EP39 – Introduction to Copywriting

To watch the video recording of this episode, click here

As you read this post, I am already married and am probably on a flight for my honeymoon! As such, you will probably not hear from me for a couple of weeks.

But this week, we have great subject matter to discuss. I’m talking about copywriting. This is not to be confused with the legal procedure of copyrighting material, even though I didn’t know there was a difference the first time I heard about copywriting.

Copywriting is the creation of text (or copy) designed to convert a prospect into a lead or make a sale.

I have been researching copywriting lately, and I just hired a professional copywriter to revamp the copy for my products. I have already seen a result from his work, which I will get to later in the episode.

In my research, I discovered the website Copyblogger.com, which is an authority on writing copy. You can complete a free registration and receive a number of e-books, which I did.

One of these books is called Copywriting 101. It’s only about 100 pages, and I learned a ton of great information from reading it. I’m going to try to distill most of what I learned from the book so you, too, can reap the benefits.

As a general disclaimer, remember I am by no means an expert copywriter. I’m just doing my best to pass on what I’ve learned.

Headlines!

Right off the bat, the book gets into the immense importance of writing good headlines.

Headlines are like the 80/20 of copywriting: 20% of work on your headline will give you 80% of your results.

Your headline is the very first thing someone sees when they land on your website, blog or sales page. Their eye goes right to the headline, and they make a split-second decision whether or not to keep reading.

The purpose of the headline is to convince your audience to invest their time in whatever you are presenting to them, whether it is text, video, audio, or something else.

Never underestimate the power of a good headline. Here’s a good rule of thumb: however long it takes you to write an article, invest half of that amount of time into writing the first headline.

That’s how important headlines are.

OK, So What Makes a Good Headline?

The e-book identifies eight different types of headlines that have stood the test of time.

The one that stood out the most to me was the “How To” headline. Interestingly enough, the most downloaded episode of the Coders’ Startup is EP6 – “How to Price Your Product.” Is it a coincidence, or is it the power of the “How To” headline at work?

The book lists six questions you should ask yourself when writing a headline, but I think the first four are the best. They are as follows:

  1. Does the headline offer a reward for reading?
  2. What specifics can you add to make the headline more intriguing and believable?
  3. Does the headline trigger a strong actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject?
  4. Does your headline present a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head?

Let’s break down those questions. First, your headline should clearly suggest a reward or end result your reader will receive if they engage with your content.

Second, be specific about the reward you are offering. You should try to intrigue the reader, but don’t make unrealistic claims. For example, instead of the headline, “Learn how to program with Java,” try “Learn how to program an application with Java in under 30 minutes.”

Third, appeal to your reader’s emotions. People are very emotional creatures and often make emotional decisions when buying a product. Think about what your target audience feels and create a headline that engages those emotions.

Finally, be sure you have identified the correct thoughts and emotions your reader brings to the table, and have your headline offer a solution. This is easier when you know your audience. Survey them if you need to.

In addition to these four questions, Carter offers the headline formula of Dane Maxwell, a renowned copywriter: your headline should promise an end result (or transformation), identify the amount of time it will take to achieve, and offer a guarantee on that promise.

Features vs. Benefits

Good copywriting presents benefits for your readers. However, sometimes it’s difficult to determine if you are advertising a benefit or simply a feature.

When I created the sales page for my first programming course, I listed a lot of features instead of benefits because I didn’t recognize the difference.

For example, one of my headlines was, “Learn how to program in Java with 45 hours of lectures.” Forty-five hours of lectures was a benefit in my mind because it indicated the course was comprehensive. But my readers had no way of knowing the quality of the material, so it turned out the headline was only listing a feature.

The e-book I read lists four steps for turning features into benefits, and I can use these steps to make my example headline much better. They are:

  1. Write down your feature. (45 hours of content)
  2. Ask yourself why you are listing the feature. (Because it’s a comprehensive course that takes you from knowing nothing to being an advanced programmer.)
  3. Ask yourself how your answer to #2 satisfies the reader’s desires. (Their desire is to get a job as a programmer, so the comprehensive course will help them achieve that goal.)
  4. Write down your benefit. (“This comprehensive course will give you the best opportunity to land a job as a programmer.”)

As I mentioned in the previous section, it’s important to get to the root emotions your reader is feeling. Ask yourself why they are looking for your product in the first place, and structure your benefits around this reason.

My Encouraging Results

Like I said in the introduction of this post, I recently hired a professional copywriter.

In the afternoon of August 12 (the day before this episode was recorded), I published a new video sales letter and a new sales webpage with a different headline and different copy.

The video letter has a new script written by my copywriter that focuses around a central benefit of landing a job as a programmer. We chose this benefit because many of my customers are trying to make the jump from a first career into a second career in programming.

Additionally, the copy of my email sequence has been rewritten to stress the importance of knowing how to be a full-stack developer.

The new first headline is, “Build your own web application from scratch with the interactive Java super-course.” The sub-headline is, “Master Java and create a fully functional web application for your portfolio in as little as 6 weeks.”

You can see that the rewritten copy focuses on strong headlines and focused benefits that speak to my potential customers’ desires. And within 24 hours of updating my sales page, I made two sales.

This could be a coincidence, but in the slow summer months I usually make only two or three sales per week. Suffice it to say that the early results seem promising.

In the coming weeks, I may have opportunity to talk about whether or not the new copy had the effect I hoped for.

The Power of a Compelling Offer

And now back to the copywriting e-book.

After explaining headlines and benefits, the book delves into the subject of great offers. Of everything I read, this was the most intriguing and eye-opening.

History has shown that companies that can formulate an irresistible offer tend to do very well. The book mentions Domino’s pizza, which used to offer a guarantee that your pizza would be delivered in 30 minutes or it was free.

Another good example is a restaurant with the offer, “Kids eat free on Mondays and Tuesdays.” And back when FedEx was still a fledgling company competing primarily with the USPS, they offered guaranteed overnight delivery.

A compelling offer will get you business even if your product isn’t that great! Even if Domino’s pizza is not your favorite, you might choose to buy it if you know you will get it soon, or else you will get it for free.

Of course, if you have a great offer and a great product to match, that’s icing on he cake.

After reading this part of the e-book, I realized I do not have a strong offer for my product, and I found myself asking, “Why the heck not?”

I am asking myself what I could offer that would really wow people and make them want to take a chance on my product. If I don’t have a compelling offer, what can I do to create one?

I don’t yet have an answer to this question. Maybe I could try offering guaranteed job placement, or something just below that on the totem pole. It may be a good idea to start with something ridiculous and then dial it down to something reasonable.

Carter once made an offer for his SEO business that he would rank a client on the first page of Google for a specific keyword in 90 days, or they would receive an Amazon gift card.

This got people’s attention, and once they spoke with Carter and understood that his team knew what they were doing, most of the businesses forewent the the 90-day challenge and signed up to become full-time clients, instead.

The best offers are so bold they dare you not to ask more. This is the quality you should try to emulate in your own offer. Make it compelling and remarkable.

Match Your Offer with a Good Guarantee

After you craft a great offer, try to back it up with an excellent guarantee. Try to push the envelope with the guarantee just as much as you do with the offer.

I offer a 30-day, money-back guarantee on my email course, which is a pretty standard guarantee. Some companies stretch this out to 60 days, 90 days, a full year, or even a lifetime guarantee.

Extending the guarantee period is a good way to make it more compelling, but try thinking outside the box.

I offer a secondary guarantee in addition to my 30-day guarantee that I’m pretty proud of. If a client completes my entire email course, including all of the assignments and tests, and still feels I did not deliver on what I promised (which is to teach them Java and make them a great programmer), I will refund them twice what they paid.

This kind of confidence is compelling to your customers. It will push more people over the fence toward buying your product than it will cost you in refunds. Try it!

Book and App of the Week

Book: The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert. This book is a collection of the letters legendary copywriter Gary Halbert wrote to his son while he was in prison. He explains a lot of things about copywriting, business, and life in general. It’s a fantastic look into the mind of one of the best copywriters ever.

App: The website Coschedule.com features a free Headline Analyzer tool. You can type your headline into a text box, and the tool will score it on a scale from 1 to 100. If your score is 70 or higher, then you can be confident you’ve created a great headline.

 

That does it for our conversation about copywriting basics. Good copy is an invaluable asset for your marketing campaign, so learn as much as you can about it and get good at creating it.

Once your business is established and you have a good idea who your target market is, what they want, and what they feel, you should definitely consider talking to a professional copywriter.

If you learned anything from this episode, please let us know in the comments! We always love to hear from our listeners because it means we are delivering quality content that gets people’s attention.

Like I said earlier, I should be on a flight to the Caribbean as you read this. Take care, and I’ll see you in a few weeks.

 

LINKS

Copyblogger.com

The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert

Headline Analyzer tool

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