Copywriting in Singapore is an undervalued skillset. People want the fast tactics: let’s spend on Facebook Ads! Without considering the fundamentals of marketing: copywriting. Your copy is going to distinguish the quality of clients you’re going to get into your business. Unknown to many, the hardest and most valuable parts about copywriting are keeping it simple.
Taking statistics, research and plonking it onto a blog post isn’t enough. Other than a broken recorder machine, you’re going to sound like a history textbook. However, refining the ideas into simple words that are able to persuade and move others. That’s difficult. This is why simple copy is MUCH HARDER to write than complicated copy.
When I started my business. I outranked all my competitors within 6 months on search engine optimization results… and yet… NO sales. I had one of the biggest business lessons then: You got to meet your market where they are at, and NOT where you’re at.
You see, what I didn’t understand:
- No one wakes up and say: ‘I want to be a better person’. Everybody wakes up and say: ‘I want to get more girls’.
- No one wakes up and say: ‘I want to be financially literate’. Everybody says: ‘I want to buy stocks and get rich’.
Mastering the language of your audience, and then putting all of that down into copy will go a huge way to connect with your audience.
Copywriting in Singapore – The Basics
Have you ever a sales page, an email from a company, a product description on Amazon or seen an ugly Facebook ad whilst browsing through your newsfeed?
They are called: copy.
When I was an SEO consultant, I used to go around mouthing off on technical SEO terms to business owners. I also read nerdy SEO blogs filled with SEO jargon. I soon figured that if I wrote and spoke like an SEO technician, nerding out about citation sources, Singapore local SEO, conversion rates optimization, backlinks acquisition, HTML coding, bounce rate, time on page and etc.
These business owners will not know what I am talking about.
- Business owners know nothing technical SEO
- They aren’t saying to themselves: ‘How can I optimize my H2 tags and determine domain authority’
- They are saying: ‘I want to rank high on Google’
Yes, I can write long nerdy technical guides. However, am I selling to SEO nerds, or am I selling to small business owners in Singapore? It’s the latter.
If I wrote and spoke in manner that’s understandable by my target audience, then I’ll have a higher chance of closig the sale.
The Frameworks of Successful Copy
The majority of copywriting advice sucks. They focus on blinking spam-my button, flashing lights, false scarcity plays and all of that. The worst of all, they promise you the moon, the earth and seven virgins.
‘We’ll Get You a Page #1 Rank. Guaranteed Results or Pay Nothing. Get Free Quote!’ – a Real Life Example
Well, you bet you’re going to asking for your money back with those kinds of promises.
You don’t have to be scammy or flashy to write great copy. Here are some frameworks I keep in mind when writing just about anything from a sales page or a blog post.
- Focus on the reader
I used to only write my opinion on my projects. It’s called the I, I, I syndrome. Here’s the truth: no one cares about your opinion. People that click on your site want a problem to be solved. Unless you’re a hot girl, you can’t constantly be writing about yourself. Poor copywriters only care about themselves. Good copywriters write about what they’re readers care about.
Remember: good writers focus on their audience, and not on themselves.
- Bar Stool Test
When I launched a dating advice site a couple of years ago, I used big philosophical terms hoping that my readers will find me articulate, intellectual and knowledgeable. However, it backfired. Instead, I got feedback from one of the site owners I reached out to say that he felt like he was reading a college thesis.
I took a step back, studied some copywriting advice and came across the barstool test.
Imagine if you were sitting in a bar and chatting with a friend. He asks you: What business are doing?
If you said: I help small medium enterprises in Singapore optimize their H2 title tag on their content management platform so they’ll be able to attain higher visibility on search engines.
He’ll look at you crazy.
However, if you said: I help small medium sized companies in Singapore generate leads on Google.
That’s it. Plain simply English. Understandable within a sentence.
Good copy works the same way. It’s not about writing super dense material. Good copy is actually similar to how day to day people talk. One other trick you can use is to read everything out loud. If it’s something you wouldn’t say, then it’s probably not good copy.
When I consulted in search engine optimization, I had the tendency to use technical jargon and complicated terms. I thought that’ll make me sound smart and sophisticated. However, I quickly realized that the average SME owner in Singapore (my target audience) isn’t going to understand what the hell I was saying.
Ask yourself, who are you writing for?
You should be writing for your clients, hence you should write content to fit your audience needs.
- Benefits Versus Features
Features: Advanced dating modules in our dating course
Benefits: Advanced dating modules to help you approach, meet and date beautiful Singaporean women without being a slimy pick up artist.
Features: Financial literacy class to educate you on the Benjamin Graham deep value investing model
Benefits: How to build a portfolio of steady income returns without any prior knowledge to investing
No one cares if you have 9 advanced dating modules in your dating courses…. at the end of the day, what’s in it for them?
When someone purchases a Mercedes Benz, do you think they are really buying the features of the car such as horsepower? Or are they buying the benefits of owning a luxurious car: Status and class?
- Be Specific
Boring: I can help you rank your website on Google
Specific: Imagine the day you wake up and you see leads automatically in your inbox. You no longer have to worry about pushing flyers out or hoping a relative or a friend of yours ‘support’ your business by purchasing your product half heartedly.
Boring: Having a website isn’t enough
Specific: Okay, let’s say you have a website, or a business card even. However, what are these things doing for you? Is anyone viewing your website? Is anyone contact you about your services through your website? What about those fancy business cards? How many of them have you given away without hearing back from the people you gave them away too?
These simple tweaks will make all your writing much more persuasive.
The Hemingway Method
It’s harder to keep it simple. It’s difficult to focus on words that matter. This form of copywriting is also known as the Hemingway method.
Let’s take a look at this two examples:
Copy 1: ‘Get Rich in Singapore with 3 Never Seen Before Secrets in 3 Days’
Copy 2: ‘Get Rich in Singapore with this 3 CEO Level Strategies’
One of the big ideas I got from a book teaching luxury marketing is the choice of language when it comes to copywriting:
On luxury brands, you’ll never get copy such as:
’30 Hacks in X Dates/ Numbers of Secret/Hack/Formula’
However, for some reason, it’s splashed all across internet marketing blogs? Why is that so? The first copy will convert better. You’ll grow your email list, or whatever number you want to measure. The second copy will gain the ultimate form of why people will transact with you: trust.
Language and positioning are going to determine the kind of clients you’ll attract, the price point you command and the type of brand you want to build. If you’re smart, you want high quality, qualified clients. Start writing. Stop marketing.
How to be a Copywriter in Singapore – Case Study: Lee Luan Yew
You can study great copy by studying great persuaders, politicians and business leaders of your time.
Since I’m Singaporean, there’s no need to look further than Singapore’s first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Like him or hate him, he’s a MASTER of persuasion:
Let’s breakdown a simply speech by Lee Kuan Yew: Youths Don’t Know What it’s Like to be Poor
Copywriting Skillset 1: Specific and Vivid Descriptions
Great copy relies on specific and vivid descriptions. If you noticed, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is always using specific, real life and vivid descriptions to get his message across. Instead of relying on some esoteric statistical data, he uses real life, day to day examples.
Some of his quotes from this speech:
‘Your grandfather probably worked harder than your father.’
‘Had we not had people with that ruggedness, that robust attitude, we’ll make it, do or die, we won’t have today’s Singapore.’
‘I’m not sure if I went back with 1959, and started with today’s generation, bred and brought up in comfort where there’s no discomfort with a HDB flat with an air conditioner, and there’s a covered walkway.’
Copywriting Skillset 2: Passing the Bar Stool Test
Secondly, your copy has to pass the bar stool test. It has to be as simple as talking to a friend over a beer at a bar. Forget about writing like a professor. Write like a layman. That’s great copy.
Here are some quotes from his speech:
‘Very few people had homes of their own. In Chinatown, you have cubicles 8 or 10 people in the room sharing 4 bunks. Because they do shift work. Save money.’
‘So Lim Kim Shang, once went to a HDB cubicle and asked a man who was covering himself with a blanket. So he asked him why? He said because his friend was using his trousers.’
‘If you lived in those conditions and you get a flat with one room, communal bath room and communal kitchen, running hot and cold water. From that you go to a three and fourth room flats to executive condominiums, just like how you go from a bottom of the ship to the deck of a ship.’
‘As I flew over to New Zealand, I watched the green fields, the sheep, and the cows, and the small little houses dotted around. 3 million people there. I thought to myself, if come back in a hundred years, I’ll see the same scene.’
You can see that Mr Lee Kuan Yew uses a combination of simple and ‘big words’, with numbers, to get his message across.
Copy Skillset 3: Write to Your Reader
Lastly, you’ll need to write to your reader. Great copy uses the ‘you’, a lot more than the word ‘I’. You’ll see that in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s speech, he uses ‘you’ and ‘we’ a lot more than ‘I’.
‘Many of the parents who are living in the HDB flats. They understood like the people in Chinatown. They understood what it’s like to be poor. Today’s children do not understand what it’s like the be poor.’
‘And no other country does that. But we have ministers out of 3 million people who can talk to Chinese ministers, American secretary of state, secretary of treasury or any European nation at the same level intellectually, and we’re not inferior to them.’
‘Now we need these 2 things, then you got today’s Singapore. Then we got this cultural hall. Then you can sit down and talk about what will happen in 50 years. Otherwise, you’ll be scratching a living. So please don’t forget that’.
Every product or service you sell contains both features and benefits. Features are the what of your product. They are factual descriptions of what your product contains. Benefits are the ‘WHY’, the actual result from your customers get from your product and its feature.
Copy Skillset 4: Features Versus Benefits
Features is what your product is made up of and both are equally important. Your product or service is most likely to have multiple features and benefits, although some will be more relevant to your customers than others.
You can get ideas about features from services around you, such as Fed Ex delivery. Whilst features are important for clients to know what you product or service is about, benefits are what ultimately drive someone to purchase. Ultimately, prospects don’t care about you or your product.
They care about: ‘what’s in it for me?’.
The benefit of hiring an SEO consultant isn’t to get higher traffic for your site, it’s to get consistent paying clients through Google. The benefit of a weight loss program isn’t the lose weight, it’s the fit into their jeans someone bought 2 years ago. The benefit of a financial literacy course isn’t to be smart handling money; it is to get rich.
This isn’t just limited to the services industry. People pay for luxury hotels and access to high end gyms to be pampered. People purchase high end luxury goods such as cars and Mercedes to impress others.
- Having Both Features & Benefits in Your Copy
When you address both features and benefits in your articles and your sales page, you’ll be much more engaging to your readers. This philosophy can be applied across your titles, meta descriptions, sales copy and etc.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’ve been using this marketing strategy for the recent articles I published on my site.
- How to Zoom in on Benefits
This is why I love psychology when it comes to marketing and SEO. The majority of people think SEO is about buying links or technical optimization. However, SEO is about writing in depth content that addresses your audience psyche. There’s a good amount psychology involved.
Have you ever come across a weight loss article that just goes on and on and on about technical information without ever telling you how it’s going to help you? What if wrote a philosophical essay on the art of SEO describing the history of SEO and how Google was formed and etc.
Well, if you’re an SEO junkie, you might be interested.
However, the majority of people, my students and my clients are looking to resolve their primary desires. When I picked up SEO, I wasn’t looking to ‘improve my cognitive abilities or computing skillsets’, I was looking to increase traffic in my website so I can get clients… to get cash in my pocket and (hopefully) one day be rich.
This is a primary desire.
- Primary Desires Versus Secondary Desires
When a consumer purchases something, he’s purchasing an innate need that he desires day after day. These are primary desires
- Relationship advice = Get laid
- Financial advice = Get rich and impress friends
- Digital marketing advice = Get more clients and impress others
If you looked at Maslow hierarchy of needs, our basic needs consist of food, security, money impressing others and sex. These forms our our primary desires day after day. If you didn’t have money, or shelter over your head, you wouldn’t be thinking about relationships. If you didn’t have food to eat, you wouldn’t be thinking about impressing others.
Now, what most marketers do wrong is they market secondary desires. I made this make early on in my entrepreneurial career.
These are secondary desires that if your primary desires aren’t fulfilled, you wouldn’t be thinking about it day after day.
Something I learned along my entrepreneurial path is that you meet where the market is at, and you don’t meet them where you’re at. I once started a personal development project and genuinely wanted to help people become their best self. However, I realized I wasn’t speaking to their desires.
These people want better careers, better relationships and increase in their salary. They don’t really want to be their best selves. You got to give you audience what they want, and then what they need.
People are going to buy because of your products benefits, you’ll also have to understand the difference between primary desires, and secondary desires.
Marketing Teardown: 1:1 Personal Coaching with a Singapore Boxing Champion
I chanced upon an Instagram story and I thought it was interesting how it was written. I’m a huge fan of martial arts. Hence, I follow a local boxing champion on Instagram, and from time to time, I click into his Instagram stories.
Here’s what it writes:
‘Because ‘champions’ still need to work to put food on the table. So we are all the same. Unless if you can’t die, then you are special. Hit me up for personal coaching cause if my boxing knowledge can help improve your life, it’s great.
Also, I need money to top up my ezlink, buy food, pay my bulls, buy my morning teh-o/coffee, buy new socks for my fight, buy diapers, pay rent, buy healthy food for my fighr diet, buy tissue for my daily flu/ sinus etc…’
Can you notice something?
The people viewing this Instagram doesn’t care about the fact that he needs money for his daily expenses. Here’s the rule of thumb: people only care about themselves. It all boils down to: how can you benefit me?
Let’s Take his Copy, Tear it Apart and Make it Twice as Effective
Okay, so, he’s offering 1:1 personalized boxing classes. That’s his pitch. How can boxing improve your life? What do people really care about? No one wakes up and says: I want to help a world champion pay his bills.
Remember, they care about benefits.
How can you write a short piece of mouth watering copy for 1:1 boxing coaching.
Here’s what I’ll write:
Hit me up for personalized, 1:1 boxing coaching.
- Feel energized and kick butt through your day
- Get a customized fun workout that’s laser targeted to help your burn through those stubborn fat
- Train like a world champion today.
I’m opening up 3 spots for 3 special individuals. For 3 champions.
Direct message me on Instagram NOW.
See the difference?
Now, you’re mastering the psychology of your audience.
Listening to Your Audience: Language of Your Audience
So how can you figure out the language of your audience?
- Real life conversations
This is simple, simply pay attention to what your customers are using. What are their fears when it comes to your service or product? One of my ex-clients blurted out: am I too old to learn SEO? Is it too technical?
That’s extremely important data. Some of these business owners are worried that SEO is too technical, and someone their age isn’t able to learn it. That’s one of my target market’s fear.
- Forums and Reddit Conversations
You can Google ‘X keyword + Forum’ and look at the threads on a forum. You can pay attention to the actual phrases and terms people use. Their hopes, dreams and fears.
You can do your research on:
- Amazon Reviews of Similar Products
- Reddit or other online posting sites
- Facebook groups
I literally wrote my sales copy for my Singapore investment course by studying a sub reddit on investments in Singapore.
When you have these data, it’s helpful to record them on an excel document and highlight the key pain points that you see and want to remember.
You can learn from your target audience by surveying them. You can blast out an email to your current subscribers by asking them what they want to hear from you. When clients come through my website, I meet up with them 1:1 and I pay attention to what they say to me, and the language they use. This can also help with your company’s market positioning.
You’ll want their words, not your interpretation of them. The key here is to be shameless and start conversations with your target audience.
It’s also only right to assume that your reader is an educated buyer. You should include these elements not only in your sales copy, but also in the articles you publish on your website.
Copywriting and persuasion can be misleading and mis-used. Yes, if you have a great product, you should feel guilt free and market it. However, it’s easy to write, but difficult to deliver. Here’s a soft reminder about ethics. If you make a million dollars over promising products and services, like many of these ‘gurus’, you may be a success financially, however, you’ll be a bankrupt morally.
Unlike false promises by many ‘gurus’ in singapore. How can you be persuasive in your sales copy and NOT cross the line? How can I make you want to purchase from me, right there and then, in an ethical and persuasive manner?
How can I hold your attention?
Ultimately, if you’re too vanilla in your marketing. You don’t stand out, and you bore the market. No one buys from you. Every single customer I had in my life told me that they liked something controversial about my articles or the way I wrote.
The world is a noisy and messy world, how can you stand out?
P.S. I only consult on SEO, copywriting and digital marketing for clients that are a right fit, because I hate getting called up and screamed at for uploading a wrong sized header image. I might do training programs for start ups or SMEs. Check out my business consultant page.
P.P.S. This is NOT a political blog and not meant to make defame/make fun of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in anyway. So, don’t send me hate mail or lawyer letters.