls for walking on the edge. The best copywriters say, "Take risks! Dare to offend!"

But, like cats, the best copywriters know how far they can go. They rarely get stuck out on a limb with no way to get down.

Some top copywriters go over the edge on their own websites, using colorful language (think Tony Soprano) and graphic images. They're expert climbers who learned all the tricks before most of us opened our first web site. And they know their audiences very, very well.

2. Look like you're having fun.

It's no accident that we say a happy person looks like a cat who swallowed the canary. Ever meet a cat who needs a Life Coach to find the purr-fect life? Cats look very pleased with themselves, whether snoozing, staring out the window, or looking smug after polishing off the last piece of roast beef you saved for your lunch.

Great copy sounds happy too. Enthusiasm crackles through the words, sending a message: "This is so terrific! I just can't wait to share!"

3. Expect to be appreciated.

Dogs beg for attention. Cats take it for granted. "We deserve everything we get, and more," they say -- whether they're pure-bred Siamese or funny-looking calicos.

Good copy comes across as confident. "Of course you'll like our service. Why wouldn't you? We deliver great value and we know it."

Cats know: When you expect a reward, you're more likely to get it.

4. Aim directly for your target audience.

Cats walk into a room and jump directly into a very specific lap. Some cynics claim cats move right to the person who's allergic or anti-cat.

You're probably anticipating this analogy: Write copy with a specific person in mind -- someone who represents your target market. That's the first lesson we learned in Copy School.

Don't try to please everyone. If your target turns out to be allergic to your service (or at least to paying for your service), find another. Just don't give up and try to please everyone.

5. Engage your audience.

Forget the myth of aloof cats. Mine jump into laps of total strangers and try to rub noses. When guests look puzzled, I have to explain, "She wants you to rub her ears." (If you're not a cat person, you may be feeling somewhat ill right about now. But keep reading: there's good info here.)

Copy also gets your readers involved. Good copy gets them reading one sentence after another, perhaps jumping to colored text boxes and bold type. Keep them reading: the way my cats motivate visitors to keep their attention focused long after you planned to get up and leave.

6. Command attention.

Have you ever attended a social gathering where everyone talks politely -- until a cat enters the room? Suddenly conversation comes to a halt. The guest of honor wants to pick up the cat, who may or may not agree with the idea.

Needless to say, great headlines stop readers cold. Surfers want to stop chasing the waves and spend more time on your site. Maybe they'll even browse a few pages...and then a few more.

7. Keep clean and beautiful no matter what.

This one's a no-brainer. I may be a fair-to-middling housekeeper, but my calico cat keeps her white fur free of smudges. Hair stays in place (except when it's standing on end or dropping onto the sofa).

Great copy looks fresh and appealing. Headlines line up and you rarely find grammar or spelling mistakes. You'll want to dig in, read and stay awhile.

8. Choose a background that shows off your looks.

Ever notice that cats seem to choose a background that makes them stand out? White cats choose dark cushions. My tabby avoids prints; my calico favors small places where she can curl up and demonstrate "cute."

Copywriters encourage simple backgrounds that make the text stand out. Black type on dark green? No way! Distracting graphics? Wild colors? Your message disappears like a black cat on a cold winter night.

9. Add a human touch.

Ever notice how many advertisements include a cat? It's not because cats make easy props. As models, they're temperamental and amoody. They resist being shoved into poses. When freaked out, they've been known to scratch their highly-paid human colleagues.

But cats make a cold scene seem warm. They make Beautiful People seem human -- well, almost.

Great copy sounds like a real person. You feel like you're having a conversation with the writer. On your website, copy makes visitors feel like they're old friends.

10. Who cares if someone hates you? There's always another food dish around the corner.

Cats know: somewhere, love is waiting. So they won't stoop to eat bad food or tolerate an indifferent owner.

Great copy never sounds hungry. Great copy recognizes that not everyone will become a client -- and that's a relief. Because with a value-driven product and a viable market, great copy attracts more than enough buyers -- and makes it look easy.
About the Author
FREE 7 Best-Kept Secrets of Websites That Really Attract Clients: My Special Report gives you insider tips to attract more clients and sell more info products with less effort. From Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., at Copywriting to Pounce on Your Profits.
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