Whether you’re wet-behind-the-ears or a seasoned copywriter, your craft will benefit by remembering one thing:
You’re nothing more than a salesperson.
There’s an old saying in the “business” that, “a copywriter is a salesperson sitting in front of a typewriter.” True, few of us are using typewriters these days. The principal, however, remains unchanged.
We’re in sales. I know this. You know this. We all know this. Yet why does much of the copy out there, especially ads produced by expensive agencies, seem to miss the point?
If all we’re doing is sales, albeit transmitted through a written or broadcast medium, then we’d better know what we’re doing.
Starting the process
While studying creative writing, I learned this storytelling maxim: every character has a motive for being in a scene. The same is true in a sales situation.
The salesperson’s motive is simple. He wants to make the sale and get his commission. But what does the potential customer want?
First, what type of customer are they? Are they ready to make an immediate buy? Are they information shopping, looking for a great deal? Are they even looking for our product or service?
Ask Questions, then Shut-up and Listen
When selling to prospective customers ask questions that get them to reveal their needs. It’s a mistake to sell the product on the tip of your tongue. “Model X” might work, but if you listen you might discover that the more expensive “Model Z” is what the customer really needs.
Once you know why the prospect is there--whether they have an unresolved need, an emotional reason for buying, or they’re just shopping around--tailor your pitch to their specific reason.
Now when you make the pitch, tell how your product benefits the customer, rather than rattling off product features you think he cares about.
When You’re Finished, Close the Door
By this point your spiel should be unforced. You know the customer’s “hot-buttons” so everything should be smooth sailing.
After you’ve explained the last product benefit, you (as the salesperson) are obligated to close the deal. The way you do that is simply to ask, “Are you ready to make your decision?” or “Is this the product you’d like to buy?”
Hopefully the answer is yes. If not, then you ask, “When would you be ready to make your decision? Can I contact you then?”
What Does This Have to Do with Copywriting?
Remember, you’re nothing more than a salesperson. So you, so while writing copy, you should go through similar steps.
1. Qualify the prospect. How you write your copy, and the ratio of hard selling to information-based soft selling, will change with the medium you’re working in. But the first thing your copy should do is state outright what business you’re in and what you’re selling.
If your pitch is too vague, if it’s implied, or it depends on prior knowledge for comprehension, then your prospect might never realize he needs what you’re selling.
2. Sell Benefits, not Features. I’ve heard many sales trainers say, “It’s not about you, it’s about them.” That’s golden advice. The best way to apply this idea to your copy is by focusing on your product’s benefits.
A sports car’s features might be power steering, fast acceleration, and fuel efficiency. The benefits of that same car to a man a mid-life crisis, however, are the social status and appearance of youth it gives him. Which reason, the benefits or the features, would cause him to buy?
In a face-to-face sales environment it’s easy to ask for a specific customer’s needs. When writing sales copy you can create the same rapport by being customer-centered. To do this, write in the second person, or “You” voice. If your copy repeatedly says your company does this, or your product does that, you’re being self-centered. Your prospect won’t see himself benefiting from your product.
3. Close the Deal. I can’t count how often I’ve read a brochure, watched a commercial, or visited a website and had no clue about what I was supposed to do.
Always end your copy with a Call-to-Action.
Tell the customer exactly what you want him to do. This isn’t the time to be cute, so be exact. Do you want him to call you? Click a “Buy This” button? Make a donation? Tell your customer, or else he won’t do anything.
When asked what I do I usually say I’m a freelance marketing and publicity copywriter. I’m might revise the statement to, “I’m a freelance sales copywriter,” because that’s what it all comes down to: sales. Whether your copy creates a direct response or creates publicity and general awareness of your company, if you don’t sell you might as well not be in business.