May 10, 2022

Copywriting tips for startup founders

Not all founders can hire a marketing team, so here are four tips for writing hard-hitting copy that sells

by

Tammy Livingston

You’ve got a great product you’ve been building. And it has a great story behind it–one that you can’t wait to tell! But, you’re stuck.

Perhaps you’re having a little trouble getting started. Maybe you’ve got some copy drafted, but you feel like it needs work. It could be that you’ve already got multiple marketing pieces out in the world, but they aren’t delivering the way you’d like.

We know that not all founders can hire a marketing expert early on to figure out how to tell the story the right way. Founders often have to do a lot of the writing for their business themselves. Some may easily slide into the role of copywriter, while others are far less confident in their skills.

Regardless of your relationship to writing, you’ve come to the right place. Everyone will get something out of these tips. Here are our top four copywriting tips for founders.

Top 4 Copywriting Tips for Founders

1) Don’t try to target everyone

When writing copy, one of the biggest mistakes we see founders make is that they try to write to everyone. They believe their product is for everyone, and so their copy needs to address all possible users at the same time. 

When this is the operating principle behind the copy, the message becomes incredibly vague. That’s because the copy is trying to do too much. It is trying to appeal to too many people. And, as you can probably imagine, vague copy speaks to nobody in particular. And because it speaks to nobody in particular, it ends up resonating with nobody at all.

Humans want to see themselves in the story being told. They want to read the copy and say to themselves, “Yes, that is exactly how I feel. This brand gets me.” When your audience experiences this reaction, they will feel an automatic connection to your brand and your product.

That’s why we recommend focusing on your one reader. Your one reader is the one that’s most likely to convert. Your one reader is the one that is the most likely to buy from you. In other words, your one readers together are the most valuable people to your business. So make sure your highest-priority copy has these folks in mind.

--

2) The rule of one

Once you have identified your one reader, you’re going to want to take that focus further. You’ll want to write messaging that resonates for that reader. Your writing should tell your one reader about: 

  • One big benefit of your product that matters to them
  • One clear promise of what it will do for them

Then, if the copy you are writing is intended for conversion, you’ll also want to include:

  • One specific offer that your reader just can’t pass up
  • One easy call-to-action 

This is known as “the rule of one.” But notice that there’s still a lot to convey when using “the rule of one.” That’s why it’s so important to craft messaging for one. Can you imagine how long and convoluted your copy would be if you’re trying to appeal to everyone?!

To be clear, the “rule of one” doesn’t mean you won’t ever cover the other features, benefits, and promises. The “rule of one” is how we’re surfacing the main story in the hierarchy.

Pro tip: The rule of one often ends up appealing to more than just your one reader, but that’s a bonus. It should not be the goal.

3) Collect voice-of-customer data.

Imagine reading copy from a brand that says something you’ve actually said before. Or imagine reading copy that says something you’ve never articulated before, but you feel it speaks for you. This is the kind of copy that is felt so deeply that you can’t help but pay attention to what comes next. 

That’s what voice-of-customer data gives you. Ideas and phrasing that resonates for a specific type of reader.

There are a number of ways that you can collect voice-of-customer data, even if you are launching a new product or service. You can (and should) have user feedback from your pilot or Beta release. This will give you very relevant verbiage that expresses what your audience cares about. It will also offer you key insight as to if and how your product meets user needs. 

If nothing else, you can mine a competitor’s review section. What is their audience saying? Moreover, how can you use that to tell a better story? 

--

4) Write copy that is easy to read.

I have to deliberately edit my own copy using the “simplicity” lens. While I can write a complicated sentence that is mechanically correct, that does not mean I should. Sentences that try to say too much tend to lose readers. 

After I write, I scan my copy for commas. I scan for the word “and.” Then, I ask myself if there are too many ideas in that one sentence. If the answer is yes, then I try to break it down into two or more sentences. 

Sometimes, I even decide that I don’t really need to say both ideas. When that is the case, I find that the two concepts are really subtle shades of the same idea. I only need the stronger of the two for my reader to track with the point.

We overestimate the level of nuance our readers need in order to get it. For example, do readers need you to say “think” and “feel” to understand what you mean? No. It’s stronger to say one or the other. Using both words makes a sentence more complicated. And using both words does not meaningfully enhance the story.

Pro tip: Lean into an app like the Hemingway App or Grammerly to help  simplify your writing.

Copywriting is a skill.

Writing copy is something you can learn to do better with some key concepts and frameworks. We hope these tips help you get started with refining your story.

And, we are always here to help.

If you liked this article, join our newsletter for more founder resources every month.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Tammy Livingston is a Product Manager at Cloudburst, with over a decade of experience working with technology and start-ups. She loves making things, telling stories, and checking things off the to-do list.