Copywriting is one of the most frustrating and pleasant parts of my job as a marketing professional.
How can something be pleasant and frustrating you ask?
Well! the truth is, I enjoy the skill of selling and convincing prospects to purchase a product.
Cold calling can be awkward and uncomfortable. So, for years I have been looking for ways to write quality sales emails which is a more non-intrusive way to sell products in my estimation.
The art of positioning a product through words can be quite daunting and might seem like something reserved for the talented like Ogilvy & Sugarman.
Prospects have different motivations, needs and wants. Using one script to sell to all of them may seem like a stretch especially for products that have a broad appeal.
Writing quality copy can lead to a lot of brain racking especially for learners like myself and without persistence there’s the likelihood for writing sloppy copy.
Copywriting is a useful skill a marketer needs and is relevant across all forms of marketing communications because any form of marketing communication requires ad copy to go with it.
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One of the books that stand tall amongst most copywriting books is Adweek Copywriting Handbook written by Joseph Sugarman, CEO of one of the biggest and most profitable Direct Mail companies in America in the 70s JS&A Group.
Joseph Sugarman is a multi-talented and multi-faceted creative who is one of the pioneers of the American mail order business.
He wrote captivating direct mail ad copies that resulted in millions of sales for his company’s products
I first heard about Sugarman on the Mixergy Podcast hosted by Andrew Warner In that interview, he talked about his career successes in the Direct Mail Order business.
Adweek Copywriting Handbook has become my bible to writing quality copy and I’ve transported some of the knowledge in writing good copy.
The book is jam-packed with knowledge on client behavior, psychology, motivations etc.
My top lessons for copywriting from the legend.
The Slippery Slope
Have you ever read a piece of copywriting so good you read it all?
Especially when you were not interested in the product?
The concept of the slippery slope is an art of making ad copy so fluid that readers immediately move to the next paragraph. The art of the slippery slope is important to keep the reader glued to a piece of writing.
Whether the prospect intends to buy or not, getting them to read till the end of an ad copy comes with an advantage.
Scientific research suggests everything we ever hear, read or experience is recorded in our subconscious somewhere and all it takes is a conversation, an experience to bring it rushing back.
if your copywriting is locked in the mind of a prospect who wasn’t ready at the time of reading, and later the need for the product comes, guess who they’re going to contact?
The Seeds of Curiosity
Leading readers on till the end of an ad copy is a difficult task to achieve yet, with practice and persistence it can be done. An effective way of doing this taught by Sugarman is by sowing seeds of curiosity.
Read On!! (I just did it)
By finding a powerful link that connects the current paragraph to the next paragraph. Connecting phrases can be used to do that. Below are examples of such phrases.
Let me explain
The seeds of curiosity when embedded within the copy proves to be an effective way of getting prospects to read to the bottom.
Harmonize with the Reader
We harmonize with our readers by, stating correct obvious sentences that will get the prospect to nod their heads and agree with us.
Opening a piece of ad copy with a sentence such as “we all hate traffic” will get the prospect to agree.
Because we all actually do hate sitting in traffic as a matter of fact.
Making a series of statements that the reader agrees with combined with a slippery slope creates a powerful ad copy. Every human is prejudiced and gravitates towards people they believe they share something in common with.
The more a reader likes you because you share their perspectives, opinions and values, the likelier they are to listen, read and agree with what you say.
Building that rapport with prospects increases the chance of the prospect patronizing your product.
The Power of Short Sentences
I didn’t realise the length of sentences had such an impact on readers until I started critically examining my own reading habits after Sugarman pointed It out to me.
When the opening paragraphs of any piece of literary work have long winding sentences, I roll my eyes.
My subconscious tells me this is going to be a difficult read and I mostly gloss over the words and not necessarily read for full comprehension.
I was never able to put a reason to that habit till Sugarman pointed out its importance.
Keeping the sentences of an opening paragraph short forces the reader to move to the next sentence which provides the opportunity to build the slippery slope.
As Sugarman puts it, the purpose of the first sentence of an ad copy is to get the reader to read the second sentence and the purpose of the second sentence is to get the reader to read the third sentence and so on.
Ghana is a country blessed with resources such as Gold, cocoa, timber and oil which fetches an estimated 234 million in revenue at a growth rate of 4%.
Using Sugarman’s method I’ll write
Ghana is blessed with resources such as Gold, Cocoa timber and diamond.
These resources fetch the country an estimated 234 million at a growth rate of 4%.
This text makes the article reading process easier and more digestible.
In writing copy for a piece of equipment, prospects would like to believe that the expense is worth the amount, therefore, there’s the need to prove that worth with technical information.
Technical information although may confuse the average reader has an effect on the minds of the reader. It gives you, the writer credibility and instantly makes you an expert in their eyes.
The sweet spot is dedicating a paragraph to technical information, prospects want to see proof before they accept someone’s authority, therefore, positioning yourself as an expert is a way to go to get past this mindset.
If you walk into a hospital and 2 people, one in a white coat and the other without approach you. You will most definitely think the one with the white coat is the doctor and will most likely follow their instructions. Expert positioning is the “white coat” for ad copy content.
It is important this is done it right because too much technicality can turn prospects off.
No business person sells with the aim of making a loss.
Hence providing the prospect a money-back guarantee seems scary for small business operators, yet it is one of the best routes to take in order to make the client secured in the trade.
That is why it is on us as entrepreneurs to provide the best quality goods we know will serve the needs of our clients.
This lesson from Joseph Sugarman is imperative because even if we cannot provide our clients a full refund, finding a way to state in our ad copy that there is a way to resolve dissatisfaction with products put prospects at ease. This should be highlighted in the ad copy
Editing the ad copy we write is the final stage of writing good copy. Sugarman teaches us that the first draft of copy will not look impressive, it will be riddled with mistakes and nonsense especially for beginners.
Reading out ad copy loud or having someone else to review it brings about new insights that will further help us write better. Sugarman teaches us to edit and make the best of our work.
Being ruthless in our ad copy editing is the only way we can create quality copywriting and sell our products and services.
After learning the many principles on copywriting that Joseph Sugarman shares on this great resource, copywriting does not seem like a chore and I’ve come around to enjoy it and look forward to writing as much as possible.
My copywriting has improved ever since I made a conscious effort to apply the principles in the book. Copywriting has become such a pleasurable pastime so much that I constantly catch myself re-drafting sales letters and ad copy that I come in contact with.
Have you read the Adweek Copywriting Handbook? What were some of your favorite tips?
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