This Guest Post is by Nick Hall from Covert Copywriting. Nick shows us why writing great copy is an integral part of selling your product or service.

You already know that words have power. Everybody in marketing and sales knows this. So, have you really worked on each and every word on each and every page? If not your content could be costing you money.

Did you choose a copywriter on pure price or are you doing the work yourself? Have you studied copywriting techniques, classic adverts, and direct mail campaigns?

Have you applied psychology to each sentence of your website, brochures, and press releases?

Copywriting is about more than a straight sentence. In fact some of the great marketing copywriters like Robert W. Bly deliberately ignored the basic rules of sentence structure to make their point.

You see copywriting is a dark art filled with persuasive techniques that can make a sale on its own. It can drive traffic, build your brand, and prove the highest converting member of the sales staff.

Alternatively, it can kill your prospect’s interest stone dead.

So is your copywriting all it can be?

Here are 10 tips for better copywriting that will help raise your conversion rate, increase traffic, and help your SEO.

1. The Power of You

You might think it’s a good idea to write in an elevated style, away from your audience and even talking in the third person. 90% of the time it isn’t.

You is a powerful word.

It has been consistently proven as the most powerful word in advertising even though there are doubts over the oft-quoted Yale University study’s very existence.

It let’s you sell to the prospect, it places them in the position you want them, and it lets you move them towards your end goal.

Use it.

2. Convert Those You Can, Don’t Generalise

You cannot convert everyone. Nobody can. So figure out who your audience really is and speak to them.

Visualize the person, paint a picture of their life and write the copy for them.

It cannot work all the time, some services and products have to cross the gender, generational, and every other divide.

Most of the time, though, that’s a sign you need more market research to truly identify your customer.

If you can, imagine someone you know that fits the profile sitting right there with you.  Give them the information they need to buy from you.

As advertising legend David Ogilvy said: “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.”

Yes it is slightly sexist, but it rings true. Your writing will improve no end and you’ll find yourself cutting the painful marketing drivel if you’re explaining it to your mother, sister, brother, son, or even your wife.

You wouldn’t describe an “innovative new telecommunications solution” to your son. You would describe a really cool phone with great graphics and this one really amazing function. It’s better already.

3. Find the Pain, Provide the Cure

Look carefully at your product and you should know what it’s about and what emotional string you have to pull to get the sale. As another great salesman said: “Find the pain.”

There are basic primal needs that drive us all. It’s the need to survive, the need to eat, the need to take care of our family and, somewhat surprisingly in this company, the need for the respect of our peers.

If you’re an insurance company selling mostly to middle aged men then cheap premiums are great, but you’re not pitching the pain.

The pain is a vivid picture of him and his family out on the streets thanks to that inferior insurance that wouldn’t pay out when the house burned down. Saving a few pounds will always come second in any man’s mind to looking after his family.

If you’re selling girl’s clothes, then there is no survival angle. They worry about their peer group, so tell them how much cooler they’ll look and how they’ll find a boyfriend when they’re wearing your brand.  Think I’m kidding? Really look at the best adverts again.

Find the pain then offer the solution with your product or service, and you have a customer. You don’t even have to mention the pain, just the cure, but you’ll see that it’s there if you look with fresh eyes.

4. Use Numbers and Lists

Numbers work. Whether it’s the 10 in this headline or statistical backing to prove your point, people love numbers.

We’re attracted to them and they provide mental confirmation.

In fact when companies use numbers they make 37% more sales. That’s a lie, I made it up, but it sounds good doesn’t it?

So don’t tell people you supply companies all over the country, say you work with more than 150 companies from John O’Groats to Lands End, from New York to Los Angeles.

Use numbers and use specifics. It just sounds more plausible and less like you had nothing to say.

We love lists, too, don’t we?

Humans crave order, it’s just the way it is. A list with numbers? That is money in the bank right there.

5. Use Presuppositions

Put the reader through the process. Talk to them as if they’re already using your product or service.

Tell them how great their life is, how secure they already feel, how white their clothes are now they’re using your product.

They can’t be using it yet, of course, but they can imagine it. It’s a powerful technique that you can apply to a one-line advert or a full sales letter.

The first line of this article is a presupposition, by the way, and if you got this far it was one of the devices that ‘closed’ you, or brought you to this point.

Advertising and sales is all part of the journey. Lead your prospect by the hand and tell them how good life can be, how great things will be, when they start to do things differently.

6. Social Proof is Awesome

We like to think we’re different, special, and unique. Human beings are social animals, though, and it matters what other people think. Before you swallow that as pure fact think about the world of celebrity endorsement.

If we didn’t care what people thought, the whole system would fall apart. Air Jordans wouldn’t exist, Facebook walls would be barren, tumbleweed strewn wastelands, and we wouldn’t have star faces selling us stuff we never knew we wanted.

We like to know that our peers love the product. It’s even better if they are cool, or authoritative. Even if you don’t have the budget to get a megastar, you can cheat like this:

“Why are thousands of Americans turning to Acme shampoo to combat dandruff?”

Did you even think to question the truth of the statement?

Quotes are good, too, especially from people we hold in high regard.

7. Exclusivity Works

Despite wanting the approval of our peers, everybody also wants to be part of a select group. It’s in our nature, we’re complex beasts.

Ever see those adverts that say you might not qualify? Suddenly you want it don’t you?

Make your offer or product exclusive if you can. Even tell people it might not be for them, but go on to offer them the chance to prove you wrong.

8. Stories Sell

Stories and metaphor have been an integral part of the sales process since, well, ever.

Stories help us relate, they help us put ourselves in the picture and they work. Ads are almost always stories, whether it’s one picture or a recurring TV slot. The Wall St Journal subscription appeal is the most successful piece of Direct Mail ever. It’s a story about two brothers that you really should read.

Even if you don’t have space for a huge story, you can use metaphor to illustrate your point, break through resistance and make the sale. If you can relate a complicated product to a daily routine then your conversions will shoot up overnight.

9. Headlines Can Make or Break You

David Ogilvy used to say you’d lose 80% of your audience between the headline and the main body copy. And that was the master himself…

So, if your headline sounds weak, you’ll lose even more. Make it interesting. Posing a question is a powerful headline writing technique that should grab the reader, or offering them a secret. Both of these together? Amazing…

There’s an element of cold reading here, the cheap psychological trick practiced by fake mediums. Don’t go that far, don’t offer to put people in touch with their late relatives. But use general questions that can resonate with a lot of people.

Just as an example, try these:

  • “Are you struggling with your household bills?”
  • “Do you know Google is spying on you?”
  • “How safe is your home?”
  • “Are you feeding your dog junk food?”

Offer them something, tell them they’re missing out right now, just grab their attention and work from there.

10. Use More Power Words

Power words might sound like Voodoo, but when you try them out you’ll immediately see their effect. There are many power words designed to trigger a response in your reader, but the best ones are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Guarantee
  • New
  • Love
  • Safe

These words have been used so many times to break down resistance that they’re hardwired to our brain and elicit the desired effect. For more power words read Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook. Just try these first before you go too nuts.

Beware of using Free and then trying to charge, too. You cannot do it, because you have lied to your prospect and the trust is gone.

Try and use these tips, today, right now, and your copy will improve. So will your sales.

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Nick Hall

Freelance Copywriter at Covert Copywriting
"Nick is a creative copywriter, a direct mail tour de force. As a former journalist he's an expert in content and inbound marketing too. He can be found practicing the dark art of persuasion at Covert Copywriting"

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