Have you read these lines on websites before? We all have in one way or another and we have built up a resistance to them over time. I mean really, how enticing is “new” anyway? Have you looked at how many “new” items are introduced every year?
Quite a few
People are also always talking. It’s one of the pitfalls of communication. We are not there in person to communicate as copywriters, so if what we say is dull and drab, it gets immediately brushed aside. It’s like a media buffet and we are the club crackers next to the silverware. We always get missed.
Realize that the visitors to your website and are not even really reading it. They are scanning. The mindset of most of our traffic is “I’ve seen this all before, blah blah blah”. As content strategists, we have to choose the right words and phrases to stop those scanning eyes and make them pay closer attention to your unique offer and benefits.
So we need our website content to stand out!
Using simile isn’t a NEW & IMPROVED way to do this. In fact, it’s as ancient as Keith Richard’s grandmother, but it’s always evolving – always getting better.
Simile takes ordinary, everyday things and latches them into extraordinary things and experiences. It’s like plugging words into the power socket. Suddenly the lifeless and motionless is transformed and readers notice…
Let me demonstrate…
How about saying your product or service is “exciting”? “Exciting” isn’t really that exciting, is it? What we should be thinking as copywriters is, sooooo how exciting is it?
Like getting your first credit card?
Like a toddler seeing a new balloon?
As exciting as your first kiss?
Like going 90 down an old farm road at night with your headlights off?
That moment you are woken up and realize you got one hour more to sleep?
Instead of saying this is a “great product”, you could say, “it has blush making power (or not)”. All you are doing with simile is helping bring “great” close to home. Making it real. Less allusive.
Here are several more simile substitutes to try…
as coffee made from used grounds.
as someone after donating blood.
as the flavor of fat-free rice cake…
as a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.
as a squirrel in a cage.
as ants on a sugar high.
as Ronald McDonald’s feet.
as the 60’ s.
as the pride of a teenage rock star.
as horse nostrils.
Or you can make a comparison…
As with “longer”
as the shelf life of strawberries to beef jerky maybe?
Just don’t let your writing be as boring as a bowl of grits, a one-stringed guitar, or a broke casino. Use your imagination and don’t just say it – paint it.
If your content smiles – your audience will smile back. And if you can make them smile you are one step closer to making them a customer.
Want to hear something profound? Grab ahold of the arm of your chair. Here it comes…
You are you.
And want to hear something else?
You are not going to be anyone else. So quit trying. That’s some powerful spinach.
I know most of my readers are going to turn away now and say, “Yea, yea; heard it all before”. It’s true and to be honest, one of you is more than even you can even handle. That’s why you work so hard at trying to be someone else.
If you only knew who you really were it would shock you. I have always loved this quote by C.S. Lewis in his piece called “Weight of Glory”:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
I am not trying to inspire you.
I am trying to scare the hell out of you.
You haven’t reached your potential yet, so don’t even begin to think you have exhausted it.
So many try and mimic the writers they love. They phrase their words like them, they position phrases like them. They even take their dark and curious meditations and pitch them as their own.
Put yourself on paper. Write your thoughts down and don’t hold back. It will amaze you what will come out. Your imagination and your prose may not be a Hemingway yet, but it isn’t supposed to be. It’s you. And your art is still in the nest, trying to hatch. Let it out. Let it learn to soar.
For years I would do the same thing. That was until I leaned to do what every good writing coach tells you to do — to find your voice. My voice? I don’t even like the sound of my own voice. No one likes to hear themselves talk, but isn’t it amazing — others do? Reading is about listening. Writing is about expression.
Because I was a public speaker for many years, here is what I would do with everything that I wrote and I would encourage you to do the same…
Before you begin to put words on paper, talk to yourself. Begin to say out loud all the things that you want to write. Pretend like you are speaking to a group. If that makes you nervous, pretend like you are sitting and having coffee with a friend and sharing all these bright ideas with them.
I’m sure many people used to think I was crazy if they ever saw me driving around in my car or sitting at a stoplight. I would talk myself silly. Now in the days of blu-tooth, I don’t seem so strange. Everyone does it. But here is what I discovered – I am pretty interesting and my thoughts aren’t that strange either. Matter of fact, they are quite compelling.
I am learning who I am. I am introducing myself to myself.
After you have amazed yourself (I mean you have said the kind of things that make you want to pull over and write them down), now you are ready for the first draft. It’s that moment when you wish someone would’ve been in the car with you.
At first, you are so glad you are alone and then you find yourself banging on the steering wheel and are tempted to roll the window down and yell out your mental profundity.
This is just one path to self-discovery. Now write. Pretty soon you will fill like your spinach is only a short drive to the grocery store or a commute to work. When you get there you will only want to turn around and do it again.
Find your voice… and you will be able to find your future client’s voice much easier.
If you’re new to the freelance copywriting game you’ll get a lot of value from this. Benefit from my f**k ups and you’ll be happy (and probably richer too!)
1: NOT BUILDING ASSETS –
If you’re not currently building your list, or creating your own product. Start today. Do something NOW the 10 years older you, will thank you for.
2. THINKING CLIENTS ARE YOUR FRIENDS.
They’re not. They just want you for what you can do them. And don’t really give a s**t about you. Find comfort in the discomfort. Be “friendly”… polite… courteous…. with your clients of course, but understand there is a ‘line’ and respect it.
3. NOT USING CONTRACTS.
If I was ever paid all the royalties I was due from copy I’ve written over the years, I’d be a millionaire. Nuff said, eh?
4. NEVER GUARANTEE SPECIFIC RESULTS.
As copywriters you SHOULD be confident about your ability to get something to convert.
You should be certain about your skills. That’s not the issue.
The issue is… in a successful marketing promotion the most important factor is…
‘The Traffic Source’ Not your copy. Doesn’t matter how good it is.
I once had a client hire me, and this well known traffic expert to build a funnel.
I created the copy. And it was good. The client hired a traffic expert…
And results were dismal. Who got 100% of the blame? You guessed it. Me, the copywriter. Even though I told him the targeting was way off! Does it make sense? No. Is it fair? No. But that’s the way it is.
5. NOT READING – KEY PERSON ON INFLUENCE by Daniel Priestly –
I’ve toyed around with specializing in multiple niches over the years. All with the idea of considering where the money was… The first niche, I considered was specializing in Why Women Buy * the actual domain name was why-women-buy.com Stupid.
Of course some men CAN write for women subjects. But I’m not one of those guys. I’ve since settled into men’s dating. Which is really just ‘self improvement’ for men. Which is cool, because it means I get paid to research stuff I enjoy reading about anyway.
6. NOT ADVERTISING. Yes, I know how stupid this sounds. But its more common than you think.
In fact, most top copywriters don’t advertise themselves or other products.
But you SHOULD. (even if you don’t need to!)
Here’s why… First of all, its good practice.
You get to test your copy with your own money, and get LIVE feedback. Which is the greatest copywriting teacher of all in my opinion. Secondly. it will force you to have to overcome and understand all the other metrics that goes into a marketing campaign. It was only when my own funnel was up at the end of last year did I fully begin to take note of the CPL — CPS – ACV etc.
I knew the terms before. But not so much.
What’s more… By promoting copywriting tools… Or your own gardening tips product etc.
You’ll open up new revenue streams.
7. BUYING INTO SELF HELP ‘ ABUNDANCE’ BULLS**T.
I used to be a big self help reader. And I realized this first hand, when clients I’d work with who were supposed to be of the “abundance mentality” Started ripping me off.
Claude Hopkins said it best: “Marketing is like warfare without the venom”
Its’ NOT abundant. There is a limited amount of money out there and you are competing for it.
Have you ever noticed that the people who preach abundance are always the ones trying to sell you something? That’s reality. And its a wonderful thing. You need to build your own fortress.
Take your biggest success stories in any niche. And publish a book… report… white paper…
Something of REAL quality you can build your fortress around.
Make THAT your thing. Own it. A hard copy book is best, I don’t know why. Nothing says authority more. Publish articles on it. Set up Facebook groups on it. Becoming the MAN or THE WOMAN for that ‘thing. Remember…
As Dan Kennedy always explained.. (I read this ages ago, but still failed to heed.)
“Start Narrow, Then Expand.”
You can start off as an expert copywriter for the Forex Niche or what have you. And once you’ve done that… You can EASILY take that credibility and expand OUT into other niches in the financial word. Like ETF’s… spread betting.. Precious metals etc etc.
8. NOT CHARGING WHAT YOU’RE WORTH…
When you’re starting out… and you’ve got no track record you’ll go through the ‘cheap whore’ phrase. That’s normal. But once you’ve built up a track record. Once you’ve achieved good results for clients. Raise your fees accordingly. For 3 years, I charged £3k for a sales letter. Despite increasing my skills constantly. Despite investing in more courses… mentoring etc and offering more value. Silly. Then, I learned there were people charging £25k. If my work converts just as well as there’s why the heck should I charge less? So, I charged the same.
I just wished I did it earlier. And forget about your hourly fees. Look at the VALUE you can create for clients… If its a sales letter you’re writing… enquire as to how much traffic will be sent to the page, ask about the source of the traffic? Is it cold leads (strangers?) Or is it people who know like and trust you who will be more predisposed to buying?
Ask about what type of conversion rates would they expect? Let’s say they say a conservative 2% response to their own list. If you achieve that… how much money will they make? And how many mailings could they do in 12 months? Ask about the long term customer value?
Create a complete picture of the VALUE you’re giving. Explore every angle they will profit from.
total it all up… Show it to the client in a perfectly logical way and charge a small percentage of that.
Obviously, the bigger the client, the better the relationship they have with their list… the better conversions will be.
9. NOT BUILDING TESTIMONIALS & REFERRALS INTO YOUR T&C’s!
Here’s the thing you’re never told…
Let’s say you charge $8k for a project with a client. And you do a stellar job. You make the client a boatload of new cash. Do you think that clients wants to see you progress and move on?
NO. Reality is, its NOT in that clients best interest to promote you to the world.
And again, this leads into Mistake 3 “why clients can’t be your friends’
In fact, if you’ve done a good job for them, at a good price… then the LAST THING they want is for you to become super business and double your rates. This is why very often, it can be extremely difficult to get a client to give you a testimonials. I’ve done million dollar launches for clients – and been threatened with ‘cease and desist’ letters for talking about it. These things do happen unfortunately. Which is why I recommend before you even BEGIN work on any projects you explain to the client upfront that after the successful completion of this project…
You would like a testimonial… and 3 referrals of people who may be interested
in your services.
OPTIONAL: You could also reward the client with a 10% of the project fee for any successful referrals. That way, once you deliver the copy, run the copy and hopefully got some great results
You can rightfully draw your clients attention back to your initial agreement re: your testimonials and referrals. Some still might not even give you one. But most people are decent and will.
10. WHEN THINGS ARE GOOD ACT LIKE THINGS ARE BAD, WHEN ITS BAD, AT LIKE THINGS ARE GOOD.
In your freelance journey you’ll go through lots of good times and bad times. In the good times, when you’re swimming in cash… It feels like the gravy trains gonna go on forever…
(It won’t!) This is the time when you want to act like everything gonna be taken away from you… ACT SCARED. Concentrate on using your resources to build a fortress. To gain a huge foothold in your market.
When things are bad…Like when you’re just starting out and struggling to get your first client. Or … when you’ve been going a few years… and the client you were working for who was paying you great money decides to close his business or stops hiring you for any reason…DON’T PANIC.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive. Especially when you’ve got bills to pay and the wolves are at the door… but if you panic, you may spiral into desperation it will only make things worse. Bad times are like quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink. My advice? Add more pleasure to in bad times. Take 60 minutes pleasure breaks during the day — even 10 minutes can be enough.
To just go for a coffee. Listen to music. Mow the grass. Talk to your girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, wife, husband.. Or, if you’re single… go to talk to other attract single people for awhile…
CLEAR YOUR MIND. Go swimming… get a massage…Shit, Go buy yourself a really good burger!
(I know that might sound silly, but that a five guys burger, helped bring me through some very tough times!) When you act like things are good… (even when they’re bad) strange things happen. When you’re out swimming… or out eating that 5 guys burger, you’ll get ideas on how to improve your situation. I don’t know why this works, but it just does.
Heed these mistakes… and I wish you the best success in your copywriting career!
It can lead to a great life or it can lead to a great migraine.
It all depends on how you start. That is what many of my blog posts are for – to help you start well and finish even better. I have learned a few things from having started my own business and I want to share them with you.
(Another way to put that is I have gotten the crap beat out of me and I want to help you avoid it).
1. Do your homework
Naivety is the mass murderer of invention. Don’t presume you know it all. Be humble. Talk to others who have gone before you. Gather input from as many as you can before you throw up your website (Its embarrassing when you have to change your homepage and vision statement multiple times while your customers watch).
You are going to hear things you won’t like and you may even be told “You aren’t ready”. Listen up! Ask yourself if those people who are telling you these things stand to lose or gain at all from their comments. If not, pay attention. If so, listen anyway.
2. Remember your dream is only a dream
The couple who fantasizes about having children is always a little disturbed and delighted by their first child. It can be the same with business – nothing like you planned, but better than you imagined.
Reality always looks a little different. Church planters are the world’s worst at this one. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard a planter tell me that their church is going to be “just like the first church” I’d be rollin in the dough.
There is nothing wrong with a dream. Dreams are good. But remember that your dream business is going to look different than your real business. Don’t let that discourage you – it will be better than you could’ve imagined it, if you handle it carefully and wisely. 3. Remember no one cares about you.
I know, inspiring huh? People care about one thing – themselves. Remember that. No one will give two licks about your business and all its bells and whistles. They will care about what it can do for them. So when you begin to post on social media and tell everyone about your launch; don’t be surprised when only your mother clicks the “like” button.
When your business pokes its little head out of the birth canal make sure it isn’t squealing “Look at me! Look at me!”. Instead, begin to talk about people’s needs and unmet desires. Stir the pot of desire. Get them excited and gain an audience before you start asking for a “sign up” (to read more see my Digital Marketing guide).
When they know that you care, then they will care what you know – then you will know that they care.
4. Don’t be afraid to beg
You heard me right.
Don’t expect the heavens to open and success to rain down on your face. You are going to have to swallow your pride and ask for help.
When it comes to outside services – everyone is going to want to charge you. Can you blame them? Don’t insult them by asking for freebies, rather be a part of conversations and forums where they are already mingling and join in. You’d be surprised what you can get without having to loiter.
Everything else is carefully calculated groveling. But instead of asking for money and time, be original. Ask for things that would benefit both them and you.
Maybe your small business could do a service for them and gain awareness and traction in the community. Participate/serve in existing events hosted by a larger company. Add links/mentions to businesses you want help from (trust me they will notice unless they’re celebrities). Ask for interviews from those already way ahead of you. Give them publicity and you get the knowledge.
5. Don’t forget to play
It’s amazing how fast we fall out of love in this culture. Do whatever you can to play during business hours.
Read those exciting books that first stirred your affections. Surround yourself with those in the same boat as you are and don’t forget to laugh a little. Talk to yourself. I have been amazed how excited I can make myself from just monologuing in the car in traffic.
Really play. Go hit a few golf balls. Go fishing. Do something else and do it often with those you love. The minute your business is a burden to everyone else it is only a matter of time before it is to you also.
Marketing is establishing or propagating a brand in the eye of the consumer. One of the most important things any business has to achieve is “brand awareness”.
The brand is what sells not the marketing.
Al Ries helped me with an important principle in regards to branding:
“The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope”
What did he mean by that? He meant that for any business to thrive the important step they must take is telling the consumer (in various ways and means, i.e. “marketing”), “We do ____”. One thing. One thing only. We don’t only do it – we are masters at it. We are authorities in this area.
Consider the businesses that have really thrived and took off throughout the years: Starbucks, Subway, Hertz, etc. Each one of these started out not trying to be “everything to everyone”, but knew what one thing they wanted to do and they did it.
Whenever a business tries to extend themselves beyond this, they begin to decline or lose their branding power. It’s also interesting to see that the ones who started out with a powerful brand and got greedy and began to try and do what everyone else was doing and lost their influence. Pretty soon someone else will come and pick up where they began and they will be the new stud on the block.
You remember Cadillac’s attempt at making a smaller car? Now think about it. Who wants a small Cadillac? Those two words don’t even go together. But in the wake of heightened consumer demand for smaller, more cost efficient vehicles, the Cadillac group couldn’t resist. They did it and it failed terribly. Most don’t even know which car I’m talking about.
Last I heard Starbuck’s is getting into ice cream now… ugh.
Ford now owns Chevrolet in the truck market. Why? Because they poured all their advertising energy and engineering into that division.
In 1988, American Express had a handful of cards and 27 percent of the market. Then it started to introduce a blizzard of new cards including: Senior, Student, Membership Miles, Optima, Optima Rewards Plus Gold, Delta SkyMiles Optima, Optima True Grace, Optima Golf,Purchasing, and Corporate Executive, to name a few. The goal, according to the CEO, was to issue twelve to fifteen new cards a year. American Express market share today: 18 percent (1).
As a sales writer our job is to find each company’s “One Thing”. To help them to find it and to broadcast it. It isn’t that they can’t have but one service to offer, but they have to know what “one thing” sets them apart and drives business and not try to be Masters of the Universe.
I was doing a proposal for a local business one time and the owner told me that everyone in their city had considered them the leader at one particular area of service. There was a growing need for another and he asked if I would help him to market this service. I politely told him that this was a bad idea. They only needed to keep pushing and keep announcing their specific area of expertise and watch it rise and not give in to the urge to go in another direction.
The worst writing I have ever done is when my ability to influence a business of this fails and they persist in having multiple personalities. It’s a hard way to write and makes for miserable reading. Not everyone can be a Walmart. Those that try soon meet their demise.
So here is the tip for your writing:
Focus on one thing. One target group. One audience. Write to them like you were sitting in a coffee shop telling them about whatever product or service you are attempting to sell. Resist schizophrenic tendencies. Watch your advertising skyrocket.
1. Ries, Al; Ries, Laura (2009-10-06). The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
You know you are going to get asked at some point. Why not have some fun with it?
How Are You?
I’ve been way way worse.
Not near as contagious.
Another day closer to death.
Better than I need to be.
They say I should be fine.
It may look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level, I’m actually quite busy.
Great. They’ll never find me here.
I’m fine. It’s everyone else in this place that needs to worry.
Better than yesterday, not as good as tomorrow.
Fine, as long as another person doesn’t ask me that.
Gradually moving from self-pity to self-loathing. How are you?
I was right in the middle of a complicated, but life-altering mental project, but sure I could take a break.
Short about 5 dollars. How are you?
I know I am, I just don’t know “how I am”.
Shh. They’re listening to us.
*Pretty much anything in an indigenous language.
How’s It Going?
In accordance with my genetic destiny.
Living off the kindness of strangers.
A lot smoother with less baggage.
Needing to confide in someone for awhile, you busy the rest of the day?
Not bad. As long as I don’t buy anything else, I should have enough money to live on for the rest of my life. “Find everything ok?” (asked by check-out clerk)
Yep and some things I never ever wanna find again for the rest of my life.
Yes, cops are on their way.
Well of course or I’d still be out there looking for it. Pssh.
Howard Gossage’s famous quote reads: “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”
If you are in advertising of any kind you know immediately what he meant. We advertisers are in competition with You-Tubers, Meme Generators, videos of Grandpa backing over his mailbox and someone setting their hair on fire. Somehow in the midst of all this noise, we must gain their attention and create awareness.
“So we scream. So we shout. Until we don’t have a voice” – Kenny Chesney
There is a better way. Copywriting is all about finding unnatural ways to liven up the ordinary. To spice up the norm – suck the bore out. Our job is to take the common and bring in a new way of seeing it. No one cares about a toothbrush, a blow dryer or an oil change, but we need them don’t we? We do and people are going to buy them. So why not have fun with it? Why not make an appeal to the buyers that doesn’t feel so drab?
This isn’t a new idea. Marketing departments for many large companies realize that to compete they too must enter into the arena of nonsense. Get silly. Take their pants off. There is no longer a choice. The people have spoken and they (not the CEOs) are calling the shots.
The good news? We get to act crazy and maybe have a little fun at work.
Creativity breeds creativity and we must never let it take a day off.