One of the most important things that anyone working in the world of Internet marketing need to understand is that copywriting or using words to sell products is absolutely critical if you are to succeed. It’s not enough to understand English or even to hire someone who purports to be a professional writer to do your copywriting for you either.
Copywriting requires as much art as it does skill. This is actually one of the most difficult things there is to explain to a potential entrepreneur. They think that copywriting should be priced around the same as content writing (which is itself ridiculously undervalued with people still believing that it’s possible to purchase quality writing for $5-$10 per page).
A good copywriter can easily command upwards of $5,000 for their work though because their work should generally be able to bring in at least 10 times the amount of money that they charge you for their work. Thus those who skimp and think a $5 ‘copywriter’ is good enough will simply shoot themselves in the foot.
Of course, the real irony is that those same people are unlikely to make money even if they invested in a good copywriter because they also tend to make other fundamental mistakes in the business of Internet marketing.
The following are just a small handful of ‘secrets’ of good copywriting. They are not really meant to replace a professional but they can at least help you to have some idea of whether the pro you hire is worth what they charge.
It’s All about Your Customers
Probably the single most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to preparing a good piece of copywriting is that you need to remember that it’s all about your customers. In other words, they couldn’t care less what you do or how you do it. They just care what you can do for them.
Let me illustrate this by showing you two different pieces of company advertising. See which one you think is more effective:
Our company creates widgets which are designed to fit inside of a widget machine. These machines are integral to creating effective automated sales systems. Click below to order.
Yeah, okay. So I have zero clue why I should care and frankly, this is incredibly boring. Compare that statement with the following:
Your business needs to automate its sales systems. Automation helps your bottom line meaning that you keep more of what you earn. Our widgets make that happen by working seamlessly with your widget machine.
So what’s the difference here? I just said the same thing that I said above but changed the words a little bit. The difference however is in the emphasis. Before, I was emphasizing what my company does. It was boring because nobody cares about what my company does. It doesn’t make any difference to you.
The second example by comparison tells you what my company can do for you. It makes the focus the customer instead of the company.
This is the essence of all good copywriting — you need to show your potential customers that they have a reason to trust you because you have their best interests at heart. Without this, it doesn’t matter how good your product is. Few people will ever care and fewer still will actually take the time to place an order.
This is something I’ve written about extensively when I’ve talked about writing for the Internet although in the case of copywriting, it’s slightly different. In essence, copywriting is all about trying to get people to believe that you have the solution to whatever problem they’re having.
This means that you need to play on a human emotion — the need to believe. Think about the last time that you go one of those spam e-mails telling you about some Nigerian banker desperate to get money out of the country with your help. If you are like 99% of prudent people, you simply deleted it instantly.
However, if you are like 99% of other people, you also had a tiny, nagging doubt somewhere in the back of your mind. What if this was that one in a million chance where it was the real deal? It’s not much of a thought and most of us don’t even consciously acknowledge it. However, it is usually there however briefly in passing.
Why is this? The answer is simple — human beings have a need to believe. We want to believe that this is going to be the thing that makes whatever we need happen for us. That’s what the scammers count on — that there will be a percentage of people willing to take a chance and believe.
Now I’m not telling you to become a scammer. Far from it. All I am saying is that if you want to create good headlines, play on people’s need to believe. Let’s look at a few examples:
Who Else Wants to Make $3,879.87 in Just 30 Days?
While this kind of headline now violates FTC rules on truth in advertising online, it was commonly used and is still commonly used by those beyond the reach of the FTC. So why does this work? Because people need to believe that they can make money online and this sounds like something that could reasonably happen.
Making sure to make it an exact number with a few cents tacked to the very end also helps to ensure that people will find it more believable.
Compare this with a rather unbelievable but similar headline:
I Made $3,000,0000 in Just 30 Days and You Can Too.
Okay, two problems here. First and foremost, this breaks our cardinal rule about copywriting. Nobody cares what you did. They care about you can do for them. Thus starting out telling the world how you made $3 million doesn’t do much for copywriting.
More than though, we also run into the Nigerian banker problem — while most of us want to believe, we also know that we need to be rational about things. It’s highly unlikely that anyone found a way to make that kind of money in 30 days and that this system can be translated to others doing the same thing,
Play On Pain
Once again, this is something I’ve written about in the past but it bears repeating here. As I said above, copywriting is all about playing with people’s emotions. It may sound a bit crass but ultimately, your goal is to manipulate people into choosing your product over that of the competition.
A big part of this is in how you craft your pitch. There are two basic ways to appeal to people to buy your product. You can either appeal to their desire for comfort or their desire for relief from pain. As I have stated in the past though, pain doesn’t have to be physical in order for you to use it.
Let’s look at some examples. A good one is anti aging cream. This stuff is designed to help people (mostly those who are older) to look younger. Here’s an example of an ad I found for this kind of cream:
Okay, so what are they doing here? They’re playing on a person’s pain. No, they’re not being too ‘in your face’ about it (no pun intended). However, they are nonetheless playing on the fear that many people have of looking old. They know that most people are vain and they want to look younger. This plays on that fear by promising to take away the pain of seeing an old face in the mirror.
They could also have tried to play on a desire for comfort — that this stuff will make you feel nice for example. However, by offering to take away the pain that someone is feeling of looking older, they are playing on a much stronger emotion.
Another thing to keep in mind with your headlines is to keep them short and sweet. Most of your customers will not read long headlines. That’s what the rest of the text of your page is for. Instead, they just want to look at a short and sweet headline which hooks them into deciding to see what your product is about.
Single Syllable Writing
Ever notice how most advertising is written to fairly roll off the lips? Check out for example the Nike slogan — Just Do It. What the heck does that even mean? It’s got no relation whatsoever to sneakers or shoes but it’s wildly successful. Want to know why? Because it’s all monosyllabic. It’s easy to say it and it just rolls off the tongue.
If you consider other popular slogans and even good headlines, they’re relatively simple sounding. These kinds of things tend to resonate with customers for whatever reason. They are much more likely to be noticed and acted upon than the kind of headlines that go into detail or which require complex
You could even take this further and try as much as possible to use simple language in all of your advertising. Don’t worry if the words you choose are not the most accurate way of describing what it is that you have for sale. As long as they are truthful, you’re okay and better off than using a more sophisticated explanation.
Consider for example the following:
GeoWorks Ensemble Is a Great Alternative to Windows
It’s simple and it does effectively communicate what GeoWorks Ensemble does (back when it was first introduced in the early 1990s anyway). Now we could go into much more detail by saying:
GeoWorks Ensemble provides a graphical interface which lives on top of DOS and provides all the basic productivity tools you’ll need.
They both in essence say the same thing. The difference is that the second one is wordy and hard to remember. The first one is catchy and easy to remember. In most of the first sentence, we also see that single syllable words are used whereas the second example uses many multiple syllable words and doesn’t really roll off the tongue.
Make a Point of Telling the Truth
It may sound weird but by making a conscience decision to tell the truth and to show it off, you will often find that you are able to get the best kind of advertising there is. In fact, at times, you can even show off your warts by using it to make a point.
A classic example of this is Volkswagen, which back in the 1960s embraced their cars being kind of ugly while at the same saying that reason they were great is that they offer great gas mileage.
In fact, I recall a movie a while back where an advertising executive takes this to great extremes and actually manages to create some of the most popular products around by doing so. Nobody wants to be taken for a ride. However, they do want you to tell them why this product is the best choice, warts and all.
The bottom line is simple. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Do it honestly and you’ll be able to find the right way to make your copywriting stand out. And if you can’t, you could always hire a professional to do the job for you. After all, if you use them right, it won’t matter that you spent the money to hire them to begin with.