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One of the most labor-intensive, time-consuming marketing tasks is copywriting.

Not necessarily writing the copy but agonizing over what has been written.

As a copywriter, I do this all the time.

I fret to an insane degree over every sentence, reading the copy over and over again, questioning whether the wording could be stronger.

It literally keeps me up at night.

Marketers I observe do the same thing.

They mark change after change on a nearly finished promo, agonizing over whether the copy says exactly the right thing, in exactly the right way.

The irony, of course, is that in most situations, all this agonizing is for naught.

I don’t mean to say that copy is unimportant.

But most of the time, it wouldn’t make one iota of difference in response whether we went with “version A” or “version B”.

So I DO think you should agonize over copy but I think you should do it with only a small fraction of the copy in your promotion.

Specifically, here are the 3 “hot spots” in your copy where what you say—and how you say it—really, really matters:

>> The first critical portion of the copy is determined by its position in the promotion.

The critical copy in a #10 direct mail package is the outer envelope teaser—and the headline and lead of the sales letter.

In a magalog, it’s the front cover, the inside front cover, the headline and lead on page 3 and the back cover.

These sections are worth stressing over, because different messaging can result in dramatic increases or decreases in your response rates.

>> The second critical area is copy describing the central message, theme, or idea of your selling proposition.

For instance, do you position your energy stocks newsletter as a way to hedge your portfolio against a bear market triggered by rising oil prices?

Or do you talk about how the reader can profit from the “next big thing” in energy investing—which, according to your editor, is that crude oil will reach $200 a barrel by the end of the decade?

The “big idea” of your promotion—and the way you express it—really matter.

>> The third area where copy is critical is in the offer and on the reply element.

Offering a “free information kit,” for instance, usually generates more leads than the vague “send for more information”—the idea of a “kit” somehow being more tangible and sounding more valuable.

On the order form, changing even one word in the copy can mean the difference between a winner and a disaster—for instance, “$100 a year” vs. “$8 a month” or “10-day money-back guarantee” vs. “90-day money-back guarantee.”

It is worth your time—and your copywriter’s—to polish and fine-tune these areas…headlines, leads, offer, theme, and big idea…until you finally feel confident that what you’ve written can work.

You could spend the same amount of time agonizing over every other page of copy in your mailer, but since most of it won’t make much difference either way in the response and sales generated…well, why bother?

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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