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Mindset: The Good Copywriting Zone

December 20, 2010

What’s the magic formula? How do you know if your writing is ‘in the zone’? Great storytelling isn’t enough if you’re missing the target. No one cares about a great story if it doesn’t relate to them. And that’s the crux of the issue: In copywriting, the magic formula is ensuring that every word and phrase is all about them.

Sure, you’ve heard it before. “Talk about the benefits, not the features.” But every time I hear that awful phrase I can’t help but think about health plan benefits. And we all know there’s absolutely no fun, no excitement, no interest in hearing about those. The material is about as dry as the Sahara Desert.

Let’s look at it another way. The purpose of bothering with any display ad (with brief copy) or brochure (with longer copy) or web page is to sell the client’s stuff. Right? I’m not suggesting that the different mediums will generate the same results. In general the “sale” made by a print or online display ad is to get the prospect one step closer to engaging with you. The “sale” is a click through to your website. The “sale” is to pick up the phone to ask you for more details about your service. It’s one step closer to connecting you with your prospects.

In order to engage your prospects, good copywriting interrupts whatever it is they’re currently thinking about and appeals to a desire. Customers all buy based upon subconscious decisions. (That’s another, separate blog post.) Sure, they might claim to evaluate product features, reviewing what is best for them – all conscious activities. But in truth, the decision to move forward is based upon an emotional appeal. Folks like to feel good about themselves.

During the holidays, the emotional motivation for many purchases isn’t because ‘Joey will really love this thing-a-ma-jig.’ The emotional motivation is that because Joey will love this, he’ll love me. (We’re a terribly selfish lot, we humans.)

In the B2B world, the emotional motivation for buying a service or product is NOT because our customers will love this. It’s NOT because our customers will buy more of our own stuff if I get this. And it’s NOT because ‘my boss will think I’m a genius.’

A business purchase is made because we believe that if our customer loves it, more customers will buy; AND my boss will love that; AND he’ll give me a raise; AND then I’ll be able to take that vacation in Fiji. It’s still a selfish motivation.

Getting into the “Good Copywriting Zone” means appealing to the prospect’s positive emotions in order to engage their interest. How does the product or service make the prospect feel?

Indeed, it is the old “What’s in it for me?” perspective. But remember, the answer to that question isn’t a list of features or old-fashioned benefits (save money, time, peace of mind…), it’s the feeling created by having it. Saving time or money is meaningless unless you can tie it to having more time to spend with your kids, having more money for that vacation.

If your copy doesn’t grab their emotions right off the bat, chances are they may not read any further. Make sure you’re always talking about them and not about you.

They don’t care if you’ve completed a hundred hours of specialty training. They don’t care if you got three new certifications. Those are mere features. But if the hours of training translate into a guarantee you can solve their problem and make them happy, now you have their attention. If the new certification means you’ve got the fast track to get them into the home of their dreams in half the time of the other guy, then you’ll have their attention.

Talk about them.

This is Part 2 in a series of posts about copy writing. Next up: Don’t fall into the pit. What will send your audience running away.

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