The difference between good copy and great copy is the number of actions it generates. The more actions the copy drives, the greater the copy is.
My friend John Reese, a master at simplifying what we often tend to unnecessarily complicate, says it best. He says the only metric you should ever really count on is this: "Yes" or "No."
Now, what makes great copy nudge people into action requires a variety of different things -- things I often find missing with most of the copy I critique.
So let me share with you three powerful elements that can help you turn your not-so-good copy into good copy, and your good copy into outstanding copy.
1. Give Reasons Why.
Great copy proposes a series of benefits that the prospect will enjoy once they respond. But this is the area most people struggle with. What makes a good benefit? Heck, what makes a benefit in the first place?
A feature is what the product has. An advantage is what that features does. But a benefit is what that advantage means to the reader specifically. It's the specific motive to which that feature caters. In other words, a benefit is the reason why the feature exists and why it's important to the reader.
Look at it this way: a benefit is what a person intimately gains from a specific feature -- not what YOU think the customer will gain from it.
Granted, trying to figure this out can be a little challenging.
So here's a tip: whenever you describe a feature (or what you may think may be a benefit), say this: "What this means to you is this," followed by a more personal benefit your reader gets from the feature.
Keep asking until there are no further reasons to give. Here's an example (and keep in mind that I'm repeating myself, here, for the sake of illustration only):
"This stereo has a 14-band equalizer. What this means to you is, you can adjust the frequencies of the sound to your liking. What this means to you is, you can add depth and dimension to your music. What this means to you is, you can make your music sound as rich and lively as if you were at the concert listening to your favorite band. What this means to you is..."
Tell readers why they must read, why the product is important and why they must buy (and buy now). The more reasons you give, and the more specific and personal those reasons are, the more compelling your copy will be.
2. Tell a Good Story.
Good copy makes a good case. But great copy tells a good story. Keep this in mind: a great copywriter is also a great salesperson. However, all great copywriters AND all great salespeople also have one thing in common...
... They are also great storytellers.
I just returned from Ken McCarthy's System Seminar in San Francisco. And one of the surprise speakers was Gary Halbert. Now Gary, on a topic that at the time seemed totally unrelated to copy, sales or Internet marketing, began to talk about this newfangled anti-wrinkle cream he came across.
He went on to talk about how the product came about, how it was made and even how the product worked. While all these things seemed irrelevant, he did make a great point: he told a great story that captivated the audience.
He translated features into benefits, such as the fact that the cream contained special hydroxies formed during the crystallization process. The analogy was that these hydroxies were like millions of microscopic prisms that reflect light.
He went on to describe that it was those "prisms" that helped to make your wrinkles invisible. It was a terrific story -- and while some people missed it, Gary indirectly provided the greatest lesson of the entire seminar.
Because in his story, Gary provided several powerful lessons.
A key component of telling great stories is to relate them to the reader. Often, this can accomplished with the help of analogies, examples, metaphors and case studies. Why? Because the mind thinks in relative terms.
Here's an example (of both stories and analogies). When people object to long copy, I often argue that long copy is like a good Stephen King novel. If you were a diehard Stephen Kind fanatic, and if his latest book was, say, over 600 pages, would you stop reading it because it was too long? No.
In fact, most Stephen King lovers I know often read his books in one sitting. They tell me they simply can't seem to put the book down.
Dan Kennedy calls this "message-to-market match." Like a Stephen King fanatic, when your copy is targeted and your audience is interested in your offer, they will read it. All of it. No matter how long it may seem to you.
3. Think For The Reader.
Sales are largely based on faith. Faith in the company, faith in the product and faith in the delivery of the promised benefits. And sales trainers often tell you that, like a good fiction story, you must temporarily suspend all disbelief.
And belief requires the suspension of critical thinking.
It is important to understand that people first buy on emotion and then justify their decisions with logic. Even the most analytical types buy on emotion, whether they express (or are aware) of their emotions or not.
Conversely, critical thinking causes the suspension of feelings. If your reader starts to think too much, then fundamental fears, doubts and concerns take over, eventually leading to the greatest killer of sales: procrastination.
Why? Because if we focus on logic first, we tend to think about other needs, concerns and preoccupations at that time. And more important, we may think about other, more important things we can do with our money.
YOU must do the thinking for your prospect. Don't stop short of describing the benefits, offering reasons why and telling stories simply because you're afraid of insulting your audience's intelligence. You're not.
Clients often say, "My clients are not idiots," "the benefits are obvious," "they can think for themselves" or "they can figure it out on their own."
Technically, that's true. But leaving the copy to the reader's own devices will also open up a can of worms, since they will also think of all the other things that may be irrelevant, untrue or unnecessary, which will negate the sale.
And unlike a face-to-face sales presentation, you're not there to answer any questions or objections. So your copy must do that for them. In fact, my friend and copywriter David Garfinkel says it best:
"You must do the thinking for your reader and tell them why your offer is so valuable. Of course, they may 'get it' in the abstract. But going from the abstract to the reader's specific situation requires thinking on their part. A prospect considering your offer wouldn't dare do that thinking. You have to do it for them."
So here's a tip: use the "so-what" acid test. If at any point in your copy your reader asks "so what," then that part needs to be more personal. It needs to be more specific to the reader. And it needs to give more reasons why.
Otherwise, delete it because it's irrelevant.
If you don't, your copy will not speak to your reader. It will make your long copy seem long. And above all, it simply will not drive your reader to act.
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.