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Crafting Words that Get Results.

Your Profit-Boosting web copywriting specialist for the fitness, lifestyle and travel industries.

Mar

04

How This Copywriter Lived in a Cave for 17 Months


How this copywriter lived in a cave for 17 months

“Did you hear, they want to cut off unemployment benefits for people now.  Can you imagine, in this economy?”

I try to avoid conversations at my local coffee shop.  Unlike the cyber squatters who hang out there all day with their laptops, surfing the net and “writing” their daily blog post about what their dog had for breakfast, I actually go there to write.  I write direct-response copy for small (and large) businesses, crafting online and print sales messages that help them grow.

I couldn’t fend off my new coffeeshop friend.  “Yeah”, he says, “the Republicans want to cut off unemployment benefits.  What are people supposed to do?  There aren’t any jobs out there.”

Outside of my cave

Outside of my cave

“So, how long did these folks get unemployment benefits?”  I honestly had no idea about this subject (and I didn’t tell him I’m a Republican.)

“Some of them for two years, but a lot of my friends have only been on unemployment for a year.”

Two years?!  Two years of sitting at home, watching Oprah and Dr. Phil reruns, updating your Facebook status, and looking at the non-existent want ads in the paper?  Really?

I was flabbergasted.  This was foreign territory for me.

The business of copywriting

Apparently there’s been a recession, but for the last 17 months I haven’t read the paper or listened to the news.  I’ve been too busy building my copywriting business.

And business is good.  Real good.

More important, it’s growing for my clients, people just like you.

Now, your business may be  down because of the economy, I understand that.  And you may have to cut back or tighten up on some expenses.

Maybe even…

Cut back on your marketing.

What?!  A copywriting/marketing guy telling me to cut back on my marketing?

Let me qualify that statement.  If you’re spending marketing dollars on branding, “image” or “awareness” ads, you may want to cut back (or stop all together.)

If you’re putting a weekly ad in your local newspaper out of habit, and not even sure if you’re getting a return on your investment – stop.

(If you are getting a measurable return on your marketing dollars, by all means, keep it going!)

The one area you absolutely, positively need to be investing in during a down economy is this:

Direct response advertising

Direct response advertising is what Web Content Copywriting is all about, and I do it well.

Everything I write for you – website copy, email sales letters, postcards, direct mail letters, space ads – should get your prospects to act.

It’s basically salesmanship in print (online and off.)

Problem is, most folks don’t like salespeople.  They hate to be sold (but they do like to buy.)

So, you need a special kind of person to skillfully craft your message, pull your prospect in, and have a strong call to action that ultimately gets your prospect to buy.  That’s the job of a …

Copywriter

A good copywriter will write your sales messages the way people talk.  Sincerely, clearly, and in plain English.  Not marketing gobbledygook or “corporate-speak”.  And with the purpose of generating action.

I write clear, concise, conversational copy – that sells.

Here’s the kicker: Yes, it’s advertising that gets people to respond and act.  But in most cases, direct response actually costs less than those image, branding or awareness ads that are difficult to measure.

How so?

Well, you don’t have to hire a big Madison Avenue-type ad agency.  You’re not paying for any big, late-night “creative sessions”.  No ongoing “branding” campaign that will set you back five figures a month, without being able to measure the results.  No “awareness” repeat radio or TV spots (or newspaper ads) without a call to action, just to keep your name “out there”.

Nope.  Direct response copywriting, direct response advertising is concerned with only one thing – getting your prospects and customers to break out their wallets, whip out their credit cards, and buy your product or service.

If I don’t get results for my clients, I starve (and they go away.) 

The reason I’ve done well is because the ads I’ve written for my clients have produced well.  That’s all.

Direct response advertising is where it’s at

The beauty of direct response advertising is you can measure it.  So you know exactly what your return on investment is.

Give direct response a try, and watch your business grow.  Yes, even in this economy.  And when that happens, I’ll invite you back to my cave and we’ll toast our success.


Mar

01

Copywriting Online with Stories


Copywriting online with stories

What’s your story?

Not how your company got started.  Not how you evolved into the company you are today.  Not how you serve your customers better than anyone else (that’s boring anyway.)

Not your corporate story at all.

Your story.

See, online audiences long ago tired of Madison Avenue “ad copy”.   They don’t care how great your company is.  You can’t write “at” people online.  Instead, you have to connect with them.

Online marketing in 2010

One of the best ways to connect with people is with a story.  And a good starting point is to make it personal.

Now, if you know a little something about your audience before telling your story, you’re more likely to connect.

How do you get to know your prospects and customers?  Read customer service emails and online chat.  Heck, listen in on customer service phone calls (probably a good idea anyway.)

Here’s a novel idea – ask your customers and prospects what they value.  What’s important to them.  What they like and don’t like.  (A well-written survey can help accomplish this.)

Once you’ve done some digging, and have a good feel for who your audience is, then and only then start telling your story.

How to tell your story online

3 tips for telling your story:

Make it personal.  Get rid of corporate-speak gobbledygook, and make it real.  Be authentic, genuine.  When people see the person behind the company, they’ll see you in a different light (a more positive light, hopefully) and be more open to what you have to say.

Find areas of common ground.  Somehow connect your story with the stories of your audience.  This can be tricky, and takes a skillful writer to pull it off without being a blatantly obvious opportunist.

But connect on common areas, and your message will resonate in the hearts and minds of your web visitors.  And finally,

Connect your story with your solution to their problems.  The main purpose of telling your story is to connect with your readers, but if you’re doing that, why not bring it full circle?  Why not let it help your conversion rates?

Isn’t that what good web copywriting is all about?  Don’t you want to help more people get involved with your product or service and improve their lives?

The key is to do it skillfully.

Tell your story.  Make it real.  Relate your story to their story.  And tie your story into a solution to their problems.

Easier said than done.  Watch for examples in an upcoming blog post.  And if you’re not the story-telling type, well, that’s what I do at Web Content Copywriting.

Let’s create some stories for your business.


Feb

27

3 Web Copy Tips Stolen from Love Letters


Copywriting tips from a hopeless romantic

Confession time: Long before I became a strong copywriter, I wrote good love letters.  My beautiful and talented wife will attest to that.

I’d go so far as to say my love letters closed the deal.  12 years of marriage later, they’re still creating magic.

Want to create some “marketing magic” with your prospects and customers?  Follow these 3 simple rules in your web copy (or hand them to your copywriter).  My love letter web copy tips will help you grab your prospect’s  interest.  Keep her engaged with you longer.  And ultimately, close the deal.

3 web copy tips

1.  Stand apart from the crowd

Why does a well-written, thoughtful love letter make such an impact?  Because hardly anyone does it anymore.

Likewise, so many websites don’t say anything original.

“Customer service is our focus.”

“We value our customers.”

“Service and quality are # 1 at…”

Can you get more white-bread generic than that?  Sounds like they were done by a bad Yellow Pages ad writer.

You wouldn’t grab the very first Hallmark card you see to give to your Valentine sweetheart, would you?

Try crafting your own “love letter”.  Write some original web copy that actually says something different than your competitors.  Not sure what to write?  Hire a professional.

2.  Kill the clichés

Is your web copy communicating a clear, concise, straightforward message?

Along with writing “stand apart”, original content, make sure your message is specific, not general.

One of the biggest copy killers?  Clichés.  Avoid them like the plague (there’s my attempt at irony.)  If you’re writing a love letter to your soul mate, you wouldn’t say, “I love you like the plants love the sun…” or whatever.

Seriously.  Read your copy through, and make sure every sentence conveys something meaningful.

And finally,

3.  Write to one person

If you’re writing a love letter, this tip is obvious (I hope.)

But think about it in your web copy, too.  I often see websites with copy that sounds like this:

“Attention: Small business owners…”  or

“Many of our clients had the problem of…”  or

“We often hear people asking about…”

Good copywriting always sounds like it’s speaking directly to you.  Not to a group of people, or an ambiguous “they”.  But you and you alone.

The above phrases could be changed to:

“As a small business owner, you know…”

“Have you ever experienced…”

“If you’ve ever asked…”

Web Copywriting Simplified

There you go.  Three simple web copy rules derived from the lost art of writing love letters.

Next time you write some web copy, or any marketing piece for that matter, ask yourself:

Does this sound different than what everyone else is saying?  Is it creative and original?

Are the clichés gone?  Am I avoiding broad, general statements and saying something meaningful and specific?  And,

Am I writing to just one person, not a group?

Answer “yes” to all three, and you may have the beginnings of a new romance with your prospects.

true love indeed

true love indeed

 

 


Feb

18

What the King Taught Me About Writing


What the King Taught Me About Writing

No, not that King (although every American ought to make a pilgrimage to Graceland.)

Stephen King.  The master storyteller from Bangor, Maine.  Author of “Carrie” and “Salem’s Lot” (both written in the laundry room of a rented trailer), plus a slew of other books, many of which have been made into movies.

He and I are on opposite ends of the writing spectrum.  He’s a bestselling author, and well, I’m not.  He scares the pants off people, and I craft persuausive web copy and sales messages as a direct response copywriter,

Copywriting inspiration

I read King’s book On Writing a few years ago when I was just getting started as a copywriter.  It inspired me and motivated me like no other writing book has.  It made me laugh, and it made me cry.

Above all, it gave me the confidence that I could be a successful writer.

When I read the last page, closed the book, and lodged it in a place of importance on my office bookshelf, I finally started calling myself a writer.

I’ve never looked back, and I owe a debt of gratitude to Stephen King.

Three writing lessons

Schedule

King taught me first and foremost that you need to have a writing schedule.

His is clear-cut.  Mornings are prime writing time.  Afternoons are for naps and letters.  Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV, and any revisions that can’t wait.

I’m a morning man myself, and I like his idea.  I get up at 5:00 AM, write until 8, eat breakfast, then write again until about 1 PM.  Afternoons are for coffee (no time for naps like my writing mentor), working out, and reading.  Evenings are for more reading, blogging, family and Brewers games on the radio.

I learned that you need to have a daily writing goal.  King’s is to write at least 10 pages per day (about 2,000 words per day).  That’s about a million words in a year and five months.  Not bad.

My goal is to write 5 pages by 8 AM, and whatever I can get after that.  Again, we’re writing vastly different things.  I’m writing direct response and website copy, he’s writing novels that will be prominently displayed at Barnes and Noble.  But the schedule is there.

Writing Style

Lots of rules here, but interestingly, a lot of them align with my writing style I call…

Conversational writing

On vocabulary and grammar: “Keep it simple.” 

Booklist says about On Writing: “it is riveting, thanks to King’s customary flair for the vernacular and conversational tone…King could write a phone book and make it not only a bestseller but also gripping reading.”

King, like Strunk and White, doesn’t cover the basics of grammar.  “If you don’t know, it’s too late.”

He does have suggestions, though, which make sense for copywriters, too:

  1. Avoid passive verbs.
  2. Get rid of adverbs.  Like passive verbs, they create timid writers.  And timid copywriters, like timid salespeople, starve.
  3. Use short paragraphs and lots of white space (hmm…I think King might be a closet copywriter)
  4. Cut out the fluff.  Don’t wander like you’re writing an essay on how you spent your summer vacation.   Keep it tight.  Again, all great copywriting lessons, but King is talking about fiction.

Writing Inspiration

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.  It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true.  Can I be blunt?  If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.  Simple as that.”

Wow.  I agree.  King advocates reading and writing for four to six hours a day, every day.  I’d say I top that by noon every day. 

What do I write?

Not “what you know”.  But rather, “anything you damn well want”.

Two ideas, with applications for copywriters here:

  1. Readers want a good story.  The best writers are storytellers.  Readers get pulled in when they recognize the people – their behaviors, their surroundings, and their talk.  When the reader hears strong echoes of his or her own life and beliefs, he or she is apt to become more invested in the story (certainly true for copywriting.)
  2. Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex and work (also true for copywriting.)

“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any creative art.  The water is free.  So drink.  Drink and be filled up.”

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

I’m a stronger copywriter because of Stephen King’s ideas on schedule, writing style, and writing inspiration.  And it’s because I read his book On Writing when I was struggling to pay the bills, that I now call myself a writer.


Feb

14

Web Copywriting Lessons from the Roaring 20’s


Web copywriting lessons from the roaring 20’s

Web copywriters in 2010 have all the answers to make your internet marketing succeed.

We know top SEO techniques.  We know how to write arresting subject lines that get emails opened.  And we develop strong, persuasive web content that gets readers to whip out their credit cards and buy.

When done by a top-notch copywriter, it’s brilliant!  It gets results.

It’s all cutting-edge stuff, right?

Wrong.

Successful copywriters owe a debt of gratitude to an old master, John Caples.

Caples launched his copywriting and advertising career in 1925.  Among many other things, he emphasized a 3-step approach to creativity that applies as much as ever 85 years later:

  1. The importance of headlines.  Nothing happens unless your headline causes your prospect to stop long enough to pay attention to what you say next.  (And today, subject lines which determine your email open rate.)
  2. Maintaining interest.  Keep your ad focused on what the prospect will get out of using your product or service.
  3. Move the prospect to favorable action.  Unless enough prospects are transformed into customers, your marketing has failed, no matter how creative.  That’s why testing is crucial (and in this day of internet marketing, a lot easier and cost-effective than in the 20’s.)

The headline that changed advertising

Caples is best known for an ad he wrote for the U.S. School of Music.  The copy was four typewritten pages, single-spaced.  But it was the headline that captured the imagination.

“They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano. But When I Started to Play!-“

The ad was hugely successful.  It started a new school of advertising, and launched dozens of other successful copycat ads.  I’ve even seen a take-off of it recently in the fantastic Rosetta Stone ads.

I could write all day about the genius of John Caples (and I will write more in future issues.)

But small business owners, take note.  Here’s what Caples had to say about headlines, content focus, and testing:

Headlines

As a web copywriter, I spend probably half my time on the headline alone for any project.  It’s that important.  Subject lines qualify as headlines in today’s world, too. 

“I have seen one advertisement actually sell, not twice as much, not three times as much, but 19 1/2 times as much goods as another…headlines are extremely important.”     —John Caples

Legendary copywriters agree…

“The copywriter’s aim in life should be to try to make it harder for people to pass up his advertisement than to read it.  And right in his headline he takes his first, and truly giant, step on the road to that goal.”  —Vic Schwab

“The writing of headlines is one of the greatest journalistic arts.”                       —Claude Hopkins, father of modern advertising

“Five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.  It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money.”       –David Ogilvy

“By merely changing the headline, the number of new prospect and sales prospects can increase up to 17 times.  That’s 1,700% leverage.”                             —Jay Abraham

In other words, the headline is the one thing more than anything else that can dramatically improve the results you are getting from all your advertising.

Web copywriting

I’ve said it before, but effective web copywriting needs to be about solving the needs of your prospects and customers.  They don’t care how great you are, how your product is better than the competition, or what newfangled feature you offer that no one else does.

Caples said you need to always maintain the prospect’s interest.

In fact, prospects are always reading your copy and thinking to themselves, “So what?”  Answer that “so what?” with a compelling reason.  Let them know how their life will improve because of using your product or service.

Internet marketing testing

“Every single element in an advertisement – headline, subhead, illustration, and copy – must be put there not because it looks good, not because it sounds good, but because testing has shown that it works best!”

Finally, above everything, John Caples introduced the concept of testing to marketing.

With the internet, this is easy, cost-effective, and crucial to your marketing success.  Test everything.

3 things to remember about testing:

  1. Include in every ad a way to quantify the exact results.
  2. But don’t just include it.  Take the time to actually learn it!
  3. Base your future writing and design for the same product or service on what you learn.

Small business owners:  If you’re looking for one best book on advertising copy, pick up John Caples’ Tested Advertising Methods http://www.amazon.com/Advertising-Methods-Prentice-Business-Classics/dp/0130957011

And remember, headlines are of utmost importance.  Use web copywriting techniques that focus on the viewpoint of the prospects to keep their interest.  And always test everything.


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About Steve Roller

Steve Roller started Web Content Copywriting to help you maximize your web content and get more customers.

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"Steve Roller came through for me with solid research, sound insights and valuable input for a major copywriting project of mine, involving direct-response advertising encompassing every medium: print, direct-mail, internet, and broadcast."

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"Steve Roller is a ‘go-to’ copywriter. When you need copy that connects with your prospect … that persuades him to take action … Steve’s the copywriter to turn to."

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