Without fail, every single time I lead a Search Engine Workshop,
I get a bevy of questions on how to write effective ad copy. Obviously,
the many elements involved have received voluminous regard in myriad books,
lectures and seminars spanning more than seven decades. So, to simplify such a
wide ranging subject is difficult, to say the least.
Regardless, there are many easily identified basic elements and
strategies that can be applied to lay the foundation for solid and effective
sales copy. So, without further adieu, here's a grab bag of recommendations
that I've gleaned from my own experience combined with the tips I've received
from other well respected authorities on the subject.
Customers buy benefits not features. As the old saying
goes, sell the sizzle not the steak. Always remember that features have
a purpose. Never assume the customer will figure out for themselves what
that purpose (benefit) is. It's a mistake to write about a 3Ghz computer
without connecting the fact that such a system is blazing fast and then talk
about what it will do for them.
Forget about waiting for your programs to load! ...our new
3Ghz chip makes computing so blazing fast that you'll be challenged to keep up
even if you're a wizard on the keyboard.
Always view your product, and your copy, from the customer's
point of view. When you read what you write, put your copy to the test by
...because your customers will. Think about it, don't you when
you read someone else's sales pitch? ...we all do. That is why...
You must present a unique and compelling reason for a
customer to do business with you – a reason that stands out in a crowd
of competition. This concept is most frequently referred to as your unique
selling proposition (USP).
Ask the questions: What is it about your product or service that
is unique? What do YOU offer that your competitors can't?
These questions may not always elicit easy answers but,
nevertheless, you must find, and articulate, good answers to them.
Do you offer...
the lowest price,
the fastest delivery,
the only widget available this side of the planet
...what compels me (the selfish, I-don't-give-a-heck-about-you,
customer) to do business with you when I can choose from a basketful of your
Once you truly grasp this fact of marketing, it becomes easy to
see that finding the right USP and articulating it in your sales copy can
literally spell the difference between (excuse the cliché ) success and
failure. It truly is that important.
Make sure your site loads within 30 seconds or less. No
matter how effective your content is, if your visitors have to wait for your
page to load, you'll lose them. Remember, we live in an increasingly impatient
world where time is precious. People tend to think there's something wrong with
slow loading sites and they don't want to do business with losers.
Pay attention to layout. Place your headlines where they
will be seen first and arrange your presentation in an orderly fashion. It has
been said that effective sales presentations are arranged somewhat like a
tour. There's a beginning, middle and an end - in that order. Avoid
putting the customer in control of the order in which they participate in the
Give them a focal point - an obvious place to start reading as
well as a well laid-out path to follow all the way to a conclusion. Tell them
up front what you're selling or offering. If they have to guess, you'll
ultimately be the one guessing why they left your site without buying.
Use graphics (images) to invoke emotion or to draw the eyes
to text you want your readers to see. Do not use graphics to gratuitously
fill space. Always ask yourself what you want the graphic to accomplish. Does
it demonstrate the product? ...illustrate a benefit? ...promote a professional
image? ...or draw attention to an important section of a page? All of these are
good answers and validate the use of graphics.
Images can be powerful but space upon a page is precious and not
to be frivolously squandered. Always strive to get the largest possible return
from each of your images. Use them to invoke positive emotions. A picture of a
happy family getting into a brand new car is more appealing than just a picture
of the car.
If, on the other hand, an image or graphic lacks purpose, then
lose the graphic.
And, by the way, be especially careful with the purpose;
'promotes a professional image'. Remember, your customers care less
about your image than you do. Hard to believe, but it's true. Professionalism
is good. But, customers always care more about themselves than they do about
you. So, stay benefit oriented and focus on your USP. Those two factors
alone will generate sales far better than a professional looking
image-enhancing (slow loading and space consuming) corporate logo.
Pay particular attention to your headlines. This is where
you sell the sizzle, not the steak. Your headline must articulate a benefit, a
USP! Many ad copy writers spend more time refining their headline than they do
the body copy of the ad. And, don't be afraid to test different headlines
against each other while leaving the rest of your offer the same.
Also important is that first paragraph. Studies have
shown that if you can attract the readers interest with the headline and then
maintain interest throughout the first paragraph, then chances are far greater
they will complete your entire sales presentation (tour). The first paragraph
of your sales copy should solve a problem or clearly articulate what benefits
are forthcoming once a customer becomes involved with your product or
Use credible testimonials. Encourage them from your
customers and place them strategically along the "tour" to help validate
certain points of your sales presentation. Of course, the testimonials must be
legitimate. There are laws that forbid fabricating testimonials.
Avoid using abbreviations and trade terms. Use the
language that your least informed customers might use and be sure to expand
acronyms. The last thing you want your prospects to feel is "stupid" – and
confusing them is also bad for business. Even the most sophisticated prospect
will not object to your spelling things out by explaining in terms that
anyone can understand.
A word on long sales copy. It's okay to have long copy as
long as it isn't b-o-r-i-n-g! Tests have shown that honest-to-gosh,
cash-in-hand buyers will read long copy for as long as they aren't bored.
That's why ALL copy must be succinct, to the point, but tell the whole story
with the precision of a surgeon performing a delicate operation.
Obviously, this takes practice. Start by writing everything that
you want to say and then start whittling it down, combining it, and organizing
it into a lean, mean, benefit oriented sales presentation that tells the whole
story without a single wasted word. Your goal is to keep your qualified
prospects excited about the solution they are about to possess as
a result of doing business with you.
Truth-be-known, qualified prospects will read everything as long
as it isn't boring. On the other hand, tire kickers (the unqualified prospects)
will not read long copy. But, neither will they read short copy. And from a
sales perspective, who cares – they weren't going to buy anyway.
So, when it comes to long copy, you must first ask yourself
who's reading it? ...and then strive to capture and captivate the
interest of the qualified prospects only.
Make the text easy to read. Know your market
and fashion the text to fit their eyes. Studies have shown that 12pt Times New
Roman is easiest to read in paper and ink format. However, the Internet is
different. When reading from a computer, people prefer 12pt
Arial font (like this) or, when smaller, 10pt Verdana (which looks like this).
Break the paragraphs into easy-to-read pieces. Use bulleted or
numbered lists, mini headings, bold type, and heading tags to further
facilitate the one-bite-at-a-time, easy-to-chew page appearance.
These layout strategies enable the reader to skim quickly
through your sales page while comprehending a great deal of your presentation
without having to actually read every single word.
Closing strategies: depending on the nature of your
product or service you might find it beneficial to offer a bonus, a guarantee,
or a payment plan to further define your USP and to help close sales.
Remember the call to action! Never assume a
prospect will know what to do next. You must tell them. Spell it out clearly
what you want them to do next.
pick up the phone and call.
complete the order form.
sign up for the newsletter.
join our forum.
Then proceed to explain what will happen once they've completed
the process and take a moment to review the benefits, bonuses, and
Last but not least, I'll share a tip that most professional ad
copy writers use and one I highly recommend. Read everything you write out
The idea is to ferret out the sections that cause word
stumbling. Restructure and reword them so your readers won't stumble too. Be on
the lookout for overused words and listen carefully to the rhythm and
tone of the message as you connect with the general flow of the content in
Remember also to apply the "so what ...who cares" argument to
test the validity of your presentation points. Trust me, your customers will.
So, you might as well give your sales copy the acid-test ahead of them. Here's
where you must seek and destroy those self-serving company platitudes and
overtly impressive credentials that tend to bore the motivated prospects who
(rightfully) care only about themselves. In other words, put your credentials
on an 'About Us' page and focus your sales message on solutions and benefits
for the customer.
This list may not be the complete list but it certainly is an
important one. And, if ever you're at a loss for what to say in your sales
copy, start with the most basic task of all – interviewing your customers
to find out what they want. From there it's a matter of crafting a
presentation that leads the customer toward having what they want by
purchasing it through you.