In the first years of the Internet and the earliest days of e-commerce, everyone was flying blind.
It became obvious that selling online wouldn’t work the same way as it did in the so-called “real world.” The only problem? No one knew what that meant.
This article will highlight some of the strategies to increase your CTR and ROI. No tactic will work the same for every industry every time. Still, there are some consistent choices that have increased business from the beginning of modern e-commerce.
It might surprise you how often people come to professional marketers with some variation on “I want to take over 30% of the market share, with X new benchmark goals met every week.” The friendliest version of the truth, especially when selling online, is that it’s not about what the seller wants. It’s what the value is that you’re offering to your potential buyers.
So the first strategy that anyone wishing to sell online needs to take is to identify their value proposition for their buyers. Nothing else will do. You couldn’t even sell a banana to anyone if you don’t know what they can be used for or what they really are.
Another way to approach this would be to learn about what your customers see as “pain points.” Then, find the pain points and lessen them. They’ll think you’re a genius if you do.
It is also tremendously helpful from a marketing and planning point of view to understand your customers’ challenges. Once you have a clear picture of what these are — then you can go about helping them solve them.
It’s a cliche, that “hearts, and minds” thing, but it’s been repeated for centuries because it’s also true. When we move the hearts and minds of others in a positive way, we are more than halfway to winning a battle. And in this context, of course, the “battle” is winning over the customer.
People buy from their emotional reactions. This is true even if you aren’t “selling” anything. For example, there is a short film called “It’s a Beautiful Day, and I Can’t See It,” which powerfully shows that with a few simple word changes — emotions can be activated, and good things can happen as a result.
Too many people get a bit carried away, attempting to create an emotional reaction. This is an area where “less is more” because if we overdo the emotions, readers will feel manipulated, and that’s counterproductive in the extreme.
Imagine reading this sort of copy: “Millions of people die of starvation every year! If you don’t buy this very expensive sweatshirt and become a member of our organization, it will be twenty thousand more people who die! But you can stop it! Write your check now!”
It doesn’t inspire you to break out your checkbook or credit card, does it?
The days when marketers could be successful using very broad, clumsy, emotional levers are long gone. Generally speaking, we’ll be more effective using positive emotions. For example, consider Coca-Cola’s “Buy the World a Coke,” commercial from 1971. Walk up to any American over about the age of fifty and ask them the ending to “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” and they will almost without fail be able to give at least the first few lines of the song used in that commercial.
That song was a “feel-good,” positive, “we’re all in this together,” kind of emotional push, and it worked brilliantly. The commercial was filmed on a hilltop in Italy.
It sparked a multinational hit song that topped the charts in several countries, and the Coca-Cola company is still getting mileage out of it. It was brought out again in 2010 in a changed form and is considered "one of the best-loved and most influential ads in TV history.” It was the most expensive commercial ever made at the time, but it still associates good feelings with the Coca-Cola brand.
When it comes to emotional levers, it’s especially critical that you test your messaging adequately. What you and your team think is touching, and uplifting may come across to others as corny and annoying. The only way to find out is to put it in front of people.
** Super secret pro tip: Even though testing is critical, note that focus group members will not always directly tell you the truth. It’s been proven that people who are paid to tell you what they think will (consciously or unconsciously) often tell you what they think you want or need to hear. Thoughtful study design is also going to be important in order to yield helpful opinions.
First of all, whether you’re writing an advertisement or a tripwire, headlines matter. Did you skip down to this section because you were looking for the shortcuts, the actual steps to take? No blame if you did because it partly means that I got this headline right.
What if my headline had been “Scientific Details Regarding Reader Behavior Post Marketing Stimulus?” What if that had been the title of this article? Would you be reading this right now?
No. Me either. So pay attention to your titles and headlines. If you can’t test in any other way, ask your closest human what they think your potential headline means.
Note also that the headline gives you a great place to create urgency in the heart and mind of the readers. “This Quarter Only: Free Seminar on Written Marketing” Is more urgent than “Learn Written Marketing with Daniel Doan Free.”
Or perhaps “New Seminar on Marketing Success Available through Tomorrow,” is more your speed. Either way - the strategy is to create urgency.
David Ogilvy, considered one of the fathers of modern marketing, said that there must be one “big idea” at the center of any marketing copy. The big idea is the main benefit, the core emotion/gain that the buyers will get through purchasing the product.
For the article you’re reading now, the big idea was “Write better copy through learning from DCG, and you will make much more money.” Since you’re reading this far, it’s working. Know what your big idea is for everything you write.
Here’s another “Big Idea” example: “Get a steady stream of qualified B2B leads from LinkedIn for free.” Note that those words may or may not appear anywhere in the copy. But the idea is the central thing.
For advertising of any description, it must be utterly clear about what you mean and what you are selling. Yes, it is possible to stimulate curiosity and use that as a tactic, but doing so is not the place to start.
Make me wonder what you’re selling? You fail.
Make me wonder what you want me to think or feel? You fail.
Make me wonder what you want me to do next? You guessed it, you fail.
Learn the strategies to boost clarity here.
Persuasive ad copy will always focus on making the reader feel something. So what do you want them to feel? This might range from anything such as happiness and pride: “I will look so good in that sweater,” to even feeling relief, as in “I finally sold my car!”
It is not really possible or necessary to create these desires. We’re basically born with them. But what we can do — and must do, for effective advertising — is manipulate them. Consider these broad categories of desire:
So we take those desires, and we want them to feel that our offer will satisfy one or more of the desires.
“You feel like your ad copy isn’t as good as it could be? Ad copy is all we do. We can help you increase your bottom line by next month. Want to know more?”
Learn how to elevate desires in copywriting here.
A fleshed-out narrative can capture our imaginations and pull us into buying what you’re selling for many marketing applications. You might think that it’s impossible to tell a story in a three-line ad. You’d be mistaken. Consider:
She wanted more attendees at her seminars. So she switched to Atomic Automatic Conversions. Her attendance soared, and she slept better at night. Want to know more? See the link.
A good story can pull anyone into where you want them to be emotionally. And every narrative will contain at least one important moment in time, where the gold and the conversions lie. Consider this moment:
For the first time, you felt absolutely comfortable as you walked into that first meeting with a prospective client. You knew that you had laid all the groundwork well —and that there’s a very high likelihood that you’ll sign a lucrative contract today. You were relaxed, optimistic.
Did you feel you were right there? Your ad copy can do that too. You just need to use fewer words.
One of the most important things to consider when writing an ad is to ask yourself what beliefs your audience has that you want to or need to shift.
“The best copywriters are unaffordable unless you’re in the Fortune 500.”
“All razors are the same, more or less.”
“You have to spend lots of money to make lots of money.”
Sometimes, the belief you need to shift is not a mistaken belief. But you still need to move the needle, as we say. So to shift the belief, you need to have a pretty good idea of what that starting belief actually is.
Is your offer new? Then say "New" in your headline. People like new stuff. Most of us want to feel we’re ahead of the curve.
We have all seen examples of clumsy marketing. Huge, glowing type and whirling siren lights. Multiple exclamation points do not make people buy!! Rarely. Not even if you put a sentence in between the exclamatory ones. Seriously.
Simply tell the truth. Lying about your wares/making claims that are outlandish or unprovable not only doesn't tend to create immediate sales, it can backfire completely.
Especially when writing ads for Google, it’s important to consider their quality scoring system. Few people would be surprised to hear that Google essentially will score your PPC ad copy itself!
The following will keep you in good quality in Google’s proverbial eyes:
If you weren’t aware, it is possible to use code to have Google attempt to insert a relevant search keyword into your ad copy automatically.
Essentially it is a piece of code that will automatically update your ads with the keywords in your ad group that caused your ads to show. This can help make your ads more relevant to users searching for what you offer. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s something to be aware of and can lead to higher CTR and ROI because it’s making your display clearly in line with the user’s intent.
Knowing what a pain point is for your customer takes you halfway down the aisle to gaining them as a customer.
Obviously, if you are a man who shaves, and you blunt your razor every time you shave, that’s a pain point. It’s annoying to always have to get a new razor. So tell him how you’re going to save him money and effort by giving him a better shaving experience. Then, of course, elaborate on the pain point, then position the solution.
People who sell insurance aren’t selling good rates or excellent customer service. They’re selling peace of mind that you’re going to weather any unfortunate setbacks without losing everything.
Or the more famous example, perhaps, is “You’re not selling a steak — you’re selling the sizzle.”
Part of being persuasive (and increasing that ROI and CTR) is being confident. If you’re not confident about what you’re offering, why should I be? Be proud of what you’ve got and assume that your customer will appreciate what you’re offering.
Got testimonials? Case studies? If you don’t, get some. That doesn’t mean to manufacture them out of thin air. It means to obtain actual people who have purchased from you or will purchase from you.
What is your guarantee? Do you stand behind what you’re selling? Of course, you do. Be explicit about what you guarantee and how you are/could lower your buyers’ risk by purchasing from you.
Here's how you can position testimonials in your copywriting.
For example, if you’re selling stationery, consider looking on down the road, say six months after your buyer’s purchase. Narratives work well here.
“There’s no substitute for a personal touch or a handwritten note. Reach for your stylish banana paper from Daniel Doan, and know that you won’t be forgotten, today or three months from now.”
If I have to stretch my mind to imagine myself as your customer, you’ve already kind of lost the battle. But if you show me someone I look up to, or someone like me that uses your product or services, you’re halfway to me breaking out the credit card.
Don’t invent fake people in any way. Yes, people sometimes actually check. If you use stock photographs and create a fake testimonial, you could even open yourself up to legal action from the model. If you do any of the previous, your best case scenario is that you’re going to diminish your own credibility.
Credibility is even more important than bananas.
Don’t try to tell me that there aren’t any experts in your niche. Selling donkey food supplements? There’s a veterinarian who can speak to your offerings. Make engraved runes on semi-precious stones? There’s a book author or longtime rune reader who can speak to your product and its quality.
Note that I didn’t use the word “influencer,” but that’s a possibility for many business owners. Influencers are possibly overemphasized in modern marketing — but the fact of the matter is that they can drive sales. So if you can’t find an influencer that seems a fit for what you do, don’t panic.
Plenty of buyers don’t do any research. They just pull out their wallets and buy on impulse. But is it wise to count on that? You need to research the market you’re selling to and your competitors.
And then consider how your offerings compare to the others out there. You almost certainly have reason to believe that your product is better - now communicate to the rest of us why that is the case. Even if you are literally selling bananas, there are several ways that you might communicate that yours are better and more desirable for the buyer.
How? There are several time-honored techniques.
B.) Added Value
Those are just a few of the main ways to differentiate yourself in the market. There are about a million others. Give thought to what you are actually offering your customers, and convince them that it is easy to get the benefits you are offering.
You want your buyers to use their heads and hearts when purchasing your products. So if your copy can reach them emotionally and spark their emotions — you’re in with a high chance of success.
“People who eat fruit every day are more attractive than people who don’t. Bananas, in particular, seem to make others find us more interesting. Don’t believe me? Ladies, take a banana out in the street. Eat it slowly. Assess how many men are looking at you.”
As you can see, there are many ways to get your audience interested in your offer. That’s important, but you also have to make sure they’re interested enough to make a purchase.
Some of these strategies will work for you, while some might not do much for your sales. Try them out and see which of them fit your business. Your audience might like hard facts, or they might enjoy an exciting narrative more. There’s only one way to find out.
All in all, it’s more than possible to increase your market share and your returns on your investments through careful copywriting and careful thought. You’re not like everyone else, and neither is your product. Tell your audience how, and they’ll buy.
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