Power Persuasive Copy to Punch Up Sales

  |  September 24, 2004   |  Comments

What's the number one online activity? Reading. How to make your copy matter.

Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself. --Aristotle, "Rhetoric"

Whether it's email or a Web site page, copy that's persuasive, easy to read, and measurable maximizes results. Save customers' time and bolster your bottom line by writing and laying out content that works online.

If visitors arrive on your site and don't read what you've written and don't take the action you desire them to, your marketing and Web development dollars have been wasted.

Harnessing the Power and Profit of Words

By words the mind is winged. --Aristophanes

Words, despite their considerable seductive power, are largely overlooked on Web sites, large and small. Many companies eager to spend tens of thousands of dollars on photography, graphic elements, coding, even Web analytics nevertheless shell out very little to improve copy.

Persuasive copy has an explosive effect on conversion. XGaming, builder of X-Arcade, an industry-grade game controller and product line, enjoyed a conversion increase of over 200 percent, due largely to improved site copy.

Knowing X-Arcade's customer base was key to improving the copy. That information reveals relevant benefits to feature and highlight. It also helps determine the appropriate tone and attitude for copy.

X-Arcade, Before and After

The home page copy before:

Play Thousands Of Arcade Classics On Your PC

Relive your favorite classic arcade games, like Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Robotron, Galaga, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter! The X-Arcade Kit includes all the hardware and software you need to play thousands of arcade classics on your PC for free!

Never Purchase Another Arcade Controller Again

The X-Arcade separates itself from the crowd with the video game industry's first lifetime warranty, indestructible parts and support for any video game system or PC. These great benefits will ensure the X-Arcade is the last joystick you will ever need to buy!

It's notable the copy attempts to employ customer-focused language, evidenced in this case by generously using you and your.

The home page copy after:

Relive Thousands of Arcade Classics

X-Arcade is a line of bulletproof industrial quality game controllers and gaming products that inject the ultimate arcade experience into your PC, MAC or game console...

Install your X-Arcade and instantly relive those adrenaline-pumped moments in the arcade, battering the joystick, pounding the buttons, grinding your teeth, and tasting the thrill as you make your mark as the game's top scorer. Your X-Arcade Kit arrives stuffed with all the hardware and software you need to play thousands of arcade classics on your PC.

The only thing missing is a place to drop in your quarters....

Here we applied "Frosting," a technique named after Robert Frost. Frosting gives life to what would otherwise be dull copy. Instead of writing "gaming products that give you the ultimate gaming experience," we wrote "gaming products that inject the ultimate arcade experience." "That inject" brings the sentence into the present tense. It also adds spice and associative meaning to the copy.

More from the "after" home page:

Built like a friggin' tank!

Flimsy plastic is swell for Tupperware and skirt hangers, but shouldn't you be demanding MORE from your game controller?...

Every molecule of your X-Arcade product is constructed with industrial grade materials, no dollar store plastic. It literally feels like an arcade game machine.

This copy uses a technique called "Franking," from the photographic style of Robert Frank. It requires you to select a few details and use them suggestively, rather than outright. What's suggested here is the reader's current game pad is woefully inadequate, reinforcing his motivation to move beyond the ordinary game pad onto the X-Arcade.

Volvo, Before and After

Even if your product doesn't lend itself to a fun style like the X-Arcade, you don't have to settle for boring, stiff corporate jargon.

Take a look at the Volvo Wheel Load copy before we took our pen to it:

Powered by the Volvo D4D high performance, low emission engine, this all-rounder provides high rimpull, excellent penetration and fast acceleration in whatever you do. With its superb low RPM performance, the Volvo engine responds immediately to the operator's commands, making your operation more productive.

This is typical, dry, predictable, product-centric copy. Features such as low emission and low RPM performance mean little to the reader.

Here's the rewrite. Note how it maintains a professional voice while still placing the customer at the center.

MOVE IT -- WITH EASE, SPEED & COMFORT

It's our job to help you do yours -- no matter how big. And the full line of Volvo Wheel Loaders is always up to the task. Whether you move rock, earth, timber, sand or snow, a wide range of Volvo Wheel Loaders and attachment options are available to help you conquer the elements.

Dig deeper in this section to find the perfect Volvo Wheel Loader for your operation...

Climb into the cab of a Volvo Wheel Loader and get to work. Along with unmatched production and power, Volvo Wheel Loaders help you move it -- with ease, speed, cost-efficiency and comfort.

A shortcut to improved copy is using more interesting verbs. Verbs add powerful association to your product. "Conquer," "dig," and "move," add action, movement, and energy to copy.

Here's more from that rewrite:

WORK MORE COMFORTABLY
  • Double-filtered cab air system lets you breathe fresh and easy, even in dusty conditions.

  • Improved noise insulation effectively blocks out external noise, keeping you alert and focused.

  • Optional Comfort Drive Control minimizes fatigue and static muscle strain by switching operation.

      The most effective means to tout product features includes a headline that first states the benefit. Each listed feature substantiates the claim by placing the reader in the copy, then offering specifics in customer-focused, present-tense language.

      Improve Your Site's Copy

      • Frost the copy. Find interesting, unusual ways to say what might otherwise be dull.

      • Use Franking to reinforce reader motivation. Obvious is boring. Hold interest by using few details and making strong statements in subtle ways.

      • Pump up verbs. Replace conventional verbs with interesting ones that bring life and action to copy.

      • Lead with relevant benefits. Use product features to substantiate the product's claim. Specifics help people imagine using the product in the present tense.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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