Monday, June 26, 2017

The Call to Action: Your Marketing Content's "Curtain Line"

The first act had gone fine. The audience hadn't exactly leaped to their feet in an ovation, but they were still there when the intermission lights came up, and most of them appeared to be awake. So far, so good, I thought from the catwalk where many playwrights (or was it just me?) prefer to hide during a production of one of their plays.

My playwriting teacher knew where to find me, of course. "They like the play. The only thing you need is a new curtain line."

"New curtain line?"

"Yes. The closing line of the act isn't really strong enough. You need to put something else there that will really resonate with the audience on the way out, something that will draw them back for Act Two."

"Uh...okay." I wouldn't have minded having this conversation before opening night of the production, but sometimes you really can't tell what works and what doesn't until you try it out. So after the show I went home, thought up a new line for the leading character to end the first act with, and the next night the whole scene -- in fact, the whole show -- worked better. 

Copywriting has its own version of the "curtain line." It's known as the call to action. 

The call to action is that last compelling statement in which you force the readers to react to what they've just absorbed in a specific way. Maybe it's time for them to pick up the phone and place their order. Maybe it’s time for them to fill out the request form for more details. Maybe it's time for them to whip out their credit card and make that payment. The point's time. You've delivered a compelling message to them; now it's time for them to respond appropriately.

A good piece of copywriting has a shape to it, just as a well-written act in a play does. An effective act grabs the audience from the beginning, ratchets that interest level higher and higher, then leaves them in the most powerful, congruent emotional state possible -- the precise emotional state you want them to experience. Marketing copy should build in the same manner, ending with such an emotional punch that the reader feels compelled to take the next step.

So when you write that marketing piece, save the best for last. Rally the troops -- your readers -- with a rousing call to action. Challenge them to act on that feeling you just planted in them. Turn those prospects into customers and those customers into repeat customers. Get what you want the easy way -- by asking for it.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Why "Writing to Impress" Usually Backfires

You sit down to write your next blog article, new web page or updated brochure with a single goal: to dazzle your prospects and customers. But how exactly do you do that? You might be surprised to learn that "writing to impress" can do your content more harm than good. Here are a few examples of how this kind of overachievement can actually sabotage your goals.

Technobabble - If you've ever sat through a science-fiction show where the writers resorted to incomprehensible technical lingo at a key moment, you may have felt both irritated and excluded. The same holds true for marketing content that aims above the level of its intended target market. Companies in complex fields such as the technical, medical or legal arenas often feel compelled to display their expertise in this way -- without realizing that they're alienating their audience instead of impressing it. Technobabble only works when your ideal reader, listener or viewer is as fluent in that language as you are. If you need to reach the general public, you must boil your message down to general terms.

Formal-speak - Many business experts fall into the trap of using overly-formal language in their marketing content, especially consultants who feel the need to impress people. The approach usually means lots of passive verbs, indirect sentence structure and "five-dollar words." The end result is dulled emotional impact -- pretty much the opposite of what you want when you're selling your products, services and/or brand. Lack of directness pushes people away, while the longer a word is, the less power it usually holds. Clear, direct language will make your point much more quickly and effectively, while helping to establish you as a friendly peer instead of an unapproachable oracle.

Purple prose -  If you've ever seen an over-the-top amateur movie or book review, you've probably been hit over the head with phrases like "Buckets of tears were gushing out of my eyes like waterfalls from the very first scene" or "I was collapsing with laughter at every moment." This kind of hot-and-heavy hyperbole (a) is pretty hard to take seriously and (b) exhausts your audience's emotional batteries from from the beginning. If everything is spectacular and amazing and life-changing, then nothing stands out and contrasts become impossible. You've lost your ability to create emotional highs and lows in your content -- and with it, your ability to engage the audience in a meaningful way.

"Writing to impress" usually doesn't -- but writing to establish a strong, credible, instant connection with your ideal respondent definitely does. Honing your approach and technique takes some doing, but you can always engage a professional marketing copywriter who already knows his stuff. Either way, make sure your content makes the right impression!