Anyone can write. There, I said it.
But the real knack is to write in a way that makes people want to read. Copywriters are constantly hard at work making their writing easy on the eye without sacrificing persuasiveness.
But how do we do it? Well nine times out of ten, we harness the power of conversational copy.
When you write copy in a more informal, colloquial style, you come across as a friendly advisory party rather than a salesperson wedging their foot in the door.
But conversational copywriting is far more than “writing how you talk”. Let me explain.
What is Conversational Copy?
“Writing how you talk” is great advice for the budding copywriter, but it only goes so far. True conversational copy represents something much more.
The term “conversational copy” may be reminiscent of brands who decide they’re going to make their marketing collateral gratingly chummy for no good reason. This inane chattiness does not represent conversational copy.
To define conversational copywriting, let’s whittle that “writing how you talk” advice down a bit. I prefer “write like your customer talks about the problem you solve with their nearest and dearest”; it’ll never stick though, it’s nowhere near as punchy. This need to know about how your audience talk (and feel) about your industry requires bags of empathy or bags of market research. Preferably both.
Truly conversational writing is natural and easy to read. The eye is effortlessly drawn to word after word, sentence after sentence, because it speaks to the prospect in real language without being pushy or manipulative. Reading more vernacular copy feels more like the brand is striking up a friendly conversation, rather than megaphoning you in the face with a call to action.
Writing conversationally can also help you keep a message brief and clear – jargon and formalities can unnecessarily pad out a piece of text, making it longer and more arduous to read.
Why Does it Work?
We’re so jaded to traditional salesy marketing-speak that when a marketing message gets rammed in our faces, the usual and – dare I say it normal – reaction is to instantly doubt what’s on offer. When we see someone evangelise about a topic too hard, we become instant cynics. But when we’re spoken to in more disarming, informal tones, it can put us at ease and can even feel more honest and transparent.
We’re social beings who crave a human connection. We can sense when marketing is being disingenuous a mile off. But when copy speaks to the reader like an individual and in language they’re familiar with, there’s more of a chance that they’ll stick around and get drawn in.
It’s like the old saying “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. But don’t compare your readers to flies. That never ends well.
Can B2Bs Use Conversational Copy?
Some assume that conversational styles aren’t professional, or that they’re reserved for B2C advertising. But look at it this way – writing conversationally is one of copywriting’s hidden psychological tools. Though B2Bs have to appeal to companies, the person reading the copy is still a human. Every piece of copy out there needs to be read by a person in order to be effective. Any copy that gets to the heart of a human customer’s need is perfectly professional.
Writing about an issue in a similar tone to how your audience talks about it helps to make your solution more clear and understandable. Copy is never about what you as an organisation want to say – it’s all about what your reader wants to hear – or in this case, how they want to hear it.
Being colloquial yet direct creates a certain lightness to your text – it can make the biggest corporations feel less faceless and more like a trusted mate.
Yes, Colloquial Copy *Can* be Respectful
There is also a (wrong) assumption that conversational styles are inherently flippant or even disrespectful, when nothing could be further from the truth. Conversational copy can absolutely be serious, and as with natural speech, doesn’t have to be informal or tactless. You can actually deal with some quite sensitive and serious topics thoughtfully and sensitively by taking a more conversational approach. There’s a great example of how conversational styles can soften a tough topic in our article Writing Copy for a Sensitive Topic.
How to Write Conversational Copy
Hopefully I’ve sold you on taking a conversational tack in your copy, so the next big question is how to do it. The “writing like you talk” approach may make it sound like conversational copywriting is a total sinch, but it actually takes a lot of careful thought.
The Easy Bit
The quickest and easiest way to “conversationalise” your copy is by using contractions wherever possible. So replace “you are” with “you’re”, and “we will” with “we’ll” for example. It may not sound like much (because it isn’t) but it can immediately remove some stuffiness.
When you’re creating new copy, think about how you explain your business when you’re networking face-to-face. What questions do you generally get asked? What comments and questions do interested parties bring up? What misunderstandings about your field do have to clear up regularly?
Take these practical questions and use them in your copy. Using questions (rhetorical or otherwise) can help to humanise your tone, and using them as headers grabs the attention of curious readers. Adopting a “Q & A” style in some places can also play into voice search possibilities too – a keyword-rich, properly formatted, and succinctly answered question can help you appear in Google’s “featured snippet” section. This is the answer that sits at the top of some searches without you having to click through to any results. The featured snippet is also what most voice-controlled assistants go to when answering a question.
If you want to go down a bit of a featured snippets and voice search rabbit hole, I suggest you read How to Use Featured Snippets to Boost Online Visibility and How Voice-Operated Assistants Are Changing Search.
Successfully writing in a more conversational style also involves abandoning a lot of our ingrained (yet baseless) grammatical rules. Not splitting infinitives? Not starting a sentence with “and” or “but”? Rubbish! We don’t talk like that, so why should we feel bound by these rules when we write?
The Hard Bit
Perhaps the most important, yet hardest to achieve part of writing conversationally is taking a long, hard look at your target audience and writing in a way that they would talk about the matter at hand. If you’re a fan of buyer personas, this will help you here. When you write to everyone, you appeal to no one – so don’t write to a crowd. Get a good picture of your average client in your mind’s eye and write directly to them. How would they describe the problem they’re looking to solve to the different people in their life? Are they comfortable with jargon? What are they likely to think about the problem and its solution?
Buyer personas are an interesting thought experiment, but they’re most useful when backed up with actual data. Really familiarise yourself with your reader and the problems you solve for them. Look at what people are saying on social media about your field – how are they talking about what you do? What are their worries or grievances with your industry? What do they like about what you do? What don’t people understand about your line of work? If you have a social following, ask them questions and engage with them – how do they naturally talk about the products/services you offer?
Or if you want to wade right in to the world of market research, you can set up social polls, send out surveys, or ask key questions at point of sale. But whatever you do, always take the time to analyse your responses and listen carefully to what your audience are trying to tell you.
The Litmus Test
So is your copy conversational? The final test is simple: read it out loud – either to yourself or to someone else. Does it sound weird coming out of your mouth? Does it use puzzling jargon? Are any of the linguistic choices particularly jarring? Are there any parts where the words simply don’t flow nicely? Change it until it sounds like something an actual human would say.