It’s not that plumbing is hard or even all that unpleasant, really. And that’s the infuriating part: the fact that plumbing would be — should be!?! — downright easy if you just didn’t have to:
- negotiate way-too-tight spaces,
- avoid smacking your hand against hot-enough-to-burn-you stuff,
- overcome rusted bolts,
- make yet another trip to the store to get a needed part, tool, etc.
- deal with the worry of making a costly mistake
Honestly, what kind of shade tree mechanic or home fixer-guy hasn’t bitched about one of these things? It’s the luxury of being a shade-tree mechanic or home-fixer guy.
But real professionals don’t have that luxury.
True pros know conditions are never ideal. And they know their reputations and paychecks rest on results achieved in far-from-ideal conditions.
Real plumbers expect to fix plumbing problems while on their backs, staring up at the underside of a cabinet, and working with rusted bolts. That’s how it is in the real world, and so they train for it. Because no one pays you to be an imaginary plumber in a make believe world where the pipes are all out in plain site.
I half-wanted to draw out the analogy between this and copywriting, advertising, and marketing, but I won’t insult your intelligence. Just let me ask you:
Are you a real professional at your chosen vocation?
Do you train yourself to handle far-from-ideal conditions and situations?
Or are you too busy dreaming of the perfect client/product/competitive market and bitching about the marketing equivalents of rusted bolts and tight spaces?
Want to have those same visitors actively searching for just enough substantiation to hang their hats on before rushing off to your shopping cart/checkout process?
Of course you would. Once your reader wants what you say to be true, once she hopes you’re “for real,” she’ll be routing for you the whole time she’s reading your substantiating copy/proof. And that’s the kind of audience you want.
So even before you think about how to prove your claims, establish credibility, or anything else, you’ll want to focus on establishing your readers’ emotional desire. Here’s how to do that…
A Seductive First Mental Image
“The core of a successful trick is an interesting and beautiful idea that taps into something that you would like to have happen. One of the things we do in our live show is I squeeze handfuls of water and they turn into cascades of money. That’s an interesting and beautiful idea.
The deception is really secondary. The idea is first, because the idea needs to capture your imagination.”
- Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) describing the neuroscience of magic
While all copy shares the challenge of capturing readers attention, the best headlines and openers move past gimmicks and shouting in order to intrigue and seduce readers with a mental image that the reader hopes to be true. Or wishes to make true.
Infomercials mastered this technique decades ago. They always open with a striking image or clip functioning as a seductive “proof of concept”:
- The Ginsu knife that cut through the tin can and could still finely slice the tomato
- The OxyClean that magically evaporate stains out of a white carpet
- The ShamWow leaving not a trace of water on the counter and soaking up 20 times its weight in water, every last drop in the tray
Only after the image captures the viewer’s imagination does the pitchman reveal the “secret” of how the product works.
Similarly, Lifelock.com first captures visitor’s imagination with the CEO brazenly publishing his SSN on the homepage. It’s only on the second or third page that visitors learn HOW LifeLock works to keep your identity safe.
And for many Web 2.0 sites, the opening page has become home to the quick 1–3 minute video showing you how easily you too can kick butt with their software/product. This screenr homepage video is a perfect example of that.
Why it Works
As it turns out, we’re really good at bending logic to suport out desires, because, really, does anyone really read Playboy “for the articles?” Our minds also suffer from anchoring bias and the effects of emotional priming.
Basically, an emotional image affects how we “see” or interpret the rest of the copy. Here’s an example: when test subjects were shown a video of a car accident, half of the test subjects were asked how fast the two cars were going when the “crashed” into each other, and half were asked how fast the cars were going when they “made contact.” On average, the “crashed into” group’s estimated speed was 10 mph faster than the “made contact” group. That simple phrase colored the entire memory of the film clip.
In a similar manner, your readers’ desire for a product can color their perception of your substantiating content. In other words, if you present a striking and seductive enough image, your readers will actually look to convince themselves with whatever logical proof you provide.
And isn’t that the way you want it?
And this happens with items we’d likely have said we were “almost” ready to buy!
Isn’t it amazing how long most of us can want something that’s well within our financial reach before we actually pull the trigger and buy it?
Well, your Website visitors are doing the same thing! Especially for items or services that cost over, let’s say, $50.
And that ain’t good. Here are the problems with this situation:
- eventually, the buyer will forget about your product or service in order to focus on a new want
- “almost convinced” visitors don’t increase your conversion rate or put money in your pocket
- those customer just might buy from someone else — someone who could convince them to pull the trigger
If you want to increase your conversion rate, you have to help those buyers overcome their procrastination. And this Dumb Little Man article can help you do that. The article tells you how to beat your own procrastination, but the principles apply to copywriting as well:
1) Eliminate Fear
Buyers don’t procrastinate out of laziness. If they’re procrastinating, they’re usually afraid of parting with their hard earned cash and not receiving full value for their money. Re-check your copy to ensure that you:
- Have material that preemptively answers buyer questions and concerns
- Use risk reversals, or at the very least a guarantee
- Employ user reviews, or at least have authentic sounding testimonials
- Provide adequate substantiation and proof for your claims
- Demonstrate that your product delivers benefits despite normal human frailties
- Reveal your company to be solid, reputable, and trustworthy on your About Us page
2) Cultivate Desire
“…start with the end in mind. How will things look when they’re all done? What will you see and how will you feel?
If you can associate strong emotions with the end result, you can cultivate a burning desire.”
Steve Martile wrote this about personal procrastination, but simply switch the “you” to “your reader,” and you can easily apply this to copywriting.
- Are you acting as the movie director of your readers’ dreams?
- Are you helping them see how much your product or service will allow them to kick butt, both immediately after purchase and long-term?
- Does your copy cultivate desire?
It’s not uncommon to find copy that does one or the other well — either cultivating desire or eliminating fear. But copy that does both is much harder to find, which is why those companies and Websites that do manage to do both enjoy a competitive advantage.
Hyper-targeting isn’t new. Neither is intrusive media.
But a combination of the two… could be incredibly effective. Just imagine if FaceBook had ads like this Apple Skyscraper/Banner ad:
Watch the fully animated ad over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog — it’s quite obviously an intrusive ad (in a good way).
For those unfamiliar with the term, intrusive basically equals sound: radio or television, and, to a degree, animated banner ads. It’s intrusive because you can’t close your ears and the ads interrupt something else that you are doing, like listening to music or watching TV or reading the online version of the NYT.
Yet when it comes to radio and television, selecting the show or station is as targeted as it gets. That’s why they call it mass media and broadcasting. Direct mail, on the other hand, can be targeted by gender, age, income, buying activities, interests, profession, etc — yet still manages to get dumped in the trash unopened and un-looked at a shocking percentage of the time.
Which brings us back to the target-ability of Facebook ads. Want to only show your ads to mothers of 3 kids between the ages of 32–38 who live on the west side of Newport, RI? No sweat. Want to make sure those same mothers of three actually LOOK at your ad? Houston we have a problem.
As of now, FaceBook ads are mostly static and entirely without sound. There also kind of, um, spammy. Without motion or sound to attract members’ attention, most ads end up looking like the example to the left.
But banner ads/online space ads don’t have to be that way, as the recent Apple ad proves. Nor does FaceBook have to give up editorial control on what kind of ads get run. Just like many fashion magazines already do, FaceBook could require ads to meet a certain non-annoying or cool threshold.
Flash driven ads with sound that had a high creative threshold could prove to be the best of both worlds. You’d get targeted ads that are also intrusive enough to seduce FaceBook viewers away from their newsfeeds long enough to watch and click through.
What do you think?
“Um, like, I know I go to your Starbucks a lot and see you behind the checkout counter a few times a week, but… what freaking relationship are you talking about?”
If that dialogue sounds silly, it’s the kind of thing that happens every day through Social Media and online tools like Twitter, FaceBook, Blogs, e-mail, etc. Companies somehow assume that because you’ve visited their site or bought something from them, that it is now appropriate to act as your buddy — or worse, that they can try to leverage your friends/networks for their own, selfish purposes.
Offline, this behavior would be creepy and borderline stalker-ish. Bringing it online doesn’t make it anymore well received, according to a new e-Marketer Digital Intelligence study:
“US consumers are most interested in brands that keep them up to date and improve their knowledge. And they do not want brands to act like their friends.”
So what DO consumers want from companies using Social Media & Online tools? Here are the highlights from the study :
“Helping consumers keep up to date on topics that were important to them was also key, followed by being entertaining, becoming part of a daily routine, and informing consumers about the product and the company. Consumers were relatively uninterested in brands that tried to act like their friends.”
Sounds about right to me.
While I love, love, love Melissa Karnaze’s Copyblogger post on how to make Writer’s Block a “Secret Weapon,” there’s like 5% 0f the time when what she describes as writer’s block isn’t quite what I experience.
Her premise: if you’re having trouble saying it, you probably aren’t all that clear on what you want to say.
But what if you know what you want to say, but you’re gooning up the emotion? What if you need a scalpel and your pen feels like a chainsaw?
Well, even though the following may not make any sense, it always works for me:
- Go visit PostSecret.
- Read through the secrets till you find 2–3 really juicy ones. Not juicy as in particularly lurid, but as in wince inducing. Your heart should go out to the person. Or there should be a “pucker factor” in reading their secret.
- Now that you have a few of those, pick one and start imagining the person who wrote it. Create a character, backstory, etc.
- Spend about 10 minutes writing the first several paragraphs or page of a short story that starts with the Post Secret statement and that centers around your character. Make sure to set a timer of some sort.
When the timer goes off you’ll be on the other side of the world from the emotional and mental state you started in. And the borrowed wings of your narrative will fly with you when you go back to writing your copy.
* Special thanks to Holly Buchanan for introducing me to Post Secret