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Killer copy is the bloodline of marketing.
Creating it is an art and science.
Art because it requires creativity, a sense of elegance and style.
Science because it involves testing, trial, and error, fine-tuning, predictability and breakthroughs.
Whether you're a newbie, intermediate or an expert refreshing or brushing up your skills, this copywriting guide is for you.
So, without any further horn-tooting, let's dive in:
While you have come across the word, it's not the most common term around.
So, what exactly is copywriting?
Any writing that persuades your audience for taking an action is called copywriting. Signing up for email updates, sharing something on social media or buying something online, are a few examples. Copywriting is often summarized as 'Copy'.
Copy is what we find on headlines, product descriptions, sales pages, CTR buttons, email subject lines, and pretty much everything used for marketing purposes. Even if it is a task as small as remembering the name of your company.
Writing copy is a process where you have to jab your readers' attention, secure it all the way down, push his emotional buttons and drag him to a boiling point. You also have to lift risks off your buyer's shoulders, eliminate objections, ask for the sale and justify your price.
That said, contrary to the usual misconception, copy is not about 'copying' something, shoes or shirts for example.
Just like every game-changing factor in business, copywriting takes mastery. Want your online presence to shine? Improving your copy chops is your way to go.
And to help you exactly with that, here we'll go over the ultimate list of copywriting techniques. Let's get started:
While researching and writing down a customer profile may seem like a lot, sheerly effective has more to it. Understanding your customer is a must and failing to do so will hamper your sales. Often, copy is written without talking to the people spending the bucks. Having that said, what is it that helps you understand your audience better?
The answer? SHORT SURVEYS.
Short surveys are the easiest way to understand your customers better. Such surveys show you what's going inside the head of your target audience, what are their recurrent questions and objections. And luckily, there are a ton of tools to help you with this. You can use Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Wufoo and/or other tools to get the job done.
The goal here is talking with your customers. You can phone them individually, but nothing beats surveys to gather information from a massive amount of customers. After creating the survey, you need to conduct it and then think through to learn more about your audience. Put their answers under the microscope and emphasize on the points they mentioned.
Their words will be a superb source for your copy, be it web content, headlines, email subject lines or something else.
Without focusing on the words your audience use, it's easy to start using jargons and language that they probably won't understand. Often, we address products as buzzwords or industry phrases that our customers don't know of. While this may make sense to us, won't help our target audience. Plus, it won't also resonate that much with your customers.
This is where you get your hands dirty. For creating the best copy suited to your audience, you're going to:
Extensive research is all about stepping into the buyer's shoes. This will help you add empathy and answer all the important questions and objections.
"On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy." ~ David Ogilvy
In other words: A subpar headline can punch your business in the nuts.
The headline is the first copy your customers read. This can either hook the reader or chase them away. Even if you have body copy that'd turn 5 out of 10 people into buyers, if the headline fails to hook them, your sales will go down and the potential customer would be off to spend his money elsewhere.
Ogilvy marked headlines as the most crucial, so he considered them as worth 90% of the money spent on ads. While there are many tips on tailoring out killer headlines out there, the entire creation process can be summed up as follows:
While testing out your new headlines may feel tempting, if you don't want to waste your time and effort, headline templates are your way to go.
You know exactly who your prospect is and what their pains and desires are. You also have a headline that'll jab his attention hard. Now it's time to crank out some copy.
Copywriting usually hits the rock bottom at this stage. People go in circles and ask themselves 'what now'?
That's exactly when AIDA formula comes to the rescue.
The AIDA formula is the skeleton for most sales pages. It's designed around the interest of your audience, helping you see through his thoughts, questions, and objections. So, it resonates with your prospect and makes them take action.
So, what exactly does AIDA mean?
The headline and the opening sentence, where you jab your prospect's attention and tell them what's going to benefit them.
This is where you rub chili powder in your reader's open wounds, or by creating a story highlighting how he'll fill his desires.
And now that your reader is interested in your offer, it's time you stomp on his greed glands and bring out emotions describing how your product/service will catapult his life.
Once your product emotionally hooks your reader, you ask them to take action here. Usually buying, downloading, clicking or subscribing.
Now, let's witness an ad that has effectively used the AIDA formula. This ad emphasizes fun and entertainment:
Here the designer used vibrant colors for jabbing attention. The ad sure delivers the benefit - enjoying the holiday with friends - which captures our interest and desire. Then you have the 'Buy Now' button placed boldly, encouraging you to take action by buying their holiday pass right away.
Everybody loves a good story. And people listen when you talk about someone they can relate to and explain how they beat those challenges.
And ultimately, your product will help them overcome all the obstacles.
You can find such technique in emails, landing pages or in videos. No matter what the format is, you'll find 4 common components:
Opening: Introduce their pain. Explain that the character was living a normal life, and something came and shattered everything.
Conflict: How the life of the character got threatened if he/she doesn't fight the problem? How does his journey look like while fighting this challenge?
Dialogue: People are magnetized in a story. It's basic human nature: 2 people discussing. We also love dialogue as it's easy to read and digest.
Solution: Your product or service is finally introduced as the cure of the problem. Sharing specific results increases the credibility of your product.
While your story doesn't have to dramatic, it sure has to draw the target audience in. And that's where in-depth research comes in.
When it comes to copy, they say “The more you tell, the more you sell.” Meaning that copy with longer facts and benefits will convert better.
Unlike the firsthand conversation with a sales guy, written ads have only 1 chance to convert the reader. Should you get in front of the reader, you have to imply everything out there.
Take the Google Analytics for instance.
Pages filled with facts and benefits implied as the proposition ain't simple - usual prospects are going to question a lot. So, it's better to anticipate such questions and answer them in your copy.
However, while following the basic principles of effective content marketing, keep in mind that not all facts and benefits must be presented up front.
You can leak the presentation over weeks using an email autoresponder, or a registration-based content library. This way, you're converting long copy into short, easy-to-digest pieces.
Every ad, sales letter, article, email subject line you put out, begins with one single sentence. This sentence must speak to the needs and desires of people directly and your content must convey what it promised.
Journalists call the first sentence (or the paragraph) the lede. The first sentence is out there to make your content irresistible.
The first sentence of your copy must be short. And compelling. So short and compelling that it's almost easier to read it than not.
And just as all great copywriting, the only goal of the first sentence is getting the second sentence read. And then the third one. And so on.
And if you lose your reader at any point, you lose everything.
Now that you know the importance, the question remains:
How do you go about creating killer opening sentences?
Having that said, the best way to learn to create great openings is by studying examples. And to help you with just that, here I present you with some resources:
Before: Hello, welcome to our website. If you're looking for [Product name], you've found the right place.
After: We don't just take photos. We capture your precious memories so you can cherish them forever.
Before: Our website has been around since 2000, and this is our 6th anniversary online providing designer-inspired sunglasses.
After: How can you get the latest designer-inspired looks minus the crazy prices?
Before: Our website offers you unbeatable rates and wide-ranging travel services assured to satisfy even the most incisive vacationist
After: Imagine yourself on the beaches of Honolulu, wandering through the rainforests of Belize, or whisking down a powdery mountain in Aspen. All the deals at 50% off.
See the difference? While the 'before' sentences are mediocre, dull and powerless, the 'after' do a great job of making up for that.
Bottom line: don't stop at attractive headlines. Keep things going by putting out inviting opening sentences as well. Doing so will help you turn more visitors into open-wallet buyers.
Spend some time crafting a Unique Selling Proposition. USP is what makes you stand out from the crowd. It can be a risk-reversing guarantee, some bonuses or anything. Lots of companies are extremely successful by setting their company as their tagline. Domino's, for instance. Their tagline: "hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less" is a great USP, making them one of the biggest and most successful pizza chains inside North America.
Studying the competition is one of the most important things anyone can do. Figure out what they are doing, what they are charging and how are they getting customers. Then swear by these data to leave them behind.
Observe how your competition considers your customers. Do they look capable and trusted, or full of obvious defects? Do they imply any great tactic to convince the buyers?
Take advantage of whatever you can as there's no hard and fast rule about stealing marketing tactics.
Further, you can also read professionally written copy in magazines to understand how ad agencies convince prospects. Especially, you need to focus solely on products and/or services you know your market is buying. Then follow the same approach with your sales page.
Learn to convert features into benefits. Start by creating 2 lists. First, the benefits, second, the features. Now combine them by converting features into extra benefits. For instance:
Instead of writing "Instant access to", write "You will get instant access to".
Here you can see the answer to "What is in it for me?". And as benefits focus more on the side of the customer, they do a better job of converting prospects into customers.
Pack your headline and first paragraph with benefits. Start out with a powerful opening paragraph by spotlighting the most crucial benefits of your service or product.
Whatever the customer wants you fill, focus on it all over the first paragraph and your audience would love to learn more.
Use bullet points rather than paragraphs for listing benefits. Bullet lists offer the reader small, digestible pieces of information which are easier to read than blocks of text.
That said, don't turn each bullet point into a new paragraph, because that ruins the entire point of using bullet points. Rather, use them to convey your strongest benefits and excite them for learning more.
And avoid periods after each bullet points. You can use a semicolon or comma if you want, but period makes you stop the eye. No period means incompleteness so your audience keeps reading.
Answer every potential buyer. Because online buyers tend to be skeptical of new sites and products offered. So, lots of objections pop up why they won't buy what you're offering.
Help them beat their uncertainty by answering all their objections in your copy. While your copy won't be loved by everybody, you can shoot up your sales if you help people understand why their skepticism is needless.
Make a list of potential objections. One of the most crucial advantages of a live sales guy is he can handle any objections. And sales are gained or lost swearing by how well the seller can handle the prospect's objections.
Before writing any copy, make a huge list of potential reasons your customers may or may not want your product.
Perhaps, they think it's too expensive? Too time-consuming? Or a ton of other things. Knowing their objections beforehand packs you with the power to point out their concerns on your sales page.
Short sentences and eliminating fluff:
Always go for short, to-the-point sentences. Website copy must have short sentences, with a maximum of 3 sentences per paragraph. Adding too much text is as good as no text at all because prospects will run away instantly if they arrive and see the text just as a textbook. Think of resumes you receive within your business... you prefer them to be short, right?
“Adjectives are just fluff and air. Like tossing flowers out of your ad to get your prospects attention.” — John Carlton
Loading up your sentences with powerful action verbs shows a difference right away. The other packs-a-punch, and delivers powerful imagery straight into the reader’s brain. Because it uses action verbs to describe and removes the fluff.
Read what you've written out loud. It is one of the best ways to make sure your copy flows nice and is written well. If you're stumbling on sentences or being lost when reading, your customers will too. Once you've checked yourself, get someone else to read it out aloud to brush up even more.
A 1999 study showed reframing has a shocking persuasive power. While conducting the study, they went door to door to sell note cards for charity.
In their first pitch, they offered $3 for 8 cards and got sales at 40% of the houses.
In their second pitch, they offered 8 cards for 300 pennies, followed up by "And that is a bargain", consequently giving sales at 80% of the houses.
Such a tiny tweak, yet such great results. But why?
Here's the deal:
People aren't used to hearing 300 pennies over 3 dollars. So, their normal thought process is disrupted. Now, while they're counting the actual amount, they're told that 'it's a bargain' to close the deal.
This is called reframing. It is an extremely powerful tactic allowing you to manipulate the value of an item by comparing and focusing on the reader.
Here's an example of reframing in practice:
Why would someone rush to blow 500$ a year, right? After all, that's a good amount for most people.
But what about $42 a month
Or $8 a day?
Seems a lot more affordable, right?
And that’s the sheer power of reframing.
Ever had an amazing TV show that you couldn't take your eyes off? A book that you couldn't close off?
If so, congrats. You've been through open loops, aka the Zeigarnik effect.
Open loops seduce our brain's natural temptation for completion. The brain enters a mode of confusion or tension when it finds something incomplete. It could be for simple reasons like a question, a story or even a chore you didn't complete. And the only way of ending the tension or confusion is closing the open loop.
When writing copy, an open is a part of that doesn't tie up instantly. Applying open loops is easy and makes your copy more attractive right away. Here is an open loop instance from CopyHour landing page.
The writer starts off with discussing a mysterious secret used by copywriters to fine-tune their pieces and end up making barrels of cash - making you wonder what this secret is.
However, the writer doesn't stop there. The copy keeps dangling the secret right before your face, strengthening your curiosity and getting you more interested to find out what is actually is, consequently, bumping up the conversion.
It's easy to implement open loops.
The most effortless way to start is by asking more questions and vaguely imply on them. Just as the example above. This lack of completion gets your reader more curious and invested in your writing.
When you sit in a room and talk about a campaign, everyone's got an opinion. Some think you should use one picture, while others vote for another. Some support larger fonts, while others advocate smaller.
Often when you come up with an initial design, you just have to opt for an option or another swearing by the best information at your disposal. And when possible, you have to test to figure out how your copy and design actually performs.
Testing does a great job of learning how your target responds to various pieces of copy. They may respond better with "special", "free" or "powerful". Regardless of the case, every time you do an A/B/C/D/etc. test, you learn new stuff regarding your business.
How much of testing should you do? Well, that's up to you. You can keep sharpening your campaigns by testing new elements. And luckily, the internet makes it almost effortless to conduct test nowadays.
Realize that testing can reveal profit and revenue possibilities you never thought were feasible. If replacing one word as the subject line can give you 10,000 more clicks, imagine how it'll impact your bottom line.
Testing can be intriguing. But once you get hold of it, opportunities are limitless.
Mastering copywriting takes time. You have to focus at each tactic at a time. But once you’ve got the hold of it, the rewards are humongous.
If you'd like to mention some other effective copywriting method that I forgot, let me know in the comments and I'd get back to you right away.
Mehedi is a freelance content and copywriter helping businesses grow with red-hot content. Mehedi started writing for the web in 2012 and is in high-school as of now, making more $$$ than most high school students around. You can visit his site PowerhouseBlogger for more information and if you want Mehedi to help you with content, you can hit him up on Facebook or Twitter.
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