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Creating marketing copy - effective writing increases online sales 

Words on a computer screen that create income - a dream for many of us, but a dream that so few achieve.

Looking back 100 years ago at some of our predecessor's form of marketing, I can only smile at how simple it was to create effective sales pitches back then. It usually consisted of "Use Brand X" or "Eat Brand Y", there was a happy person illustrated and that was about the extent of the marketing copy.

So what's changed? Competition for one thing - so many millions of products now available all screaming "buy me"! The major change in recent years is the web. Once upon a time, a successful marketing strategy took years to infiltrate the ranks of sales people - nowadays new killer strategies come and go every other day and often lose popularity among weary and wary, bleary eyed consumers at the same pace.

But some things remain constant, the basic psychology of humans that triggers them to pull out their credit cards for the "latest thing they just gotta have".  In this article, we'll take a look at the basics of creating effective web marketing copy that will help increase your online sales - and keeping your nose clean while doing so.

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WIIFM - What's in it for me?

Before you set to typing your first word, you need to understand the product or service you are promoting - thoroughly. It's not enough to just state how good it is - puffery (a term explained later in this article) is simple and quite often frowned on by consumers. 

Think of yourself as the person whom you are targeting. Not only would you want to know the features of the product or service, but just how it will benefit you.  Create a list all the features of your product, then next to those features list the benefits; e.g 

Feature - Fast
Benefit - Save time

This will work as a basis for your marketing copy.

Generate sales through effective text formatting

People have a tendency to skim over printed matter, looking for what they want to read.  In order to attract the attention of the prospective customer, its important to use headings, bold text to ensure important aspects of your offer stand out. Try to write short paragraphs and use dot points to assist in summarizing a feature or benefit.


Begin Example:

(Note: this example is italicized for separation purposes - I'm not suggesting that you should italicize everything)

Increase your sales with our proven marketing strategies!

Are you finding that increasing your online sales is becoming more challenging? Here's a proven solution!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ulliam corper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 

  • Easy to learn

  • Rapid implementation

  • Economical solution

  • Flexible and simple to customize

  • blah

Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ulliam corper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. 

Our Special Offer to You!

Get an amazing 25% off if you order during November only! Purchase your copy today!

Satisfaction Guaranteed!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ulliam corper suscipit lobortis nisl ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Buy it now!

End Example


Personalize your sales message, ask questions

You'll notice in the above sample that the term "you" and "your" is used often, to make things a little more personal. It's not so much about "us" as it is about them - the potential customer.

Also, a question is asked to assist prospective customers in identifying the challenges they may be facing - an answer to the question is immediately given afterwards, then the direct benefits to the customer. Asking a question is a good way to introduce a product or service before going into the details. It may not be a question they've asked themselves before, and that's ok - it can then sow the seeds. "No, I've never wondered about that, but now that you ask, I'm curious"

Resist negative words

This isn't something I've done a lot of research on; but an issue that many Internet marketers observe religiously - resisting the use of negative words. Here's an example:

"Don't delay!"

It's a short but powerful statement - and has 2 negative words. The thinking is that by suggesting something negative, a course of action that a person may not have taken - delaying; it can actually cause them to take that action. So another way of putting this is

"Hurry, limited offer!"

While "limited" may sound a little negative, it's an action on the merchant's side rather than perhaps suggesting a negative course of action that could be taken by the potential customer.

A call to action

It's also important that after every benefit/offer statement that a call to action, such as 'purchase now', 'learn more' or 'enquire today' follows soon after. Believe it or not, such a simple thing really does work - regardless of how independent we believe ourselves to be; on a subconscious level we like to be told what to do as long as it doesn't interfere with our own set of morals. The "buy now" blurbs are often just affirming something we'd like to do; telling us it's ok to do so and creating a sense of urgency.

You may find that you will need to create many calls to action on one page as different triggers will work on different customers.

In many cases, the customer will not be able to see, hear or touch the product, so it's important that wherever possible that you are able to offer a money back guarantee. Often merchants are nervous of offering 100% money back guarantees, but the research I've carried out over the years indicates that, *generally* speaking, people don't take up on the offer - they just want to know it's there. You will get tire kickers, but you're better off without those sorts of folks as customers anyway.

Risk minimization - the refund guarantee

Many top Internet marketing gurus would testify that the refund offer is the "clincher" regarding whether a customer purchases or not. However, I would advise you to research your industry before offering this - I have witnessed abuse by customers of these offers in certain industries, especially in Internet based services and information products whereby they can get the full benefit of the product, then want their money back.

It's also important not to fudge a refund statement. If there are conditions, be clear. By burying conditions and gotcha's in your terms of service, it will make wary customers turn tail and those who haven't reviewed them very angry if they do request a refund. Slimy refund policies can do a lot of damage to your online reputation.

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Testimonials and reviews

Being a social animal, humans succumb to peer pressure in its many forms.  A testimonial is a very subtle form of peer pressure.  Think about it, if a leader in your industry recommends a certain product, does that give it more credibility in your mind?

Gathering testimonials can be a very simple task. Contact customers who have purchased from you previously and ask them a few simple questions plus permission to publish their comments. Remember that people are generally very busy, so it may mean having to respond to their WIIFM (what's in it for me) factor. This could be offering your clients one of your products for free if they complete a survey.

If your product or business is new, then you won't have any customers to gain testimonials from. In this case, before going into a full scale launch of your product/service, offer free or demo versions to people on the provision that they complete a survey after a trial period - and that they allow their comments to be published.

A word of warning - don't use testimonials that make it sound as though your product/service is a cure for all the world's ills (unless it is). Customers will soon see through the hype, or worse still, fall for the hype and be chasing you when the product doesn't perform to the level that your marketing implies. Learn more about using testimonials and reviews as part of your marketing.

Keep your nose clean - deceptive advertising

While on the topic, as mentioned, puffery is easy; but sometimes puffery can cross the line into deceptive advertising - and that's where you may run into problems with the feds or a disgruntled customer's lawyer. There's a simple acid test for gauging where marketing copy crosses the line. Just ask yourself "Is this blurb false *and* a conscious attempt to mislead the client? 

Ignorance of the law won't help you if the FTC or equivalent agency comes knocking - or if someone files a law suit against you. Aside from ethical issues, whether you win or lose is irrelevant as the cost, time and stress from a law suit may be enough in itself to put you out of business - and really, who wants that sort of hassle in the first place?

Most US and international laws related to truth in advertising are based on a combination of *average* consumer perception and merchant *intention* as I understand it

The Commission states that a representation, omission or practice is deceptive (excluding puffery) if it is likely to:

"mislead consumers and affect consumers' behavior or decisions about the product or service"

Read more about the Rules of The Road of online advertising and online marketing lies

By the way, many merchants are under the impression that by burying fine print in their terms of service will protect them 100% against law suits - don't bet on it. Learn more about terms of service traps.

What is puffery?

I've made mention of this term a couple of times, so in case you're not sure what it means, The Federal Trade Commission defines it as a “term frequently used to denote the exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined.”

Here's a few examples

"The best flombles in town!"
"Craziest sale ever!"
"We can't be beaten!"

Basically puffery is a statement that is so over the top that the average person wouldn't believe it and it wouldn't factor into their purchase decision.

That being the case, while a bit of puffery might grab a potential customer's attention initially, overkill will drive them away pretty quickly too as it's just fluff without substance.

Concluding your sales copy...

Chances are if the customer has read all the way through the page that they aren't an impulse buyer, but quite discerning.  Your last paragraph is make or break time and your final chance on that particular occasion to secure a sale, so it may be at that point you need to offer an extra bonus of some sort - but bear in mind you won't always make a sale the first time a customer is exposed to your product/service. 

It is often said in the world of marketing that a discerning customer needs to see an offer seven times before they will buy, so this is where you need to turn a hesitant buyer into a follow up lead.

Turning hesitant buyers into leads

In these instances, you'll need to be able to find a way to stay in touch with the customer - converting a lead into a sale through using slightly different strategies.  

The most effective way to do this is to offer a free subscription to a special report or series of reports on the product/service subject; basically it's just follow up email marketing which can be easily automated. When offering the free subscription/report, ensure that you guarantee to protect the privacy of the customer. These types of offers can be effectively made using popups or a page peel script.

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Further sales copy tips

  • Do respect the customers intelligence. Talking down to people will get you nowhere.

  • Remember to use positive and to-the-point language that a prospective customer will understand.

  • Use simple fonts to get your message across - decorative fonts can be very hard to read.

  • Don't be too concerned by the length of your spiel. As long as you have observed the previously mentioned points, it can be as long as you like - different customers will respond to different triggers.

  • A basic guideline of effective marketing is to try and keep sales copy focused on the one product or service rather than distracting the customer with other offers - I admit it, I'm guilty of doing this. Works for some, not for others - experiment.

Further learning resources:

Creating effective landing pages

Email subject line tips

Press release format tips

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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