Catalog copywriting skills reach far beyond the pages of a catalog…did you know that?
That’s right, the skills needed to write short catalog copy are easily transferable to other types of short descriptions, for example, a real estate property description.
Recently, I was asked by a realtor to rewrite a property description.
I was happy to oblige because like any other freelance copywriting professional, I’m always willing to demonstrate my abilities.
Without further ado, this is how it went:
The Original Version
WELCOME TO THE SHINING ROCK COMMUNITY, THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR AN EASIER LIFESTYLE... Start checking the boxes!!! *1*. More free time without giving up comforts of home. *2*. Light, bright, clean, freshly painted and move in ready * 3*. 1st floor Master Bedroom retreat with separate commode *4*. An open concept floor plan. suited for entertaining * 5. * 3 Bedrooms and 2/1/2 baths * 6. * Two car attached garage and full-size basement to finish, workshop space and storage *7. * Location This unit is at the end of a tree lined lane and walk to Award Winning Golf Course and Rockdale Grill., *8* Private deck and outdoor space. *9* Must allow Pets. Absolutely. *10*, Great commuter location. 495, 90, 146 Worcester, Providence, and Boston. ****** All year around or "lock it and leave it" snow birds, this is a comfortable attractive property to call home.
My Revised Version
HAD IT WITH THE HECTIC LIFESTYLE? 10 REASONS WHY LIFE’S SIMPLER AT SHINING ROCK…
1. No more time-consuming home and yard maintenance. More time for fun stuff!
2. Move-in ready; light, bright, freshly painted, and clean.
3. Open concept floor plan, if entertaining is your thing.
4. Your own retreat – 1st floor Master bedroom with separate commode.
5. 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths for visiting family or guests.
6. Two-car, attached garage and full-size, unfinished basement – that workshop or extra storage you’ve always dreamed of?
7. Peaceful location at end of tree-lined lane that’s walking distance to award-winning golf course and Rockdale Grill.
8. Private deck and outdoor space.
9. Pets are ALWAYS welcome.
10. Worcester, Providence, and Boston less than an hour’s commute away; 495, 146, and 90 close by.
Whether living year-round or ‘lock it and leave it’ snowbirds, this no-fuss, appealing property epitomizes what home should be.
Like catalog copy, property descriptions have restricted word capacity, so the less words you can use, the more specific your copy needs to be.
And specificity always outpulls generalities. Hmmm, sounds like another blog topic…
In any event, whether you’re writing 25 words to pitch a handbag or a house, the basic copy approach is the same.
Know your audience, know the item’s major selling points and their benefits, and then compose your copy so it speaks to your customers and promotes the benefits.
Often, in catalog copy, you’ll see an item’s description claiming that it is unique or useful or beautiful.
And that’s fine, maybe the product is unique or useful or beautiful, but what makes the item that way? What trait or feature does it have that sets it apart? Savvy buyers will want to know.
Instead of making generalized claims of wonderfulness by using generic words (like unique, useful, beautiful, special, pretty), why not include specifics that spell out why the product is, in fact, so remarkable? The shrewd catalog copywriter will be sure to take this approach.
Let me give you some examples of wimpy words.
I came across this copy for protective boots for horses:
The new Eskadron Pure Collection has arrived. A great collection for competition wear.
This copy was accompanied by a photo of a pair of sparkling white boots lined with luxurious-looking material. I clicked to the web site to see if I could learn why they would be ideal for competition wear.
The web site copy shared this:
The white faux fur tendon boots. Great for warming up at competitions. Crystal white, touch outer and lovely soft faux fur. Machine washable.
Okay, so the copy’s established that these boots are great, but why? What makes them great?
Great because the boots’ Velcro™ fasteners make it easy to get the boots off quickly? So your horse can wear them until just before it’s his turn in the arena? Or maybe the faux fur keeps your horse’s legs from getting sweaty?
The vagueness of the word great leaves so much selling left undone.
Another example I found was in one of those little real estate booklets that you can pick up for free.
The copy was minimal, only 3 ½ lines. The first line and a half had this to say about a townhouse listed at $739,000:
Evergreen Meadows, a quintessential New England Village.
Ouch. You have 3 ½ lines of text to sell someone on this rather expensive townhouse, and the first seven words tell you nothing concrete about the listing. And one of the words is “quintessential.”
Generic words in copy serve as filler and do nothing to promote a product. Specifics always outshine fluff and sell much more effectively.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter