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The difference between copywriting and content development

There was a time when writing copy and content development was essentially the same process. More recently, it’s become clear that the gap has widened between these two practices both online and in print. The key difference lies in the goal that written text is attempting to achieve. When you’re copywriting, you’re seeking to sell; content development is meant to engage the reader. There’s more to this simplified explanation, however. Understanding the distinction between the two involves looking at why you’d be wise to use one over the other in certain situations, as well as the reasons you’d want to utilize both together.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is material intended to induce action from the reader; in the case of online marketing for your business, it might be to purchase a product. But it could also include any form of interaction that moves the potential customer further into the sales funnel, such as providing contact information or clicking to a product description page. The person reading the material knows that the ultimate goal of the piece is to sell a product or service, so there are certain expectations. A copy written page typically includes an introduction of what’s being sold, a list of features and benefits, and a call to action letting them know what to do next.

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How is content development different?

Developing content is distinct from copywriting in purpose: It’s meant to inform and engage readers, while encouraging interaction through conversation. Examples would be blog articles, white papers, eBooks and podcasts. Content is useful in marketing from the standpoint of creating a connection with the audience, not trying to sell to them. Your primary purpose is to educate and inform readers, who see value in the information provided. They come to see you as a respected resource in your industry, and they develop a relationship of trust.

Why do you need both?

Blending the basics of copywriting and quality content development is what can help separate your company from your competition. You need to create material that induces action and provides the details on how your customers can benefit, highlights of the copywriting approach. At the same time, it’s important to draw from the essentials of content development: offering useful, educational material that gives value to the reader. Great content gets the message across while still avoiding the in-your-face sales talk that can turn customers away.

How do you get the best of both worlds?

1. Create a compelling headline. People don’t click on boring titles, so you’re wasting your fantastic content if you don’t grab their attention. You should mention the benefit you’re offering in your headline and lead them to believe that they’re missing out if they don’t read on.

2. Know your audience. You won’t make a connection with your potential customers if you fail to understand what makes them tick. Find out their short and long term goals, then create content that shows how your company helps achieve them. Identify their business pain, and demonstrate the ways you have solved problems and faced challenges.

3. End with a clear call-to-action. Now that you’ve gotten their attention, it’s key to let them know what to do. Rarely will your potential customers be ready to buy after reading one blog post, so make sure you have some way to get their contact information for future marketing efforts.

4. Don’t write with SEO in mind. Don’t put pleasing the search engines ahead of your goal, which is to engage readers and encourage them to interact with your company. Quality content is great for SEO, but it shouldn’t take away from your aim to create a connection with prospects.

5. Stick to the point. Your potential customers are busy and don’t have time for wordiness or bookish content. Include some statistics where it might illustrate your point, but don’t go overboard. Every word you write should have meaning instead of just filling up space.

Once you appreciate why you’d want to use copywriting and content development in different situations, you can use each craft to your advantage online. What’s your process for creating engaging content? Feel free to share your thoughts and offer some advice in the comments.

About Jon wuebben

Jon Wuebben is the CEO of Content Launch, which offers the first content marketing software built for small and medium sized businesses (SMB’s) and digital agencies. Content Launch also provides content writing and content strategy services for hundreds of companies and digital agencies. His book, "Content is Currency: Developing Powerful Content for Web & Mobile", helps businesses learn how to plan, create, distribute and manage content. "Content is Currency" has been published in six countries worldwide.


Jon has spoken at Content Marketing World, Online Marketing Summit, South by Southwest (SXSW), Marketing Profs B2B Forum, Search Marketing Expo (SMX), Social Media Marketing World, New Media Expo, Intelligent Content Conference, Content Marketing Retreat, Lavacon, ADMA (Australia), BIA Kelsey Small Business Forum, the Media Relations Summit and for many organizations, including Hubspot, Intuit, the American Marketing Association and Shop.org as well as industry groups in the areas of content marketing, mobile marketing and entrepreneurship. He has been listed as a thought leader in the content marketing space by countless publications since 2008.


Jon has an MBA in International Marketing from Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management. He is also the author of "Content Rich: Writing Your Way to Wealth on the Web". In the political world, he has worked for Senator John McCain, Vice President Dan Quayle and the Republican National Convention. A prolific songwriter, Jon is releasing his first album of pop songs, "The NightBird" in 2016.


Find out more at contentlaunch.com and contentiscurrrency.com

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