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:Marketing / Copywriting and branding

Persuasive online copywriting tips to promote your online course

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No matter how confident of a writer you are, it can be easy to experience writer’s block once you get to the marketing stage of any large project. (And if you’re already someone who doesn’t love to write, breathe a heavy sigh of relief that you’re not alone; we’re all in the same boat.) Copywriting, or promotional writing, can feel like a chore. But with a simple reframe, it can actually be fun. Think of it as a puzzle: cramming as much information into as few words as possible. While there are places for lengthy descriptions, word choice is crucial in persuasive online copywriting.

Like we explored with website design, you only have so long to hold your site visitor/potential student’s attention. But before your groan, we’ve outlined some tips to make the process more enjoyable.

Make a mess

There are many different ways people go about completing a puzzle. However, for the purposes of this metaphor in our persuasive online copywriting journey, we’re going to dump all the pieces out of the box. Do so by dumping them all out onto a blank page. Begin stream-of-conscious writing (think: writing without stopping to edit or overthink word choice). Note all of the selling points and details of your new offering, even the ones that don’t seem important. When you’re done, narrow it down to the key selling points you’d like to get across. 

Here’s where the fun part of the puzzle comes in. After you’ve highlighted your major selling points, decide upon your top three. Write them out. Then start to list different ways to describe them below. For instance, if you’ve created a vegan cooking course for beginners, your lists might look something like: 

Cooking

Recipes

DIY

Cuisine

Food

Vegan

Plant-based

Earth-conscious

Allergen-free

Healthy

Convenient

Meal prepping

Quick-and-easy

Low stress

On-the-go

Not only will this piece of the puzzle help with finding fresh ways to say the same thing over and over again, but it can also be helpful for titles, headlines, subject lines, and placements where shorter copy is required. 

Location matters

Next, decide which specific marketing channels you’re going to use to promote and what information makes sense where (i.e. if you’re a story-teller, save the narrative for a blog post and/or newsletter you can link to in a shorter social media caption).

In doing this exercise, you might find that you have a number of different angles leftover that you can utilize when target marketing. In the cooking example above, if you have a module that’s all about kid-friendly baking, you can save that angle for a targeted email highlighting this course is perfect for parents who want to do something creative (and device-free) with their children.

It’s not necessarily something you need to get across in all persuasive online copywriting placements and certainly not in the main messaging, but it is relevant info you can use for specific promotional assets.

Write a letter

Another writing exercise is to write a personal email to someone specific in your target audience. Ideally, this is a real person. So perhaps if you’re not on a first-name basis with students or clients, write to someone you know fairly well who would be an ideal student.

You might even start by opening up a blank document and typing “Dear [name],” at the top. If you’re not sure how to start your letter, you can write “I want to tell you about…” and finish the sentence by describing your offering. This is your “what.” (In our branding basics article, we refer to the 5 Ws + 1 H of your website. This applies to persuasive online copywriting as well.)

Finish going down the list of your 5 Ws (+ 1 H): 

  • Why: “This is important because…” (Why did you create this offering? What problem will it help solve? How will it serve the recipient of your letter? Why should they care?)
  • Who: “This will help…” (Who is your course or offering for? Why are you someone they should trust?)
  • When: “This is happening/available/takes place…” (Is there urgency? What is the time commitment?) 
  • How: “The format of this offering is…” (What is your teaching style? What can students expect? Be specific.)
  • Where: “Here’s how to prepare your space for this course/offering…” (Is there an ideal time/space to receive this offering?)
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Authentically you

Writing in letter format accomplishes a few things. For one thing, it allows you to be personable and conversational, as you’re speaking from your authentic voice and less likely to be pushy or “salesy.” For another, as contradictory as it might sound, the more specific you are about who you’re writing to, the more you’ll attract more clients (rather than trying to please everyone, which is impossible).

As with the previous exercise, after you’ve written this letter, you can go back and edit down to what is essential to different marketing placements. While the point of this exercise is less about sending this letter and more about developing your unique copywriting voice, you may find it ends up making a personalized newsletter you can send off to your mailing list using a custom name field.

Tip: If you’re more comfortable getting points across verbally, record all of this as a voice note, still imagining as though you were sending to someone specific. (You might even dare send this to a trusted friend or colleague whose feedback you value, offering context of the exercise, of course). You can always go back and transcribe it, hire someone to transcribe for you, or outsource to a site like Rev.com.

Strike a balance

Ultimately, when editing down your persuasive online copywriting notes, you want to find a balance between connecting to your audience and inspiring them to take action. While you want to be personal, authentic, and even at times vulnerable, be mindful about not oversharing your story and making the offering more about you than those you’re serving.

While you want to be direct, clear, and concise, make sure you aren’t leaving your audience behind. For instance, don’t use language they may not be familiar with or jump right to your call to action before they’re ready. Imagine that your word choice is precious real estate on your various marketing channels. Here are some ways to make each word count: 

  • Simplify the copy: Remove filler words (such as “just,” “that,” etc.) and only include the essentials
  • Build trust: Share something to help the reader connect with you, and/or be generous by sharing information, insights, or a taste of what you’re offering  
  • Be direct: Get straight to the point by using active over passive language

Tap into your why

Why are you promoting this particular offering, in this particular marketing format (i.e. landing page, newsletter, social media post, etc.)? If your reason why is “because I have to” or “because I need to make money,” try tapping into an abundance mindset before proceeding.

Consider the following: What lights you up about this offering? How will this serve your ideal students or clients? What made you want to start your business or passion project in the first place? What inspires you most about the work you’re doing? What’s your favorite module or part of your offering that you can draw inspiration from? 

Why you’re writing something matters. And if the only reason is need or feeling like you have to that will come across to your readers. On the other hand, if you’re writing from a place of intention and inspiration, readers are more likely to feel inspired, too.

Copywriting, especially persuasive online copywriting, can feel like one more thing on a never-ending to-do lists. But, only if you let it. Ultimately, it can be an opportunity for creative expression, connecting with audiences, or solving a puzzle.



Author: Katie Davidson, Katie is a freelance writer, copy coach, and certified yoga teacher currently based in California. Her work has been published on ELLE.com, InStyle.com, StyleCaster.com, and more. She has also been featured as a yoga expert on POPSUGAR Fitness. When she's not writing (or practicing her handstands), you can find her somewhere on a beach, cacao-chai latte in hand, with her beloved pup Toby.

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