Writing copy that sells

I read so many (sorry to say this) BORING emails and newsletters from artists, that I couldn’t resist passing this along. Pay close attention. Much is applicable to your copy.

10 Keys to Copy That Sells!
by Alexandria Brown

Whether you’re selling a product or service, the 10 tips below are your keys to writing great copy that communicates and persuades … to get results! These guidelines can apply to Web copy, e-mail, sales letters, brochures, direct mail, and more. As long as your goal is to elicit a reaction from your reader, you’ve come to the right place.

1. Be reader-centered, not writer-centered.

Many ads, brochures, and Web sites talk endlessly on and on about how great their products and companies are. Hello? Customer, anyone? Think of your reader thinking, "What’s in it for me?" If you can, talk with some of your current customers and ask them 1) why they chose you, and 2) what they get out of your product or service. TIP: To instantly make your copy more reader-focused, insert the word "you" often.

2. Focus on the benefits — not just the features.

The fact that your product or service offers a lot of neat features is
great, but what do they DO for your customer? Do they save her time or
money? Give her peace of mind? Raise her image to a certain status?
Here’s an example: If you go buy a pair of Gucci sunglasses, you’re not
just looking for good UV protection. You’re buying the sleek, stylish
Gucci look. So that’s what Gucci sells. You don’t see their ads talk
about how well made their sunglasses are. Think about what your
customers are REALLY looking for.

Now, what does an insurance broker sell? Policies?

Nope — peace of mind. (See? You’ve got it.)

3. Draw them in with a killer headline.

The first thing your reader sees can mean the difference between
success and failure. Today’s ads are chock full of clever headlines
that play on words. They’re cute, but most of them aren’t effective.
There are many ways to get attention in a headline, but it’s safest to
appeal to your reader’s interests and concerns. And again, remember to
make it reader centered — no one gives a hoot about your company.

Bad: "SuccessCorp Creates Amazing New Financial Program"
Better: "Turn Your Finances Around in 30 Days!"

4. Use engaging subheads.

Like mini-headlines, subheads help readers quickly understand your main
points by making the copy "skimmable." Because subheads catch readers"
eyes, you should use them to your benefit! Read through your copy for
your main promotional points, then summarize the ideas as subheads. To
make your subheads engaging, it’s important to include action or
selling elements.

Bad: "Our Department’s Successes."
Better: "Meet Five Clients Who Saved $10K With Us."

5. Be conversational.

Write to your customers like you’d talk to them. Don’t be afraid of
using conversational phrases such as "So what’s next?" or "Here’s how
do we do this." Avoid formality and use short, easy words. Why? Even if
you think it can’t possibly be misunderstood, a few people will still
be confused. Plus, being conversational helps prospects feel like they
can trust you more.

6. Nix the jargon.

Avoid industry jargon and buzzwords — stick to the facts and the
benefits. An easy way to weed out jargon is to think of dear old Mom
reading your copy. Would she get it? If not, clarify and simplify.
(This rule, of course, varies, depending on who your target audience
is. For a business audience, you should upscale your words to what
they’re used to. In some industries, buzzwords are crucial. Just make
sure your points don’t get muddled in them!)

7. Keep it brief and digestible.

No one has time to weed through lengthy prose these days. The faster
you convey your product or service’s benefits to the reader, the more
likely you’ll keep her reading. Fire your "biggest gun" first by
beginning with your biggest benefit — if you put it toward the end of
your copy, you risk losing the reader before she gets to it. Aim for
sentence lengths of less than 20 words. When possible, break up copy
with subheads (see no. 4), bullets, numbers, or em dashes (like the one
following this phrase) — these make your points easy to digest.

8. Use testimonials when possible.

Let your prospects know they won’t be the first to try you. Give
results-oriented testimonials from customers who have benefited
immensely from your product or service. Oh, and never give people’s
initials only — it reminds me of those ads in the back of magazines
with headlines like "Lose 5 Tons in 3 Days!" Give people’s full names
with their titles and companies (or towns and states of residence) —
and be sure to get their permission first.

9. Ask for the order!

Tell your reader what you want her to do — don’t leave her hanging. Do
you want her to call you or e-mail you for more information? Order her
copy now? Call to schedule a free consultation? Complete a brief
survey? Think about what you’d most like her to do, and then ask her.
It’s amazing how many marketing materials I come across every day that
don’t make it clear what the reader should do. If you wrote interesting
copy, your reader may forget you’re trying to sell something. Tell her
what to do, and she’ll be more likely to do it.

10. Have your copy proofread!

Good. Now have it proofread again. Don’t risk printing any typos,
misspellings, or grammatical mistakes that will represent your company
as amateurs. Hire a professional editor or proofreader to clean up your
work. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impession! Oops
— impression.

© 2001-2008 Alexandria Brown International Inc.

Online entrepreneur
Alexandria K. Brown publishes the award-winning ‘Highlights on
Marketing & Success’ weekly ezine with 28,000+ subscribers. If
you’re ready to jump-start your marketing, make more money, and have
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3 comments to Writing copy that sells

  • Regarding #7: This is where I’ve always had trouble writing copy for art. Just what IS the benefit to the customer? Perhaps owning an art work can enhance prestige and dress up the joint, but to say that, one comes across like the ads for ‘limited edition’ ceramics and the like. Some folks say the customer is really buying the artist, and the art work is secondary. Again, where is the benefit to the customer in this case? And how does one convey it in copy? Very perplexing, for me. Walter Hawn

  • Mary Richmond

    This is really good, practical information. Too many artist websites and blogs are boring–mostly because the artist is trying to impress someone they haven’t met yet, I think. Let the work speak for itself. I think it works best when the artist is more conversational as well as professional… good points here…must go clean up my sites!

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