13 Quick Copywriting Tips

13 Copywriting Tips

From this week’s newsletter:

1. Talk about one thing. The tighter the focus, the better. –> Read More
2. Speak to just one person. Copy should be a one-on-one conversation. –> Read More
3. Force your reader to “pick a side.” Don’t allow him to sit comfortably on the fence. –> Read More
4. Whenever possible, write to people who are already at least half-convinced. –> Read More
5. In most cases, you can get away with infuriating 95% of your list/audience in an effort to win over the 5% who are your best buyers and referrers. Court the kingmakers in your list. –> Read More
6. Trust is EVERYTHING. –> Read More
7. Clarity is everything, too. The clarity of your message and offer. And the clarity you create for your readers by explaining the reality of their problem and the available solution. –> Read More
8. Sequences beat single-shots. –> Read More
9. Better products make for better copy. –> Read More
10. Make your copy empowering, not condemning or depressing. If the reader can get some benefit just from reading the marketing message, you’ve made “the sale before the sale.” –> Read More
11. That being said, psychologically, the fear of loss is twice as strong as the desire for gain.
12. Curiosity is the strongest human incentive, says Claude Hopkins. Leverage it.
13. If you use curiosity to grab attention and get clicks, do yourself a favor: pay off that curiosity. “Bait & Switch,” clickbait copywriting tends to burn out their audiences quicker than straight-shooters.

Want more tips like this delivered to your inbox every week (more or less)? Sign up for the Connecting with Your Customers newsletter in the form to the right (or on the bottom of the page, depending on what device you’re using right now).

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Strategic Truth-Telling

The world is full of phonies, deceivers and cheats. In the arenas of advertisers and salespeople, this seems to be especially true.

Empty promises, bogus guarantees and plain ol’ swindles pervade the marketplace. Most people automatically tune out a large percentage of overt advertisements. No one trusts salespeople; they are often dismissed before they even speak. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) We all know it’s true. That’s just how things are.

In spite of that fact, a profound longing exists inside of each of us: a longing to believe. Gary Bencivenga, one of the few living legends of copywriting, teaches that “Almost everyone in the world… is desperately searching for someone to believe in. Be that person, and you can write your own ticket.” The dishonest climate of the day makes the search for that kind of person difficult. Those found to be trustworthy stand to benefit immensely.

Telling the truth can be used as a powerful business and marketing strategy.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating a Machiavellian view of dealing with truth. 100% honesty is the only way to business. Customers and prospects deeply desire to believe, but they have been forced into skepticism. Only one arrow can pierce the armor of doubt: TRUTH.

How Can Truth-Telling Be Used As a Marketing Strategy?

When we think of establishing our credibility and building trust, we usually picture a long-term process. And it is. Allowing events to progress naturally, it can take months or years to get where you want to be.You should never tell lies or deceive. Customers need to know you’re not going to mislead them or take advantage of them. Don’t settle for marketing that is simply credible. Actually be the company that your customers can trust.

Let’s consider another perspective. Most of my readers market their products and services using direct response methods. What is one defining characteristic of direct response marketers? We do not wait for “events to progress naturally.” We don’t wait for prospects to eventually stumble across our offers and maybe buy something. We take action to cause individuals in our target audience to respond in a particular way.

Strategic truth-telling relies on the same principle.

Rather than relying on chance and (passively) watching trust grow over time, it is possible to inject “moments of truth” into otherwise normal interactions. Build your believability factor actively, purposefully. The “que sera, sera” approach is not a viable strategy.

Let me state emphatically that integrity is not a strategy. It is a way of life.

Now for the good stuff. Let’s discuss 4 specific truth-telling techniques. You will no longer have to hope that you are gaining your audience’s trust. Take action! Implement these steps and gain control of building your believability.

1. The Preemptive Strike

Have you heard the famous story about Claude Hopkins and Schlitz Beer? How one advertising campaign that took Schlitz from 5th place to being in a dead heat with the number one brand in a few months?

Hopkins tells the tale in his book, My Life in Advertising. I won’t repeat it here, but do yourself a favor and look it up. There’s a great lesson to be taken from the narrative. The major take-away from that campaign: be the first company to “tell the facts,” and you gain supremacy in the minds of your customers and prospects.

Instead of just talking about how totally rad your product is, tell the story of why it’s so great. What do you do that makes what you do so impressive?

Is there a way you can use this concept in your own marketing? Think of some aspect of your process, one ingredient you use, or anything that you can tell your audience about that they don’t know. You don’t have to be the only company doing it. You don’t have to be the first company to do it. You just have to be the first to say it. Once you’ve said it, you own it. Anyone else to make similar claims will be seen as a copy cat.

There are so many voices screaming for the attention of the masses. And as much as businesses may think they’re being unique, nearly all advertising sounds the same on the surface. You can stand out by coming at the issue from a different angle. Give meaning to the claims you make about your product, service or brand by using this classic technique of preemption.

2. Full Disclosure

Voluntary vulnerability is startlingly effective at creating credibility. I think there are 3 reasons for that.

Firstly, no one does it. Everyone is too scared to take the risk. Plus, they’ve spent so much time trying to appear to be perfect. They can’t afford to let that illusion disappear. By being one of the rare few that will be open and honest, you position yourself as one of the rare few companies or individuals worth listening to.

Secondly, you show that you care more about the truth than about your image. Your image is how you want to appear. But reality is what really matters.

Thirdly, an emotional element comes into play. Putting yourself or your company in a position of openness is not logical (or at least it doesn’t appear to be so). The result is that the listener is almost forced to react emotionally, not just intellectually.

Everyone loves the inside scoop. Confessions are always a hot ticket. When people feel like you’ve told them something “intimate” you become more of a person than a salesperson. More of a friend. Trust flows easily in that environment.

Show that you have nothing to hide. Prove that you care more about the customer experience than about your image.

This should be an aggressive technique. Remember, we’re thinking of injecting truth deliberately for the purpose of building trust. Maybe it’s as simple as endearing yourself to your email list by telling an embarrassing personal story. You didn’t have to let anyone know about the time you were tricked into climbing into a high school locker, only to find yourself locked in and abandoned (yes, that happened to me).

Make the information interesting, but also find a way to make it relevant.

Also, admit when you’re wrong, when you don’t know the answer, or when you can’t help someone. It always pays off in the long run.

3. Flattery Will Get You Nowhere – Unless It’s Genuine

No one likes a “yes man” or a butt-kisser.

If you want to be believed, have the guts to challenge conventional wisdom or popular opinions. Speak your mind. Be confident and speak authoritatively. You do not have to agree with anyone all the time, even if they’re paying you. In fact, that’ll do more harm than good for all parties involved.

That doesn’t mean be arrogant, or purposely combative. But don’t fall for the line of thinking that says “the more I tell this client how much of a genius he is, the more business I’ll get.” Think more in terms of “the truth will make you free.”

Is it just me, or do people who always have flattering words on their lips seem to be up to no good? Either they don’t have minds of their own, or they’re sycophants. It’s hard to respect either. Don’t be that person or business.

This is less a technique to be used than it is a position to be adhered to. We’re talking about strategy. You want to set yourself up as the person who will tell the truth no matter what it costs. That’s who people will trust. People will believe in you, and that’s how you get to write your own ticket, as Bencivenga says.

I’ve had a client ask tell me that I didn’t have to agree with everything he said. His ideas were great; I wasn’t trying to be obsequious. The point is that my posture was weakened slightly by the appearance that I was just going along with whatever he said. That’s not the place you want to be in.

4. Be A Giver

You should always seek to give more than you take. Provide more value than you charge for.

You should be educating your customers, not just selling to them. Education is one of the most compelling selling tools in existence. But you should give valuable content and actionable information to your audience at least as often as you ask them to buy something from you.

Being a giver is one of the surest ways to become a trusted person or organization. Of course you need to generate revenue. Your customers understand that. But if the only time they hear from you is when you have a sales pitch, you become a nuisance. They feel as if you look at them like dollar signs instead of human beings.

If you want to build credibility, to be the person or company that others believe in, help them get what they want out of life. When you look out for the needs and desires of other people, you begin to operate on a higher level.

Blogs, newsletters and content-rich emails are popular for a reason. We live in the information age. Perhaps telling the truth has never been such an important element of business success.

Be strategic in your execution. Blogs should be focused. Create content so that visitors know what to expect and how to get what they need. Self-promotion is not an effective way to gain trust. Providing info that improves people’s lives is a great way to become a trusted expert.

You can either promote yourself, or do high-quality work that does the promoting for you. Which do you think works better?

Final Thoughts

Most business people you know let their businesses “drift downstream” and hope for the best. My hope is that you are not one of those individuals. There are some things that you can’t control (the weather, for example), but there are nearly always ways to move forward with purpose and vision. Strategic truth-telling is another way to take more control over your life and business.

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7 Defensive Copywriting Strategies

In Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins teaches us that “any … attempt to sell, if apparent, creates sales resistance.” This is as true for copywriters as it is for door-to-door salespeople. If you’ve written sales copy, you’re already familiar with the truth of this principle.

To circumvent this resistance, you have to take a different approach. Applying the defensive perspective makes a lot of sense.

Here are 7 defensive copywriting strategies that will help overcome obstacles to closing the deal. They may even prevent those hurdles from entering your readers’ minds.

1) Express genuine interest in and empathy for your prospects’ desires/needs. This can be challenging. You may have to edit until you get the tone and language just right, but it’s possible.

This goes a long way to removing the resistance to being sold. Your reader feels valued by you; you think of him as a person, not a customer. Major distinction.

Read the other 6 tips on ProCopyTips.

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The One Change that Changes Your Response the Most

While I was still in school, I always enjoyed math class. I’m feeling a little mathematically inspired right now.

Remember word problems? Let’s work through one together. We’re going to combine two direct marketing axioms to see what we come up with.

#1. “If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer.” – Axel Andersson

#2. Ed Mayer’s 40-40-20 Rule. Mayer gives us a breakdown of what determines the success or failure of a direct mail package which I’ve found applies to pretty much any marketing message. Simply stated, 40% of the effectiveness of the message depends on the quality of your list. One thing I talk about all the time is understanding your target market so that you can communicate with them in the most compelling way. 40% of the effectiveness comes from the quality of your offer, and 20% from the creative (copy, design) itself.

(Side note: Denny Hatch estimates that the ratio is 70% offer, 10% list, 20% creative for internet direct marketing.)

We see that Andersson and Mayer are really agreed on the point. If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck in response to your marketing efforts, you must improve your offer. Pretend you’re the Godfather and make your customers an offer they can’t refuse. Claude Hopkins said that “The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say ‘No’.”

Using the same logic and math, you’d get identical or very similar results by improving your list. But taking that approach is less controllable. Once you know your customers really well, there’s not much you can do to improve your list. You can almost always improve your offer. You can nearly always give more.

Don’t tell any of my copywriting colleagues that I’m letting the 40-40-20 Rule out of the bag. According to Mayer, the creative part of your marketing has less effect on response than the other elements. So rather than running out to hire one of us, or trying to rewrite your message yourself, give your offer priority. Then focus on your list of potential buyers. Make sure you’re giving as much as you can profitably offer to an audience whose desires, fears and problems you are increasingly familiar with.

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7 Guidelines for Writing Eye-Grabbing Headlines

1) Use surgical precision. Know who your prospective customers are so that you can concentrate on stopping them in their tracks with your headline. Determine which words and themes appeal to your target right now; what is he thinking about? Wondering about? Worried about?

Headlines really serve a single purpose: they use words to get your advertisement read.

Advertising forefather Claude Hopkins, in his legendary work Scientific Advertising, further explains:

“The advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own volition, study what we have to say. The purpose of a headline is to pick out people who you can interest……what you have will interest only certain people and for certain reasons. You care only for those people, so create a headline which will hail those people only!”

A headline must not “cast too wide a net.” There is no way to appeal to everyone without decimating the strength specificity creates in capturing your target. The attempt gain everyone’s eyes is an error that is all too prevalent in advertising today. The headline will only appeal to people who are interested in the product or service offered. Readers will not waste any time investigating an ad that isn’t selling something that pertains to him. Men don’t generally care much for tampon headlines…

Keep in mind that YOU are reading this article for a reason. Most of the people surfing the web will never read this article.

2) Go for the heart! Almost any expert (and anyone who is genuinely honest about their own purchasing patterns) will admit that people base their buying decisions more on emotion than logic. Shoppers buy what they want, and use reason to justify their choices. The most powerful purchase-driving emotions include Fear, Greed, and the Desire for Love and Prestige.

3) Focus on the Customer. The headline should be more about how the customer will benefit from the product or service than about the thing itself. As the old sayings go, “People don’t buy drills because they want drills, but because they want holes,” and “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Readers care about what you offer only insofar as they care about what they get out of it. Construct your headline with this in mind

4) Avoid hype. You will lose credibility if you rely on it. There are far too many superlatives and big promises that don’t reflect reality. “Super Awesome Cogs” sounds great, but that headline doesn’t convey any meaning to the reader, other than a setup for disappointment (which the he will protect himself from at all costs.) “New Cog DOUBLES Your Car’s Gas Mileage” better describes what the product does without resorting to hype.

5) People hate to be sold. They love to buy, though. If you can show your audience how to get something that they already want or know they need in a way that is easier, cheaper, or better in some other way, your advertisement will produce good results. Trying to convince a reader that they need something they know nothing about is a losing endeavor. Don’t fight against your target; go along with him. Help him get what he wants.

If the ad is for something that may be unfamiliar, the headline will have to appeal to a need or desire that the reader is familiar with.

6) Test Rigorously. Try different headlines. There is no need to guess at what will work. Find out with certainty by testing different word usage, benefit presentation, etc. This is a good rule in general, as each market will respond uniquely to different parts of your advertising.

7) Consult the masters. Advertising writers and marketers find instruction as well as inspiration from successful advertisements put together by others. Copies of headlines and body copy are often kept in “swipe files” for future reference. What worked well for others has a good chance of working for you.

The other aspect of learning the art of headline writing is studying classic works on the subject. From legends of the past such as Hopkins, John Caples and Robert Collier to contemporary pros like Clayton Makepeace and John Carlton, there are many lessons to learn. Discover the secrets of advertisers that have produced millions of dollars in sales. Continuing your marketing education will always be profitable, especially for a beginner.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of headline-writing guidelines, but following these seven tips is essential if you want to reap the benefits of effective advertising.

 

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Ad Agencies in a Recession

P.T. Barnum, a man who knew more than a little something about advertising, is quoted as saying “Without promotion something terrible happens…Nothing!”

Advertising agencies have something incredibly valuable to offer the world: the ability to literally create interest in, traffic to and generate sales revenue for a business.

During recessions it is common for businesses to reduce their advertising and/or marketing expenses. Studies prove time and again that cutting costs here is a costly mistake. Without advertising, nothing happens.

This is just as true for the ad agencies themselves as it is for their clients. And for this reason, ad agencies need to ADVERTISE; they must market themselves. If anyone understands this point, it should be advertisers.

Advertising and marketing are especially important during times of economic downturn. But in order for advertising agencies to survive a recession, they have to focus on one activity (promoting themselves), which comprises two major parts.

1) It is of the utmost importance that their services produce results. More than ever, people creating advertisements will have creating actual sales for their clients. Those are the only results that truly matter. Today, many agencies measure success by awards they win and recognition they get for clever or entertaining ad spots.

The retail pioneer who created the concept of the department store, John Wanamaker said, “I know half of my advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” And he is widely regarded as an advertising genius!

Wasting advertising dollars is no longer acceptable. Clients want to be certain that the ad campaigns are working. If they can’t measure the return on their investment, why shouldn’t they cut ad budgets? Intelligent business leaders will not continue throwing hard-earned (and hard to come by) money down the drain. Measurable, or scientific, advertising methods are designed to show how profitable a series of advertisements are. Claude Hopkins, one of the fathers of modern advertising, wrote a classic book on this very subject, titled Scientific Advertising.

2) If advertising agencies want to survive in this type of economy, their self-promotion will have to educate both current and prospective clients on how they will help THEM through the recession.

Marketers that have proven their ability to increase sales and revenue for their clients for should announce that fact to the world. What better way to run a thriving business than to help others succeed? In an environment of fear, the assurance of proven results will help generate influx of customers.

Advertising agencies that follow these steps should be experiencing the opposite of a recession. The opportunity to explode your business is upon you!

 

 

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