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How to Write Ads That Read Themselves

We humans don’t mind working. We’ll work to make good money. We’ll enthusiastically work to attract a lover. We’ll work conscientiously at raising good kids. We’ll work joyfully at a hobby. We’ll even work (as I did) for a sense of satisfaction and to make a memory.

… But ninety-nine-point-ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we will not work to read an unsolicited ad.

See, when we marketers and copywriters approach a prospect with a direct-mail piece, an e-mail blast, a print ad — or any other kind of promo, for that matter — we are interrupting his life.

The simple act of putting sales copy in front of a prospect brings him to a fork in his road. It forces him to make a decision to either (1) read or (2) not read our message.

And every time his eye moves from one sentence to the next… from one paragraph to the next… or from one page to the next… he reaches yet another fork in the road. And he gets to decide whether he’s going to keep reading our ad or abandon it.

As marketers and copywriters, writing a kick-butt headline to grab his attention is only the beginning. Our job is to make sure the prospect makes the right decision — the decision to continue reading — at every one of these forks in the road.

So what could make your prospect make the wrong decision and drop your promo into the nearest trash bin?

Off the top of my head? Here are five:

  • Interruption: The kids just shoved the family cat into the dishwasher. The prospect hesitates, but ultimately decides that dealing with the immediate crisis is somewhat more pressing than reading your message.

Your best remedy: Pray for the cat.

  • Unsuitability: Your prospect already has a computer and quickly decides your computer catalog is of no interest to him.

Your best remedy: Shoot your list broker.

  • Disbelief: Your claims seem so exaggerated (or even dishonest), he figures he can’t trust anything you say.

Your best remedy: Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

  • Boredom: Your copy is so brain-dead boring, he’d rather eat week-old sushi than continue reading.

Remedy: Get a personality.

  • Exhaustion: Your copy is so dense, difficult to read and impossible to follow, he simply gives up.

Remedy: Copy that reads itself.

16 Ways to Write Copy That Reads Itself

1. Be organized: If your copy meanders — if it makes the prospect have to think to figure out where you’re going… or feels like he’s taking two steps forward, then one step back… you’ve lost him.
Lay out your sales argument step-by-step. Begin with a fact that your prospect already knows is true or that you can substantiate beyond the shadow of a doubt (using a credible third-party source if necessary). Then, build your sales argument logically, brick by brick — each new contention building on the power of the previous one.

2. Work hard on your transitions: Never jar the prospect by changing the subject without warning. Create transitions to make it clear why you’re moving from one thought or point or theme to the next.

3. Try the “3-T” formula: When you’re making an important point in the copy, try constructing a series of paragraphs in which you (1) TELL the prospect what you’re going to tell him, (2) TELL him, and (3) TELL him what you told him.

TELL ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em:

“Did you know, taking calcium supplements every day can add 10 good years to your life?

TELL ‘em:

“A 2009 Harvard study determined that vitamin-takers live an average of 10 years longer than those who don’t — and are 80% less likely to suffer a hip fracture or be admitted to a nursing home.”

TELL ‘em what you told ‘em:

“Not only does calcium add years to your life, it adds life to your years!”

4. Begin paragraphs with connecting words: Words and phrases like “and,” “plus,” “furthermore,” “moreover,” “what’s more,” etc., point to the copy that follows, pushing the reader into the meat of your sentence and paragraph before he knows what hit him.

5. Begin paragraphs with a hook: A power word like “you” or “free,” a benefit, a date, or a famous name, engenders curiosity and teases the reader onward.

6. Short words, sentences, and paragraphs: Old rule — but, given the nimiety of information in the Internet Age, never more important. I try to keep my average word length to five to seven letters and my paragraphs to about five lines each.

7. Replace phrases with single words: Asking your prospect to read more words than necessary is asking him to work.

Instead of…

“Just open a packet of Energize and put it into a glass of water…”

Try…

“Just pour Energize into water…”

8. Replace long words with short, familiar ones: Instead of “facilitate,” say “help.” Instead of “utilize,” say “use.”

9. Replace passive words with active ones: Instead of “profit,” say “explode your wealth.” Instead of “limit your risk,” say “cut your risk.” Instead of “try it for 30 days,” say “USE it to make all the money you want for 30 days.”

10. Replace poorly selected words with the precise word for the job: Imprecise word selection diffuses your sales argument — or, worse, forces your prospect to work to figure out what you’re trying to say.

Hint: Excessive use of adjectives and adverbs is a red flag that there may be a more precise noun or verb that will let you say more with less.

If you’re not sure of the right word, take the time to crack open a thesaurus. It’ll pay you back in spades.

11. Speak colloquially: Metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech are word pictures. And you know what they say about pictures: They’re worth a thousand words.

Plus, using words and phrases your prospect uses to communicate every day helps you communicate more quickly and infuses energy and emotion into your copy.

12. Delete unnecessary words: Ruthlessly read through your copy, looking for words you could delete without diminishing the clarity and/or power of your sentences.

Example: “That” is quite possibly the most overused word in the English language. Don’t believe me? Search for it in something you wrote. And every time you find it, ask yourself, “How would this read if I simply deleted it?”

13. Avoid upside-down sentences. Commas are often red flags that the phrases in a sentence are in the wrong order. Check to see if moving those phrases around might eliminate the commas and make the sentence read faster.

14. Begin sentences with benefits (when possible):

Instead of…

Moving your money now will help you avoid major losses.

Try…

You can avoid major losses IF you move your money now!

15. Make it effortless: Your prospect doesn’t want to learn anything or do anything. He wants you (your product) to do it all for him.

Phrases like “Learn how to…” or “Discover how to…” or “I’ll teach you to…” imply the prospect has to do it himself.

Instead, say, “I’ll save you money”… “I’ll make you richer”… “I’ll ease your arthritis pain.”

16. Get a second opinion: Once you’ve done all this, hand your copy to anyone who’ll agree to read it and ask them to mark any spots where they feel confused or feel like quitting. Then return to those sections (with this checklist) to find ways to make the copy read itself.

[Ed. Note: Writing effective advertising copy for your own business is just one of the techniques you'll learn at Early to Rise's upcoming 5 Days in July Internet Business Building Conference. Every year, we bring in experts like Clayton Makepeace to give you the tools and techniques to be successful. Build your own fully operational Internet business in just five days. Spots are going fast -- and our early sign-up bonus offer ends this Friday.

Master copywriter Clayton Makepeace publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits. Claim your 4 free moneymaking e-books -- bursting with tips, tricks, and tactics that'll skyrocket your response rates -- at www.MakepeaceTotalPackage.com.]

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COMMENTS

  1. 05/26/2010

    Hi Clayton,

    Excellent article! As a recruiter one of my regular activities is to write and post ads for career opportunities, and the next ad I write I’ll adapt and employ some of your principles outlined above. Thank you for your insights!

    All the best,
    Andrew

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