There’s an old saying in carpentry… “measure twice, cut once.”
The same concept can be applied to writing sales copy.
I wonder if the copywriters who wrote these actual ads read them more than once and thought about how other people might read them…
A housekeeping service:
Tired of cleaning yourself?
Let ME do it!
A used car dealer:
Why go elsewhere to be cheated?
Come here first!
A swimwear shop:
Our bikinis are exciting.
They are simply the tops.
Turkey, $2.35; Chicken or Beef, $2.25;
A mortgage company:
Ask about our plans
for owning your home
A dry cleaner:
We do not tear your clothing with machinery.
We do it carefully by hand.
A furniture store:
Our motto is to give our customers
the LOWEST POSSIBLE prices
Yeah, you’re laughing now.
But it’s not so funny when it happens to you!
A mistake like this can make sales evaporate faster than a drop of water in the Sahara.
The lesson to be learned?
There’s a lot more to editing than just checking for typos.
I forget where I first saw these ads, but I’ve had them pinned above my desk ever since… as a reminder of the importance of writing and rewriting.
Not once… not twice… but as many times as it takes to get it right.
8 Steps to Eliminate the Gremlins In Your Copy
It’s a basic law of writing… the first draft of anything sucks.
And you know what?
So does the third, the fourth, and sometimes even the tenth.
The secret to gremlin-free sales copy is what’s called multiple-pass editing.
When I review an email, sales page, or other copy for the EMAIL ALCHEMIST I do multiple passes through the copy.
And each of those passes is for a distinctly different purpose.
#1: Edit for Warm-Up
Oftentimes, a writer will begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts.
When it comes to sales copy, it’s usually just the copywriter’s warm-up to her subject.
This is what’s known in journalist lingo as ‘burying the lead.’
Statements like, “As an American businesswoman, you know that managing people is a difficult job …” The reader already knows that.
And if the reader feels for a millisecond like you’re wasting her time, you’ve lost her.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a personal message for her, or some interesting ideas coming later, because she won’t wait around for them.
She wants to know “Why am I getting this email on this subject?”
Or, “What have you got to say to me that’s new?”
And she wants to know right now.
#2: Edit for “Stoppers”
Stoppers are words and phrases that are awkward, contrived, or out of the ordinary.
They hold up your reader and interrupt the rhythm of a piece that otherwise flows smoothly from one idea to another.
The best way to catch these is to read the copy aloud to yourself or others.
You may find yourself stumbling over a phrase or getting bogged down in spots where the copy slows and needs to be punched up or shortened.
Most importantly, the reader should never have to work to figure out what you’re saying.
Two-dollar words, esoteric references, and complex sentences are killers in sales copy.
Try to limit yourself to one complete, clearly presented thought per sentence.
And when you do connect two thoughts in a sentence, make sure they connect directly and clearly with each other.
Avoid inserting undeveloped or underdeveloped thoughts in a sentence or paragraph.
They’re like little boobytraps in the copy that stops readers cold.
#3: Edit for Logic
Humans are not logical creatures.
But when we’re reading or learning, we generally require the material to be presented in a clear, logical way.
Natural sequences of ideas are just easier for people to follow.
And when it comes to sales copy, you have to remember that people buy on emotion, and then justify their decisions with logic.
That’s why it’s so critical to have a strong, logical argument throughout your copy.
You need to state your case logically and methodically, building upon each completed argument with the next like a bricklayer building a wall.
It helps to create and follow a chain-of-logic outline before you start writing.
Put each thought, idea, objection, or sales point on a separate notecard, and then arrange and rearrange them until you have a logical flow.
Ask yourself, what must my prospect believe first in order to make this purchase?
What must my prospect believe second? Third? Fourth?
If your logic is flawed, the reader will decide your whole sales argument is flawed.
#4: Edit for “Reason Why”
Do the benefits you attribute to your product just hang in mid-air, supported only by the fact you’ve told them it’s so?
Or do you give them all the reasons why what you’re saying is true?
You need to give your reader much more than unsupported puffery to believe you.
Why is your tax software more accurate?
Why does your protein drink supply better, more sustained energy?
Why are you able to get me twice as many Facebook leads, for half as much?
Why should I believe your program will make me a better leader?
Why does your financial editor have a better track record?
A sales page for an investment newsletter says, “The unusual resources which the editors draw upon are unparalleled in financial publishing.”
Why those resources are unusual and unparalleled are never made clear.
As such, that statement has all the impact of a pebble thrown into the ocean.
#5: Edit to Expand Benefits and Support Claims
This is another way to help steer your copy away from unsupported puffery.
You can save me time and effort in building my online business? Prove it!
Your sales copy says…
“We make it easy for you to build an online business from scratch – by helping you get more done in less time, so you can build your new business as quickly as possible.”
It’s a nice claim and sounds like a benefit. But it doesn’t go far enough.
Let’s go deeper…
“You get more than three dozen detailed ‘Action Plans’ – checklists covering everything from finding your niche and selecting keywords to researching your competition and creating your first online course, and more – walking you through everything you need to know to start your own successful online business.”
“Because in order to achieve real, lasting success (without having to experience all the painful trial-and-error I had to go through)… you need a complete road map that shows you step-by-step exactly what to do, and in what order to do it!”
The latter leaves little doubt as to how you’ll fulfill your promise.
#6: Edit for Market
You’ve got to send the right message to the right market.
Part of that is making sure your language, style, and tone are appropriate given the subject matter and the intended prospect.
Is your ideal prospect male or female?
55 and married or 35 and single?
An outdoor person or desk-bound?
High school graduate or graduate degree?
Specialist or generalist?
Writing for Field & Stream is entirely different from writing for Harvard Business Review.
So how well does your copy address the intended market?
#7: Edit for Readability
You’ve got to keep your copy fat-free.
One of the chief tenets of sales copy is that a reader must feel as though they’re getting good value in return for the time required to read it.
Your challenge is to never use three words when two will do the job.
Eliminate unnecessary words and unhelpful repetition.
Use figures of speech, such as similes and metaphors.
Not only do they help you say more faster, but they create a more vivid experience for the reader, calling powerful images to mind.
Consider this excerpt from George Orwell’s novel 1984 (similes are underlined):
“He sat as still as a mouse, in the futile hope that whoever it was might go away after a single attempt. But no, the knocking was repeated. The worst thing of all would be to delay. His heart was thumping like a drum, but his face, from long habit, was probably expressionless.”
Finally, use precise word choices as they help to create momentum.
A greased chute that pulls the reader in, moves them through the copy friction-free and shoots them out onto the order form ready to buy.
In the words of Mr. Keating in the wonderful movie, Dead Poets Society:
“Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”
#8: Edit for Spelling and Grammar
Finally, it’s time to do a final read for mechanical errors.
Few things scare a prospect away faster than bad spelling and grammatical errors.
If you lack the attention to detail to make sure your writing isn’t littered with typos, then what else are you lacking?
And don’t just rely on your own two eyes. Get someone else to look at it too.
We have three sets of eyes looking at everything that goes out the door here at the EMAIL ALCHEMIST and every once in a while a typo still slips through the cracks!
Use the spell checker and grammar checker in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
Run your copy through Grammarly, which is free and integrates with Google Docs.
These tools aren’t perfect, by any means. But used together, they’ll help you catch errors you might otherwise miss.
You need a multi-faceted approach to ensure you catch every error.
Want More Strategies and Methods for Improving Your Online Sales ad Profits?
Writing effective sales copy is hard work.
It’s also incredibly time-consuming if you do it the right way.
And not just writing the copy, but all the other things that come with building a list and scaling a business, such as structuring your overall positioning and approach.
All these other things are just as important as persuasion, if not more so.
If you don’t want to be figuring this stuff out by yourself, why not tap into our 15 years of experience working in over a hundred niches to guide you?
Just apply for your free strategy session here.
It’s a 60-minute analysis that reveals our proven 5-phase system for building your list and scaling your business with the least risk and effort.
You’ll walk away with a 60-to-90 day plan to hit any realistic and worthwhile income goal over the next 12 months.
And after your session, we’ll send you a screen-capture video with all the details, tactics, and overarching strategies you’ll need.
Your strategy session is free, and there’s no obligation whatsoever.
But it’s by application only… on a first-come, first-served basis.