teleportThink of travelling through the web via hyperlinks as a form of teleportation.  Now think of teleportation.  Specifically, if you really were teleporting what would be your main concerns?

1) You’d want to make darn sure you KNEW where you were going

2) Upon “landing,” you’d want to ensure you arrived in the right place

Those are two of the most important things you can learn about crafting and structuring your hyperlinks, and they translate as:

  • Word links so people can figure out where the link will take them, and
  • Match your headlines, pictures, and page content with visitor expectations created by the hyperlink they clicked on to get to your page.  Let them know they’re in the right place.

And yet these are also the two most frequently violated “rules” of hyperlinking.  E-mails frequently have call to action links/buttons that take you to a page that utterly fails to follow-up on the offer presented in the e-mail.  Call to action buttons meant to take you to a product page are often mislabeled as if they will place the item in your cart.  And so on.

Master these two basic lessons and you’ll have learned more than 90% of most Web users, and even most Web developers and (sad to say) more than a few copywriters.

And yet, those are just the basics.  Another, perhaps more sophisticated, way of looking at this is to say that every link represents a promise and every click represents permission.

The Promise

The promise comes from the expectations created by the hyperlink’s wording or label.  You’ve essentially promised the visitor that,  if they click on the link, they’ll be teleported to the kind of content they expect.  Which means that, on an emotional level, visitors will feel a site is “dishonest” if a link “tricks” them by teleporting them someplace unexpected or undesired.  Ouch!

More fundamentally, this also means that you, as the copywriter, have to craft links (and content) that offer forth promises compelling enough to motivate visitor clicks.  There is no gravity to an online conversion funnel; nothing will “pull” visitors through to the next click or micro-conversion except their own motivation based on promised benefits.

joeisuzu1In other words, you can’t take visitors where they don’t want to go.  You can’t force the conversation.  You have to offer to talk about what the prospective customer wants to talk about – what SHE finds important.  Ignoring a topic of conversation by not providing the appropriate link (or by failing to provide the right content on the other side of a link) is like a car salesman refusing to talk about the price of the car when asked.  It kills credibility and trust.

The Permission

The permission is what you get when a visitor clicks on your link, and permission is a copywriter’s best friend. Why?  Because the right hyperlink construction can give you permission to speak about things that you’d never get away with otherwise.  Here’s an example:

You’re crafting an About Us page that focuses primarily on a company’s history while throwing in a few credibility increasing features like a picture of the actual office and the team of employees, etc.  But what you might really want to do is openly brag about all the home-runs the company has had — except that you feel a self-promoting tone might be “against brand.”

So you simply use self-deprecating link that talks about “our brag sheet” (or something similar) that links to exactly the kind of self-promoting copy you knew you couldn’t get away with on the About Us page.  Why?  Because any reader who clicks on a link to your Brag Sheet has mentally given you permission to brag. Following that click, you can brag without looking like an egocentric jerk.

Similarly, you could link to that same kind of content with an “Our track record” link placed most anywhere else on the site.  Again, by clicking on “our track record” clients have given you permission to talk, at length, about the company’s successes.  Normally you’d want to talk about What’s In It For the Customer and how you can help them, but the link provides permission to ignore WIFFM for a bit while you build credibility.

First-Date-ConversationTo give you another analogy, this link permission for something like “Our Track Record” is kind of like a date explicitly asking: “So what about you? What’s your story?”

And if you ponder that analogy, especially in light of context, I’m sure you’ll come up with even more lessons about linking, persuasion, and online conversations 😉

In fact, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that last analogy. Tell me what you came up with…

2010-01-02_2245The daily “gind” of life so fully stuffs our memories that it often takes a special effort to see bigger picture changes.  You just can’t get a clear “before and after” picture of things without taking mental snapshots at specific moments in time and comparing them.

But without some kind of associational prompt, most people won’t flip through their gallery of mental snapshots to make that B&A comparison.

Anniversaries are meaningful precisely because they provide that prompt; they make seeing the changes easy.

Nobody looks back on and reviews the last 12 months of their life in June.  They save that for New Year’s – unless of course there’s some other prompt that sparks the comparison, maybe a college professor seeing yet another class graduate.

Or maybe the prompt is more associational than temporal, like revisiting a certain place, say your home town, the house you grew up in, or even your college campus.  Inevitably, those returns bring back memories of your previous visits, thereby highlighting the changes that have taken place in your life (and in you) during the intervening years.

So what’s the practical application here?  Three things:

1) We love stories and messages that bring things back “full circle.”

This technique, in fact, seems to be a favorite over at J. Perterman.  Just check out the copy for these three items.  All of them bring you back full circle with the last line or two of copy.

2) Your copy should bring the reader forward in time to highlight accrued benefits.

Provide readers a mental image of themselves looking back on and being thrilled with their decision to buy because of the change/improvements/benefits they’ve reaped over the course X months.

3) You shouldn’t be leaving this time-stamping thing to chance.

If you offer a service that moves your clients from point A to point B over a period of time, you should figure out how to stamp these points into your clients memories and how to graciously remind them of the anniversary.  This will allow you to highlight the progress and change without chest thumping.

Same thing with durable goods.  Let’s say you make flip-flops so darn good that people fall in love with them.  Would it hurt you to send them a thank-you post-card or e-mail 6 months or so past the time of purchase?  Let ‘em know you appreciate their business, remind them of all the great features that they’re still enjoying but may have taken for granted by this time, show ‘em a picture of what a new pair looks like, and let ‘em know that now’s the time to buy next season’s pair at a special price. By sending that kind of e-mail, you’ll have reactivated everything the client loves about your flip-flops while also highlighting the not-newness of their current pair and the opportunity to update.

What about you?  How are you taking advantage of – or creating your own – anniversaries?

MustReadClassicsBookshelfIt happens to the best of us.  As copywriters, marketers, and entrepreneurs we get waylaid by our own best intentions, by our efforts at learning more about our craft, keeping up with all the must-read posts, magazine articles, and business books, and so on.

The end result: a reading diet way too rich on mediocre prose and way too low on first-rate fiction and poetry. Think about the last 10 books you’ve read and tell me that’s not the case.

And, in general, as you read, so shall you write. Garbage In, Garbage Out. So here’s my vitamin-enhanced fiction-reading commitment for next year:

  • one short story, OR
  • one chapter from a novel, OR
  • At least one poem, OR
  • A chapter from the Bible, OR
  • One first-rate play or screenplay

I’ll read at least that much fiction each day, every day.

As far as New Year’s resolutions go, I think this one is probably one of the most pleasant I’ve ever made, and will very likely turn out to be one of the most effectively life-improving as well. I hereby recommend it to you.

Anyone else make a writing-specific resolution this New Year’s?

savethecat_bookcover_revised3-200x300I never would have guessed that a 30-second commercial could be structured on the same storytelling beats as a typical 90-minute movie.

And yet that’s exactly what the late Blake Snyder demonstrated in his last book, Save The Cat Strikes Back.

If you’re not familiar with the Save the Cat series of screenwriting books, let me explain.  Blake Snyder breaks the typical movie down into 15 dramatic “beats,” that also coincide with traditional 3-act story structures and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth/hero’s journey cycle.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can download all 15 beats on the “Blake Snyder Beat Sheet” along with a diagram of how the beats line up with a basic 3-Act Structure over at the official Save The Cat Website.

At any rate, it’s important to keep in mind that these are the structural beats for feature-length movies – that’s what makes it so cool and semi-mind-blowing that they also work for a 30 second commercial.

So here’s how Blake broke down the dramatic structure of a Pledge Commercial, using these same structural “beats” that he uses to teach scriptwriting:

“The Day I Discovered Pledge

Opening Image – A downcast housewife.  Home a mess.  Dust everywhere.  This “before” snapshot depicts the Set-Up, and even a Stasis = Death moment, for it looks like things won’t change.

Catalyst – Then our hero discovers….. Pledge!

Debate – “Should I use it?”

Break Into Two – Yes!

Fun and Games – With a spray can of her B-story ally, the delighted home maker flies through the house, dust vanishes like magic, tabletops glow.  And the “false victory” at Midpoint shows she can live like this all the time.  But there’s a problem….

Bad Guys Close In – To have the “new,” she must give up the “old.”  Can our hero face the truth of what she must sacrifice?

All Is Lost – What “death” has to occur?  What “old idea” must be gotten rid of?  What is the “All Is Lost” moment of our Pledge commercial?  Why it’s dropping Brand X in the trash!  It’s the furniture polish that our hero used to use that is now obsolete.

Break Into Three – Having dispensed with Brand X, the synthesized pair finish up the housework with delight and…

Final Image – Dressed in her tennis outfit, racket in hand, a newly together housewife walks out the door, leaving the primally named Pledge atop a very shiny table to guard her home.

The End”

So what’s the point of all this?  Three things:

1. To reinforce the importance of scripting your online videos.

That pledge commercial probably had very little dialogue, but the messaging was still scripted as intensely as a feature-length film.  And the same thing occurs with the vast majority of high-conversion product videos and viral videos.

More importantly, if you can and should script an interactive video, shouldn’t  you also “script” visitor interaction with your Website?  Surely you’ve given thought to what happens on this or that page, but have you considered the overall “persuasive arc” that would take place as the visitor moves through your site?

2. To reinforce the importance of Story in your online messaging

We may claim to be “just the facts” kind of guys and gals, but we’re not.  We wouldn’t be human if we were.  As a persuasive technique, Story rules, even in:

3. To recommend Blake Snyder’s books to you if you haven’t read them.

His Save the Cat series is well worth the read, regardless of whether or not you have any aspirations toward writing film scripts.  Just check out his Amazon reviews for his first and second books and you’ll see.

Welcome Back from the Holidays

Oh, and I also wanted to welcome everyone back from the holidays.  Hope all of you enjoyed some much-deserved time off.  Thanks for reading my stuff.  I’m resolute in my commitment to bring you as much great material as possible in the coming year.

P.S.  If you have any suggestions for topics or anything you’d like to see covered, feel free to e-mail me.

2009-12-23_0111Conversion Optimization consultants, more than a few copywriters, and most SEO experts used to look down on Flash-based sites.

Flash sites weren’t well indexed by search engines and had a bad habit of turning a pull medium into a not-so-interactive video.  Oh, and their content was often more gratuitous than persuasive in a flash-animated splash page sort of way.

Most all of that has changed, and we’re really starting to see interactive video come into its own, as is the case with Eloqua’s new promotional/lead generation video.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should take a few minutes out of your day to take a look.  And maybe spend a few more minutes to poke around different pathways and responses.

Another great example is Boone Oakley’s “YouTube Website,” as demonstrated by their home page that I’ve embedded below:

YouTube Preview Image

But make sure to look past the technology to see the copywriting.

Yes, you read that right: I said copywriting. That video – including each and every one of it’s forked paths – was planned out, scripted, and storyboarded. The video is cool; the messaging is brilliant.

Viewed through that lens, you’ll notice that most of the core persuasive points remain the same regardless of whether you click on “Marketing” or “Sales” or “Executive.”  What changes is the focus on this or that feature set, the videos ordering of taking points, and the perspective in which some of the material is covered.  Brilliant.  And a technique that Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg pioneered with text-and-hyperlink-based sites.

So while I love the video and I think it represents new opportunities to inject personality and charisma into interactive “conversations,” keep in mind that technology has to support messaging, and the core interactivity involved is no different than that of regular old embedded hyperlinks.  Proper persuasive planning is still required.

trust2If people are suspicious of facts and figures, and they won’t believe unsubstantiated claims, what the hell can a copywriter fall back on?

You can fall back on demonstration.  This ones a favorite of infomercials and it was the one quality that the late Billy Mays insisted on when selecting products to pitch.

Or you can use a Reality Hook, where you tap into the undeniable truths already resident within the minds of your audience.  Here’s a pitch perfect example of that as recently covered by Influential Marketing Blog:

Remember the days of getting eight hours of sleep? Neither do we. Most of us these days are getting a scant six hours of sleep. The equalizer? The all-new Sealy Posturepedic.® Designed to eliminate the pressure points that cause tossing and turning.

How did we achieve such a miraculous feat? Well, the short version (there’s a more technical version below) is that it used to be, we either had push-back support or pressure relief. Never both. So, with some very smart guys called the Orthopedic Advisory Board, we made the push-back support/pressure relief dilemma history. And voilà, the new Sealy Posturepedic was born. Mattresses that make the six hours of sleep we do get, a better six.

A couple of points:

1) The reality hook should not be a “Master of the Obvious” statement.  The hook, rather than being a cliche, should either uncover the falsity of a cliche, or be a fresh observation of a common, but mostly unvoiced, experience.  Don’t try to get all NLP on your readers by pacing them with brain-dead observations in the hopes of “forming a chain of yeses.”  Respect the intelligence of your readers, please.

2) The reality hook only gets your foot in the door. It get’s your audience predisposed to see you as on the level and to continue reading.  And while these are very good (and crucial) things, you still have to weave in other credibility enhancing techniques and genuine substantiation.  In this case, Sealy builds increasing credibility by admitting a former downside or limitation: back support and pressure relief are kind of mutually exclusive.  Makes sense right?  And they do this while also letting the reader know that they’ve got the science and proof to back up their claims of having transcended that dilemma through engineering.

3) The reality hook is usually an observation about a problem and annoyance, which means you better be able to talk about how you’ve overcome that annoyance in the life of the customer.  In other words, you transition from the reality hook to the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) principle as fast as you can.  Again, Sealy does this by talking about their mattresses’ ability to make 6 hours feel like more sleep and to eliminate pressure points while also providing back support.

And really, I think that last point goes beyond copywriting to strategy.  As my friend, Chuck McKay, will tell you, a sure-fire strategy for many small businesses is to  find what pisses people off about your industry or market and then offer a product or service free of that annoyance.  One-hour Heating and Air Conditioning is a perfect example of that, and you can listen to there very first radio ad (and reality hook) by clicking the link below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Page 28 of 32« First...1020...2627282930...Last »