Having incredible copy is one of the fastest ways to increase your conversion rates and sales, yet so many companies are terrible at it.
Recently, I decided to improve my copywriting skills, so I talked to my friend Neville Medhora, who is a copywriter. The reason I trust his judgement over others is that besides being the most popular copywriter I know, he actually does client work four days out of the week. He rewrites copy every day, then sees it in action through every industry (online, offline, ecommerce stores, software-as-a-service businesses, etc).
I immediately saw a 20 percent boost just by using Neville's tips to rewrite the sales copy for my recent real-estate-investing book. (I'm split-testing the page now -- visitors might see one of several versions.) I don't know about you, but a 20 percent lift overnight is pretty darn awesome!
(Maybe I should have stated this first: If you don’t know what copywriting is, it’s the rearranging of words so they sell better.)
For the purpose of helping those in the Entrepreneur.com world achieve incredible lifts in sales conversions, I probed Neville to get answers about the biggest “wrongs” people make in copywriting and what they should do instead. Here are his top five copywriting "hacks" in order:
1. Sound like a human.
You. Are. Not. A. Robot. Affirmative.
Please don’t talk like one. When we talk face to face, we have no problem saying things in a casual tone. But whenever people sit down at a computer to write copy (for webpages or emails), they tend to go all formal, like this:
All of that could’ve been much easier said (and easier to understand) if it was written more casually, just like the way you speak. In different industries, the tone of voice for your copywriting may vary. However keeping things slightly casual reduces confusion and is more efficient than long-winded and vague language.
2. Don’t bore your cold-email prospects.
Bob likes football, telling dirty jokes and drinking beer. However, when a salesperson tries to cold email Bob, he or she ends up sound like a boring robot. This leads to unread or deleted emails.
The problem is a lot of salespeople tend to formalize their emails to look professional. Neville tells me that he actually tested this in many industries (including banking and business-to-business sales), and found that a “casual tone” always outperforms boring emails.
For example, in these B2B email templates from inside Yelp, two versions were sent out to potential customers: A boring email and a casual-sounding one.
Yelp boring template email results:
- 50 sent
- 33 opened
- 1 response
- 3.33 percent response rate
Personalized template results:
- 50 sent
- 35 opened
- 4 responses
- 11.43 percent response rate
Whoever says “I can’t write casually because I’m in a market that doesn’t tolerate it” should just look at those results. It was initially worrisome to have salespeople sending out such “casual sounding” emails, but when results went from 3.3 to 11.4 percent, everyone changed their minds.
What would happen to your business if you tripled your response rate overnight?
3. Don’t try to sound like a behemoth company if you’re not.
Neville tells me that in the hundreds of cases of consulting he does, one of the funniest patterns he see is people trying to create a company tagline that sounds like a big company. Since he told me this, I can't stop seeing this across the web. According to Neville, it actually ends up backfiring.
What a lot of businesses fail to see is that the cliche taglines come from billion-dollar companies that have been around for decades. What I learned from Neville is that you don't need to be clever, you need to be clear. Neville showed me how to create a tagline using a three-step process for creating one that sound more descriptive:
- Dump out your entire business in a few sentences.
- Trim it down.
- Trim it down some more.
For example, using this three-step process, here’s how Entrepreneur.com would make a tagline:
- “Entrepreneur.com creates articles, videos and other resources to help motivate, teach, celebrate and put entrepreneurs on the path to success in the business world. We have been doing this in various formats since 1973.”
- “We create media for entrepreneurs to help teach and celebrate them and showcase other entrepreneurs. We’ve been doing this in various formats since 1973.”
- “Inspiring, informing and celebrating entrepreneurs since 1973.”
This “trimming down” process works with all your copy. Whether in an email, a webpage or a magazine, it’s always helpful to not try to be too clever. Don’t try to “sound big” because it always results in vague and boring copy. Trim your copy down to it’s basic elements, and remember: Copy that’s simple and casual sounding is simple and easy. Copy that’s too clever is bad and confusing.
Related: 10 Steps to Effective Copywriting
4. Don’t write headlines that are “clever.” Write headlines that actually sell.
Legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman would talk about headlines like a “slippery slope”:
- The job of the first line is to get them sucked into the second line.
- The job of the second line is to get them sucked into the third line.
- The job of the third line is to get them sucked into the fourth line.
In this article about headlines that sell, you can see samples of how to make headlines such as this, including this easy headline formula:
[End result they want] plus [time period] plus [address the objections]
A simple formula such as this can help you write much better headlines. Even for “boring” topics, this formula can really spruce up a headline. For example, if we’re making a case study for a seller of concrete:
[Get your concrete poured for under $45/yard] [in 3 days] [without it cracking]
Try applying this formula to something you’re selling. Use it as the title of a webpage or an email subject line.
5. When you sell, disguise it as an “advertorial”:
No one likes being explicitly sold to. It turns people off. That’s why you should sell by using this formula:
- 70 percent: Giving good information
- 30 percent: Selling
This way the person gets awesome information from you, plus you get to pitch them a small sale. This is much like how you would write an advertorial.
Typically, people don’t like reading a sales pitch, but if it contains a ton of great information, they won’t mind. This style of mixing great info with the sales pitch is one of the best ways to make people pay attention to your sales pitch without getting turned off by it.
Hopefully, some of these tips get you writing differently, and leads to a boost in sales.