So sometime after New Year’s I decided to “Turn Pro” with this blog. You’ve probably noticed this mostly in terms of:

  1. Increased blogging frequency — from posting fortnightly (if I felt like it) to posting 2 and now 3 times a week.
  2. Consistent post days — from posting any day that suited me (meaning putting it off was no big deal) to posting every Tuesday & Thursday, and now Friday’s too.
  3. Greater Focus on Practical & Concrete topics and techniques – hence the Practical Tactical Tuesdays column

My new E-mail buddy

What you probably haven’t noticed is the creation of a new Newsletter subscription form.

I’m ditching the old Feedburner subscription plug-in in favor of MailChimp.  The Feedburner account still works, so you’ll still receive those unless you unsubscribe, but if you want the latest and greatest newsletter/new post announcements in all their html glory, I’d recommend re-signing up in MailChimp.

You can sign up using the form on the side bar to the left, but if it’s not showing up for you, use this link.

I’m will also start sending out “subscriber only” content via or accessible by newsletter only.  My thought is: if you’re a subscriber, you like my stuff more than the casual visitor, and so you should — and WILL! — get some extra content and goodies.  I’m not charging for it, but I am reserving it for people actively following my blog.

Other changes you will see in the coming months include: Read more

Products have product pages, but what do services have?

Well services generally get some kind of copy describing the service, but generally nothing describing the experience of working with the service provider. Nothing that’ll answer questions like:

  • How can I explore the possibility of working with you without getting a sales pitch or committing or even giving you the impression of a commitment?
  • What can I expect at each stage of the service or project?
  • How much contact and review and control will I have during this time?
  • When can I see the finished work?.

And leaving this stuff out of your copy is a fatal mistake.

If you’re selling a service rather than a product — or if you’re selling a customized or personalized product — it’s vital to get prospective customers as comfortable as possible with the process of hiring and working with you. More importantly, you must get them to imagine — in the most inviting and non-threatening a manner as possible — the benefits of receiving your services.

“People go only to places they have already been in their minds” – Roy H. Williams

 Now, there are plenty of ways to achieve both goals — getting the prospect comfortable in exploring the possibility of working with you AND getting them to imagine the process of working with you — but my favorite strategy for achieving this is what I call a “Mental Walk-Through” page, although it usually shows up in the navigation as something like, “Project Timelines,” or “Working With Us” or “The Process.”

So here are the..

7 Elements of a mental walkthrough page:

Read more

24

Feb

by Jeff

Every Dad's Version of Fancy-Pants Visuals

New recurrent column: Fancy-Pants Friday!

Most often the visuals — meaning videos, charts, graphs, cartoons, pics — play only a supporting role to my posts. Hey, I’m a copywriter at heart; I skew towards words. But each Friday I now promise to bust out a Fancy-Pants Visual.

First up is a humorous but pointed video courtesy of Roy H. Williams:

I posted this not only because it’s a video worthy of Fancy-Pants Friday, but also because it gets back to a point I made earlier about the importance of reaching people not yet in the market for your product.

Also, this video was posted to Vimeo as a sample of Wizard of Ads Live.  If you liked what you saw, you might want to check it out. And if you’re interested in getting a copy of that Kijiji Snowblower Ad for your own enjoyment, you can download it here.

Oh, and happy Friday!

P.S. For those that are wondering Kijiji is an ebay subsidiary that’s become the Craigslist of Canada


When I compiled my Copywriting Resource post, I was sort of surprised to learn that I couldn’t quite find any content online that really got into the “meat” of the different kinds of Unique Value or, to use Rosser Reeves’ original term, Unique Selling Propositions.

Don’t get me wrong, I ultimately found lots of solid posts that had important things to say about UVPs. But I knew there was something valuable left to say about the subject.

So here’s the deal: UVPs come in 5 basic flavors and understanding that can be a big help for small businesses and advertisers.

Unique Value Propositions can be based on…

1) A True Value-Added Advantage that Really IS Unique

Take note: “true value-added” means the unique part of the product is answering a question that people actually care about. Mazda’s Rotary engine is cool as heck, but there’s a reason it’s only available in one car and the rest of the automobile manufacturers haven’t jumped on the rotary bandwagon. A reason that has nothing to do with patents.  Nobody was asking for a lower-vibrating, higher power-per-liter-of-displacement engine that was even more of a gas hog than the average high performance engine.

Compare that to minivans. When Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth came out with them in 1984, they set the world on fire. And that means minivans didn’t remain “unique” to them for long. Within a year or two most major manufacturers also offered minivans, and now they’re ubiquitous.

So how many products on the market today have a true, Class 1 UVP?  Not that many physical products, actually. Dyson Vacuum cleaners and their other products probably fit the bill. I’m sure there are more, but truly unique, value-added UVPs are rare for physical products and mature markets.

The very term itself was invented back before over-choice and over-abundance was the norm, and it was invented to help advertise newly-available-to-the-mass-market choices. So where do true-blue UVPs show up the most often these days? New Frontiers. Digital Services, for example. The way Hipmunk displays flights is a true UVP.

So just don’t be too surprised if you don’t come across that many Class 1 UVPs.

2) Specialization and/or Niche-Marketing

The law firm of O’neil & Widelock advertised as divorce lawyers who only represented men. That’s a UVP based on specializing (in divorce law) and niche marketing (to men only). Home builders who only use Insulating Concrete Forms for their homes might be another example.

Most people simply don’t give this kind of specialization and niching enough credit. Check out the ingredients for Excedrin Migraine and regular ol’ Excedrin — they both contain: acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffein. So what’s the point of having a niche version for migraines?  Because it sells better.

People want — and are willing to pay a premium for — products specific to them and their needs, even if the specialization represents no real, objective advantage or gain.

3) An Improved Buying Experience

A car wash service that comes to your home or work. Nothing special about the car wash itself, other than the delivery. But that’s enough isn’t it? These kinds of UVPs are often created by a business man looking to provide X but without the hassle or “piss off factor” that’s more or less standard to that industry.

One Hour Heating and Air Conditioner reflects this brand of “let’s remove the frustrating parts” approach to UVPs. There is nothing special about their HVAC systems or equipment or the type of repair or tune-up work they do. Nothing other than the fact that they guarantee their guys will show up at a precisely scheduled time, such as 9:30 am, rather than an overly broad range of say, “between nine and two.” This eliminates the annoyance of having to rearrange an entier day’s schedule to “be there” for the HVAC guy. And it works.

4) Pre-Emptive Claims

The example for this that I love to use was given to me by my colleague, Chuck McKay: “Visine gets the red out”  Well, yeah, of course it “gets the red out” — what eye drops don’t do that?  But what exactly would the advertising for Murine or Clear Eyes eye drops say in response? “We also get the red out?” The me-too factor prevents the competition from saying that, so Visine’s claim remains unique in terms of advertising and brand-association.

Did you get that?  Pre-emptive claims allow brands to virtually “create” unique status through advertising!

Now the uniqueness likely goes away when evaluated at a conscious, rational level, just as it did for Visine when I asked you to question it, but it remains at an emotional, gut-feel level. And that’s the level that pays off for buying decisions.

5) “Romancing the Stone”

This is a combination or hybrid UVP based on some characteristic that’s not quite truly value added or unique enough to land in the other classes, but that has also been claimed and romanced in advertising. It’s not all smoke and mirrors, there’s a certain factual reality to it, but… neither is it all substance.

Example: Macallan ages their scotch in sherry oak casks.* And they make a big deal of it in their ads. Does it matter? I’m sure it does. Does it matter as much as they want you to believe it does? Only if you expect it to based on their advertising.

In my opinion, the vast majority of UVPs actually fall into this category.

Most of the time, the value of the “value proposition” is debatable, or as much a matter of preference or perceived self-identity and value-association as genuine, objective advantage. But the difference remains real in the mind of the customer so long as it has been properly romanced by the advertising.

Want to see this kind of thing in action?  Well, just look around you.  But if you want to see it done masterfully, check out the J. Peterman website and think of each or any piece of clothing as a brand. Then view the accompanying copy as an attempt to spin a “UVP” around that brand.

So what’s the bottom line on all this?

If your company doesn’t have a UVP, or if you don’t feel as if your UVP has been at all successful in driving more sales, you might just need an ad consultant who understands this stuff to come in and either create a new one for you, or to “Romance the Stone.”

Earlier this year, I wrote a product page for the fine puzzlesmiths at Jigsaw Health.

I had used some of their products but not this one.

I thought the page was complete and darned good.

Flash forward to now, when we’re considering giving this product to our son.

Our words-fail-beautiful son.

I went back to the page I’d written and couldn’t find answers to my own questions. I had to contact my former client today with more questions.

Hello, salience. Nice to see you again. Thanks for reminding me a website’s never complete.

Ask yourself of your web copy: after reading it, would you give your products or services to your own words-fail-beautiful?

Does your copy pass the parent test?

Is it time for a re-write?

P.S. I guess I’d consider this my first guest post, but that would be cheating.  Really, this post was written by the great Tim Miles for the American Small Business blog which is currently cocooned away awaiting transformation.  But this post was too good to hide away and I wanted to link to it for my massive Resource-Intensive List Post.  So I stole it and put it here.  

21

Feb

by Jeff

Copywriting skill usually progresses along 3 stages:

Stage 1: Understanding the Mechanics — The untrained copywriter can become exponentially better in a day’s worth of training. It really is that easy. And a copywriter that’s made that minimum effort can get results, right away. That’s why a lot of A-List copywriters will tell you that you don’t have to become a great writer to make money writing copy.

Stage 2: Learning the Psychology of “Salesmanship in Print” — Semi-decent copywriters won’t continue to get better without at least a few month’s or a year’s worth of continued study and practice. That’s because they’re moving from the core mechanics and basic mindset of copywriting, to applying effective sales psychology to their writing.

Stage 3: Becoming a Serious Student of Advertising Artistry — Moving from seasoned, journeyman copywriter to true pro DOES require that you become a better writer. You must become adept at directing the “movie in the mind” of the prospect, and that requires superior wordsmithing along with artistry above and beyond the previous two stages. Naturally this takes longer to learn.

So why should you care?

First, it’s important to know that you can get dramatic improvements and business results from moving through the first two stages. Meaning that it’s worth the limited effort to get better even if you are NOT looking to become a professional copywriter or marketer.

Second, if you ARE looking to become a professional copywriter, you’ll get better faster if you understand what stage of development you’re in and what resources will help you the most for any given stage. That’s not to say the components of each stage don’t overlap, but that they do tend to build one stage on the other, so you shouldn’t spend too much time, say, trying to learn rhetorical flourishes if you haven’t mastered the basics of WIIFM, substantiation and proof, etc.

And with that in mind, here are some solid, mostly free resources to get you to that next level:

Understanding the Mechanics

To me, the basic mechanics of copywriting includes the following:

So, there’s obviously a bit more to the basic mechanics of good copywriting than JUST these elements, and for you dedicated students, I’ve come up with two entirely FREE resources to cover those:

  1. Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg have graciously agreed to let my readers download a free copy of their highly praised and sought after book, Persuasive Online Copywriting.
  2. You can download a free, no-email-necessary PDF  of Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising right here.

Learning the Psychology of Salesmanship in Print

Sales Psychology is a BIG topic, and I’m sure I’m leaving lots of topics uncovered, but for me, the must-have basics include:

Obviously, there is a lifetime’s worth of learning around these topics and any number of “additional reading” books could be recommended.  That said, the best FREE resources for this stage are Roy H. Williams first two books in his Wizard of Ads trilogy, The Wizard of Ads and Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads, both which you can download as audio and e-books for free at Roy’s Website.

Becoming a Serious Student of Advertising Artistry

Once you understand the mechanics and the psychology, you enter the realm of advanced techniques, subtlety of execution, and general artistry. This is where the ad writer has the most in common with the novelist, playwright, movie director, entertainer, and even the stage musician. Here are

Again, there are a number of books I might recommend for additional reading, but if I am to focus in on FREE resources, I would recommend Roy H. Williams’ 3rd Wizard of Ads book, Magical Worlds, which you can download for free directly from Roy’s Website.  You’ll also want to sign up for the Monday Morning Memo.  And if you’re still hungry for more, I promise to compile a post of nothing but recommended books and blogs, rather than individual posts and free resources.

 

But for now, this resource list represents a strong course of study. Best of luck to any and all aspiring students. Feel free to comment with your own proposed resources, questions, etc.