Recently I was going through some old posts… I mean, really old, from when I was first learning copywriting. As a brand new copywriter, I was eager to show off what I’d learned, even before I fully understood the concepts myself. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of cringeworthy content floating around out there.
Have you seen all those articles about updating the classics in your wardrobe and furniture? “That classic little black dress…” or “That faithful blue suit” or “the classic armchair.”
A lot of copywriting strategies work the same way. They’re tried and true….but you have to update them for today’s highly aware audience.
Here are 3 copywriting principles I learned when I was new. But now I’m careful when I use them…and I try not to use them at all.
(1) The latte factor.
When the price seems high, you can point out, “This is less than you spend on coffee every month.”
True. When you’re buying something for $97, that’s much less than buying a beverage from your local coffee shop.
But after your customer buys 3 or 4 of these offers, she’s buying the equivalent of a steak dinner, not a latte.
And frankly, not every decision comes down to, ‘Is it worth more than a cup of coffee?” I’d like my clients to compare the cost to something meaningful.
For instance, they need copy for their website. It’s unlikely they’ll trade off that morning wake-up call or a couple of pages of hot copy. But they may want to compare the cost of coaching to write DIY copy with the cost of hiring an experienced copywriter to write 5 pages of copy. (Depending on the copywriter, it’s probably 3 to 5x as much to get DFY vs DIY). And then they need to compare DFY witIh the cost of their own time.
Old guideline: Make the price seem low.
New guideline: Make the price seem meaningful.
(2) The “because” factor.
Imagine you are a busy college student, waiting in line to copy an article you need for your upcoming final exams. A stranger taps you on the shoulder: “Could I cut in? I want to go first because I’m in a hurry.”
Meanwhile, in the next line, another stranger taps on your friend’s shoulder: “Hey, could I cut in?” This stranger doesn’t offer an explanation.
Actually, you’re part of an experiment. The researcher wanted to test the power of “because.” Sure enough, those who were interrupted with a “because” story were more likely to say, “Sure, go ahead.”
Adding the “because” factor will often be persuasive. It’s a good word that doesn’t come across as sales-y or glitzy.
Today I’d still use the word “because,” but I’d make sure the reasons made sense in terms of the client’s backstory. We can go beyond, “What’s the client’s problem?” We can ask, “Why can’t they solve this problem themselves? What’s their backstory?”
Use “because” to enter the conversation in your client’s mind, not because it’s a power word.
Of course, there’s that moment when you have to explain why you’re extending a deadline or making a new offer. Most of us still feel compelled to come up with a “because” statement, even when we suspect nobody believes us.
(3) The “own voice” factor.
Many business owners believe it’s important to speak in their own voice when they create content – whether they’re building a website, writing a sales letter or developing a course. When they hire a copywriter, their first question is, “Can you make the copy sound like me?”
As a new copywriter, I embraced this idea. I encouraged clients to record hhemselves speaking on the phone. I listened to experts who advised, “Write the way you speak.”
Now I question the whole concept of “your own voice.”
My first clue came when I was writing copy for one of my favorite clients. She’d invited me to write a sales letter for her new program.
“Can you include these two paragraphs from my last sales letter?” she asked. “I really like the way they’re written.”
So I did. And I showed her the finished letter.
You probably see where this is going. She loved everything….except those two paragraphs. “I’d never use those words,” she said firmly.
So I took out the paragraphs and replaced them with my own writing.
“Perfect,” she said. “Sounds just like me.” And that’s when I learned most people don’t know how they sound on paper.
As time went on, I realized prospects were responding to the marketer’s message. They didn’t really notice the words. They looked for consistency in content.
Eventually I realized that these personas fit into five categories, which I call archetypes.
Archetypes influence every aspect of your marketing content, from the kinds of stories you tell to the way you sign off on your emails. Educator archetypes tell stories to illustrate concepts and sign their emails with something like, “Until next time.” Role models talk about the obstacles they overcame and sign their emails with something like, “To your success.” Celebrities talk about living an outsized life and sign their emails with something like, “Love and hugs.”
You can learn more about copywriting when you sign up for my course on Copywriting With Stories.