We’re honored to publish this guest post by our colleague, expert copywriter Apara Timileyin, on ways science writers can use copywriting techniques in their writing. Keep reading for Apara’s best advice on getting readers to act: usually, to buy a product, sign up for a service, or otherwise do something.
How does a science writer learn to ‘sell’ a product or idea? Find the answers in this post.Tweet
There are times when a scientist needs to sell an idea, or when a science company – in biotech, artificial intelligence, etc. – needs to sell a product. Times like this need marketing skills and scientific knowledge together to achieve a purpose. That’s where copy comes into play.
What Is Copy?
Copy is a type of sales writing. It takes the form of advertisements, long-form articles, and visual marketing. Copy sells – that’s the goal. It must draw a potential client’s attention and influence them to take an action desired by the writer. If copy fails to convert to an action, it is useless and ineffective.
How does one write effective copy, especially when discussing science with the general public? The purpose of this post is to help you write scientific copy.
How does a science writer learn to sell?
Science Copywriting that Captivates
You don’t need to go to business school or intern at an advertising agency before you start reeling in leads (that’s marketing-speak for “potential customers”) for your ideas or products. Most companies do not hire business majors to write their sales pages. Instead, they look to copywriting experts that know the tried-and-true ways to get customers to buy (or otherwise act – for example, to support a scientific cause or reach out to lawmakers). Science copywriting requires a nuanced understanding of the science in order to make the most convincing and compelling appeals.
When you learn and master copywriting, you can sell anything. As a scientific copywriter, you will learn that people don’t need to be bogged down with scientific jargon; they are more interested in what you are selling and ways it can help improve their life.
For example, you might be writing about the nitty gritty details of a COVID-19 vaccine. Your readers want to know how this vaccine works, what it will do to them, and more importantly, what they stand to gain. That’s all they care about. You may decide to elaborate more on the details of the vaccine once you’ve captured their interest. However, when you are introducing your product, they are interested in how your product or idea affects them. It wouldn’t make sense to bog them down in the scientific details right off the bat; it would make sense only if you can ‘hook’ them and get their attention and interest, making them want to learn more.
As a scientific copywriter, you can use tricks copywriters use to command the interests and desires of your readers to retain their attention. In the rest of this post, you’ll gain insight into how the mind of a reader works and ways to use that to your benefit.
Enough teasing – let’s get to the good stuff.
What is AIDA?
Scientific copywriting will be easier when you follow a proven formula that achieves results.
This mighty formula, used often in the advertising world, is called the AIDA formula or simply AIDA. AIDA is an acronym that stands for:
A – Attention
I – Interest
D – Desire
A – Action
The AIDA model helps direct buyers’ attention and support their buying decision-making process. While there are some limitations to AIDA that I won’t get into here, it is a useful framework, especially for beginners to science copywriting.
By the way, there are several models besides AIDA you can choose to shape your copywriting. You can read about a few of them besides AIDA here. An updated version of AIDA is AIDALA, with the last two letters representing “loyalty” (as in brand loyalty) and “advocacy” (from product reviews, for instance).
Using AIDA can help you develop a framework to convert readers to buyers – and, ultimately, to sell products. As a copywriter in the sciences, learning how to sell can be a useful addition to your toolkit, as well as a lucrative one.
If you have dabbled in marketing at some point in your career, you may have heard of AIDA or E. St. Elmo Lewis, thought to be its founder. Though it’s unclear who first coined the acronym AIDA, it is widely believed that it was created and popularized by Lewis during a lecture in 1899, where he said “attract attention, maintain interest, create desire.”
Elmo Lewis was a brilliant advertising pro. He once said:
“The mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader, so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him, so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him, so that when he has read it he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”
With AIDA, you first grab the attention of the reader. Then, you maintain their interest with facts and cleverly-written teasers. This way, the copywriter creates a desire for the product or the idea, even if they previously had no idea your product existed. The first three steps should be executed in such a way that the reader believes in the product enough to be convinced to take action.
Following these steps, many companies like Nike, Adidas, and even Coca-Cola have reached many of their intended customers.
Attract Readers From the Start
The A in AIDA is for “attract.” The first step to writing a perfect scientific copy is to know how to capture the attention of your readers at first glance. A great headline will often do the trick.
A good headline is short, captivating, and informative. You are writing to people that may not have all the time in the world, so you need to capture their attention in nothing less than three seconds.
To do this, your headline must be filled with little, but contain enough information about your concept. Most importantly, it must snatch up readers’ concentration at first glance.
Rhyming or wordplay can be a good way to gain the reader’s attention. According to research out of Norway, rhymes are more suitable for campaigns: they are more persuausive and more trustworthy. So think up words that rhyme in relation to your subject matter to make them attractive to the eyes of your readers. Take for example, Apple’s catchy headline to introduce their iPhone 13 pro “oh.so.pro“. It is simple, yet demands attention.
In fact, there are many easy things you can do to make your headline attractive like:
- Using supercharging words like “powerful,” “amazing,” and “exceptional.” You don’t have to use these exact words, but you get the point. Try not to overstate what you are selling, as that can often backfire.
- Using the power of numbers. For example, list 5 benefits of the product you are selling or give 10 reasons potential customers’ lives will be better with the product. If you are seeking to build a following as a freelance science writer, write a blog with 100 pieces of advice for your fellow freelance writers.
- Ask (and then answer, in your copy) questions that promise to offer new insights into your topic.
Check out some examples of eye-catching headlines here.
Gain Readers’ Interest
The I in AIDA stands for “interest.”
Also known as the lead, the second section of perfect copy is aimed to intrigue your readers. Use facts and figures to fascinate your readers: for science writers, this section can rely on research and scientific data. This will pique their curiosity, making them want to learn more about what you are bringing to them. That is how you hold their interest enough to read the rest of the copy.
In short terms, tease them about what you have to offer. Tell them you have a solution to a problem you may have highlighted in your headline, without telling them exactly what it is.
Drop some facts with good sources about the success of the industry of which your product or idea is based. Neville Medhora from Kopywriting Kourse said, “interest them with interesting facts.” That is, tell them how much progress your product or idea is making, or will make, and how this will affect your readers.
The “interest” part of your copy is mainly to cement the attention that you’ve gotten from your reader. So sharing a short story, or a testimony of someone who has used the product will intrigue your readers.
It is important that your interest section mustn’t be too long. If it is, your reader will get bored of reading and just lose interest. So keep things short and spicy. Eight sentences that are rich with interesting content about your idea or product is enough.
Make Readers Desire What You Offer
Attraction and interest work together to make your target desire what you’re selling. By assuring them what you offer them will be effective, they will want to know what it is, and how exactly will they benefit from it.
To make a reader desire what you offer, you must be given an introductory or background understanding into what you are, and what it is you bring. Nobody will key into an idea they have no knowledge of. So introduce yourself and your product so that they will have a knowledge of what you’re selling.
Potential customers want to know what’s in it for them. Don’t just talk about how great your product is – you need to show potential customers what’s in it for them.
That said, don’t focus too much on what you or your product or concept is. Place more emphasis on what you will be offering. People are more interested in how you will directly improve their lives or businesses. Tell them what you have to offer and how they will stand to gain from it.
You can highlight what your unique selling points are. That is, outline what you offer that others do not. Tell them why you are different and better than other ideas and/or companies. Comparing your products or ideas with others will let your readers have a better view of what’s in store for them and why they should choose you over the rest.
Convince Prospective Customers to Act
Here’s another important part of your copy. After doing a great job convincing your reader to key into what you’re bringing, it would be a great shame to lose them at the ending, due to a weak call to action.
Every part of the copy sells, and that includes the concluding part. After capturing readers’ attention, generating interest, and telling the potential customer what’s in it for them, the next step is to convince them to act.
Persuading your readers into taking action is not a small feat: make sure they click that link, message that number, or register their email address. They must take an action that puts you further into their space.
Now, you don’t just simply ask or command them to take an action. Tell them the specific action to take, and remind them what they stand to gain if they do.
Don’t just say, “Click on the link below to register.” Instead, say something like, “Register your email through the link below to start getting free and updated information on how you can protect yourself from the virus.” This will remind your readers exactly why they were reading your copy in the first place, and what to do next.
You can also use the FOMO (“fear of missing out”) strategy. Exploit their fear of missing out on a supposed great deal. Urgency and fear work hand in hand. Make them understand that If they wait any later, they may be too late.
This sounds something like:
“Register in the next 2 hours and get 50% off the charging fee”
“Input your email below and get free access to 115 scientific copywriting samples you can use for your copywriting gigs.”
Many copywriters use AIDA as a simple, straightforward way to reach one’s desired audience and persuade them into doing your bidding. Even shortform copy, such as visual advertisements, can employ this strategy.
But remember, like every other thing, it requires practice. As Neville Medhora has said, “One of the best ways to become a better writer…is to write a lot!”
Apara Timileyin writes copy and engaging content for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. If he’s not writing, you’ll find him in front of movies or anime screens, reading a book, listening to his favorite songs or taking landscape pictures. He can be reached on Twitter @AparaTimileyin and on Instagram @the_timii.