The one most common mistake in advertising copy

The One Most Common Mistake In Advertising Copy

What I’ve noticed over the past weeks in my consulting gigs, is how many companies seem to misinterpret the core concepts of marketing and advertising.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone I’ve worked with have been exceptionally talented at what they do…

True artists in their own fields.

But when it comes to actually explaining that to their website visitors, email lists, customers, and prospects, they just come up with this incoherent corporate-speak.

Everybody seems to talk about their firm as some kind of larger-than-life object, and feel the need to present it like a newborn baby to the world.

“Just before midnight on an otherwise dreary November night in 1957, NordicCopy Plumbing LLC was born. At that moment, we knew we’d come across something special. The world seemed to slow down, outside noises disappeared, all but the sound of the old cuckoo clock Jack had received from his late uncle.”

Ok… Cool, I guess.

But what’s in it for me?

The truth that few people truly understand, and even fewer care to remember when it matters, is that people just don’t care about you or your company (and this is a GOOD thing, trust me).

That’s why your “About Us” page is not – really – about you.

And why the focus on your “Product” page shouldn’t be… your product.

It’s also why nobody ever:

…reads About Us pages to just learn more about the company.
…reads Solutions pages to just hear how well-made your solutions are.
…even visits your site in the first place.

What people want, is to – within 3 seconds of landing on the page – figure out why your company, product, or service is worth their time.

If you don’t manage to convince them of that within the first three seconds, they’re gone, never to return again (this is also why page-load speeds are so vital, but that’s another story).

So, the reason people click on your About page is…

…They want to know you’re trustworthy (are you a legit company?)
…They want to know you’ll be able to deliver (how old is the company? Will it fold in the next week?)
…They want to know who they’re dealing with (can they call someone if something unexpected happens?)

In one word, they want reassurance.

How to figure out the Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

When I speak with different business owners, I always try to figure out the most concise way to explain what their business does… Sentences a five-year old could understand and remember.

In face-to-face discussions most business owners I speak to are surpsisingly good at explaining briefly what they do, why, and what the customers actually get.

Yet none of this is clearly conveyed in their marketing efforts.

Most of the time, these couple of sentences my clients tell me become the skeleton of the whole campaign, be it texts for a website, traditional or digital ad copy, or email sequences.

And the silly thing is…

They work!

While curiosity can work in getting that initial attention, at the end of the day it’s a trick. In a marathon, focusing on the self-interest of the customer will win, 100 times out of 100.

If you’ve ever wondered why ad-blockers are as popular as they are, why there’s even a need for words like clickbait, and why advertisers in general are seen as sleazy salesmen, it’s all to do with the over-usage of curiosity-styled headlines.

Sure, you might get some quick “wins”, but at the same time you destroy any trust and credibility that you’ve built with that reader, if you don’t DELIVER on those sky-high promises.

And that’s why…

… No matter the intent and purposes of the ad copy, the goal should always be to serve the customer. Create a mental checklist that you run through every once in a while to check that your communication serves the customer more than yourself.

Which leads to my next point…

Strive to simplify, not to elaborate

I didn’t have the time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

Mark Twain

Research shows that most native English speakers read on an elementary level. We can safely surmise the reading levels of non-natives are a tad lower.

Also, with the digitalization of, well, everything, the concentration span of your audience is also shorter than it used to be. You are constantly competing with other mediums for the reader’s attention, even for just 10 seconds. There are hundreds of other emails to be opened, browser tabs to switch to, podcasts to listen to…

So what does this mean?

It means that you need to be super effective in your writing. Consider every single new reader on your website someone you’re pitching to in an elevator. Dawdle for just a few seconds… and you’ve lost them…

Same goes with your writing. Your writing must be effective, succinct, while stile covering everything a longer presentation would.

Now, a quick word of warning. This is not easy. It’s infinitely easier to write longer texts than short ones, assuming they’re to be written with the same end-goal in mind.

What I usually do, is I write like normal, making sure I cover absolutely every angle there is to cover, without caring how long the text becomes. This is the first draft of the first draft.

Then, I take a break and let my mind forget the text… and return a bit later to read it through.

Here, the whole point is to remove anything superfluous from the text. Anything that doesn’t move the needle is discarded. Remember, this isn’t your own personal Mona Lisa. It’s sales.

If you stumble over the words while reading a finished piece, it’s not simple enough.

If you give the text to a friend, and they pause for a prolonged time at any point, it’s not simple enough.

If you’re writing in English, make use of such great and free tools like Hemingway and Grammarly.

If nothing else, remember this

  • People visit your site with themselves in mind. Thus, write for them, not for you.
  • Simple is good. Make it virtually impossible to misunderstand the texts.
  • If you stumble over the texts, other people will too. Simplify.
  • About Us pages are not about us.

Failing to understand these things could lead to you spending unnecessary amounts on bad copywriting that will only look good to you. And in times like these when businesses and customers are cutting heavily down on spending, you need to make sure every cent you spend on marketing has a positive ROI.

If you need help with that, let me know by filling the form on this page.

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