Whether you are writing your own marketing copy or hiring a professional copywriter, knowing what makes for effective marketing copy will improve your end results. Follow these steps to create effective copywriting.
Step 1 – Clearly define the goal
Your copy cannot be effective unless you know the goal that you are hoping to achieve. The way that you write will differ depending on if you are trying to increase your brand awareness, create leads, or sell more products or services. Effective copywriting will be the copy that best achieves that goal. If you try to accomplish multiple goals with one piece of copy, it will not accomplish either goal as well as copy that is geared toward accomplishing only a single goal.
Step 2 – Clearly define the medium
There are different methods for writing effective copy depending on the medium in which that copy will be consumed. How you write a brochure is different from how you write a web page which is different from how you write a direct mail package. Therefore, you need to know how your copy is going to be used. You can create marketing campaigns that are used in multiple mediums, or you can use pieces of a master campaign depending on which are most appropriate for that medium. Specifically for Internet marketing, you would write a squeeze page differently from an email, which would be different from a blog, which would be different from a Twitter tweet or a Pinterest pin.
Step 3 – Understand your product and competition
Before you start writing, you need to understand what features and benefits of your product or service, or elements of your brand, you are going to base your marketing campaign upon. Some of the things to consider are what benefits you have that your competitors do not, and what the major concerns or problems of your customers are and how you can help them solve those concerns or problems. Consider what keywords someone trying to solve that problem or concern might search for.
Step 4 – Understand your customer
The final thing to know before you start writing is the customer that you are aiming your marketing at. This will determine everything from what language you use, to the tone of your piece, to the analogies that illustrate your point. Some of the things to consider are age, marital status, sex, and other demographic information. However, you also should consider what activities your customers participate in, and what hobbies they pursue. By slanting the writing toward a specific customer, you will be able to use your words and images to first capture their attention, then to effectively accomplish your goal that you defined in step 1.
There is a belief stated as dogma by many in the Internet marketing business that sales letters should never be any longer than one page. Another belief stated as dogma is that sales letters that are longer than 4 pages sell more than shorter sales letters, with 6 page letters selling more than 4 page letters, and 8 page letters selling more than 6 page letters. These are both oversimplifications of statements that are valid in some circumstances. Like most things, the actual situation is more complicated.
What is the purpose?
The purpose of your sales letter will dictate the optimum length. You need to give the prospect exactly enough information and emotional motivation to move to the next step, without confusing them with extra information or leaving questions unanswered. Depending on what the next step is, you may need to provide more or less content. If all you want to do is to convince someone to sign up for your free newsletter or download your ebook, your sales letter should be relatively short. Even half a page might be too long, depending on how qualified your traffic is. On the other hand, if you’re taking a cold prospect through all the benefits of your product so that their next step is clicking “Buy Now” you’ll want a sales letter that is long enough to sufficiently motivate the prospect to make a buying decision and answer any possible objections they may have.
When more is less
The main reason to cut down the length of your sales letter is to get rid of things that detract from the prospect moving to the next step. Why might there be too much in your sales letter? The main thing to cut is extra information that does not answer questions in the prospect’s mind or serve to inspire movement towards a purchase. That only adds to potential confusion. Other things to cut are things that you may find fascinating, such as historical titbits about your business, that hold no interest to your prospects. Trim any of these excesses out of your sales letter.
When less is less
Why might your sales letter be too brief, and need to be longer? If your copy has been trimmed to the point where the prospect no longer finds it involving, it is too short. Similarly, if you only talk about your product and left out how it will benefit the prospect, you need to add more copy. You want to be certain that your sales letter engages your prospect’s emotions, and makes them really want to take the next step, whatever that step may be.
Writing marketing copy for your website is different from writing a highly targeted sales letter, or from chatting about your subject matter on your blog. Marketing copy lets people know why they’d want to buy something from you, without trying to push it on them. The following secrets of successful copywriting will help you to improve the marketing copy you write.
Secret #1: Don’t be grammatically correct
Did you ever hear the comment attributed to Churchill in reply to a complaint that he ended sentences with prepositions? He said that arbitrary rule of grammar was “nonsense up with which I will not put”. The goal of good copywriting is to communicate emotion and ideas, not please your composition teacher with your mastery of English sentence structure. Use sentence fragments. End sentences with prepositions. Do whatever it takes to convey your emotion and ideas most effectively.
Secret #2: Use generally accepted words
A website selling “pants” in the United States would be offering something different from a website selling “pants” in England. In some locations “purse” refers to a woman’s handbag, while in some locations it refers to the container for holding money inside the handbag. Especially with Internet marketing, it is important to know which words are generally accepted throughout the English speaking world, and which have specific local meanings.
Secret #3: Appeal to broad audiences
Study the work of widely successful authors who sell far more copies of their books than average for their genre, such as Stephen King (horror), Isaac Asimov (science fiction), Nora Roberts (romance), or Ken Follett (historical fiction). The reason these stories sell so many more copies than other stories in those genres is that these authors have figured out a way to make their writing accessible to people outside of the narrow genre in which they write. You need to do the same thing for your copy, so that the broadest segment of the market will resonate to the story you tell about your product.
Secret #4: Don’t exploit bad news
Avoid taking advantage of any news-making tragedy or calamity to boost your website’s visibility or sales. That doesn’t mean you should avoid discussing events in the news. There are many valid ways to introduce recent events in your blog, which can then point to your marketing copy. That is much less offensive than appearing to capitalise on other people’s pain and suffering for your own profit. In the long run, it will also be a far more effective marketing strategy.
Secret #5: Talk to an individual
Phrase all of your marketing copy in the second person (“you”) to make it more immediate and better connect to your readers. Write as if you are speaking to one person. Speak conversationally, but without resorting to cliché or hyperbole.
Businesses create landing pages for three basic reasons, all of which work together. The first is to guide someone along a predefined sales funnel, the second is to capture leads, and the third is to actually sell something. If the landing page directs the person along the sales funnel rapidly, there is no need to capture their lead information, because they will have already become a customer, and you will have sold them something. Since most sales require time for the customer to become comfortable with each stage of the sales funnel before moving to the next, capturing their lead information ensures that they remain in the sales funnel.
Use many individualised landing pages
One best practice is to keep each landing page tightly focused on exactly the information the visitor needs at that moment, and the call to action to take them to the next step in the sales funnel. This one practice alone can increase your conversion rate by 55%.
Use qualified lead capture forms
Another best practice that is similar to using highly specific landing pages is to use highly specific contact forms. You should create a distinct contact form for every offer you are making, reassuring the visitor that they are getting exactly the ebook, downloadable report, or other offer that they thought they were getting. It will increase your conversion rate, and also qualify your leads. Avoid the worst practice of sending all of your lead generation traffic to a single, generic “contact us” form. Also, avoid asking for too much information on the form, since each additional piece of information requested will negatively impact your conversion rate. Only ask for what you need to qualify the lead.
Use informative headlines
Your website visitor should be able to determine exactly what action you want them to take, and what the benefit of taking that action will be, just from reading your landing page headline. Use the standard best practices of headline writing to craft a concise message laden with benefits and inspiring action. Place your first call to action where it can be easily seen and acted upon after reading the headline alone, such as in a column to the right of the main content of your landing page. If your headline is informative enough, the visitor may not need to read any more to know they want to take action.
Use insightful images
The brain processes images some 60,000 times faster than it processes words. If your landing page is offering a free ebook, use an image of the ebook. If you are making a different offer that does not lend itself to an image, use an image that conveys the benefit of the offer. A generic image of a smiling business person or medical professional looks pretty. It does not visually tell the visitor anything about your offer.
When creating a sales letter, whether it’s one that you plan to email to people, send as an auto-response when people contact you, or use as a web sales page, there are specific things that you can do to make your letter more impactful. Don’t think of it as a “sales” letter, where you are trying to sell someone something. Instead, think of it as a way of connecting your potential customers with the wonderful product or service that they already want, but just don’t know about yet. People don’t like being sold, but they love being able to buy what they want.
What does your audience want or fear?
Unless you’re a mega-brand such as Coca-Cola, you won’t be trying to appeal to everyone. Instead, you’ll choose a specific audience to write for. Your audience determines your language and style. But more than that, it determines the core offering of your sales letter. That audience will have certain things that they fear, and certain things that they want. By crafting your sales letter to show them how your product or service can prevent or do away with the things they fear, and get them more of the things they want, you’ll be better able to appeal to them.
Find the emotion
People do not respond to the facts and figures about your product or service. Instead, they will respond to the emotion in your sales letter. Tell a good story, with plenty of vivid details, that allows them to imagine themselves benefiting from your product or service. Once you have helped them to experience what it will be like to have the thing they want, or be rid of the thing they fear, they’ll be sold in their hearts. Then, you can offer the facts and figures to allow them to justify to themselves why buying your product or service is the smart thing to do.
Don’t settle for the easy answer
When trying to specify the things that your audience want and fear, don’t settle for the simple answer. For example, if your product can help someone to make more money, don’t tell them that if they want more money, you can help them. Money is not a core need. Instead, figure out what your audience wants the money for. Do they equate money with safety, and being able to provide food and shelter for their family? Do they equate money with the freedom to follow their dreams and do something significant, or freedom to travel the world and experience the full variety of things different cultures can offer? Safety, significance, and variety are all core needs, as are the needs for intellectual, spiritual, and emotional growth, to love and be loved, and to give back.
When you’re trying to move a product or service, the purpose of marketing is to capture attention and steer the prospect towards a buying decision. Think of it more as a seduction than a sale, and you’ve got the right attitude.
That’s nice in theory, but how do you seduce prospects in a way that’s professional and effective? It depends largely on the nature of what you’re offering. Some offerings are more widely available and it is necessary to be louder or more dramatic to stand out from the crowd. Others are more technical, requiring a process of education and many steps from initial interest to closing the business. You wouldn’t sell a bushel of wheat the same way you’d sell a computer, for example. Likewise, you wouldn’t sell a one-of-a-kind custom set of machined parts the same way you’d sell a standard yet complex printer, because the fact of customisation means there’s more education and interaction from interest to sale.
Exciting Internet marketing
In Internet marketing, most offerings are designed to be standardised rather than customised. This is not a rule but a rule of thumb. The reason is that the economies of scale and efficiencies of Internet marketing really come into play when an offering is repeated in large volume with no variation, and especially when that offering is an information product rather than a physical one. In such cases, profit margins can be astronomical.
This is all well and good, but the flip side of this is that the less tangible the offering the harder it is to make the offering seem real and valuable to the prospect. How do you compensate for this?
If you’ve paid attention to the solicitations you’ve no doubt received for Internet-based seminars, you’ll notice a common theme. They all use what’s called “long form” copywriting to seduce you to buy. This approach uses a lot of copy, in which the benefits and the call to action (AKA request for an order) are repeated in different ways. Throughout the copy, one has the chance to click and commence an ordering process. Read the copy closely, and you’ll notice an interesting fact. It’s laden with language that stimulates images of things wanted or unwanted, and words that when spoken in one’s mind do the same thing. This is deliberate: the writer is using the senses of sight and sound, which are the most stimulating and exciting to most of us, to generate emotional responses.
The Four P’s
There’s a well-known saying in marketing that people buy on emotion and justify with logic. Keep this in mind when marketing your offering on the Internet, and you’ll do well. You should also remember the famous “four P’s”: Picture, Promise, Proof, and Push. Picture is the image you create of something wanted (greed) or something unwanted (fear). Either can motivate a person to take action. The promise is of something to be delivered that addresses the fear or greed. The proof helps that logical justification process along, and the push is the call to action.
It’s not complex, but it is good marketing. Use it.
There are many theories as to what makes for good advertising copy, and what makes for bad advertising copy, often in direct opposition to each other. However, the core of copywriting is straightforward. The copywriter aims to convey to the reader information about a company, product, or service, with the goal of inspiring the reader to take some action.
Identify the reader
As you can see from that description, the copywriter is not creating copy in a vacuum. The copy is being directed toward a specific reader. The more you know about the reader, the better you are able to create effective copy.
Start by identifying your reader’s general demographics. You’ll use different words and images to appeal to college professor than to a high-school dropout. You’ll choose different analogies for a world-traveller versus someone who has only left their home town to attend a championship match of the local football club.
Determine what hobbies and interests your reader is likely to have. This will also help you identify appropriate analogies and word pictures. Which image would your readers better respond to: all the instruments in a symphony playing in harmony; many varieties of flowers growing together to form a beautiful garden; or all of the players on a team working together to achieve victory?
Target your swipe files
Swipe files are excellent short cuts of words, phrases, and ideas that have worked well in the past to achieve desirable results. You can create your own swipe files from your previous work, or from acknowledged successful work written by others. There are even companies that will sell you swipe files.
The trick with using swipe files, however, is that those particular words, phrases, and ideas were successful with a specific reader. Something that works wonderfully for one campaign and is used again and again with great success may prove to be a complete flop in a different campaign.
The more specific you can be about the circumstances in which a particular word, phrase, or idea was successful, the more likely you are to be able to repeat that success. When targeting your swipe files, consider what medium they appeared in, what their target demographic was, and whether they were used in stand-alone copy, as part of a series of emails, or on a landing page.
The simple test
The simple test for your copy is this: does the copy adequately and accurately convey your chosen information to your targeted reader, and does it inspire that reader to take your preferred action? If it fails to do either or both of those things, it may be the most brilliant writing in the world, but it isn’t good advertising copy.
Sales Letters are common to both internet and offline marketing, but they take on a greater importance for internet marketing when they are placed on your landing page. Whatever tricks you used to steer traffic to your landing page, it’s the strength of your sales letter that will convert that traffic into sales.
What’s In It For Me?
The first thing your prospect will see on your landing page is your headline. This eye-catching text needs to state up front what benefit they will obtain by reading through the sales letter and purchasing whatever it is you are selling to them. Four out of every five visitors will stop reading after the headline, so anything you can do to improve the headline has a dramatic effect on your overall conversion.
Laser Sharp Focus
If you try to make your sales letter appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one. Determine exactly who your ideal customer is, and target the sales letter to them. Identify who your product is for in your copy, and do it in such a way that they can recognize themselves. Make sure you know what the problems are that your ideal customers suffer from, and then highlight how your product solves those problems in your copy.
Tell Them Who You Are
It’s likely that this is the first time your potential customer is interacting with your brand. You need to make sure that you present yourself and your company in your sales letter so that they form the opinion of you that you want them to form. If you don’t tell them who you are, they’ll fill in the gaps with guesses and generalizations from their experience – and those generalities could be things such as Internet marketers being hucksters who will sell anything without knowing or caring about the product.
Make An Amazing Offer
People are used to getting “but wait, there’s more!” in sales pitches. If you don’t have a bonus of some kind, or have a weak bonus, they will not feel as compelled to purchase as if you have an amazing, time-sensitive or limited quantity bonus. Other bonuses that make customers feel like they’re getting something special are free downloads that they can use while they’re waiting for the product to reach them, or a customer forum they can join immediately upon purchase.
Stay Customer Oriented
Too often, businesses start out strong in their sales letters with a captivating headline, and finish strong with an amazing offer, but something goes wrong in between. They lose sight of the customer, and start talking about how much effort the company put into building the product, or what inspired the various functions included in it. If your copy is not directly related to either telling the customer how the product can meet their need, or offering a testimonial of how a similar customer solved a similar need with the product, that copy doesn’t belong in your sales letter.
Before I sign off, here are some more articles on writing sales copy that you might be interested in:
I write a lot on this blog about generating leads and increasing your visibility. These are essential business practices, and the true path to business success. However, generating leads is easier said than done. One excellent way to turn site visitors into leads and potential clients is by making them an offer – giving them something of value in exchange for them taking one step towards a purchase. However, there is a right way to go about doing this, and several wrong ways.
What Is an Offer?
As mentioned above, an offer is something that you provide to your customers at no monetary cost to them. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t get anything of value. Typically, offers are provided in exchange for an email address, which allows you to open a direct line of communication with a site visitor.
When you’re designing an offer, you have a wide variety of options to choose from, and what your offers look like will ultimately depend on your industry niche and your personal tastes. Some types of offers that I’ve had the most success with in the past include podcasts and webinars, how-to guides, and ebooks. However, that for my particular industry. You may find that in your industry a free demo or a product trial is more appropriate.
This is a good time to offer a few words of warning about what you shouldn’t consider an offer. Product and company materials, contact information, and customer testimonials and case studies are not offers. They are materials that should be on your website, but they should be freely available for everyone to see. They do more to benefit you that way, and your customers will not be very likely to give you their valuable email address in exchange for something that they consider worthless.
How to Use Offers Effectively
There are two keys to the effective use of offers. First, you need to target the right people with differentiated offers, and you need to promote your offers adequately and effectively. That sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t.
To target the right people, you should begin by creating several offers – several pieces of material – and offering them to the people who you think can benefit most from each one. This means creating different offers for people at different points in the sales process, and with different buying patterns.
Promoting your offers effectively is mostly a matter of intelligent website design, and knowing where to position your offers in regards to the content that is already on your site. For instance, if you’re offering a free ebook on SEO, you would want to promote it to readers of the articles on your blog that deal with improving a site’s search engine ranking.
Remember, a customer’s email address is a valuable thing – treat it as such. Give them something of value in exchange for the ability to communicate directly with them when you want to. You’ll be happier, they’ll be much more satisfied, and your business will be much more profitable as a result.
Adding a takeaway is important when writing your sales letter. A takeaway is anything that makes your product/service scarce. And most people want what they cannot have, so adding scarcity or takeways can increase your sales when using them ethically.
Here are 4 takeaway ideas for your next sales letter:
1) Limited Quantity
This is the easiest and most used. Essentially, you limit the amount of product/service so people have to hurry to purchase.
It is best if you give a reason for the limited quantity. For example, if you are selling seminar seats you can say you are limiting participants to 100 people because that’s all the seminar room will hold.
You can test lowering the price by a certain time. And when the time passes, you can tell people you are raising the price. This is best if you have a one-time offer or are planning on raising the price of your product.
3) Unknown Availability
This is perfect for a hard-to-get product or service. You can say you’re not sure if quantities will last…or if a service will be available at that price for very long. This uncertainty can work in your favor and get you more sales.
4) Test Price
This is where you explain what the product is worth, and then go into the fact that you are offering a test price for a limited time. Explain why the lower test price is being offered And then tell them that when the test is over the price will be raised to the higher level.
It is very important that you use takeaways ethically. If you are going to limit quantity you should really do it. You can lose the respect of your customers if you say you’re going to sell 100 widgets but keep selling more afterwards.