When I first started selling online, I was often surprised when some programs sold and some …well, sort of died. It took me awhile to realize there was just one factor that made the difference: copywriting. And it took even longer to recognize just which copywriting ingredients would make the biggest difference.
Here are 5 copywriting hacks that will change the way you do business – and most likely your bottom line numbers, too.
This post is rather long – about 1900 words! If you’d like a PDF version of the article to keep and read later, just click here.
Copy hack #1: Make readers feel you’re a kind-hearted spy.
You’ve probably heard the copywriting maxim, “Write for the client.” Ideally, your goal is to get into the client’s mind so deeply they think you’re psychic. You want to hear readers say, “You sound like you’ve been to my house!” or “Were you a fly on the wall when I had that argument yesterday?”
A business coach: “I bet if you added up everything you’ll be spending a ton on Bright Shiny Objects in the next 6 months.”
A life coach: “You might be holding yourself back from growing your business because you’re feeling unmotivated. Your ‘why’ isn’t big enough.”
A productivity consultant: “She spent all morning reading her emails and posting on Facebook. By lunchtime she wondered where the day had gone and why she wasn’t making money in her business.”
Your readers now feel that you’re writing directly to them. They trust you because you completely understand where they’re coming from.
Where appropriate, you can even send the message, “I’ve been where you are.” However, it’s not necessary to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you can relate to them. A cardiologist doesn’t need to have a heart attack. Some people are just better coaches than players.
Copy hack #2: Give your audience a “you are there” experience.
Let’s do an imaginary project for a business owner who’s an organizer.
Version 1: “Many business owners get frustrated because their papers disappear into piles on their desks.”
But let’s introduce some drama:
“James goes nuts when he has to write out big checks for late fees because his bills got lost in his desktop clutter.”
“Susan bought 3 new pairs of gloves this year because she thought she’d lost hers (and each time they turned up behind a sofa cushion).
“Larry felt embarrassed to be fifteen minutes late for a client meeting for the third time in one week. He blamed the traffic — but the truth was, he couldn’t find his car keys.”
In each example, we never have to use the word “disorganized.” You get it.
And in each example, we identify with the character’s emotions – the key to increased conversion rates.
In fact, we don’t have to spell out Susan’s emotions: we’ve all had the experience of thinking we needed to buy something when in fact it was already in the back of a cupboard or tucked away in a drawer or (as in Susan’s case) hidden behind a sofa cushion.
Want to be even more vivid? Bring in more of the 5 senses. Here’s a fun one:
“Imagine a July day – 90s and humid. You’re on a straw lawn chair in your back yard, slathered with suntan lotion. You hear a jet flying high overhead and see a trail of white smoke in the cloudless sky. The dog tugs on his leash, asking for a walk. You smell newly mown grass and hear your neighbor’s lawn mower. You finish up the last of your cold iced tea, which is getting warm now, shake off that sleepy feeling and get ready to walk the dog.”
That example may seem artificial, but your own writing will allow you to challenge yourself to be more vivid as you describe events.
Copy hack #3: Command attention with headlines.
Headlines are the bread and butter of copywriting. In sales letters, headlines will increase conversion rates by getting your audience to begin reading (where hopefully they’ll be hooked by your clever opening). Only 20% of those who read your headline will go on to read your copy.
Your headline sets up expectations and entices the reader, so you need to combine accuracy with curiosity.
How do copywriters write headlines? Many do not begin with a blank slate. They use templates. Some templates have been automated so you just add words and get a whole headline. For example, I went to Portent Title Maker and typed in “building your brand.” I got several suggestions, including these:
What your mom never told you about building your brand
How building your brand can help you live a better life
These suggestions are just rough starting points. You need to get in there and do some polishing.
For example, suppose I were writing a blog post about building your brand. I might change those suggested headlines to something like:
What your coach never told you about building a brand
How building your brand can help you reach better clients
You can also work with a fill-in-the-blanks headlines you complete yourself. For instance, a list of 10 blog title ideas included:
How to ___ like a boss
Top X must-haves for ______________
We can revise them to
How to build a brand like a millionaire
Top 10 must-dos for building a brand that reaches your ideal clients
Copy hack #4: Write conversationally.
Relate to your reader as though you were enjoying a friendly conversation over coffee or a drink. Occasionally you’ll see an expert create a curmudgeon persona, communicating gruffly and even insulting his audience.
If you can pull this style off consistently, you might draw a following and even increase conversion rates. However today’s readers tend to run as fast as possible when you preach, shout or bark at them.
One common piece of advice is to, “Write like you talk.” You might even be encouraged to record yourself speaking and transcribe what you say. It’s a good way to start writing conversationally, especially if you’re nervous about writing and feel you need to be perfect.
Even better, look at the “sent” file of your personal email account. Review the messages you sent to your best friend from college or your big sister. Look at messages you sent to business colleagues you know well. How do you come across?
In fact, when clients really get stuck on writing a project, I advise them to start by writing an email to a friend. We rarely get writer’s block or write like a textbook when we’re sending emails to our buddies.
After you’ve written your draft, you can take two steps to make your content more approachable and conversational.
First, review your writing for short words and short sentences. You can use the free tool hemingwayapp.com to evaluate how easily your audience will read your writing. Just type in the text – or portion
Second, one essential copywriting practice most people don’t know about is also one of the most powerful: Read your blog post out loud before posting.
You don’t need an audience and you don’t need to record yourself. Just read out loud – not silently. Notice when you stumble over words or find yourself halting. If you’re stumbling as you read your own words, you can expect your readers to just stop reading and move elsewhere.
As you gain experience, you’ll get a sense of when your blog post feels right. And you’ll know when you need to go back and make revisions.
Copy hack #5: Use storytelling to engage your audience.
Copywriters play with storytelling like kittens on catnip. Today, this technique belongs in every copywriting toolkit and we’re seeing stories used more than ever in just about every venue. Each year it gets harder to stand out from an ever-growing crowd, let alone get remembered. And it’s even harder to increase conversion rates because people won’t stay around and read. Stories allow you to reach both goals – and have fun doing it.
As a marketer, you can use stories for another purpose – to maintain suspense and keep your audience reading. Your story moves the reader but you’re not writing a novel. So rather than think of a story as “beginning, middle and end,” think of your narrative as “situation, crisis and outcome.”
For example, a dog trainer might be writing a sales letter about dogs with chewing issues. Those of us who have chew-dogs will be attracted by a headline that promises to share simple tips to save our couches, shoes and ear buds. (Dogs love ear buds. I know.)
You open your post with a scene featuring Yvonne, owner of Groucho, a mixed breed rescue with a history of neglect. Yvonne comes home from work to find a large hole in her new blue couch that cost half a week’s salary and matches her carpet perfectly.
Yvonne can’t bring herself to scold Groucho, who’s now hiding under the table. She suspects Groucho’s previous owners would have acted out their anger in ways that left this poor dog emotionally scarred.
If you’re a dog owner who’s reading this post, you’re probably hooked. You want to know how Yvonne will resolve the conflict between love for her dog and desire for a guest-friendly living room.
So now the storyteller steps back and presents a solution – maybe 7 steps Yvonne learns from a trainer. They’re simple so she can easily reinforce them each day.
And your readers will stay tuned for the ending. Did Groucho become a model dog? How long did it take? Did Yvonne lose anything else along the way … like her splurge pair of Jimmy Choo sandals?
You can use this technique even when you’re a service professional who deals with serious problems that have long-term consequences.
A lawyer’s story opens with a call from Ted. Depending on the lawyer’s specialty, Ted might be facing an eviction order, a license-ending traffic ticket, a deportation order or worse.
For a business coach, the story opens with Jennifer, an entrepreneur who’s about to give up and take a job because she’s working 18-hour days, nobody’s buying her product and she’ll be behind on her mortgage if she doesn’t bring in some significant revenue soon.
As a blogger, you have the luxury of building a whole post around your story. You just need to keep in mind a couple of key points:
— Tell the story from the client’s point of view. Include some hints of how you provide solutions, but show the client’s frustration and pain, not yours.
— Start in the middle, not the beginning. For instance, the dog training blogger begins Yvonne’s story right after Groucho chewed the couch – the moment Yvonne realized she had problem.
How did Yvonne choose Groucho? Why did she buy a nice blue couch (and a pair of Jimmy Choos) right after she got the dog? Those questions might be interesting to Yvonne’s friends and to her therapist, but they’re not relevant to us, the readers.
Now it’s your turn!
With so many ways to create marketing materials, there’s no reason why you can’t use copywriting to increase conversion rates. You don’t need to enroll in a long copywriting course. Begin with these 5 hacks and apply them to your next post. Your blog posts will move up a notch on the “amazing” scale.
What are your thoughts on creating copy that will increase conversion rates? Which of these techniques can you use? And what’s your favorite that I haven’t mentioned?
Free report: 7 CopywritingTips To Jumpstart Your Sales. Click here to download.