Jerry McTigue - Copywriter


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  The 6 Costliest Copywriting Mistakes
And Tips on How to Atone for Them

by Jerry McTigue

Costliest Copywriting Mistake #1:

Noddiing Off at Computer

Does Your Web Copy Induce Sleep...or Sales?

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.

                   Typing on iPad
The 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 constructed copy.

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 seconds!

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 over.

Costliest Copywriting Mistake #2:


 Ads that Confuse, Rather than Convert

Puzzled ExpressionAlways 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 usuallyDrink Coca Cola Sign 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, websit
es, 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.

Costliest Copywriting Mistake #3:


A Stinky Headline

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. Bec
ause your first communication with your potential customer whether it's an ad, webpage, sales letter, email blaHeadlinesst, 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 sel
ling proposition (USP) the producHershey's Chocolate Soda Adt 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.

Small wonder 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 base?

Costliest Copywriting Mistake #4:


"Corporatese" 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 organizations make
decisive improvements in their direction and performance
by sparking 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
implementation will have a substantial positive impact on
performance. 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 impact."

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.

Costliest Copywriting Mistake #5:

raw hamburger

Is 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 customers?

                       Undercooked Chicken

Blame an 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 uninspired.

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 rushing it.

NYC CrowdsWhen 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:

                  Go Away Mat

Doing Your Darndest to Shoo Web Visitors Away

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 Keep Out Signrealize 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 as
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.
And just to make your copywriting even more difficult to read, use a light color that blends into the background.

Have 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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