Every time you create the content for a direct response campaign, a landing page, an advertisement, or a sales email, you want the copy to be powerful enough to convert visitors to sales. You want the words to roll out of your keyboard in an unending symphony of, ultimately, higher sales.
But writing copy for these marketing assets can be hard. You're providing users with useful information, yes -- but that's not all you're doing. You want to create content that has a bottom-line impact. Content that sells.
So, what are the writing secrets that really sells people? Here are eight features that will help kick your conversion copywriting efforts into high gear.
1) Be positive in your tone.
Positivity sells. Big time.
According to Psychology Today, “Positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments, which are based on a brand’s attributes.”
What does it mean to be positive? It means creating an upbeat, feel-good, it’s-a-great-day attitude in your writing.
Does this sound cheesy? Not if you do it right. Positivity is basically happiness, the emotion that makes us feel good inside. Happiness can have tremendous effects on our motivation and can dramatically influence the decisions we make.
Harvard researchers have found that positive emotions had higher viral potential. The reason? Happy people are more likely to share their happiness with others. In addition, happy people are more likely to receive and respond to your marketing message.
For our purposes, the question is this: How do you keep a positive tone in your writing? Here are some tips:
Positive content is very personal. Speak directly to the reader.
Positive content cuts the jargon. You want to make it accessible, not opaque.
Positive content focuses on solutions. If you focus exclusively on the problems you’re trying to solve, you’ll discourage the reader. Stay solution-focused.
Positive content uses words that connote happiness. These are words such as “love,” “like,” “up,” “great,” “good,” “yes,” “awesome,” “sweet,” “reward,” “yeah,” “perfect,” “boost,” and "progress."
Positive content is easy to read. No one feels buoyant when they are trying to read big words, long sentences, and confusing copy. Let the content flow with a short, quick, easy format.
Being in a good mood while you're writing certainly helps, too.
2) Be personal.
The prototypical schmoozy salesperson is the guy who wears loud suits, puts his arm around your shoulder, pretends he’s your friend, and is as gregarious as the day is long. But, as it turns out, effective salespeople don’t have to be gregarious -- but they do have to exhibit a sense of personal appeal that both inspires trust and invites a business relationship.
As a writer, you don’t have to adopt any sort of real-life personality, but you do have to be personal with your content.
What does this mean? All it means is employing the word “you” and “your” a lot. The best copywriters know that being personal is essential, and using “you” is a great way to do that.
Check out the example of a Sprint ad below, I’ve circled all the instances of “you":
By being personal, you’re speaking directly to the customer. They can’t escape the personal intensity, and one-on-one nature of the content.
3) Be direct.
When you're direct, you'll make your intent obvious to the reader -- which is a good thing because people will trust your content and could be more likely to act.
Here are the a few quick tips for writing more directly:
Tell the customer what you'd like them to do.
If you don’t need that word, drop it.
If you don’t need that sentence, drop it.
If you can say it more clearly, do it.
If you can say it in a stronger way without detracting your audience, then do it.
Let’s look at an example. How would you sell the features of a product that monitors online mentions? Here’s one possibility:
Our product enables you to access data in dozens of languages, providing total access to every available mention of your brand or name, including online content and information shared on social networks. This takes place constantly, ensuring that you get real-time data delivered to you when you need it.
No way. Way too long. Way too complicated. Try this instead, from Mention.com:
The one-sentence description and headline “Monitor in real-time” is direct. It says what it needs to say, and then it stops.
Bad Version: “It is my opinion that we should cut taxes.”
Okay Version: “I believe we should cut taxes.”
Better Version: “We should cut taxes.”
Best Version: “Cut taxes.”
So, what should you do?
Bad Version: “Make an attempt to improve the direct quality of your writing.”
Okay Version: “Try to be more direct in your writing.”
Better Version: “Make your writing direct.”
Best Version: “Be direct.”
4) Be assertive in your CTAs.
Writing won’t help sell unless it's a little bit assertive.
What do I mean by that? The dictionary definition of "assertive" is “having or showing a confident and forceful personality.” An assertive person has a strong handshake, looks you in the eye, articulates clearly, speaks directly, and tells you exactly what he or she wants from you. Assertive people are confident, bold, and firm. You can develop the same style with your writing.
The best place to practice assertiveness is in your calls-to-action (CTAs). The CTA is where you tell the user what to do. If you want to make a sale, go for the sale. Close it. Just say it.
Here are a few great examples:
Example 1: Power Habits Academy
Example 2: Spotify
Example 3: Uber
When it comes to being assertive, less is more.
5) Be exciting.
If you can amp up the excitement factor by a few notches, your copy will become that much more powerful. Excitement helps take the customer from passive spectator to a fan.
Here are the tips for making your writing more exciting:
Unleash powerful verbs. Specifically, verbs that erupt with passion and explode with vigor. Okay, maybe I went a little over the top there .. but you see what I mean. Please don’t use passive sentences -- they are excitement-killers.
Use short sentences. Short sentences are like a cheer. They come with staccato-like emphasis that gives a feeling of momentum and energy.
Keep speaking to the customer. Don’t let up on the personal-driven content. The content needs to be aggressively "you"-focused so the customer can feel the excitement directed at them.
Use an exclamation point (if you must). An exclamation point can be an artificial form of excitement generation. It works in some cases, but it can make your content seem forced. Use it if you must, but do so sparingly. (Bookmark this flowchart to help you decide whether or not to use an exclamation point.) And please never use more than one per sentence!
If you sound excited, then your reader will get excited, too.
6) Pat the customer on the back.
Okay, I'll come out and say it: This is basically unvarnished flattery. People like feeling good about themselves, and telling them so -- and that your product or service will help them get even better -- will help you sell.
Here are a few tips for writing copy that makes the customer feel good:
Don’t be controversial. It can be an instant turn-off. Know who you’re targeting, and speak like you’re on their side about the topics that they want to hear.
Lead with information that they already know. Establishing some commonality regarding their knowledge is a great way to establish subtle camaraderie, and encourage them to think positively about themselves.
Draw attention to what they want to achieve. People enjoy feeling validated. If you can simply state how they feel, it will put them in a self-encouraged frame of mind.
Here's an example from the app AroundMe, which helps users find specific types of places like bars or banks nearby. Check out how their landing page tosses in a bit of flattery, free of charge:
Sure, it has a bit of double meaning -- but it's still a subtle nod to the savvy customer.
Here's another example from Dollar Shave Club. They know what flattery is all about:
7) Use data to support, not to lead.
Too often, we unleash mountains of data, charts, graph, statistics, and information to try and convince people how awesome our products or services are. But that’s not the way to win customers.
Yes, data is important, but it’s not the most important thing. While you certainly need data in your copy, you may want to front-load the positivity, and then back in the data. Velocity Partners expresses it this way: “[Effective selling content is] data driven. But [this] doesn’t let the data swamp the story. Data is support, not substance.”
Data tends to throw cold water on passion and excitement, which is a strong feature of sellable content. So, while I encourage you to keep that data in the game, don’t use it as your first feature of persuasion.
8) Insist on action.
If your content doesn’t make people act, then it's not doing its job. Your copy has to have an action-focused feel in order to be ultimately successful.
I’m not simply speaking about the CTA, which would be most obvious. Instead, I’m urging you to keep the action-oriented direction of the content front-and-center throughout all your content.
Here are some tips for how to do this:
Emphasize the now. The user needs to know that now is the time. Make them live in the present and experience the urgency of the situation.
For every informational sentence, add a “so that.” If you need to give information, then explain the “so that” behind it. For example, you write “The fastest processor on the market, so you can get tons of stuff done.” That two-part fragment contains information (fast processor), and why it matters (action). The action helps the sentence live, breathe, and move.
Use action verbs. Verbs like "be," "is," "am," "are," "will," and "have"are unavoidable. (In fact, I just used one in that sentence.) But use action verbs as much as you can: "get," "launch," "work," "lead," "blast," "produce," "create," "push," "drive," "pull," "sustain." Action verbs fuel your content and help drive people to do things.
Now, it's your turn.
Lead your boring copy out of the grave and make it live. The end result is glorious: higher sales, better revenue, more customers, and through-the-roof conversions. It’s up to you to produce the content that will make this happen.
How do you create content that sells?
Originally published May 12, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated November 21 2017