Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, email techniques, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability,  and consumer psychology.

The Perspective of Your Copy

We’ve talked about the importance of consistency in your copy. But that doesn’t mean you are always going to be making the same pitch the same way every time you tackle an email or your Web site copy.

You need to make a series of choices about your copy that will serve as writing guidelines. There are truly no right or wrong choices to make here, simply decisions. Each choice provides a framework for unifying your message and defining the boundaries that will allow you to make your point. Once you've made a choice, honor the integrity of that perspective and stick with it. If you discover it's the wrong choice for the project, then start over.

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Here’s the catch: as you write, don't vacillate between the perspectives. Copy is always most effective when it says one thing really well. Particularly if you are preparing copy for ongoing emails, there’s always tomorrow to get your point across in a different way.

Perspective No. 1: Intellect versus Emotion

Intellectual copy presents new information in an attempt to lead readers to a new conclusion. Emotional copy tells readers what they already know to be true, subtly inserting a new perspective that influences them to feel differently about the information. Before you put pen to paper, you must consciously choose whether your writing is going to appeal at an intellectual or emotional level.

Perspective No. 2: Then versus Now

The past tense speaks of what has already happened. The future tense speaks of what might happen. The present tense speaks of what is happening right now. There is a presence in the present tense; because it places the reader directly in the action, it most effectively engages the brain. But there are times when you need to evoke the experience of the past or the promise of the future. Consider which perspective will give your copy its greatest impact.

Perspective No. 3: Me, Them or You

First person perspective is that of the speaker: I am standing. Second person perspective is that of the reader: The copy starts with “YOU are standing in the snow, 5 ½ miles above sea level…” Third person perspective is that of the outsider: They are standing. In general, people tend to find first and third person perspectives less engaging. Second person perspective puts you right there in the action - you, the person you care most about. To your readers, it's them. When your goal is to persuade action, the “understood you” is extremely powerful: it’s the imperative call to act (“Click here”); it's the avenue that will lead your readers to the richest, most satisfying mental imagery.

Perspective No. 4: Time versus Money

Business owners like to think their products or services are money-driven: “It has always been and it will always be about price.” But it’s only that way because we think about it that way, because advertising promotes products and services based on price. Yet these days, particularly in the United States, the customer is more often interested in saving time. There are probably a few exceptions to that. If your product saves both time and money, you have to make a choice of which to use in your copy.

Perspective No. 5: Style versus Substance

What are you selling? Style or substance? It's an important choice. Here's a Rule of Thumb: If your product is mainly about style, you can promote it with style; if your product or the decision to buy the product is mainly about substance, then you'd better promote it with substance.

Remember Nissan's GI Joe, Ken and Barbie TV ad? The one where Barbie ditches Ken and drives off into the room with Joe in a hot red car (van Halen pulsing in the background)? It constituted one of the most famous ad campaigns in the last 10 years. Bummer for Nissan though. They spent over two hundred million dollars, and sales actually went down. How come? ‘Cause most folks aren’t persuaded to invest $35,000 in a substance product like a car based solely on style. Nissan learned the hard way - these days they focus on substance.

Perspective No. 6: Pain versus Gain

Will your copy appeal to your readers' fear of loss or their hope of gain? Experiments show when people are offered a choice between a guaranteed $3,000 or an 80% chance at $4,000, almost all people choose the sure thing. Hope of gain is motivating when there are no attendant risks. But there is something far more compelling in the fear of loss. However, speaking to pain, igniting the fear of loss, can be dangerous - it can conjure unpleasant mental images. If you choose this path, use it wisely.

If you always wrote with the same combination of choices, your messages would become predictable and boring. Your goal is to develop strong, consistent copy that persuades, and you want to maximize the persuasive power of your copy appropriate to the actions you seek to motivate. Invariably, poor copy results when you find yourself halfway down the path before you ever decided which way you really meant to go.

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Writers and Non-Writers Both Will Be Taking Their Words To The Bank

No kidding! We just released an exhaustive, plain spoken, no-nonsense copywriting handbook written to fit the needs of any marketer working on the World Wide Web. Pick up your copy of "Take Your Words to the Bank: The Marketer's Handbook of Persuasive Online Copywriting". Here is what Faith Kuczaj of Sabre's Virtually There had to say about this 121 page PDF:

"Take Your Words to the Bank speaks to e-marketers with exuberance and clarity about what is at the heart of their careers - effective and powerful communications. It should be required reading for executives, directors, managers and employees in every organization that has an e-marketing department."

Also, please let us know if you want to be included on our advanced notice list for events.

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Case Study: Max-Effect Before and After

John Morana knows how to design killer ads for the Yellow Pages. What he can do would knock your socks off. Trouble was, his Web site wasn’t knocking anybody’s socks off. Now, John, being a veteran reader of me (!), had already made a few changes. And they were good improvements.

But not good enough. So he called us. And, together, we got down to brass tacks.

Wanna see why John is now in the enviable position of having to turn away business? Then read on!

Certain aspects of John’s site were well done. In particular, his text was formatted for scanning and skimming: it was blocked nicely; key text was bolded; benefits were bulleted. The text itself made effective use of hyperlinks that appealed to different personality types. His navigation elements were simple and consistent. The phone number was prominent.

But he was only getting one or two leads a week. Folks just weren’t getting past the home page. So we scrutinized that first.

Look & Feel

It didn’t take long to find a big problem. Aesthetically pleasing John’s old home page might have been to a designer, but it screamed “Don’t Bother!” to prospects. The background was black (a somber, sometimes negative color). Various text elements were red, or purple, or teal … sometimes yellow. Most dispiriting for the potential client who landed there, much of the copy was reverse-type grey.

This sort of design creates usability problems. And if you’re an ad designer hoping to get prospects to believe your ads are going to get folks to take action, you want to do everything to promote your credibility. How credible do you look when folks aren’t even persuaded to get past your home page?

The new home page look and feel is brighter, conveys energy and, most important, highlights the copy that is critical to Joe’s conversion process: once you’ve focused on the central headline, you are quickly drawn to text that is benefit-rich and includes hyperlinks as internal calls to action.


John’s old home page copy was fairly benefits-oriented. It did include a degree of self-congratulation, but the key problem lay elsewhere. The old copy read:

Eliminate Yellow Page Advertising Hassles Forever
… And watch your calls & sales SKYROCKET !

A Custom Designed Yellow Page Ad by MaxEffect Will:

  • Maximize your readership, phone calls & sales... 24 / 7 / 365
  • Save you money... Using the most cost-effective sizes & colors
  • Save you time... Minimizing YP sales rep calls & DIY struggles
  • Eliminate Yellow Pages frustration, doubts & deadline worries
  • Nullify your competitors... Letting you dominate your classification
  • Yellow Pages advertising is expensive, time-consuming and fiercely competitive. A new, custom-designed ad by MaxEffect will let you easily conquer your rivals and save you time, money and the aggravating headaches common with Yellow Pages advertising. Study the following Ad Samples, read a few Testimonials or review our Risk Free Guarantee. But whatever you do Place Your Order Now... before your competitors !

    MaxEffect clients have asked us, even PAID us, to NOT ACCEPT ORDERS from their competitors. They've learned something you absolutely MUST... A custom-designed Yellow Page ad by MaxEffect is your most powerful weapon when doing battle in the Yellow Pages directory. Your new advertisement will reign supreme.

    If you're determined to drive your Yellow Pages ROI to the absolute MAX, you need to Order MaxEffect Now.

    As you read this rather heavy-handed copy, notice the way the words speak to “pain” and focus heavily on negative associations: eliminate, hassles, minimize, struggles, frustration, doubts, worries, nullify. And then, “Yellow Pages advertising is expensive”!

    Here’s the new copy:

    Maximize Your Investment!

    Place Your Business under the Yellow Page Advertising
    Spotlight and Listen to Your Phone and Cash Register Sing!

    Dare to stand out within your Yellow Pages category!

    Then your potential customers will...

  • Be drawn to your Yellow Page ad more strongly than anything else on the page.
  • Be engaged by your ad so they read it entirely!
  • Recognize that you are the solution to what they’re searching for.
  • Call you, visit you & buy from you!
  • For just a onetime, low investment you get an express in-depth company evaluation, outstanding graphic design and persuasive creative messaging that will deliver immediate results.

    Best of all, your new MaxEffect Yellow Page ad is 100% Guaranteed. Check out some happy clients' ad samples and read about all the business we've generated for businesses like yours.

    Contact us now to dramatically increase your sales opportunities!

    This shorter revision is more to the point, removes the hard sell, speaks to “the heart of the dog” in a positive light and is more believable. And while Yellow Page advertising may be expensive, this copy eliminates the discussion of money in favor of convincing the prospect of the value (remember, value is rarely about price).

    Product Presentation

    Think about a Yellow Page ad, any Yellow Page ad. Can you bring one to mind? Kind of unmemorable entities aren’t they? Samey too.

    Naturally, John had a whole page of sample ads clustered together on that black background. And they were really great ads. But we figured we could make the product presentation even more persuasive.

    Now, instead of 13 samples, you’ll find only two. But each is paired, in before and after fashion, with the client’s former ad - the one that ran before John worked his magic. The juxtaposition highlights John’s abilities with startling clarity. Anyone looking at that page who needs an ad is going to be impressed.

    With these changes in place, John went from 1 or 2 leads a week to 2 or 3 a day. He tells us he more than exceeded his ultimate goal of 7 leads a week. In fact, he got more business than he could handle! So he found someone to help.

    Recently, John raised his rates, figuring that would discourage some of the visitors to his Web site and help him catch up with his workload. It didn’t.

    What a problem to have, huh!

    For an additional perspective on this case study read Debbie Weil's CASE STUDY: Bryan Eisenberg on BEFORE and AFTER home page copy that engages and converts visitors from her terrific newsletter WordBiz Report. Sign up and enjoy!


    Sound Off!

    click here for a printable version of this entire article

    P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends?
    They'll appreciate it. Forward This Issue To A Friend!

    GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledge and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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