Whether for the Web, direct mail, a feature article, or an advertising campaign, I believe all effective copy shares certain characteristics or elements.
What are they? I offer my five must-haves below.
These aren’t new. The first three come from direct-response copywriting legend Herschel Gordon Lewis. Lewis grouped them under what he called The Umbrella Rule. “Your copy must succeed if it has these three ingredients,” he wrote.
With some additional inspiration from William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (The Elements of Style), I offer the final two to round out my five elements of can’t miss copy.
I was discussing copywriting recently with a writer friend who was in the process of completing a Q&A. We agreed that clarity trumps all. To the question, if there’s one secret to writing effective copy, it is … , he answered, “Clarity. Without clarity no one understands the copy, its purpose, or its value.”
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In the January edition of The Levison Letter, direct-response copywriter Ivan Levison offers five tips for writing it right in 2009. All solid tips, one, in particular, caught my eye:
#3. Keep it lively.
Hey, it isn’t a crime yet in this country to have a little enthusiasm or a sense of humor. If your marketing materials are flat or boring, bring a little personality to the party. You know, your sales letters, email, Web copy, etc., need to communicate more than features and benefits. They have to truly engage the reader and connect at some emotional level. So don’t be afraid to write with a little punch. The spark you or your writer brings to a project can make all the difference!
I agree. Obviously, you can’t get too wild, but most B2B audiences are just regular folks who will respond to some well-placed personality and enthusiasm. Try it and track the results.
Does the blank screen or page ever paralyze you? Would you rather edit a piece than write a first draft?
If you’re like many human beings, the answers are yes and yes.
Ernest Hemingway called the blank page the white bull. I like that. One time when asked why I get out of bed in the morning and go to work, I said, “For the thrill of facing the white bull.”
The white bull isn’t for all thrill seekers, though.
“This bull has probably intimidated people for centuries,” wrote a fellow copywriter, “ever since early man stared at a blank stone tablet with chisel at the ready, scratching his prominent forehead.”
So how do you defeat the white bull? What’s the secret?
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Have you heard of BuzzWhack? It’s a site “dedicated to de-mystifying buzzwords.”
You can sign up for the buzzword of the day. Some are really funny. And some are just plain dumb. Following is an example of a dumb buzzword. (Actually, it’s not even a word.)
Relanguage: Term used by $300-an-hour consultants when $1 words such as reword, rephrase or rewrite would work just as well. “I think we can relanguage that to be more effective.”
If you’re a writer, you should consider the above job security.
Creating an effective marketing piece is impossible without good information and input. Following are 20 solid information sources for B2B marketing communications projects.
1. Web sites/blogs
4. Case studies
7. Industry publications
8. Annual reports
10. Press releases
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Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”
Obviously, writing good ad headlines is important work if you want your ads to succeed. I emphasize the word “work,” because it’s harder than it looks.
Here are five quick tips for writing good ad headlines:
1. Don’t settle on first efforts.
They’re often not as good as they first seem.
2. Give yourself time.
Unless you’re writing a text-heavy ad, spend most of your time on headlines.
3. Write a lot of headlines.
Don’t edit (at first), just write as many headlines as you can.
4. Try different headline types.
Direct, indirect, how to, news, question, testimonial and more.
5. Polish your best efforts.
Pick the most promising headlines and try to make them better.
This process should produce some workable ad headlines.