Copywriting Mistake #1:
Your Web Copy Induce Sleep...or
Why do some
salespeople sell like gangbusters while others fall flat
on their face? Because what they say, and how they say
it, is everything.
The same with advertising copywriting. Your copy is your
surrogate salesperson. And the way it is written has
everything to do with whether or not your ad sells, your
website converts, your business succeeds.
difference between underperforming copy and brilliant
copy can translate into many thousands of dollars over
time. Bad copy can actually have the opposite effect of
damaging your image and suppressing sales.
Yet many advertisers don't get this. Copy is an
afterthought. They spend extraordinary amounts of time,
energy and money setting up a business, then doom it to
failure with poorly written, cheaply bought or crudely
It's not enough just to be out there. Your copywriting
has to work hard, really hard, to grab attention,
communicate clearly, convey benefits, overcome
skepticism, outfox the competition, generate excitement,
exude energy and charm, and close the deal...all within
minutes! Just like a star salesperson would.
It takes ability, experience and time to craft copy like
this — to research, write and rewrite it to achieve
exactly the desired result. That's why exceptional copy
comes at a price. But one that will repay you many times
Copywriting Mistake #2:
that Confuse, Rather
Always assume your prospect
knows nothing about you, your business, your products,
your services. Because invariably they don't. Even if
they did, with everything else cramming their brain,
they need to be reminded and reassured you are who they think you are.
And do what they think you do. (That's why one of the
world's most recognizable logos, Coca Cola, is usually preceded by the word "Drink."
There's always some yokel out there who doesn't know
what to do with it.)
Given that, it's appalling how many ads, websites, email blasts,
brochures, and sales letters mistakingly assume the
reader has prior knowledge and understanding of what's
being sold. So they start smack in the middle of things,
or use bewildering insider jargon, virtually assuring
the loss of most prospects at the outset. A foolish
waste of money.
Look. You're very close to your work. Probably too
close. That's why most self-written copy is overly
technical, presumptuous, confusing, and disconnected.
Unseasoned and unimaginative copywriters don't produce
much better, because they merely parrot the information
you give them. (Been that route?)
An experienced copy pro can come in, do a quick study of
your business and category, gauge your prime prospects'
knowledge and sophistication level, then — and
this is critical — put himself or herself
objectively in your customer's shoes. Only then can he
or she write the kind of engaging, kick-ass copy that
connects, motivates and sells.
Copywriting Mistake #3:
If you had
just three seconds to interest someone in your product
or service, what would you say? Think about it. What
would you tell them, in a handful of words, that would
make them stop in their tracks and declare "Wow, that's
pretty neat. Tell me more."
If you can't come up with anything, you're in trouble.
Big trouble. Because your first communication with your
potential customer — whether it's an ad,
webpage, sales letter, email blast, or brochure —
is your headline. And if that headline isn't absolutely
riveting, given today's fleeting attention spans, you
can kiss your prospect, and the money you spent
to reach her, goodbye.
Worse, no headline at all. It's incredible how many
websites greet their visitors with merely a company
name, or a feeble "Welcome." A sterling opportunity to
make a powerful statement about yourself or your
product... completely blown. If you were investing
$60,000 in a full-page ad in a magazine, would your
headline be "Welcome"?
Readers of your ads, and visitors to your website,
aren't looking to settle in for a long stay... or embark
on a scavenger hunt to decipher what exactly it is you
offer. They want it up front, and they want it now. And
don't try to justify a poor headline with the belief
that "it's all explained in the body copy." If your
headline doesn't work, they'll never get that far.
A successful headline embodies your unique selling proposition
(USP) — the product positioning that sets you apart
from everyone else — and communicates a
clear benefit to your customers. Without it, you have
little chance of convincing anyone to read further.
writing effective headlines isn't easy. It takes years
of experience and not a little bit of talent to boil a
business down to a few captivating words. But once
accomplished, it can send a never-ending stream of
intrigued customers on a quest to find out more.
That's one of the reasons why hiring a professional
copywriter is such a worthwhile investment. Why throw
away money on advertising that doesn't even get to first
Copywriting Mistake #4:
is copy that sounds good but says nothing. It is vague,
self-congratulating, grandiose, filled with cliches, and
fails to connect with a customer's specific needs.
Unfortunately, to their detriment, many businesses
believe this bland and toothless style of copy is going
to woo their prospects. Shoo them is more like
it. To give you an example of how stilted and
forgettable "corporatese" can be, the following passage
is quoted verbatim from a company whose real name has
been mercifully spared:
"XYZ aims to help the world's best
in their direction and performance
breakthrough ideas for clients, the business
world, and society at
large. We see the essence of our work as a virtuous
circle of insight, impact, and trust. We
continually strive to
generate deep insight into what drives
value creation and
competitive advantage in our clients'
businesses and the
economy as a whole. We work closely
with clients to convert
insights into strategies, whose
have a substantial positive impact on
Consistently delivering impact earns the trust that
is the foundation of lasting relationships. These
relationships serve as
a platform for still deeper insights
and more significant
Yeah, uh, but what is it you actually do? If
your copy sounds something like this, it needs help. It
has to come down off its lofty perch, grab attention and
talk turkey with specific, compelling, benefit-rich
selling points. In other words, it's not about you, it's
about what your customer can gain from you.
Copywriting Mistake #5:
Your Advertising Copy Undercooked?
You know how
distasteful and unappetizing undercooked food can be. Yuck.
You think people feel any differently about reading raw,
half-baked, poorly developed copy? Is this the memorable
first impression you want to make on potential
unripe ad pitch on one of three things:
1. Your copy is amateurishly written. Today everyone
thinks he or she is a copywriter. A noble aspiration;
but understand, it takes years of perfecting the craft
to know what to say, how to say it, and in what
sequence. It makes a world of difference in how the
reader perceives you... and believes you. Hemingway once
said that New Year's Eve is amateur night. Today, the
same can be said of the Web. It's overrun with the
ill-conceived blather of novices. Which makes superior
copy stand out all the more.
2. Even if your copy is written by a (sometimes
self-proclaimed) professional, the copy is often rushed,
not fully thought out, lacking in energy and
originality. That's because many so-called copywriters
(a.k.a. hacks) rely on quantity, not quality, to earn
their living. Or they're lazy. They just don't want to
make the effort. Their copy is presentable, but weak and
3. Sometimes it's the client who's in a hurry. Yes, you.
You'll spend weeks, months, even years developing a
business, then want your ad copy overnight. ("I'll show
my writer who's boss.") Bad idea. Waiting a few extra
days, even a week, for the copy to be developed properly
is well worth it. You're only cheating yourself by
When I started
out working for major ad agencies in New York City,
everything was created under tight deadlines. The job
got done but I always felt we weren't giving the clients
their due. Now I take the time to make sure it's the
best it can possibly be. If I can't do it that way, I
won't accept the assignment. The way I work is, I'll
write some copy, then set it aside to marinade a bit.
When I come back to it later on, I inevitably find a
better way to say it. Time is a potent editor. Winston
Churchill once wrote to a friend (and I'm paraphrasing
here): "Please excuse the length of this letter; had I
more time, I would have made it shorter."
Your advertising is the image you present to the world.
Do it right.
Costliest Copywriting Mistake #6:
Your Darndest to Shoo Web Visitors
I would say
roughly 75% of the websites I visit tick me off in the first
three seconds. That's how long it takes me to realize
there's nothing on the landing page that quickly and
clearly tells me where I am, what the site offers, and
how I can benefit from my visit. It's exasperating.
Sure, there's a masthead, but unless you're Apple Inc.,
that doesn't help. And usually there's some text, but
it's either written in tongues (arcane industry jargon
only the writer could understand), or so poorly
presented it requires piecing together scraps of
information over several pages to get even an inkling of
what's going on. Sorry, no time for a scavenger hunt.
Face it. If your site doesn't immediately inform and
excite your visitors, they'll be history in a heartbeat.
And that's just one of the things that annoy the
heck out of
potential customers and ensure they'll exit as quickly
possible. Here are some others:
Greet them with an epic slide or flash show. Give
time-pressed (and unimpressed) customers a
reason to bail out before they even reach your landing
page. And never mind the "Skip" or "Pause" button. Most
skedaddle before they even figure out where it is.
Make sure the font size
you use is a very small one, so people have to
strain their eyes to read it. And format your
copy in very wide columns relative to font size
that stretch across the page, which research
confirms is less inviting and more tedious to
read. (Newspapers and magazine have known this
forever, which is why you'll never see them
publish text in anything even remotely sprawled
out...only in narrow, easily digestible columns.
just to make your copywriting even more difficult
to read, use a light color that blends into the
an entire site of light-colored type on a
dark background. A little bit here and there is
okay, but when every webpage is composed of
reverse text you're pressing your luck with your
visitor's patience (and eyes).
Even worse, dark-colored
type on a dark background. See? Imagine having
to read several pages of this!
Just use common sense when displaying copy. If
it's difficult for you to read, it's going to be
difficult for others, too.
Scatter key information about your company and products
over many different web pages when it easily could
be accommodated in one or two. Make them have to click
haphazardly and repeatedly so they get a disjointed
presentation, rather than a cohesive, straightforward one
in which you control the flow of information.
And if all these don't work to rid your website of bona
fide prospects, omit an obvious call to action on each
page so even if they want to purchase your product they
won't know how.
Your landing page is the store window the world peers
through to get a glimpse of what you're offering. Wipe
away the fog and display quick, clear enticements that
pull people inside.
To find out why top companies with millions of dollars at
stake have entrusted their copywriting to me...view samples here.
And don't hesitate to contact
me if you need a quote.
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