Freelance life, Maslen on Marketing

Eleven copywriting tips from 2007

January – cleaning up your copy

I reviewed, for a publisher, a two-page sales letter that managed to use the word fantastic six times. Any offer begins to seem a little desperate when it is described this way half a dozen times. The cure is to read your copy aloud – it pulls you up short on all those repeated words.

February – How Web 2.0 changes your copy

Have you used a slick library image of someone beautiful on your website? (Most people don’t relate to these shots because they portray an unrealistic world where every merchant banker, IT manager and indeed carpenter is straight out of central casting.)

March – Writing long copy

Let’s say you have an eight-page sales letter. On every page you include three cross-heads, each one encapsulating a benefit. That’s 24 benefits-driven headlines. Even if your reader just skims and scans, they are picking up a couple of dozen reasons to buy from you.

April – Using powerful language

When you’re selling subscriptions, memberships or any other kind of relationship-based service, maintaining a consistent and appropriate tone of voice is essential. Whether you write your copy yourself or outsource it, make sure you establish some simple but powerful rules – and stick to them.

May – Words that (really) sell

Emulating the argot of teenagers spells, like, doom for any copywriter. But for pretty much any other market it pays to aim for an appropriate style. There are a few ideas that should work well with any group (even the MySpace crowd). One, keep it simple. Two, use plain English. Three, be polite.

June – Using e-zines to stay in touch

Publishing an e-zine is a relatively cheap way of staying in touch with a big group of people who might either be customers or turn into them. But there’s a lot of ’em about. So yours needs to deliver standout content and be easy, even entertaining, to read.

July – Web copy case study: Royal Mint

For this e-commerce site selling collectable coins, I introduced keywords for each coin such as: “the monarchy”, “22 carat gold” and “five-pound”. Plus technical words like “obverse” to establish rapport with the collector. I used “knowledgeable” to flatter the reader. And also to suggest that not buying would be an act of ignorance.

August – Using offers to lift response

Always repeat your offer. In a mailpack you’ve got the outer, the letter and the brochure and you may also have a reply envelope. These are all opportunities to reinforce the message that they could get FREE STUFF for replying.

September – It came from outer space

Using print DM? On your outer, how about a photo that dramatises the fundamental product benefit? If you sell snow gear, adventure holidays, or an extreme sports magazine, use a great image of two snowboarders pirouetting over virgin powder.

October – How to make your headlines work harder

People are so darned cynical these days. So a useful little technique when you’re writing a headline is to think about the reader’s objections, as well as their motivations. In other words, what’s stopping them reading on, rather than what would make them read on.

November – Why humour doesn’t work

Believe it or not, people don’t buy because you tell them a joke. They buy because you show them how your product helps them in some way. And if you are selling to an international audience, your humour (which almost by definition must be nationally and culturally based) is going to fall flat.

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