One copywriting question I get a lot is, “Are there some magic copywriting “power words” you can use to jazz up my copy?”
Copywriters do have a list of powerful words and phrases, but that’s not where the magic lies. Let’s imagine that you’re making a special cake and the secret ingredient is orange peel, shredded finely and added at the end. That info won’t do a thing for me. I don’t know how to fold this secret ingredient into a recipe. I’d just toss it in and … well, let’s not go there.
In the same way, power words and catchy phrases won’t be effective unless you’ve got a context. Here are some bullets that use power words (if you think I got them from your site, you’re wrong: I found variations all over the place):
“attract more ideal clients”
“expand your sales and income”
“get more clients faster and more easily”
“accelerate your business growth”
OK, these copywriting phrases use a bunch of power words. But do they connect with an audience?
Do these phrases generate emotion? More likely, the closest thing to an emotion your readers feel is, “Been there, done that.” And rather than feeling inspired, readers feel sleepy.
Yet many new copywriters — and DIY business owners who want to write their own copy — rely strongly on power words and phrases. I’ve actually seen people mix them in the copy the way you’d fold parsley into an omelet. It works better with the omelet.
It’s not their fault. A lot of copywriting training includes an introduction to so-called power phrases, without setting the context. Google “copywriting power words” and you’ll find hundreds of books, courses and articles. You’ll see titles like, “36 Power Words That Make People Buy.” Or, “65 Power Words That Will Instantly Make You A Better writer.” There’s even an excellent book, Words That Sell, which I own and use myself.
These books and articles will be effective, but only if you know how to use them.
On the surface, the analogy with cooking seems reasonable. Toss some spice anywhere into a recipe and you’ll get a stronger taste. So why not add a few power words to your copy to get a stronger response?
What about headline formulas?
Headline formulas also can be a trap for the unwary copywriter. In fact, they’re more dangerous because they can work. I use headline formulas, including online fill-in-the-blank software. So do most copywriters I know, at some time or other.
The problem is, the formula is just the beginning. Suppose you’re using the formula, “Who else wants to do X?”
“Who else wants to understand why people behave the way they do?” probably wouldn’t appeal to most business owners. It won’t help to plug the content into the “Who else wants to” formula. Most audiences don’t want to understand; they want results. You would get better results from, “3 Little Known Facts From Your Psychology 101 Course That Can 10X Your Sales.”
Naturally there’s a catch. You need to come up with the 3 facts and be able to demonstrate that they’ll increase sales substantially, if applied correctly. Most readers will give you some leeway on the “10X.”
So the magic doesn’t come from the formula or power phrase. Where does it come from?
The real magic comes from your stories.
Let’s assume we have a client named Joan. She’s developed a proven method for growing your business by connecting to your prospects at networking events and discovery sessions. Her brand is all about teaching clients to make connections, based on her experience as a mental health counselor.
First, we’d ask Joan, “What’s your story?” Maybe she’s worked with troubled teens or couples in conflict. Maybe she’s a mediator who soothed conflict in a bitter strike. Either of those examples would be effective as success stories — stories about how your client accomplished a transformation, with your help.
Joan might also have an origin story that would serve her. Let’s say she worked with people who were experiencing conflict. She discovered how to establish connections between two people who initially weren’t interested in meeting each other. Digging even deeper, she learned how to get introverts to reach out to strangers and create an emotional spark. She then decided to apply these insights to her new career as a business coach. She’s got a proven system. Her origin story will be helpful here.
Now we can begin to create some content to showcase why she’s unique, in a way that matters to her clients. For instance:
“how to transform your network contacts from jaded listeners to active advocates, five minutes after the first handshake”
“a 3-step system to get past your prospect’s resistance in the first five minutes of a discovery call”
“how to turn your strongest skeptics into your most loyal fans (without using a hard sell)”
These ideas would be a first draft; I’d spend lots of time learning more about this client and about her brand and market.
Your copywriting magic comes from the details: being specific, painting word pictures, and highlighting what makes you special. It’s understanding what actually appeals to your audience. You also need a style that is fully consistent with your brand. As you read sales letters, practice looking for these elements, rather than individual phrases that seem to sizzle and smoke.
You’ll begin to notice content that’s filled with power phrases but doesn’t communicate with substance. The people who marketed this content may be new to marketing. Or they may be so successful, their audience will follow them regardless of the copy in a specific ad.
Once you’ve nailed the message, you can poke around the lists of power words to see if you can make your copy even stronger. “Clarity trumps persuasion” is a classic copywriting maxim — worthy of a sticky note affixed to your computer screen while you’re composing.
If you’d like to work with me on finding the magic in your own business, and sharing your story, let’s set up a consultation. Click here to learn more and get started.
And if you’d like to learn more about becoming a copywriter, click here.