Here are five ways, guidelines, ideas, principles to write more compelling ad copy…
Inspired by this episode of The Perpetual Traffic Podcast…
Know who you’re speaking to…
If you don’t really understand your audience, it’s impossible to be compelling. The first and foremost rule of communicating effectively (including in copy, selling, etc.) is to understand where your audience is coming from.
Dramatizing: let’s say you have an emergency. You need help. You need to urgently communicate this. You run up to the first person you see on the street, and shout breathlessly about your emergency and what you need. After a few seconds, they stop you. “No English.” You literally can’t be understood in this situation, because you don’t know your audience.
Of course that’s an extreme. Usually you share a language with your prospects.
But what about all the subtler things?
Who are they? What are they interested in? What do they care about? What are they paying attention to right now?
What do they believe about your market? You? What’s going on in the world? The news?
How do they feel about the message you’re conveying? The topic you’re talking about?
What do they know they know? What do they think they know, but they’re wrong about? What do they want to know, that they know they don’t know?
What are their relationships like? How does that impact your message?
Who else in their life will be impacted by a decision today — and how?
What are the most important aspects of their identity, and how does that relate to you and your message?
What do they do on a daily basis? What don’t they do? What don’t they want to do?
The better you know your prospect, the more you’ll be able to speak to them in a shared language, and from a place of shared understanding that’s far more profound than, “We both speak English.”
I’ve shared before about the power of creating narratives.
That is, in marketing we’re often connecting the dots to create a “new” idea.
For example, when I wrote about the backup solar generator, I connected the ideas of a rogue satellite and a man-made EMP weapon. Nobody that I could find had ever put those two things together in the kind of way that I was presenting.
Today I Googled it and found one of the international security experts I referred to in my marketing copy being quoted in media interviews, warning of the same situation.
The thing is, even though I “made that up,” it wasn’t B.S..
I wasn’t creating a fake and impossible scenario. I was creating a realistic scenario based on evidence I gathered — based on proof, credibility, and believability factors.
When you are creating these scenarios, you have to be candid about it. You can’t say, “This is going to happen tomorrow!” Unless, of course, you have proof it will.
Rather, say, “I have every reason to believe this could happen — and everything is in place that it could happen tomorrow, if…”
The message is essentially the same.
Except one triggers your prospect’s BS detector. And one is a reasonable presentation that will make sense to your prospects.
The same thing goes for any part of your message.
Especially anything you promise.
Prospects are pretty dang good these days at figuring out what’s real and what’s BS. And even if they don’t figure out before the sale, they’ll figure out after.
And today, that’s more dangerous than ever before. If you flat-out lie or are deceiving prospects, it will spread across the internets so fast you won’t know what hit you.
Not only that, all the most important places you might be advertising online (especially Facebook and Google) value their continued user happiness over your advertising dollars, and they are constantly kicking advertisers off for breaking their rules.
(Side note: despite the current debacle in the press, FB is likely only going to grow as an ad platform that businesses go to, because they will do what’s right for long-term user satisfaction. And where there are eyeballs, there is demand for advertising.)
Show you understand…
Tell your own story. Tell the stories of your successful clients and customers.
Show the problems faced. Show the solutions identified (your product). And show the outcome or desired result that was achieved.
It’s a limp noodle approach to say, “I understand your problem and can help you with it.” It’s something else entirely to demonstrate that through showing how you’ve been there, felt that, and managed to get through.
My “origin story” talks about how I used to work in the local gas company’s customer service call center. How I’d get yelled at when customers hadn’t paid their bill and got their gas shut off. How it was miserable — and how when I looked around seeing people working there as a long-term career, it made me mourn for their humanity.
If you’ve ever had a job you hated, that you just wanted to get out of, that likely resonates. It would resonate even better if I played it up.
It’s far more powerful, too, than if I were to simply say, “Stuck in a dead-end job?”
Everything you did to make sure you knew your prospect pays off here. By telling one good story of an experience they can see as an analog to what they’re going through (or have been through recently), you’ll connect on a far deeper level.
Mix it up…
Especially when you’re testing hooks and short copy ads, you want to test as many different things as possible.
Glenn Livingston once said something to the effect of, “Most people who think they’ve tested eight different ads have really just tested eight different versions of the same ad.”
That is, changing a color in an ad doesn’t make it a different ad. Nor does changing the phrasing of the same idea. Or punctuation. Or any of the thousands of other little tiny details that are often tested.
The top direct mailers used to (and sometimes still do) hire the world’s best copywriters at $25k+ per promotion, testing two or three of them against each other at a time.
Why would you pay three copywriters $25k each to write ads for the same product, knowing that only one will emerge the victor?
Simple: because three different writers will go for the win in three different ways, and one will end up a much bigger success. But you won’t know until you test their largely different ideas which one will be the best.
Today, you can simply roll out a handful of different copy snippets, fast, through things like Facebook Ads, to test at least initial market interest.
Test your assumptions about your audience. Test a lot of angles that you think might capture their attention. Mix and match ideas. Test things you think won’t work, as well as things you expect to be automatic winners.
The results will likely surprise you.
Then, with the initial data, double-down on what works.
Any good communicator knows what they’re trying to say, and the response they want. And they will triple-check their message to make sure it is clear and concise.
I like to use text-to-speech tools for my longer copy, that will read what I’ve written aloud to me.
Alternately, you can do a read-through, where you read your copy to a friend or colleague. Or simply read out loud, to yourself.
No matter which you do, I find this is the single-most effective way of making sure the message is what I want it to be.
It can help you catch typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes.
You can also use tools like Hemingway to ensure you’re using clear language. Your readability should be at a lower grade level. You should write with minimal modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). You should use the simplest word choices that fit. And you should write in simple sentences that are easy to understand.
Your message, in any media, should feel conversational. Like it can be easily spoken.
Last week, I was preparing copy for a launch. My client said they wanted to test a video sales letter version, as well as an on-page letter. I’d written it with formatting and some language choices to be on-page. I had to edit it to use as a video script. Because my copy is so conversational, there were probably less than 20 total edits over nearly 10,000 words.
This takes practice — especially if you’ve been trained to write like an academic. But it will lead to better, more compelling copy.
It’s funny because although this was inspired by a podcast, it’s very much in line with what I’ve been teaching for years. In fact, these just scratch the surface of the 17 principles in my Think Like An A-List Copywriter program.
I guess that’s what happens when you’re speaking from and to enduring principles.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,