Successful marketing copywriters don’t get to win Pulitzers or Noble Prizes for Literature, but what they do is nothing short of genius. Persuasive copywriting earns entrepreneurs worldwide thousands, even millions, of dollars and bridges the gap between brands and consumers.
To look at it more altruistically, persuasive marketing copy fills voids in many consumers’ lives by allowing them to see that a particular brand or business has whatever it is they need, positioning them as an expert in their industry, instilling trust, and triggering more conversions.
Writing compelling marketing copy is not an easy feat. In fact, persuasive copywriting is the Achilles Heel of many marketers.
Fortunately, we all have the benefit of going back in history to review what worked and what didn’t and from no less than some of the most outstanding marketers that ever walked the planet. So, after all the digging, reading and investigating, we could pinpoint four ingredients that a compelling marketing copy should have.
Use a Conversational Tone
You’re experiencing shoulder pain, and since you don’t really have an orthopedic doctor that you regularly see, you turn to Google and search for “orthopedic clinic”. You click on a link, and you see a landing page with the following copy:
It’s our passion and commitment to provide top-caliber tailor-fit services in all practices of orthopedic medicine. Our clinicians are trailblazers and industry movers and shakers in the orthopedic healthcare arena, equipped with the latest techniques and technologies available in the First World.
Looks perfectly fine, right? But does it resonate? Does it answer the question a layperson might have? Most importantly, is it something you can relate to and say “okay, I can trust this practice”? Truly compelling or convincing marketing copy is able to reach out, metaphorically shake the hands of people on the other end of the screen, and build a personal relationship with them.
Many marketers and practice owners fall victim to using verbose corporate speak when writing marketing copy. Are you guilty of doing the same? If so, you are not alone. In fact, this can be the default approach of most marketers because we were conditioned that writing should follow a set of strict rules that is almost paralyzing for many.
Many marketers turn into Grammar Nazis obsessed with highfaluting words and complicated sentences that don’t really mean anything. We are told that writing is not for everyone and that it’s difficult. The more self-conscious marketers get in their writing, the more ineffective the copy becomes.
Get Out of Writing Mode
Humans are born to talk, not to write. So, the first step to writing persuasive marketing copy is to stop your brain from going into this default writing mode. At the end of the day, your end goal is to tell your audience something, not write something for them.
This is easier said than done because, as the cliché goes, bad habits die hard. One trick you can do instead is to record yourself talking about a topic. For example, imagine you’re in a cocktail room when you see a friend. You approach them and begin to talk about a product you sell or the service you provide. How would that conversation go? Bring out your recorder and do this exercise. Then play it back and listen to yourself.
The idea is simple. When people read your marketing copy, they’re actually imagining you talking to them. So, if it sounds unnatural, your message won’t convey, and your audience won’t relate.
Stop writing and start telling.
Adopt a Narrative Format for Your Website Content
Have you ever read a book on philosophy? If not, here’s an excerpt from one of the most famous philosophers in history, Niccolo Machiavelli. Let’s play a quick game. Read the following passage just once:
The Prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank. And, on the contrary, it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art.
Did you get the point Machiavelli was trying to make? If yes, you belong to a very rare breed of people. However, the majority of your audience won’t be able to understand what this excerpt means with one pass or even with several readings. Without understanding, there can be no persuasion and without persuasion, there can be no sale.
Most philosophical documents don’t follow a narrative, but our brains are hardwired to comprehend content the best if there is a clear structure. Consumers understand marketing copy that tells a story. And if the story is relevant to them, they respond by buying.
By adopting a narrative approach to your copywriting, you are leveraging the biological default of how humans process information and emotion. A typical narrative structure for persuasive marketing copy begins with an explosive headline, an engaging opening, compelling proofs, and a strong call to action (CTA).
Sustain Interest Throughout Your Website Copy
When writing a marketing narrative, be wary that your story does not lose momentum as it reaches your call to action. You’ve likely seen one of those movies or read one of those novels that started really strong then plateaued as they approached the midpoint of the story and ended anticlimactically. Be sure to start strong and finish even stronger.
One technique you can use to accomplish this is to segment your marketing copy by identifying sub-plots for your story without losing its cohesiveness. Make sure that each segment builds on one another and the interest builds up as you move forward. Then, separately work on a strong headline, an attention-grabbing introduction, and an irresistible CTA.
Appeal to Primal Needs, Then to Logic
During one of his countless interviews, online marketing guru, Eben Pagan, said that the secret to persuasive marketing is being able to successfully appeal to your prospective customers’ Reptilian Brain and Middle Brain.
You can do your own research on this but as a short backgrounder, neuroscientists believe that the brain can be segmented into three parts in terms of evolution: the Reptilian Brain which is the oldest part, followed by the Middle Brain or the Limbic System and lastly, the Mammal Brain. The Reptilian Brain processes instincts and primal needs, while the Limbic System processes emotions and the Mammal Brain processes logic.
Primal needs are the demand drivers and are very strong sales triggers.
Let’s take the example of weight-loss products. The logical path of convincing people to buy diet merchandise is providing the reader with all the “scientifically proven” ingredients tested by an army of scientists or dieticians in the world’s most advanced laboratories. It sounds appealing enough to create demand and generate sales, right? Not really…
This is because there are no triggers that cater to the primal needs of that potential patient. Top of mind, there are potentially two primal triggers for weight loss products:
- Survival of the fittest – Humankind’s eternal quest for the fountain of youth or the desire to stay alive as long as they could.
- Sex sells – The primal need to be sexually desired by someone else.
When writing your marketing copy, make sure you start with these primal needs to hook your audience. This will make them more predisposed to respond positively to your marketing messages, leading us to our next point…
Talk About Benefits Before Features
Many marketers fall into the trap of writing about the features of their products and services first before enumerating their benefits. There is a perception that what makes a product or a service unique is its features, which is actually correct. However, we are talking about persuasion, and given the limited window that brands have to convince their prospective customers, benefits should be front-loaded because consumers want to know first “what’s in it for them” before drilling down into the specifics of your offerings.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as B2B companies. Chances are, the prospective clients of these brands already know what they are looking for and they want to go straight into the features.
When in doubt, you can discuss both benefits and features simultaneously by using succinct bullet points. The rule still applies – highlight the benefit first, followed immediately by the feature from which this benefit emanates from.
Give Your Marketing Copy a “Scannable” Format
According to the research firm Nielsen Norman Group, 79% of web users don’t read web content; they scan it.
This is mainly due to four reasons:
- Reading on a computer screen is extremely straining to the eyes, so people read digital content 25% slower than when they’re reading printed content.
- The Internet is a “user-driven medium” and web surfers feel the need to click on things all the time.
- People feel they don’t have the time in their hectic schedule to read digital content.
- Millions of websites are competing for your prospective consumers’ attention.
Formatting That Sells
New Zealand-based copywriting guru Bnonn Tennant shares six tips on including visual hooks when formatting your marketing copy so it’s more optimized for conversion and sales.
- First is the use of attention-grabbing and relevant subheadings, which will stir up the appetite of your audience to read more of your copy.
- Next is the quintessential utilization of a bulleted list to summarize and highlight the benefits and features of your offerings.
- Third, use boldface text to underscore the main selling points of your copy.
- The fourth tip Bnonn has in terms of formatting is to use short paragraphs with a single idea so your readers don’t miss anything.
- Next is the use of visual elements such as photos and graphs as they convey more value and more impactful.
- Finally, use captions as they are read 50% more compared to traditional body copy and they have almost 100% retention and recall rate.
Four Techniques to Write the Best Marketing Copy
Now that you know the what of how to write marketing copy that sells, the next question is how. The reality is, different copywriters and marketers write copy differently. However, there are universally applicable and implementable techniques you could try to improve your writing significantly better.
1. Write Now, Edit Later
Remember the point above about getting out of writing mode? Writers tend to edit themselves as they write when in fact, these two are separate copywriting disciplines. Yes, they are closely related, but they should not be done simultaneously. When writing copy, just say whatever it is you want to say to your audience no holds barred. Be passionate and really believe in what you are saying. This will allow your copy to have a unique and distinct personality that people can relate to. If you think it’s too much, you can always edit down. Remember, it’s easier to tone down a copy full of personality and enthusiasm as opposed to perking up a lifeless and bland copy.
2. Let it Sit Overnight
Copywriters and marketers tend to be so involved and attached in what they are writing that they sometimes lose perspective. That being said, after writing your marketing copy, don’t edit right away. Rather, let it sit overnight and sleep on it. It is important to step back and return to your copy with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s easier to spot points of improvement this way.
3. Read Your Copy Aloud
One of the ingredients of persuasive copywriting mentioned above is the use of conversational tone. There’s no better way for you to test this than reading your copy out loud. This will make it easier for you to spot awkward syntaxes, weird choice of words, and unnatural sentence construction. This is a piece of classic advice very few writers follow but it works. An alternative route is to ask someone to read it aloud. After several hours of writing and editing, you might get too familiar with how your copy flows and you might get used to it, even with the awkward phrases and sentences. Someone reading it for the first time will easily spot these easily editable flaws. Plus, you get unbiased opinions and feedback as well.
4. Subject Your Copy to the “Breath Test”
Did you know that in a sentence, every word beyond the 20-word mark can cost you 10% of your readers? Long sentences are a no-no in marketing copies. If you need to pause for a breath in the middle of reading a sentence, it means the sentence is too long. Every sentence should contain just one idea. If a sentence is too long, rephrase it to make it shorter or break it down into more manageable bits.
The Five Most Powerful Words in the English Language
One cannot discuss persuasive copywriting without touching on these “power words.” You’ll be surprised that these persuasive words are not fancy at all. In fact, they are very simple and people use them in everyday conversations. This proves that highly effective and efficient marketing copies don’t need to be contrived.
When writing persuasive marketing copy, every word is important. They are the building blocks of every great marketing campaign. Hence, choosing the right and persuasive words is a copywriting discipline marketers need to perfect.
So, without further ado, here are the five most persuasive words every copywriter or marketer needs to be aware of:
People love free stuff! Even if they don’t need it, if it’s free, they will take it.
Of course, this goes without saying that using the word “free” in your marketing copy may come with a terrible consequence if done thoughtlessly. If you’re constantly offering free stuff, you may attract a freeloader market that has no interest in spending a penny to get your products or services.
Use it wisely. Further, the quality of your copy determines the quality of the traffic you attract. So, even though you use “free” every once in a while, your copy should reflect the irresistible value of your offering. So, even though your products are no longer free, they will be willing to spend because you were able to frontload the value rather than the fact that they are free.
Also, rather than offering your products or services for free, offer a “free trial.” Trial encourages purchases.
Before anything else, here’s a disclaimer. According to studies, people actually don’t like it when well recognized and long-established brands undergo a drastic change. This is why companies go to a great extent when rebranding. Changes to iconic company representations such as the logo and packaging can cause negative repercussions.
On the other hand, people also love novelty. This is why “new” is such a powerful copywriting word because it represents innovativeness.
When it comes to copywriting, use the word new when communicating about product features and benefits – meaning the utilitarian or functional side of your business. However, when it comes to brand identity, use this word with caution.
According to Robert Cialdini, Arizona State University Professor Emeritus in Psychology, “A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
Remember, “because” answers “why.” Why should people buy your products? Why should they trust your brand? Why should they choose you over your competitors? Using the word “because” introduces the primary reason for the purchase decision and it should be emotive rather than logical.
Studies conducted by neuroscientists showed how the pleasure points in people’s brains light up whenever they envision instant gratification and immediate rewards. Consumers want it now.
Some of the best examples of how copywriters use the word “instantly” and many of its other permutations to increase conversion can be seen in the beauty products market. Phrases such as “with one wash,” “after the first application,” and “overnight” satisfy the consumers’ craving for instant gratification and thus, encourage purchase.
People love seeing their own names which is why personalized products and services are such a hit. For direct marketing and customer relations management, it would be possible for you to address all your customers by their names. But in a more generalized marketing environment, such as your website or landing page, this is quite difficult to achieve.
Using the word “you” is the next best thing. One of the four ingredients of persuasive marketing copy is having a conversational tone and nothing is more conversational than addressing your customers directly by using “you.”
Write More Persuasive Copy Starting Today
You don’t have to be a descendant of Shakespeare to write persuasive marketing copy. While it takes time to master it, you can immediately try out the tips above and monitor the direct results of the changes you employ.
For more information on all of our services and a complimentary review of your orthopedic website, contact us today.