Four Steps to Writing Copy That Sells

August 6, 2007
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Make sure your copy is aimed at your target audience.


Whether you advertise or not, changing the copy you already use in your sales and marketing will get you more sales.

Notice that the title of this article doesn’t say “ad copy.” It simply says “copy.” Your cleaning and restoration firm may do mostly repeat and referral business, and not do much, if any, paid advertising. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to write compelling copy.

In addition to ad copy itself (the text or spoken word you use in an ad), you use copy in communications with your past clients, whether that includes reminder letters, postcards or newsletters. Hopefully you have some type of promotional piece, such as a brochure, to give to prospects. And rest assured, you are killing yourself if you don’t understand ad copy. I see it all the time. Most of the advertising you see, in any industry, is bad. It doesn’t work. The blind are leading the blind.

And do I dare mention that you introduce yourself and tell people “what you do” several times a day? What about those phone calls from prospects and past customers? Do you have powerful, compelling scripts, or do you just go “off-the-cuff”? World famous Zig Ziglar and other authorities on sales declare that a planned – not canned – sales script works better than a reactive-based approach.

So, whether you are writing an ad, a brochure or a newsletter, start by following these simple steps:



Step 1: Write to Your Target Audience and to Them Only

Before you write anything, ask yourself, “Whom am I trying to reach with this message?” Basically, there are three types of audiences... 

Suspect. Someone who fits your “Target Market” profile. Your target market is the type of customer or client you are after. Are they high end, middle, low? Commercial? Residential? A specific, niche industry? What is their lifestyle like? What are their problems? What are the solutions you can offer them? You see, if you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be anything significant to anyone.

Prospects. Someone who has expressed interest or had you give them a quote in the past. 

Client. Someone who has already used your service.

The message will be different depending on your audience. For example, I have already broken through the trust barrier with my existing clients, so my messages to them will be different that someone who has never used my service. Sure, on an ongoing basis, I want to reinforce the trust they have placed in us. But what message is going to keep them coming back for more and telling others about us?

A prospect needs to know that you can be trusted and that you know what you are doing, so they are compelled to move forward with you. They need to know that you are the only choice that makes sense. Your copy must compel that.

And Suspects must be moved up to Prospect. You need to get them to “raise their hand” so to speak to at least prove they are interested in your service.



Step 2: Understand Why People Do Things

In various situations, there are only three reasons people will take extraordinary action:

•       They Have To / They Want To.

•       Fear of Pain / Hope of Gain.

•       To Avoid Pain / To Get Gain.



The deadly assumption that small-business owners make is, “People need my service, so I just need to get my name out there.” Just putting your shingle out doesn’t do it in today’s market. You have to convince them they need you and only you, or get them so excited that they want you and only you.

In your copy, you have to show them the pain of not acting and share the hope of acting. You see, it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a prospect responding to an offer, or an employee going the extra mile, or you getting off your butt to take your business to the next level...we only act if there is fear or hope. If we are comfortable, we don’t act.

So, get your reader so uncomfortable that they feel they have to act, or so inspired that they want to act. How do you do that? With powerful, compelling copy.

Step 3: Connect With the Six Reasons People Clean

I have identified six different reasons people clean. Sometimes it is a combination of reasons. Also, remember that your audience is unaware of all the reasons to clean. For example, if a prospect thinks they should only clean if there is visible soil, and doesn’t understand the health risks of “invisible soil,” you can raise that awareness in your copy.

Here are the reasons people clean:

Visible Soil - Obviously, the carpet, rug, floor, or fabric is soiled or stained.

Events - Upcoming weddings, graduations, holidays, the arrival of house guests, etc. This could also include past events, such as a party that caused “visible soiling.”

Health - Carpet, floors and fabrics can hold harmful bacteria such as pet urine, mold, etc.

Maintenance - For the floor or fabric to last longer, it should be maintained.

Problem Solving - This would be a perceived “defect” such as roll crush or pile distortion that may be able to be solved with professional cleaning.

Odor - Pet odors, cooking odors, etc.



Step 4: Understand the Four Great Motivators

Veteran copywriter Herschell Lewis states in his book “Direct Mail Copy that Sells” that there are Four Great Motivators. Although the book was written in 1990, I believe the same holds true today.

Fear - This could be a fear that is already felt, or it could be a fear raised in your message. For example, if your copy suggests that your prospect should purchase carpet protector because the carpet may not perform as well as it would otherwise – and the soil that has bonded to the traffic areas will cause it to “ugly out” – you will raise a concern or a fear of having to spend money unexpectedly, and a fear of not getting the most out of the investment.

Exclusivity - Although this motivator works better for a Lexus than a carpet cleaner, it is still alive and well in our industry. Some clients feel “exclusive” because they have a carpet cleaner that not everyone can get (or afford). They may feel exclusive because your copy suggests that your special offer is an exclusive offer.

Guilt - With effective copywriting, you can actually trigger the emotion of guilt if your reader begins to feel they are neglecting their investment or exposing their babies to harmful chemicals.

Greed - Isn’t it amazing that the word “Free” works wonders in high- and low-income markets alike. Unfortunately for the human race – but fortunately for marketers – there is an element of greed in all of us.

Remember, using these techniques carelessly is like handling a sharp knife. You can end up cutting yourself just as easily as anything else, leaving a bloody mess! If you liked this article, circle 148 on the Reader Inquiry Card.

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