How to write good copy and win customers

Dale Carnegie shared a secret to writing great copy in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People that goes as follows:  How to _____ and _____. All one needs to do to launch a powerful ad is fill in the blanks.

Applying this method to the Site X advertisement I wrote about here last week looks like this:


How many of you would respond to such a headline?

Site X could then have distilled their offering down to one simple statement as follows:

Site X provides tax roll data, integrated maps, and local neighborhood information that can be easily integrated into your website.

And then followed that up with simple bullet points that drive home the benefits:

  • Help clients make smarter property decisions.
  • Add value to your service proposition.
  • Differentiate yourself from your competition

Writing a great copy is not exclusively, or even predominantly, about talent (though it certainly helps). It’s mostly about following a set of basic accepted guidelines. Below I’ve listed those to which I adhere.

Simplicity is good. Create clear, concise copy that is easy to read and understand. The quicker you propel your customer to the decision point the better.

Edit. Boil statements down to 1 and 2 syllable words. Stick to shorter sentences. Short paragraphs.

Define your message immediately. Start before you write. Nail the most important aspect of the message. Then lose anything that detracts or distracts from it.

Identify your audience. And identify their needs. Make sure your copy connects with those needs. Make sure your audience isn’t everybody. Maybe everyone can use your product or service but you will be more successful if you can isolate exactly who you are writing for. Know them. Target them.

Be believable. Stay away from grand statements. Write like you speak. Imagine you are talking one-on -one with the reader.

Speak to the reader’s needs, not yours. Prospects don’t care about you, your product or your company, but they may care about how they could benefit by using what you have.

Reach inside their heart as well as their head. People respond to emotion. Great copy will dramatize a feeling the user will reap from using your product or service. Buzz words, hyperbole and jargon can’t do that.

Compel. Make them an offer — a strong call to action — they can’t refuse. Make the offer strong. Clear. Make sure it has real value. The most you can afford to give away.

Get a second (and third and fourth) read. This seems really obvious, but all I can point to are the hundreds of miles of real estate convention aisles we have all walked gazing at vendor booths and not knowing what in the world they are selling.

Look at your ads. Look at your websites. I know you are proud of them but pride doesn’t bring in the Benjamins. Today, especially in the Web 2.0 world of transparency, offering a clear, definitive message that reflects the needs of your reader is more important than ever.