How to Attract Wild Animals with your Copy

This article from Unbounce.com offers some great tips for copy writing, specifically applicable to our product and POS pages. It will be most useful for my fellow interns, all of you who have been here for a while can correct me where I am wrong and add any additional thoughts.

I really like the analogy and the end of the article that describes customers as “wild animals foraging for food.” In this case their “food” is information and their “foraging grounds” are on the web. It is important to concisely communicate the benefits of our various products to customers, while acknowledging that each customer base has different needs. This article provides a quick checklist for writing compelling copy; I summarized the most important points below and how I connected each to the Voice of Logos.

stinky copy

  1. Know your reader. Your target audience should heavily impact your voice depending on your target denomination, and purpose for using our product (preaching, scholarly study, self-help/study, etc.).
  2. Use appropriate language. Recognize the ideal time to address your reader directly, such as in sales pitches: Logos saves you time…. You save this much money when you buy now (these are the sweet desserts that lock down the sale) and when the reader expects dense, focused information (the main course of your copy).
  3. Don’t talk about yourself. Customers want to hear what we can do for them. Instead bragging about “lightning fast search results” talk about how quick and comprehensive searches save users time in their studies.
  4.  Be Concise. Enough said.
  5. Write each page like a book. We run thousands of promotions throughout the year. At any point a promotion could link to the page you are designing/writing and all kinds of Logos users (veterans, regulars, and newbs) will be seeing your page. Ask yourself, will they know where to go from here? We all know what to do after reading the first page of a book, you turn the page!
  6. Separate sales pitches from product information. When reading about a product the customer doesn’t want to be bombarded by requests to purchase. Give them the product information they are looking for upfront, and wrap up with compelling reasons to buy now.
  7. Avoid sentence bloat. No reason to fluff up the facts, just give them the facts.
  8. Web copy is not a science. What works for one customer base will not necessarily work for another.
  9. We are the best…. According to who? We all know we provide the best customer experience from purchase to everyday use, but no one likes to hear people brag. Use endorsements and examples to show how others appreciate our products.
  10.   Have a clear CTA. Your reader should never be wondering “what to do next” after reading your copy.

Lets feed those hungry animals!

 

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Google Designers Talk Copy [Video]

Skip to the 20-minute mark here for insights into how Android designers write UI copy. The takeaways: “Keep It Brief,” “It’s Not My Fault,” and “Sprinkle Encouragement.”

That’s all UI-specific, of course, but the copy examples are worth a look.

Long Copy vs. Short Copy?

Elegance: “all you need and nothing more.”

It’s a fine balance, right? Should we blast people with every little thing we could possibly say just in case? Or should we boil everything down into one photo, one headline, and a huge, above-the-fold CTA?

 

Here’s what Marketing Experiments found after testing more than 10,000 landing pages:

  • Simple, low-cost offerings get more conversions with short copy.
  • Complex, expensive offerings do better with long copy.

I’ll post a link to the web clinic once it’s available online.

When you’re writing/requesting/designing landing pages, consider:

  • Does this cost a lot of money?
  • Does it involve a lot of commitment (time, travel, participation, etc.)?
  • How complex is this process for the customer? Does it involve voting, coupon codes, interstitial pages, forms, and/or time-travel?

What do you think?

What’s the best landing page you’ve ever seen? Did you do what it told you to do? How long was the copy?

 

 

 

4 literary tips for better copywriting

From: David Davidson
To: Marketing Dept

Hi there, marketers,

One of my favorite novels is Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a deeply tongue-in-cheek story couched in some beautiful prose. DeLillo’s no copywriter, but many of the techniques that he uses make marketing copy stronger.

What can we learn from him?

1. Use long sentences to set up your short ones. Most of DeLillo’s sentences are lean: one subject, one verb, often no introductory clause. We already know this is good. But DeLillo also writes some really long sentences, and those long ones make the short ones stronger. In the following passage, the contrast between the second-to-last and last sentences reinforces the tension and resolution.

What time was it when I opened my eyes, sensing something or something nearby? Was it an odd-numbered hour? . . . Was it dawn already? Were those crows I heard screaming in the trees?

There was someone sitting in the backyard. A white-haired man sitting erect in the old wicker chair, a figure of eerie stillness and composure. At first, dazed and sleepy, I didn’t know what to make of the sight . . . I felt cold, white. I worked my way back to the window, gripping a doorknob, a handrail, as if to remind myself of the nature and being of real things. He was still out there, gazing into the hedges. I saw him in profile in the uncertain light, motionless and knowing. Was he as old as I’d first thought—or was the white hair purely emblematic, part of his allegorical force? That was it, of course. He would be Death, or Death’s errand-runner, a hollow-eyed technician from the plague era, from the era of inquisitions, endless wars, of bedlams and leprosariums. He would be an aphorist of last things, giving me the barest glance—civilized, ironic—as he spoke his deft and stylish line about my journey out. . . . When the storm door banged shut, the man’s head jerked and his legs came uncrossed. He got to his feet and turned in my direction. The sense of eerie and invincible stillness washed off, the aura of knowingness, the feeling he conveyed of an ancient and terrible secret. A second figure began to emerge from the numinous ruins of the first, began to assume effective form, develop in the crisp light as a set of movements, lines and features, a contour, a living person whose distinctive physical traits seemed more and more familiar as I watched them come into existence, a little amazed. It was not Death that stood before me but only Vernon Dickey, my father-in law.

2. Repeat phrases, not words. Overusing any individual word—“Bible,” say—feels sloppy, but repeating entire chunks of syntax lends your writing a sense of rhythm, a forward momentum. This technique is especially useful in rising action—the body of an email leading up to a CTA, for example. Here’s DeLillo using it:

I tell my students not to look for apocalypse in [car crashes in commercial films]. I see those car crashes as part of a long tradition of American optimism. They are positive events, full of the old ‘can-do’ spirit. Each car crash is meant to be better than the last. . . . I tell my students if they want to bring technology into it, they have to take this into account, this tendency toward grandiose deeds, toward pursuing a dream.

I tell them it’s not decay they’re seeing but innocence. The movie breaks away from complicated human passions to show us something elemental, something fiery and loud and head-on. It’s a conservative wish-fulfillment, a yearning for naïveté. We want to be artless again. We want to reverse the flow of experience, of worldliness and its responsibilities.

I tell them they can’t think of a car crash in a movie as a violent act. It’s a celebration. A reaffirmation of traditional values and beliefs. I connect car crashes to holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth. We don’t mourn the dead or rejoice in miracles. These are days of secular optimism, of self-celebration. We will improve, prosper, perfect ourselves. Watch any car crash in any American movie. It is a high-spirited moment like old-fashioned stunt flying, walking on wings. The people who stage those crashes are able to capture a lightheartedness, a carefree enjoyment that car crashes in foreign films can never approach.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we do the same thing with “You’ll . . .”: “With the FSB, you’ll share notes and prayer requests. You’ll explore insights from today’s top scholars. You’ll dig deeper, together.”

3.    Avoid clichés. It’s hard to find a set phrase in DeLillo’s work. Where other writers might choose “ghost” or “grim reaper,” DeLillo talks about an “aphorist of last things” and Death’s “hollow-eyed technician” (see #1). It’s not that the constituent words are fancy or rare—it’s that I pay attention because I’m not used to hearing them combined like that. Next time you start to write “scholarly yet accessible,” remember that such phrases wither through overuse.

4.    Cut unnecessary exclamation marks. Compare the following two speakers—who’s more powerful?

The plane had lost power in all three engines, dropped from thirty-four thousand feet to twelve thousand feet. Something like four miles. When the steep glide began, people rose, fell, collided, swam in their seats. Then the serious screaming and moaning began. Almost immediately a voice from the flight deck was heard on the intercom: ‘We’re falling out of the sky! We’re going down! We’re a silver gleaming death machine!’ This outburst struck the passengers as an all but total breakdown of authority, competence and command presence, and it brought on a round of fresh and desperate wailing.

Then there was a second male voice from the flight deck, this one remarkably calm and precise, making the passengers believe there was someone in charge after all, an element of hope: ‘This is American two-one-three to the cockpit voice recorder. Now we know what it’s like. It is worse than we’d ever imagined. They didn’t prepare us for this at the death simulator in Denver.’

In general, try to avoid using more than one exclamation mark per paragraph. Multiple exclamation marks back to back, as used by the first speaker, don’t really sound exciting; they sound sort of hysterical. And when you do use an exclamation mark, ask yourself, “Is this really exciting?—from the reader’s point of view?” If you can get away with not using exclamation marks, you’ll let the ones you really need convey more excitement.

As always, thanks for reading!

DD

Top 5 mistakes from hypercorrection

From: David Davidson
To: Marketing Dept

Sometimes the desire for perfection trips us up. Hypercorrection is what happens when we set out to follow even the strictest rules and, in doing so, fall into error. Here are the top five slipups:

1.    Adverbs wrongly used in place of adjectives

A linking verb connects a descriptive word with a subject. “To be” is the most common, of course—in “I am hungry,” “hungry” describes “I,” not “am.” But sometimes we interpret the descriptive word as an adverb, not an adjective, writing “open widely” instead of “open wide” or “feel badly” instead of “feel bad.” Be careful with “be,” “feel,” “look,” “seem,” “appear,” and other linking verbs—if an adverb follows, there’s a good chance it’s wrong. In such cases, ask yourself, “Do I mean that I feel in a bad manner, or that what I feel is bad?”

2.    False or pretentious Latin plurals

Latin plurals have long been associated with correctness, but not every -us word in English should, when pluralized, end in -i. “Octopus” is a good example—though we often say “octopi,” “octopus” comes from Greek; it entered New Latin as a loanword. The classical plural, then, is “octopodes,” not “octopi”—shoutout to marketing assistant and hairless-cat enthusiast Amanda Olson for already knowing this—but you should write “octopuses,” the anglicized plural. Likewise, “ignorami,” “apparati,” and “prospecti” are incorrect for “ignoramuses,” “apparatuses,” and “prospectuses.” “Indices” and “appendices” aren’t outright errors for “indexes” and “appendixes,” but outside scientific and mathematical contexts, the native-English forms are preferred. Your best bet? Double-check Merriam-Webster whenever you pluralize such words, and use the first plural form listed.

3.    Prepositions inelegantly moved from sentence ends

Lots of us were taught never to end sentences with prepositions. That “rule,” arbitrary in the first place, is long defunct; good luck finding a contemporary usage authority who’ll back it up. But there are two reasons it’s still worth keeping in mind: (1) We deal with readers who understand themselves as academics, and the traditionalists among them might (wrongly) look down on our “incorrect” usage. If it’s just as elegant to move the preposition elsewhere, might as well—that way we keep all readers happy. (2) A sentence’s “punch word” comes at the very end: for example, Be ready when people ask, “Why?” is much stronger than Be ready for the “why” questions. Prepositions are pretty much never punchy, so if you’re ending a sentence with one, it’s worth asking if it’s really the word you want to emphasize.

4.    “I,” “myself,” “whom” wrongly used

This is probably a topic worth treating on its own, but—in short—“I” and “who” are for people who do verbs, “me” and “whom” are for people whom things are done to (or who are the object of prepositions, as in the previous phrase), and “myself” is for people who are simultaneously the doers and the ones being acted on. So “Between you and I, this email’s too long” isn’t right: “I” isn’t doing anything. “Get in touch with Jayson or myself” isn’t right: “myself” doesn’t point back to the doer, as it does in “I feed myself.” (The implicit actor in imperatives is “you.”) But what about a sentence like “Voters whom politicians think are underinformed”? “Whom” sounds right because the voters are the object of the politicians’ thought, but “voters” is the subject (the doer) of “are.” In such cases, “who,” not “whom,” is correct. This may be old news to many of you; the tricky part is remembering it every time “I,” “myself,” or “whom” just sounds right.

Note: in blog posts and emails, you’re not obligated to use “whom” even when it is correct. “Who” is often more idiomatic, and we aim for a colloquial (if polished) style in most of our messaging.

5.    “A number of people was there,” “A handful of mistakes arises,” etc.

Makes sense, right? “Number” is singular, so “was” should be too. But that flouts well-established idiom: the sense of “number” is obviously plural, and we’re used to hearing “number . . . were.” In that sentence, meaning, not syntax, should govern the subject-verb agreement. (Meaning overriding syntax is called “synesis.”) Unless you’re dealing with “amount,” “class,” or “group,” if your noun denotes multiple people or things, you’re probably safe with a plural verb. “A couple of cats are napping.” “Of the world’s many cats, a number are self-styled ‘ca$h cats,’ flaunting their wealth on the internet.” “A host of kittens are pouncing nearby.” “Percentage,” though, complicates things. When it’s used with “of” and precedes both a plural noun and a verb, it—like the other nouns of multitude—usually takes a plural verb: “A low percentage of email readers click through.” But when the verb precedes “percentage,” the verb should be singular: “There is a low percentage of clickthroughs.”

Did I any miss any major hypercorrect mistakes? Make any? Let me know in the comments by replying!

Thanks for reading,

DD

P.S. Want more usage advice? You’ll find it in the style guide.