Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This Is Your (Target Audience's) Brain on Copywriting

Do you recall the old TV ad that showed a frying egg with a voiceover proclaiming, "This is your brain on drugs?" As dumb as the analogy may seem, that ad was remembered, quoted and even parodied for years. Why? Because it used certain psychological hooks for engraving itself on the minds of viewers. Let's face it, marketing is largely the art of psychological manipulation. So let's look at how your marketing content can employ specific techniques to place your target audience "under the influence."

The Bizarreness Effect

The Bizarreness Effect holds that creating bizarre images out of otherwise-mundane ones can help lodge those images in the memory. Let's go back to our opening example -- an image of an egg in a frying pan, paired to the idea of a brain on drugs. These two incompatible, less-than-memorable notions form an unforgettable metaphor when you put them together.

Appealing to Both Sides of the Brain

You probably know that the left side of the brain is considered the more rational of the two hemispheres. It's one that responds to facts, reasons and logic -- but it's not the one that makes your target customer buy. That impulse comes from the right side of the brain, which is commonly associated with creativity, emotion and intuitive thought. Ideally, your marketing content appeals to both hemispheres. Your feature statements pile on fact after fact in support of your products or services, while your benefit statements hit readers where they live emotionally by helping them envision how their lives will be improved by those products or services.

Repetition, Rhythm and Rhyme

Just as the major search engines take notice of repeated, relevant keywords in your marketing content, the brains of your target audience will respond to repetition. The more you repeat a statement, the more convincing it becomes--simply because it's being constantly reinforced in the brain. Rhythm and rhyme can then make that statement more memorable, just as they tend to make song lyrics stick in your head. Think about all the great catchphrases you've heard over the years. Still thinking about them? Exactly.

Reticular Activation

If familiarity breeds recognition, then specificity breeds familiarity. If you try to appeal to everybody in the world, in every possible scenario, your message is probably so generic that it has no strong psychological effect on any individual. But if you paint a specific "How many times has this happened to you?" kind of picture, your ideal customer may think, "Wow, I'm having that exact problem right now. These people are talking to me!" That reaction is coming from a bundle of neural fibers called the reticular network, which acts as a kind of high-level "lookout" that waits for stimuli it recognizes as something we need to pay attention to right now, as opposed to the mass of more generic information the brain doesn't have time to bother with. Target your message as precisely as possible, and you'll be targeting that reticular network.

Persuasive copywriting is as much about psychology as it is about sheer writing skill. An experienced marketing copywriter can help you apply both for maximum effect. Contact me today and let's talk about how we can influence your target market!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How to Save Money on Copywriting (Without Sacrificing Quality)

If you can't set aside a zillion-dollar budget for marketing copy creation, then you're in the same boat as the vast majority of enterprises. Does that mean you have to settle for insufficient marketing efforts or weak content from inexperienced, skill-challenged writers? Certainly not -- sometimes you just have to make sure you're getting the best value out of your professional copywriter. Here are a few tips for doing just that:

Know what you want to say (before you ask a copywriter to say it). I recently edited a rough draft that someone had sent me for a real estate brochure. My rewrite was approved by the person who requested it -- who apparently hadn't checked with another head honcho in the company, who had wanted something significantly different right from the beginning. So they had to create another draft, with a completely different focus, and send that to me for editing as well. Don't get wrong, I'm happy to have the work. But if you don't have tons of writing or editing funds burning a hole in your pocket, get totally clear on what you want done before you give your copywriter his marching orders.

Establish a single point of contact for your copywriter. This is related to the above point, but it applies to how you communicate with your copywriter. Even if your team is agreed on the main points, style and tone of the piece to be written, too many cooks can still spoil the content. If Executive A is requesting changes that Executive B doesn't know about and Executive C hates, your copywriter may end up reworking that content multiple times -- billing you each time, by the way, since it was your disorganization, not his incompetence, that made the fixes necessary. The easiest way to prevent all this chaos is to designate one point of contact between the company and the copywriter, with all requests, notes, comments and questions passing that individual's desk for final consolidation and review before the writer ever sees it.

Make your content marketing strategies more efficient. When you see the bottomless well of the Internet demanding more and more content, it's easy to make the assumption that more is always better, or at least necessary. But before you engage your writer to pump out tons of articles, landing pages and other copy on every possible topic related to your industry for every available social media channel, take a careful look at which of those channels actually matter to you. For instance, do you really need to be posting hundreds of articles on Facebook when your primary target market prefers to use LinkedIn, or vice versa? If your audience does follow you across multiple platforms, might it make good sense simply to post the same article on those various platforms simultaneously to make sure you don't miss anyone? How about your website -- does it really require a hundred pages of content that try to address everybody in the world, or could it make do with ten pages aimed directly at your ideal buyers? Don't buy more content than you actually need.

Don't go with the cheapest copywriter. This last point may sound counterintuitive, but I've seen it demonstrated with painful clarity by clients who sought out the cheapest rate from the cheapest writer they could find. You can guess how the results turned out, which is usually why I would then be hired to rewrite the first writer's work (in some cases, large quantities of it). So the client ended up paying twice when they could have hired the right professional, paid one reasonable rate, and gotten high-quality work the first time.

Take these tips to heart when you're about to engage that professional copywriter for your next project. When your marketing efforts take off, you'll know you got your money's worth!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

4 Surefire Blog Article Options for Your Business

Successful online marketing hinges on the creation of high-quality marketing content disseminated on a regular basis to your target audience. The simplest way to keep that content train rolling along the track is by posting a steady stream of blog articles on your website and other social media channels. But even if you have a professional copywriter on hand to turn your ideas into text, somebody still has to come up with the ideas in the first place -- and that's where the content train often screeches to a halt. Fortunately, you don't have to re-invent the wheel every time you have to produce a new post. Here are four tried-and-true types of blog articles you can always turn (or return) to.

1. The Spotlight

Do you have something about your business you want to talk about, such as a branding change, new product line, new client or exciting upcoming development? Write a blog article about it! Your blog can throw the spotlight on a variety of buzz-worthy happenings, from a case study of a major problem you recently solved for a customer to that big charity event you're hosting in a few weeks. This option is especially attractive if you don't also have a dedicated news page on your site.

2. The Editorial

If you're an authority in your field, then your opinion matters -- or at least you want it to matter to those who encounter it online. An editorial piece on some aspect of your industry, or recent events that relate to your industry, can put your experience, expertise, and insights on display to powerful effect. You'll want to walk a fairly careful line, of course, because an overly inflammatory approach could easily alienate a lucrative segment of your audience, while a sour or grumpy tone may also prove a turn-off.

3. The How-To Guide

Everybody loves free guidance on how to solve a particular problem, especially if that advice is coming from someone who really knows his stuff. Well, every business on the planet meets some kind of need -- and a need is a problem looking for a solution. Dispensing valuable free advice is never time or effort wasted. Brighten a few lives with your expert how-to articles, and you can expect those folks to come back to you when it's time to pay for more complex solutions.

4. The List

People love to click on list articles. They're neatly organized, easy to read and easy to digest. Bloggers also love list articles because they provide a handy, ready-made format -- which naturally guides the brain into producing relevant talking points to fill those lists. For best results, give your list article a title that will compel your target audience to check it out, such as...oh, I don't know..."4 Surefire Blog Article Options for Your Business." See how that works?

When you're flailing around for blog topics, fall back on any of these categories and see if you don't suddenly get ideas. Happy blogging!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

4 Ways to Use Copywriting for Reputation Management

The issue of reputation seems to be on everyone's mind these days. Who can you trust? What should you believe? Which institutions or individuals are telling the truth, and which ones aren't? If you want your own brand to be trusted, you have to establish and maintain a sterling reputation in an increasingly skeptical world -- especially when that skeptical world is armed with the tools of modern social media. Fortunately, you've got some tools at your disposal as well, including the strategic use of strong, convincing marketing content. Here are four ways you can employ copywriting to strengthen your brand's reputation.

1. Building Your Online Authority

Your marketing content may do a good job of selling your products and services, but are you also leveraging its power to sell your reputation? As important as it is to create brilliant, exciting copy for your sales and benefits pages, don't neglect your About Us page. If you have decades of experience as a trusted provider, extraordinary training or special skills, make them known and stress their value. Then demonstrate that value by posting authoritative blog articles that provide genuinely helpful information.

2. Outweighing the Negative With the Positive

Did you know that negative statements and feeling are processed more quickly and have far greater impact than their positive equivalents? This negative bias means that a few bad reviews can influence your target market more profoundly than several good ones. That's why you need to keeping pumping out positive content over a variety of channels. Regular press releases and feature articles spotlighting your latest achievements, an ever-growing collection of testimonials from satisfied customers, white papers and case studies explaining how you solved specific problems for various clients -- and these other forms of copywriting can help you achieve the necessary weight of positive buzz to push back against any negative tide.

3. Answering Objections in Advance

One not-uncommon complaint that tends to come up in negative reviews is, "They claim to do such-and-such, but they don't actually tell you how they can achieve such miracles." If you leave gaping holes in your marketing arguments, you're inviting skepticism or even scorn from a jaded public. Anticipate your prospects' questions and concerns by addressing and defusing them in your written copy. The FAQ page of your website is an ideal place to do this, but you should always be mindful of objections that might occur at any point in other areas of your marketing content as well.

4. Responding With the Right Rebuttals

Despite your best efforts to serve your customers and put the right foot forward in your marketing content, negative reviews or comments will inevitably surface. Nobody's perfect, and your dissatisfied (and vocal) customers may take to social media or other channels to express their frustration. Their feelings may even be based on incorrect expectations or even sheer delusion on their part. You can't leave these complaints flapping in the wind unchallenged, but you can't stoop to anger or insults, either. As I've mentioned before, a professional copywriter can help you craft sensitive, sympathetic responses that also succeed in defending your point of view and your commitment to quality.

Expert copywriting can help you rise to the top of the trust game by securing and growing your brand's most valuable asset, its reputation. It's the truth -- believe me!



Monday, February 20, 2017

When Your Audience Isn't You

Many years ago I wrote a website for a client in one of the technical fields. The products and services were rather complex in nature, and the owners understood that their own technical backgrounds put them a bit out of touch with their non-technical target market. They asked me to write a set of marketing pieces that would work as a selling tool by sidestepping all the jargon and making the ideas accessible and attractive.

I'm usually a good choice for these "jargon-specific" jobs precisely because of my lack of technical, medical, or legal background. I come to the project as Joe Q. Public. If I can put the concepts into words that I can not only understand but respond to positively, I know I'm on the right track toward attracting that mainstream audience. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it can be highly practical in selective applications.

So I got to work and crafted some clear, simple (but not mindless) copy that stressed the bottom-line benefits of the products, appealing to readers' desire for ease, convenience, and value. A sensible approach, right?

But the owners were uncomfortable with what I'd done and took it around the offices (this was one of those "decision by committee" things), with each decision maker adding his share of comments and notes for the rewrite. Not surprisingly, there were practically no requested cuts -- only additions: "Let's talk more about the specs of this product line." "We need to be really clear about exactly what this does." And so on. I was still fairly new in the writing game at this point, so I didn't feel I had the gravitas to speak with authority against these suggestions (and truthfully, I was just grateful to have a lucrative gig, so I would've gone along with anything). So I employed every single "improvement" the client requested.

The client was delighted with the final result. But to this day, I've never displayed it in my portfolio, and I never will. It's a bloated mass of over-explanation that would put a ferret on amphetamines to sleep. I can't imagine the intended audience responded as the client had hoped; I don't even know for sure if the company is still in business. If it is, those marketing pieces weren't the deciding factor, I can guarantee that much.

So what went wrong, other than Yours Truly lacking the backbone to to correct his benefactors' corrections? Quite simply, the business owners abandoned their initial goals, and they ended up with writing that they liked, instead of what their audience would respond to. The first draft took them out of their comfort zone as technicians because it wasn't written for them.

It's one of the trickiest problems in copywriting, yet also one of the most crucial things to understand: You don't necessarily want writing that appeals to you; you want writing that appeals to your target market. If you are not your target market, then you may need marketing content that would underwhelm an engineer or an attorney or a neurosurgeon but tells your potential customers all they want and need to know.

Be honest -- if your marketing content is drawing web traffic to your site, lighting up your phone switchboard with inquiries or sending new customers through your doors, will you like it then? I'm betting you will!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

4 Ways to Work Valentine's Day Into Your Marketing

We're coming up on another Valentine's Day. If you sell gourmet foods, champagne or flowers, this particular holiday is obviously right up your alley. But any business can use this special day as a springboard for a variety of marketing opportunities. Let's look at four ways you can sweet-talk your target audience.

1. Thank-You Notes


There's no easier way to let your clients know how much you appreciate them than by writing and sending out thank-you notes. While you and your team may not have time to pen each of these meaningful messages by hand, you don't have to take completely generic approach either. Think about what kinds of messages would appeal directly to each specific segment of your clientele -- then write a few different variations on the theme of your heartfelt appreciation of them. For a really personal touch (and to help ensure that the letters get opened), you might even consider hand-signing and hand-addressing the envelopes; if that's not possible on a massive scale, you can at least do it for your VIP clients.

2. Special Offers


Valentine's Day is a time for giving gifts that show your sentiments, so why not give your beloved customers something nice that also happens to help drive more business your way? A Valentine's Day coupon, discount, gift certificate or other special offer can serve as the centerpiece for a "We Love Our Customers" campaign. If you can turn your products and services toward the theme of romance, from chocolates to spa days, so much the better.


3. "Share the Love" Contests


Love isn't just a one-way street, you know; hopefully, your customers think as highly of you as you do of them! Why not give them an opportunity to express their love for your products and services through some sort of "Share the Love" competition? Post the announcement (on your website, blog, social media channels et cetera) that you're looking for videos, photos or other submissions that show your customers using your product or service, standing next to your company signage or otherwise showing their support for your brand. You can even appeal to the writers in the crowd by asking them to include you in a poem or short story. Give out prizes for the most creative entries -- while coasting on a wave of positive buzz!


4. Valentine-Related Blog Articles


I've written before about the benefits of crafting seasonal blog articles, and Valentine's Day is no exception. You may be thinking that there's nothing remotely "romantic" about what you offer, but think again. As a professional ghost-blogger I've composed countless Valentine-centric articles about everything from life insurance (showing your family how much you care) to health services (February is American Heart Month). There are countless ways to turn this time of year toward any business or industry -- especially when you have the assistance of an imaginative, experienced copywriter.

Here's to a perfectly lovely -- and profitable -- Valentine's Day!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Yes, "I Don't Want to Write It" Is a Good Reason to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

I was talking to a health and wellness professional today about helping her fill out the content on her website -- and at one point she put on a somewhat sheepish expression and said, lowering her voice, "I could do it myself, because I'm actually a pretty good writer. But I, uh...I don't want to." But you know what? That's okay. She shouldn't feel apologetic about her resistance to writing her own marketing content -- and for that matter, neither should you.

This display of embarrassment comes up from time to time, and what I find so interesting about it is that clients who acknowledge that they can't write their own material often seem less hesitant about engaging my services than those who could write their own material but choose not to. Their hesitation may be due to feelings of:

  1. Guilt - "I should be doing this, since I have the ability. Delegating it is irresponsible and lazy of me."
  2. Concern - "An outside party can't understand my business, industry or unique value as well I can."
  3. Frugality - "I don't need to be paying a writer for something I could be doing myself."

Let me address each of these pain points in turn. First, there's nothing lazy or irresponsible about outsourcing; it's just good business. You're no doubt exhausted enough by all the other issues you have to deal with on a daily basis -- issues that demand your attention and no one else's. Writing takes time, effort and mental energy you may not be able to spare, so outsource it and apply your strength where it's truly needed.

Second, it's understandable that you might worry whether your writer can grasp your products, services and corporate mission as well as you do. But a skilled professional has mastered the art, not only of writing, but also of listening and absorbing information. Better yet, as relative outsiders we can view your business from the standpoint of the general public -- possibly even better than you can.

Third, the frugality argument doesn't hold up when you think about the value of your billable time. Should you spend that time selling your wares, growing your business relationships and making the smartest possible decisions to steer your company into the future, or should you spend it writing marketing content -- and which scenario is more likely to help you make money instead of losing it?

Okay, so maybe Bartleby, Herman Melville's famous scrivener whose response to every request is "I would prefer not to," takes this too far. But "I don't want to write this" is a perfectly sound reason (among others) to put that content writing burden aside -- by handing it to me!