May 24, 2010
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
This is especially true, when it comes to copywriting techniques. The same timeless copywriting techniques that were so successful fifty years ago, are just as effective today. In fact, some of the greatest ads in the history of advertising were written during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
This exciting time period was known as The Golden Age of Advertising.
In that regard, I’ve decided to compile a list of time-tested copywriting techniques to help improve your sales conversions. Please don’t look for anything new here. Like I said earlier, these time-tested techniques are just as effective today as they were fifty years ago.
However, with the advent of the Internet, sometimes we need to be reminded of that fact.
1. Always Use a Compelling Headline
Readers will decide whether or not to read your ad, based solely on how compelling your headline is. And if your headline doesn’t capture the readers imagination, your ad is pretty much destined to fail. That’s how critically important it is to get the readers attention.
In essence, your headline needs to act like a big red stop sign. Your headline has to make readers slam on their eyeball brakes. This is especially true for online copy, because Internet users are notorious scanners.
If you would like to learn how to write effective headlines, I highly recommend you check out Brian Clark’s outstanding copywriting blog, CopyBlogger.
2. Get Right to the Point
After your headline gets the readers attention, next, you want to get them interested in your product or service. You do that by immediately delivering what your headline promises.
In other words, respect the readers time and get right to the point. That way, the reader can decide immediately if she wants to continue reading the rest of your copy.
Whatever you do, don’t string your readers along unnecessarily with a bunch of fluff designed to fill out your ad. For instance, did you notice how got quickly I got right to the point in this article?
3. Long Copy vs. Short Copy
There’s been a debate going on in Internet Marketing circles for several years about long copy vs. short copy. I’m going to end that debate right now.
Research has shown that long copy usually outperforms short copy – provided the copy is well-written and interesting. Every single day, people read long newspaper and magazine articles, as well as novels. They will read your long copy IF it is interesting.
That being said, I don’t believe you should intentionally set out to write long copy. Only make your copy as long as it needs to be to effectively sell your product or service. No longer.
4. Use Subheads and Bullet Points
Subheads and bullet points are important, because they serve two purposes: 1. They break up your copy, so that it’s easier to read. 2. They act like stop signs.
Remember what I said earlier? Internet users are notorious scanners. They’ll scan your copy first, before deciding whether or not to actually read it. That’s why compelling subheads and bullet points are so important.
5. Write the Way You Talk
Writing the way you talk is known as “conversational copy.” What’s conversational copy? Conversational copy simply means talking to the reader in a conversational manner – like you’re talking to your best friend.
6. Keep it Simple
Don’t try to be cute or clever with your writing. The purpose of copywriting is to sell products – not impress readers with your brilliance. keep your writing simple, instead of composing riddles or using sophisticated jargon.
The goal of your copy should be to entice readers to buy what you’re selling – period. Leave the riddles to The Riddler.
7. It’s Not About You
You may be a very nice person – the salt of the earth, in fact. That being said, readers don’t care about “YOU.” The only thing they care about is what can you do to help them solve their problem?
“What’s in it for ME?” That’s all your readers really care about. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your readers.
8. Always Sell Benefits
When you write copy, don’t make the mistake of focusing on features instead of benefits. There’s a huge difference. Features are the sizzle. Benefits are the steak. Features are distinctive characteristics that distinguishes your product or service from similar items.
Benefits, on the other hand describe how your product or service will help the customer solve her problem. In other words, what the customer will gain by using your product or service.
For example, let’s suppose your company sells light bulbs. A couple of features of your light bulbs may be the fact they burn cooler than normal bulbs and are guaranteed to last 10 years.
However, the benefits customers will derive from purchasing your light bulbs is the amount of money they will save on their electric bill, as well as the amount of money they will save not having to buy new bulbs every few months.
9. Be Specific
To make your copywriting as compelling as possible, you should always be specific. For example, instead of saying “lose weight” say, “lose 10 pounds in 10 days!” That’s a much more compelling statement. Be specific.
10. Use Testimonials
Using testimonials from current customers is an extremely powerful way to reassure prospects. But you have to do it correctly. Always use your customers full name and where they live. For example, David Jackson, Albany, NY, as opposed to initials only. When you read a testimonial written by DJ, New York, chances are it’s a bogus testimonial. NEVER use bogus testimonials, or you will find yourself in trouble with the FTC.
11. Offer a FREE Bonus
Offering a free bonus is one of the most effective copywriting techniques you can use. Not only does it give prospective customers extra incentive to purchase your product or service, free bonuses have been proven to dramatically increase sales conversions. The best type of free bonus is something unique – something that has real value – something that you can afford to give away cost-effectively.
12. Use a P.S.
Readership studies show that after the headline, readers scan down to the end of the sales letter to read the P.S. (post- script). This means that the P.S is the second-most read part of a sales letter. Use this knowledge wisely. Make your post-script as potent as possible. Use it to summarize your offer, and as a final “call to action” to make prospects BUY NOW!
Here’s an example of an effective post-script:
P.S. Order NOW, and receive a FREE Blackberry. But only if you Order NOW!
One last thing. You’ve probably seen sales letters that use multiple post-scripts. I strongly disagree with this practice. In my opinion, using multiple post-scripts dilutes the effectiveness of your P.S.
13. Use Bold Type and Highlighting Sparingly
The overuse of bold, italics and highlighting in copywriting is rampant. Seriously. I’ve seen ads and sales letters that were so overly-highlighted, they looked like a big mustard sandwich with ants…hideous!
Unfortunately, I see this all too often with sales copy, as well as other types of copy. You should use bold type and highlight sparingly, and only to emphasize certain words, sentences or paragraphs.
If you overdo it with these tools, you dramatically dilute their effectiveness. Then it becomes impossible to effectively “highlight” (no pun intended) the points you were trying to emphasize.
Remember, “when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing!”
14. Test Your Copy
Testing is a critical element of successful marketing. You should always test your copy, to make sure that you are obtaining optimum results.
Experiment with different headlines in your ads and sales letters. Tweak your copy to increase conversion rates. You’d be surprised what a difference changing a few words here and there can make.
Did you know changing a single word in a headline has been known increase response by as much as 1700%? It’s true. That’s why testing your copy is so important.
The easiest way to test your copy is with multi-variate testing software, such as Google’s Website Optimizer.
By the way, when tweaking your copy, don’t make wholesale changes all at once. Tweak a little bit at a time. For example, test different headlines and subheads first, before delving into the body of your ad or sales letter.
15. Give a Strong Guarantee
One of the best things you can do to reassure prospective customers and give them peace of mind is to offer a strong guarantee. Unfortunately, some marketers are afraid to guarantee their products for fear of being hit with a mountain of refund requests. Their fear is unfounded. Here’s the truth:
If you provide good value for the dollar, statistics show that less than 2% of your customers will ask for a refund. In fact, even if you offer lousy value, most people just won’t go through the hassles of requesting a refund. That’s a fact.
Here’s something else to consider. Offering s strong guarantee has been known to increase sales dramatically. So, how long should your guarantee be? At least 30 days. But if you really believe in your product, the longer, the better. About the author
David Jackson is a marketing consultant, and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business. http://free-marketing-tips-blog.com