“If you keep the purpose of your marketing at the forefront of your efforts then you will focus on effective communication rather than your own preferences.”
~ Debra Hilton
In each of these steps your goal is not to make yourself front and centre, it’s to make your prospect feel his pain, visualise an alternative future, and have confidence in your ability to help him. It’s never about grammar, prettiness, sophistication (although you may use any or all of those intentionally if they work), it’s about communication.
#1- Purpose: What Action Do I Want People to Take?
All effective direct response copywriting has an objective, and every word should be chosen with a view towards accomplishing that objective. The objective of any piece of copy must be clearly defined firstly, so that you can decide what you need to say, and secondly, so that you can measure the response to it and determine its success.
Sometimes collateral that is designed only to build your list dramatically increases sales as well (not a problem, but good to know for future campaigns); and sometimes collateral that is designed to sell your solution sends readers on a search which leads them straight into your competitors’ arms (bad outcome). Either way, you need to evaluate your outcomes, not just let them happen and you can only do that if you know what action you want people to take in the first place.
P.S. The action you have in mind might simply be to make your reader WORRY about your topic. If you use this strategy make sure that the results of their internet search lead to YOU by creating your own special terminology.
#2 – Relevance: Why Is This Important Anyway?
You care that people respond because you need sales to pay your bills. Your prospects don’t care about your business growth at all, they are focused on their needs.
This applies to books, blogs, sales letters, advertisements, magalogs… etc. It’s not about you. Ever. If your target reader says, “So what?” You’ve lost them.
Everything from the images you use, the font, headlines, text, needs to tell your reader why they need to care about this issue and why it’s too important to simply be called ‘interesting’ and set aside. This means helping your reader to feel their pain, as well as giving them a vision of a future in which this problem is solved.
#3 – Urgency: Why Should I Act Now?
Human beings are great procrastinators, and I don’t think the internet age has changed this. We may have become less patient when it comes to other people’s response-times, but we’re just as good as every at putting off our own decisions or changing our mind. Statistically speaking, if your prospects don’t act when they first read your offer, they won’t do so later (unless you remind them).
You can create urgency through bonuses and special offers, but a stronger sense of urgency that is appropriate for most service businesses comes from focusing on the ways their inaction exacerbates the problem and the vision for a future when this problem is solved.
#4 – Confidence: Why Should I Believe You?
Even after you have persuasively presented prospects with a relevant and urgent opportunity so that they are predisposed to respond to your offer, you need to build their confidence. Some of your readers will find testimonials and other social proof convincing, others will not. It’s not just that there is increasing scepticism about the validity of testimonials, it’s also that some people aren’t really interested in what ‘random’ people think. That’s where data and rational argument come in and you should provide this kind of backup information about your approach, your industry, and your results, in addition to testimonials.
#5 – Clarity: How Do I Take Advantage of This Opportunity?
Your response mechanism needs to be clear and detailed. Don’t make assumptions based on your own preferences and behaviour. I’ve gone over enough calls to action for clients to know that what seems obvious to one person is completely foreign to another person. Having attracted your prospect’s interest and raised their sense of urgency, if you fail to make the next step clear you will next discover that they are working with a competitor.
You should provide at least two different ways of response (mail, email, phone, online form…) and detailed step-by-step options. You should also check any systems you are using before you launch your campaign and periodically during its lifespan to check that everything is working as it should.
The biggest problem most businesses have when it comes to creating their marketing collateral is that they focus on being clever, and telling others what they know as industry insiders, rather than trying to communicate the message prospects need to hear in order to buy.