Since putting myself out here as kind of the teachy type (better teachy than preachy, that’s what I always say), I’ve been getting a lot of questions.
Really great questions, actually, like the one in my headline, and several more related to the topic of calling people to action.
Which, technically, is just another way of saying we are insisting people do what we want because we say so. :-)
More on calls to action in a moment. For now, we can all agree on the need for moving people to do something with our copy. Catch phrases, links, headlines, offers… And yet many of us don’t want to sound “hypey.” What should we do?
(One of my clients said “hypey,” not me. Though I like hypey as much as I like teachy.)
I tend to answer questions like this in calls, emails or in the Fizzle.co online business forum I frequent (<<affiliate alert. I love it there. You can try it for a month for $1). But now I’m going to start answering them here. As one Grasshopper suggested, addressing these reoccurring issues in my posts will help a lot of people.
So here goes:
If You Don’t Stun Your Readers in 1 Second Your Site Will Self-Destruct
Ugh. Literally, I was asked to address this kind of writing, and how it is often advised, and sadly, used with success.
One of our pen to Zen readers was sent a headline that said “You have exactly one second to capture the attention of your website visitor.”
And her comment (paraphrased): “Really? Pressure much?”
What do we do when the whole world seems to have picked up on this tone, and nearly all the marketers who are advising us, including some greats, keep pushing us to PUSH THEM?
1. Don’t do anything that makes you feel bad about yourself. There is no point to you being in business or blogging online if you’re going to force yourself to write in a voice that goes directly against your grain, in order to try to convince people of things you don’t even believe in. You’re unlikely to be convincing that way, and even if you can be (good copywriters can probably sell anything for a while, it’s just a matter of words, right?) it will come back to bite you eventually. Just because it’s “true” doesn’t mean you “have” to write it.
Let’s look at the copy that prompted the question that prompted this post. Do you only give someone one second, really? One second and BOOM, you judge–impress me instantly or I’m gone. That’s it? No matter what you’re looking around for?
I get the point. But not the intention. If I were writing for my audience, it wouldn’t feel right to write it that way. I would need to cultivate understanding–that kind of threat would seem ignorant of their feelings.
2. Do what works best for your audience and you, as a team. There is no point to you being in business or blogging online if you’re going to keep quiet about all your great ideas, products and services, and how they can help your readers. You want people to take action, because they will be better off for doing so, right? You’re in a relationship of value with your audience. Know them. Are they anything like you? How do you like to be spoken to, and sold? Learn the right love language: coach, cheerleader, dad… Time Keeper?
What happens that first moment someone sets eyes on your website? See–same topic, less pressure. Somewhat magical, actually. I feel good about it that way. Do you?
3. Understand the difference between hype and help. Many are surprised to hear me say this, but there is a valid use for what some consider “hype” — it might sound like repetitive silliness, or high-pressure commands, but some hype is actually help.
Most of us writers study successful direct response copy and infomercial campaigns as examples of how helpful hype can be for the right audience, right product, right reason. Such as when…
- It accentuates key benefits or uses that should not go unnoticed: A blanket with sleeves the doesn’t trap your hands? Perfect Snuggie love. And when your hand saw doesn’t cut it, Ginsu knives can… all for the amazing price of $19.99. This kind of copy might work well for you as part of your opt-in offer, within a sales letter or on a squeeze page.
- It hits the right emotional notes for the audience: Who wants to get ripped in 90 days and results that don’t lie? ORDER P9oX NOW. Who wants to lounge around the pool looking sexy and easily tone up without breaking a sweat? Get your Thighmaster now! Appealing to real audience motivation isn’t always hype.
- It’s at the right “volume” for the market space: While cleaning products like ShamWow! ought to be loud, or risk being lost, something as sensitive as an acne care product like Proactive needs the volume turned down a bit. Though beautiful, famous faces come clean about zits and Proactive hits the calls to action, hard, during their stories.
Each of these products was (or still is) a best seller. The writing isn’t the only reason, but it helps. Is it all hype? Not exactly. Perspective is everything, so that’s why point number 4. to follow is so important.
4. See what works and tweak if it doesn’t. There are many takes on “best practices” in copywriting. You might know by now I don’t agree with them all. But who cares? I can’t have all the answers for your individual situations (no one can) and you can’t do them all anyway.
But based on the reactions we all have as we view writing by other marketers, we can say this much: we appreciate compelling copy that helps us decide on the services and products we want and need. We have all bought stuff.
And also, we know what we don’t like.
In my 30-Minute CopyMaster book (freebie), I show you how to improve your writing by going past the audience’s wants and needs related to your product or service, and instead see your readers as real live people who you’re in a relationship with. There’s more to what you say than what you’re selling.
When you take this perspective, you cultivate powerful human connections with your “targets” and make new, better choices through a simple editing process.
You master your copy. Kinda like your thighs. (wait for it…)
And you’ll know that a call to action, with urgency, is nothing to be ashamed of or avoid. Neither is a motivating command, if it comes from an honest place and is in the reader’s best interest. Have something important you want people own, try, or read? Tell them why and tell them how! Find the right emotion. Set the right volume. That’s your job as the writer.
You can look around my site as an example. There are colorful buttons. Links placed in posts because I want people to take advantage of my free resources. My headlines vary from tried and true templates for clarity, to the creative fun ones that make me stand out a little.
I sleep well at night with everything that is written here. Some of it has worked better, some eh, I tried. That’s when I might come back and edit. But I’ll never take the position of writing something simply for effect or to push my own agenda.
Because I know that won’t go over well with you, Grasshopper.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my e-book and other resources, or follow my Make a Tiny Website guidebook to get a big discount on these streamlined, step-by-step instructions. Because you can learn specific ways to get better at all this stuff I get questions about!