When all the background research is done and I have a detailed profile of:
- Who I am writing for and what they care about (Market);
- What I want to communicate to them (Message);
- What specific action I want them to take (Motion);
- How and where the copy is to be used (Media);
… it is time to start actually writing the sales copy according to the clear principles of direct-response copy. By this time, I have a good feel for the problems they care about most, the criteria they will use to judge any possible solution, the offer that is most likely to move them to action, and the format that is most suited to the media.
Now, there is a good chance that my first draft will be very effective. But there is an equally good chance that some things need to be tweaked to make a greater impact, and the only way to be certain is to split test one version agains another version.
In direct response mailings, this happens all the time, and the copywriting A-listers always set out to ‘beat the control’. In fact, copywriters like Jim Rutz and Gary Bencivenga would write a winning piece (based on data-driven measures) and then set out to beat their own control by split testing variations and measuring the response (incidentally, they earned royalties on every piece mailed). This control is the piece that is currently performing best in a particular target market. [N.B. I won’t discuss the importance of segmenting your advertisements and mailings in this article, but segmentation is one of the most effective ways of improving your response rate.] The important thing to note about a ‘control’ is that it is based on the results of split testing, not feelings.
Sometimes, a client questions my copy when they receive the first draft. Now at this stage, any copy is subjective because it hasn’t been tested so I’m happy to listen and often I’ll make the changes requested. Other times I will explain why the copy reads as it does, and usually we agree to test. The truth is, that even the best copywriters on the planet write pieces that bomb, as well as very successful, high-performing pieces. Field testing is the only way to know for sure which is which.
The key to high-performing copy is:
- Research thoroughly;
- Write powerfully based on your research;
- Split test at least 2 options;
- Tweak and test some more.
Laziness is the Greatest Obstacle to High Performing Copy
No matter how well you understand your audience, your product or service, and how clear your call to action is, there is no guarantee that the copy will work as effectively as you anticipate it will.
The only way to be absolutely certain is to test, test, test! As long as you continue split testing, you can improve response. At the same time, you will usually end up with a diminishing rate of return and often good enough, is good enough.
Boredom is the Second Greatest Obstacle to High Performing Copy
There are times to change your advertisements, and times not to change your advertisements. If you are sick of an advertisement, but it is performing well then you should leave it alone. Your readers are clearly not tired of it. That is why you need to keep your eyes on the numbers and follow the advice they are giving you, not your personal preference.
“This is a numbers driven game, not a feeling driven game.”
I have only ever worked with one client who looked at the numbers, and said, ” I don’t care what the numbers say I like this version better. That’s the one we’ll use.“ Needless to say, we quickly determined that we were not a good fit for each other and I introduced her to another copywriter.
Direct response copywriting is a numbers-driven game. However, processing those numbers is not as simple as it looks at first glance. Your website, blogs, advertisements, are all part of your brand building exercise and they work together. So, while blogs may not directly engage sales they are providing the information, the credibility, and the additional support, that buyers need to make a buying decision. Even when website visitors do not immediately fill in a response form or click the buy button, your investment in website copy may be the thing that caused them to actually pick up the phone so you need to be asking questions from your clients at every stage of the process to find out what is really driving their behaviour.
The art of direct response copywriting is that it is not a simple question of raw numbers. Let us take an ad that garners 50 responses, with an average spend from those people over a period of 12 months of $180, with no referrals, and no ongoing commitment. 50 x $180 = $9000 over 12 months
Another ad, may only attract 20 responses, yet they spend an average of $1600 over 12 months and each one of them refers at least one other person. 20 x $1600 = $32,000 + referrals.
Which ad is really working better for your business?
At the end of the day, effective copy for your website, advertising, or direct mail is not about what you like or don’t like. It’s about what your customers, patients, and clients respond to. What positions you to attract your ideal customer, and bring them through your door, so that you have the opportunity to demonstrate what an awesome service or product you have.
So don’t be lazy with your testing.