In virtually any direct marketing materials, the written copy itself is the bedrock upon which everything else rests. While it’s nice to have eye-catching graphics, charts, photographs, or other embellishment, the copy is what’s going to truly determine whether your marketing materials are effective.
So today, let’s get back to the basics: How to write effective marketing materials. Some of this may sound familiar, since the basics of copy have been known at least as far back as the “Mad Men” era, but it’s still good to remember that many of those techniques are still totally relevant today.
Four Classic Ways To Create Great Copy Every Time
1 – Write for your specific audience.
It’s no secret that different groups of people speak or write in different ways, and those differences have only widened in recent decades. Buyers -especially home consumers- are more influenced by materials that seem to “speak to them” and have direct relevance to their own lifestyle, interests, hobbies, and such.
Even everyday consumers today can quickly spot “generic” direct marketing materials that were written for the widest possible audience. Narrow targeting and a deliberate attempt to engage specific groups on a personal level will work better because it avoids the trap of seeming generic.
2 – Have a problem, a solution, and a reason.
This is Marketing 101 stuff, but it bears repeating: Virtually all successful marketing is based on presenting a problem and demonstrating how your product is a solution to it. However, alongside those, giving a reason for this to be true is vital because reasons -any reason- are convincing.
There was a great psychology study a couple years ago which demonstrated this concretely. In the test, someone tried to cut in line for use of the copier. If they merely said “Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the copier?” they only had a 60% success rate. However, saying “Excuse me, I have five pages, may I use the copier because I need to make copies” garnered a 93% success rate.
I.e., even a completely banal reason is better than none at all. “Because” is one of the most important words you can deploy.
3 – Use active voices and active verbs.
Active-voice writing is almost always more convincing then passive. Active sentence constructions are shorter, snappier, and more to the point. On the other hand, passive-voice writing is seen as weak and unconvincing, so there’s rarely a good reason to use it.
Active: John walked the dog.
Passive: The dog was walked by John.
Likewise, when speaking directly to the reader, active and energetic verbs are more likely to inspire action. Words and phrases like Improve, Discover, Explore, Take Hold, Protect, Compete, Dominate are among the most compelling words you can put in your copy.
4 – Have a killer headline.
A viewer won’t read your copy if you haven’t grabbed their attention, and that’s exactly what the headline is for. A well-written headline creates the interest needed to get them excited for the rest of the copy. As a few basic guidelines:
- Keep it short and to the point, preferably less than 70 characters.
- Make it directly relevant to the materials – no bait and switch.
- Include “loaded” emotional words that suggest a mindset to the reader.
- Be a little controversial, when appropriate.
- Use a subheading if your headline feels too long. It keeps the eyes moving downward.
Basically, thought should go into every word in every piece of direct marketing you produce. The more attention you pay to your copy, the more likely it is to pay off!