People rationalize buying decisions based on facts,
People make buying decisions based on feelings.
Trouble is, stuff like that sounds pretty airy-fairy to the procedural
business mind (a very rational entity). At least, it does up until the
procedural mind gets an eyeful of the bottom line. Still think I'm crooning New
Age mumbo jumbo?
News Flash! The University of Rochester School of Medicine recently published
a study based on brain activity imaging that reveals emotions are inextricably a
part of the decision process. In fact, "if you eliminate the emotional guiding
factors, it's impossible [for people] to make decisions in daily life."i
Folks with damaged prefrontal lobes - the area of the brain where emotions are
processed - are completely stymied when it comes to making personal decisions
such as scheduling a doctor's appointment, wearing a seat belt, and yes, even
deciding what to buy for themselves!
When humans make personal decisions, they put themselves in the picture and
evaluate the emotional risks or benefits of making that decision. If they can't
grab onto the emotional image, they can't make the decision.
That's why you ALWAYS have to appeal to emotions (Buying
is Not a Rational Decision). It's why you have to sell benefits over
features (Appeal to
Emotion) and decide when you're going to promote style or substance. It's
the imperative for writing persuasive copy that creates powerful, evocative
mental imagery in your prospects' minds - the sort of imagery that allows them
to put themselves center stage (Think
Active!, Pump Up
Your Verbs). It's why you have to let your visitors know "what's in it for
them" (WIIFM: Are You Listening?)
and why they should buy from you (Unique
Selling Proposition: Your Visitors Are Asking Why). It's why you have to woo
the dominant personality types of your visitors (Who Are They?), employ a
selling process that honors their felt needs (Do
the 5-Step), offer assistance and assurances (Establishing
Emotions. Feelings. The whole shooting match when it comes to conversion.
Care to tap into that goldmine now?
i "Rational Decisions Guided by Emotion - Study." Yahoo!News, November 26,
Web analytic software takes raw
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Why Copywriting Online Is Different
You're doing your online thing, writing copy you think is
captisuasive, but I'm
seeing a heck of a lot of stuff that reads like this: "The blankety-blank is the
true essence of a high-performance blankety-blank, delivering sizzling blankety-blank
in an absolutely refined way. It's a paradigm shift with profound implications
for blankety-blank." Trouble is, your online visitors are 'speaking' very
differently. Try this eye-opening exercise: Find a product or service that has
user newsgroups, message boards or list-serves and compare how that company
talks (pay a call on its website) to how its customers talk.
Think creating online copy isn't a whole new ballgame? Nobody writes about
this better than Nick Usborne (and his new book
Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy
is a brilliant guide!), so I've asked him to explain.
Is copywriting for the Web very different from copywriting for print and
Tough question. The incorrect answer is ‘No’. The easy answer is ‘Yes’. And
the best answer is, ‘That depends’.
But for the purposes of this article, I’ll be addressing the ‘Yes’ answer.
It’s important to understand why copywriting online is profoundly different from
writing for other media - before venturing into those gray, ‘That depends’
To really understand why copywriting online is different, you need to step
back a little.
In the offline world, copywriters work within an environment that was created
and is owned and controlled by large media companies and the ad agencies of
It’s a closed loop. Media companies own the means to get the message out to
the public. Corporations buy ad space to reach those people - their prospects
and customers. The ad money they spend supports the media companies they depend
A key factor here is that the audience has no real means to talk back -
beyond an occasional letter to the editor. Offline marketing is a one-way
process. Companies use traditional media to broadcast a message, in the hope
that multiple impressions will have the desired impact.
This has a huge effect on how copywriters ply their craft. They write in the
knowledge that this is a wholly commercial, one-way channel of communication and
that success depends on repeated ‘hits’ or impressions being made on the target
In many ways the offline marketing environment is adversarial. Copywriters
are writing ‘at’ their audience with a view to persuading them to take a
particular course of action.
The online marketing environment is profoundly different.
As a ‘medium’, the Web was not created by and nor is it owned by large
corporations. And even those huge media companies online like AOL Time Warner
may own a great deal of infrastructure - but they will never own the audience in
the way that the media does offline.
The Internet sprang not from Madison Avenue, but from the minds of academics.
Long before commerce came to the Web, millions of people were emailing, posting
to discussion lists and sharing their views and passions.
Usenet, CompuServe, Prodigy, The Well... These were all forums within which
passionate individuals began to carve out the character of what would later
become the Web.
Online, your ‘audience’ has a huge and vibrant voice. As a ‘medium’ the Web
is quite unlike offline media - it is owned more by its audience than it is by
its advertisers and marketers.
People will use email, live chat and discussion groups far more frequently
than they log onto an ecommerce site. For tens of millions of people, the Web is
more about communicating and sharing than it is about buying.
In addition, the network of the Web has enabled ‘consumers’ to become much
smarter. Sites like epinions.com and planetfeedback.com - plus thousands of
niche discussion lists - allow people to share their aggregate experience of
online and offline vendors, products and services. They praise some companies
and beat up on others.
In the offline advertising environment, such a scenario would be unthinkable.
But online, your ‘audience’ has become an active and vocal participant in the
sales and marketing process.
So why is copywriting online different from copywriting offline?
It’s because your audience is no longer silent and passive. Online, the
audience is vocal, active and connected.
As a copywriter you have to respect that. You need to recognize that. You are
no longer writing to single, isolated individuals, sitting passively in front of
their TVs or magazines.
You are writing to networked groups of people.
That’s what makes copywriting online so different, so interesting and so
Brave New World, indeed! And you thought all you had to do was put a few
snazzy, poetical-type words up on the screen, right? Your visitors have the
unprecedented ability to talk back and shape your marketing and sales
strategies. And they speak to, listen to and hear each other in ways you should
heed. It's not a one-way street anymore. That's why the words you put on your
website and in your emails have to transcend 'brochureware.' They have to
be high-impact. They have to connect and explain and persuade AND ignite the
Eager for more? No worries. Nick will be back. In the next article, he’ll
look at the nuts and bolts of how writing to an active audience changes the
words, the style and the format of how you write.
In the meantime, check out his book,
Net Words: Creating
High-Impact Online Copy.
Me? I'm working on lobbying for a
National Online Copywriters' Day!