When I critique, edit or rewrite sales copy, I discover that many clients commit common errors. Granted, not all of them are writers. But most of them fail to drive customer actions not because they lack writing skills but because they fail to look at their copy from their readers' perspective.
Although unintentional, they're so involved with their business or product that they tend to forget their prospects. They tend to explain things in ways that only they understand. They tend to forget the number one axiom in copywriting:
Different words mean different things to different people.
Let me share with you at least three simple steps you can take now to increase the readability of your copy, the excitement level of your offer and the responsiveness of your readers.
1) Lace Your Copy With Headers
On the Internet, people don't read. They scan. Unlike a book that's purchased for the purpose of being read from cover to cover, people seldom read entire web pages from top to bottom.
How often do you read entire newspapers, for example? More than likely, you scan them quickly and stop at any headline that captures your attention, piques your curiosity and pulls you into the article. On the Internet, that behavior is even more prevalent.
Moreover, reading web or sales copy, especially long copy salesletters, is a wearying task and hard on the eyes. So, don't write to be read. Instead, write to be scanned. Keep paragraphs brief, and incorporate headers throughout your copy in order to direct your readers' eyes.
Make your lines short, either within small tables of no more than 600 pixels wide or 70 characters in length. And refrain from writing your paragraphs deeper than four to five lines, too. If you have to, cut them up into smaller ones. Above all, add a header at every two to five paragraphs.
Make your headers prominent by using different sizes, colors or fonts. And avoid overused, stale and hackneyed expressions, such as the common "Welcome to [Whatever]." Lace your copy with powerful yet brief headers that are inviting, invoking and informative.
When your readers scan your copy, your headers must be strong enough to stop them in their tracks and to make them feel that the following text cannot be ignored. In fact, write your headers with the assumption that the preceding text was not read at all.
Here's an example. Let's say you promote business opportunities or show people how to find them. Instead of, "Home-Based Business Success," use, "Uncover Profitable Opportunities Hidden In Your Home!" Rather than, "Affordable Diamond Business Opportunities," say "Mine Your Own Business ... At Rock Bottom Prices, Too!"
2) Blend Your Copy With Bullets
Directing the eye is an important element of copywriting. In order to direct your readers' actions, you must first direct their attention. While an effective headline will capture it, captivating their attention is a whole different issue.
Maintain your readers' attention with bullets. Bulleted lists are effective because they are captivating, intriguing and pleasing to the eye. They can help to reinforce the offer, give readers a visual break and are clustered for greater impact. This is particularly true with long copy offers.
In fact, an effective way to use bullets is when they follow the words "you get" and "reasons why," such as "with this [product] you get" and "here are the reasons why [you must buy now]." They give the reader the ability to know, instantly, what they get out of reading further or responding.
Here's an example. Let's say you sell an exercising machine that helps to strengthen the abdominals. You can say, "With your new Abdominoflex Machine, here's what you get," and then you follow it with a bulleted list of the various benefits a customer receives from your machine, such as ...
A scientifically designed exercise regimen laser-targeting specific areas for a faster, firmer and shapelier figure;A compact, lightweight and space-saving machine that can be stored right under your bed and pulled out only when needed;
- A system that provides an easier yet intense workout that will burn off unwanted calories more rapidly and enjoyably;
... And so on. Also, you can use bullets to list the various consequences of going ahead (or not) with your offer. For instance, you can use them to reinforce scarcity-enhancing elements (such as deadlines) and emphasize the negative consequences of not enjoying the benefits of your offer.
3) Paint Your Copy With Pictures
Another strategy is to use words and phrases that help to paint vivid pictures in the mind. When people can visualize the process of doing what you want them to do, including the enjoyment of the benefits of your offer, you drive their actions almost instinctually.
The brain, according to "Psycho-Cybernetics" by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, is a goal-seeking mechanism. If I told you not to think of a white flower, you would still think of one because I directed your mind by giving it a goal. But if I told you to think of a pink one, you would then not think of a white one.
In order to direct your readers' actions, you must also direct their minds. Use mental imagery and picture words that invite, entice and incite. Guide the mind and you guide the action.
We think in relative terms. And we are predominantly visual, too. Our brains have a tendency to translate messages into their visual equivalents in order to appreciate what they are being told. In plain English, the mind thinks in pictures, and not in words or numbers.
For example, if I told you to think of a garbage can, you're not going to think of "G," "A," "R," etc. You'll visualize a garbage can. The more I describe it to you as well as the more senses I engage in my description, the more realistic it becomes in your mind, including its color, smell and texture.
During a televised newscast, a reporter, flying over the scene of a forest fire in her station's helicopter, was asked, "How big is the fire?" In a voice partially drowned by the whizzing sounds of helicopter blades, she said, "It's over 140 acres of land, which is about 200 football fields back to back."
Similarly, compel your readers not only with vivid picture words and mental imagery but also with stories, examples, analogies and metaphors that they can intimately understand and appreciate. Help your readers to paint the kinds of pictures you want them to paint.
The more vivid the words paint, the easier it will be for the mind to decode the message you are conveying into something your readers can understand, appreciate, relate to and, above all, act upon.
In Conclusion, Remember This ...
I agree that copywriting may not be an easy task for many. But one of the most important steps you can take is this: look at your website through your readers' eyes. Imagine coming across your site for the first time. What would you read? Where would your eyes go? What would your mind think?
More importantly, what would you do?
If you hesitate at any point, realize that hesitation on your part is confusion on the part of your readers. And confusion often leads to procrastination. If your readers are confused, they will do nothing.
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter, author, speaker and consultant. His specialty are long copy sales letters and websites. Watch him rewrite copy on video each month, and get tips and tested conversion strategies proven to boost response in his membership site at http://TheCopyDoctor.com/ today.