The Anatomy of Winning Web Copy

Anatomy FontCompanies have certain needs in terms of web copy: Home page, Services page, About Us page. Something like an About Us page is usually informational and more of a promotional “soft sell” on the company itself. But what about product pages, landing pages, long-form sales letters, email blasts, and other copy that requires more of a “hard sell”?

By “hard sell,” I mean copy that is intended to spur the reader to action. Often that means buying a product, requesting a quote for services, signing up for an email newsletter, and similar actions. If we are cold and heartless, we’ll call readers who take the actions “conversions.” If we are warm and fuzzy, we’ll call them “satisfied customers.” Here’s a little “cheat sheet” for hard sell web copy that I hope you’ll find helpful.

Usually, you should operate on the “problem-solution” school of copy. Present a problem your prospective reader has, sympathize with that problem, then offer a solution in the form of the product or service you are promoting. Some marketers refer to “pain points” when describing the needs of customers. What is causing the reader “pain”? And how does your product or service alleviate that pain?

Condense your message in the introductory paragraph. Problem and solution should be contained in that very important initial summary, and from there you can expand.

By about the end of the second paragraph, you should consider including what’s called a primary call to action. A call to action is an explicit urging/directive for the reader to take action. It can be as obvious as “Buy now!” or as subtle as “Consider XYZ Corporation for all of your IT management needs.” You’d think ordering the customer to “buy now!” just wouldn’t work in our postmodern age where everybody is so savvy to marketing techniques, but you’d be surprised how necessary it is to offer an obvious “path forward” for your reader.

Incorporating deadlines into calls to action can be an effective extra stimulus to the reader. You might stress that an offer is available only for a “limited time.” Creating exclusivity is also another effective call to action strategy. If you make the reader feel that they are being invited to a select opportunity that not everyone has access to, it might be the impetus they need to sign up.

Your ending is, of course, nearly as crucial as your beginning. Focus on limiting your single-page copy to 500 words or less—usually less. You should often include two elements: a secondary and final call to action, and something I call the Friendship Clause. This clause assures the reader that your company is their ally and friend, and that they are standing by to help with any questions or concerns. Links to Contact Us pages are quite common here. Short of buying the product there and then, the second-best action the reader can take (in many cases) is inquiring for more information. Give them every reason to do so.

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