I think that by now everyone pretty much agrees that words are an important part of your website and your online marketing campaign. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, sometimes just a few words can provide the right mental picture your audience needs in order to make that final buying decision.
For many business owners, writing can be a daunting task. Sure we know our products and services inside and out and putting what we know into words is easy enough, but that's about as far as it gets.
Is that enough to sell? Sure.
Could more be done to sell better? You bet!
Copywriting can be very technical for what is considered a creative field. Once you start factoring in personalities, personas and temperments, copywriters find that it's not just about typing a bunch of words on the page, but strategically using words to speak to many different people in many different situations.
Yeah, that can get exhausting.
And in the midst of all that you actually have to sell the product or service that you offer. Again, putting your knowledge to paper (or the screen) is one thing, but "selling" is entirely different.
How to copywrite to sell
There are many processes in copywriting that are powerful and effective. I'm going to provide one that I have found fairly easy to implement, yet extremely effective. In fact, when followed, it can actually make copywriting about your products or services easier, because it helps you focus on specific, important aspects of what your visitors need to read and understand.
Instead of just writing whatever you can about your products or services, which for some can be monotonous and boring or lead to a lack creativity, this format helps you stay tuned into the writing process and makes the end result smoother and more focused. You'll find that is flexible, extremely adaptable and helps you stay on-point, meeting your visitor's information needs while moving them through the selling process.
Step 1: Expose need (the problem)
The first thing to do is to spell out the need or the problem that your visitors have. This need is what drove them to your site to begin with and while most of your visitors already know this (some don't), it is important to spell out the need on the page. Doing this sets the stage for your readers and invests them in finding the right solution.
But many readers are looking for something without fully understanding or knowing that there is any real problem. They could be filling a want, but by exposing the need you've just turned a casual peruser into a definite shopper. Stating the problem and spelling it out in vivid language is crucial to getting visitors invested into your content, and therefore the solution which you'll provide next. Once the reader fully understands the problems, they are more likely to continue reading as you next present the solution.
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Step 2: Sympathize and demonstrate importance (the solution)
Next you have to provide your readers with the solution. This is your a chance to provide information about your products or services. But you don't want to just throw info about your products at them, you want to show that you sympathize with your audience, that you understand their situation, and that you have a solution that will help.
It's surprising how often people are willing to live with whatever problems stand in their way, so you also need to express how important your solution is to them. The more they feel like you truly care (and you do, which is why you sell what you sell) the easier it will be to convince them that you are the one to provide the solution for them. Speak to them on their level, show that you've been in that position or understand the hardship they face.
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Step 3: Tie need to benefit , WIIFM (the benefits)
Now that you've outlined the problem and demonstrated the importance of finding a solution, it's time to illustrate the benefit that your product or service provides. This is classic example of providing the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) principle. Ultimately, that's what everybody needs to know; Yes, I have a problem. Yes, it's important to correct the problem. But really, what good is it to me?
It all comes down to the benefits. Don't just tell your visitors what you do or provide, but express the benefits of what you do. Don't just rattle off specifications, explain what those specifications mean to them. You may know what "100% cotton" or a "tough plastic outer casing" means, but the reader may not. They need to be told that 100% cotton keeps you warm, dry and comfortable in all weather and that the tough outer shell means it won't break when dropped. These things mean more to the reader than just the basic description.
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Step 4: Justify and give call to action (the action)
Once you've laid everything out for your readers it's now time to move them to the sale. You'll find that just presenting the information above is not enough and many people will still balk at making the purchase. Remember, there are always outside forces working against the sale. Finances are tight, the spouse won't approve, not sure if now is the right time, etc. You can overcome this by justifying the action you want the reader to take.
For many, all they need is the final "reason." Use that reason to tell them how having their problem solved is better for them than not having it solved. You can also justify in terms of comparing costs of your product/service to something else. An example of this would be, "costs less than your cable TV bill" or "with our expert knowledge at your fingertips you'll never have to worry again." The more you can appeal to their emotions the more justified the reader will feel in committing to it.
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How much text is too much or too little?
One of the questions that I am often asked is how much text do you need in order to sell. Well, the answer to that is only as much as is required. There is no magic number of words. It all depends.
What you want to do though is to format your writing so it sells with as few words as possible, while providing as much information as possible for those readers that require more lengthy product/service descriptions.
And doing that is not quite as hard as it sounds. In fact, the entire sales process can be wrapped up in a single four sentence paragraph. That can be your first paragraph or your only paragraph, depending on your needs.
If you need more than a paragraph then the same four steps can be worked into four paragraphs or more. Again, it all depends on what you are selling and how much information needs to be provided. You can even take this a step further by using all four steps in the first paragraph, and then go through the four steps again throughout the rest of the content only expanding on each point as necessary. This allows you to sell to the quick readers with the first paragraph and sell (again) to the visitors who like to consume as much information as possible.
However you develop your content you want to make sure that you are speaking to your readers on their level. This four step process helps you to provide information more from the visitor's point of view rather than your own. The more you give the visitor what they came for, rather than what you want to feed them, the better opportunity you have to capture them not just as a single purchase customer, but a customer for life.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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