Category Archives for "Copywriting"

Cooking Up Persuasive Copywriting with These Two Crucial Ingredients

On Friday I wrote about Copywriting and the Art of Persuasive Advertisings and in other articles I go into detail the help you craft successful, lead-building, client-accumulating mail, ads, emails, web sites and more.

But here are two of the common and most powerful copy ingredients for effective direct response marketing, regardless of medium.

The One Thing You Cannot Forget

It seems so obvious and basic that you can’t imagine anyone would fail to do this, but I have to say upfront because writers frequently and regretfully neglect this point: Present your offer–the thing you are selling and the terms you’re making–as soon as possible.

And after you say it once. Say it again. And again.

Copywriting is like storytelling. You create drama. And you can create drama one of two ways:

  1. Demonstrate how you can achieve their desires
  2. Show how you can conquer fears

But in one very important way, direct response copy is not like a story…you give away the end at the beginning. That is the offer.

Even when you have a lot to say about your offer, you bring the conclusion [your offer] into the story right away.

And then backfill with persuasive material as you move along.

How to Achieve Your Greatest Desire

This is a a rough sketch of a marketing strategy when you’re making an offer for something desirable, such as a beautiful home or knowledge about the worth of their home.

1. Show the readers the vision.

Within the headline or the opening copy, tell the reader about the benefit: living well, saving money, entertaining grandly.

2. Offer the “prize” inside.

Either within the same headline or within the first few lines of copy, introduce your offer as the means for obtaining the desired end: the infinity pool that makes you to live well, the low property taxes that allow you to save money, or the finished basement with wet bar and 50 inch plasma screen.

3. Go on the quest.

Show the reader how and why your offer, in Step 2, fulfills the desire in Step 1. And bee sure to restate the offer along the way.

Now, the flip side of desire is fear. That’s the other persuasive ingredient of successful copywriting.

Overcoming Pain and Fear

This is the formula for benefits that help you overcome things you don’t want, such as high taxes, foreclosure, drop in property values, ill health or being left behind:

1. Make the readers hurt.

Describe the pain to be avoided: the rising property taxes, the crush on their credit if they foreclosure, loss of equity of they don’t move, diseases from contaminated soil or being the only one who didn’t invest in a rising market.

2. Show readers the cure.

Introduce your offer–the market with low tax dollars [maybe a way to lure people from one state to another], short selling, healthy lifestyle in your city or system to sell their homes fast for the most money.

3. Prove it works.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Your lofty promises better be backed up. Use testimonies, statistics, reports, anecdotes, professional statements. Anything you can get your hands on that support your claims.

Without evidence, your claims will be ignored. So do your homework. It will pay dividends.


One more word: In each of these approaches, it’s important that you repeat the offer often.

The reason? You want people to remember it.

In the next post, I’ll describe how to write good offers, offers that articulate the favorable consequences of accepting your offer and the undesirable consequences of doing nothing.

See you then.

Copywriting and the Art of Profitable Advertising

Yesterday Brian Clark asked the question “If content is the new advertising, what is it saying about you?

Knee deep in the article he brings in a good point:

Think about it… the advertising we actually enjoy is often witty and entertaining, but it doesn’t persuade us to do anything.

This is true for your blog. Or your articles. Or your email newsletter. And not only does it not persuade us to do anything, you’re not really sure what it’s doing.

Enter copywriting.

In this post I’m going to give you the five-cent tour of the copywriting world and how it can elevate everything you say or write to a level of scientifically precise persuasion.

I hope it provides some insight into effective advertising, or, at a minimum, gets you to think differently about your current notions regarding advertising and the attention you seek from it.

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting includes all the written communications used to sell, market and promote your service to prospects.

As a category, it’s bigger than “advertising writing” because it also includes things such as brochures or web sites. Buit it’s smaller than “business writing” because it doesn’t include non-marketing communications such as interoffice memos.

This said, let me introduce to you three important ideas about copywriting repeated through this website: targeting prospects, inspiring action and measuring results.

These three ideas put together make up what is commonly called “direct response advertising,” which is different than brand or awareness advertising.

All direct response advertising appeals to specifically targeted audiences, is crafted to inspire action or response and can be measured to determine its effectiveness.

Targeting Prospects

Instead of making communications that impress a message on as many eyeballs as possible, direct marketers do everything they can to limit their efforts (and dollars) to the prospects most likely to be interested in their offers.

Instead of broadcasting, they narrowcast to increase their customer base.

Why the List Is So Important

Your audience is the single most important element of a targeted direct response campaign. In fact, in descending order, list is more imporant than copy, which is last [list, offer, format and copy].

Keep in mind that a weak message to the right audience has a far greater chance of success than a beautifully designed, brilliantly written message to the wrong people.

If you have limited time and money, concentrate most of your efforts on the list.

And lists need not be complicated.

Building lists are easy. For you, the most effective list is the one you gathered from past clients and propsects who have given you permission to send them meaningful stuff.

And that’s the secret: giving them something meaningful. Whether it’s a newsletter, blog, market updates, housing forecast information or new listing postcards…send people something they care about…something they’d trudged through 3 feet of snow to their mailbox or wait 3 minutes while their computer booted up to read.

Inspiring Action

Dig this: Copywriting provides a means for generating a lead in the here and now. This is done via a toll-free number, your web site, email address or postage paid reply cards. Prospects are encouraged to take action….

This “take action” quality is what separates copywriting from other business communications. It is intended for one thing: increase response.

Brand awareness advertisers attempt to create a set of ideas or emotions they hope you remember. But copywriters and direct response advertisers don’t give two hoots and a handshake about what people remember: They want to motivate action now.

That’s why it’s important you don’t rely strictly on “image” campaigns or “name recall.”

Years ago David Ogilvy demonstrated that brand recall and celebrity endorsements stuck in peoples’ minds…but nobody could remember why.

If you are spending hard-earned and hard-to-replace money on ads, make sure you are investing it wisely. Which brings me to my final point…

Measuring Effectiveness

In the last century, the following words have been put in practically every significant business leaders mouth:

“I know that 50 percent of my advertising doesn’t work…what I don’t know is which 50 percent!”

The truth is nobody knows who exactly said this. But that’s not important. What’s important is this: copywriting and direct response advertising can help you discover what is working and what is not.

The above adage was probably quoted by every business leader at one point in his career because all he knows is that they are selling products…but they are not sure which commercial or which magazine ad motivated people to go out and purchase paper towels or car tires.

Something spurred sales, but despite the best efforts of the best market researchers and MBAs, no one knows for sure.

You never need to be in that position.

You can know scientifically, objectively and absolutely down to the last dime what ads worked and which ones didn’t.

Imagine you send out a thousand letters with postaghe paid reply cards and get 20 cards back requesting a CMA.

Simple maths says you got a 2 percent response rate.

Now, add up the sum of the total houses sold and subtract the cost of the mailing [list fees, if any, creative time spent or charge, production costs, postage, and so on]. The difference is the money made–or lost.

If the cost exceeds revenues, you know you need to change something: the list, offer, format or copy.

As you probably figured out, you can get even more sophisticated and the run the numbers inside, outside, up side down to give you even more information about costs, values, revenues and profits.

In the end, one point remains constant: Action is measurable, and these measure give your business meaningful information on which to base future decisions.

On Monday, I’ll give you some tips on how to actually test your copy.

Stay tuned.

How to Settle the Long v. Short Web Copy Debate

This is a topic that has been around for awhile: long v. short articles as web content strategy.

Yet, yesterday someone new in our web department asked me what I thought about the long v. short copy debate on the web.

Of course as a copywriter who has specialized in the web for the last seven years, I had just a little to say…

…and whether you are a blogger or copywriter churning out ad pieces for your business or any kind of persuader…

You can learn something from copywriting.

Here are my thoughts.

I’m familiar with the top 8 reasons why copywriting is important to real estate, and I do recommend them.

I think what you’ll find as you dig deeper you’ll discover that people will disagree on short v. long copy on the web…but in general compelling long copy will out duel compelling short copy, even on the web.

Here’s what you have to keep in mind, though:

Test Everything

And here’s the thing about long copy: long copy for the sake of long copy is not right.

When a copywriter says long copy works better than short, what he should be saying is “I want to lay out every single benefit I can to a reader…leaving nothing behind because I have only one shot at this. And if it takes 5 pages to do that, why wouldn’t I write five pages?”

A sales man would never go into a presentation and give the ten minute version when it really takes an hour to present.

Neither would you pencil in just five minutes to rehab an alcoholic.

But if the writer can layout a compelling argument in half a page, he should do so. Most of the time the length of the copy is determined by the complexity of the product/service and the offer.

If you are giving away a free book, 3 pages might be excessive.

Where You Spend Most of Your Time…and It’s Not at the Keyboard

But if you are trying to talk people into parting with money, say for contributions or to buy a house or trust you as their agent or buy a book, 3+ pages is probably the minimum you could get away with.

Again, depending on the complexity. And you have to test and see what works.

If the 3 pages doesn’t work, then you are not hitting people’s pleasure/pain buttons. Back to the drawing board.

Which means writing compelling copy is more about research rather than writing. You can really never prepare enough.

I’ve known successful writer’s to spend weeks researching before touching the keyboard. They don’t until they have that ‘ah ha’ moment.

And usually when they have that moment, the piece writes itself. This is pretty much my process, too.

The Mindset You Must Have

Picture yourself trying to lead someone from an addiction to alcohol.

It could take fifteen minutes, half hour or hour. A day. Weeks. Probably, though, months. Even years.

But you always give them what they want when they ask for it. And you always try to figure out what will resonate with them.

The thing with print/web copy is you have to think ahead and answer all the questions you think they might be asking, most important, “What’s in it for me?”

Then in the copy you have to answer those questions with enticing benefits…because this might be your only shot at having their attention.

It might take you ten questions. 20. 30. Or even 50.

You don’t know what they are going to ask for sure. So you ask them all (maybe).

You have to have available that one question that might make them go, “That’s it.”

Why People Stop Reading Your Blog or Sales Letter

It’s likely though that most people will not read every word. Especially on the web. People scan.

That is why potent headlines and sub headlines are important. To draw in those scanners.

As far as clicks, etc. what you have to keep in mind on the web here is there has to be a marriage between reader friendly web design and persuasive copy.

Think about online newspapers.

Most articles are broken into pages. They are never a single page. (Unless the article ends above the fold.) And because readership is very important to newspapers, they probably found breaking pages up improves important metrics of readership.

Furthermore, print sales letters are broken up into pages. As are books. (Doesn’t there seem to be an argument for everything?)

But here’s the point I wanted to get to: the reason people stop reading a sales letter, article or book is not because they have to turn the page or click to the next…we lose people because the copy isn’t compelling.

You are right when you say that “the user feels more ‘accomplished’ by browsing / clicking-thru” and good web design tries to accommodate this.

See, the marriage comes when the copy is persuasive. When the monkey with the red fez can EASILY follow the banana.

Personally I find one long page of copy exhausting and intimidating. And I’m not alone, as copy blogger Brian Clark explains in his post The Death of the Long Copy Sales Letter.

But here’s the thing: I’ve clicked through 8 pages of news articles I found fascinating. I’ve scrolled through very persuasive sales letters online that when printed equal 16-21 pages.

Thing is, I’m sure these people have tested the layout, one single page v. 4 web pages…and found where they get there better response.

They tested to see what works.

To Drive My Point Home

The reason I ever bought a product online or read an entire article is not because it was long or on one page.

I bought because I got an emotional charge out of it…found it compelling…convinced I couldn’t live without it.

A great writer constantly struggles with this thought: is this the least bit compelling, passionate?

It gnaws at him.

That’s why human psychology and emotion are so important to copy.

We have to know what plucks people’s heart strings. Constantly.

That’s why, if you are going to write a five page article or letter, every sentence counts.

Here’s the thing: we are missing opportunities when we make categorical statements like long copy on one page is better than short without explaining why…and without ever testing the boundaries.

In summary, the first order of business, is to make sure the piece is compelling and passionate.

Then we can talk about layout, length or page breaks.

You Website Is a Room Full of Furniture for Half Blind People

Lately I’ve been thinking about landing pages as we’ve been going through a phase of testing copy for our landing pages.

During that time I brushed up on what I know about landing pages and actually came across some stuff that I didn’t know. Good insights.

I thought it would be useful to share these with you.

What Is a Landing Page?

Let me answer that by saying what a landing page isn’t because landing pages are often confused with splash pages, bridge pages, jump pages and microsites.

Splash pages are usually flash introductions. And users dislike them vehemently.

Use a splash page and your site traffic will generally plummet as a result of having placed this barrier in front of it.

Imagine your website as a room full of furniture and your users as half blind visitors.

A splash page is like a stained glass door without a knob. And they have to figure out how to get inside.

Many splash screens are graphically rich to entice users to explore the site. Unfortunately, splash pages decrease credibility, traffic, search engine rankings, and web site performance.

And don’t think that by adding a “Skip Intro” link is going to solve your problems.

Skip intro splash pages degrade performance, increase bailout rates [because of frustration] and decrease your search engine rankings.

Most importantly, studies have shown that splash screens reduce web credibility with up to 71% traffic loss.


Examples of splash pages if you are a cat lover. [I’m not. Never mind. Don’t visit that website. I feel bad I even shared it. Please don’t go.]

Doorway pages are designed to be particularly enticing for search engines, but not visitors.

Back to our room full of furniture analogy: doorway pages is like architecture that appeals to the builder of the home, but is not functional, or even practical.

Like this glass bathtub.

Doorway pages are sometimes referred to as portals and gateway pages.

Here’s the problem with gateway pages: they must be closed or navigated through to get to desired content.

A gateway page is like a smoky sheet of plastic in front of your door. This is bound to cause some pain and frustration. A good example of a gateway is the full page ad that appears in front of you when you are trying to visit Salon.

Microsites are a cross between a landing page and a website.

They often have their own domain names. You may even brand them with separate colors from your company’s brand. Maybe even its own logo.

They are small, self-contained web destinations that are separate from a company’s primary site, have their own distinct URLs, and consist entirely of content focused on a particular product or service.

They’re more easily optimized for search engines and, if their content is good enough, can drive word-of-mouth or viral marketing through linking and pass-along.

With the prevalence of keyword contextual advertising, (more commonly referred to as Pay per click or PPC), microsites may be created specifically to carry such contextual advertising. Or along a similar tactic, they’re created in order to specifically carry topic-specific keyword-rich content with the goal of having search engines rank them highly when search engine users seek such content topics.

Because of that narrower focus, these small web sites can be used as hubs for a specific marketing campaign.

They are used when a real estate marketer wants to offer a user an extended experience for branding or educational purposes.

Think Philips Bodygroom.

Or Boutari Moschofiari.

Or the Tedst, real estate sales legend. [Ted will live on forever in my heart.]

A good micro site is in fact a site the visitor might even return to as a destination. Or share.

But it’s not a landing page.

Why Does It Matter

A landing page is where a person “lands” when theyclick on an online ad banner, search engine result, email link, or when they visit a special promotional URL that they heard about on TV, radio or other offline media.

Very few perfect landing pages exist.

The perfect few are usually the result of exhaustive multivariate testing.

However, like most people, you probably don’t have the budget or time to dive into multiple tests.

You need to launch something today on a shoe string budget.

But the problem with most landing pages is that they are asking your prospects to do some pretty unpleasant stuff:

  • Read a bunch of copy
  • Type their name and address
  • Hand over a phone number
  • Give an email
  • Dig out a credit card
  • Pay for something

The trick is to get them to see doing these things as a something they want to do. Something that sounds beneficial, even in the smallest of ways, to them.

If the next several posts I’ll get into exactly how to do that.

But first: do you know of any successful landing pages?

According to industry numbers, typical conversion rates are low.

Depending on whether it was emails to a house list to a free offer through search to an email to a 3rd part list, you’re looking at something as high as 11.31% to 6.1% to as low as .97%.

I’ve heard of 50% conversion, but the low teens and high single digits is the norm.