Compelling Content Series: Conversation-Based Copy-writing
The purpose of the Compelling Content Series is to give you the tips needed to make your website content more compelling and relevant to a reader. Each post in the series will make it easier than ever for you to really connect with and move others.
In the last post, we covered the topic of Voice – about knowing your audience so you can appeal to them in the best way possible. Today, we’re going to discuss in this article how to go about doing so with Conversation-based copy.
Timing Is Everything
Before the days of the web, marketers had a different system for measuring how audiences responded to their products or ad. During those days of one-sided communication (the company spoke and we listened) the common belief in Marketing and Advertising was that – at least where print ads were concerned – an early “call to action” (“Do this now! Buy Today!” etc.) – brought the most sales.
Today, with the Web, and a more two-way conversation, things appear to have changed drastically. If too much is asked for , too early in the interaction, you will get “no” before you can get a “yes”. Here’s a real life example, let’s say someone, who you don’t know, and may have just met, asks for your phone number and email address. Your innate sense of social propriety will give you, at the very least, an uneasy feeling. Even if you overcame this natural feeling and you turned over your private contact information, you will feel uneasy or even irritated when they get in touch. This is because the “call to action” came too soon in the interaction. If the stranger had waited until a rapport (even a slight one) had been established, you wouldn’t have given a second thought to turning over the very same info.
Think about your content as an online conversation. Spend some time considering your information from the reader’s point of view. Doing so will mean that your audience will be ready to consider taking whatever action you are asking. Ask yourself, “has enough communication occurred by the time I put in my “call to action””? The best rule of thumb for today’s marketplace is to place most of your “what’s in it for them” content before your “call to action”. In this way, you have had the chance to tell them want you want them to consider BEFORE asking them for anything. This holds true whether that action is a “like” & “share” on social media platforms (such as Facebook), an email signup, a subscription, a purchase, or a donation.
Keep in mind that there are ALWAYS exceptions to rules! There are times when an early call to action will work. A good case in point is when readers are already primed to act and when the cost of acting is minimal, because of brand recognition, or previous contact, or a myriad of other reasons. Again, this is another case when thinking through who your intended audience is and where they are in the process works best. Test different ideas, and be aware that the old adage that early calls to action are always the best way to sell – is no longer true.
Keep it Simple
It’s been said that you can write copy that’s clever or write copy that sells, but rarely can you do both. While clever copy may bring people closer to your product or business or brand. While being clever may make your product, brand, business more memorable, that won’t necessarily translate to bringing you closer to their wallets. If what you want from your audience is for them to like your brand at first sight and convert them to being fans, aim for headlines that are easily understood and aren’t going for anything intellectual or too clever.
Some Tips of the Trade
First, It is most common for a headline to be written after the content. Try writing the headline first, then the copy – If you write the headline first you take a big step in keeping yourself on topic and avoid getting the message mixed up along the way.
Second, a little-known tip in headline writing is the power of starting with the word “get.” When you start a headline this way, it almost forces you to write an effective headline that focuses on the benefits your audience will receive. Not on what you, your company, brand or product offers them. There is a big difference here – think about it for a moment. For example: If you had a website that sold subscriptions to online data storage, instead of a headline written like a question-sentence (see Voice) “Why Try Smart E-Cloud?” and eventually mentioning a perk to buying the subscription like 3-months free subscription trial; you would change it to a statement sentence with the word “get” at the beginning: “Get 3 Months Free Online Storage with Smart E-Cloud.” This puts right up front what the reader gets … direct and to the point. Let’s be honest, we all like to know what’s in it for us – first!
There is plenty of evidence that starting calls to action with verbs is the best way to get results. Many people, however, make the mistake of assuming that any verb will do. In your average day browsing the web, you will be asked many times to “click here,” “sign up” and “submit.” These verbs often work reasonably well, but they rarely work best.
Related to this, is that most “calls to action” ask the audience to complete a task, rather than telling them what they will receive. Instead of asking your audience to “sign up for a free 30-day trial,” tell them they will “get unlimited access for 30 days.” The first one suggests your audience should fill out a form; the second one suggests they will get something for free.
Facebook does this well. Rather than asking you to “Add App” or “Install App,” they invite you to “Play Game.” Zynga also uses this approach. Rather than asking you to “Add on Facebook,” they invite you to “Play Now.”
Again, considering your content from the perspective of your reader – and giving it a conversational feel isn’t that hard. Be sure to always give information about what is in it for them (how do THEY benefit from whatever you have online); Keep the message simple and not “too clever”; Try writing the headline first and use the word “get”. These simple tips will have you writing compelling content that will benefit both your readers and your online goals in no time!