Copy Writing For Nonprofits
The first thing anybody notices when they come to your site is the overall look and feel of your site. Does it seem professional and credible? If not they leave.
The second thing they do is read something – typically it’s the title and the first paragraph of an article or a title and description of a product. Within a few seconds they will decide whether they want to continue. If the copy they are reading is even remotely unprofessional they will leave.
Not only will they leave, they will likely never return because they have the impression that your site is of no use to them. The important point to note here is that all of this could’ve happened on a site that sells the best products and services in its niche.
Now that you understand how important copywriting is, let’s talk about how to do it well.
Ideal Presentation Of Messaging
The best way to understand copywriting is to look at the news media. Even though physical newspapers have been replaced with news delivered online, the way each article is presented has not changed for 100 years because they know it works. It always looks like this:
Let’s get very clear about why this works. If you’re considering reading an article you will obviously read the headline first in order to decide whether this is what you’re looking for. In the meantime, there’s only so much information that can be provided in a headline, so if the headline indicates that this article might contain information that you’re interested in, you will read the first one or two sentences.
When you read those first one or two sentences, you are not making a commitment to read the entire article. You’re trying to find some kind of early indication about whether this article will contain the information that you’re looking for. That’s why the first few sentences of a media article are often a summary.
It’s also often in bold print with a font size that is larger than the rest of the article. If the headline and the summary do a good job of explaining what is in the article then it’s extremely easy for you to decide that you want to read the detail. Now Let’s talk about the actual content itself.
Start With Benefits
Before anybody makes a decision to invest time and learning more about your product or service they need to know what’s in it for them.
It gets more and more difficult every day to get people to listen to you. We’re all flooded with advertising. In fact, there’s research indicating that the average person is exposed to up to 5,000 advertisements per day.
The reason this matters is that copy is really just another form of advertising.
So why should anyone pay attention to your copy if it’s just another ad?
The answer is what they might get out of it: The Benefits.
Today’s consumer is looking for a solution. If your copy can provide that solution, you’ll grab their attention.
So think about the end result that your customer is actually looking for and keep this in mind as you create any and all of your content.
So how do we do it? Will you need some clarity about the benefits so start by creating a list that states the primary benefits and a list of secondary benefits. In some cases, there might be one, two, or three primary benefits. This is a judgment call that you need to make. Keep in mind that the smaller the number the better and I strongly recommend maxing out your primary benefits three.
If you find yourself having trouble putting some benefits into words then do some searching around on Google to see how your competitors have communicated the same message. The point of this list is to get clear on the benefits. If you are not 100% clear about these benefits there’s no way that you can communicate the value of these benefits to your customer.
The difference between benefits and features
Features are not benefits.
People don’t care about features until after they are clear about the benefits. You’ve probably been to a lot of websites when you don’t really have any understanding of what their products can actually do for you.
These people are making the mistake of assuming that you already understand the benefits and that you are looking at features in order to make a buying decision. You should never make that assumption
That would be like the journalist providing an article that does not include a headline or a summary and only includes the detail. Everybody wants to the headline first, the summary second in the details third.
Always keep this in mind when you’re communicating with your customer – regardless of whether it’s your homepage, a blog post, or an email. Headline then summary then detail. Don’t make life difficult for your customer.
Also, keep in mind that benefits are much better than features for several reasons.
A proportion of your customers might only care about the result and not care what all about how the result is achieved. In most cases, the benefits sell your product because the benefits are about the customer.
When a customer sees all the benefits you offer they start thinking about those benefits in a way that applies to their personal circumstances – and that’s what you want them to do. You want a customer imagining themselves using your product and feeling good about it. What is the specific thing that would make them feel good about it? The benefit.
When people want to illustrate the difference between features and benefits they often show this example.
Technical people prefer the one on the left but everybody else prefers the one on the right. As you know, the overwhelming majority of people are not technical. It might sound strange to you but there’s an enormous number of people who don’t really know what a gigabyte is.
People want to know what you can do for them in the absolute shortest amount of time possible. The longer you take to explain what’s in it for them the less likely it is that they will do whatever it is you want them to do next.
Features also make people feel better. You should always be aiming to make people associate positive feelings and emotions with your product service or brand. Again, do this by making it easy for your potential customer to visualize using your product or service and getting the Final results the field looking for.
Tell A Story
Stories are not just for people that read and write fiction. Stories are a powerful way to communicate any message of any kind. All humans have evolved to be able to tell stories and understand stories.
I’m sure you can remember a lot of situations where somebody was explaining something to you but you didn’t quite get it until after they gave you an example. What is an example? It’s a brief story. You create a fictional person in a fictional scenario and this person encounters a problem then they find a way to resolve the problem.
So what does a Typical story consist of: beginning, middle, end.
– Act one: Life as normal
– Act 2: normal life is interrupted with a problem
– Act three: the problem is resolved
When somebody uses an example to explain something they are usually using this same three-act structure you see in every Hollywood film.
All throughout human history, stories have been used to create deep connections and make sense of the world. That makes stories one of your most powerful weapons. You don’t have to be a master of the English language to do this. You just need to understand your customers’ situation when they are in acts 1,2 and 3.
Stories can trigger a lot of potent emotions. A good story can change how someone looks at life and even how they view themselves.
Stories don’t have to be long. You can create story snippets in all of your content.
Let’s look at another common example:
The copy on this landing page triggers a story. It plants the feeling of watching a bad movie in your mind and this triggers a negative emotion. But it also provides a solution. It’s not communicating a precise feature. It’s communicating the reason you need the feature.
Write For Scanners
And when I say scanners, I’m referring to people – because that’s what we all do.
There’s research that indicates that approximately 79% of your readers are actually not reading your content at all – they just scan it.
It’s likely that you also scan almost everything that you read. So when you’re scanning what do you actually look for? In most cases, you looking for subheadings that relate to something specific. If you are looking at a very long article that has no subheadings, the chance that you’re not going to read it because you have no indication that whatever you’re looking for is in the article. There are also other scenarios where you’ll scan all the subheadings in order to decide whether you want to read the entire article or just part of it. The net result is that subheadings are critical. In summary, people want to know where you’re going to take them before they agree to let you take them there.
Scanning subheadings are a very high-level form of scanning. The next level of detail of scanning is reading the first sentence of each paragraph. At This point, I’m pretty sure you know what people are trying to do when they read the first sentence of each paragraph.
They’re looking for an indication about whether they should read the rest of the paragraph. So what should you be doing? Make sure that the first sentence of each paragraph is relevant to the title that grabbed their attention in the first place.
You should also consider including fewer sentences in each paragraph and using a bigger font. Smaller sentences and bigger fonts can make an enormous difference for people that consume your content on a mobile device.
Another approach you could take is to make the first sentence of each paragraph bold. This is a good idea if your content simply doesn’t justify having a large number of subheadings.
Address Any And All Objections
Whenever you’re trying to make a point it’s likely that there are people that have an opposing view or some kind of objection. If you’re an expert in your field or have a general understanding of the customer experience you should already be aware of the most common objections.
If your product is more expensive than your competitors you need to explain why the additional cost is justified. If your product is missing a feature compared to your competitors you need to explain why this feature is not important.
It’s your job to address those objections head-on. You don’t want people to have lingering doubts in their minds.
If you want to do this more thoroughly and you have existing traffic or existing customers then you should communicate directly with them by using surveys.
One of the most important things you need to do as a nonprofit manager is understanding what your customers like and don’t like about your product. In some cases, you may have to improve your product but in other cases, you might just have to improve your communication.
The simplest way to do this is with FAQs on your website. Start with the FAQs that you think are most common and then add more of them as you start seeing different questions coming through your contact form or support forms.
Don’t underestimate how important the simple list of FAQs can be when it comes to helping your customers make a final decision to sign-up or buy.
The more detailed it is the better. Even if the customer is only interested in the answer to one question if they see an enormous number of questions and answers they have no choice but to conclude that you are going out of your way to help them. This increases trust and confidence.
“You” Is Powerful
“You” is a powerful word for the obvious reason that it speaks directly to the person reading your content. This is a personalized language. It helps people make a direct connection between your brand and themselves. It makes It easier for them to imagine themselves using your product.
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