A Complete Guide for Evaluating Your Company’s Existing Marketing Copy–and Upping the Ante

You already have marketing copy, but is it working? We offer a ten-step plan to evaluate your entire library of copy and content—and suggest ways to make it better.

A poker player evaluating his cards
Source: Michał Parzuchowski https://unsplash.com/photos/GikVY_KS9vQ

Your company has copy. By that, I mean you use words to sell and market. These words are spoken or read: on paper or digitally. They appear on your website, in corporate literature, in explainer videos, case studies, blog posts–even in your company LinkedIn overview. They depict services and culture; they populate proposals, PowerPoint decks and corresponding presentations, pitch books, even emails your salespeople use to close potential deals.

As a company leader, you likely have an opinion about these words. You may think they do a good job describing what your company does. You may consider them sparse or long-winded. You may find them cheesy–or maybe they strike you as being overly cut and dry. They might be fine–but just need a little tweaking. How can you know for sure?

Since we traffic in these questions every day, we put together this guide for evaluating your entire library of marketing copy and content.

  1. Get clear on the objective. Great copywriting can line your pipeline with leads, producing interest where none (or only an inkling) existed. In the context of a well-designed marketing / sales piece in any format, it can perform heavy lifting for your sales team, educating prospects to seek precisely your value–and getting them to the point of a sure buy (or close). It does this by first piquing interest, then launching a rational and emotional position–step by careful step. Once it’s built desire to a crescendo, it lets the hammer down: a compelling ask. These are the possibilities of the world’s most effective copy, so set your sights high and keep them there.
  2. Consider the format. Focus on the content you’re evaluating. Is it a crucial website component, like a home or services page? Or is it a sales email, sent to a recipient cold? These are contrasting formats that require different approaches. A marketing website page needs to be bite-sized and impactful. Your writer can’t beat around the bush: he’s got to march out your key points at or near the top, not lower-down (after they bounce). The pitch is woven in: smoothly, naturally, confidently. In contrast, a successful sales email tones down that same pitch, taking instead a conversational, almost conspiratorial, stance. We’ll write more in future about approaches for various popular marketing content types. For now, consider both: a) how and where (mobile, web, paper) your reader is receiving this message, b) expectations and conventions about the format itself, and c) how you might be able to turn those expectations on their head–to your advantage.
  3. Evaluate the structure. It’s impossible for copy to do the job if built wrong: it would be like putting the most incredible, kitted-out kitchen ever in a cramped storage locker, to which there is no door. If the copy in question is on your website, check out this guide to a kickass user experience. If it’s a PowerPoint deck, make sure your writer isn’t leading with verbiage about your company, a conventional approach that has given presentations a bum rap. Instead, have him lead with something relevant to the reader or listener. It could be to highlight an industry problem, put a big red circle around an excruciating pain point, draw a vision of life at its finest–after what you’re selling enters the picture. The question is: does the copy start with a situation or story that’s relevant and contextual to the reader?
  4. Assess the title. This is the first thing the reader’s eye falls on, beyond the design, layout, or any artwork. If it’s a blog post–is the title clickable, i.e. is it simultaneously informative–while generating excitement for the content to follow? If it’s a booklet, does the verbiage on the cover invite the reader to turn to the first page?
  5. Count opening self-references. Focus on the first half of the piece. Does the opening copy talk more about your company, or does it focus on how readers can benefit? Pay special attention to the openers on each page: do they attempt to relate? Or are they about you, you, you? Ideally, the opening text creates a bridge between this piece and your reader (whether stranger or not). Does the piece do this–and if not, what can your writer do to change that?
  6. Check development. Ideally, the rest of the copy would then beckon to the reader, and successfully get him or her to cross the bridge you’ve already built. Ideally, it builds momentum, establishing points naturally, then layering on fresh points, while staying internally consistent and true. Does your copy piece do this? If not, what can your writer do to change that?
  7. Pinpoint logical loopholes or objections. You shouldn’t come away from your copy feeling either a) that a conclusion comes out of the blue (it doesn’t logically follow), or b) that there’s something powerful you haven’t addressed. Reader brains go straight to these nagging objections, just like observant children inquire about the most awkward things. Similarly, the copy shouldn’t raise objections because they are bothering you (and only you). The true test is: is this a concern commonly voiced by your prospects (“I’m concerned that your bulletproof rollaway suitcase will be too heavy for me to travel with”)? Do they voice it at the beginning of the sales cycle, or toward the middle or end? If the vast majority of potential clients raise the issue at the beginning of the sales cycle, then it’s possible to have the copy touch upon it and reach a quick resolution (“And don’t worry about portability: our suitcase weighs just 2 lbs.!”). If not, leave it alone.
  8. Hunt for platitudes. If you switched your company’s name out for that of a competitor, would most of it still more or less apply? If so, you’ve got a platitude problem–and you’re going to come across sounding generic. Watch out!
  9. Evaluate the CTA. With marketing copy, the final call to action on the page should seem both like a natural conclusion and organic summary of all that came before. It might contain an element of emotion. The key is to pinpoint, in a single statement, a) that there is pain and the pain can be resolved by buying or calling, and b) here is your next action (say, to sign up for your newsletter, set an appointment, make a purchase): clear, simple, compelling. Does it do these things? If not, it could be due to several things: (i) the person isn’t your target consumer, (ii) the copy didn’t make a strong enough case, or (iii) the CTA did a womp womp.
  10. Assess ROI. There’s no better test for strong copy than the bottom line. Are you getting the called-for action? Are conversion rates much lower than you’d expect? Does traffic, from either a specific source or all sources, follow through to fill out a form, to purchase your goods directly, to arrange to speak to your sales team? For example, a productive website converts 2-3% of its traffic into leads. How does yours compare?

If your existing copy passes the above tests with flying colors, then congratulations, it’s working! But what are you doing to bring traffic to it? Consider launching a rich blog—and raising the number of visits, accelerating in number over time.

If it doesn’t, consider hiring a professional copywriting resource to handle it—or replacing the one you have with a team that can and has produced incredible results.

This isn’t a task to do half-assed. Words drive people to act. If these are limp and lifeless, your sales and growth can and will suffer.

So don’t cut corners. Take the time to thoroughly deep-dive into the quality of your copywriting, and then invest in what you need to make it powerful. The ultimate payoff is worth the effort: qualified leads, more customers, more sales.

For more suggestions on how to maximize your copy’s ROI, sign up here.

Jean Tang

Jean Tang

A champion of high-end content, Jean is a living tribute to copywriting for humans. In 2012, at a TEDx talk, she declared her now widely viewed “War Against Bland.” The visionary founder of MarketSmiths, Jean leads her growing team to captivate, inspire, and motivate readers. She has helped thousands of global clients generate revenue from words (up to 12,000% ROI), and transformed the writing of hundreds of seminar attendees at the SXSW Interactive Festival (2014 and 2015), SXSW V2V (2014), the Small Business Summit (2014, NYC), and other venues.

More from MarketSmiths

A British train in motion

The U.K.’s ‘Traingate,’ or How a Few Distracting Words Can Derail Your Brand’s Message

Copywriting services

What Kind of Writer Are You? Part 2: “The VAST Grill of their Imagination”

writing workshop

MarketSmiths to Host Workshop at SXSW

Glasses on a closed laptop

How to Tackle a Blog Post (You Don’t Want to Write)

Inc 5000 content agency

M/WBE certified enterprise.

Design by WorstOfAllDesign. Digital Strategy by MadPipe. Photography by Chellise Michael.