Imagine a web page with just pictures. How many orders would you get? Precious few.
So today I’m giving you four priceless tips to get your prospects thinking. Huh, I thought you said this was about reading?
It is, but here’s the dirty little secret …
Reading is “thinking”, and most people hate to think. Ergo, most people hate to read. Therefore, a big part of your job as a marketer and persuader is to take as much of the “thinking” out of the “reading” as you possibly can. Does that make sense? Say yes.
So how will you do it? There are many ways. Here are four I feel like writing about today …
Tip 1 – Slice your copy up into delicious looking bitesize morsels …
Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs.
Short words are anchored in childhood, before our intellectual development takes place. So they speak directly to our emotions.
The great ad man Bruce Barton said:
“No ad can be great that contains anything that can’t be understood by a child of intelligence. Certainly all of the great things in life are one-syllable things — child, home, wife, fear, faith, love, God. The greater the thought we have to express, the more likely we are to find simple words.”
The same applies to sentences …
A sentence is like a puzzle isn’t it? It must be decoded. And aren’t long sentences more difficult to decode than short ones?
Sure. The long ones require you to think, just to figure them out. They add needless overhead, narrowing the mental bandwidth available for your sales message. And they run counter to the pleasure principle, because thinking for most people hurts.
Read this next long sentence and you’ll see what I mean…
A sentence is like a puzzle that must be decoded, with long sentences being more difficult to decode than short ones, adding needless overhead, narrowing the mental bandwidth available for the message, and running counter to the pleasure principle, because thinking for most people hurts.
Do you see how much more involving and pleasurable it is reading short sentences?
Now paragraphs are another thing altogether. Each paragraph is a decision point. Your reader is asking himself, “Do I really want to tackle this one?”
How does he decide?
By the look of it, of course. Short paragraphs are inviting. They hold out the promise of instant gratification. Long ones are intimidating. They look like work. And who wants that?
It’s human nature not to want to start something we may not want to finish. The same goes for paragraphs. It’s also human nature to want to remain consistent with our commitments. We don’t want to stop something we started. The same goes for paragraphs.
Do you see the power of the short paragraph, the short sentence, and the short word?
Tip 2 – Glue one thought to the next with epoxy cement …
Another place where the reader’s attention and interest are siphoned off is between sentences. When one sentence fails to flow logically into the next, the reader must again expend precious mental bandwidth to make the connection.
It is easy to assume the reader knows things he does not. And when you do, you lose him by making too much of a leap between one point and the next.
Readership is inspired by an orderly march of facts, evidence and reasoning. There is a certain pleasure we take as human beings in putting two and two together. It is an identity reinforcing experience for us.
Tight, super coherent copy makes us feel like we’re taking over the process, as we digest its facts and assent to its reasoning. The merit of the argument becomes visible to us, and seeing it, we associate ourselves with it. Our egos are stroked.
The same holds true for the overall structure of paragraphs and sections. Give your reader the feeling you’re taking him in a straight line from where he is to where he wants to go.
Which brings me to …
Tip 3 – Be brief …
There is a time and a place for long copy, and there is a time and a place for short copy. But there is never a place for copy that’s unnecessarily wordy. For copy to sell, every word must count.
This is particularly true on the web. People do not have the same attention span online as they do offline. Most are juggling a never-ending stream of emails, chats, web pages, and internal documents simultaneously. They’re conditioned to flit from one document to another in a way they would never do offline.
And I believe that calls for a whole new way of approaching your writing…
Traditional direct response wisdom says you painstakingly explore every single feature, advantage and benefit of the item you’re selling. Or at least as many as you can fit into the medium you’re advertising in.
Of course on a web page, there are no space limitations. You can write as much as you want.
This encourages over-written copy that in many cases sells past the sale. Whoever said long copy always outsells short copy was wrong.
Whether you end up with short copy or long copy, packing as much selling power into as few words as possible is one of the true secrets to writing powerful, order pulling copy. One of the best ways to say more with less is to create mental pictures in the reader’s mind. You do this by relating the unfamiliar with the familiar, using analogy, metaphor, simile, and storytelling.
Here’s a wonderful example from the great adman, Harry Bourne …
“Every so often — and sometimes in between — Mr. Manufacturer rises to announce that no one reads long advertisements. So the moot question has been and is, ‘How long should an advertisement be?’ Nobody has ever answered that question satisfactorily. Certainly it should be just long enough to carry its objective and no longer. If you can get any satisfaction out of that answer, make the most of it.
One way to shorten copy is to shorten the words. Practice writing your headlines and text in words of one-syllable. You’ll be amazed at the strength of your copy. All good writing is distinguished by simplicity. It is the essence of strength. For instance, if you wish to indicate that your material handling machinery reduces the working force from ten men to one, you may choose to say in your headline — “Manual Labor Materially Reduced” or “It Took Ten Men To Handle This Job Before” or “Are You Affected By The National Labor Shortage?”
If I had the job I should say, “In Place Of A Gang, A Man!”
They are all words of one syllable and make a picture that almost instantly occurs before the reader’s vision.”
Tip 4 – Harness the power of the spoken word …
Of course, copy isn’t limited to the written word. It applies just as readily to video and audio formats of communication, where inflection, tone, pace, rhythm and body language take your words to a whole other level.
They also relieve your prospect of the mental effort of decoding the letters, turning them into words and the words into sentences. That mental effort is actually a good thing, because it involves the prospect in the persuasion.
The trouble is it’s easy to have too much of a good thing, which you can feel when you’ve been reading for a while and make the switch to listening. Isn’t it a relief to have the copy just washing over you? You feel a renewed sense of interest, don’t you?
The ear is the doorway to the emotions, and the emotions are the doorway to the sale.
And just as there is no music that does not affect the mood of the listener, one way or the other, there is no utterance that is not emotive …
What this means is that listeners are much more easily moved than readers.
Studies show that the human capacity to perceive non-literal meaning through the spoken word has its origins in the womb and is anchored far more deeply than the ability to interpret literal meaning through language.
When we hear a joke expertly told we’re rolling in the aisles. When we read the same joke, we’re merely smiling. Because we’re picking up meaning through the sound of the person’s voice and their body language, not merely the words.
You can even see this with animals. They’re not going to laugh at your jokes. But they know how they feel about you by the sound of your voice.
And that’s the key thing that you’re trying to achieve, feeling versus thinking… because critical thought is the enemy of the sale.
Giving the prospect the chance to dive into the nitty gritty details of what you’re offering, and to engage in a logical decision-matrix-like exercise about the pros and cons of “should I or shouldn’t I?” is a conversion deathknell.
And it is much more difficult for people to slip into that bad persuasion place when listening… versus reading.
This is because they’re not in control of the pacing of the information. You are.
If somebody listening to you stops to ponder something for more than a few seconds (unless you give them the opportunity), they lose track of the thread.
People therefore tend to pay attention to what they’re feeling, much more than what they are thinking, especially when you structure and deliver your presentation correctly.
The ear absorbs what it receives. The eye analyzes and deconstructs.
Until next time, Good Selling!