Tag Archives: Quick Copy Tips

Supercharge Your Benefits with Contrast Storytelling

Your copy has to convey the benefits of buying, period. But have you thought about how to best frame those benefits? The Framing Effect is a psychological response in which people react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it’s presented. For example, we tend to want to avoid pain more than
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5 Ways to Convert More Prospects by Making Your Case

Your headline draws them in, while your opening copy maintains the magnetic hold. The express benefits give them hope that they may have found the solution they desire. And then you ask for the sale with an explicit call to action. A total win, right? Then why are you still disappointed with your results? You’re
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Boost the Relevance of Your Content with Benefits and Features

Quick Copy Tip

One cool thing about being a content marketer is that you tend to become an expert in your topic. You probably know an awful lot about your business, your project, or your subject matter.

In fact, you might actually know too much about it.

It’s called the curse of knowledge. Because we research our topics deeply and spend so much time writing about them, we tend to understand the technical specs inside and out. We have a great grasp of the under-the-hood details that make the thing work. And we think customers want to know all about those details.

But most of your potential buyers? They don’t care.

What have you done for me lately?

To be effective, marketing needs to show exactly what the offering does for the person buying it.

The features of your offer are what make it work. The benefits are the results it creates for the customer.

What transformation does your product or service empower? What does it allow the customer to become that she isn’t today?

Jimmy Choo high heels aren’t coveted because they’re comfortable or well-made. (Even though devotees believe they are.) Women buy them to feel confident and gorgeous.

Hybrid cars aren’t popular because they’re fuel-efficient, money-saving, or environmentally friendly. The real benefits are feeling virtuous and smart, with the warm, fuzzy glow that comes from believing you’re saving the world.

Your content and copy will never be truly relevant to your audience until you translate your features into customer-focused benefits.

The five-minute feature check

Quick, take a look through the last persuasive piece you wrote (blog post, sales page, podcast script) and take note of all of the features you talk about.

  • The process
  • Your qualifications
  • The patented mechanism
  • The policy
  • The dimensions
  • The speed
  • The materials

Copy and paste them all into a fresh document. Then, after each feature, add the words:

so you can …

The final results will be phrases like:

  • I have 10 years of experience helping clients exactly like you, so you can feel confident that together we can solve even your trickiest widget problems.
  • Our course is the most rigorous on the market, so you can leapfrog ahead of your competitors.
  • Our grape jam has 50% less sugar and no weird additives, so you can enjoy it guilt-free.

In about five minutes, you’ll uncover the weak spots in your persuasive content — the places where you were thinking about you and what you offer, and not about them and what they get out of it.

You might not use the words “so you can” over and over again in your final copy — but you will be writing with an understanding of your audience benefits.

Not all benefits are equal

The curse of knowledge can also lead you to focus too much on what some copywriters call fake benefits.

These are the benefits of your product or service that you think are important. And you might be absolutely right. They could be critical to delivering the results your audience wants.

The trouble is, the customer doesn’t particularly care.

These could be things like:

  • Stabilizing blood chemistry levels
  • Improving efficiency of project delivery and implementation
  • Mastering the ability to write a college entrance essay

But that doesn’t tell us what the buyer gets to have, do, be, feel, or become by moving forward with this purchase.

What those customers might actually want could be to:

  • Get slim without feeling hungry
  • Pull off a great project and look like a hero to their boss
  • Feel like brilliant parents because their teenager got into a great college

Features do matter

Features are the specific, convincing details that demonstrate why your solution is effective. As long as they’re tied directly to customer-focused benefits, your buyer will stay interested.

Here are some features that have been translated into benefits and presented as a set:

This nutritional program stabilizes your blood chemistry so you can finally lose weight … without getting hungry.

Our proven process makes you more efficient … and that makes you look like a hero when you deliver your next project in half the time and under budget.

This quick course teaches your teenager how to write a masterful college entrance essay … which could be the deciding factor in whether they get into their first-choice school.

Take another look at your five-minute benefit check. Any fake benefits in there?

Wants, not needs

You’ve got one more check to make before you call it good.

Are the benefits you’ve identified things your audience genuinely wants, or are they things you think they need?

Paying for things we need is boring. Spending money on things we want is a lot more fun. That’s why it’s easier to sell big-screen TVs than life insurance.

When you’re translating your features into benefits, make sure those benefits are driven by wants. Look for emotional drivers like pleasure, comfort, status, and self-image. You can also seek to put a stop to pain, either physical or emotional.

It’s not only hedonistic emotions that can drive behavior — values like patriotism, justice, and fairness can play powerful roles with the right audience. It’s still a pretty good idea, though, to pair them with a little self-interested hedonism if you can. Fair-trade coffee wouldn’t sell nearly as well if those arabica beans didn’t taste so good.

We like to think that logical drivers like efficiency, physical health, preventing future problems, and scientific evidence influence our decisions, but, they typically don’t have much impact. But those “rational” benefits are helpful when they’re used to justify an emotional decision that’s already been made.

The customer who already wants the beautiful high-heeled shoes tells herself that Jimmy Choos will last longer and feel better than a cheaper brand.

The customer who already wants to feel enlightened and virtuous tells himself that the fuel economy of the Prius clearly makes it a sensible choice.

Marketing vs. manipulation

There’s an important difference between putting your best foot forward and crossing the line into manipulation.

The key lies in making two promises:

  1. Don’t say things that aren’t true.
  2. Don’t omit significant things that are true.

The impression you create with your marketing needs to be realistic and truthful. If it isn’t, you’re a con artist and a creep — and your audience will rightly shun you when they figure that out.

If you liked this Quick Copy Tip, click here to read other posts in the series.

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Capture and Hold Audience Attention with a Bold Proclamation

Quick Copy Tip

If you’ve studied copywriting, you know the purpose of the headline is to get people to click and start reading. And your opening copy needs to continue that momentum all the way to the offer or conclusion.

One way to do that is to make a bold, seemingly unreasonable assertion in your title or headline. A proclamation so jarring that the right person can’t help but keep reading, listening, or watching to see where you’re going with it.

As far as I can tell, copywriter John Forde (whose site tagline is, not coincidently, “Learn to sell or else …”) was the first to define the Proclamation Lead:

A well-constructed Proclamation Lead begins with an emotionally-compelling statement, usually in the form of the headline. And then, in the copy that follows, the reader is given information that demonstrates the validity of the implicit promise made.

This type of lead works for both sales copy and persuasive content. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Forde illustrates the Proclamation Lead with a direct mail report that is ultimately selling an alternative health newsletter. Written by Jim Rutz, the piece immediately startles and tempts the prospect with a bold statement:

Read This Or Die

Today you have a 95% chance of eventually dying from a disease or condition from which there is already a known cure somewhere on the planet. The editor of Alternatives would like to free you from that destiny.

The copy continues not by jumping to the offer, but instead by backing up the proclamation. In the process, the piece systematically removes the objections raised in the reader’s mind about the scientific validity of the bold assertions.

If you feel that example is a little too “direct marketing” for your audience, consider this from respected best-selling author Austin Kleon:

Steal Like an Artist:
10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

It’s the exact same technique for a completely different target market. The intent is to startle people interested in becoming more creative, while concurrently tempting prospects to further explore what Kleon means by “steal.”

The first example is copy designed to make a sale. The second example is content (a book) that is the product itself. But the reason why both “sell” is the same.

The key to these bold headlines and leads is the immediate emotional response provoked by the assertion. More importantly, that emotional trigger leads to immediate motivation to investigate further — and that’s what every copywriter aims to achieve right from the beginning.

That’s because implicit in the proclamation is a promise. In the Rutz and Kleon examples, you’re promised that you’ll learn about hidden cures to common diseases and the way creativity really works, respectively.

How do you come up with these types of bold beginnings? John Forde says they’re found via research, not conjured up out of the ether — and I agree.

For example, people often assume creativity comes from introspection, perhaps during long sessions of gazing out the window.

But if you research how artists throughout history actually work, creativity is much more about starting with something already out in the world — often the work of someone else — and making it into something new.

Austin Kleon discovered that truth, and then boiled it down to its shocking essence. After all, it was Picasso who famously said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

That said, the proclamation approach is not always the right one for every situation. For example, I could have titled this article:

Read This Unless You Want to Starve

But that would have been lame, so I didn’t. There are plenty of other headline and lead approaches that also work well, so that headline wouldn’t be accurate or appropriate.

If you find a counterintuitive truth that’s relevant to your persuasive aim, however, you might just see if you can turn it into an almost unreasonably bold assertion that works wonders. But remember, don’t steal specific copy approaches (in the artistic sense) unless you’re sure you can perfectly tailor them for your audience or prospect.

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