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:

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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.  

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.

 

Do you have the courage to say what you’re not?
Most peo­ple don’t want to draw that sharp line of dis­tinc­tion, and it’s why their mar­ket­ing efforts blend into the clutter.
Dis­cernible edges and sil­hou­ettes allow us to visu­ally “grip” an object and sep­a­rate fig­ure from ground.  Elim­i­nate those edges and you’ll effec­tively cam­ou­flage yourself.
In the pic­ture above, notice how the legs present a solid sil­hou­ette and are eas­ily iden­ti­fied, while the man’s upper body cam­ou­flage breaks up his sil­hou­ette and blurs his edges into the back­ground of trees and snow.  As a result, it’s much harder to make out his his torso and arms.
Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and sil­hou­ettes.  We define by giv­ing para­me­ters, men­tally grasp­ing a con­cept by its bound­aries.  With­out the “edges” of con­trast­ing ref­er­ence points, a con­cept or term remains ambigu­ous at best.
That’s why grab­bing after an “infi­nite” mar­ket and seek­ing to be all things to all peo­ple ends up cam­ou­flag­ing one’s brand and mes­sag­ing; with­out con­trast it all just blurs into the background.
Want to stand out?  Sharply define the edges between you and your competitors.
The bet­ter you do this, the more strongly you’ll turn-off some cus­tomers.  But wouldn’t you rather pow­er­fully per­suade some of your mar­ket than be over­looked by all of it?
Just fol­low the exam­ple of this doctor:
I found this ad in my local news­pa­per and was imme­di­ately struck by the bold headline:
“You don’t want me to be your fam­ily doctor.”
Pretty ballsy head­line for a doc­tor, huh?  Wouldn’t you feel com­pelled to read more about this doc­tor with the courage to so brazenly declare what he wasn’t?
Hav­ing gained the reader’s atten­tion, the body copy fur­ther explains: “Neu­ro­surgery is one of the few med­ical spe­cial­ties for which I am well-suited.  I am not warm and fuzzy.  I could never be suc­cess­ful as a pedi­a­tri­cian or in a fam­ily prac­tice – no one would come back a sec­ond time.  But I am very good at what I do.”
Dr. Good­man then sub­stan­ti­ates his claimed exper­tise with a list of very impres­sive pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions and accom­plish­ments, rounded off with some exam­ples of his extreme com­mit­ment to sur­gi­cal excel­lence and his patients’ well-being.
While his pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions are truly out­stand­ing, most read­ers would never have read them with­out Dr. Goodman’s use of reverse cam­ou­flage in his head­line.  Say­ing what he wasn’t allowed him to stand out amidst the clutter.
So here’s 3 sure-fire ways to reverse-camouflage your messaging.
1.    Get your­self an enemy and/or reject a rea­son­able alter­na­tive position
Noth­ing fires the blood quite so much as declar­ing what (or who) you stand against.  But you get no points for tear­ing down straw men; reject­ing a rea­son­able alter­na­tive posi­tion puts teeth into your message.
2.    Present a tightly focused perspective
Once you’ve nar­rowed the group of cus­tomers that you’re most inter­ested in attract­ing, focus your mes­sag­ing to speak most directly to their felt needs, desires, and frus­tra­tions.  Peo­ple who don’t share those expe­ri­ences will feel excluded, but your core audi­ence will feel an instant con­nec­tion.  Both will instantly rec­og­nize you.  Tim Miles offers a bril­liant exam­ple of this on his “About Us” page.
3.    Explain what costs you’re will­ing to bare and admit the down­side to your offer/product.
This one is more about cred­i­bil­ity than def­i­n­i­tion, but amidst a back­ground of ad-speak, solid cred­i­bil­ity acts as its own form of reverse cam­ou­flage.  Plus, you don’t just want to be seen, right?  You want to be believed as well.
Finally, if all else fails, you can always use your new-found knowl­edge of cam­ou­flage to escape week­end chores (just ditch the boots in favor of camo socks)

epic-win-photos-camo-win1Do you have the courage to say what you’re not?

Most busi­ness own­ers don’t want to draw that sharp line of dis­tinc­tion, and it’s why their mar­ket­ing efforts blend into the clutter.

Dis­cernible edges and sil­hou­ettes allow us to visu­ally iden­tify an object, sep­a­rat­ing its fig­ure from the back­ground “noise.” Elim­i­nate those dis­cernible edges and break up the sil­hou­ette, and you’ll effec­tively cam­ou­flage your­self.

In the top-left pic­ture, you’ll notice how the person’s legs, back­pack, and hat all present a solid sil­hou­ette, with clearly defined edges. They stand out from the back­ground and are eas­ily iden­ti­fied. But the man’s upper body, clothed by the cam­ou­flage pat­tern jacket, blends smoothly into the land­scape. The pat­tern breaks up his sil­hou­ette and blurs his edges into the back­ground of moun­tain­side, snow, and brush. As a result, your eyes end up visu­ally iden­ti­fy­ing the man by his pack­back and hat first, and then squint in to find where his shoul­der, body, and arms “should” be.

This works the same way for adver­tis­ing. Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and sil­hou­ettes.  We define by giv­ing para­me­ters, men­tally grasp­ing a con­cept by its bound­aries. With­out the “edges” of con­trast­ing ref­er­ence points, a con­cept or term remains ambigu­ous at best. To know what a donut is, you have to know the dif­fer­ence between a donut and a dan­ish — to know what isn’t a donut.

This is why grab­bing after an “infi­nite” mar­ket and seek­ing to be all things to all peo­ple ends up cam­ou­flag­ing one’s brand and mes­sag­ing; with­out con­trast it all just blurs into the background.

And that’s a good thing because it makes it easy to stand out — if you’ve got the guts. Want to stand out?  Sharply define the edges between you and your com­peti­tors. It’s that simple.

The bet­ter you do this, the more strongly you’ll turn-off some cus­tomers. But wouldn’t you rather pow­er­fully per­suade some of your mar­ket than be over­looked by all of it?

A Bold Exam­ple of Reverse Cam­ou­flage In Action

neurosurgeon1I found this ad in my local news­pa­per and was imme­di­ately struck by the bold headline:

“You don’t want me to be your fam­ily doc­tor.

Pretty ballsy head­line for a doc­tor, huh? Wouldn’t you feel com­pelled to read more about this doc­tor with the courage to so brazenly declare what he wasn’t?

Hav­ing gained the reader’s atten­tion, the body copy fur­ther explains: “Neu­ro­surgery is one of the few med­ical spe­cial­ties for which I am well-suited. I am not warm and fuzzy. I could never be suc­cess­ful as a pedi­a­tri­cian or in a fam­ily prac­tice — no one would come back a sec­ond time. But I am very good at what I do.”

Dr. Good­man then sub­stan­ti­ates his claimed exper­tise with a list of very impres­sive pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions and accom­plish­ments, rounded off with some exam­ples of his extreme com­mit­ment to sur­gi­cal excel­lence and his patients’ well-being.

While his pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions are truly out­stand­ing, most read­ers would never have read them with­out Dr. Goodman’s use of reverse cam­ou­flage in his head­line. Say­ing what he wasn’t allowed Dr. Good­man to stand out amidst the clut­ter.

3 sure-fire ways to reverse-camouflage your messaging:

1. Get your­self an enemy and/or reject a rea­son­able alter­na­tive position

Noth­ing fires the blood quite so much as declar­ing what — or bet­ter yet who — you stand against.  But you get no points for tear­ing down straw men; reject­ing a rea­son­able alter­na­tive posi­tion puts teeth into your message.

2. Present a tightly focused perspective

Once you’ve nar­rowed the group of cus­tomers that you’re most inter­ested in attract­ing, focus your mes­sag­ing to speak most directly to their deeply felt needs, desires, and frus­tra­tions.  Peo­ple who don’t share those expe­ri­ences will feel excluded, but your core audi­ence will feel an instant con­nec­tion.  Both will instantly rec­og­nize you.  Tim Miles offers a bril­liant exam­ple of this on his “About Us” page.

3. Explain what costs you’re will­ing to bare and admit the down­side to your offer/product.

What you’re will­ing to put up with in order to sat­isfy a pas­sion can be as much of a marker of iden­tity as the pas­sion itself. Stick shifts aren’t as pleas­ant to drive in thick traf­fic, but a lot of dri­ving purists wouldn’t have it any other way. Top end kitchen knives require extra care in terms of cut­ting sur­faces and using the right knife for the job, but those are points of pride for Food­ies and Chefs. So admit­ting these down­sides is not only the right and hon­est thing to do, it’s also the per­sua­sive thing to do. And for two rea­sons: 1) as just dis­cussed, it helps enthu­si­asts fur­ther iden­tify with your brand; 2) admit­ting the down­side boosts cred­i­bil­ity — and cred­i­bil­ity acts as its own form of reverse cam­ou­flage amidst a back­ground of hype and BS.

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Cam­ou­flage, I highly rec­om­mend this bril­liant piece in the New York Times.

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