192 pp paperback
Published by Marshall Cavendish

Hi. I'm Andy Maslen, an independent copywriter specialising in business-to-business (b2b), subscriptions and direct response.

100 Great Copywriting Ideas: from Leading Companies Around the World

Ideas are the lifeblood of great copy. Here are 100 of mine you can transfuse into your own writing.

Not all are purely about copywriting. As well as running my own business I have often been asked to advise clients, so my insights into the selling process go far wider than the copy you write for your website or sales letter.

Most of the ideas draw on copy I have written for hundreds of clients since I started my agency, Sunfish, in 1996. Sometimes I have quoted directly from it - other ideas use the copy as a springboard for a more general discussion of a particular technique.

In each case I have tried to give you a sense not just of what works, but why it works and how you could use it yourself. I like telling stories too, which is why so many include situations and dialogue from jobs I’ve worked on.

And although, like most independent and freelance copywriters, I’ll sell anything, or almost anything, I specialise in subscriptions copywriting. Which means a fair few examples are drawn from the publishing industry.

These ideas, though, have a much wider application. Especially if you work on products with the potential for repeat purchase of any kind, not just subscriptions.

Some of the ideas talk specifically about web copywriting. But you can apply all of them to almost any channel. People do not react differently to copy just because they’re reading it on a screen rather than a piece of paper.

They may be more ready to stop reading, however, and that calls for an even more relentless focus on the first of the themes I outline next.

Three themes that unite the 100 ideas in this book

Your reader matters most. When you set out to write copy for a new campaign, you, your manager, or your client may want to include all sorts of ‘messages’ about your product. But readers don’t care about messages. They care about one thing: themselves.

Or, in less blunt but more circular terms, they care about the things they care about. Which, invariably, do not include whatever you’re pitching. So if you’re going to interest them in what you’re selling, you have to explain – and prove – how it will make their life easier or better in some way.

Readers are human beings. And, as such, are prone to all the wonderful, frustrating, natural emotions that make us what we are. They are lazy sometimes, greedy, ambitious, envious even; but also caring, kind, passionate and humane.

Learn to speak to them as people, as you would if you met them in the pub. Your language should be the sort of language your readers use themselves.

Copywriting is a craft skill not an art form. Yes it helps if you have a gift for language but even without that gift, you can make a good living as a copywriter, or make millions for your employer, if you practise. Study good copywriting, figure out why it works and copy it.

Yes, copy it. Not word for word (except as an academic exercise) but copy its structure, style and any devices you think would work well for your product. And forget about creativity. Concentrate on results instead.


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The Ideas

  1. It’s not about you (or is it?)
  2. Remember, you’re selling
  3. Headline idea – your reader is selfish
  4. The call to action
  5. Another headline idea – objection handling
  6. Businesspeople love offers too
  7. Write as you speak
  8. Wish you were here
  9. On the web, it’s (even more) personal
  10. Grammar doesn’t matter … or does it?
  11. What not to put on your order form
  12. Subject lines
  13. Avoid clichés (like the plague)
  14. Keep it short
  15. Shiny, bright, exciting adjectives
  16. Imagine…
  17. Parting is such sweet sorrow (actually, it’s just sorrow)
  18. Long copy and why it works
  19. Does your service live up to the copy promise?
  20. Do you dissolve your worries in a solution?
  21. Customers or cannon fodder?
  22. Don’t just do something, sit there
  23. Online copy that grows your business
  24. (Type) size matters
  25. I object
  26. It came from outer space
  27. How web 2.0 changes your copy
  28. The case of the missing case study
  29. Write more and double your profits
  30. There’s gold on them thar websites!
  31. Why I hate teams
  32. ‘I want’ does get
  33. What do you mean ‘If’?
  34. Send your copy by courier
  35. Tips for powerful emails
  36. Long words don’t always make you sound more intelligent
  37. Reassuring your online customers
  38. Have fun
  39. That formula
  40. Is your copy FAB?
  41. Southern fried planning
  42. Give your reader a KISS
  43. Short or tall?
  44. Forget impact, go for understanding
  45. When you don’t have time to plan, plan!
  46. ‘I just need to make one more change’
  47. Another headline idea: true or false
  48. Be different
  49. Utilise lexical economy, er, I mean use short words
  50. Almost unique
  51. Find your customer’s pain points
  52. Another headline idea: use ‘How…’
  53. We’re not selling to you
  54. Give your reader space to think
  55. Let’s play 20 questions
  56. Optimise for your customer first
  57. Use storytelling techniques
  58. Look at me! I’m smiling and pointing at a laptop
  59. The right way to use numbers
  60. Ask your reader a question
  61. You flatter me!
  62. Your questions answered
  63. How to go upmarket
  64. Use pictures your reader identifies with
  65. Powered by facts
  66. Selling to international managers
  67. Skip skip intro
  68. Satisfy their cravings
  69. Tailor the message to the audience
  70. Get a cross head
  71. Create curiosity
  72. Make your ads look like – and read like – editorial
  73. Watch that hackneyed image
  74. Correct your prospect’s assumptions
  75. A great golf tournament with a pretty nice conference attached
  76. Act like a magpie
  77. Watch your readability
  78. Say ‘Hi’
  79. Grammar does matter
  80. Will wordplay work?
  81. Use language your customers can understand
  82. Get them nodding
  83. Dig down to the underlying proposition
  84. Yet another headline idea – use ‘Now’
  85. It doesn’t have to be A4, or A5, or…
  86. Cheese for Christmas?
  87. Get your customers to speak on your behalf
  88. How to deal with high prices
  89. What are they afraid of?
  90. ‘Uneven numbers are the gods’ delight.’ Virgil, The Eclogues
  91. Horses beat camels
  92. Befriend a designer
  93. Use personal data intelligently
  94. Start your sentences with And. Or don’t.
  95. Boring for whom?
  96. Create a questionnaire
  97. Give people a glimpse behind the scenes
  98. Tap into people’s aspirations
  99. Follow the law of gravity
  100. Get to know people

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About Andy Maslen

I have spent 23 years in the business communications and information industry. I began my marketing career at Euromonitor, a leading research publisher, as a marketing assistant.

At 27 I was promoted to Marketing Director, leading teams in London and Chicago. During my ten years there, I created and managed over 2,000 marketing and sales campaigns.

After six years heading the marketing function, I resigned to return to my first love—writing—and to set up my own creative agency, Sunfish. I now divide my time between copywriting, training and writing books.

As a specialist independent copywriter and writing coach, I work with organisations of all sizes and across widely differing sectors, helping them build sales and profits using the written word.

I write articles regularly for InCirculation—a best-practice magazine for magazine and newspaper publishers—and have also contributed to B2B Marketing magazine and Direct Marketing International. I also publish my own monthly e-zine—Maslen on Marketing.

I have spoken at workshops, seminars and conferences organised by The Data Publishers’ Association, the UK Newsletter and Electronic Publishers’ Association and the Independent Publishers’ Guild; as well as in-house events for The Economist Intelligence Unit, Euromoney and T&F Informa.

My clients

  • Large global businesses:
    The Economist Group, Euromoney Institutional Investor, Pitney Bowes, Dun & Bradstreet, News International, PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Charities and the public sector:
    The Landscape Trust, the Small Business Service
  • Smaller national companies:
    A a night nanny agency, a transport company, a restaurant, a TV production company, a sporting social club for well-heeled singles.

My training business, Write for Results, which I co-own with a business partner, is the preferred supplier to The Economist Group and works with managers at AstraZeneca, Bank of America, BP, Emap, Nationwide Building Society and PricewaterhouseCoopers, among others.

What Andy's clients say about his copy

My copy works—you can tell from the number of clients who come back to me for project after project. Their opinions speak volumes:

“We have had further very favourable response to our Tattoo mailer today. With your excellent copy writing we have generated the best ever response to any internal DM campaign that we have run .”

Terry Turner, Managing Director, Priority Newstrade, Mailing & Digital

“Many thanks for the work you put into our Group Capabilities project. The copy itself was exactly what we were looking for: clear, concise, high-impact. On top of that, you added a huge amount of value by helping us shape the ideas behind the concept, so that we ended up with a compelling story, not just a bunch of random facts. Working with you was great fun and highly productive. I hope we can do it again soon.”

David Laird, Group Commercial Director, The Economist Group

“You'll be glad to know that both the Personal Computer World and Computeractive new letters that you've produced for me have significantly outperformed my control pack. Therefore I'd like to use your copy & designs for the next few mailings to the end of the year.”

Harriet Cumming, Subscriptions Controller, VNU Business Publications

“We appreciated this work and didn't really change anything before broadcasting. We also used the 'Billion Dollar Baby' headline as the subject line in an email which got the best opening rate of an email for this particular campaign. So many thanks for this - I look forward to working with you again soon.”

Jason Coles, Marketing Manager, Euromoney Seminars

“I wanted to pass along a thank you for your work on the November 10th conference. I am always in awe of creative folks that can take our words and create the most incredibly readable and appealing documents. Once we come to a decision on the Observatory for the UK, I will be counting on your talents to customize and beautify our marketing pieces.”

Yvonne Fizer, Business Development, Sirolli Institute

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Andy Maslen

Praise for Andy Maslen's first book on copywriting -Write to Sell

“If I were starting out as a writer tomorrow, I would definitely want to read this book. I pretty much taught myself most of the tricks all those years ago - and it took me far too long. Had I read it, it would have saved me years of trial and, for the most part, error.”

Drayton Bird, the godfather of direct marketing

“Hi Andy,

I just wanted to say a big thank you for your 'Write to Sell' book which I bought recently. I set up my own business a year ago and have regularly purchased books and self-help guides to help me through the process.

Your book is exceptional - not only is it terrific to read (obvious I know but worth saying), it has helped guide me like no other.

And even more importantly it will help me to help my clients. It has made me want to sign up to your newsletter, which I'll now do. Thank you - please keep your great advice coming!”

Best wishes,
Fiona Barker
barker pr

"This book is a gem. Not only enjoyable to read but packed full of useful and practical tips for better copywriting. Andy has a talent for making the subject of good writing lively and fun as well as hugely educational."

Sally Bibb, Group Sales Development Director
The Economist Group