“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” — Howard Gossage
Writing good copy and content is a hard thing. It takes time and study. Time to practice, time to read. There are some great books out there to help you with your writing chops.
If your bent is to be a great copywriter, then books like Joseph Sugarman’s , “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook”, is a gift. It’ll put you right about what copywriting is all about. It answers your questions.
If you want to write content that simply engages readers, then Joseph Sugarman’s book is full of eye-opening ideas about what makes readers keep reading till the end of your article.
Joseph Sugarman — The Book you Need
Joseph Sugarman’s book has an angle on all of your questions on what makes a good copywriter. He was such a great copywriter that he knew which questions his readers would be asking; those burning desires on how to be a great copywriter — all answered in his book.
A copywriter should always think about the reader and their questions. That’s how you give them what they’re looking for.
One of the answers is; you have to practice. Practice everyday like you mean it when you want to become a great copywriter.
Joseph Sugarman made a lot of money with copywriting. His message is that he worked hard on understanding the techniques of copywriting, and he practised like an Olympic athlete to achieve his goals, and turn his words into money.
If you want to learn how to use words to make money, buy his book and read it, use it, and don’t lose it. It’s a keeper.
Copywriting uses all the techniques found in most forms of good writing — except the business report — business reports are designed to send your manager to sleep.
Copywriting is about making your reader wake up and realize how important the topic is.
A fiction author can write a story and entertain her readers, but there won’t be many readers if she doesn’t work on the techniques of keeping the reader interested past the first page or two.
A copywriter must write a powerful headline to grab attention and lead the reader into the story — the first sentence of the first paragraph, then the second, until they’ve read the whole paragraph.
A fiction writer must do the same. This done by promising a solution to a stated problem. In storytelling, we must begin with a bang. Not an explosive device type bang, but an idea type bang that happens in the readers mind.
The reader must gasp a little at what you’ve written. That’s when they will want to read on. A fiction writer would love this response, a copywriter too.
The gasp, or sit up and pay attention effect of your first couple of lines, happens because you work on techniques of how to push a reader’s buttons.
If you buy a book to read for enjoyment you buy it because you were looking for a good story. A person who responds to copywriting does so because they have found what they were looking for.
When they start to read your work, they need reassurance they are in the right place, reading something that will give them a kick of entertainment, or help them make up their mind about buying something. People get tangled up in decision-making.
A copywriter will help the reader straighten out their thoughts on a subject and make a firm decision to buy.
A fiction writer will help them understand the heart of the story. The writer leads the reader with a game of softly-softly catchee-monkey. Gently beckoning the reader through each line.
Your copy writing should be aimed at the person who knows what they want, but they just can’t make their mind up whom to buy it from.
It’s the 20th century problem of 1st world people — too much choice.
Choice has become a big problem for shoppers. A supermarket can offer you a bag of flour to make cookies, but when you look at the shelf you are confronted by all the different types of flour. Each one claims to be the best type to make cookies and scones.
Copywriters show people that they have a problem and that the solution is in the next line of copy.
A content writer writes each line with hook that leads into the next line. Joseph Sugarman called this the “Slippery Slope”. Fiction writers call it making each word count. Cut the dross, show the action. They’ll keep reading.
The Heart of Writing Good Copywriting
Each day millions of people go online and look at products. If they aren’t searching for a product the search engines will make sure that they start thinking about buying something. The use of retargeting and “similar offers” is a powerful tool used by marketers.
Search for an answer to a problem, and soon you’ll be reading all types of solutions, then you’ll move over to the best solutions which will cost a couple of bucks — “you get what you pay for”, slides into your thoughts. Maybe buying a solution makes sense. It’s often the better choice.
You’ve convinced yourself that you purchased the right solution, and you’ll be happy with it — because within minutes you see it does the job.
The problem is a pain in the neck, the search is confusing, the solution is a purchase and relief from the pain-in-the-neck.
The buyer is full of conviction, then when you push the right buttons to trigger the emotions the reader will say “buy it.”
Emotions are stronger than the intellectual thoughts that weigh cons and pros. Emotions are motivation to do things, to take action.
The copywriter never allows the reader to drift while reading. You have to guide them through the pain-in-the-neck process by clarifying their problem. This helps your reader to straighten out those jumbled thoughts. You tell them that there is a solution and if they care to keep reading, they’ll discover that they can solve the problem pretty quickly.
You aren’t selling anything at this point. As a copywriter you put all your guile and coaching chops into this part of your copy. Clarify the problem for the reader. Making them ask the right questions.
You are working on keeping the reader’s attention — not closing a sale. That comes later.
Keeping the reader’s attention comes when they ask questions. You must answer the questions a little at a time — just enough to keep them reading till the end.
When the reader is convinced that they are in the right place by reading your copy, they will settle down and begin to feel good. Their emotions will begin to engage in the process of reading. The copy you write must tell a story that reflects their hopes for a solution.
A solution can be a nice holiday on some warm and relaxing island. An offer that educates the reader, gets them thinking about the best ways to improve themselves is a solution to their career problems.
This is where the power of fiction writing technique steps into the mix.
The reader is happy to keep reading, emotions are charged, and you now lead them into scenarios of what will happen if they actually possess the product.
Your copy has to be good enough to make them shift about in their seat, to feel the dreaminess of finishing an educational course, or how they will be totally recharged and ready for the city after their holiday, to feel it emotionally and physically.
You tell stories which involve their dreams and wishes.
People read things in stories and in your copywriting that make them jump, or stand up and do a circle in the room. Words make people move into action.
The story you tell must show them how they will feel when they own the product — not how it looks and feels — but how it will emotionally charge them, make their life easier, and why living without it will leave them wanting it all the more.
The greatest sales people in the world never try to sell to an unknown prospect. They know something about the prospect, the reader. The people they talk to have been qualified to the point that you know they are interested in a solution like yours.
Your product is what they are looking for, their knowledge is at the threshold of needing more confirmation that they are right. They need to be led into the emotional arena of buying. That’s a copywriter’s job.
Copywriters Don’t Drive Traffic, Marketers Do.
Copywriters write great words that clarify problems, they convince readers that they are in the right place.
Copywriters talk to qualified prospects who are at the dithering point in buying. That’s why the reader finds your work — they were looking for a positive piece of writing all about their needs.
They want somebody to tell them that their idea of a solution is right under their nose. It’s close to the end of the copy, it’s the call to action piece that you crafted so well, the reader knows it makes total sense to click through and purchase the product. You, the copywriter, drive sales — not traffic.
Close the sale, Call the Reader into Action
Good copywriting is fun to read. It can cause people think, comment, and to talk about what they’ve read. But if it doesn’t make them stand up and pull out their credit card it is useless.
People often don’t buy things they want because the salesperson or copywriter fails to ask them to buy. The lost customer wanders away from the copy looking for more confirmation. Still wanting it, but back in question mode.
They should have bought the product if they read the copy till the end.
Closing a sale is a simple thing — but it scares the salesperson. So many writers convince themsleves that their copy is so good, it’ll be a natural progression for the reader to click through and buy the product. That never happens. Readers need the confirmation that it’s okay to buy now.
They need you to guide their thoughts and feelings right up to the sound of a ringing cash register, then wave them bye out the door.
When asking for the sale good copywriters use all the tropes of a thriller writer.
To keep a reader on the edge of her seat, a good thriller offers the feeling of running out of time, if the protagonist can’t get to the otherside of the city by midnight, then the hostages will be blown to kingdom come.
In copywriting, an offer with a time limit will put people under positive pressure. If you sign-up now, you will receive a free book that sells for 12.99. After midnight on 24th of september, the offer will end — that’s tonight.
The book offer can be anything of value to the reader. No free kittens with each purchase , please — that won’t work. It’s stronger when the free offer has an obvious connection to the main product. The reader gets the freebie, and buys the product.
The same buttons are pushed when supplies are limited. Some industries have built a fortune on convincing readers and customers that what they sell, is rare.
Rarity increases social standing. Some people like to keep up with the Jones’ next door. Others get their kicks from owning something that the Jones’ can’t afford, or get their hands on.
Diamonds, top of the range cars, specialist equipment, designer clothes are all sold on the basis of rarity.
Rarity can mean that the seller will only work for serious customers. People who are prepared to pay a higher price and wait for the handmade product to be specially delivered by an elite corps of postal workers.
The idea of an item being rare also indictaes that it’s top quality product. You can’t tell a customer that their Samsung mobile is rare, handmade and that only one hundred pieces exist in the world. It has to be something special, desired, and only available to people with fat wallets.
You can use the device of reminding the reader that the price will be going up. If they don’t let their emotions take over and buy now, then they’ll regret it; come the morning they’ll still want it, but pay extra.
A thriller writer will put the main character into a desperate situation — time was short, but suddenly, it’s even shorter. The character has to make it to the hostages and save them, otherwise in the morning…
Recently, price hikes have become common. Platforms that offered free access for years are now giving time limits on free access, they will have to pay in future; but if they sign up to the full membership now, they’ll get in early enough to enjoy a full membership benefits, at slashed price later.
Gains and Losses
Remind your reader that there is a loss by not buying the product now. Reminding them of the benefits of really owning the product will reignite motivation — emotional feelings are behind every purchase.
Or go the positive route and reiterate the main benefits that they gain when buying today. If you can offer a guarantee, use it. Statistics show that a guarantee is high motivator, maybe a clincher in many purchases.
If a customer knows they can stop monthly payments anytime they please, their own logic tells them that they have nothing to lose, nothing to fear, and they should go for it — sign up and pay the first month. All that logic was emotions — people often confuse there own opinion with logical thinking. Opinions are emotional points of view.
Copywriting is tool. The tool must be mastered to be useful, that takes practice. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook is one of many books on the subject, buy it and start copywriting, it’s root source that has inspired and helped many writers turn their writing chops from weak to strong, from unprofitable to a fulltime income and more.
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