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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