Every copywriter has at least one hilarious (ahem) anecdote about the time someone they were speaking to confused copyright and copywriting. These usually revolve around someone delightedly asking for help to protect their invention and the copywriter having to let them down gently.
Personally, I see this as a failure of the copywriter to do their job properly. When spoken aloud ‘copyright’ and ‘copywrite’ sound identical. So by calling yourself a copywriter when you aren’t in company where that term will be understood means you haven’t explained your role properly and you’ve missed a trick to convey your value.
I say this as someone who’s made this mistake more than once, of course. I usually attribute it to two things.
The first is the fact that I’m much better in print than in person and would rather get myself out of any sort of limelight as quickly as possible by saying as little as possible. Even if I end up opening an enormous can of worms in the process, I’ll always opt to say “I’m a copywriter” rather than “I help you grow your business by writing marketing materials that help you attract new customers, retain existing customers and position yourself as a leader in your field.”
The second is that it’s a good way to establish the terms of the conversation. If someone knows what a copywriter is, we’ll have a different discussion to the one we’d have if they didn’t. It perhaps says a lot for my ability to persuade people in person, but I typically find that my clients are people who already knew what a copywriter does – and the value they bring – before they started working with me.
I digress (but on purpose, as you’ll see if you read on).
Because being a copywriter is just the start. Just like you can have sous chefs, pastry chefs and chefs de partie, there are many different flavours of copywriter and copywriting too.
I’d like to focus on just one today – conversion copywriting or being a conversion copywriter.
My sense is that conversion copywriting is only just starting to take off as a concept in this country – it’s a much more familiar term in the US.
Here’s how Crazy Egg (a website optimisation software platform) describes it:
Conversion copywriting is a powerhouse of persuasion. It blends both an intensely scientific analysis with creative flair to create a message so laser-focused your target audience cannot help but take the action you want them to.
My instinctive reaction (as a UK copywriter) when reading this description is that the word ‘conversion’ is superfluous. All copywriting is about persuasion.
But when you add the word ‘conversion’ you’re making it absolutely clear you’re focused on getting a result. The words I write aren’t about creating pretty pictures in the readers’ heads or making them admire a particular turn of phrase. They’re about getting the reader to do something – to buy something, download something etc.
The way the description unfolds is also important. It talks about “intensely scientific analysis”.
A conversion copywriter will want to drill deeply into your customer data. They won’t just take your word about what your customer is like. They’ll want to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. They’ll want to see your website statistics, interview your customers, read customer reviews both good and bad.
Of course, a half-decent plain old copywriter will want to do exactly the same.
So here’s why I think the nuance of “conversion” is important. Here in the UK, I think we tend to emphasise the creativity of copywriting – just like every copywriter has a copyright / copywrite tale, every copywriter has been asked on numerous occasions to ‘wordsmith’ this or ‘work a bit of copy magic’ on that. These are phrases that devalue (or show a lack of understanding about) the power of copywriting and the thinking that goes on behind it.
The concept of conversion copywriting emphasises the fact that the creativity comes from an in-depth understanding of the customer, not sitting in an ivory tower being creative for creativity’s sake. There’s an implication that there’ll be a lot of time spent doing research, so you probably won’t be able to bash something out by the end of the afternoon. By adding the word conversion, it’s making it clear that you’re a half-decent copywriter who’ll want to do this research as part of their work.
In other words, I think it’s about the difference between saying “I’m a copywriter,” or “I help you grow your business…”. When you say you’re a conversion copywriter rather than just a copywriter, you’re tightening the terms of the conversation even more. If the person you’re talking to understands the term (and the value that’s attached to it) you’ll have a different conversation to the one you’ll have with the person who doesn’t. And the person who already understands what a conversion copywriter does will, in my experience, lead to work much more quickly than the person who doesn’t, simply because they’ll understand that copywriting (conversion or otherwise) rightly attracts a premium.
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