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
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.
Non-Writers Both Will Be Taking Their Words To The
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
let us know if you want to be included on our
advanced notice list for events.
CIO, Future Now, Inc.
P.S. Do you have questions you would like to see
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
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?
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
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If you're determined to drive your Yellow Pages ROI to the absolute MAX,
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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!
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
Call you, visit you & buy from you!
Then your potential customers will...
For just a onetime, low investment you get an express in-depth company
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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).
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
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
Bryan Eisenberg on BEFORE and AFTER home page copy that engages and converts
visitors from her terrific newsletter WordBiz
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