June 2, 2017
Captivating narratives have a number of key elements. Getting these components right is the difference between text that hooks your reader to the end and a quick click away.
Your text certainly doesn’t need to be entertaining, but it must not be boring either.
The best authors employ certain techniques and principles in order to keep their readers turning pages until the end of the book. These techniques and principles can be borrowed and adapted to sales writing.
First and foremost, in order to get a prospect to give up their precious time, your copy must have something in it for them. Whenever you write, you must never push what you want. Start with the benefits (or knowledge) that your reader is hoping to get by finishing your piece.
Paint word pictures to make it easy to understand.
Second, choose which emotions you wish to stir in your audience and then create situations that play on those emotions.
Avoid using cliches and filler – this will turn your audience off.
Also, break your prose into small segments to make it quick and easy to scan.
Use the smallest words possible – long words slow people down and in the online world, this is the kiss of death for your piece.
While you don’t need to go overboard on grammar, you do need to make sure that the words and sentence structure you use accurately portray your message.
Use both adjective and adverbs sparingly. A rule of thumb that authors aim for is to have no more than one or two words that in ‘ly’ on any given page.
Organize your thoughts and ideas so that they flow from one to the next in an organized manner.
Alternate both the length and style of your sentences.
Use active voice instead of passive voice.
By following these practices, your prose will become easier to read and the chances of your prospects reading to the end of your piece increase.
Happy writing until next time when we will begin a series on social media.
P.S. It may help to draw an outline of the benefits and emotions you wish to include in your copy.
May 5, 2017
With the proliferation of online sites, many have taken to writing for the web. In the effort to get content up as fast as possible, many have taken shortcuts in their copy.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that online copy has to be even better grammatically, as well as error free. This is because with the web, it’s easy to fix mistakes, unlike traditional print.
Poor grammar, misspelled words, and bad sentence structure will drive potential customers away in droves. That’s because these types of mistakes demonstrate a certain sloppiness at the bare minimum, or even a downright disregard to producing the best product possible.
Good writing is good writing, no matter where it is found.
Perhaps the largest difference, however is in the formatting. Online copy needs to use larger font size (due to the harshness of the bright white background). Each line must be shorter (85 characters maximum width), and blocks of text must be broken up (ideal is about 3 - 4 lines long).
Studies reveal the way that web content is consumed, in what order (which is slightly different than the way printed material is consumed). As a result, the most important parts of the content need to line up with this new order.
Printed font usually has a serif – the parts of the letters such as an extra long descending line at the base. This helps readers’ eyes move from one word to the next. Online content is almost always sans serif, as this convention makes the text look more dense.
Next time we’ll take a deeper dive into building a narrative that captures your readers interest.
P.S. Always set your work aside for two or three days between your last draft and proof reading (or better yet get someone else to proof it).
April 28, 2017
You may not like the idea of adding free bonuses to your offer. Perhaps you can still get a high enough percentage of prospect to accept buy from you, or sign up to your list, but if that’s the case, then you are a rare exception.
Offering free bonuses does a couple of things. First, it often makes the difference for someone who is sitting on the fence. (Be careful here, if you make the freebies to enticing, people might just get your offer for the free stuff and then return your main product for a refund.)
Second, you can use free bonuses as a way to increase urgency with verbiage such as “Good only while supplies last”.
Ideally, your bonuses should be an accessory to your main product. For example, if you’re selling cordless power tools, offering a second battery pack (when feasible) at no additional charge can increase your conversion rate.
The best bonuses are those that cost you little to no extra money after the initial production cost. Think information packets – delivered electronically via the internet. “How To” guides are popular, as are self-improvement tips.
Free bonuses should be offered right after the you present the price of your offering and guarantee. Each free bonus needs to have a paragraph or two that sells the benefits of the bonus – a mini sales letter, if you will.
Make sure to include a fair price tag for each bonus. With existing goods and services this is easy, it’s the retail price of your bonus. If you’re developing new bonuses, make sure that you assign a price that is fair – one that you would realistically be able to charge on the open market.
Once you have your bonuses in place, the next step is to assure your readers that the bonuses are theirs to keep, even if they want a refund of their money.
That’s it for free bonuses. Next time well explore the differences between writing copy for print vs. online.
P.S. Make sure that you deliver your free bonuses, or you could get into trouble for false advertising.
April 7, 2017
If you have done your job well, building credibility through the use of testimonials and endorsements, explaining the benefits that your prospect will get with ownership, positioning yourself product or service as the best solution, and removing as much risk as possible, then making an offer that prospects can’t refuse becomes much easier.
The next step is to build up the value of your offering. This works best when you can emphasize how many hundreds of hours went into the development of your product or service, how much information you used, the expense of your raw materials, etc. Build this value as high as you realistically can.
As soon as you have built the value, increase it by adding in free bonuses – make sure to build value in them too, and include a price tag for each.
Once you have your free bonuses in place, write something along the lines of, “This product/service is easily worth over $2,500.00, but I’m not going to charge you that. For a limited time, you’ll pay only $999.99 and you’ll get all of the bonuses as my way of saying “Thank you”. But if you hurry and order now, I’ll cut you a deal that’s so ridiculous that my accountant is screaming at me. I will lower the price to the unheard amount of $495.95.
For that small amount you get… (Recap all of the benefits they will receive here, plus add in one or two more benefits that you haven’t mentioned before.)
In order to get all of this for that low price of $495.95, you must order by midnight tonight. And if after testing the (product/service) out for 30/60/90 days (whatever your terms of your guarantee are) and you are not completely satisfied, simply (take whatever action you have specified) and I will (take your promised action).
When you order today, you’ll get those free bonuses that are yours to keep as my way of saying “Thank You”, even if you decide to return (the product).
I think you’d agree that nothing could be more fair than that, wouldn’t you? (Make sure to ask a yes question here to help get them in the buying mood.)
That’s it for building an incredible offer. Next time we’ll cover choosing your bonuses.
P.S. Make sure that you do not promise anything that you can’t deliver on.
March 31, 2017
All references to Shakespeare aside, this is a question that all marketers face at some point or another. Either way works, but they do require different strategies and approaches to pull off.
At issue is who is taking the risk, you or your potential customer/client. Offering no refund at all forces your prospects to burden this task. If they aren’t satisfied with your product or service, they are then out of their hard-earned cash. Many people are quite reluctant to do this and you may lose quite a few potential sales.
On the other hand, you may not be in a position to offer refunds without jeopardizing your business or your livelihood. In these cases it may be possible to offer an alternative solution, such as substituting another product or service for the original (assuming that your customer/client meets whatever terms you lay out).
These types of measures (a guarantee or product exchange) are what is called risk-reversal, meaning that you, or your company, assume all the risk of the purchase. This helps reduce sales friction (the tendency on your prospects part toward no action) and can result in a significant boost in sales.
Adding a risk-reversal statement to your copy isn’t particularly hard to do, though there are a few best practices that will help boost your sales, while minimizing your own risk.
First, do not offer your policy until after you have made your offer (including your pricing and any free bonus items). Second, you need to spell out the exact terms of your policy, for example “100% satisfaction guaranteed. If at any time during the next 30 days, you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, simply return the unused portion of your product, and we’ll gladly refund your full purchase price. If you do decide to take advantage of this guarantee, all of the free bonuses are yours to keep.”
DO NOT overstate your policy. Put it in one time, and one time only so that you don’t hammer this point home to your prospects. If you do, they may feel that you are not sure of your own product or service, which will turn them off.
If you have done your job properly in positioning your message so that only your ideal target market receives it, and if you have done a good job of qualifying your prospects in your copy, and if your copy accurately conveys what benefits your prospects will receive from your product or service, you can eliminate most returns or requests for exchanges.
While there is no ‘perfect’ answer to whether to offer a guarantee or not, using these points can help you make the best decision for your set of circumstances.
Best of luck until next week when we’ll discuss ‘The Offer’.
P.S. When offering some type of risk reversal, do not make it too easy to take advantage of, yet make it simple enough to remove worry from your prospects’ minds.
March 24, 2017
When writing persuasive copy, it’s vital to strike the right emotions of your potential customers or clients. Get this part right, and you will maximize your response rate.
One of the fastest ways to lose sales is to assume that you know what your prospects buying emotions are. Many make the fatal error of using just a small handful of emotions, namely fear, greed, anger, or lust – granted, these four are very powerful emotions, but they don’t necessary result in better sales.
Take lust for example. History is littered with ad campaigns that attempted to use lust – sex appeal – to sell products. These ads gained attention – from those who were seeking erotic materials, but proved to turn everyone else off. When the consumers of erotic material figured out that the ads weren’t selling what they were seeking, they too lost interest.
The most successful copywriters in the business, those whose copy beat control after control, have as many as 26 different emotions in their toolbox...emotions such as curiosity...satisfaction…boredom...and love.
Figuring out your prospects buying emotion doesn’t take rocket-science. In fact, it can be as easy as asking your current and former customers or clients about their main reasons for doing business with you. Ask what appealed to them when they were making their purchasing decisions.
The next step is think of someone you know personally who thinks and acts in similar ways and think through their emotions.
You don’t need to limit yourself to just one emotion either. It’s best to include three or four emotions in your copy. This increases both your primary target’s interest (making them believe that they must have your product), as well as capturing the interest of secondary target audiences. (Just make sure that the emotions you pick don’t contradict each other.)
After you have written to those emotions, take your copy to a selected representative of your target market (your personal acquaintance) and ask them what they think. Gauge their reactions as they read through your copy (*hint: do this subtly or you may cause them to freeze up or stop reading).
If they want what you’re selling, then you have a potential winner on your hands.
Happy writing until next time, when we’ll tackle guarantees.
P.S. Don’t worry about getting too much emotion in on your first draft, it’s easier to edit it out then write it in.
March 17, 2017
Last time, we covered the basics of building trust. Now we'll take a look at ways to create a deeper level of trust.
Each of the following takes time to make an impact.
Blogs. This is often looked at as a time wasting chore, as it usually does not produce immediate results. All too often, a company will throw together a blog, if they even bother, that talks about how great they are, or there product or service. They most likely will mention upcoming sales and specials, etc.
This type of blog does nothing to build trust.
Instead, your blog needs to:
Guest blogging. You need to both blog as a guest on other sites (with a back link to your site) and invite others to write posts for you.
This builds trust by showing that you have your customers' best interest at heart, not just your own profit. It also builds your Google Page Rank so that you get noticed by more people. Plus, the more places you blog, the more likely that at least some of your pieces will be picked up and spred through social media and other distribution sites.
Article writing. This is similar to guest blogging. It helps to build your credibility as the go-to authority.
Case studies. These relate how other people have used your product/service to solve their problem.
Lift Notes. A lift note can generally take one of two forms – it can either be a lengthy (at least half page) testimonial from a satisfied customer, or it can be a piece written by a recognized expert about your product or service (again, at least a half page).
Scientific studies. Studies about the effectiveness of your product or service can give you a huge boost of credibility – especially in today's culture of 'science worship'. The belief out there is that if science says it's good, then it must be good.
A risk reversal policy (some type of guarantee). Let's face it, most people work long, hard hours for their money. The last thing that they want is to feel like they wasted it on something that wasn't what was promised. Because of this factor, most people are very hesitant to take any perceived risk that involves very much money.
If you can find a way to remove or mitigate the risk, your credibility goes up.
Perhaps the greatest way to build trust is to under-promise and over deliver . If you always exceed your customers' expectations, you will get them raving about you, spreading the word to friends and acquaintances alike, both in real life, and online through social media.
Next time we will cover how to choose an emotional angle for your marketing piece.
P.S. It goes without saying that the fastest way to destroy credibility is by being dishonest in any way.
March 10, 2017
Getting people to trust what you have to say is of vital importance if you want to sell your goods and services.
Think about it this way, would you buy something from someone you didn’t trust? For example, if someone approached you wearing a long trench coat with a hat pulled down low over their face and offered to sell you a brand new Rolex watch for $25.00, would you buy it?
Of course not. You would suspect that the watch was stolen.
With the very real and serious problems of online scams, identity theft, and dishonest advertising practices abounding, people have a harder time than ever believing your marketing claims.
Studies have found that there are steps you can take to counter these problems.
The most important element of trust, these studies have found, is design. In 2011, Dr. Brent Coker found that the prettier a website is, the more people trusted it. He tied to the psychologically hardwired trait of trusting beautiful people.
This trait carries through to our communication efforts as well, across all mediums.
Make sure that your website, your printed and broadcast materials have a professional look to them, that they are as beautiful as they can be. In other words, unless you have a background in design, leave your design tasks to the experts.
It’s just not worth it to save a few hundred dollars to do it yourself – you will lose out in the end.
The same can be said of your copy. If your work is full of typos and grammatical mistakes, you will lose credibility. Plus, your copy needs to be relevant to the needs of your readers.
Beyond that, including symbols of trust, such as the logos of Truste, Verisign, MacAfee, or Paypal, especially if you take any form of online payment.
Endorsements from figures that are well-known to your target audience, testimonials from actual customers, and scientific studies all help build your trustworthiness. Testimonials work best when you can include a picture of your customer, along with their full name and city of residence.
Make sure to use photographs or images when you can, but make sure that they are genuine pictures of you, your product, or office staff. Do not use stock photos as these have been shown to actually detract from your credibility.
For websites, page load speed also plays an important role. The longer a page takes to load, the less likely people are to trust it, with most people hitting the back arrow if a page takes longer than five seconds.
These are just a few of the basics, without them you will not gain any traction and your efforts will have been wasted.
Next week we will cover more advanced ways to build credibility for your brand.
P.S. If you wish to truly build credibility into your marketing pieces, be honest and tell the truth.
March 3, 2017
Let’s face it – having your product or service be an instant hit goes a long way toward its financial success.
Sure your offering can start off slow and build steam as you go, but unless you have deep pockets, you could end up bankrupt before you’ve turned a profit.
Most of us have felt at least a little bit of envy whenever Apple launches a new product. Wouldn’t it be great to have just a fraction of the success of this marketing giant?
The truth is – anyone can. It’s not a matter of luck, or even being in the right place at the right time, who you know, or any of that.
You see, once upon a time Steve Jobs was a name that nobody knew. Same with Bill Gates. How they got to where they are is by doing things differently. They stepped outside of the box, so to speak. What they, and others like them, have learned can be used to profit any business, any product launch.
First of all, they have done their homework – really dug in deep into the market to find holes or gaps in the product base. They found out what people were frustrated with on a fundamental level and then designed their products to plug those holes.
If your product/service is still in the concept or design stage, you may be able to modify your offering without too much expense, but if you have moved beyond to where the cost is too great, you will probably have to analyze how you are different.
Is your customer service extraordinarily good – like the Ritz-Carlton? Can you offer the lowest price – like Wal-Mart?
Build your pre-launch campaign around your differences. Give out small hints as to what’s coming, but don’t give away too much – you want to build up an air of mystery. A number of years ago, Quaker State built an entire campaign around the letter ‘Q’ appearing in all sorts of places – such as birds flying in a ‘Q’ formation. These ads were all accompanied by the cryptic message, “Coming Soon.”
Apple achieves the same thing now just by announcing they have a new product coming soon – and then they let the pundits argue about the details and what the product does. Not too much time goes by before Apple announces the launch date...a date that they plan a big event for.
Steve Jobs toiled for weeks before each of these events, scripting out everything he would say – what points to emphasize – and the gestures he would use. When he finally took the mic, he wouldn’t talk a whole about the product itself, but rather what the product would do, how it would transform lives.
Another thing that many of these successful campaigns have in common is that they get thought leaders to weigh in on the subject. One trick for doing this is by giving these leaders a sample product/service call so that they can experience what you’re offering and then give their opinion on it. Make sure to leak juicy tidbits to the press as well so that on the day of your launch, they are at least familiar with your offering.
Don’t forget to encourage people to order before your actual launch day. Any sales you generate during this time get counted during your launch period. (This is one of the secrets of those very large numbers that Apple generates.)
That’s it for this week. Next week we’ll talk about how to create credibility elements.
P.S. When building a pre-launch campaign, you are only limited by your creativity.
February 24, 2017
In order to keep your audience reading, you must relate a tale that they can identify with. This begins with a sound understanding of their core needs, beliefs, and desires.
If you have an established product, you have a head start. Ask your people who have direct contact with your current and past customers – your sales force and your customer service team – for insights into these core metrics.
Once you’ve gathered this information, dig deeper by creating surveys based on your customer feed back. Make sure that you create questions that ask for as broad of a scope as possible. The key here is to really understand what makes your customer tick...what keeps him or her up at night...what are their hopes...what have been their experiences with similar products or services before, etc.
In short, you want to discover what problems they face so that you can figure out ways to help them solve those problems – using your product or service, of course.
Free response questions are better than yes/no questions as you can learn how your customers think and talk.
If you have the technical know-how, or can afford someone who does, your efforts can realize a huge boost by employing a social media campaign at this point. You can read more in-depth about social media campaigns on my site soon.
In a nutshell, these campaigns are not ones where you try to sell anything or generate leads. The point of these campaigns are to listen to what people really think about products and services like yours, your industry in general, etc. You can even use them to find out what people are saying about your competitors.
Armed with the data that you have gathered, you can determine the best angle or slant of your story, your tone of voice, and even what kinds of claims you can make in your story (as long as you can back up your claims with facts).
Next, look through your customer testimonials, your employees’ experiences, even your own or your company’s background (especially focusing on the how and why of the company’s founding). Everyone has a story as to why they did things they way they did.
Select the three to five ideas that best match with what your research shows what your prospects are looking for. Read them through at least twice, allowing a few days to pass between readings. Give this effort some thought as you choose the strongest idea.
After you have picked your story, you will need to get the permission of the person who is at the center of the story (assuming that it’s not you). Get this permission in writing.
Interview the person. Listen carefully to what they say and what they don’t say about how your product helped them solve their problem. (Hint: prepare questions ahead of time to make sure that you get the information you need.) Tape record the interview if possible. Explain to them that you will not use the recording in the final piece – you just want to make sure that you get everything that they say down accurately.
When you sit down to write, review your notes from your research, your surveys, your social media, and your interview. Create an outline of key points that you want to cover. Include direct quotations.
Armed with this knowledge from your hours of preparation, you are finally ready to write.
Good luck until next time when we’ll take a look at what to do when your product or service is new and has no track record.
P.S. When writing for the web, keep your text lines to a maximum of 85 words and break long paragraphs into smaller ones to make it easier to read.
February 10, 2017
The Big Idea is what drives your copy forward - you can think of it as the theme that runs throughout your narrative.
This idea needs to be something that your target audience identifies with. For example, if you are selling a weight-loss product, your big idea can be that its not your ideal customers fault that they are overweight.
To create your big idea, you will want to brainstorm - its best if you can get a group together to do this. Think about all of the complaints and problems your product or service fixes and then decide on the largest one.
Next, ask yourself how it is that your customers developed this problem. If you can find a way to at least partially shift the blame from this target audience, you are miles ahead.
If you can, transform the problem into a conflict - an us versus them type of situation.
Decide on your top three ideas and explore how you can weave them into your story. You need to determine if the idea is strong enough to last throughout the narrative and is strong enough to carry the story.
You may have a winner if:
Pick the idea that is the strongest, that supports your argument the best. Weave it into every paragraph of your copy by giving supporting evidences - testimonials, scientific studies, expert opinions, etc.
Make sure that you mention this big idea again during your close, remind your readers what's at stake if they fail to take action.
Next time you'll discover how to choose a story that builds on your big idea.
Here's to your success,
P.S. Save your discarded ideas, you never know when you can use them to support the winning idea.
November 12, 2016
Congratulations! You've created an enticing headline that has pulled your readers in. Now comes the part where most will leave, if you don't nail this next bit.
You need to cement your readers' interest with a powerful hook.
This step begins with the same knowledge that you used to draft your headline - knowledge about your buyer persona. What will this persona find interesting, or shocking, or memorable?
There are a number of different techniques that you can use to build your hook.
Perhaps the most powerful way is to tell a story about a person who your product or service helped. In order to use this technique, you need to give the details of your main character's problem, the frustrations that were faced, why it was important to solve the problem, and then how your product or service solved the problem.
Another powerful technique is to start with a question or a series of questions regarding the problem that your product or service solves. For example, if I sold vacuum cleaners, I might start my copy off with the following:
A third technique that draws readers in is by starting with a quote (quotes from movies and foreign sources work especially well). You can get extra traction from the quote by adding a twist, such as "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong...Especially on Mondays."
As you work on your hook, try to keep it brief - no more than a few sentences that heighten the stakes for your reader, that keeps your reader guessing as to what the outcome will be.
Once you have drafted your hook, present it to your family, friends, or co-workers to see if you get the response that you are looking for.
Here to your continued success until next time, when I'll talk about the importance of creating a 'Big Idea'.
p.s. Here is a bonus - a fourth way to create alluring hooks. Use the word 'imagine' and then paint a picture with words of what you want your reader to imagine. This technique works because it raises the curiosity level of your readers.
p.p.s. If you are careful, you can even blend two techniques together to create an irresistible hook.
November 5, 2016
The headline is the most important piece that you must get right, because if you don't, your audience won''t even read your copy. Professional copywriters have been known to spend hours to get this text just right.
Here are some tips on how you can write headlines like the pros.
1. Create a customer persona - an ideal of what your perfect customer looks like, what they are interested in, what they are afraid of, and anything else that you can think of that will help you understand your target audience.
2. Discover which benefit from you offering is the most appealing to this audience. You can do this through conducting customer surveys.
3. Include this benefit in a way that is unique. The key here is to create a headline that is different than the thousands of competitors that bombard your audience every day.
4. Make sure that your headline is useful. Let's face it, everyone is busy these days and doesn't have time or interest in reading something that doesn't benefit them immediately.
5. Make your headline ultra specific. You need to talk directly to your ideal potential customers. If you manage to get someone who is not interested in what you have to offer to read your piece, they will most likely not become a customer anyway. If, on the other hand, your headline is too vague, a lot of your potential audience will skip reading your message.
6. You need to make your headline urgent. This addresses the issue that everyone is busy and has the tendency to put off those things that have no urgency.
With these principles in mind, most professional copywriters will create at least 50 different headlines in an attempt to come up with the best one.
After you have your headline, let your colleagues read it and encourage feedback.
Good crafting until next week when we will explore how to create a powerful hook.
P.S. Shorter headlines generally pull better than long ones.
October 26, 2016
Many people claim that no one reads copy any more - especially long copy. The truth of the matter is that this claim is false.
Sure, if your copy is boring or aimed at the wrong audience, it won't get read - no matter how long or short it is. The real problem is that most copy is dull and fails to capture and hold attention.
In order to capture interest, your copy must begin with a compelling headline - one that is urgent, useful, unique, and ultra-specific to your target audience - in short, your headline must make a big promise.
Once your headline has piqued a readers' interest, the lead must hook them. This is done by delivering on the big promise from the headline and introducing a big idea.
Your idea must be woven throughout your copy as you make and prove claims...restate the promise from your headline...show the benefits of your product or service...reveal your unique selling proposition, and then state your offer.
One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by relating a story - how and why your company began is usually one of the most powerful - that allows your prospect to identify with the problem faced by your main character. Effective copy shows how what you're selling solves this problem in a way that your prospect can relate to - painting a picture so that the prospect thinks, "I need that now!"
Prospects are looking for proven solutions to their problems, it's vital that you build trust as you demonstrate that your product or service delivers on your promise. A few ways to build this trust are by using experts who agree with you, or getting well-known figures to give you a testimonial.
That's it for this week's blog. Next time we will explore how to write a compelling headline.
Here's to your success,
P.S. Working with a professional copywriter can save you countless hours while boosting your sales and your ROI.
This is just to hold space.