I don’t know about you but there are times when I need a little copywriting inspiration.
In fact, I’m constantly looking for inspiration. Whether it’s magazine cover headlines, comedy writer Twitter feeds, or other company websites.
Because it’s too easy to get in a writing or design rut – especially when you’ve got yourself psyched up to deliver on conversions. It can start to feel a bit like painting by numbers if you’re not careful.
And, the problem with writing that becomes formulaic is that it… well... it can sound formulaic. With all the competition on the web, growing a business that connects with its customers requires showing some personality and a little oomph.
That’s why I’ve decided to raid my swipe files to show you how three companies are turning heads and building their brands with their copy.
Manpacks is a subscription based company that ships basic health and toiletry items to men on a regular basis. Pretty much anything that a man doesn’t want or can’t be bothered to think about buying for himself that he uses on a daily basis they supply.
Underwear, shaving cream, condoms: it doesn’t make for the sexiest or interesting of mail order packages. Except, the guys at Manpacks have been able to do just that with their copy.
How? They understand their target audience and speak their language
“Men hate to shop.” Yeah, that pretty much sums up my experience with men too. They keep the copy short, to the point and don’t mince words. “Call us busy, call us lazy, but facts are facts…”
The copy is a little brusque, in your face, and unapologetic. Basically, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a man who has no interest in keeping the necessities in stock.
The home page echoes this sentiment…
Why is this copy sticky?
With lines like “Powered by Gin & Tonics and IPAs” Manpacks taps into how their target audience identifies with itself, i.e. if you’re the kind of guy who drinks gin and tonics and IPAs, you’ll be a good fit for Manpacks. Mixed drinks and craft beers creates a visual association.
We know from years of psychological research that people identify themselves with brands.
… recent research indicates that consumers construct their self-identity and present themselves to others through their brand choices based on the congruency between brand-user associations and self-image associations (Escalas and Bettman 2003)
In a nutshell, we buy products not just for what they do but also for what they symbolize to ourselves and the outside world.
One of the places where a lot of companies fall down with their copy (and design for that matter) is leaving out the human element. Creating a connection with your customers doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be edgy or humorous.
You simply need to inject a personal touch, a conversational tone… something that gives your visitors an idea of who the people are that run your business and what you believe in. That’s exactly what the folks over at Zirtual do.
How? They tell a story
Zirtual matches virtual assistants to busy entrepreneurs, parents, or anyone who has too many tasks on their plates. Their Our Story pages taps into the why behind what makes the company special.
Take a look at what is essentially Zirtual’s About Page. When was the last time you read a headline, “Like a lot of great stories… it started in Vegas,” and didn’t keep reading? The headline of the page draws you in and paints a visual in your head along the lines of the now famous (or infamous) ad for Las Vegas.
“Zirtual was birthed during a late night brainstorming sesh in 24-hour cafe on the Las Vegas strip.” I’m still intrigued after this first line, wanting to know why the founder is up all night and how it relates to virtual assistants.
Why is this copy sticky?
If you hadn’t already guessed it, stories help people relate to and remember ideas better. They also take what’s on the page and make them feel real.
Socks. They’re not an item of clothing that screams excitement, fun… or hipness. I’d venture to say that a lot of people don’t think too much about what their foot apparel looks like.
Getting people to pay for new socks by mail on a monthly basis – no matter how cool they are – seems like a stretch.
But the folks over at Foot Cardigan, a subscription business based only on socks (yeah, you heard me), has made it their business proposition. How do you make the need for socks – and only socks – feel like a want?
How? They do something unexpected
In the case of Foot Cardigan, they write irresistibly engaging and borderline absurd copy. Think landing in the middle of a Saturday Night Live sketch only to find that sock subscriptions from these guys are a real thing.
The copy speaks to the adult kid in all of us that would consider playing “the sock lottery” a completely worthwhile investment.
‘Cause having a random pair of socks show up in your mailbox each month may not entirely make sense to your left brain but your right side is digging it.
Why is this copy sticky?
In the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the authors discuss the notion that breaking a pattern is a surefire way to get someone’s attention. Change the sound of the ringtone on your phone and you may jump the next time it goes off. The same goes for an expected narrative.
Foot Cardigan disrupts our expectation of selling something utilitarian. The copy forces you to do a double take then uses wit and humor to frame the benefits.
Sticky copy can take you a long way but…
Tapping into your customers’ voice, telling a story, and being unexpected in your copy are terrific ways to get your message across and have it stick. But, translating that into clicks and conversions is an entirely other matter.
Remember that what works for one site or landing page may not work for another. Always do your customer research and test.
And, keep your swipe files filled. You never know when you need a good ol’ dose of inspiration.
I’ve noticed something interesting in blog posts and online discussions recently. Persuasion has become a dirty word.
We’re talking shady used car salesman kind of dirty – the sort of thing that brings up images of cheap suits, too much Brill Cream, and getting taken for a bad ride… literally and figuratively.
Pushy. Hype-y. Sales-y. I might as well add in slimy too. And, it’s all been in the context of copywriting. Or, to be more exact – copy that aims to sell.
Ouch! Persuasive copy just got lumped in with that stinky crud stuck at the bottom of your trash bin.
I’m finding all the chatter a bit frustrating. Reading comments like this one in a thread on GrowthHackers has started to make me a little twitchy.
“Persuasive copy can repel some groups of humans who are particularly guarded against overly sales-y websites.”
In case you’re wondering, my head still hurts from banging it against the wall. Contrary to this statement, I believe that in order to be persuasive you have to be appealing.
Appealing, repellant. Tomayto, tomahto. Maybe we need to talk semantics.
I hate to sound like an Urban Dictionary cliche but it’s about time we got bogged down in the meaning of words. Because I am planning on winning an argument… and it has everything to do with defining what persuasive copywriting actually is.
The act of persuasion means getting others to do or believe something. When you write copy designed to be persuasive, your goal is to give people enough compelling reasons to take a specific action while alleviating any hesitations that might hinder them from doing so.
If those people aren’t taking action or are getting completely turned off by what’s on the page, you’re not being persuasive. You’re just writing ineffective copy.
So, what’s the secret sauce? Or, the 3 key ingredients in persuasive copy that won’t make you sound like you’re trying to hawk the next latest and greatest snake oil…
Before we jump in, let’s get one thing straight. You still need to sell. There’s no way around it.
If you’re planning on making money, you’ve got to create an offer with the amount of copy necessary so your customers can make a decision to buy from you.
While this should go without saying, it’s worth repeating. Always ask yourself…
Does my copy honestly reflect how I want my business seen?
This is where that highly overused and borderline meaningless word “authenticity” comes in. When you’re trying too hard or trying to be something you’re not in your copy, your customers and prospects will figure it out pretty quickly. Neither your business nor your offerings ring true.
Can my customers trust what I’m telling them?
As Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers once told me, you should be comfortable having your grandmother buy based on your sales copy. If you wouldn’t want her to make a decision to buy because your copy isn’t honest and transparent, no one should be reading it.
Tell them what they need to know when they need to know it
When you don’t give your customers enough information, the right information, or put it where it needs to be on the page, you run the risk of giving them the impression that you care more about the sale than them.
This means showing them your calls to action before they’re ready to contemplate buying your product or signing up for your trial. It can mean not letting them know why you need their telephone number if they want your free download.
Lack of information can be as much of a turnoff as too much… so can a big fat “Buy” button at the top of the page when your customers don’t have any good reason to click on it yet.
Make an argument, stand for something, tell ’em why in no uncertain terms
The most effective way to be persuasive is to build a solid argument. Spend the time to find out how aware your customers are of their problem and the solutions available. Once you do, you’ll be able to figure out not only how much of an argument you need to make but the words and phrases that most resonate with them.
Making an argument with the intent of giving your customers exactly what they need to achieve what they want on your site isn’t the same thing as taking a vomit inducing, hard sell, 2×4 to their heads.
Why? It all goes back to intention and your business goals. Shout at your customers only considering what you’ll get out of the relationship and you’ll have a hard time persuading anyone to buy from you.
Persuasive copywriting inspires without the hype…
If what you’re writing makes people feel like they want to take a shower to get the ick off after reading it, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re not listening to what’s important to your customers and honoring their needs, you’re doing it wrong.
[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Because being persuasive in your copy isn’t about trickery or manipulation.[/clickandtweet]
If it is, you may be making a sale but you won’t be gaining a customer.The end game shouldn’t be the quick buck but happy and satisfied customers.
What’s your take on persuasive copy’s rap and if it’s just a matter of how we define it? Let me know in the comments.
When was the last time you thought about the impact of your words on your online copy?
If you’ve been reading this blog or some of the others focused on conversion, you’re probably already keyed in. Individual words and phrases can make the difference between someone clicking a button or bouncing off a page.
It seems amazing that by simply changing a word or two you can affect such a big change.
But… you can. It has everything to do with persuasion and using a few power words.
So, let’s cut to the chase and go over 3 of the most powerful.
#1: “You” and the case for “What’s in it for me?”
Such a little word that packs an enormous punch, everything in your copy should come back to the word “you.” If you’ve been writing your copy all from your perspective, it’s time to make a shift.
Because your visitors are coming to your site or landing page looking to find answers to their questions… solutions for their needs. The reality is that their main concern is themselves – not you.
Harsh. I know.
As I’ve talked about in this post about getting people to respond to your email surveys, customers are frustrated when they encounter messaging that doesn’t resonate with them. Beyond addressing what’s most important to your prospects, centering your copy on them will go a long way to making them feel that there may just be something in it for them.
Practical tip: Replace “we” and “I” with “you” whenever possible
If you’ve got a headline with the word “I” or “we” either change it around so that “you” can be substituted. Or, simply get rid of the pronoun.
A headline like this…
I Help Small Businesses Build Better Widgets
… would be so much better simply by changing it to this…
Helping Small Businesses Build Better Widgets
Just by taking yourself out of it, you’ve shifted the focus to your customer.
#2: “Because” or giving people a reason to believe
Because is an amazing word. It’s power comes from the fact that it triggers people to expect a reason behind a request or an argument.
Dr. Ellen Langer’s experiment – that has been written about multiple times around the web in this context – shows just how effective using because can be.
In it, she asked study participants to cut to the front of the line where people were waiting to make copies at a Xerox machine. When the participants gave no reason to cut in line, the compliance rate was 60%. When a reason was given (no matter how silly or meaningless such as “I’m in a hurry”), the rate went up to 95%.
It seems that we’ve been programmed to accept a request when it’s part of a larger statement – where the why has been spelled out.
Practical tip: Use because to make an impact with your argument
With all of your sales copy (website copy included), you’re developing an argument as to why someone should hire you, buy from you, opt-in to your newsletter, etc.
You’re setting up a problem your customer is having and then telling them why your solution is the one to solve it.
Go back to the top of this blog post. Notice how I used the word “because” to start a sentence.
See how effective because can be?
I’m asking you to buy into my argument then asking you to believe in it with the one word that triggers acceptance.
Be careful. If your claim is too outrageous or request too large, even the word “because” won’t help you.
Langer’s experiments were primarily about how people will mindlessly react in certain situations. The copy machine example worked so well because the why behind the request was so minimal. As soon as the participants in the study told people they needed to cut in line to make 20 copies, they weren’t nearly so successful.
Tweet This! [clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Use your persuasive language thoughtfully, even if your readers don’t always respond mindfully[/clickandtweet]
#3: “Get” a word that provides value
With all the talk about A/B testing these days, “get” has become the conversion community’s “it girl.”
Between button copy and various call to action tests, the word “get” is the one to beat.
Check out Michael Aagaard’s split test where he changed the button copy from “Order information and prices” to “Get information and prices.”
The word “Order” emphasizes what you have to do – instead of what you’re going to get. Whereas, “Get” conveys value as it emphasizes what you’re going to get – rather than what you have to do to get it. Michael Aagaard
The last thing we want to do is give people the impression that they will have to work for something when interacting with our websites.
Practical tip: Give all your “Submit” buttons the heave ho
No one likes to be told to submit to anything – especially on a website. So unless you’ve got a website for people into bondage, focus your button copy on the value added.
Think opt-in email button copy like this…
Get your regular copy tips now
You may be surprised at how much more effective your calls to action become.
Because, You, Get…
Take a look through your website, landing pages, and even emails to see where you can change up your copy.
Your headlines, sub-headlines, and buttons are ideal places to start. Then, test it out.
Do you think your copy can improve using these words?
In a test she did for Friendbuy.com, she created 3 variations of copy around the free trial sign up button. The control version had no click trigger copy surrounding it. The first variation included a brief testimonial, while the second had 2 bullets designed to stomp out any objections.
Variation C – The Winner
The above variation beat the control by 34%. Letting people know that they did not have to enter a credit card in order to start their trial significantly helped to reduce the barrier to entry.
Giving a reason if you want more information
Most people hate filling out forms and resent giving away any more information about themselves than they have to. In a 2012 benchmark study by the Baymard Institute, the researchers found that every single subject during the checkout usability test complained about a website that asked for too much personal information.
However, for those websites that gave a clear reason for wanting something like a phone number – test subjects were far more willing to provide the information.
The big takeaway here is that an explanation can go a long way to reduce anxiety when it comes to filling in forms. Make it clear why you need the information and what it will be used for without making people hunt for it.
2) Where’s the value?
Giving people a reason to click a button or fill in a form is one way of alleviating friction. Another is to let them know the benefit or value behind taking action.
In this test by Michael Aagaard, he increased the amount of sign ups to his email list by 83.75% simply by telling people what they would get after giving their emails.
How many times have you thought about signing up for an email list only to wonder if you’re really going to get anything you actually want after doing it?
Apparently, quite a few people wonder the same thing. By being explicit about what your visitors can expect from signing up, chances are they will be more likely to do so.
3) Control and ownership
Make the experience all about your visitors. That seems to be a key finding with so many of the websites I work on and the tests conclusions I see.
In a test on a landing page, Michael Aagaard and the folks at Unbounce found that by changing the button copy from 3rd person to 1st person they were able to increase the click through rate by 90%.
Is it because people feel as though subconsciously they have more control over the decision making process when the action is posed in the 1st person?
Or, does it suddenly make it all about them? – appealing to the very human desire to feel important.
Take a look at the above treatment. This is part of a test I worked on with Joanna at Copyhackers. We initially only changed the headline to the above and kept the original button copy that read “Sign up now.”
While the first variation trended up, we were only seeing a marginal lift.
Once we added the new button copy – placed in the 1st person and showing people a real benefit attached to clicking (who doesn’t want to see outfits they’ll love?) – conversions skyrocketed to nearly 124%.
Whatever the reason, more people felt inspired to hit that button with the tweaked copy.
And the moral of the story is…
The words you choose in and around your calls to action can make a huge difference.
Take all of these examples as a place to start not end when it comes to your own copy. What works on one site won’t necessarily work on another.
Go back to those questions I referenced above. Then, apply them to your site’s calls to action. You’ll want to consider any customer research you’ve done. It’s there that you’ll find the answers to those questions.
So you can start making some well thought out changes to test.
Has this inspired you to take another look at your website’s copy?
In the hurry to get things done, it’s easy to just wing it with our email marketing. It’s another one of those items on the list that you know you should be doing for your business but there never seems to be the time.
So, you hastily throw a jumble of new product descriptions or worse, a laundry list of updates about what’s going on in your business – that no one other than maybe your mother will care about – in your email.
It’s part of that frenzy to push content out into the ether. No matter what.
Here’s the thing. Without a plan and some insight into what you want to get out of your emails, chances are you’ll be wasting your time creating them because they aren’t converting your subscribers into clients or shoppers.
And, the last thing any of us wants to do is waste more time and energy on busy work that doesn’t add to the bottom line.
With that in mind, here are a few concrete things you can do to start making your email marketing more effective.
There needs to be a point
This is where spending a bit of time mapping out the “why” before you start drafting that email makes a lot of sense. Give some thought to what you want to get out of this particular communication. Not every email has to be about generating a sale. In fact, only sending out promotional emails can have a negative effect on your subscribers (unless they have specifically signed up to only receive that type of email.)
Your email may be designed to foster engagement or loyalty with your brand or to provide information you’re confident your subscribers will appreciate.
For instance, I begin the process of writing emails to my list by working backwards. I ask myself, “What is it that I want people to get out of this and ultimately do after reading it?” Depending on the answer, I frame the email to coincide with its purpose.
Make it about “you” not “me”
One of the biggest mistakes that people make writing copy either for their websites or their emails is losing sight of what’s in it for their customers. Always write in terms of how your business, product or service will be creating benefit for your target audience.
This means talking less about your business achievements and more about providing value to your customers.
Take this example from Alexis Grant, a writer and social media strategist that sells informational products.
You can see from the top portion of her email, she’s addressing the concerns of her subscribers and discussing a common issue from their perspective. The reality is that people reading your emails want to know about how you’re going to help them.
Does this mean you should be leaving the personal pronouns out? No. Weaving in your own story and personalizing can go a long way to creating a connection with your customers. Just remember that this is a conversation and making it all about you doesn’t inspire others to communicate.
Cut out the clutter
When you’re not sure what to include in your email newsletter, stop yourself from tossing in everything but the kitchen sink. The newsletters that discuss the holiday open house, include information on five new products and pepper the page with social media icons and links leads to eyes glazing over.
Cramming an email full of multiple graphics and creating dense blocks of text in small fonts, makes it difficult for people not only to glean out the most important aspects but also to remember what they are.
Check out this email from University of Minnesota and look at all the items competing for your attention.
Newsflash: People are busy and lazy. They want to scan and expend as little cognitive energy as possible.
Make it easy for them by keeping the paragraphs very short, using relevant headlines and sub-headlines to break up the content and make it clear what they will be getting out of whatever they’re investing their time in.
Have a definitive call to action
Let’s circle back to that whole, “what’s the point” idea. Ultimately, the goal of your online marketing is to create outcomes to grow your business’s bottom line. In order to do that, you need your customers to take action in some form – even if that means simply clicking through to read a blog post on your website.
It’s all about moving your customers into your sales funnel wherever their needs fit at the moment. Having a clear call to action, preferably only one, will help to do that.
As you can see in the above email, the blue buttons make it obvious where you need to click to take action. There are a couple of things that would have made this email better from a conversion standpoint.
Reducing the size of the Pinterest and Facebook buttons would help reduce distraction.
Making the button copy more specific, i.e. letting people know where the click will take them or what they will be doing after clicking, would help alleviate friction. Something along the lines of, “Start sharing my ideas now” or “Increase my karma by answering 3 questions.”
This goes back to the “don’t make ‘em think” argument. Tell people what you want them to do and then direct them every step of the way.
What have your experiences been with getting your subscribers to take action on your emails?
Let me know in the comments.
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“What Jen Havice explains in this short book is nothing less than a degree in message mining—what messages you need to share, what words to use, and how to find them. It’s an easy read that packs a major marketing punch.”
—Rob Marsh, conversion copywriter and strategist, Brandstory