When you’re watching TV, do you look forward to the commercials? Are you excited to read the ads in your morning paper? Do you find radio spots riveting? If you’re like the rest of the planet, the answer is NO.
No one wants to pay attention to commercials. We all have better things to do. So face reality: no one wants to read copy.
That’s where you come in. You’ve got an incredible service/product/website that you want to share with the world. What do you do if the world doesn’t want to listen? Convince them you’re worth listening to. Your copy has to be irresistible. And not only do you need people to read your copy, but you need them to take action, too, by investing their time and money in your company. How do you fight for their attention? Here are 10 tips that will give you the edge:
1) Reel Them In
It’s statistically proven that for every 10 people that read a headline, only 2 read further. The odds of snagging a reader are already stacked against you, big time. The headline is like the gatekeeper to your copy. A weak headline locks that gate forever. That’s why you need — absolutely need — a strong headline. A successful headline needs to be several things, as summarized by the American Writers & Artists’ “four U’s”:
1) Useful: your headline must promise that what follows will be useful to the reader. A great headline offers something not just useful, but essential. It should make the reader think, “I’d be stupid not to read this!”
2) Urgent: your potential customers are busy, busy, busy. You have one chance: if they don’t read your copy now — immediately — then they never will. Create this sense of urgency for them.
3) Unique: why should they read about what you have to offer when there are millions of others offering the same thing? Show them why you’re different. Tell them — in the headline — what no one else can tell them. Offer what no one else can offer. Ask what no one has asked before. You need to stand out from the crowd in order to be noticed.
4) Ultra-specific: If you ask any famous, successful actor, they will tell you that the key to a fabulous performance is making specific choices. That’s how they convince an audience that their character is believable. As a copywriter, you must be as captivating and believable as Marlon Brando or Meryl Streep. Be specific in your tactics, your offer, and your message. Be specifically useful, unique, and urgent. Your audience will reward you for it.
2) Don’t Make a Promise You Can’t Keep
When a potential customer reads your copy, they expect to get something in return. They’ve read your headline, and now they ask themselves:
“Will reading further make me smarter/happier/healthier/richer/better off?” The answer must be yes, or else they will stop right there. That is why your headline offers a promise to make the reader smarter, healthier, richer, etc. Of course, then you must fulfill your promise. If you promise “Top Ten Secrets to Losing Ten Pounds,” you’d better deliver those ten secrets. Of course, they don’t have to be secrets, just information or advice that feels exclusive and will be useful to the reader; that’s what they really care about. Beware of two pitfalls:
- Making an outrageous claim: if your claim is too ridiculous (or impossible), the reader will dismiss you as untrustworthy from the start. It’s better to balance shock value with reality.
- Making the wrong promise: if your headline promises one thing, but your copy gets off-topic, you’ve let the reader down. They won’t trust you and they won’t help you. That’s why it’s wise to begin with a strong headline and, as you write, check that your content matches it.
3) Offer Proof
Whether you’re writing a news article or a sales pitch, you need credible, citable proof that what you’re writing is accurate. Statistics, testimonials from customers, endorsements from certified experts, consumer reports, results of focus groups: these are all methods to prove you’re telling the truth. Sometimes proof is subjective, but it’s better than nothing.
4) Don’t Be Modest
Copywriting is competitive. You’re competing to beat out all other stimuli for a few precious moments in which your voice can be heard. That means presenting yourself or your company in the best possible light. Just as you would never degrade yourself in a job interview, you should never focus on the negative when discussing your product. In fact, be loud and proud about what you do best. Convince us that you’re amazing, and we just might believe it.
5) Love Lists
- Quick and easy to read
- An organized way to summarize your thoughts
- Attractive on the page or screen
- Concise and to-the-point
6) Make It Fun
It’s important to deliver information in your copy, but it’s equally important how you deliver it. If your copy reads like a school lecture, your readers will be gone faster than you can say “class dismissed.” Reading can feel like a chore, so you need to make it fun. A conversational tone, an understanding attitude, and a touch of humor will do the trick.
7) Omit Needless Words
Standard advice, but it never gets old. Time is precious. The moment your reader feels their time is wasted, they move on. Avoid this by sharpening your copy to include only what is necessary to communicate a persuasive, precise message.
8) Remember to Write for Humans
This seems obvious, but with the SEO crowd’s obsession over keywords, it’s worth noting. Yes, great copy must include the keywords associated with your topic. But be sensible about it. Readers aren’t dumb. They can smell keyword stuffing from a mile away, and it smells like weak writing, lazy marketing, and sketchy salesmen. No matter how many keywords you cram into your copy, it’s not worth a dime unless people read it. Quality writing trumps keyword hierarchy because it harnesses the strongest marketing tool in existence: word of mouth.
9) Make It Easy For Them
So you’ve captured that elusive 20% who saw your headline and they’ve read your copy. Now what? You want them to act on what they’ve read. It’s your job to make that next step as easy as possible. If the goal of your copy is to generate buzz, leave links to your Facebook or Twitter pages. If you want them to subscribe to your blog or site, make it as easy as a click of a button. Same goes for buying a good or service: buttons and links immediately following your copy make the next step obvious and effortless for the consumer.
10) Finish Strong
Psychological studies show that your memory of an experience is heavily influenced by how it ends. If you’ve written an excellent article but then taper off, the reader is left unimpressed and probably a little confused. You need to wow them at the end — they’ve gotten that far! Prove to them it was worth reading. Summarize the greatest benefits you’ve given them and send them home happy.
Follow these 10 pointers, and your writing will shine. Quality writing shows you value the reader’s time and want to give them a pleasant experience. So pleasant, in fact, that they barely noticing they’re reading copy. And that’s how you know you’ve done it right.
Up Next: WAIT: Why Am I Talking?
Up Next: WAIT: Why Am I Talking?