The headline sells the copy and the copy sells the product.” – Andy Maslen
Copywriting has and always will be one of the key skills for business to communicate with their consumers. After the human voice, persuasive writing has retained its position for over 2,000 years as a critical medium withstanding or being integrated into all analog and digital mediums. Copywriting was and still is used to raise awareness, communicate product or service benefits and persuade and influence to convert leads into customers and meet business goals.
How do we continue the fine tradition of copywriting and reap the rewards of persuasive written communication?
In “Persuasive Copywriting: Using Psychology to Influence, Engage and Sell” Andy Maslen outlines the critical perspectives and skills to writing effective copy.
- Writing should always be: personal, pleasant, professional, plain and persuasive.
- Copy should always be written for the reader’s perspective and be sympathetic to their mindset.
- All copy should be written from the perspective of empathy and understanding of the customer and the need that they are trying to satisfy – without understanding a reader’s pain point their emotions cannot be reached.
- Copy should rely on storytelling, the reader’s story, not yours.
One of the more universal and simple formulas for writing copy is AIDA:
- Attention: gain the attention of the reader with engaging and relevant headlines.
- Interest: provide novel and engaging information for the reader.
- Desire: utilising storytelling with the reader as the protagonist to illustrate the benefits offered.
- Action: explain to the reader how they can take action to capture the desired state that the product or service provides.
With these ideas in mind, let’s examine Ontraport’s landing page to examine whether their copywriting meets the mark. Ontraport is a company that sells marketing software that visually maps marketing campaigns and customer relationship management.
- Attention: Ontraport courts attention with a primary headline of “Your campaigns at-a-glance” in conjunction with 5 scrolling headlines that mention: predicting customer value, mapping your entire set of marketing activities, visually seeing the connection between marketing activities, discover opportunities to create more value for yourself and customers. Since arranging sales funnels and integrating them with customer relationship management appears fiendishly complicated to me, this certainly grabbed my attention.
- Interest: Ontraport then declares “Find out what thousands of businesses have already discovered.” while displaying social proof by showing the logos of prominent companies that utilise the software such as: Entrepreneur.com, INC. and the Huffington Post. I certainly want to know what is valuable enough to convince large companies to change from Marketo to a much smaller company.
- Desire: Ontraport’s copy outlines the three key benefits that their product provides: a visual representation of all digital marketing activities and how they relate to each other, provides data about all these activities and their conversion rates and allows users to build their own custom campaigns or use best practice templates. These benefits are explained in a way as if one of Ontraport’s sales staff were directly speaking to the reader and empathising with their frustrations with current solutions.
- Action: each section of the landing page shares the same call to action, detailing how readers can discover more specific information about product features as well as having their pricing plans at the bottom of the landing page. Readers can click the plan that suits them best and land directly on a sign up and payment page.
- Personal: copy uses second person language, speaking directly to the reader.
- Pleasant: tone is optimistic and friendly.
- Professional: writing is free of spelling, formatting and grammatical errors.
- Plain: chosen language is clear and concise, lucid and easy to understand.
- Persuasive: copy offers compelling benefits to the reader compared to their current circumstances.
- Empathetic: copy identifies frustrations and pains that occur when using other marketing software or a combination of them, speaks like a friend sharing a new discovery with the reader.
A warning for those trading in international markets.
After you’ve spent hours researching your ideal customer, empathising with the disparity of their current and desired state, laboriously created a persona with all their characteristics and traits, crafted copy that stars that persona as a protagonist overcoming their problems with the help of your product and published it in the right channel to reach them – you may think that you can sit back and analyse your communication to find what could be improved next time and count the orders streaming in.
Wrong! In today’s globalised marketplace marketers must ensure that their communications are translated and presented correctly to international audiences. Poor translation could not only waste all the time you spent creating your careful prose but potentially damage your brand as well as Mercedes Benz experienced when originally translating its brand name into Chinese.
When launching in the Chinese marketplace, Mercedes Benz initially translated their name as “Bensi”. “Bensi” may seem similar enough to the brand’s Western trade name but in Chinese means “Rush to die”, a particularly inauspicious name for a luxury car manufacturer. Fortuitously, Mercedes swiftly responded to rebrand with the new name of “Benchi” which means “Run quickly as if flying” before too much damage was done.
The key takeaway of Mercede’s branding blunder is to be as scrupulous and careful when translating your business communications as you are when writing them, to make sure they are interpreted the intended way you intended by your audience.
Blog.printsome.com. (2017). 15 brands that learned how to translate the hard way. [online] Available at: https://blog.printsome.com/marketing-fails-wrong-translations/ [Accessed 24 Jul. 2017].
Maslen, A. (2017). Persuasive Copywriting: Using Psychology to Influence, Engage and Sell. 1st ed. London: Kogan Pages.
Ryan, D. (2017). Understanding Digital Marketing: Marketing Strategies for Engaging the Digital Generation. 4th ed. London: Kogan Pages.
Traveler, B. (2017). Bad Brands and Translation Blunders – Business Traveler US. [online] Businesstravelerusa.com. Available at: http://www.businesstravelerusa.com/world-wise/bad-brands-and-translation-blunders [Accessed 24 Jul. 2017].