I have already written a number of posts to this blog about freelance copywriter secrets that extol the benefits of constructing a story structure around client testimonials. Dry quotes seldom have the force of stories that tell how bad things were before the client discovered your services and how great things are now that they have done business with you.
So it's more than a little humbling to find this article by Richard Stooker that says the same thing I have been trying to say, but he says it so much better than any of my efforts.
Please read this very succinct but powerful article and find out how to transform your clients' testimonials into emotionally charged stories.
How to Sell More Through Marrying the Power of Testimonials to "Once Upon a Time" by Richard Stooker
Most marketers understand the power of testimonials. What too many don't realize is that telling an extended testimonial as a story ramps up their power.
All of us hunger for stories. We love to follow along as likable people solve interesting problems. We love satisfying conclusions (maybe because they're so few and far between in our real lives!).
All too often marketers content themselves with typical lame testimonials such as: "Loved your weightloss product, it's great."
Better marketers include benefits and specifics: "I lost 83 pounds in 11 months, without dieting or exercising."
Great marketers understand that their prospect really craves the story behind the testimonial.
"I was so overweight my husband and kids laughed at me. I weighed 385 pounds. I was ashamed to leave my house. But the more miserable I felt, the more high calorie I wanted to eat. Then one day I got your letter in the mail and decided I didn't have anything left to lose.
"When the package arrived in the mail, my fingers were so fat I could barely open the little cap on the bottle, but finally I popped it off and took my first few capsules.
"Frankly, nothing happened the first few days. I might have stopped, except your directions warned me not to expect instant miracles. The second week, I noticed that my clothes weren't as tight."
. . . and so on.
Don't you start to feel happy for her? She had a problem, she found a solution (your product) and therefore is now on the road to a healthy body weight.
Suddenly your prospect can start to think that she can lose weight too. She's probably no worse off than the woman in the testimonial.
Now she can start to believe that she can lose weight without dieting or exercising too.
So customer success case studies help dissolve what's often the biggest unstated prospect objection to any problem: "It wouldn't work for me."
Sometimes this is a deep psychological defect on their part. Sometimes they just really believe that ordinary testimonials are written by people who aren't like them, that somehow the deck was "stacked" in favor of the testimonial writer. (And sometimes they're right.)
But when you give them plenty of personal detail, document efforts and mistakes and eventual triumph over real obstacles, you help them visualize a solution to their own problems.
Case studies are often used in business to business marketing, especially in the high tech industry, to verify that a company can solve another company's problems.
The truth is, every company that sells a worthwhile product should use these extended testimonials or case histories to sell their products -- to businesses and consumers.
c. 2006 by Richard Stooker
Start taking advantage of the power of case studies in your
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Richard_Stooker
freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer
There is one, simple copywriting technique that if you are not using, you are throwing away at least 50% of your potential sales.
Not only are you blowing half of your potential sales, but if even one of your competitors is using this copywriting technique, he is robbing you blind. He is using this method to take money right out of your pocket, steal some of your best customers and could be putting you out of business before you wake up and correct what you are doing wrong.
What copywriting technique could be this important? Go back and re-read the previous two paragraphs, because I was justing using this tactic it on you. It is the fear of loss, which is easily 100 times more persuasive than the opportunity for gain as a selling tool.
Tell your readers what it will cost them, what they will lose, what they already have been losing and what the future cost will be if they turn down your offer.
Everything you sell has consequences if you say "no." Look at what it costs people NOT to have what you offer, and shout it from the rooftops.
If you sell a car safety device such as tires that get extra traction in bad weather or a child’s car seat, sell death, injury and tragedy. You can do this without resorting to "hard sell" tactics, look at how Mercedes and Volvo show crash test dummies getting smashed to bits in auto accidents involving their competitors' vehicles. Their ads come across as informative and as a public service message, rather than hard sell.
How can you craft a message based upon the losses people will incur if they turn your offer down?
If you sell a water filter, you might say, "Every time you drink out of your tap, you are filling your body with dirt, toxins and deadly chemicals that, over time, build up in your system, weaken your immune system and cause your organs to breakdown."
If you are a bankruptcy attorney, your copy might read, "stop creditors from seizing your house, your car and your assets!"
If you sell financial planning services, your message might be along these lines, "Failure to plan for your own future will leave you dependent on the government and family, will rob you of the travel and fun you had hoped for, will prevent you from receiving the best medical care available and will leave you with nothing to do in your retirement but watch Oprah every afternoon."
If you sell a weight loss system, you could say, "Every diet you have ever been on has left you fatter, demoralized and convinced you will never look attractive again. Each diet does nothing but make you miserable and convinced you lack the willpower to be fit and healthy. But there is a better way."
Clearly you might not want to be this negative all the way through your copy. It will come across as hard sell. But a negative message should be a part of every copy you write. If you sell something worthwhile, it will offer a benefit if someone buys it, but it will also have a cost if they don't. If you leave out the negative consequences of not accepting your offer, you have failed both your customers, and yourself.
freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.
Yesterday I wrote about the differences between advertisements that made a concrete offer vs. those ads that simply attempt to enhance the advertiser’s brand or image. I referred to Zig Ziglar, who describes a salesperson who never attempts to close the deal as a “professional visitor” rather than a “professional salesperson.”
Unfortunately, much of the copy written by many copywriters falls into the “professional visitor” category.
An ad that makes no offer to the reader, makes no call to action, or no inducement to do something, is the written equivalent of a professional visitor. Such ads are simply a waste of lots and lots of money.
So how should a copywriter make an offer? An offer is a benefit tied to an action. The benefit is what you will give the client if they will take a specific action. The action required can be to buy something, but you can also set a lower threshold and simply require that they send in a coupon for a free information product or a free gift that relates in some way to the services you offer.
The problems with brand and image advertising are numerous. First, the most likely response to such an ad is for the reader to put it down and say, “Wow, if I ever need these guys, now I know where they are.” The only way the advertiser is going to get business from this person is if she someday needs that product or service and can some how remember who it was that put out the advertisement she saw months or years ago.
But image ads get even worse. Many of these advertisers imply some vague action to be done by the reader, such as, “contact us if you have any questions.” To this, the reader says, “OK if I ever have any questions, I’ll be sure to give you a call.”
An offer, on the other hand, promises a concrete benefit for a concrete act. “Fill in your email address and you will get a free ebook.” “Call our office and we will send a free booklet.” “Attend our free seminar and we will give you a free meal and teach you how to safely invest for retirement.”
The tragedy of brand and image advertising is that you can do both, make an offer and enhance your image. Look at some of the ads put out by the major financial or brokerage firms. I just recently saw an ad by Morgan Stanley that offered a free analysts’ report on the economic outlook for the next business cycle. Such an ad clearly heightened their image as knowledgeable investment advisors, while also offering a benefit (the free report) in exchange for the reader taking action (sending in the coupon requesting the report).
I can’t think of any business that couldn’t make a similar offer. Not only would such an ad enhance your business’ brand image, you would also gather leads of potential clients and build a database from which you could send out future mailings of interest to that group of people.
Remember, the most profitable advertisers are not “professional visitors,” even on paper. Always be a “professional salesperson” and you will see immediate and significant increases in your profitability.
How long would you keep a highly-paid salesperson on your payroll that never attempted to close any deal? Not for long, I would imagine.
So why do most of you keep running ad after ad that doesn’t attempt to close the deal? For many businesses, their advertising costs far more than any one salesperson. But they do not hold their advertising to the same level of accountability as their salespeople.
Look through your local Yellow Pages. Unless you live in a city that is an oasis of advertising enlightenment, you will hard pressed to find even 1% of the ads that actually make an offer. Same with your local newspaper…no offers. Magazines? No offers there either.
An offer is nothing more than a call to action. A reason for the reader to act now. An offer can be for an information kit, a free sample, a coupon, a buy-one-get-one-free deal, or anything else that prompts the reader to do anything but put the ad down and think, “Well if I ever need those people, now I know where to find them.”
The advertising field is divided into two camps. The Brand and Image Camp, and the Direct Response Camp. Personally, I tend to think of the Brand and Image people as the “We Have More Money Than Intelligence” Camp.
Why would anyone spend money on any ad that does not give the reader a reason to act right now?
Go back to the example of the salesperson who can’t bring himself to even try to close. Zig Zigler calls these people” professional visitors” rather than “professional salespeople.” Brand and Image ads are the “professional visitors” of advertising. They may win awards, but they don’t encourage people to take action.
Just making the switch from Brand and Image advertising to Direct Response advertising, will result in immediate and dramatic increases to your business’ profitability. I guarantee it.
freelance copywriter, ghost writer, white papers, copywriting tips
As a freelance copywriter, I naturally assume my readers will patiently hang onto every word I pen, lingering now and then to ponder what great mind authored such magnificent prose?
Unfortunately, we all would be better off assuming our readers will only take a quick scan over our copy, lasting no more than 3 seconds. Only if that quick glance reveals something that might possibly be interesting (to the reader, not to us) will the reader devote more than 3 seconds.
So how do we write copy that passes that 3 second test?
- Use numerous sub-headlines. Subheadings do two wonderful things that attract attention even if the reader is scanning over our copy. They break the material into small sections and (if well written) grab the reader’s interest with something that attracts her self interest. If the subheading works, the reader will be pulled into that small portion of the copy. Then if your writing in that small section delivers the goods, she may read your entire copy.
- Underline or make important information bold. Underlined and bold phrases makes this information jump right off the page. Don’t overdo this technique, and be slective to only key phrases, or this technique will lose its effect. The rule here is to assume the reader only reads the bold or underlined words. If that happens, she must still be able to understand your basic offer and know what the key benefits to the offer are.
- Make the headline count. Don’t be cute, coy or creative. Announce something that tugs at the reader’s self interest. The job of the headline is to persuade the reader to read the first sentence of the first paragraph. And that first sentence’s job is to persuade the reader to read the entire paragraph, and so on.
- Bullet points or numbered lists. Lists draw the eye because readers like to read packaged information in “bite sized” portions. Readers also like lists because they get right to the point and they feel you are communicating the essentials of your message without a lot of fluff.
- Put some information in small boxes. Like sidebars in magazine articles, these boxes pull the eye to small sections of information. Make these boxes contain stand alone messages and examples. You can use boxes for proof, testimonials or to contain intriguing examples.
It’s always a safe bet to assume that your readers will only scan over your copy. Readers are busy and pulled from many different directions. Only if they see something in that quick scan that appeals to their self interest will they read any more.
If you never assume you have any more than 3 seconds to capture that interest, you will write your copy with scanning in mind. After all, you can do a lot in those 3 seconds.
freelance copywriter, ghost writer, writing web content, copywriting tips
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.
I am totally hooked on "24." But it gets worse because 24 was merely a "gateway" show that soon led me to become addicted to "Lost." And now, every Monday night, I tell the family to leave me alone so I can watch "Heroes."
Do you know what all of these TV shows have in common? Cliffhangers.
It is not enough that these shows end each week leaving their likeable characters in peril or wrestling with a puzzle that must be solved in order to save the world, Cliffhangers abound throughout the show. There are cliffhangers just before commercial breaks and even more just before the story line switches to another character. These writers are positively sadistic in the ways they find to leave the viewer hanging.
And now, during 24's season break, I am left to wonder what will happen to Jack Bauer for months until the next season starts in January.
The lesson for freelance copywriters here is that you can greatly improve your ad copy, web content or sales letters by writing your own cliffhangers.
I know one copywriter who writes long sales letters, often running 10 or more pages long. So, to keep readers flipping the pages, he puts cliffhanger sentences at the bottom of each page. They will say things like:
Find out how Howard B. of Florida make $16,000 in one month using this system. See the next page for details."
You can write your own cliffhangers to keep your potential customers reading. Just remember:
- When you raise an question, don’t give the reader the answer it on the same page,
- As soon as you answer one question, raise another.
With a little practice, you can have readers hooked on your copy, just like I am on "Heroes." They will hang onto your words and foloow you from one cliffhanger to the next.
As you write, just think of Jack Bauer. In less than 20 minutes, a nuclear bomb is going to go off in the middle of Los Angeles. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people will die unless he can find the bomb and disarm it in time. In the meantime, Jack’s daughter is missing and presumed to be in the hands of a deranged killer.
Jack has only one choice. He must …
freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.
If you are old like me, you probably remember the Ginsu Knives commercials that came out in the 1970s and changed television advertising forever. They were funny, kitschy and a had a tongue-in-cheek tone that made them fodder for late night comedians.
Some of the phrases from these commercials were quickly adopted as part of our cultural language. Phrases like, “but wait, there’s more,” or “now what would you pay?” were inserted into everyday conversations by average (but not too bright) people.
One of the reasons these knives sold like, well... hotcakes, was the way the sellers kept throwing in more and more add ons for no extra cost.
Every time viewers thought we had seen the entire offer, the announcer would say, “but wait, there’s more.” Then a new freebie was tossed into the package.
Legend has it that the creators of the commercials were looking for an additional kitchen gadget to to add in a premium, and heard about a little gizmo that made decorative peelings out of apple and potato skins. By itself, this little peeler was so inconsequential it would have been very difficult to promote. But as a freebie, it was perfect. It could be visually demonstrated and only cost the sellers about 50 cents.
But the genius of thee commercials was how they introduced the add ons. Instead of just throwing in one new freebie after another, there was a “wrap up” each time a new add on was announced.
The announcer would summarize the entire offer as it stood so far. The voice would go back over each product, the benefits of each product and then the add on products and their benefits. After this, the voice would say, “Now what would you pay?” At this point a few possible prices, which curiously were all higher than the actual price the Ginsu folks were charging, would flash on the screen just to suggest that this was the range the viewer should be thinking of. Then when the actual price was announced as being below those suggested prices (surprise) it made the actual price seem very small.
And then, once the viewer began to assume the offer was complete, the announcer would say, “but wait, there’s more…” and throw in another freebie. The effect of throwing in all these add ons was to make the price seem ridiculously small when compared to the value received.
Now remember that each freebie cost the seller very little, but to the customer, they represented a significant value.
Can you do the same thing with what you sell? What if you threw in a free booklet, a free CD or some other add on that related to your primary offer?
Selling is all about creating a favorable return on investment (ROI) for the buyer. When all your freebies increase the value side of the offer, the price side seems to very small in comparison to what is received.
By the time a viewer had seen all that came with their Ginsu Knives for such a “low” price, they almost felt guilty for taking advantage of these dolts who were offering so much for so little.
Your aim, no matter what you are selling, is to work the ROI by increasing value every chance you can. To do this, you have to come up with your own version of, “but wait, there’s more.”
freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer
One of the biggest mistakes a freelance writer can make when writing a website’s content is an unfocused goal.
When a visitor happens upon your site, what do you want that person to do? Actually. A more focused goal would be, what do you want your visitor to decide?
The same thing goes for readers who cast their eyes upon your brochure, your advertisement, your sales letter or any other marketing material you create.
What decision do you want to influence your reader to make?
If you have a clear idea of this, you can create copy that steers that reader toward that decision. If you want the person to buy now, or request more information or opt into your subscriber list, or call your toll-free number, you have to make every word you write lead them toward making that decision.
This means you have to demonstrate the benefits they will receive when they make that decision, the consequences of not, and provide all the information they need to feel confident in such a decision.
Do readers always do what you want them to do? Hardly, so for longer copy or a website with many pages, you will need to establish secondary decisions as your objectives.
These secondary objectives are fall back decisions you want them to make. If they don’t chose to buy now, lead them to subscribe to your email newsletter. If they don’t chose to subscribe to your email list, lead them to bookmark your site. These fall back decisions do not require as much of a decision as your primary objective.
With decision-goals in place, your job of writing becomes easier and more focused:
- You know what to leave out and what to put in,
- You know what reasons to provide the reader,
- You know how to heighten awareness of what will happen if they don’t act,
- You can build urgency to act now,
- You can show how alternative decisions can lead to painful results,
- And, you can paint a happy, rosy picture of how much better life will be after the reader makes the right decision.
freelance copywriter, copywriting tips, ghost writer
Some things in business are counter-intuitive. One example is the long sales letter. After decades of research, the results are in, longer sales letters sell better than short sales letters.
We all naturally think brevity is the best way to go, but the numbers don’t lie.
The reason is that if someone is interested in your offer, they naturally want to read more. Questions form in their minds and they want answers to those questions. So as long as your long copy prompts those questions in their minds and promises to deliver answers to them, your chances to sell to those individuals goes up.
Of course this assumes your long copy is well-written.
Go back to what I just said earlier. As long as your long copy 1) prompts the reader to ask questions, and 2) promises to answer those questions, you will sell.
I did NOT say to answer those questions right away. Curiosity is one way to keep your reader in an excited state long enough for you to give your entire sales message.
One effective way I have seen is for copywriters to put phrases like, "Find out how you can ______, on the next page." Or, "Learn how to keep this from happening to you on the next page."
These sales letters refuse to let go of the readers’ interest and actually read like a cliffhanger.
I like to use a technique I call "The Cart Before The Horse Technique." All I have to do is mention a string of benefits or warnings, and promise to reveal the answer shortly.
Here’s an example: "Did you know that there is one food item that can help you lose about a pound or more a week if you eat one with every meal? Did you know this food item also tastes delicious, makes a perfect snack and has so many nutritional benefits that it can add years to your life? What is this wonderful food? It is ………….the apple."
Bet you didn’t know all that about the apple, did you? And I bet you weren’t about to stop reading until you found out what food I was talking about.
Write longer sales letters. Excite your readers’ curiosity and promise to answer their questions shortly. Do all that and you will see your sales climb through the roof.
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.
What happens when you read a sales letter that contains a long list of bullet point benefit statements? What happens to me is all my resistance just crumbles away under this machine-gun fire of reasons why I must buy this service or product.
When a copywriter writes copy that lists one benefit after another in bullet point form, my mind simply cannot come up with objections or reasons not to buy fast enough to keep up with the copywriter.
As a freelance copywriter myself, I can appreciate the kind of work that went into writing this kind of copy. Many writers barely seem to be able to come up with one or two benefit statements, let alone an entire list. So I know this isn’t a writer who just sat down and quickly slapped down some copy.
But writing a long list of benefit statements is not as difficult as it first appears. There are several ways to organize your thoughts in order to write out a long list of benefit statements:
- Write out every possible problem your product or service solves for the customer.
- Write out consequences of not doing business with you or the consequences of delaying action.
- Think of every emotional reward your product or service can give your reader.
- Now also write down the logical rewards your product or service offers.
- List every reason why your reader should do business with you.
- Look at your product or service from your potential customers’ point of view. List their wants. You are brainstorming here, putting yourself into the mindset of your potential clients.
- Write out a list of what they don’t want. Put down on paper every hassle, problem, pain or aggravation you can think of.
- Go back over the last two lists and write out why your clients want or don’t want these things. Probe into reasons and motives. Again, you are brainstorming here. Your goal is to try to understand the emotional benefits behind first level benefits.
- Go back over everything you’ve written and write benefit statements. Use action verbs and paint word pictures. Poke at the painful areas. Discover different ways to state the same benefit as a positive or a negative, what the customer gets and what she avoids. Try to write over a hundred benefit statements if you can. I guarantee nothing you come up with will be wasted.
The simple fact is that the more benefits you roll out, the fewer objections your reader can think of. As they read a long list like this, readers begin to run out of reasons not to do business with you.
copywriter secrets, writing web content, copywriter tips
For many businesses, an annual ad in the Yellow Pages or one of its competitors, can be a huge investment. If the ad works well, it can bring a in steady stream of new customers all year long.
But what if your ad just doesn’t pull in as much business as you need? Worse, what if it doesn’t even break even for you? Many businesses depend on the Yellow Pages for most of their sales for the year, so the risk of an underperforming ad is something to be reckoned with.
Here are a few ideas that should help you maximize this investment and generate the highest possible return throughout the year.
- Test your ad. How do you do this? In the months leading up to the deadline to place your Yellow Page ad, run several small or even classified ads in your local media. Test several headlines, run them against each other to see which one pulls the most. The winner gets to be your standard bearer all year long.
- Use your ad to generate leads by offering a free booklet or some other form of free information. Not only will this pull in a better response than your competitors, it will also build a list of interested prospects for you to send out future mailings.
- If you go the lead generation route, give your booklet an interesting title, like “31 Ways to Save Money on Car Repairs,” (for the auto repair shop). Or “19 Health Care Tips For Your Child” (for a pediatrician). Be sure this title is prominently displayed on your ad and make it the focus of your ad.
- Instead of one large ad that reads like a laundry list of all the services you offer, experiment with several smaller ads offering a single service. Law firms especially put up really boring Yellow Page ads that do little more than list all the specialties they practice. Unless your ad is the biggest, with the brightest colors, and is in the first page of your category, you will have a hard time getting a decent return on your investment for such an ad. But narrowly-targeted smaller ads give you a much better way of catching the eye of a specific group of clients who need a specific service.
- Piggy back on the narrowly-targeted smaller ads by offering more free information related to each specialty. Offering free booklets or newsletters positions you as an expert within your specialty.
- Now here’s my soapbox.. I have called on too many expensive Yellow Page ads only to be met with incompetent or rude people on the other end of the phone. Train your employees how to answer the phone, to return calls promptly and to have intelligent answers once a caller actually responds to your ad.
- Don’t just automatically run the same ad year after year. Your competitors aren’t going to just roll over and play dead. If you run a successful ad this year, you may just find a dozen imitators running very similar ads next year. Find ways to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. Don’t claim to be the biggest, the best or the most experienced. None of that matters to your potential clients. Don’t try to fight it out among the other big fist in the pond, find your own pond and be the only fish in it.
- Write your ad to solve a really vexing problem your reader may be having. To use the law firm ads as an example again, if you specialize in juvenile criminal law, target your ad to the worried parent who has a child in trouble. Make your information piece about “what to do if your teenager is in trouble with the law.” People pick up the Yellow Pages because they have a problem. And they will call the ad that best demonstrates the ability to solve that problem.
- Be a specialist. Specialists make more money than generalists. So, if you can, let your ad show your specialty. But a category is not a specialist. (Using lawyers again) if you specialize in white-collar criminal law, don’t just say you practice criminal law. If you specialize in personal injury involving a reckless commercial vehicle, don’t just say personal injury. If you specialize in contract negotiations, don’t just say you practice business law.
- Your headline is the most important part of your ad. So don’t just run with the first thing that comes to mind. At the risk of repeating myself, test your headlines. Put your strongest benefit front and center in your headline. Address a problem in your headline. Make a promise in your headline. Headlines are too important to leave to chance. After all, do you want to live a whole year with a mistake?
Don't put up your ad blindly. Too many businesses put no thought into their ad, and then have to live with the results for an entire year.
freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.
I don't often reprint other people's articles, but maybe I should. Here is one article that makes an incredibly simple point while it compresses a lot of copywriting wisdom in just a few words. Any freelance copywriter should be able to gain a lot from this advice from Nick Usborne.
The Power of Saying 'You Can,' by Nick Usborne
If you have children, you will doubtless remember saying to them, "You can do it."
It's what we say when our toddlers first struggle to their feet.
It's what we say when they face their first day at school, when they first ride a bicycle, or first swim a full length of a pool.
Children face the challenges of early life with greater confidence when they are supported by the belief and support of their parents.
And it doesn't stop at childhood. We continue to say, "You can do it" when our teens take their driving test, apply for college or dress up for that first job interview.
I recently finished reading John Le Carre's book, The Constant Gardener. He frequently touches on the thought that adults are simply the children they once were, with all their childhood strengths and weaknesses, masquerading in grown-up bodies.
I think he's right. As adults, at home and at work, we still crave the support and belief of those around us - our partner, our colleagues, our bosses.
When faced with a tough career challenge, it's still reassuring to have someone put a hand on our shoulder and say, "You can do it."
With this in mind, consider some of the copy you write on your Web site, and in your emails and newsletter.
Where you now say something like:
At Acme Trust we support local arts through our funding program.
Consider saying this:
Through Acme Trust you can successfully apply for a grant to support local arts.
Where you say:
Acme Business Intelligence software aggregates data from across the enterprise and makes it available to your managers...
Think about this:
With Acme Business Intelligence Software you can provide senior management with reports that are complete and on time.
Or instead of saying:
Acme Newsletter Builder provides dozens of ready-to-use design templates...
With Acme Newsletter Builder you can create professionally-designed newsletters in just a few minutes.
Each of these examples simply shifts the focus from the company to the customer and says, "You can do it".
That's stage one.
When we encourage our young children, we are also there to help and support them. Try the same with the inner children of your customers and prospects.
So stage two is to provide not only your product or service, but also the support to help your customers succeed.
Try adding a line or two like these:
Speak to one of the Acme Trust advisors and find out how to write a successful grant application.
As an Acme Business Intelligence customer, you will be allocated Acme Support Representative.
Not sure how to get started with Acme Newsletter Builder? Ask for help at any time through our Live Chat support service.
If you subscribe to that original premise that we each of us retain many of the fears and insecurities of our childhood, you now have a couple of very simple ways in which to reassure and support your customers and prospects.
Let them know that they CAN do it with your product or service. And remind them that you are right there, with all the support they need, in order to help them succeed.
Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nick_Usborne
Inch for inch, a small ad just might be the best advertising deal around. If done right, a small space or classified ad can bring you profits far exceeding what a larger often produces. Here are some ideas to get more bang for your buck with small ads:
- Use small ads to test headlines and other key elements before you pay for a larger ad. Headlines are funny things, you really never know which one will take off and be your best money maker. Instead, you have to let the people who read your ad “vote” for the headline that appeals to them the most with how they respond. So it makes a lot more sense to test headlines on small ads before you spend money on a larger ad.
- Use small ads to generate leads. Offer a free booklet or some other free information product in your small ad. When the reader gets your information, make sure it contains far more useful information than sales message. But even then you will have much more space to sell than in a full space ad in a publication.
- Of course you should also make use of the leads generated by your small ad. Send these people follow up information. This way, your single small ad enables you to recontact the same interested people over and over again.
- Instead of using a single, large ad to tell about your wide list of services or products, use several small ads to target each niche you cover. For example, the Yellow Page ads of many law firms are little more than laundry lists of the services they provide. A more effective campaign might be to target each specialty with a single small ad. Take this one step further, and the law firms might offer different free information products or white papers on each small ad targeting each specialty.
- Speaking of Yellow Page ads, many businesses make the expensive mistake of putting up a year-long ad without testing. Since the Yellow Pages only come out once a year, it is not feasible to test the ad there. But you can run several small ads in local publications to see which one is most effective and choose the winner as your year-long Yellow Page ad. Running an untested Yellow Page ad is one mistake that can cost you not only in a poor return on investment, it also causes you to go a whole year with a lower sales than you might otherwise have been able to realize.
- If your product has multiple uses or benefits, highlight each use or benefit in separate ads. Don’t count on readers wading through a long list text to get to the single benefit that appeals to them.
- Test, test and then test again. Small ads give you a cost-effective way to compare many different ideas to see which ones pull in the highest response from readers.
- Effective headlines for small ads can be shorter and punchier than larger ads. Try to compress as much meaning as possible in five words or less. Here are some headlines that have worked very well on small ads:
$500 a Week(reprinted from Tested Advertising Methods, 5th Edition, by John Caples)
15 Minutes a Day
Free 48 Page Booklet
Anyone Can Learn
Money Back If Not Delighted
Send No Money
Mrs. E.C. Made $65
Learn In 6 Weeks
- If you are using the small ad to generate leads offering free information, give your booklet or information product a good title and experiment with using that title as your headline (but test, test, test). For example, “101 Ways To Help Your Child Get Better Grades,” or “33 Ways To Unlock The Hidden Job Market.”
It is hard to imagine any marketing plan that cannot be made better with the smart use of small ads. They are cost effective, allow you to more precisely target your intended audience and …..can be tested.
freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.
Could you sell dollar bills for 75 cents each? Of course you could, but it’s not that easy to sell your products or services, is it?
Well maybe it is. Let me introduce you (or more likely, re-introduce you) to Return-On-Investment (ROI) selling. Once you master this approach to your copywriting, everything you sell will be dollar bills at a discount price.
Anyone who has even brushed up against a marketing book understands the importance of selling value, which means to demonstrate how the merits of your produce outweigh the price you are selling it for.
But pardon me if this sounds too fuzzy. I don’t believe this kind of value selling means much to the average person who reads our ads, websites or sales letters.
A much better way has been articulated by Jeffrey J. Fox in his wonderful book, How To Be A Marketing Superstar. In this book, Fox uses the phrase, “dollarize” to give more substance to the whole idea of value.
“Value is only expressed as a number,” urges Fox. “Every benefit for every product can be expressed in the dollars and cents it delivers to the customer. Every benefit for every product can be calculated to show the economic value to the customer.”
Dollarization gives value a number. It is a way of expressing how much a benefit will make or save for a customer. Here’s an example: “This copier will save you 3 cents per page. So if your office makes 5000 copies a week, you will save $150 per week by owning this copier.”
Dollarization can also show the cost of not doing business with you. “Every week you do not own this copier is another $150 you are flushing down the toilet.”
But if you want to sell dollar bills at a discount, you must take dollarization one step further and show its ROI. When you compare a benefit’s economic value to the price you charge, you show the cost as an investment which yields the dollarized benefit.
Or, you can show how small an investment will stop the dollarized bleeding of not doing business with you.
So now you are a very dangerous freelance copywriter. The concepts of dollarization and ROI really do allow you to sell those dollars for cents on the dollar.
freelance copywriter, copywriting tips, writing web content
A freelance copywriter’s job is to persuade. But sometimes the reader already holds the opposite point of view. How then, can the copywriter rebut that opposing opinion and then present a persuasive argument for the exact opposite?
Years before I became a freelance copywriter, I was a lawyer. And lawyers, as you know, have to write briefs and present arguments that rebut and persuade. Here’s a simple technique I used over and over again in every brief I wrote.
It involves three steps. The first step is to fully and fairly acknowledge the opposing view. In this first step, it can almost sound as though you are arguing FOR the other side. But remember, this step must fully and fairly represent the opposite opinion. If you just skim over the other side, it will show.
The key word I use for this first step is “although.” My outline will look like, “Although the plaintiff did at one time patent a design for a widget …”
The second step is where I now bring out my own argument for my own point of view. Because my reader has just seen me fully and fairly acknowledge the other side’s opinion, my own argument now has greater credibility. In fact, most readers are now inclined to lean my way because I wouldn’t (in their minds) have been so open with the opposite argument if I wasn’t absolutely sure I could support my own.
The keyword for this second step is “nevertheless.” Now the argument looks like, “Although ______, nevertheless the plaintiff’s patent does not apply to this particular widget …..”
The last step of this formula is where I bring out all my evidence that rebuts the first point of view and supports my own. Roll out every bit of proof you can find here because this evidence must tip the scales from the other side’s point of view to my own.
The keyword here is “because.” Now it all looks like, “Although _____, nevertheless ____, because the design of this widget is very different from the plaintiff’s patent, and because my client filed her patent before the plaintiff filed his design, and also because United States patent law does not protect designs filed in crayon.”
This is a very powerful persuasion technique because of the inherent fairness of the approach. People already understand that your opposition is not without some merit. Because of this, they tend to give more weight to the side that will meet an opposing argument head on, not misrepresent it and play fair.
Where might you use this technique? Generally it will be used in an analytical type of document like a white paper or a proposal. In these instances, credibility and thorough thinking is essential to persuasion.
freelance copywriter, writing web content, white papers, copywriting tips
Just when I had all but given up on lawyers’ advertising, along comes one attorney who really knows how to get it right.
As a former attorney –turned freelance copywriter, I have always paid special attention to how law firms market themselves. And, with very few exceptions, how badly they do so.
But yesterday, when I opened up a copy of the Fort Worth Business Press, an insert fell out that caught my eye. It was a 5 ½ x 8 ½ postcard written by Clark R. Cowley, who practices intellectual property law for the law firm of Whitaker, Chalk, Swindler & Sawyer, L.L.P. (Whitaker Chalk) in Fort Worth, Texas.
What is so refreshingly unique about Mr. Cowley’s postcard/insert, is that instead of it making a list of claims to be the best, biggest or most experienced (which is what most law firm advertisements do) he actually demonstrates his expertise and knowledge by providing the reader with free information.
The back of the card is sort of a mini-white paper on the topic of legal remedies to Cybersquatting. “Cybersquatting” is the bad faith registration of Internet domain names identical or confusingly similar to another company’s trademark or business name. According to Cowley, “the cybersquatter’s motive is often to hold the domain name hostage in hopes of selling it to the rightful party, or to post unflattering, obscene or scandalous material on that site to diminish the rightful party’s business reputation.”
Cowley then briefly lists four legislative acts or regulations under which the party can seek a legal remedy.
The whole card is brief, demonstrates Mr. Cowley's knowledge and expertise, conveys an image of professionalism, is completely free of puffery, and leaves the reader wanting to learn more.
And what is even more encouraging is this card is one of a series that Whitaker Chalk puts out called “brief legal seminars.”
In a recent article called Freelance Copywriter Secrets: Can White Papers and Image Ads Get Along?, I wrote about how deplorable typical law firm advertising is.
On one hand, you have the ads from personal injury lawyers who want to help you get more money from an insurance company if you’ve been injured in an accident (here in Texas, we have one guy who calls himself the “The Texas Hammer,” need I say more?). On the other extreme, are the ads from firms who are so concerned about maintaining a highly professional image, that their ads literally say nothing at all.
If the other “Brief Legal Seminars” are as well crafted as this one is, I think we can assume Whitaker Chalk is on the right track.
Could this ad be improved? Yes, I would first urge this firm to write a series of full white papers on these same topics, and offer them free to any legitimate inquirer.
In this way, they have a second opportunity to demonstrate their expertise. But even more important, they can build up an opt-in list of people and companies who are interested in these topics.
White papers give a strong boost to any business’ image of professionalism, knowledge and expertise. But they are more than learned discourses on a certain subject. They are also powerful marketing pieces that give the reader compelling reasons to do business with the author.
Michael Stelzner, in his book, Writing White Papers, calls white papers a cross between a magazine article, with its ability to make a technical issue understandable to the non-professional; and a brochure, with a convincing sales message.
Unfortunately, Whitaker Chalk has missed their opportunity to compile a list of opt-in subscribers who want more information. Creating such a list would become enormously valuable as a source of new, qualified clients. As Seth Godin, in his book Permission Marketing points out, these are people who have “raised their hand” to indicate they want to receive this sort of information. An opt-in list also builds loyalty among the subscribers even before they become clients.
But all in all, I would have to rate this little card from Whitaker Chalk as one of the best law firm advertisements I have seen in a very long, long time.
P.S. To any law firms needing someone to write compelling white papers: There are very few copywriters who also have a background as an attorney. If you need a writer who brings both fields of expertise to the table, please call me today at the contact information listed above. Charles Brown
freelance copywriter, white paper writer, writing web content, copywriting tips
freelance copywriter, writing web content, ghost writer
Your web site is too important to fill it with unfocused sales content that convinces no one to buy or make an inquiry. With these 99 ideas, you will learn how to write compelling content that will turn casual visitors into buyers.
- Before you write a single word on you website, start writing out as many answers as you can think of to the question, “This site is for the person who wants _________?” How many answers? Don’t stop at one page. Your best ideas will probably not come until you have written at least 20 answers. Don’t cheat yourself on this exercise, because almost everything else you do will depend on the number and quality of your ideas.
- Now go back over this list and ask “why” your visitors want these things. The “whys” behind your visitors’ wants will be one of your most powerful tools for writing irresistible web content. Again, don’t cheat yourself. Keep writing until you know you have an inside track into the people who visit your site.
- Finding out what your visitors want is vital, but finding out why they want these things reveals their innermost motivations. Target these motivations with your web content. When you write “on point” about what motivates your readers, you will never lose their interest or attention.
- Emotions will outsell logic 10 to 1. When you know your visitors’ “whys,” you know more than what benefits they want, you know what improvements these benefits will bring about in their lives, businesses and lives. By themselves, benefits tend to be merely logical. The ”whys” you unearth point you in the direction of what emotions to appeal to in support of your benefits.
- The appeal is where you get to connect the benefits you offer with what your visitors want. The appeal is the REASON you give a visitor for doing business with you, and it is based on “why” the person wants what she wants. A commonly accepted “short list” of appeals in the field of advertising is: 1) Sex/sex appeal/love/relationships; 2) Greed/ambition; 3) Fear; or 4) Duty/honor/professionalism. ( See Freelance Copywriter Secrets: How to Tap Into Your Readers' Deepest Needs, for a more complete list of appeals). Very often different appeals can be used to promote the same product. Suppose, for example, you are promoting a graduate business school. Such a program could be promoted by appealing to a person’s greed or ambition, but fear could be used in an uncertain job market when job cuts are constantly in the news. And what about love and relationships as an appeal for the person who is motivated to provide for her family? There is also professionalism for the person who wants to be respected in her profession.
- A visitor will come your site to find the answer to a question. Think through the process of how people will find your website. Assuming they find you through a search engine, what search terms did these people type into their inquiry? These are the questions they want answered when they visit your site. Now, does your content answer the questions that brought visitors to you? If not they will feel cheated and leave. And never come back. So make sure your content answers those questions.
- Imagine you are being interviewed by your visitor. Try to anticipate every possible question your visitor could possibly come up with about your company, product, service, guarantees, etc. These questions may be the initial question that brought them to your website, as mentioned in the previous idea, but they can also be questions that occur to them after they start reading your site. This is an exercise to force you to look at your products, services and company through the eyes of an outsider.
- What decisions do you want visitors to make when they read your website? Do you want them to subscribe to your opt in email list? Do you want them to buy your product? Or do you want them to contact you for more information? Plan your entire site, and all of its content, around these decisions you want to direct your visitors toward.
- Make sure your keywords are repeated several times on each page of your site. No matter how persuasively you write web content, if people can’t find your site via search engines, your well-written content is wasted.
- Make sure your contact information is easy to find. Put it on every page so your visitors won’t have to work hard to find you, because believe me, they won’t. Technically, this is more of a design issue than a content writing concern, but it is too important, and too often neglected to ignore.
- Does your site give visitors a REASON to contact you? Don’t fall for the “if you build it they will come” mythology. Your content should make it clear that you can solve a visitor’s problems or help them improve something in his or her life, career, business, relationships, etc. Pack every page with strong benefit statements that show up on your readers’ “what’s in it for me?” radar. Give them strong reasons to contact you. Or they won’t.
- Make your site a Mecca for free information on your topic. Visitors will find your website via search engines because of the information you provide. They will also browse through your site, bookmark it so they can come back, and they will do business with you, all because you provided valuable, useful information.
- Write the majority of your content in the form of list articles. Lists are hugely popular on the web for several reasons. They are condensed information, readers love the brevity they promise, they scan easily allowing a reader to quickly determine if they contain interesting information, and they have a clean look that is attractive to the eye. The pluses for you are they are sometimes easier to write and they make you focus on the “meat” of your information and keep you from babbling on paper.
- Begin most of your list items with strong action verbs, followed by two or three sentences of explanation. When this is not possible, your list items should still contain strong action verbs to convey a sense of forward motion to the visitor.
- Another article format that offers the same benefits as a list article is the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) article consisting of questions and answers. You can make up your own questions or use real questions submitted by actual visitors. Making up the questions need not be tricky as long as you can look at your topic from the point of view of a person who is starting from the beginning.
- Write out every benefit you can think of for your product or service before you write a single sentence. Fill as many full sized pages as you can (only a wimp would stop before one page is filled up, so keep going). Go back to the first exercise in which you developed as many answers as possible to the question, “this site is for the person who wants _______.”
- Did you get stuck before you filled your quota of pages? Then don’t call them “benefits,” call them “solutions” and “opportunities.” “Solutions” or “opportunities” are synonymous with the word “benefits.” So instead of getting stuck in the features vs. benefits loop, it might help you to think of solutions to problems or opportunities to achieve goals, increase business or improve relationships. As long as you understand that a benefit is anything that brings about a desirable change, you should not get stuck.
- Keep adding new content. Nothing will choke off your traffic faster than for your visitors to come to the realization that you have nothing new to offer.
- Write case histories of your success stories about how your product or service helped a client solve a pressing problem. A case history must have a “plot” that is exactly the same as a fictional story. The client (main character) must WANT something, but OBSTACLES stand in the way. After much struggle, a favorable RESOLUTION is reached. The format is the same you might have used if you have written a resume recently. SITUATION, ACTION, RESULT (SAR), but make sure the ACTION phase involves your product or service.
- Testimonials are mini-case histories. When your site can show the visitor glowing testimonials by many of your satisfied customers, your credibility problems vanish. In fact, no matter how good a copywriter you are, nothing you will ever write will be more persuasive than a simple, short bit of praise and thanks from one of the people you have helped. Gather and solicit as many testimonials as you can by initiating contact, follow ups and surveys with your existing customers. When they say something nice about your company, ask if you can use that in one of your ads or on your website.
- How do you get great testimonials from your clients? Listen to the customer feedback, do surveys, make telephone calls or just meet people face to face. If they have good things to say, jot down some notes while they talk. You may need to reword their comments slightly (people ramble, fail to talk in complete sentences or wander off the subject sometimes). But don’t reword their statements to the point that you put words in their mouths. Read back the reworded statement back and ask if that is the gist of what the person said.
- Find as many ways as possible to open up two-way conversations with your visitors. This is why blogs and forums are so useful. The comments your visitors leave on your blog or forum is money in the bank, if you listen. Each insight you gain into what makes your visitors “tick” that you reflect in your written content maintains you grip on their interest and attention.
- How can motivate your visitor to buy NOW? Go back to the first two exercises on this list where you wrote out answers for the questions, “This website is for the person who wants ______?” and “why.” Some of your answers from these lists reflect urgent needs and can be used to prompt a visitor to act now, so be sure to focus on these answers.
- What will the person lose if he fails to act now? What is the cost of delaying? Fear of loss is a much stronger motivator than opportunity to gain. For everything you sell, there is a way to re-slant your offer to include the consequences of a failure to act.
- Other ways to get your visitors to act now might be to create a deadline when the offer ends, or discounts for a fast response. Another method is to offer free premiums for immediate action.
- Always communicate the consequences to the customer of going without your product. Show the cost, damage or loss they incurring right now by going without your product. Few customers knowingly ignore consequences and then deliberately buy an alternative product on the basis of a lower price alone. What is it costing your prospect right now to not be doing business with you each month? What other consequences will occur if she delays taking action right now?
- When appropriate, arouse curiosity by dangling benefits and solutions in front of your readers BEFORE you reveal what it is that actually provides these benefits and solutions. I call this the Cart Before The Horse Technique. Here’s an example:“Did you know that there is a single food item that costs pennies, tastes delicious and will help you shed about a pound a week if you eat three a day? Did you also know that this food is so full of healthy vitamins and nutrients that it can add years to your life? What is this wonderful food? It is the apple, and if you eat one apple with each meal, you will lose weight quickly and effortlessly.”Read more about using curiosity in the previous article Freelance Copywriter Secrets: The Magic Bullet for Powerful Copywriting
- The Cart Before The Horse Technique is an irresistible interest grabber because it combines curiosity with powerful self interest benefits. Curiosity alone will not do the job, the clues you lay out before revealing the subject, must all appeal to your visitor’s self interest.
- Practice writing Cart Before The Horse copy by revealing one benefit after another, but hold back the crucial identifying piece of information until the end. Start with the six words, “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” to write a rough draft. Then decide which of those six elements will arouse the most curiosity and self interest.
- You can also use a string of negatives and warnings just as easily as long as they follow the two rules of the Cart Before The Horse Technique of arousing curiosity and appealing to self interest. Here’s an example:Many companies lose thousands, and possibly millions, each year by making one very easily corrected mistake on their websites. This one mistake insures that their sites will miss out on countless dollars in lost sales, prevents them from ever achieving high levels of traffic and almost guarantees that their visitors will buy from someone else.Notice that once again the warnings still appeal to your visitor’s self interest.
And if all this were not bad enough, the cost to fix this single mistake is ridiculously small, and if corrected, almost always produces an immediate surge in new sales.
What is this mistake? It is the failure to use their sites to capture opt-in subscribers to receive their follow up mail messages.
- It’s OK to recycle and re-slant the same benefit into different variations. For example, look at the same benefit as both a positive and a negative. What will the customer gain if she buys this offering, and what will she lose if she continues on without buying it. Rewording the same benefit in both positive and negative forms will give you different slants to appeal to different customers.
- People buy for one of two reasons, relief from pain (solution to a problem) or to feel good (an opportunity for gain). While either of these two options can and should be dressed up, don’t lose sight of these basic feelings you are appealing to when you write. Relief from painful feelings or the opportunity to gain good feelings should be at the core of all your writing. Benefits must be emotional statements.
- Headlines on the web must do double duty. Whereas the print ad or direct mail piece must have headlines that grab a reader’s interest and pull them into the copy, the online headline must do all that and more. In addition, the online headline must contain searchable keywords so visitors can actually find your site via a search engine. If they never find your website, you can’t sell them. For example, if you will pardon a shameless plug, almost every post I write for my blog, http://dynamiccipywriting.blogspot.com, begins with the words, “Freelance Copywriter Secrets:___” because the keyword I promote is “freelance copywriter.”
- As you experiment with various forms of headlines, write out as many headlines as you can think of before you write the body of your article. Legendary copywriter, Ted Nicholas reportedly writes out 30 or more headlines whenever he writes. None of the headlines you write will be wasted. Your good ones can be used as subheadings or first sentences in your paragraphs. But even if most of your headlines are unusable, this exercise helps you clarify all your thoughts and organize all you know about your visitor and the benefits of your product or service.
- Mail order advertisers have found that subheadings increase the pulling power of their ads. The same applies to your writing web content. Subheadings give you a second shot at the person who is just glancing over your website.
- Another lesson to be learned from the mail order guys is to use as many as three subheadings in the text. Each one can give you additional shots at pulling readers into your content. Follow the same pattern you use for writing the headline itself, each subhead should offer a strong benefit or make an announcement.
- Generating leads can be one of the most important reasons to put up your website, And giving free information on your site will increase the number of leads your site can generate. Studies have shown that the number of inquiries you get from your site increases dramatically if you announce the free offer in your headline. Make the free offer the focus of your content, even more than the selling points of your product.
- Another way to increase the number of leads generated by your site is to give your free information booklet or ebook an attractive title, such as: “New Beauty Tips For The Professional Woman;” “How To Care For Your New Baby;” or “55 Ideas To Get a Six Figure Job.” Provide even more detail with a description of what is inside the free material, such as a table of contents or a summary. Hint: if you are having a problem making the booklet or ebook attractive, it may because your material is too full of sales talk and contains too little useful information.
- Yet another way to increase the number of leads your site generates is to, mention the free offer in the first paragraph, don’t wait until the end and say, “oh by the way.” In other words, the free offer, not even the benefits of your product, is the focal point of your article.
- Increase the selling power of your web content by making your writing easier to read. Three ways to do this is to use short paragraphs, short sentences and short words. But contractions, such as “he’ll” or “can’t,” tire the eye, so use them sparingly.
- A common mistake salespeople make is failing to ask for the sale. This also happens frequently in web content. Urge your visitor to “act now” or “call today.”
- Avoid helping your competitors. Don’t talk about the generic benefits of the type of product or service you sell, talk about the specific benefits of what YOU sell. If you don’t clearly show the differences between you and the competition, your visitor may buy from someone else.
- Decades of testing print headlines have all found that the most effective headlines either announce something new, or an appeal to the reader’s self interest. This has not changed with the web. For example, your headlines can be effective if you say, “Announcing a New Breakthrough in Weight Loss,” or “How a Simple Idea Made Me a Millionaire.” For more information, you should read the article, Freelance Copywriter Secrets:_____.
- Another headline style that always gets attention is when you tell your visitor to delay taking action. People are so inundated with commercial messages that command us to “act now” that a headline telling us to wait really stands out. Here are some examples that illustrate this point: “Do Not Buy Your Next Car Until You’ve Shopped At Bannerman Ford,” or “Read This Before You Buy Your Next Suit.”
- Experiment with giving some of your headlines a news announcement quality. Begin with words like, introducing,” “announcing,” “now,” “new,” or “at last.” Studies have found that announcement headlines pull in just as new business as self-interest headlines.
- Target a specific group with some of your headlines. “To the $100,000 executive who wants to make $250,000;” or “Diabetics! Now There is a Less Painful Way to Test You Blood Sugar.” Not only do these headlines attract the attention of the target group, it offers solutions to problems these people feel acutely.
- Make your offer personal. Although your visitor is the focus of your web content, use personal pronouns like “I” and “you.” Make the content conversational and informal between you and your visitor.
- Asking your visitors questions pulls them into your web content and involves them in the dialogue. Make liberal use of direct questions in your headlines, subheadings and first sentences of your paragraphs.
- One headline that works well with the conversational writing style, is a testimonial style headline in which the speaker relates his or her own personal experience with the product or service being offered. An example might be, “How I lost 30 pounds in 30 days” or “I was going broke, so I started reading the Wall Street Journal.”
- Another headline that works well with a conversational style offer, is a direct question to the visitor from you. Again, using the personal pronouns “I” and “you,” your headline asks a question to the reader, such as: “Do you want to find a six-figure job in 3 months?”
- Add value, don’t discount. In the end, marketers pay a huge cost for offering too many sales and discounts. Adding value typically brings in just as many new customers as a sale, without the loss in revenue. But the best part of adding value is that the cost is usually less to you than the value received is to the customer. For example, a car dealership that gives a free warranty with a new car, pays only a fraction of the price a customer would have to pay if charged full price. To the customer, the warranty may represent a value of $1000, but the dealer’s cost may only be $200.
- Here is another great idea you may want to use on your site: Dan Kennedy, in his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter, has a whole chapter devoted to the concept of, “Create a Damaging Admission and Address Flaws Openly. Every company, service or product has its flaws, so Kennedy advises us to put those weaknesses up front and center stage. Nothing builds your credibility faster than admitting flaws. But please note: These flaws have nothing to do with your strongest selling point. If you are selling a sports car that goes from zero to 100 in 3 seconds, no one will really care that you can only fit one grocery bag in the trunk. This flaw does not detract from the car’s main selling points.
- So many good things happen when you create a damaging admission that Kennedy recommends trying really hard to come up with a negative just so you can admit it. One good thing is that admitting your product’s flaws builds anticipation for the benefits your product the reader knows must be coming. Your visitor knows you didn’t put up your site just to tell its flaws. They will know that after you get through telling all your product’s negatives, there will some really powerful benefits that they won’t want to miss. The fact that you revealed your product’s own negatives lets the spotlight shine even more brightly on your positives.
- But wait, there’s more. Creating a damaging admission also helps you position your product as different from all the rest of your competitors. One of the most successful ad campaigns ever was Avis’ “We Try Harder.” Just by admitting they were not the biggest car rental company, allowed them to position themselves as the company that offered the best service and tried harder.
- One reason your site should give away free products and information is to make use of the Law of Reciprocity. In his book, Influence: Science and Practice, Robert Cialdini explains that reciprocity is the social obligation we feel when someone does something for us. When this happens, we are generally inclined to do something good in return. In his book, Cialdini points to several studies, such as one that found that when waiters and waitresses included a candy or mint with their customer’s bill, their tips were much higher than without the gift. Another study was conducted by a professor who sent out Christmas cards to a list of total strangers. The response he received was nothing short of amazing. Many of the people who had never met him sent him cards in return, without even asking who he was.
- While the Law of Reciprocity is one reason to give away free information and products, another powerful reason is allow potential clients to view a sample of your work. Many a marketer has gotten rich by giving away free reports, free ebooks, free CDs or any number of other free information packages. The reason is quite down to earth, because they bring in new clients or make sales.
- A great Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a must on your website. A USP creates an entirely new category in which you can be the biggest (or better yet, the only) fish in the pond. With a great USP you OWN your own category and no one else can compete against you. You cannot create a USP by claiming to be the “best” or “biggest” of anything, because those adjectives do nothing more than compare you with others in the same category. Create your own category.
- Your USP should make a clear promise that you will deliver a benefit. Your benefit statement should promise to solve a vexing problem or bring about a desired change. If your statement does not make a promise, or if it promises something other than a solution or a change; chances are you are talking about a feature instead of a benefit.
- A USP does not make a “me-too” promise. At the risk of being redundant, you are trying to create your own category, your own pond. The goal here is not to dive into everyone else’s pond and to out muscle the competition. How is your product or service unique? Not “better,” but unique?
- The benefit statement within a USP makes a distinct before vs. after contrast. Does your USP help potential customers to visualize a real change doing business with you can bring about? If the USP does not help your visitor see a clear contrast between where they are now and where your product or service will take them, go back and reexamine the promise your USP makes.
- Your USP should talk about your edge, your advantage over the competition. What can you promise that no one else can do? Or, in the alternative, what is no one else talking about? Domino’s was not the first pizza chain to deliver pizzas quickly, but they were the first to make that their claim to fame.
- Use your USP to reposition your competition. If your candy is the one that melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” then you have created the belief in people’s minds that every one else’s candy melts in your hands. The classic repositioning USP was the 1970s campaign by 7up that they were the “Uncola.” If you are still having trouble formulating your USP, think about how you want to position your competitors.
- Beware of making this all-to-common mistake on your website: Read through any stack of magazines you will quickly find many examples of ads that inform of such things as “our people make the difference,” or “little details make all the difference,” feel the difference,” or even, “the right choice makes all the difference.” These same kinds of statements are echoed throughout the web as well and they are all signs of lazy copywriters who have not taken the effort to think through what makes their product “different.” These differences are the selling points on your website. You must think through these differences and articulate them to your visitors.
- The following is just one of the great lessons I learned from reading Jeffrey Fox’s excellent book, How To Become A Marketing Superstar that you must use on your website: Go on a search and destroy mission to eliminate the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” “we,” “us,” or “our” on your website. “We” is about you and your story. “We” is in the first person. “We” is a bad proxy for your brand name or company name. To confound this sin, these same marketers often follow their ”we” with trite clichés like, “We put customers first,” or, “We are committed to excellence.” Your job is to draw the customer into the conversation by focusing on her and her story, her concerns, her headaches, her wants. Your job is to build brand awareness, not “we’ awareness. Never use “we,” “us,” or “our” in the headline. Your web content is not about you, it is not about your success or experience or hard work. It is about the customer and what the product will do for her or him.
Regardless of what you sell on your website, you are really, at its core, selling a change. Every worthwhile product or service helps bring about a desired change. Here’s a tried and true copywriting technique you might want to use on your website to emphasize such a change. It is called the “Before and After” scenario in which the before scene depicts a person who needs the help. The after scene shows the problem solved, thanks to your product or service. Television commercials and ads frequently make use of the Before and After scenario, it relies on storytelling to communicate your benefits and the changes they bring about.
- Strengthen the power of the Before and After scenario by injecting emotions into the problem faced by the person in the before scene. For example, if your business is car financing for people with credit problems, show the embarrassment of a person driving an old, dilapidated car because he cannot get financing for a new car. Remind him of the constant fear of driving a car that could break down on a remote highway late at night. Use this emotion-filled before scene to set up the after scenario in which the same person feels the emotional relief of driving a new car after having been treated with dignity and respect by your lenders.
- A twist on the Before-After Scenario is to depict a very negative future scene that could happen if the visitor does not act now. Here’s an example from Dan Kennedy’s book, The Ultimate Sales Letter, in which an ad selling shoes makes use of a negative future scene:
but if you insist on just wearing any old pair of ordinary shoes, here’s what you have to look forward to in your so-called golden years; fallen arches, intense lower back pain … even pain from just walking around a shopping mall! You’ll be asking your friends to slow down so you can keep up. You’ll be futilely soaking your feet at night like some old fuddy-duddy. You may even need pain pills just to get sleep.
- Don’t be afraid to educate your visitors. Show your visitors how to be informed buyers, how to choose the right product for their needs and how to avoid scams. The more you educate, the more you heighten your status as an expert.
- Make a clear and definite promise in every article on your website. Yes, these articles are to inform, but you are also need to promote your solutions. Making a promise is a great focusing technique to keep your material from going off on too many tangents. What do you promise? At the risk of repeating myself too often, you promise changes or solutions.
- Focus on annoying problems. Clearly show how your product can take the pain away. It is a psychological truth that avoidance of pain is a much more powerful motivator than the promise of gain.
- This technique is not optional. Make your website a platform for gathering opt in email subscribers. Repeat after me: the main purpose of your site is to collect a list of opt-in email subscribers who give you permission to send them subsequent messages about new offers and services. These people will only agree to this if you offer value in the form of a free product to sign up for your subscriber list, and your subsequent messages deliver on the promise to be full of useful information.
- Sometimes your visitors’ will lack the awareness that they have a need or a problem. Break through this lack of awareness with educational material on your site. But please be careful to make this material interesting. Two ways to make educational material interesting are the “Cart Before the Horse” technique as well as the Before-After Scenario discussed earlier.
- Another problem your web content may need to overcome is a visitor’s lack of concern about the problem your product or service solves. Typically this happens when the problem seems too remote. Insurance brokers and financial planners face this challenge every day. After all we all plan to live forever, right? Hey, nobody ever accused us of being realistic. Shake your visitors out of their complacency with actual case histories of people who were not prepared. Here again a story-like format brings this home better than almost any other kind of content writing. Don’t try to convince people with dry numbers and statistics. Instead use a single person to illustrate this need.
- One of the problems you will encounter as a result of these 10,000 marketing messages people are exposed to daily, is the assumption your visitor will make that you and your competitors are all the same. Therefore it is essential that you focus on your differences. You cannot do this by claiming better quality. You must find a message that says more that than you are “better” or “bigger.” You want to be the only fish in your own pond, not just another fish in a pond occupied by lots of other competing fish.
- Assume your visitors are skeptics. After all, every ad and website they see all claim to be the “best.” How do you overcome these skeptics? Before you write your web content, make a list of every objection a visitor could possibly have to what you offer. Then, when you are convinced you have identified every possible objection anyone could raise, thoroughly answer these challenges head on. If you do this, your visitor will have these objections asked and answered before they even think of them.
- Target a specific audience. Despite that legendary salesman who is out there making his living selling refrigerators to Eskimos, you will be far better off targeting a specific group of visitors. Remember the first exercise on this list, where you identified what your visitors want? The answers you came up with are crucial to identifying your target audience. Never lose sight of who your target audience is when you write your web content.
- What makes your product better than “Brand X?” Guess what, it probably isn’t better in every detail. Your SUV may have lots of room for your big family, but perhaps it guzzles gas at the rate of $100 per fill up. Your competitor, who manufactures a smaller vehicle that only needs to be refueled every leap year, will brag about its fuel economy. You, on the other hand, will brag about the family vacations, being able to take all the kids to soccer practice, or the comfortable leg room for every passenger. Brag about your strong points and fight your battles only on the playing field of your own choosing.
- Take a hard look at the product or service you are selling. What is a buyer of your product’s main concern? Is it price? Selection? Performance? Reliability? How long the product will last? Customer or technical support after the sale? It’s warranty or guarantee? Or how about the seller’s reputation or how quickly it can be delivered? You must know these factors before you write so you can address the ones that apply.
- Don’t fall into the “Better Mousetrap” myth. Just because you built your site doesn’t mean people will beat a path to your door. Imagine there is a person out there who has a problem. This person is looking online for a solution. Your service or product is a solution to this very problem. Now how do you lay out a path of breadcrumbs so this person can find you? The quality of the information on your site is your breadcrumb trail. Well-written, free information will earn links from other sites and will be mentioned in blogs (yes, you should encourage these lings and mentions). The web is first and foremost an information resource that bestows success upon those marketers willing to share their knowledge with those who seek it.
- When opposing points of view exist to your position, try this technique: Step one begins with the word, “although.” Here you fairly and thoroughly acknowledge the opposite opinion. The second step is, “nevertheless.” Here you state how your position contradicts the first point of view. The third step is, “because.” In this last step, you list your proof and evidence in support of why your “nevertheless” is true.
- Could you sell dollar bills for 75 cents? If you can demonstrate a strong return on investment with your web content, you will be doing just that. If your product or service can produce profits many times the amount invested, take pains to make this clear to your visitor. You can also demonstrate return on investment in terms of money your product or service can save. Show how saved money is like money in your visitor’s pocket.
- Use “social proof” to outsell your competition. Social proof is a powerful influence tool. All of us have a tendency to determine “correct” behavior by observing what others do. When you see ads that tell how many customers switch to a certain company’s service each day, or when you see a sign that says billions of hamburgers have been sold, or when an ad tells you a certain toothpaste is endorsed by the American Dental Association, you are seeing examples of social proof.
- How powerful is social proof? Take canned laughter on TV comedies. No one is fooled by this mechanical-sounding laughter. But studies have shown that audiences laugh longer, more often, and rate jokes as funnier, when accompanied by canned laughter - even though the audiences were fully aware the laughter was recorded. Bartenders and church ushers have also learned to use social proof by “salting” their tip jars and collection plates with a few dollars to stimulate more giving. So be sure to use social proof where every you can on your website.
- Justify your price (part one). If you can’t explain why your price is higher than your competitors’ prices, you’re dead in the water. One way to justify your price is to build value by discussing all the work, time and expense it took to develop your offer. For example, “When we set out to develop the Model XYZ, we recruited the top engineering talent from our top six competitors. We offered them each 50% salary increases over their old jobs. Then we provided them with a top staff consisting of young technicians who were all graduates of the top Ivy League schools. Then we spared no expense in equipping each team with the most modern, state of the art laboratories. Finally we set all these wonderful minds loose on solving this problem. After five years of research, costing us tens of millions of dollars, we now present you with the Model XYZ, which has no equal on the market today.”
- Justify your price (part two). This is another idea I got straight out of Dan Kennedy’s book, The Ultimate Sales Letter (which, if you don’t yet own a copy, I recommend you buy one today) Compare apples to oranges. Dan uses the example of a high-priced tape series (probably a DVD series now) that cost about twice the per tape cost of competing products. So Dan compared the cost to that of the two-day seminar the tapes recorded. If the customer had attended the seminar at a cost of $195, plus travel and overnight lodging, the cost would have far exceeded the cost of these tapes. Look for ways to use this same, very powerful technique on your site.
- Justify your price (part three). Do you remember the old Ginzu Knives commercials? Anyone who was old enough to watch TV in the 70s and 80s saw these ads countless times. These ads introduced the two powerful lines, “now what would you pay?” and “but wait there’s more.” What these folks did was to build the value of each individual part, one at a time, until the value of the parts far exceeded the price of the whole. These were incredible commercials because they would introduce one part at a time, and then ask, “What would you pay for all this? Twenty dollars? Thirty dollars? Fifty dollars? No, the price is a mere $10. But that’s not all. You also get, …..” By the time the viewer was reaching for his telephone, he almost felt guilty for taking advantage of these people who were selling these knives at such a cheap price.
- Justify your price (part four). The last way to justify your price is to show a monthly installment. This is an excellent way to make a high-ticket item more affordable to the average consumer. Moreover, many people prefer to think in terms of monthly installments rather than the total price tag.
- Need a quick and easy way to research your potential visitors your visitors? If you can identify certain types of magazines that appeal to your target audience, these publications can reveal vast amounts of information on these people. Study the letter from the editor to see what concerns and interests it addresses. Read the ads, especially the classifieds, to see what benefits and needs they target. Pay special attention to the ads that are repeated in issue after issue. If the advertiser pays to repeat the same ad, it must be bringing in money. Ask yourself why? Your answers will help you write your own appeals on your website.
- Some of your content may benefit from using a “you and me” writing style. This style sounds friendly, conversational and even chatty because the content is written in the first person, speaking directly to the visitor. The key is to have or create a friendly spokesperson, who talks person to person with your visitor. Your spokesperson takes on the aura of a mentor or a kindly grandparent giving advice. I see this a lot when the spokesperson is speaking for a family-owned business, who cares about quality because their name is on the package. But it can be used to market anything. The feel of these messages is that of doing business with someone you can shake hands with.
- Another writing style that might prove useful for your web content is the winners and losers approach. You simply compare two fictional people. One is perceived as a winner, the other a loser. For example, the Wall Street Journal has used this for years in their subscription ads: Two college graduates just entering their careers. Years later, one is stuck in a middle management job, whereas the other is a rising star on the fast track to the top. What was the difference? The successful graduate subscribed to the Wall Street Journal and read it every day. Will this technique work on your site? Probably.
- Scarcity is one of the most effective copywriting techniques around. Employ this with “limited time offers,” “supplies are limited,” or “refinance now before rates go back up” offers. Scarcity is a strong motivator to act right away for two reasons. First, because no one wants to lose out on something. And second, because it implies a social proof that many other people have learned how good this product is before you ever heard about it.
- Studies have shown that visitors need to hear your sales message as many as seven times before they decide to buy. So, as you write your content, find multiple ways to repeat your sales messages. For example, you can write the same sales message as a straightforward promise, a client testimonial, a before-after scenario, a benefit statement, and a warning statement of what could happen if the visitor chooses not to buy your product, and a summary. The repetition of the selling points in different forms chips away at your visitors’ resistance.
- A time-honored persuasion technique is to build a sequence of yeses.” You can apply this by asking rhetorical questions in your content that can only be answered, “yes.” As these “yeses” accumulate, your visitor develops a favorable attitude toward your offer. The momentum then builds toward a favorable decision.
- Just as your headline is an enticement for the reader to read your copy, the first paragraph is also an enticement to read the rest if the article. That first paragraph should introduce your visitors to the benefits they will get by reading further. Don’t confuse this with showing the benefits of your product, these are the benefits of just reading further. This is often a good place to use some of the extra headlines you wrote earlier. Think of the first headline as a second, longer headline for the rest of your article.
- Your first paragraph of any article should also contain a strong appeal to your visitor’s self interest. Go back to the first exercise and make use of your list of what your visitors want. When you know what visitors want, you know how to appeal to their self interest.
- Increase your visitors’ involvement with interactive elements like quizzes and checklists. These interactive elements provide a way for your visitors to diagnose their own needs for your services. This becomes a powerful selling tool because they have reached this opinion on their own. If you say it, your words are suspect. But if they come to the same conclusion on their own, their opinion will be unshakable.
- As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons visitors want your product or service is to bring about a change. Illustrate this change process by describing each step from where the visitor is now to the place she wants to be. For example, if you are selling a personal training service, show them what they can expect after three weeks, six weeks and then two months. Allowing them to see the step-by-step process you offer allows your visitors to visualize the change and gives them compelling reasons to contact you.
- A strong guarantee can be your strongest selling points. The guarantee will not work unless you convince your visitor that she is being offered a 100% risk free transaction. If your guarantee comes across as watered down or has too many strings attached, you might as well not offer it in the first place. The guarantee is nothing more than a tool to remove all the visitor’s doubt and fear.
- Imagine your visitors have a magic wand they can wave over your website to get anything they want. How close can you come to giving them exactly what they want? Write your web content to get as close to their wish fulfillment as you possibly can. You will be surprised at how close to their expectations you can get if you really try. The rewards are great, because they will give their business to whomever comes closest to granting their wish.
freelance copywriter, writing web content