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So, you have a horse business? And you know your stuff? I love it, you’re my type of person.

But why aren’t your products selling themselves? Why isn’t your phone (or in today’s age, your inbox) red hot? And why do you still feel like you’re precariously pushing a wheelbarrow full of the proverbial up a very tall, towering muckheap when it comes to marketing your equine business?

Short answer; your copy.

Or rather, the perplexing and puzzling subject that is copywriting. What is it? How to do it well? How can I improve my copywriting skills? How will better copy improve my business?

The answer to all these questions, and more, will become clear as you gallop through my handy tips and hints below, and you’ll burst out the other side with renewed enthusiasm and knowledge to go and tweak your own website words or blog posts, to really engage your readers.

Horse tucked away in paddock/stable? Emails replied to? Cuppa in your hand?

Let’s start.

1. Know your ideal client’s bra (or undies) size

This is probably the most important factor to consider before attempting to rein in your copy.

  • Who is your target client?
  • What is their biggest struggle and deepest fear?
  • How can you help them?
  • Why do they need you?

Tailor your copy to speak directly to them.

They read it, think wow, this describes me to a T, and bingo, they’re on the phone or clicking buy now before you’ve finished pressing publish on your hot little copy.

Research, research, research. Ask your existing market these questions. Get an insight into their world and empathise. How could you better help them? Then tell them.

“Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer”

Shirley Polykoff

2. Write how you talk

There is something dull and dreary about reading a dry paragraph, full of flat sentences in one monotonous tone with no variation to length. Similarly, writing that is lacking in personality or a few scattered idioms is boring and hard to read and will not encourage the reader to continue.

Wow, those two sentences right there were hard to read, do you see my point here?

Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to throw in the odd slang word if that’s what you’d say to a friend.

And read it back. Read out loud what you’ve written. Does it sound rhythmic, tuneful, interesting? Or did you put yourself to sleep? And that leads me to mention…

3. Forget what your dad taught you

You can start a sentence with and or but.

You can finish a sentence with a preposition.

Use contractions to make your writing sound friendlier and casual. So, turn that is into that’s, do not into don’t and we are into we’re.

There are no stuffy rules when it comes to writing online copy for your business, other than make it interesting for your reader and allow your personality to shine through! Your copy will benefit, so will your reader, so will your business.

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read”

Leo Burnett

4. Make it scannable

People have very short attention spans when it comes to reading online.

There is so much material out there and never enough time to read it all.

Don’t handicap your copy with a penalty. Give it an advantage right from the flag-drop and make it easy to read for scanners. Not robot machines with scary infra-red beams ranging over your website, I mean the busy people who want to see what you have to say, but quickly.

Break up paragraphs with sub-headings. If someone only read down the page using these would they get the gist of what you’re saying?

Don’t be afraid of the one-sentence paragraph. So much easier to read than a 10-sentence one, or even a three-sentence one.

5. Dig deep and keep digging

Features are important to note when talking about your product or service. They are what tell your reader the ins-and-outs, whether your product will suit their needs, or what exactly they can expect.

So, the first list you should make when planning your copy, be it a product description or the reasons on your website why someone should work with you, is the features.

But don’t stop there. Go deeper, and say ‘so what?’

Turn that feature into a benefit that will really resonate with your reader and will take them from needing your product, to WANTING it. And on that note…

6. It’s never about you

We don’t mean to be self-absorbed, or selfish. But it’s human nature to think about how we can help ourselves, or how what we’re reading will benefit us.

Survival of the fittest?

So, when you have something to say to your reader, make sure you turn it around so they can answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?

Even on your About page on your website, which you’d assume would be, um, all about you? No. It’s about how you can help your client, so make sure there’s more you, you language not we, we, we and always make it about your client and their problem.

7. Sex sells, and so do stories

You’ve heard ‘tell a story, weave your story into your copy’ and true; we love hearing about other people and it’s very compelling reading. So find a way to say it in a real-life, beginning, middle and end type of way.

If it’s relatable to your reader, it’s effective.

And use emotions. Tug on their heartstrings.

Remind them of the feeling. Let them know you once felt the same or had the same struggles, but you overcame it (remember to insert your product or service here).

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”

David Ogilvy

8. If they don’t read your first line, they won’t read the second

You may know how important the headline of your copy is. But did you know it’s seen by five times as many eyeballs as the body of your copy is?

Yup, 80% of people read the headline but only 20% of them go on to read the rest of the copy. Hmmm, so it’s worth spending some extra time perfecting your enticing title then.

Make your headline fit one of The 4 U’s Rule. Make it:

  • Useful
  • Urgent
  • Unique or
  • Ultra-specific

And don’t forget the very first line of your copy. That should be a big hitter, attracting their attention and compelling them to carry on reading. Draw them in right at the start – you may not get another chance.

9. Endorsements sell

Human beings love a recommendation.

We jump straight to reviews or ratings pages all the time, from deciding which type of saddle to buy, to determining where to go for cross country practice.

And even if we don’t know the person reviewing the product, if it’s a glowing testimonial then we nod and grin and say great, sounds perfect, and we click BUY NOW.

Being told by a friend about a super saddle-fitter or splendid supplement is even more of a take my money moment.

Use recommendations in your copy where you can. Testimonials, quotes, mentions – they’re all gold.

10. Good copy repels as well as attracts

Remember, you always want to be marketing to your IDEAL client. So that means giving your not-so-ideal client a gentle brush-off. Before you’ve both invested time and energy into finding out that you’re not gonna gel.

For example, I’m The Copy Jockey, I love racing, I used to race my own horses and ride racehorses every day, so I may not form a lasting relationship with a client who disagrees with the world of racing.

In your copy, you can make it clear who you are for and not for.

Clear, honest transparency.

State who your offer WILL help; Thoroughbred owners, fair-weather riders only, those with 3-legged donkeys. Equally, don’t be afraid to state who you are NOT for; fair-weather riders only, those not willing to invest in themselves, unicorn-hunters.

11. Use a proven formula

Why reinvent the wheel? There’s heaps of copywriting formulas out there. Find one that fits with you and follow its lead.

PAS for example. Problem, Agitate, Solution.

You describe your reader’s problem to them. You add a few more details. Prod at a few more pain points. Then give them a solution to make it all go away (ie. You and your product/service.)

Or AIDA.

You grab your readers’ ATTENTION with an eye-catching headline.

You pique their INTEREST by digging deeper into why it might interest them/what are their deepest fears or desires.

You make them DESIRE your product by explaining the features and then benefits (remember digging deeper in point 5?) and painting a picture of how it will change their lives.

Finally, you persuade them to take ACTION. Immediate action. This might be the time when you create a sense of urgency such as an expiring offer, or a limited number of items available.

Make it easy for them by having a direct call to action button right there – BUY NOW is an effective one.

“Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word, when there is a ten-center handy…”

E.B. White

12. Keep it simple, short and snappy

People have a very short attention span when it comes to reading online. Especially when there are horses to see to or jobs to do outside before it rains.

Give them the info they came for straight away, without any preamble or waffle.

Use plain language.

Avoid long, stuffy words or jargon when a simple one will suffice – sorry, do.

Cut out hyperboles or superlatives.

Stick to simple nouns and verbs.

Say it with real language that your reader will get. This is neatly followed by last but not least point 13…

13. “Write drunk. Edit sober”

You may have heard of this infamous quote, famously misattributed to Ernest Hemingway (who apparently didn’t actually write drunk, he always wrote in the mornings and didn’t start drinking until after lunch).

Still, it’s a good reminder. Whoever said it, the meaning is still one to remember. Edit your copy once, twice, three times.

Take it back to bare basics.

Cut out useless adjectives and fluffy filler words.

Give yourself a new horse for every word you delete. (Or something less likely to ruin you, a drop of gin instead maybe?)

“I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor”

David Ogilvy

We’re at the finish line

We’re all human, even your customers (well, their owners/trainers). So write for humans.

Especially for your ideal client.

Research their fears and desires and research some more.

Invoke emotions and desires.

Tell them in simple language how you help them.

And remember the clearer you are on your own tone of voice, messaging and offers, the easier it is to write compelling, engaging copy for your business, so do a little bit of extra work here before you start.

Over to you

Are you chomping at the bit to get started on your new, improved, engaging, compelling, effective copy for your horsey business?

I’d love to know if this list helped you. Let me know in the comments, or better yet, tell me where I can find your copy in all its shining glory and read your story.