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People are always looking for snazzy new ideas. However, old ideas are usually the most effective.
This is especially true when you’re writing marketing copy. Why? Because selling is about persuading people, and people are pretty much the same today as they ever were.
Okay. I know that’s not the most exhilarating thing you’ve read today. I’d love to reveal some spectacular new copywriting discovery. But for the most part, the stuff that worked a hundred years ago still works today. And a hundred years from now, it will be working just as well.
Buzzwords come and go. Writing styles change. But if you look at an advertisement from decades ago, you’ll see the same principles at work as you would in any of today’s efforts.
Here are a dozen of the most important.
1. Make your copy SELL.
Commercial copywriting is not about clever words and poetic phrases. It’s about selling. The way to sell is to combine your communication skills with knowledge of psychology. As the copywriter Herschell Gordon Lewis once wrote, “Psychology + Communication = Salesmanship.”
2. Sell as much or as little as needed.
Ask yourself, “How much selling do I need for my audience? How familiar are people with this type of product or with this particular product?” If you are selling a familiar product with a common offer, you don’t need to push as hard as you might when selling a less familiar product with a less common offer.
3. Use a proven copy formula.
There are as many formulas as there are copywriters, but they all boil down to the same ideas. You need to 1) establish your objective, 2) clarify the benefits to your prospects, 3) show how the benefits will be delivered, 4) prove your statements, 5) sweeten the offer and make response easy, and 6) tell your prospects how to respond.
4. Use the imperative mode. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Tell people what to do.” Tell them to “order now,” “click here,” “subscribe today,” or “ask for your free report.” This is not a style choice. Experience shows that telling people what to do results in more people doing it.
5. Focus on one clear, big benefit. This will simplify your message, select your audience, and differentiate your product from others. If you’re selling a computer design program, your big benefit might be that it can automatically translate print designs into SEO friendly Web pages. There may be other benefits, such as low cost and speed of operation, but these would be secondary. Usually, your big benefit is the subject of your primary headline.
6. Make clarity your #1 goal.
People do not interact with advertising the same way they do with game shows and sitcoms. They’re not looking for entertainment. They’re looking for relevance. “What’s in it for me? Why should I do this?” This is why you should strive to avoid clever concepts and make your message clear and direct.
7. Make a strong offer.
An offer should be more than the standard price. An offer is a deal you make, a special low price, an exclusive premium, or the opportunity to try the item free for 30 days. Your offer is the heart of every promotion, so you should make it as strong and appealing as possible.
8. Provide enough information for a decision.
This includes product information, the offer, ordering instructions, guarantee, etc. If a decision will prove difficult for products that are expensive, complex, new, hard to explain, or that require a considerable commitment, you may need to use a softer offer (such as a free trial) or break the sales process into multiple steps.
9. Guarantee satisfaction.
Because people cannot see or handle your product ahead of time, there is always the perceived risk of being disappointed or ripped off. A guarantee helps assure people that your product is good and that you stand behind it. It’s a powerful benefit you should highlight.
10. Provide a reason for immediate response.
Studies show that people are more likely to respond to requests when there is a good reason. Is there a limited supply? A seasonal rush? Can you sell only a limited number to each customer? Do you have to plan your production by a certain date?
11. Make it easy to order.
Exclusivity and convenience are the two primary reasons people make transactions via the Internet, direct mail, or ads. So if you’re selling products that way, it is imperative that you make ordering as quick and effortless as possible. Make your offer easy to understand and complete. Give short, simple ordering instructions. Provide easy order forms.
12. Use the word FREE.
This may be the only word in the language that stands no chance of ever becoming a cliché. Always look for features, benefits, and accessories that can be offered for free. “Free” almost always generates more interest and response.
So ask yourself, are you really making it easy to order or are you making people jump hurdles? Have you provided enough information for a decision or are your potential customers left wondering about some detail? Are you selling too much or too little?
Compared to the latest gee-whiz innovations you read about every day, this may sound boring. But I promise it can make your copy quite interesting to customers, and the sales results downright fascinating for you.
Dean Rieck is a leading copywriter who has worked with more than 200 clients in the U.S. and abroad. For more copywriting tips, visit the Direct Creative Blog.
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