Ernest Hemingway once said, “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.”

He was right – the prose or copy that your business creates isn’t just a decorative afterthought. Your copy is the foundation of your marketing efforts.

Copywriting is one of the most important skills for companies that want to connect with their audience and effectively communicate the value of their products and services.

It’s surprising, then, when you consider how many companies make copywriting mistakes that cause their business to suffer. Whether you’re inexperienced with writing strong copy or you simply aren’t focusing enough attention on it, making these three mistakes means you’re limiting your chances at standing out with prospective customers.

1. Not Knowing Your Audience

Understanding the people who will be reading what you write is one of the single most critical elements of good copywriting. Try to identify as closely with the reader as possible. You need to know what your audience is thinking about, what they are worried about, what makes them happy, and what makes them scared. This will provide a solid foundation for writing engaging copy that appeals to the right people.

In a recent post on the HubSpot marketing blog, blogging expert Patrick Armitage provided a great example of understanding the target audience. The Red Bull energy drink company posted an Instagram picture of French snowboarder Arthur Longo catching some serious air and included the hashtag #HippieJump.

Armitage points out that although most people probably wouldn’t know what a Hippie Jump is, Red Bull knew that their target audience of snowboarders and other extreme sports enthusiasts probably would. By understanding the people who would read their copy, Red Bull was able to forge a deeper connection with their prospects by speaking in their language.

If you aren’t already using words and concepts that are familiar to your audience in your copy, you should start immediately. Make sure that you do some research to familiarise yourself with the kinds of terms that your audience is most likely to understand.

2. Going With Your First Draft

It’s true that sometimes inspiration comes to us in a flash: maybe you’re in the car on the way to the office, or sitting on the couch watching your favourite television show, when the perfect slogan or a great idea for your next blog post pops into your mind unexpectedly.

Great! These surprise flashes of inspiration can provide you with a strong foundation for some excellent copy. Just don’t make the mistake of believing that your job is done.

The best copy is the product of careful re-reading and editing. Going over your work closely allows you to catch minor things that you might have missed when you were caught up in your initial creative frenzy. It also allows you to make sure your work is polished and free of fluff and confusing ideas.

There is a story about the famous American diplomat, Henry Kissinger, requesting a speech from his speechwriter. After receiving the first draft, Kissinger challenged the writer: “Is this the best you can do?”

After thinking about it, the speechwriter went back, made some changes, and submitted the speech again. Again, Kissinger asked, “is this the best you can do?”

After going back and forth in this same manner several times, the frustrated speechwriter finally told Kissinger that the latest version was his best possible work and that he was not capable of anything better.

To which Kissinger replied, “In that case, I will read it now.”

While you may be thanking your lucky stars to have never had a boss like Kissinger, the lesson to be learned from this story is that editing and re-reading your copy as much as you reasonably can is a great way to produce your best possible work.

3. Focusing on Features, Not Benefits

Do you remember the last time you saw an advertisement for a luxury brand? Whether it was jewellery, cars, or clothing, the odds are good that the advertiser probably didn’t talk about the thread count of the material or what type of steel the vehicle was made out of.

The reason that most marketing content doesn’t focus on these kinds of things? They are features, not benefits. While there’s nothing wrong with mentioning some of the features of your products or services, your copy should mostly focus on its benefits.

If you ever have trouble determining the difference, just remember that technical specs, sizes, and prices are all features. On the other hand, saving time, providing an attractive design, and evoking emotional satisfaction are all benefits.

These are three of the best tips for effective copywriting, but they certainly aren’t the only ones. With these bits of advice in mind as a starting point, take the time to experiment with different tactics to find out what does and doesn’t help you unlock your own unique, effective copywriting voice.

What are some common mistakes you see a lot?