What the Heck is a Copywriter and Why do I Need One?

In eCommerce, having a copywriter on your team is just as important as having developers and designers. For some reason, however, writing is often thrown into the process at the last minute, an afterthought hastily completed after the rest of the project is finished. But when integrated properly into any project, having well-written content can help grow your business and increase sales just as much, if not more, than snazzy design assets and super clean code.

In the eCommerce industry, a lot of business owners aren’t even aware that copywriters exist or why they need one. As the first (and sole) copywriter at Gauge, I’ve had the pleasure of showcasing the importance of quality copywriting to not only our clients, but to my fellow team members as well. But before I discuss the details of what copywriters do, why you need one, and how they can be total life savers, I have to dive into a little bit of Gauge background.

From the very beginning of Gauge back in 2007, our main focus has been web development and web design. Over time, as we built more websites, created content for those websites, and even expanded into email creation and social media management, it became apparent how important writing is in the process of building and growing an eCommerce business. Whether you’re making a website, an ad, an email, or a social media post, someone has to write the words your potential customers will read. Why not grab that opportunity, utilize that space, and make sure whatever is read will reinforce your message and lead to more brand awareness?

Copy Editor + Writer: A Copywriter’s Double Duty

Most copywriters today have experience in formal writing, as well as writing for marketing and advertising. Personally, I edited papers at the writing center of the first university I attended. After transferring to Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), I earned my degree in advertising while simultaneously working for a magazine. I eventually left the magazine to intern for an ad agency in Chicago, which further pushed me to pursue a career as a copywriter. Most copywriters have similar training and work experiences.

If you’re a small business owner, writing can be time-consuming and intimidating, but hiring both a writer and an editor can be cost-prohibitive. Choosing a partner with a copywriter on staff saves you a major headache, because a copywriter does double duty. Their unique perspective allows them to write creatively for your business in a way that will increase sales, and their educational training equips them to help proofread and edit any existing content. Convinced? Let’s walk through what the copywriting process will look like once you take the plunge.

The Process: What Does A Copywriter Do?

As a copywriter at Gauge, I am a part of the creative team. I work closely with our art director and designer to create content for our clients. When I start working with a new client, I learn as much about the company as I can. This includes a ton of research. I read every word on their current website and social media accounts, assessing what their current writing looks and sounds like. I pay attention to the existing content’s tone, the products that are being sold, and how they are described. I make a lot of notes on the type of language the client uses. For example, does the content include a lot of slang, or a more formal and classic approach? Once I’ve done a complete “writers audit,” I head over to competitors’ websites and see what they are doing. What are the trends in the industry, and what are they doing differently? Then I take it a step further and start looking at the brand from a customer’s perspective.

In addition to speaking to the company owners themselves, one of the best ways to learn about a brand is to see what other people have to say about the company online. So I start with any reviews available on the actual company website. I do this to find out first-hand how customers are using the products in their lives—not just how the company assumes they’re used or wants them to be used. I read everything, both positive and negative, so I can learn the unique wants and needs of the customers.

This research is key. It ensures that everything I write for the brand is on strategy and will create an emotional trust relationship between the brand and its customers. It makes readers feel that the brand truly knows them and cares about their well-being. Ultimately, how can you sell something if you don’t really know who you are selling to? And I just don’t mean knowing if they’re men or women; I answer questions like: Are they Gen X’ers or Millennials? Do they have children? Do they drink coffee or tea? Are they morning people or night owls? Do they work out, or are they glorified couch potatoes? Though it can seem superfluous at first, knowing all these details is what allows you to take your content to the next level and really stand out from your competitors. This information allows me, or any copywriter, to establish a brand voice for your company. With a well-refined brand voice, every word written for your website, whether written by a copywriter or your team, is consistent and sounds like it was written by the same person: your brand.

Brand Voice: If Your Brand Could Speak…

A strong and consistent brand voice is absolutely necessary in order to build trust and establish a lasting relationship with your customers. It improves the readability of your content, keeps your ads easily recognizable amongst the clutter on other sites, prevents emails from being deleted immediately, and makes social media posts likeable and shareable because the consumer can directly relate to the message. It makes the brand seem more approachable.

If that sounds a bit grandiose or far-fetched, consider how many ways a brand can become a part of your customers’ lives. When a consumer really buys into your brand, they do more than just spend their hard-earned money on your products. They bring your brand into their home, share your products with their family or children, and may even recommend them to their friends, peers, or extended family. Over time, a successful brand almost becomes an actual family member. Think about the classic brands that you use because your mom used them, the ones >she used because her mother bought them, like Johnson & Johnson, Gerber, or Tide (Procter & Gamble). These brands constantly relay the same message, in the same voice, in everything—every bit of media they produce, every word they write, every product they sell.

Style Guide: Your Cheat Sheet For Everything

After I’ve established a brand voice for each client, all the information I’ve found in my research is added to the company style guide—the holy grail of a copywriter’s deliverables. If you work with a copywriter, you should always ask for a style guide when they’re done working their magic. A style guide is basically a how-to must-have; it’s a cheat sheet you to use when writing any content for your company. At some point, you or someone on your team is going to have to write some copy. A style guide will provide all the information needed to make anyone a writer for your company, whether that person is a senior employee or someone you hired last week.

In my style guides I include everything, from technical tips, like how and when to use abbreviations or to how to properly use hyphens; to specific details of your site, like how to write the copy for the main category pages of your website (down to the word count); to content guidelines, like how to write detailed product descriptions that will do your products justice. A style guide ensures long-term marketing success for your business by protecting your long-term customer relationships.

The Bottom Line

Simply stated, is your brand selling makeup to teenagers? You need someone who can write to address the needs of a teenager. Are you selling chess sets to parents? You need someone who can write directly to a parent. The trick is finding someone who can write to all of your target demographics with equal skill. That’s the benefit of a professional copywriter.

Overall, working with a copywriter to audit your content, develop a consistent and reliable brand voice, and establish a brand style guide leads to branding and marketing assets that speak directly to your customers. This is especially important in eCommerce businesses. Without physical stores where customers can dive into the brand experience, all interactions must take place through a screen. Well-written content humanizes your brand and instills trust and an emotional connection, because your customers feel like they are talking with a real person, not just a computer. When added to your team of project managers, account managers, designers, and developers, a copywriter is a crucial part of the magic equation that can make your eCommerce brand more approachable, your clients more loyal, and your business more successful.

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