Category Archives for "Copywriting"
It’s a big problem. An epidemic really.
Business owners spend hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars a year to get traffic to their company’s website.
The traffic builds and builds. And, along with it, the expectation that a SURGE in sales is just around the corner.
But often that surge never comes.
And most of the time, it’s because all the traffic they’re getting takes visitors to a landing page that, to be perfectly blunt, sucks.
(For newbies: A landing page is simply the page on your site someone lands on when they click on a link from an ad, search result or another website. It could be your Home page, Product/Service page, page promoting a special offer, etc.)
A few months back, I posted about the 5 Essential Elements a landing page must have to be successful.
And, while that provides a great framework for building landing page content, I’ve had a number of questions lately about the specific steps and components that go into creating a killer landing page.
So here’s a primer on what belongs on your landing page (and what doesn’t) as well as some tips for each…
When someone lands on that page, what’s the ONE thing you want them to do? Buy something, call you, fill out a form, share the content, continue to another page on your site, etc.?
It’s essential to figure this out first because it’s the ultimate goal your headline, copy, etc. all lead to.
Your landing page should focus on just ONE primary objective… ONE main thing you want visitors to do when they get there.
Any more than one causes confusion. And you don’t want to confuse prospects because confused prospects don’t convert!
This isn’t to say you can’t have secondary objectives on a landing page. It’s perfectly fine to have links to other pages on the site, social media buttons, a phone number, a newsletter sign up, etc. . Just make sure the secondary objectives don’t steal the show from the primary objective.
Conversion experts like to say “you don’t optimize landing pages, you optimize thought sequences.”
Here’s what this means…
First, think about the conversation going on in a visitor’s brain when they get to your landing page.
How did they get there? What keywords did they use? What are they looking to accomplish? What problems are they looking to solve?
It makes a big difference if someone comes to your landing page from an AdWords ad after typing in the the keyword “landscape architect” vs. someone who arrives from a Facebook post about your spring plant sale.
Those represent the beginning of two very distinct thought sequences and deserve very different landing pages.
Understanding thought sequences is crucial because your landing page’s job really boils down to this…
You start with “Point A”… the conversation going on in your prospect’s brain when they land on your page.
You end with “Point B”… the ultimate action you want them to take before leaving your page.
So, the job of your landing page is to meet them Point A and optimize their thought sequence on the page so when they get to Point B they are totally convinced that taking that action is in their best interest.
8 Main Components of a Landing Page
Okay, with those two concepts out of the way, let’s look at the 8 main components that make up a landing page (along with some key tips on how to make the most of each).
1. Site header/banner
With headers, narrower (height-wise) is better. They’re about branding and giving people a brief, initial impression of who you are and what your site is about.
Designers love to make big banners to show off their creative abilities. These behemoths take about 1/3 of the “above the fold” space on the page and push the content that’s actually gonna get visitors to convert lower on the page. Don’t let them do this to your site!
Often just a clean, simple banner with your logo (and maybe a tagline) on the left and your contact info on the right is all you need.
The headline is the single MOST important element on your landing page. It’s the first, and possibly only, copy a visitor will read on your site.
Make it clearly stand out from the other elements around it so it commands attention (it should immediately draw a visitor’s eyes when they first land on your page).
The main job of your headline is to let visitors know they’re in the right spot (based on the conversation in their head that got them to your page) and offer them a reason to stick around.
It should NOT try to make the sale. It’s the opening of your sales message, not the close.
The subheadline goes right under your headline and continues the conversation the headline started. It’s usually longer than the headline and in a font size that’s smaller than your headline yet still in a larger/bolder font than the other copy on the page.
Subheadlines aren’t essential. However, they’re a powerful way to elaborate on the unique value proposition you’re offering to visitors so your headline doesn’t have to carry that burden on its own.
Together, your headline and subheadline should clearly lay out the benefit/value you offer your prospects.
And, most importantly, their focus should be squarely on your visitors and their needs/problems/desires… remember, it’s not about you!!
3. Main Content/Copy block
Like the head/subheadline, the main content of your landing page should focus on the reader and, ultimately, the benefits they’ll get from taking the action you want them to take. The copy’s job is to guide a visitor’s thought sequence from the headline to your call-to-action.
There’s a lot of controversy and misconceptions about how long your copy should be (ie. long vs. short copy). And there’s really no set right or wrong answer. The length of your copy really boils down to what you’re offering and what you want prospects to do.
If you’re offering an easy to understand, free giveaway… you don’t need much copy. However, if you’re selling a more complicated and/or expensive product or service that you want prospects to buy on the spot… you’ll need more copy to get the job done.
Also, make your copy scannable because most people won’t read your copy but rather SCAN it for key points. Having all your paragraphs left justified makes this easy to do as does using bullets, short paragraphs, putting carefully selected words in bold font, etc.
Images are not as important as most people think they are (an obvious exception being the product pages of an ecommerce site).
In fact, you can have a high converting landing page without any images at all.
If you do use images, avoid stock images of smiling business people. Instead, use images that demonstrate the value proposition of your offer. And, ideally use images that show your product/service being used.
Also, always put a CAPTION below your images. People’s eyes are naturally drawn to images and a caption can be among the most read copy on the page.
Keep forms as short as possible. Just capture the essential info because the more fields on your form, the fewer people will fill it out (fewer people may not be a bad thing… you have to balance quality of leads vs. quantity of leads depending on your objectives).
Left justify the fields for a cleaner, less intimidating look. If you do require a lot of fields, often breaking them up into smaller, related groupings can make the form more appealing.
One last tip… unless you have a problem with a lot of web spam, don’t use a CAPTCHA for your form… don’t make people do any more work than needed!
This is all about the primary action you want someone to take on your page so let them know exactly what you want them to do and the benefits they’ll get by doing it.
If taking action requires a click, be sure the button/text they have to click stands out by using an arrow, bold color, spacing, etc.
Oh, and don’t use the word “Submit” or “Click Here” on the button. Use phrases that reinforce what the visitor gets when clicking on it (ie. “Get Your Free Trial”, “See Plans and Pricing”, “Start Your Tour”).
Navigation isn’t essential. In fact, some landing pages perform better without it.
It depends on your niche and the objectives of your landing page. However, most of my readers own real world businesses/Ecommerce sites and will generally want to have navigation on their sites.
If you have navigation, it’s often best to put it between your header and headline, where most people expect to find it (as opposed to down the side of the page).
And keep it simple. Multiple navigation bars and/or navigation bars with too many options can be overwhelming. Simplify things so visitors can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.
All the above are general rules of thumb/best practices to help get you started in creating a killer landing page.
However, rules can be bent/broken. The only way to know what’s going to work best for your landing pages is to test, test, test!
Each month I come across some brilliant videos, quotes, books, articles, etc. (and plenty of crappy ones too!).
Here are three that particularly resonated with me (in a good way) in July:
“As a marketer, understanding the depth and urgency of raw need in your target population is critical. This is where world-class sales pitches begin to foment. It’s the basic ingredient.” – John Carlton
In prepping for my recent interview with copywriting legend John Carlton, I read and reread his ebook, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“. This book has gem after gem of invaluable insights about sales and marketing from one of the best. No one I’ve come across has a deeper understanding of consumer pshychology and how to use it to craft incredible marketing pieces than John. I highly recommend picking up this ebook here.
This is a short, fascinating article about how retailers use smell to help drive people to buy. Now, I know most of you are not retailers and aren’t going to use smell to influence buyers (at least until people can smell through their computers!). But that’s not the point of sharing this. The point is to see how the retailers are using smell as a way to trigger EMOTIONS in their customers that get them in the buying mood. Read the article and think about how you could tap into your customers’ emotions more in your marketing.
Big wakeup call in a world where our business “network” is defined by how many people we’re connected to on LinkedIn, our “friends” are people we stalk or play Farmville with on Facebook and our “conversations” involve sending 140 character messages to on Twitter. Great lesson here from Simon Sinek for both our business and personal lives.
“Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.” Abe Lincoln
I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately.
It all started when I was on the set of an online reality show I’m a part of. The show chronicles the creation of an information product from conception to launch and beyond.
A cadre of experts (myself included) meet on a regular basis to discuss all aspects of the project. Our meetings are videotaped and will be put online for the world to see (I’ll let you know when it goes live).
At a recent taping I made some points about the importance of research and how, especially on the marketing side of things, the project would benefit from doing some (I’m purposely keeping things vague here… can’t reveal too much right now!).
As we were wrapping things up for the evening, one of the other people involved made a comment that if she had a gun to her head and had just 30 days to launch a business, she’d skip the research and just jump in and get started.
I totally understand the thinking here. In fact, you’ll hear a lot of business experts saying that one of the marks of successful entrepreneurs is the ability to execute on their ideas quickly.
But I guess where she(they) and I differ on things is I believe that research is the first, and most important part of executing a successful business/marketing plan.
And that’s why I’ve been thinking about Abe Lincoln’s quote.
Because when it comes to marketing, research is your AXE.
Here’s a little secret about the great “A” List level copywriters…
Yeah, they’ve got some writing chops. But that’s NOT what makes them truly great.
The thing that separates the truly great ones from the pack is their research skills.
Before they write a WORD of copy, they’re immersing themselves in the product/service they’re selling, the audience they’re marketing to, and the competition.
All the top PPC guys I know are all fanatical about research… Keyword Research… Competitive Research… Market Research.
That’s the heart of getting a successful AdWords campaigns off the ground (as is digging in/researching the data of live campaigns to religiously optimize them).
The cool thing about the Internet (well, other than Amazon Prime and TED Talks) is that it’s now easier than ever to do your research. And you don’t even have to TALK to anyone to do it.
Speaking of Amazon, that’s one of my favorite sources to use for research.
The reviews on Amazon are a treasure trove of information that can be invaluable to the savvy business owner.
These are reviews written by people who have taken their time to express their views (the good, the bad and the ugly) about the products they bought.
The key word being BOUGHT… these are BUYERS writing about products they’ve actually shelled out their hard earned cash for. These are the people you need to be paying attention to.
During one of our recent filming sessions we spent some time on Amazon and got some incredible insights.
What we did was look at reviews people left for books related to the info product we’re tasked with creating and marketing.
Here’s what we were looking for…
At the end of the day, doing this research gave us a much clearer picture of:
And we got all these insights simply by spending some time on Amazon.
Now you might be thinking you’re a dentist or run a restaurant or own an industrial/manufacturing company and there are no books/products related to what you sell on Amazon.
Fair enough. But Amazon ain’t the only place to find this sort of information. If there are no related products/books on Amazon, you can…
There is a deadly trap you have to be wary of with research. It’s one I’ve been guilty of falling into in the past.
The trap is Analysis Paralysis… it’s when you just keep researching but never take action. That trap’ll kill your marketing efforts because you never leave the starting gate.
As I said at the top, I think research is a PART of executing on a successful marketing plan. But it’s just a part of it. You have to ACT to have any chance of success.
With 6 hours to chop down a tree, Abe Lincoln would take 4 hours to sharpen his axe. And that’s probably a decent rule of thumb. Spend about 2/3 of your time up front doing your research… then create your USP, write your copy, build your campaign, etc.
Most of your competitors have dull axes. Do the research… sharpen your axe… and you’ll be chopping down trees they don’t have a shot at making a dent in.
I know. Yuck. Homework. So let’s not call it homework, let’s call it a challenge.
What insights does that give you into your market that you didn’t have before?
What ideas for headlines, copy, offers, products, services, etc. did it give you?
What ideas for new products/offerings or tweaks to existing products/offerings did you get?
After you spend that hour, come back here and share what you learned in the comment section below.
I’m betting that 1 hour may be one of the most enlightening hours you’ve spent in a LONG time.
And I say that confidently because, well, I’ve done the research! 😉
Each month I come across some brilliant videos, quotes, books, articles, etc. (and plenty of crappy ones too!).
Here are three that particularly resonated with me, in a good way, this month…
Stuck on what to do with your website?
Thinking of changing the layout? Adding some cool graphics? Did you see some fancy bells and whistles on another site you think would be cool on yours?
Justin Jackson lays out what you REALLY need to be focusing on with incredible simplicity and clarity. It’s great perspective that a lot of business owners and marketers desperately need.
Read his concise, yet powerful, article here.
Claude Hopkins is one of the true pioneers of direct response advertising. Ask any direct marketer worth their weight in salt and they’ve read his books Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising… many times.
The following quote is from My Life in Advertising…
“People are like sheep. They cannot judge values, nor can you and I. We judge things largely by others’ impressions, by popular favor. We go with the crowd. So the most effective thing I have ever found in advertising is the trend of the crowd.
That is a factor not to be overlooked. People follow styles and preferences. We rarely decide for ourselves, because we don’t know the facts. But when we see the crowd taking any certain direction, we are much inclined to go with them.”
Claude Hopkins wrote these words in 1927. And they are just as true now as they were then. The only thing that’s changed is the ways that are available to demonstrate the trend of the crowd behind your company including…
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve said before that the web has not changed the fundamentals of effective marketing. What it’s changed are the TOOLS you have at your disposal to take marketing strategies that have worked for decades and execute them in new ways.
Social Proof is programmed into our brains. We’re all afraid of making bad decisions and will often rely heavily on the trend of the crowd to guide us in making decisions.
Adding elements of Social Proof to your site puts the power of the crowd behind you and can heavily influence a prospect’s decision to do business with you or not.
So use the tools at your disposal to add social proof to your marketing efforts and use them often!
I’m sure most of you have heard of marketing genius (and fellow Smokin’ Hot Piece of Brain Candy) Seth Godin.
There’s really not much to add about this video from his TED Talk in 2003. He pretty much covers it all.
But since my main newsletter article this month covers the importance of research, I want to highlight one quote from Seth’s talk…
“Find out what people want and give it to them.”
And how do you find out what people want? Observation and research.
Here’s Seth talking about giving people what they want and being remarkable…
Something a little different for you this month. Decided to shake things up a bit for the summer and have a little fun.
Each month I’m going to share with you some interesting, inspirational or intriguing words that can help you in business or in life (along with some brief thoughts from me about why these words matter).
Maybe they’re in the form of a quote. Maybe a book. Maybe a video. Or, as is the case this month, all 3!
Below you’ll get…
“One hour a day, read. Read everything in the world except your business. Read junk. Very much junk. Read so that anything that interests you will stick in your memory. Just read, just read, just read… There is your audience. There is the language. There are the words that they use.” – Eugene Schwartz (generally considered to be one of the all-time greatest copywriters)
Want your marketing to connect with your audience? Then don’t use your words…use theirs.
Read the magazines, books, trade journals, etc. they read. Read the reviews they leave about similar products and services on the web. Read the messages on the message boards they participate in.
Do this and you’ll know your audience on a deeper level than your lazier competitors ever will.
And once you do, your marketing job becomes SO much easier. Because at that point, all that’s left for you to do is organize the words they use to describe their hopes, fears, desires, wants, needs, etc. into your headlines, emails, sales copy on your website, offers, etc.
The big hint here…the marketing game is won or lost in the RESEARCH stage.
Who are you trying to attract?
I’ll tell you who you’re NOT trying to attract…everyone.
Trying to attract everyone is futile. It’s impossible. There’s never been a product, service or person in the history of the world that everyone likes.
(Heck, we’ve even got very different opinions on something as mundane as WATER!)
Yet companies try to appeal to the masses all the time. And in trying to craft a message that speaks to everyone who could possibly ever do business with them, they end up with a dull, boring message that resonates with no one.
Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries has been making waves because of comments he made about only wanting to market to “cool” (ie. thin and popular) kids. Here’s some comments he made in an interview with Salon a few years back…
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
This comment, and some others he’s made, have gotten a lot of people hot under the collar.
But from a marketing perspective, I totally agree with him. If you try to go after everyone, you are “totally vanilla”.
The important thing here is that it doesn’t matter whether you or I think Abercrombe targeting the thin and popular crowd is wrong, discriminatory or makes the CEO an asshole. They have a right to market to who they want to market to and we have a right to do business with Abercrombie and Fitch or not.
One person who likely agrees with this sentiment is branding expert Erika Napoletano. She’s built her own brand, and has helped build the brands of her clients, on the concept of taking a stand…even if it’s unpopular with large segments of the population.
According to Napoletano, we should be viewing “polarization as an asset, instead of a vulnerability.”
You can hear her thought provoking case for this in her TEDxBoulder talk “Rethinking Unpopular” (If you’re easily offended by offensive language, you may want to rethink watching this video).
I’ve read Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff 3 times now. And every time I read it I immediately wanna go out and start pitching stuff…a business deal, raising capital from investors, my wife on why my getting a Porsche is in the best interest of our family…it doesn’t matter!
The book focuses on our Croc Brains (called the Reptilian Brain or Lizard Brain in other circles). The Croc Brain is the most primitive part of our brain…the one that evolved the earliest in our evolution. And it’s important because it’s the one that actually CONTROLS most of our actions and decisions.
The premise of Klaff’s book is that the reason most sales pitches fail is because we’re not pitching to the Croc Brain. Basically our pitches get rejected, misdirected and mangled by the more “developed” parts of our brain and never reach the ultimate decision maker – the Croc Brain.
Using information from neuroeconomics (a big, boring sounding word that’s actually quite fascinating), Klaff lays out a step by step framework on how you can speak to your prospects’ Croc Brain and successfully pitch, well, anything.
The information in this book is extremely powerful. And, while the stories are mainly from Klaff’s experience in the investment banking world, don’t think for a minute that’s the only application of its material.
This stuff applies to presentations, sales letters, sales videos, one-on-one sales situations, persuading friends/family members/etc. I’ve even seen the Pitch Anything model applied to structuring webinars in brilliant fashion.
This is my favorite business book of all time. If you need to persuade people at all in your life, do yourself a favor and get this book!
Every now and then some content comes across my desk (actually, computer screen) that’s so powerful and so stirring and so damn good…that it’s just too good not to share.
That happened earlier this week. Here’s the headline…
How could you not want to read that?
It’s the headline of a special report written by my friend Lewis Bassett. I met Lewis at a marketing seminar last year and we’ve been in a high level marketing mastermind group together since then.
Though his background is in IT, Lewis made the transition into the world of marketing and is wise well beyond his years. His focus (wisely, I believe) is on copywriting. He is a truly talented writer and his skills have recently risen to yet another level thanks, in part, to him being mentored by an A list copywriter.
His mentor recently gave Lewis an interesting assignment…write a sales letter selling the mentor on one of Lewis’ hobbies/interests.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Lewis chose:
Ancient Roman Literature
Yeah. You try to find a topic that would put more people to sleep than that!
But what resulted is one of the best pieces of copy I’ve read in a long time. Not only is it a compelling story that will get your emotions firing, but it contains timeless lessons that anyone who has to persuade others would do well to follow.
You can read this incredible tale here.
Cool story here from Business Insider.
It comes from an undergrad student who wants a summer internship on Wall Street. So he sends a cover letter and resume off to the firm he’s got his eye on.
The cover letter is unlike any that firm (or probably any other) has ever received. Here’s my favorite paragraph from it:
“I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job title, or feeding you a line of crap about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship. The truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you. I’ve interned for Merril Lynch in the Wealth Management Division and taken an investment banking class at (name of college blocked) for whatever that is worth.”
Talk about being totally blunt and honest!
Can you imagine a company using a strategy like this in their marketing?
We talk a lot in marketing about standing out and differentiating yourself from the competition. And, admittedly, that can be a challenge (though one worth taking on).
What if the way you differentiate yourself is being brutally honest about how typical you really are?
Take an attorney as an example:
“I didn’t graduate from Harvard, haven’t published articles in prestigious law reviews and I’ll probably never have a case brought before the Supreme Court. But I have successfully helped clients with their (divorces, DUI issues, criminal law matters, etc.) over the past 15 years, and I’m honest and will work hard for you.”
So whadd’ya think? Would you hire an attorney that put that on their website?
The other day I left a voice mail message for my friend Russ.
He’s the man behind the highly successful Crazy Egg blog, The Daily Egg, that I contribute to and I had some exciting news to share with him.
So I left him the following message…“Hey Russ. It’s Adam. I owe you a big thank you and’ve got some exciting news to share with you. Give me a call when you have a minute.”
About 10 minutes later Russ calls back and says “Dude, even your voice mails are compelling! How could I not immediately call you back after getting a message like that?!”
How could that change your fortunes?
Well, the formula I used in that voicemail (not intentionally, it’s just a sickness habit from years of marketing and copywriting) is one of the most powerful headline formulas around.
If you wanna get someone’s attention…
If you want them to read your email…
If you want them to read your web page…
If you want them to read your direct mail piece…
…then this formula is golden!
What’s the formula?
Curiosity + Benefit
Go back to that voice mail.
“I owe you a big thank you” – He had no idea what I was going to thank him for which created curiosity. And I was going to thank him and who doesn’t want to be thanked? That’s the benefit.
“…and’ve got some exciting news to share with you.” – Again, same thing. He didn’t know what the exciting news was (curiosity) and there was an implied benefit that the news was good for him in some way.
Curiosity + Benefit is a simple, yet extremely powerful formula you can use to write incredible headlines that’ll get more people to pay attention to your marketing messages.
Oh, and one more thing.
I could have called Russ and left a mundane “Hey Russ. It’s Adam. Give me a call when you get a chance” and he would have called me back (though maybe not as quickly!).
Why? Because we’ve established a great relationship over the years and he knows me, likes me and trusts me (and the feeling is mutual).
Big lesson there too…
the more you can build a relationship with your prospects and get them to know you, like you and trust you, the more likely they’ll be to respond when you come calling.