Welcome Episode 34 of Write with Influence.
Last week’s episode was all about the pitfalls of relying on common marketing phrases and how avoiding these overused expressions can help your advertising copy truly stand out among your competitors.
These days advertising is such a large part of our lives that we can start to absorb it, and if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves writing copy that doesn’t reflect our business or our customer but instead mimics this advertising style and as a result, doesn’t quite fit.
So today I want to talk about what copy looks and sounds like when it’s a bit “off” and I will be giving you four factors to consider when thinking about your tone and style of language to make sure that your content matches your audience.
Listen to discover:
- The Audience Thermometer – four factors to consider when choosing language for your customer.
- If, how, and when it is acceptable to use exaggerated phrases and over-the-top descriptions.
- Conscious copywriting – how to avoid sales speak creeping in.
- Useful examples of how to write effective marketing copy that speaks to customers.
This week’s sketches demonstrate the importance of using the correct tone in your marketing material to create the desired customer experience. You’ll discover what a “Monster Grand Slam Funeral Bonanza” has to offer and find out what happens when a former SAS soldier visits the relaxing Rosebush Spa looking to “unleash his internal beast”.
Remember, copywriting doesn’t have to sound like advertising, but your copy might sound like that if it fits your audience and industry. Listen to find out how to strike the right balance in your marketing copy, meet the desires and expectations of your customer and most importantly, increase sales.
IS YOUR COPYWRITING STYLE CONFUSING YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Welcome to another episode of Write with Influence, a short show about copywriting. So how has your week been? Has it been productive? Fruitful? Satisfying? Challenging? Whatever it is I hope that you’re getting enough rest, drinking, plenty of water and eating the right food because I care about you.
What have I been up to? Well, last week we had some beautiful weather. It’s been snatched away from us now – it’s absolutely freezing. But for a couple of days, it was glorious. So of course, that’s all we talked about and it was all that was in the news. If you’ve never understood why British people talk about the weather so much, it’s because you never know what it’s going to do. I remember someone saying to me, “Why don’t you look at the forecast?” Forecast … forecast?! Amateurs! If you want to know what the weather is like, you have to stand outside because the forecast is never right, just ignore it. And if you do find yourself over here, no matter what time of year it is, if you’re going to be outside for any length of time, irrespective of the season, you will always need a range of accessible layers, including waterproof ones, and you will invariably get your selection wrong. So be prepared to be too cold in that t-shirt or end up carrying around the thick coat that you didn’t need all day. So yes, five days ago, beautiful sunshine, this morning, it snowed and we’re chopping wood for the fire.
I’m going to segue from the weather into today’s episode. So, you know that feeling when you don’t have the right clothes for the weather, you’re a little too hot, too cold, too wet? That’s what bad copy feels like when the tone of voice isn’t pitched at the right level for your business and target market. Now, I covered tone of voice briefly back in episode eight and I wanted to look at it again, especially because in last week’s episode, we looked at how using common copywriting phrases aren’t enough to be persuasive, especially if you don’t have enough depth or specificity to your audience. So today I want to talk a little bit about what copy looks like or sounds like when it’s a bit off and I also want to give you four factors that you can consider when thinking about the style of language or the tone that you have to make sure that it matches to your audience. First though, what do I mean by “off”? For me, this is where copy sounds like an advert. You know how TV adverts don’t feature regular people having regular thoughts and doing regular things. It’s always some woman in her thirties who suddenly wakes up one day and realizes she doesn’t know how to look after her teeth and needs to ask her dentist what toothpaste she should use. She’s often seen taking a fake bite out of an apple and at some point, she’ll be in the dentist chair, nodding enthusiastically and looking concerned, but then relieved at their advice. She’ll say things like, “I take great care to make sure I eat right but how do I know if I am taking care of my teeth right? I asked my dentist who recommended the toothpaste that he just happens to stock by the reception desk …” They don’t even talk like real people. We know it’s advertising – we don’t actually think this woman is part of a hard-hitting documentary about the secrets her dentist is going to reveal. And also, why hasn’t her dentist just given her some basic toothpaste advice before? Anyway, advertising has been such a large part of our lives that we can start to absorb it, and if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves writing copy that doesn’t reflect our business or our customer but instead mimics this advertising style and as a result, it doesn’t quite fit. I talked about this in last week’s episode – that reliance on copywriting phrases that we’re familiar with and we see around in marketing and how just because we include them in our copy, they don’t make it persuasive or effective. So for example, I was looking at a landing page recently which was aimed at coaching women through stressful situations and helping them to manage their emotions while doing so. But the landing page had that advertising feel. It didn’t sound like an expert coach advising me on my situation, and part of this was because the copy leant heavily into these marketing phrases. It wasn’t offering guidance, it was offering a survival kit. It wasn’t going to just help them survive, it was going to help them thrive and empower them with powerful methods, powerful secrets, etc. And the point is, it just stopped sounding like a real human being who wanted to genuinely help someone else and instead it sounded like someone who just really wanted to sell something to someone. And that’s when it feels off. But here’s where things can get a bit complicated in your copy – sometimes language like that is right on the money and perfect. It’s a bit like Saturday morning kids TV shows. It used to drive my dad insane when my brother and I were watching Going Live or some other show. He’d come in with tea and toast for us and just look in bewilderment and ask us, “Why are they shouting at each other? Why is everything super? Why is everything brilliant and amazing?” And we’d look at him like we didn’t understand what he was talking about because Peter Simon was about to fall into the gunge tank, and they were doing a phone-in with Bros later. What’s not to get excited about? For us as children, that level of enthusiasm was perfect, while the news, for example, was the most boring thing in the world. And you have to strike the same balance in your copywriting to get a good fit between you and your customer. It’s the equivalent of picking that perfect long sleeve hoodie on a lovely spring day that’s not too hot, not too cool, just Goldilocks. I get it, Amy, you’re thrilled about the weather, but how do I do this? Well, as I mentioned, there’s a number of different factors that you can consider and if you’re a copywriter writing for another business, it’s definitely worth going through these and giving them some thought as part of your intake and research for writing for that business. You don’t just want to assume that you know how you want to sound and then sit down to write. If you do this, you’re not being conscious about your copy. When you write, you should be able to explain why you’ve written each line the way that you have and if you’re not conscious about how you’re writing your copy, that’s when ad speak and sales speak can creep in and you might find yourself using phrases like skyrocket and accelerate and awesome without really thinking, are these the best fit for my customers? Now, in the complete Write with Influence course I include something called The Audience Thermometer, it’s a quick quiz that helps you understand how to pitch the right tone of voice at your customer, and today I’ve picked four quick factors from this quiz that you can consider when deciding on the tone, feel and language of your copy. These aren’t all the factors to consider, but it will give you a good start.
First of all, the price. Now, price doesn’t tell you everything about a product, but it will tell you some things. For example, if you’re selling a mainframe for a quarter of a million dollars, that’s a significant investment. It’s a serious piece of kit. It’s also something that while important, isn’t a toy. Someone isn’t necessarily going to be playing with it. It’s functional, it’s important, but it’s not frivolous, and so your language would want to reflect the gravity of that. Features will be important, security, trust, the service and support that you offer after the sale – all of those things would be detailed in your content. Imagine that you’re asking your customer to climb a decent size mountain. It’s going to take a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement, and that’s the sort of style that you would want in your language for a large purchase.
Now let’s say you have a much lower price range, for example, a $30 beauty product. Instead of asking your customer to climb a mountain, you’re asking them to take a small step. As a result, you probably want to have a lot of energy and a lot of encouragement to make them excited about making that purchase. If selling a mainframe is like asking a client to climb a mountain, selling a lower end product is more like encouraging your dog to get in the backseat of a car – lots of pats, excitements, some treats and a, “Go on, you can do it!” I mean, let’s say you were selling a $30 mascara or a foundation. You probably want a few superlatives in there, for example, amazing coverage, flawless feel, etc. And then perhaps you would pepper it with testimonials of people who have “never had coverage like it, it felt amazing on my skin.” You want your customer to feel happy in that moment, just enough to excitedly have the energy to make that purchase. So, price is one factor.
Another factor is industry. Certain industries have certain personalities and again, this isn’t cut and dried. I’m a big fan of borrowing from other industries and looking at the marketing in other industries. I’m also open to trying out bold styles of marketing in an industry that may be a little bit more conservative. One of my favorite books when I first started copywriting was Outrageous Advertising by Bill Glazer, and he applied the concepts of bold marketing to turn around his men’s clothing store. But it is good to be aware of industry personalities and to study the rules before you start writing copy for those industries and before trying to subvert those rules. So, for example, finance, insurance and medical tend to be, understandably, pretty serious industries. They need to be taken seriously and your language and style should reflect that. Being conservative in your marketing for those industries isn’t being boring, you can still be bold about the concepts that you’re talking about, but your language isn’t going to have that hyperbole feel of other types of consumer advertising. An alternative to these industries would be things like online marketing, business building courses, extreme fitness, and generally industries that promise those extreme personal results. These industries tend to be more over the top. Remember when I talked about getting your dog to jump in the back of the car? Well, it’s like that type of encouragement, but even more and you’ll see language and phrases like dig in, dig deep, hustle, excel, et cetera. Again, those exaggerated phrases and descriptions are very common: skyrocket, thrive, outperform, crush, etc. All of these would be pretty acceptable for these industries. Over the top language might be absolutely fine if it suits the energy of your brand and your industry, but just remember that this hyper excitement may not be suitable for every business.
[New Scene – ABC Funerals]
At ABC funerals we help you preserve memories, cherish precious moments, and find a service to suit your taste and budget. That’s why you need to come on down this Saturday to a monster grand slam funeral bonanza! Find us at the Superdome where we will be showcasing all our funeral options in this thrill-tacular mega rally for morticians. Our cremations crush the competition. Our burials don’t break the bank, and our competitive rates mean you won’t need to plunder or pillage to pay for your funeral. This is a roaring event with some of the biggest names in our morgue monster jam. See all the action in person, pay per view or listen live on WXKD sponsored by Burial Light Beer, Chum Chum Candy and Billy’s Big Bass Tackle Shop. Don’t miss out. Remember you can sleep when you’re dead.
The next factor to consider is the pain of the problem. Is it a deeply personal pain? If you’re in the coaching arena, you may be dealing with people who want to not only make a very personal change but may be concerned or fearful about what they will need to share with you and how vulnerable they will need to be to make those changes. For something like this where you have (maybe) a deeply personal pain and you’re going to guide them through solving that problem, you may want the language to reflect something like a shared journey to show that they’re not on their own, that you’re going to help them through this. So, lots of gentle encouragement, positive reinforcement, and talk about what’s possible without that seeming overwhelming. One way to do this would be to perhaps describe something that’s just a little bit out of their reach at the moment, but something that they could hopefully imagine happening. For example, if you teach public speaking, you might instead want to describe that feeling of just being comfortable in a room of people, not necessarily giving a presentation, but not being tongue tied as a party. Now, let’s say that the pain isn’t as personal as that, for example, if it’s a business purchase or a new project management tool, that pain may still be frustrating on a day to day basis, but it might not be on such a personal level so you’re probably not going to talk to them about whether this problem is keeping them up at night, you know, “Can you not sleep because of the ineffective nature of your team?” That’s probably not going to be your copy, but you probably would list the frustrations of knowing that the team could be working more effectively or faster if there was a better way of keeping on top of tasks.
The final factor that I’m going to give you to think about is the urgency of the problem, and this is definitely going to affect the language that you use. If it’s an urgent and personal problem, you’re going to want to couple a lot of encouragement with minimal friction – highlighting the key pain, reminding them of that pain, and then showing them how quick, simple and easy it is to eliminate that pain if they take action now. For example,
Are you sick and tired of not seeing results from social media? Use this complete content checklist and tweet template to increase engagement in two weeks.
That’s just a very basic example of talking about a frustration, giving them a very simple answer, and also reminding them that if they take action today, in just a couple of weeks they could start seeing results. Now, if you’ve got a longer sales cycle, if you’re selling software to the medical industry, for example, where sales cycles can be two/three years, you’re going to need a lot more in-depth research, statistics, stories, case studies and also guidance and reminding them about what’s at stake if they don’t start thinking about solving this problem today. The language still needs to reflect an urgent need and you would talk about the problems that they’re facing day to day, but rather than jumping to the sale, you’d spend time highlighting the considerations they need to make to solve the problem, and then show how those line up with what you offer.
So, there you go. Four factors to consider when choosing the language for your customer:
- The price
- The industry
- The pain of the problem
- The urgency of solving that problem.
That’s all for this episode. Remember, copywriting doesn’t have to sound like advertising or like a Saturday morning TV show where presenters shout at you excitedly, but your copy might sound like that if it’s a fit for your audience and your industry. The perfect copywriting mix is where you take the value of what you have to offer, you reflect the style of your business, and then you meet the desires and expectations of your customer so that you can promise that perfect customer experience.
[New Scene – Rosebush Spa]
Receptionist: Welcome to the Rosebush Spa. How may I help?
McNeil: The name is McNeil, formally SAS, currently motivational speaker. I just finished up at my three-day military mindset event for start-up businesses and I’m looking for some relaxation. How extreme is your relaxation?
Receptionist: You will leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
McNeil: I want you to relax the living S*** out of me.
Receptionist: You could start with a healing bath of Epsom salts.
McNeil: Is it freezing cold?
Receptionist: No, we calibrate it to be two degrees higher than your body temperature. It’s just delicious.
McNeil: What else do you have?
Receptionist: We have a detoxifying body ritual.
McNeil: What’s the ritual? A thousand squats? A three-day fast? Extreme gratitude journaling?
Receptionist: It’s just a deep exfoliation followed by a steam shower.
McNeil: What else?
Receptionist: The seaweed wrap is very popular.
McNeil: Are you wrapped so tightly that it’s difficult to breathe?
McNeil: I don’t think you understand. I need to go to a place of pain and suffering. I don’t just want to relax. I want to go through relaxation and come out the other side, stronger, harder, leaner. I need a treatment that’s going to test me. I need savagery, something that will unleash my internal beast and make me so relaxed that all I want to do is get up and fight another day.
Receptionist: Have you ever had a Brazilian wax?