Archive for the ‘Copywriting’ Category

Copywriting: 5 proven discoveries that strengthen copy

November 19th, 2015 No comments

Great copy isn’t about writing beautiful prose; it’s about knowing what to say to your prospects, when to say it and how to say it so they immediately become engaged, stay engaged and ultimately buy whatever it is you’re selling. Pretty words and design don’t matter as much as understanding what your prospects are thinking, what they expect during each stage of the buying process and then giving that to them.

That’s why MarketingExperiments has dozens of clinics focused on helping you write subject lines, headlines, body copy and more to help you achieve that. We call it “aligning copy with customer thought sequences.”

Get a condensed version of this information in the latest MarketingExperiments Web clinic. In about 20 minutes it distills more than 15 years of testing and research into five discoveries that can immediately help you write copy that sells. Watch it here.


Discovery #1: You have only seven seconds to arrest the attention of your prospect

That’s being generous. It’s critical to lead any copy with what the customer will value most about your product and nothing else. Show customers what’s in it for them immediately.

Version A leads with value: “Australia’s Most Trusted & Accredited Business Hosting Company.”


Version B doesn’t — it provides an explanation, but no value: “Business Dedicated Servers Australia.”


The Result: Version A achieved 188% more conversions.


Discovery #2: Never present the solution before building the problem

Never assume prospects know that they need what you’re selling; if they don’t know they have a reason to buy, they’re not going to.

Consider a company that sells a do-it-yourself solution. Unless you’re are a hardcore hobbyist, chances are you’re not going to know whether you need it. However, the Control in this test assumed you already know precisely what was wrong, and would be delighted that this product can rapidly and easily repair the problem. In contrast, the Treatment began with helping you diagnose whether you have the issue that the product resolves.

The Result: The Treatment achieved 36% more sales.


Discovery #3: Clarity trumps persuasion

Clearly communicate what’s valuable about your product upfront. If your prospect values it too, that will be more than enough to engage them. Only allow creativity to add to that value, and never allow it to detract. You may not win writing awards, but you’ll get far more sales being boring and clear than creative and confusing.

Consider this travel insurance provider. It started out with this vague, but clever, headline:

It switched to a headline that outlines value to the customer — peace of mind and the credibility of being in business for 35 years.

The Result: The Treatment achieved a 330% increase in conversions. Though other elements of the page were also changed in the Treatment, the clearer headline drove prospects further down the page and contributed to the lift in conversion.


Discover #4: Be ruthlessly unsentimental with your copy

To paraphrase Einstein: “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it well enough.” Be sparse with words and, if you can’t, maybe you don’t know your product’s value well enough.

Generally, long copy creates friction, keeping people from moving forward in the sales cycle. However, in some cases where a product requires high commitment at a high cost, more copy has produced better results.

You just need enough copy to communicate the value of the product. Delete the rest. 


Discovery #5: Asks must align with expectations

If someone asked you to go on a first date and marry them in the same breath, you might think they were a little presumptuous at best. Yet, too many marketers do something similar in their campaigns. When they should be asking someone to “click here to find out more” they’re asking them to “buy now.” Or some iteration of that.

Consider this email that asks recipients to “Get Started Now.” That’s a pretty big commitment for someone to make based on an email.


This call-to-action was changed to “Estimate My Monthly Payment” which requires far less of commitment from the recipient.


The Result: Seven percent more people clicked through to get that estimate and 125% more people bought the product.


Use this information to immediately start increasing clickthrough and conversion by putting your copy to the test. Ask yourself:

  • Does my copy immediately arrest the attention of the prospect?
  • Am I sufficiently building the problem before presenting the solution?
  • Does my copy clearly express the value of my offer?
  • Am I using the proper amount of copy relative to the magnitude of my ask?
  • Does my call-to-action align with the expectations of my prospect?


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Copywriting: How to tip the scale so customers act

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Email Marketing and Copywriting: Why you should send “spam”

April 30th, 2015 2 comments

OK, I’ll admit it. The headline to this blog post is absolute clickbait. I would never suggest any marketer send spam.

But, perhaps you should send “spam.” And “free.” And use other email spam trigger words in your email marketing.


Writing email with one hand tied behind our backs

Deliverability is a huge concern for email marketers. After all, if our emails never get into customers’ inboxes, they won’t be very effective.

One of the ways for our messages to avoid being labeled as junk email is to avoid specific words used by outright spammers.

But as a writer, avoiding these words can be difficult. After all, spammers use them because they are often the clearest, and sometimes most evocative ways, to communicate with potential customers. If we avoided all of these words in our email sends, we would seriously hamstring copywriters’ efforts to communicate with customers.

And then there’s the fact that the list of possible spam trigger words isn’t short. The list I linked to above included 393 words and phrases. This includes some pretty basic words such as “phone” and “now.”


Do spam trigger words really matter?

If you follow the latest research and top thinking on deliverability, these words don’t really matter. At least, not a whole lot (more on this topic at the end of this blog post).

Yet …

I’m pretty sure that if I step on a crack, I won’t break my mother’s back, but I’m still careful where I walk on the sidewalk. And how many elevators have you been in that don’t recognize having a 13th floor?

We logically don’t believe urban legends and superstitions, yet when blatantly confronted by them, something in our brain holds us back.

This was the position I found myself in when writing the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter that featured this article — ”Email Marketing Research Chart: Why subscribers flag email as spam.”

After I sent the final copy to our copy editor, Kayla Cobb, I had doubts. Second thoughts. Superstitions. What if that word — “spam” — really did send all of our email to the junk folder? Only one way to solve this conundrum: To the split test!


Control — More spam than a Hawaiian pizza

Subject Line: [Sherpa Chart] Why email is flagged as spam

Read more…

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Can You Write Viral Copy like The Huffington Post? Here’s 6 reasons why you might not be stacking up

December 22nd, 2014 3 comments

If you’ve ever opened a Web browser, chances are you’ve visited The Huffington Post. That might be related to the fact that they (by a landslide) publish the largest number of viral stories on the Web, according to NewsWhip.

One of my favorite things to do when I find out someone is the best at something is analyze their method … and steal the hell out of it.

So I ran a query through one of my favorite sites, BuzzSumo, a content analysis search engine (my description, not theirs), and pulled up HuffPost’s most shared content over the past year.

Because you’re all marketers, and most of the world’s marketing is full of junk, I decided to let you look over my shoulder at my little swipe-file of sorts.

After studying the top 100 headlines The Huffington Post has written in the past year, I found a few reasons why most marketers (myself included) are failing to connect with their audiences compared to The Huffington Post, who is obviously pretty good at it.

Here are the top six reasons I found for why your viral copy isn’t as good as The Huffington Post’s (I’ve included the headlines I found so you can steal them with me.)

WARNING: Some of the headlines you see below may be offensive to some people. Please understand that at MarketingExperiments, we do not take any official positions on politics, religion or personal beliefs. We are only interested in studying what works in marketing. The headlines below are simply a dataset to be studied and learned from, not an official statement on a particular position MarketingExperiments takes.


Reason #1: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience discover something new about themselves

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy 1255809
5 Minutes In A Mom’s Head 1039541
10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World 624656
18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently 705417
The Achiever, the Peacemaker and the Life of the Party: How Birth Order Affects Personality 364977


Apparently, most Huffington Post readers are highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings. If that’s your audience, then start writing content like the articles you see above.

If it’s not your audience, then think about what you know about your audience that they may not know about themselves and incorporate it into your copy.

Helping someone understand his or her self is probably one of the best things you can do for a person. Also, it’s a big business — just ask your psychiatrist or look at your next bill.

  Read more…

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Why Subtle Changes in Button Copy Can Significantly Influence Clicks

September 29th, 2014 2 comments

Earlier this year, a team of analysts approached me about a closed case that was reopened for additional interpretation. It was about button copy, and the results were initially baffling.

Here are three of the prominent treatments and their respective clickthrough rates, each with a statistically significant difference in comparison:


Does this look familiar? While Daniel Burstein did a great job covering the “what” of this test earlier this year in this MarketingExperiments Blog post, he did not have opportunity to go into the why:

  • Why didn’t “Start Free Trial” win?
  • Isn’t there more value by highlighting the word “Free?”
  • Why is it that the word “Now” in “Get Started” was the difference between underperforming or outperforming “Start Free Trial?”

Everyone in digital marketing is convinced that a call-to-action is a button or a link — something that people can click, or touch, and it will take them off the current view and into another. Because of this preconception, they often create and improve their calls-to-action with the same kind of tunneled focus.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the customer looks at it.


To the customer, the clickable thing has no meaning outside of its surrounding context

Take this classic example of context from Leonard Mlodinow’s book Subliminal.


Read this sentence:

“The cooking teacher said the children made good snacks.”


Now read this one:

“The cannibal said the children made good snacks.”


The meaning of the word “made” has significantly changed hasn’t it? In fact, the meaning of that one word is dependant on the context in which it is placed.1

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Copywriting: How to tip the scale so customers act

July 10th, 2014 1 comment

When writing copy for promotions, content and advertising, many writers tend to be pulled between two possible directions: creativity on one side, and communication on the other.

How can I be creative and still effectively communicate the ideas I have?


Think like the customer

Creativity and communication are not the two opposing forces in the customer’s mind. The customer is weighing these two decisions:

  • What is the value of this?
  • How much will it cost me?

“Essentially the prospect, even if at a subconscious level, engages in elementary math: VfAc - CfAc, which is to say, they subtract the perceived cost force from the perceived value force,” said Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, parent company of MarketingExperiments.

This idea is illustrated in the heuristic below to help you see the net force of the value proposition:



You can dive deeper into the above heuristic in the MECLABS Value Proposition Development Course.

In this MarketingExperiments Blog post, we’ll take a look at two key copy elements – one very close to an actual purchase and another much farther up the funnel – and see what value and cost factors the customer might be considering.


Key Copy Element #1. Button copy


“Select Lodging” vs. “See All Rentals”


The button copy on the right achieved a 427% higher clickthrough rate than the button copy on the left.

This was not a single-factor test; other elements were changed on the landing pages that likely affected conversion rate, as well. You can see those in the full MarketingSherpa webinar replay of “Web Optimization: How one company implements an entire testing strategy every day.”

But, this is still a good example of weighing value and cost.

“Select Lodging” subtly implies more cost. The language puts the monkey on the customer’s back. Now, the prospective customer has to take the time to look through different options. Cost is about much more than just money. In this case, the cost is time (a form of mental cost). Of course, this button also implies the cost of actually purchasing the lodging (a form of material cost).

On the flipside, “See All Rentals” implies more value. Nothing is asked of the prospective customer. Instead, there is an offer to the prospective customer. Essentially, the copy conveys there are many rentals for the customer to view.

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Copywriting: Do you take your prospects on a journey?

February 27th, 2014 3 comments

You’ve seen the statistics. Customers receive 12 million billion marketing messages a day.

Plus they’re busy, and have short attention spans.

So you may think, “I have to get my sales message and value prop to my customers as quickly as possible.”

But your goal as a marketer is not to get quick information in the hands of a customer. It’s to take them on …


The buyer’s journey

Let’s use “Star Wars” as an analogy.

George Lucas could have made a two-minute video on YouTube and said, “So … they’re brother and sister. And on top of it, the dude he’s fighting is actually his dad. Weird, huh?”

But if he did, I’m betting he wouldn’t have this level of brand loyalty more than 30 years later.

Storytelling is powerful.

It helps people see a new way of looking at the world. As a marketer, that includes how the world would be with your product or service in it.

By taking your prospects through a story, you help to welcome them into the world of your product, help them drop their defenses to actually hear what you’re saying, and get them to internalize your value proposition.

Your challenge is to decide how every element of your marketing can take them on that journey. For a simple purchase, this journey may happen in a single email or print ad. For a considered purchase, it may occur across an email drip campaign, nurture track or an entire marketing funnel.

You can watch the free MarketingExperiments Web clinic replay, “Copywriting on Tight Deadlines: How ordinary marketers are achieving 103% gains with a step-by-step framework,” to learn more about how story connects to the conversion process.


Photo attribution: Star Wars Blog

Read more…

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