“How can I help you?”
It’s the foundation of customer service. The question comes down to what you can do to help a potential customer. They have a reason for being there, and you’re about to find out what that is.
Copywriting follows this same line of logic.
An honest conversation with your reader ensures reciprocity in your relationship. You get their attention and business, and they get what they want.
Imagine a young couple looking to buy their first car. One partner goes to the dealership to talk to a salesman, and the other chooses to read a brochure and browse the dealer’s website.
Both partners have the same goal ― to buy a car. They’re choosing different ways to fulfill their mutual needs.
A car salesman works on commission. But they also work on faith ― the faith the customer has that they will take care of them and get the best deal.
The best relationships ensure trust and keep customers coming back the next time they have a need. A satisfied customer will return to the dealership the next time they need a car.
Everyone’s heard the old stereotype about a used car salesman. While that might promote a vivid image, the truth is that a salesperson, like a copywriter, is there to help the people using their services.
Problem, Agitation, Solution. It’s the basis of any good advertising copy.
A feature is something a product is or does. The benefit is the effect the feature has on the user. Both are important, but a feature doesn’t mean much without the benefits it produces.
For example, a speech-to-text program listens to verbal speech, interprets it, and converts it into written words. The benefit is that it allows you to dictate your ideas hands-free and focus your energy on other tasks.
Sometimes people aren’t even aware that they have a problem or that there’s a product that can improve their lives. Luckily, your copy will educate them and allow them to grow.
Some products are more niche and less comprehensible to the consumer. They might need a little extra information. That’s when ACCA comes into play:
You, as the writer, have something to offer your reader. Whether it’s a product they can order from your website or an item in a store, the principle remains the same.
Learn more about ACCA and other formulas that explain why consumers purchase in this article.
Like a good salesman, you’re there to provide a service. “How can I help you?”
You assess the customer’s needs and situations. Listen to them. Really listen to them, and find out how they’re doing.
That’s why research is so important. Surveys, demographics, social media listening, and good hard facts before you write.
You want customer attention. Why did they open this page? Why would they read until the end? Make it exciting.
Suppose your customer is looking for the perfect banana suit to wear to a dinner party. They’re concerned about price, quality, and how comfortable the suit is to wear.
If you can answer all their questions ahead of time, you can dispel their objections.
Persuasive writing leads to conversions. Excellent, quality products make your job easier and help the people that you’re addressing.
If you explain your benefits and meet their needs, they will become loyal customers. That is why honesty and genuine connections are so important. You aren’t selling them “snake oil.” You’re there to improve their quality of life.
A truly satisfied customer becomes an evangelist for your brand. For example, how many people “worship” at the cult of Apple? Whether you personally like their products or not, enthusiastic customers will recruit new ones.
They do your job for you, and it’s because you helped them so much.
Sometimes things don’t work out. You did your best, but you’re not getting the conversions you wanted. Nobody is ordering your product, signing up for your e-mail, or showing up at your store.
Take a good look at what you’ve written. Are you being sincere? Do you truly believe in what you’re selling? Is it something that you use yourself?
Are you fulfilling a need that isn’t being addressed in the current market? Check out the competition and see how you can differentiate your company.
Consumers are bombarded with endless information every time they use the Internet. They’re savvy and know how to smell nonsense. That’s why you have to be direct, to the point, and honest with them when you write copy.
Dishonest copy doesn’t sell. It’s as simple as that. Even if you’re telling the truth, some language can make your audience question your honesty. Take a look below to find out how you can write honest copy that still sells.
Sometimes it feels like you’re writing on autopilot. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of using cliches. But your readers are going to tune out if they’ve seen it all before. See what I did there? “Seen it all before” is a cliche.
Cliched language is a crutch for writers who are out of ideas. If you’re not sure if you’re using too many of them, ask yourself if you’re really providing meaningful content.
“Seen it all before.” Seen what? Cats, t-shirts, bananas? Radios, cellphones, the latest handheld video game system? It’s too vague. You could see it anywhere.
Another useful way to check for cliches is to try Googling the phrase to see if it shows up a lot.
Sometimes you’ll even find something associated with the phrase that doesn’t jibe with the image you want to present. Or flat out find that other companies have overused the expression.
Some examples of cliched phrases include:
Keep your writing and perspective fresh, and your audience won’t fall asleep.
Make your copy resonate better with your ideal customers with these strategies.
You know that your writing is weak when you have too many modifiers. Adverbs and adjectives are like spices. They enhance the natural flavor, but sometimes people overuse them to compensate for using poor ingredients.
Is your product “really, really good,” or is it outstanding? Did the customer in your story “voraciously eat” your banana bread, or did they “devour it”?
Watch out before you pull out the thesaurus. Not every word you find will be the right match for the idea you’re trying to convey more succinctly. Never use a word you’re not familiar with enough to use in a conversation.
If you use the right words, you won’t need to add unnecessary descriptors. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use adjectives and adverbs (I’ve used a few myself), just that you shouldn’t rely on them to get your point across to your customer.
Note: Try not to use “very,” “really,” or “quite” if you can help it. It may sound more conversational, but these intensifiers don’t add much meaning, and there are definitely better adjectives and adverbs you can use.
Other intensifiers to avoid (or use sparingly):
Again, if you rely too much on intensifiers, choose strong adjectives and adverbs. If you’re using too many adjectives and adverbs, choose more attractive nouns and verbs.
Who is your audience? Many copywriters fall into the trap of writing for the same audience every time. You’ve got your buyer personas ― use them.
Don’t sound too dry. You’re not writing an essay for English class. You’re letting your reader know about a possible solution to their problems. It’s about an item that will improve their life.
If you’re having trouble imagining a shift in your specific audience, try it the other way around. Pretend to be someone else.
Who would you like to be? Shakespeare? J.K. Rowling? A door-to-door banana salesman.
Be whoever you want. Have fun with it. This exercise breaks you out of rigid thinking and gives you some fresh ideas for your copy.
Say you want to sound young. You’d use lots of internet slang and emojis. “How can I help you? I’d be happy to help LOL. :-)” Get inside the head of the role you’re playing and see how you can alter your voice for a fresh angle.
You don’t necessarily have to use what you’ve written in your final copy. Just think of it as a game to jolt you out of complacency.
Consider your brand identity. What kind of personality do you want to project? Serious, fun, sassy? Are you high energy or low energy?
Look over old blog posts and evaluate their tone. You want your voice to fit your personal brand. Try to be consistent but not predictable.
Pay close attention to whether you are writing in either active or passive voice. Active voice grabs your attention, but sometimes passive voice works better. Don’t force it. Consider both verb forms and choose the one that sounds the most natural.
Did you find yourself drifting off during your last board meaning? Maybe you were the one presenting, and you could tell that people were losing interest. It makes you feel like it’s a waste of time.
When you’re writing to a potential customer, be clear and easy to understand. Don’t confuse the audience with complex sentences and ten-cent words.
Try to keep it close to a sixth-grade reading level. Tools like Grammarly will assess it for you. This doesn’t mean that you’re talking to sixth-graders. You’re just making it an easier read so that people won’t get tired just reading it.
Be straightforward and honest. No purple prose (maybe roleplaying as Shakespeare wasn’t the greatest idea.) Be more like Ernest Hemingway and less like William Faulkner.
Watch out for filler words. You may want to reach that word count, but not at the expense of losing your audience’s attention. Some redundant phrases to eliminate:
You’ve eliminated your oxymorons, but what about empty phrases? Don’t keep anything that dilutes the message and doesn’t express clear ideas.
These words add no meaning to your writing. They’re just padding. Save them for the more formal documents you have to write at work. Copy is supposed to be approachable and relatable.
Learn about conversational copywriting here.
There are many ways to measure audience engagement. The most obvious way would be the bounce rate. The bounce rate is how many people look at your page and “bounce” away from your site immediately.
You can measure it using Google Analytics. A high bounce rate is bad. You want people to stay, scroll down, and read until the end.
Other indications that you’ve lost their interest include:
If you discover that your audience is not engaged, change your material and test it to see which copy generates the most interest. Using bold, clear language and cutting out weasel words will help a lot.
“It slices, it dices, it makes banana desserts of all kinds!” Who doesn’t remember infomercials? Who hasn’t been tempted to order a food processor or strange shake weight thing?
It’s not enough to simply describe the product. You need to show people enjoying the product.
Give them the features, but don’t forget to include the benefits that they offer.
Imagine you’re selling banana bread. You might mention that they’re high in fiber? But why is that good? It keeps you regular. If you want something a little more glamorous, consider that a regular digestive system gives you clearer skin. Just give it a little thought.
Customers may not admit it, but they want to do what everyone else does. For all the individualism, people still look to their peers. See the happy family enjoying a fresh pizza? How convenient that they’re seeing this commercial at dinner time.
Learn how to build credibility and trust with your customers in your copy here.
Proof in copy falls into four categories (PESO):
Paid content is proof that’s been bought from other companies:
Earned content comes from positive buzz and consumer loyalty:
Shared content can take on a life of its own:
Owned content is the largest, more varied, and easiest to control material:
Use many different kinds of proof to support your claim that you sell the best products that provide the greatest benefits. Or focus heavily on one or two. Try it and see what makes the most sense for your company.
Effective copy answers every question before the reader has a chance to ask it. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. What have people asked about in the past? What were their needs, and how did you address them?
Once your audience is plugged in and ready to be informed and entertained, it’s simply a matter of following through on the promise you made at the beginning of your relationship with past, present, and future customers.
“How can I help you?”
These five little words sum up customer service. Your consumer has a problem they need to solve. Maybe they’re hungry. Maybe they’re cold.
Maybe their kids are bored and misbehaving. Or they need a faster way to get to work. They could just need more work to come their way.
Some people go to the store and talk to a salesperson, but many will first check the internet and other resources. That’s where you step up and deliver your copy to serve the consumer’s needs.
Clean, clear-cut copy saves time and drives consumer engagement. When you know they need you, describe your features and how their benefits address their pain points.
Everyone wants to do the same thing. To make that pain go away, to be a little bit smarter or fitter or richer. They’re reading your copy for a reason, and you’re there to help.
When it works out right, everybody gets what they want. You get your conversions, and they get a boost in their quality of life. That's the whole point of sales and good copywriting.
If you’re not completely clear and honest, your reader will know. Most customers have an excellent BS detector. It comes from trial and error and unsatisfactory experiences.
So, avoid cliches. Use modifiers sparingly. Try not to sound like a robot. Don’t lecture your audience, and don’t say anything without backing it up and giving some proof.
Honesty in your copywriting goes a long way to establishing trust. Once your audience knows they can count on you, they’ll come back again and again for more helpful advice. They’ll rely on you like an old friend who’s been there for them in the past.
Make it clear and bright, and cut anything that isn’t 100% truthful. Your readers will appreciate your straightforwardness and reward you with their undying loyalty.
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High-converting neuro-response conversion copywriting for America's largest B2B companies and disruptive digital brands.
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