The Art of CopywritingHOW is Just as Important as WHAT You Say

Most people don’t want to read catalogs.  They scan the front and back covers, they may turn a page, but their real objective is to put it in on a shelf, or in the trash, and move on to more pressing business.  It’s the job of the copywriter and the designer to thwart the reader’s goal and seduce his or her readership.

“Teasing” Readership

There are several components to catalog copy.  First, there are the outer cover “teasers”.  Cover copy – front and back – is all about getting the reader to turn the page.  Some people like to peruse catalogs from front to back, some prefer back to front, and some won’t turn the cover at all unless they’re given a compelling reason.  Hence, the teaser copy.

Teaser copy can be about the offer (sales, discounts, bogos, free trials, and more).  It can also be about products (new and or innovative), and it can be about guarantees (as in one full school year or even lifetime, for examples).  Teaser copy can also be expressed with empathy – copy and design that together say “this is about you” or “this is about who you want to be”.

Descending from Headlines to Body Copy

Body copy, those pages between the front and back covers, must accommodate the reader’s transition from browser to reader.  Think of it as similar to deep-sea divers descending to deeper depths in stages.  Browsers must descend from large headlines down to small body copy.  If done too abruptly the reader loses interest.  We facilitate our readers descent by transitioning from headlines to subheads and photo captions and, finally, to body type.

HOW is as Important as WHAT

Many catalogs are focused on what their products are – how big (or small) and what features they have.  Educators are more interested in learning what products do before they learn what they are.  Tell me about how your product will help me and then I will read about what exactly it is.

Copy that shows how products and services can make teachers more effective is appealing.  Making a difference is what drew them to the field to begin with.  Most of them work very hard at what they do and the promise of being able to succeed at helping youngsters is attractive.

Better Sounding Terms and Conditions

The transition from capturing the reader’s interest about a product to placing an order should be as seamless as possible.  It’s virtually impossible to avoid competing with  Many educators are Prime members and they will take the time to compare your pricing, your shipping, and your return policies to Amazon’s.  Copy that results in an order through is better than copy that results in no order at all.

Copywriters and designers don’t usually set the terms and conditions under which customers place orders.  However, it is their job to make those terms sound as easy, friendly, and non-threatening as possible.  Using a headline like “It’s Easy to Order” or “We Make Every Effort to Keep Shipping and Handling Rates as Low as Possible” are examples.

Some feel that order forms are no longer necessary since many people will go to the website to order.  Nevertheless, many schools require that a purchasing department approve all orders and an order form can serve as a more convenient purchase requisition document.

Copywriters succeed when they seduce readership, surprise a reader, or when their message says to the reader “this is about you”.

Too Many Media

The challenge for copywriters today is greater than it has ever been in history.  There are too many media all competing for our time and interest.  Copywriters succeed when they seduce readership, surprise a reader, or when their message says to the reader “this is about you”.

Teachers are caring people.  They aspire to be the teacher that their students remember as having influenced their lives.  They dream about the life-changing power of education.  If you want them to read your copy, you need to connect with them.

Bob Stimolo, School Market Research Institute

Bob is EDmarket’s Official School Market Consultant and president of School Market Research Institute. As a member of EDmarket, Bob will advise you on your promotion materials and list selection free of charge.