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!