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The seven irrefutable laws of sizzling sales copy

There are certain things you can do immediately to help you drastically improve your sales copy. Granted, writing persuasive content is in itself deserving of an entire book. But given a choice, I believe there are seven simple tips for increasing attention, readership and desire. Here they are.

1. Headline

You might have heard of the famous "AIDA" formula in direct marketing. Successful direct response web copy is contingent on your adherence to that well-known formula. AIDA is an acronym that stands for:

  1. Attention
  2. Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action.

The first part (i.e., "Attention") is probably the most important on the Internet. Crafting a headline on your site's front page that immediately captures the prospect's attention is critical to your success. Why? On the web, our attention span is enormously short. You only have a fraction of a second to capture a person's attention and pull her into your copy.

If the prospect hits your front page and does not immediately feel a need to read further, she'll leave at the single click of a mouse. And if so, the rest of the formula goes straight down the tubes. Therefore, in order to limit my writing to the confines of this short article, here are at least three important things to remember when developing headlines:

  • Use subheadlines (even surheadlines) to emphasize the keywords and the core benefit expressed in the headline, and especially one (or more) of three powerful "magnets" (i.e., words that pull people into the copy or website), which are the words "free," "guarantee" and "deadline." For more on headlines and on using sur- and sub-headlines effectively, see my previous article, "Secrets of Successful Headlines," at http://successdoctor.com/articles/article89.htm.

  • Focus on the three most important goals in human nature, which are to either save or make time, money and energy. Of course, the topic of sex is another, and I'll refrain from discussing it here except for the fact that there is a way to use sex in a headline without appearing crass or even pornographic. Whether your product or service helps to make a person feel good, sexy, attractive, powerful, potent, virile, appreciated, happy, loved, etc, these are all elements we desperately seek: it all comes down to emotions!

  • Use an element of curiosity, urgency or scarcity in your headline. For example, don't mention everything to your readers -- give them ample information but not too much so that it pulls them into the copy. Leave an interesting tidbit out or keep them on the edge of their seats, eager to read and absorb more. For example, "Learn one of the most closely guarded secrets for tripling website sales!" People will then wonder, "What is it?" As for an element of urgency or scarcity, we'll deal with this in point 7.

2. Headers

On the web, people don't read. They scan. They seldom read entire web pages from top to bottom. If the headline was compelling enough, then the likelihood that they will read the entire body copy will be greater. However, the chances of that happening 100% of the time are very small.

So, use headers at every two or three paragraphs so that, when the reader scans the page, headers pull readers into the copy. And similar to the headline, don't be vague or general. Use benefits. Be specific. And think keywords. Rather than saying "Background," "Profile" or "History," say "Read The True Story of How Michel Fortin Went From Colossal Failure to Becoming Known As 'The Success Doctor'."

3. Bullets

Insert bulleted lists within your marketing copy. If at any point you list more than two items, use bullets. Bullets are short, captivating and pleasing to the eye. They give the reader a visual break, especially with the long copy salesletter style. But most important, they reinforce the offer, help to deliver straight-to-the-point benefits and are clustered for greater impact.

And an effective way to incorporate bullets is when they follow the words "you get" or "reasons why." This grants the reader the ability to know exactly, item by item, what they are getting out of responding to your offer. For example, use bullets after the words "with this [product], you get" or "here are the reasons why you should buy [this product]."

4. Postscripts

Postscripts (or "P.S.'s") at the end of a sales copy are great tools for a number of reasons. While they can surely be used to restate or summarize the offer, postscripts can also emphasize the critical points mentioned earlier in the copy and especially in the headline -- such as the element of scarcity -- that can give that final "push" prospects need to go ahead.

A free or an extra bonus not offered in the copy, a link to the order page with emphasis on the fast approaching deadline, or an alternative (such as an invitation to join an affiliate program to sell the product highlighted) are all elements that can be used very effectively with postscripts. And don't limit your copy to a single "P.S." Add a "P.P.S.," even a "P.P.P.S." on. Like bullets and headers, they are some of the elements people read first before they read the entire copy. So, they work!

5. Emphasis

In speech, we use tone, pitch, rhythm and inflection (emphasis on certain syllables, words or expressions) in order to stress the message being conveyed, its meaning or certain key points. But on web however, there is no speech. Therefore, HTML is an effective tool for that reason. Since most people will scan a website, through text formatting we can accent certain words or phrases that we want the reader to read and understand -- words to which we want the reader to pay greater attention.

Things like bold lettering, italics, underlines, colors, font sizes, tables, borders (borders and framing text help to increase readership by about 20%) and so on can make a message and particularly critical points of the copy more impacting and forceful. Emphasis also aids comprehension especially of complex and critical ideas, and can be used to drive home important points. Like speech, it can make the message more seductive and meaningful. Take, for instance, "I love you" versus "I *LOVE* you!!!" The latter is more appealing, more invigorating and more significant.

6. Words

Words are not messages. They are symbols used to convey them. As such, words mean different things to different people. The words you choose can literally change the meaning behind the message (often called the "meta-message"). For example, words can either emphasize, support or even contradict the message. So, the words you choose may impact the reader in different ways. Here are at least three word-based techniques.

A) Repetitious Words

As the old adage goes, "Repetition is the parent of learning." Like point 5, repetition aids comprehension especially of complex or important ideas. However, the key here is not to repeat the same words over and over but to use different examples to illustrate your point.

To that end, paraphrase, or substitute certain words with synonyms, and add new pieces of information each time the idea is repeated. For instance, in order to drive the message "privacy policies promote purchases" home, that message can be repeated with the following:

  • "Privacy statements increase sales,"
  • "Confidentiality is a key to online success,"
  • And "respecting visitors' privacy is profitable."

B) Emotional Words

Again, words are not messages in themselves. They have different meanings to each of us and can be interpreted differently. While many words can be used to communicate a single message, the words you choose can dramatically alter its emotional impact. In copywriting, it is not so much the message that's important but the meaning behind it that is. For instance, look at these differences:

  • "Cost" versus "investment;"
  • "Beautiful teeth" versus "beautiful smiles;"
  • "Skinny" versus "slim" or "slender;"
  • "Products" or "services" versus "solutions;"
  • "Cost-effective" versus "return on investment;"
  • And "house" versus "home."

C) Positive Words

Avoid using negative words. Say what it is, not what it isn't. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of the bestseller "Psycho-Cybernetics," states that the brain is a goal-seeking organ -- it needs a goal in order to function. For example, if I told you *not* to think of a white carnation, you will have hard time since your brain needs a goal -- it will naturally picture what it is supposed to avoid because the mind can not function when blank.

But on the other hand, if I told you to think of a pink carnation, you will then think of a pink carnation and not a white one -- I gave your mind a goal. Similarly, stating what something isn't can be counterproductive since you are directing the mind, albeit in the opposite way. If you were told you that dental work is painless for instance, your mind will still focus on the word "pain" in the word "pain-less." Here are some examples:

  • Instead of saying "inexpensive," say "economical;"
  • Instead of saying "this procedure is painless" or "pain-free," say "there's no discomfort with this procedure" or "it's quite comfortable;"
  • And instead of saying "this software is error-free," "bug-free" or "foolproof," say "this software is very stable."

7. Deadline

Add urgency or scarcity to your copy. Use a technique called "takeaway selling." As Jim Rohn once said, "Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value." Procrastination is the biggest killer of sales -- particularly online where the chances of a prospect staying or returning to a website (in order to think about buying), in today's click-happy world, are scarce.

Takeaway selling is in fact based on the concept of supply and demand. As the saying goes, "You don't know how much you want something until it's about to be taken away." Look at it this way: if you give a chance for your prospects to procrastinate, they will.

So, add a deadline or some kind of constraint, such as a time-limited or quantity-bound offer. Such limitations implore at some unconscious level, "You better read this and take action now!" Put an actual end-date or a specific, limited quantity to your offer. But always make sure to back up your limitation with a logical, genuine and easily justifiable reason in order not to appear misleading or disingenuous. For example:

"If you act by midnight, Friday October 6th, you will get the 3 bonuses included with your special offer. But keep in mind, however, that these bonuses come from various third parties over which we have no control, and can be removed at any time without notice. So the time to act is now!"

The Bottom-line

Look at your copy and read it carefully with a discerning eye. Does it violate any of the above laws (in other words, is it easy to scan, does it grab people's attention and, above all, does it excite them about your products or services)? And more importantly, do people truly understand the meaning behind the message in the way you anticipated? Or do they interpret the message differently? If you can, have someone else read it and tell you what they understood -- you might be surprised!

Craft a message that jumps out at people and compels them to respond or, at the very least, to read further. Either that or hire a professional copywriter to do the job -- especially a copywriter who is a direct marketer or online business owner himself, and understands good copy. It is worth the investment -- in fact, the return a higher conversion ratio may bring to your business could pay for the investment in no time.

For example, you can hire me to write, rewrite or simply critique your sales copy (i.e., to review it and offer recommendations). For more information on any of these three services, see http://successdoctor.com/. Or to obtain a free quote, visit http://successdoctor.com/quote.htm right now.

If not, remember that you should at least test and tweak your copy regularly, because you never know ... One little change can potentially send your conversation ratio through the roof. Translate that into dollars: What's the value of a 25%, 50%, 100% or even 400% increase in your current conversion ratio? It's something to think about

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!