Copy vs. Content - Knowing the Difference

Copy and content mean the same thing, right? Wrong. To explain the difference, it’s handy to use the analogy of a marketing team and a sales team. They’re not the same either; they carry out two different, albeit complementary, functions. Your marketing guys get customers into your metaphorical store. The sales team is responsible for convincing them to actually buy something. If your marketing is good, the sale becomes easier.

And easier is good.

With all the benefits that being online affords us, copy and content can work together. They can even use some of the same techniques. Content that segues gracefully into copy, i.e. marketing that links seamlessly with the sales process, means you achieve the Holy Grail - selling to customers without them feeling they’re being sold to. Your content should focus on positioning you as an expert – your customers will trust your knowledge and want to engage so they can increase their own knowledge. Communicating expertise in a relatable way can be indispensable when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. By imparting knowledge you reinforce your position as an expert. In turn, your prospects see the value of your business and feel they're already receiving something – without paying a cent. It sounds counter-intuitive, but “free” information makes prospects much more likely to become paying customers. Producing content which can be “kept” by customers cements your reputation as someone who is knowledgeable, helpful and generous.

Let’s move on to copywriting. We now know the theoretical difference between content and copy, but what does this mean when you’re staring at a blank screen? I find this idea helpful: Content is sense. Copy is sentiment. Huh? Okay, so we already talked about content giving something to your customers: knowledge. Copywriting steps in when they already have all the information they need about your product, and it’s time for them to see how it makes them feel. Let’s take an example: say you sell luxury cars. Your content tells customers everything related to the car’s performance, its emissions and fuel consumption. Very good, very informative – in short, it helps your customers make sense of your product. Cue: sales copy. How will your customers feel when their car does 0-60 in 8.8 seconds? Or when they boast about its low emissions and unparalleled fuel consumption to their eco-warrior neighbor? Playing on feelings, on sentiment, is what copywriting is all about.

When you’re writing for your business, think about your customers’ problems, and how you can solve them. You want them to have two “How” questions answered when they’re done reading – how does it solve my problem and how will I feel when it does? This applies equally to products or services, whether you’re a coach or a car mechanic. Lastly, it’s time for one more question: how does your strategy stack up? My two sec check should give you some direction:

  1. - Are your sales and marketing processes clearly defined?
  2. - How do your styles differ for content vs. copy writing?


Jo Rourke helps businesses and individuals get their writing right. Whether it's coaching on content, crafting copy, or converting from one language to another, Jo is all about the words. Check out her website, or follow her on Twitter at

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