Make It Believable
This is the third and final tutorial in the copywriting series. In this one, we will consider various ways of overcoming the dreaded writer’s block as well as some specific thoughts that you should bear in mind when attempting to write for the Internet at the end of the first decade of the new century.
It’s a scenario that is familiar to every copywriter and online marketer.
You sit down in front of the computer, staring at a blank screen and you can’t think of a single word to write.
What the heck do you do?
The first thing is, don’t panic or worry too much about it. It happens to everyone from time to time, just one of those unavoidable facts that you…well, you can’t avoid!
When the dreaded block hits you, there are several tricks or techniques that you can use to start the ball rolling, one of which always work for me.
One technique that is highly effective is to write out a list of features and benefits of the product for which you are trying to create copy whenever you are blocked. This usually gets the words flowing, after which you should have no problems writing your copy.
Another thing which really helps to get the copy moving is to feel enthusiastic and fired up about the product or service for which you are writing copy.
Write down why you feel so enthusiastic about it – it can be totally monosyllabic to start with – and once again, you’ll soon start to feel the creative juices flowing.
Get yourself organized too.
In other words, get your research or content materials into order and then write out a short bullet pointed list of the main points or topics that you want to raise in your copy. From here, all you need to do is expand the content that you have already written and you will have the nuts and bolts of your copy on the screen in front of you.
Another thing that I find helps is just writing. It doesn’t matter what it is about, it is the very act of writing that starts the thought processes flowing.
For example, I have mentioned the value of forums in previous tutorials.
If you really can’t think how to get started with your copy, log on to your favorite forum and start posting. The simple act of writing could be all that is needed to get you on the move again.
For the same reason, you might try creating a blog site to which you post fresh new content every day. In exactly the same way as getting involved in forums, the simple act of writing gets you into the mood for creating your copy.
If nothing else works, just write down the first things that come into your head. It doesn’t really matter if it is complete nonsense as long as you write something to get the ball rolling and the creative juices flowing.
It may seem like a waste of time writing stuff that you are going to delete but if it gets rid of the block, it is never a waste of time.
Another thing that I find is that using voice recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking really helps with copywriting for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, because I am a real ‘sausage finger syndrome’ sufferer when it comes to typing, it allows me to get everything down on the screen far more quickly than I would otherwise be able to do.
Secondly and perhaps more importantly, it allows me to create copy that is far more conversational than formal.
This is important because all great copy ‘speaks’ to your prospects in a ‘voice’ that they understand. Quite obviously, there could be no better way of getting your conversational voice down on the computer screen than talking into a microphone.
You can usually buy the software on eBay or a similar site for less than $50 which is an absolute bargain, particularly if you are a typing incompetent like me:
One final thing that I have found often helps to light the copywriting fire is to change the scenery when the block sets in. If for example you are used to working in a particular room or area in your house or office, try moving to a different space because as crazy as it might seem, this is sometimes all that is needed.
A change of view or perspective can be the ‘refresher’ that is necessary to get it all working so this is another technique that you might try if writers block sets in.
In the previous tutorials in this series, I pointed out that successful copywriting is not something that is limited to the web. In fact, it has been around for hundreds of years.
Nevertheless, the fact is that the world is a very different place to the way it was 30 or 40 years ago, before the advent of the Internet. All major Western societies have undergone a significant cultural change driven by the web and other wonders of technology such as iPods, PlayStations and MTV.
It is a fact that the modern consumer has a far shorter attention span than they might have had a few decades ago. Furthermore, it is also a fact that because of the availability of digital downloads, online videos and the like, it is becoming increasingly common for Internet users to expect instant gratification.
Consequently, whilst many of the classic advertising tactics and techniques are still effective, you cannot afford to ignore the fact that the modern consumer at whom you are aiming your copy has changed.
To begin with, your modern prospect does not expect or accept being bored. As soon as your copy gets boring, they’ll be gone like a shot.
Instead, your copy has to be vibrant, lively and exciting. It must grip the prospect from the very beginning (remember the importance of your headlines) and keep them gripped until the very end.
Part of this again comes down to the words you use.
Once you have written your draft copy, go back through it with a fine tooth comb to find every word that can be ‘spiced up’. For example, a ‘good’ offer should be an unbelievable one, whilst a valuable opportunity could become one that only comes along once-in-a-lifetime.
In the same way as a first rate novel would, your copy should take your reader on a journey, to take them out of themselves so that they forget everything else apart from your words on the page.
It is not however only about the words. The way your page looks is increasingly important to Internet users who are becoming ever more familiar with high impact web pages and sites.
Consequently, your graphics, videos, even your page font are far more important than you might imagine. If the first impression that your page makes does not smack your visitor straight between the eyes, they’ll be gone within seconds.
Another important thing that your copy has to do is build a rapport with the prospect. Think of it like meeting an attractive member of the opposite sex – you wouldn’t come straight out and ask for their telephone number without introducing yourself, asking them about their interests, hobbies and work.
You’d get to know them a little better because you know that there would be more chance of getting them to take the action you want them to take.
It’s the same with your sales copy.
You have to demonstrate to prospects that they are not just another sale, that they are an important part of your business and that you understand their problems or difficulties.
This is one reason why writing story-based sales copy can be so effective.
As long as the story that you tell is believable and plausible, you can use this form of copywriting to achieve most of your objectives.
For instance, everyone loves a good story. It doesn’t matter what it is that you are selling, a good story is one of the best ways of getting your reader completely involved and engrossed in your copy.
Furthermore, a good story enables you to demonstrate that the problems the reader is suffering are exactly the same problems that you suffered until you used or invented the product or service you are advertising.
This allows you to show your reader exactly what can be achieved with your product as well as creating an empathetic bond with them.
Sincerity is an extremely important factor here too.
The fact is that the problem with the modern online consumer is that they have been bombarded with hundreds or thousands of sales letters that have promised the earth and delivered very little or nothing.
They are therefore extremely suspicious and they are not going to believe any copy that does not have the essential ring of sincerity about it.
Whatever else it is, your story has to sound believable and true. Trying to build empathy and rapport will seem insincere and misguided if your story doesn’t make sense or hold together.
You must therefore be 100% certain that it does.
Remember how in an earlier tutorial I emphasized how every line of your sales copy should be designed to move the reader to stay on the page so that they read every progressive next line?
Well, telling a good story is one highly effective way of doing this because if your story is enjoyable, exciting and believable, your reader naturally wants or needs to know what happens next.
Consequently, it is completely natural that they will keep reading as long as your story is engaging enough and genuine.
Once you’ve written it out, ask someone else to review it for you, preferably someone who is not directly related to your market or online marketing in general. Ask them for an honest opinion and don’t be offended if their opinion is not what you want to hear.
It is better that they tell you that your copy is not working than your customers tell you by not buying, isn’t it?
One thing that you should do is sign up for as many free newsletters as you can and not only those of the top copywriters to whom you have been introduced in previous tutorials in this series.
When you do so, you will notice something very odd if you view the newsletters that you receive with a critical eye (which is the whole purpose of signing up).
Most online marketers deliberately seem to remove every trace of personality and character from their marketing copy.
Even if it is only e-mail newsletters or e-zines, they seem to go out of their way to remove all trace of being a real person from their communications with potential prospects and customers.
This is a massive mistake.
Fortunately (for you) it is one that most of your direct competitors are almost certainly making as well.
The Internet is an incredibly impersonal business medium, one where the average Internet user can surf hundreds of websites every day without ever really getting to know any of the people, the individual Webmasters behind the sites which they land on.
But the fact is that business on the Internet is in reality no different to business in your local High Street or shopping mall.
And guess what?
In the local High Street stores, people do business with people, not with some nameless, faceless entity like a website. Even more importantly, people like to do business with people they like.
For instance, it’s a fact that many people would prefer to shop in a local shop where they know the owner or proprietor than in some anodyne hypermarket which may be cheaper but has no ‘soul’ whatsoever. It might not make financial sense but it emphasizes that people really do prefer to deal with real people even if it costs a little extra to do so.
If you remove all traces of personality or character from your copy, how can you expect people to know or like you?
Of course, you can’t and it could be damaging your business. After all, if you are in competition with a rival who does allow their personality to shine through in their copy, you can be pretty certain that you will lose out to them almost every time.
From time to time, there may be exceptions to this rule.
For example, if you have a product that is totally unique which everybody desperately needs, even the blandest sales copy will be successful.
Nevertheless, opportunities of this nature are very few and far between. Most of the time, you are fighting in a competitive, no-holds-barred marketplace and you have to do whatever you can to stand out from the crowd.
So, here’s what you do.
Imagine your perfect prospect or customer. Not a crowd of people or even half a dozen, just one perfect prospect for your product or service.
Now, try to think like them. Go to the sites and blogs that they would frequent, read the magazines they read and so on.
Do everything you can (like visiting forums and blogs) to get to know and fully understand this one individual.
Now, write your copy for them and only for them.
Ignore everyone else by writing your copy as if it is a personal letter directed at this one individual. Find a picture of what you imagine this perfect prospect looks like and tape it to your monitor so that you are literally addressing your copy to this real person.
In your copy, do everything you can think of to make them understand that you are the ideal person to deal with.
Are you speaking to them in a genuinely conversational voice, like a trusted friend that they can rely on? Does your copy answer every possible question that they might have in a way that is really going to make them understand that your product is the perfect solution for their problems or difficulties?
If you copy does not satisfy these requirements, then it needs revamping until it does because the last thing that you really wanted to do is read like a sales letter.
Far too many copywriters create copy that reads as if all they can see are the dollar signs in front of their eyes and unfortunately, the modern online consumer recognizes this approach a mile off. This is not a trap that you can allow yourself to fall into.
If you have looked at any sales pages recently, you cannot have failed to notice that you will never see a sales page that does not feature a tranche of testimonials nowadays. This is logical because you must have social proof that your product or service does what is claimed on any sales page that is to be effective.
This is one of the reasons why video testimonials are becoming more common because whilst written words on your sales page could always be faked (although it is illegal to do so), it is far less likely that video endorsements could be.
There can be no doubt that carrying social proof on your sales page is absolutely essential. Without it, your sales are likely to be abysmal.
Nevertheless, featuring social proof in amongst your sales copy is not without its problems either.
To begin with, most regular Internet users are aware that social proof can be faked. For example, written testimonials can be made up and so-called earnings ‘evidence’ can be created with five minutes dedicated application of Photoshop.
However, it goes further than this because one thing I have discovered is that you have to be very careful about the credibility of the guarantee that you provide as well.
In some ways, this is a good thing as it is bringing online marketing back in line with reality. For instance, it is noticeable that you see far less ‘make a million in your pajamas in the next month’ style copy on the Internet than you used to three or four years ago.
The problem is that if your evidence seems to be too good to be true, many of your prospects will believe that it is. Hence, your social proof must always seem realistic and attainable.
Now, there is a balance to be achieved here and it is not always easy to know exactly where the balance point lies.
I would therefore recommend that you ask other people to read your sales copy, asking for their view about whether your social proof is believable or not. If they think it sounds believable, then you are on the right lines but if there is any doubt about it, always err on the side of caution rather than going over the top.
In the three tutorials in this short series, I have presented you with many of the best copywriting tips I have picked up over the years that I’ve been marketing online.
Obviously, this is not intended to be a complete copywriting course but once you’ve learned the essential skills of copywriting, applying the techniques, ideas and strategies that you have read in this tutorial series will help you to advance your ability to write killer copy.