How to write copy that people actually want to read
You’re sitting at the kitchen table with your 16-year-old son. “Listen, Jason,” you say. “I’m tired of the way your room is always a mess. And do you realize, you never help with the chores and you’re always rude and sullen to the rest of the family?”
STOP! Freeze frame! You’re still at the kitchen table with your son, but let’s rewind that tape and change the dialogue:
“Jason, I know you have a date on Saturday night. Here are the three things you have to do to persuade me to lend you the car....”
Now tell me: which scenario is more likely to get Jason’s attention? Not exactly a tough question, was it? Of course Jason paid more attention to the second bit of dialogue – because it wasn’t just another useless lecture. Hey, if he picked up his socks, he could get the family car. WAHOO!
Well, good for Jason, you think, but what does his story have to do with copywriting?
Why your readers are just like Jason
Jason’s reaction illustrates the What’s In It For Me factor. Or, as I like to say: WII-FM – the one radio station everyone listens to.
Now of course I’m not suggesting that when you sit down to write copy, you should promise your readers a car. (If that was the case, copywriting would be really, really easy. Expensive. But easy.)
And I’m obviously not in a position to tell you what specific facts or promises will most appeal to your potential customers.
But I am saying that when you’re writing copy, you need to get out of the “here’s what I want tell you” attitude and into the “what does my reader want to hear?” mentality.
Reading is tough – but here’s how you can make it easier for your customers
What readers want – in addition to the merchandise or service you have to offer – is to be engaged and entertained.
Reading is a bit of a chore for many people, and if you expect them to put their eyeballs and brains to work on your 250, 500 or 750 words, you’d better not bore them.
One of the very best ways to avoid boredom is to base your copywriting on a story, just as I did at the beginning of this article.
Sure I could have started the piece by saying something straightforward like: “If you want people to read your articles, then begin with an anecdote.” But I didn’t. I actually told you an anecdote instead.
Authors of bestselling self-help books discovered this trick decades ago. Pick your favorite gurus – Dr. Phil? Dr. Laura? Dr. Spock? – and you’ll see that all of their books are brimming with anecdotes – stories about real people in believable (if often crazy) situations.
You already have more stories than you think: just use them
We human beings are hard-wired to like stories. And if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you already have a million stories in your brain: The crazy requests from customers. The time you pulled out all the stops to get a shipment out on time. The marriage/big contract/life you saved by doing your job.
And if you’re a business newbie, then make up a story. (Just as I made up Jason. This kind of creative writing is perfectly okay as long as you don’t try to pass it off as a real incident.) There are interesting stories all around you. And, with a little thought, they can be made to illustrate just about any business point you can imagine.
In addition to being interesting, stories are also memorable. I bet the next time you give your teenager a lecture, you’ll think of this article. You, too, can harness that kind of power for your own copywriting.
And here’s the best news of all: Telling stories is a whole lot cheaper than buying cars.