Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Honest Copywriting: Accentuate the Positive -- but Don't Eliminate the Negative

Fans of Futurama will remember Professor Farnsworth hobbling into the room and proclaiming "Good news, everybody!" before informing the Planet Express team that were going to go deliver toxic waste or some other lovely task. To this day, I hear that voice in my head when I hear or read suspiciously optimistic announcements. For instance, my apartment management company recently posted a cheerful little note on my door, to the effect of, "Good news! [Can't you just hear him? Me too.] Our complex has arranged to install fiber-optic cable for all buildings. This will provide our tenants with faster online speeds than ever before!" The announcement then goes to make an oblique mention of certain construction activities that may require our patience and cooperation....

Yes, it's nice to be getting speedier Internet service. But us non-technical types are bound to wonder how much digging and installing will have to be performed, what sort of glitches may occur during installation, and whether this project will even be completed while many of the current tenants are still living here. These are all legitimate questions -- but hey, speedier Internet!

I applaud this example of putting one's best foot forward. Let's face it, there are upsides and downsides to just about any transition, venture, product, or service. In your marketing content, you obviously want to push the positive and downplay the negative. But it really is possible to offer too much of a good thing.

Your target audience may be understandably skeptical if you offer the greatest thing since sliced bread with absolutely no qualifications whatsoever. For instance, if you read an ad for a used car which includes nothing but positivity, your first question is likely to be "What's wrong with it?" What are you not being told? By contrast, a used-car ad that includes little qualifiers such as "Some minor hail damage but mechanically perfect" explains why the vehicle's price is so good, reassures you that it will get you from Point A to Point B, prepares you to encounter some imperfections, and adds a touch of transparency that encourages trust.

Providing a balanced, detailed, honest mix of content can actually help you nip specific objections in the bud. Let's say your prospective buyer reads about the efficiency of your new ultra-lightweight vacuum cleaner and is about to scoff, "I'll bet it can't handle ground-in dirt or deep pile." Fortunately, you've already added an FAQ section or a little disclaimer in your content saying, "This lightweight vacuum cleaner is specifically designed for light jobs, reducing the need to lug your heavy vacuum cleaner around." You've now clarified that your little cleaner isn't meant to be a full-time replacement for that 40-pound monster, just a welcome relief for casual cleaning applications.

A little self-effacement can work in your favor. "We may not be your ideal solution, but we'd happy to discuss your needs and tell you what we can do for you." "No weight loss plan is effort-free or equally effective for everybody, but if you're serious about shedding the pounds, this system could be just what you need." "Are we the right dental clinic for your needs? We can't answer that question for you. There's only one way to find out -- visit us." Tempering your promises and admitting your limitations doesn't just present an honest picture; it also presents you as an honest brand.

By all means, give your clients the good news first, wrap it up in a pretty bow, and let enthusiasm carry the day. Just remember that first-time buyers become repeat buyers only when their initial expectations are met. If you want to build customer relationships, make sure your marketing content sets a trustworthy tone.