Paint A Picture In My Heart

This article is about finding the right words to sell stuff from a web site.

Let’s say I’m trying to sell a digital camera and color printer combo, online. (Yes, I have. It’s not all idle speculation.)

If I were doing this in a catalog or in a store or in a large print ad, I’d do things the old way. I’d show some wonderful color photos of the product and a happy user or two. I’d write long copy that painted pictures and gave every scrap of detail a prospective buyer might need.

But online, I have to work a little faster.

Not everyone has unlimited online access at a fixed price, so they may be in a hurry. I can’t show those big, high-definition photos because of download times. I can’t write long rafts of copy like in the good old days of direct mail, because reading text on a screen is tough on the eyes.

(An aside: In 1986 I wrote four test letters for a Diners Club acquisition mailing. Just the letters in the mailing changed. Letter one was one page long. Letter two was two pages. Letter three was four pages. Letter four was eight pages. The winner? Just read the list in reverse: The eight page letter did the best, then the four, then two and then one. But for us, today, an eight page letter online just isn’t going to work.)

So if you have just a few lines in which to sell this camera/printer combo, how would you use them?

Here’s what I wrote:

  • Take Party Photos…and print out a copy for everyone to take home.
  • Capture that kiss at an Anniversary Dinner… and print out photos in minutes.
  • Print pictures of the Bride and Groom… for everyone to take with them as they leave!

And yes, there was some brief copy on product specifications and price and guarantees and so forth.

But those six lines were what I wrote to replace the glossy pictures and the long copy I might have used offline.

Did it work? I believe so. With this client, I don’t get exact response figures. But I do know I wouldn’t see them for dust if I didn’t bring home the bacon. (Just to mix another metaphor.)

Anyway, you may have noticed that throughout those six lines I didn’t mention either the word “camera” or prnter.” That’s a little unusual.

But the omission was deliberate. I didn’t want my prospects to be thinking about the actual items. I wanted people to think about how good they’d feel when they used the items.

Is this the old feature/benefit routine again? No.

Here’s a feature of a digital camera: It saves images to a disc.

Here’s a benefit: You’ll never have to buy a roll of film again.

Here’s the extra step: Imagine how good you’ll feel when you hand a set of wedding photos to the bride and groom before they even leave the reception.

One of my rants, mantras or whatever is this: What motivates us all to buy anything and everything is the desire to feel good.

So when time, space and technology are against me, I go straight for the heart. I say, in one way or another, this item or service will make you feel good.

And I try to paint a picture for them to hold in their hearts – there and then – so they can anticipate that feeling before they even buy the item.

That’s the meat of it. Get your prospects to anticipate that good feeling, and I think you’re in good shape to make the sale. In fact, you don’t have to make the sale at all. If you make them feel good, they’ll sell themselves.

Is this brilliant concept all my own? Nope. I first heard about it in 1981 from a pharmaceutical sales manager at Eli Lilly.

But the concept never really rang true for me until I thought about it in the context of online direct selling.

And within this context I think it fits the bill perfectly.

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