How Knowing What NOT to Say Boosts Results

“Too much zeal offends, where indirection works.” – Euripides

Copywriters spend a lot of time staring at the blinking cursor… wondering what to say.

This is especially true when they’re writing sales copy for the Internet. After all, the Internet is a fairly new advertising medium. So don’t Internet marketers have to find whole new things to say to reach this new market?

Here’s the surprise…

Just as it’s true in print direct marketing and poetry, economy of words can be your greatest ally.

That is, sometimes knowing what NOT to say – and show – in your sales copy for the Web, whether you write it yourself or hire someone else to do it, is actually the greater way to get results.

Let me share a couple of ideas that illustrate what I mean…

When Saying and Showing Less Is More

The “blinders and Clydesdales” principle:

Why is it so important to leave other people’s links off of your home page? Think of the Clydesdale. You know Clydesdales. They’re those massive horses that pull everything from old-time fire engines to Budweiser beer carts.

They’re powerful and large. They’ve got a big mop of hair hanging over each hoof. And almost always, you see them wearing blinders.

Blinders are black flaps that cover part of the horse’s eyes while he pulls whatever it is that he’s pulling. They keep the horse focused on the road ahead. Without them, where does a distracted Clydesdale go? Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m thinking… anywhere he wants.

And it’s the same with your average Web surfer. They, too, have the power to stay or go, move forward or away. What you, as an Internet marketer, are hoping is that they’ll apply all that power to plowing forward through your carefully crafted sales copy.

What you desperately want, in effect, is for them to keep their eyes focused tightly on the road ahead… following it straight to the button that says “click here to order.”

Here’s the thing…

Too many Internet advertisers try to create the ultimate “surfing” experience with their copy. But what you want is copy that creates the “anti-surfing” experience. As your potential customers move through your e-mails… your home page… and your online sales letters… you want their undivided attention.

And that’s where the blinder analogy comes in. Links that takes your prospect elsewhere are distractions. Remove the links, and you’re that much more likely to keep his eyes staring straight ahead. Hopefully, to your order page.

The Disappearing Website

One of the great misconceptions about getting a business onto the Internet is the idea that your website becomes your calling card… or that it has to impress so much that your customers will talk about the website even when they’re not logged on.

This leaves Web owners so pre-occupied with the look and feel of their sites that they miss the true lesson. Which is that the best websites don’t call attention to themselves. Instead, they call attention to the sales message they’re meant to convey.

To paraphrase a David Ogilvy example, if your customers look at your home page and say, “Wow, what a website!”… you’re doing something wrong. But if they look and say, “Wow, what a product!”… you’re on the right track.

Blocking Pigeonholes

Picture yourself landing on a webpage or getting an unexpected e-mail in your inbox. How long does it take for you to decide to read on?

Typically, no more than a split-second. This is because the human brain is designed to categorize quickly, based on initial – if partial – information. Just a little evidence is enough for your prospect to make a decision. And then, into the pigeonhole it goes.

This one’s spam… that one is news to read later… this website has no substance… this other one pulls me in… and so on. It only takes a glance. Unless, that is, you’re careful about closing off those pigeonholes very early in the game.

One of the ways to do this is with a technique called “indirection.”

“Indirection” is to approach your reader in ways that surprise him. To approach him in a way he doesn’t expect. Websites and e-zines, for instance, are natural places to try out indirection techniques. Because you’re often writing about the same themes over and over. And before long, it’s handy to have many different inroads to the same idea.

The Golden Password Principle

In hotspots like Manhattan and Miami, nightclub owners figured out that the harder it was for people to get in, the more desirable the club. So they started draping their doors with a velvet cord. Patrons line up. The club bouncer looks them over. If they pass inspection, the cord is lifted and the patron goes inside.

In print direct-response marketing, you get the same effect by selling “membership” in private clubs of your own. The more exclusive the feel of your offer is, the more alluring it is. Research shows that the fear of missing out and the desire to be included are strong motivators when it comes to buying behavior.

It’s no different with online marketing. Private access has a powerful allure. And the technological perks of the Web give you, the online marketer, a few brilliant ways to duplicate the “club membership” model.

Try inviting your prospects to join a club that offers private e-mail alerts… special-interest discussion boards and article archives… subscription-based membership in a private website where only members can log in to pick up special reports, software downloads, new graphics, and more.

Give club membership the feel of prestige. Make it official with certification, a password, and the whole enchilada. It’s easy for your average online surfer to quit a newsletter or a discussion group. But it’s harder for him to quit a full-fledged “club.”

See what I mean? I’m sure you do.

[Ed Note: John Forde, a published writer and a direct-mail copywriter since 1992, is the editor of the free weekly e-zine, The Copywriter’s Roundtable.

Be sure to sign up for ETR’s Info Marketing Bootcamp – Making a Fast Fortune on the “Other Side” of the Internet – where John Forde and dozens of the nation’s leading business-building experts will advise you on every step you need to take to start your own successful information publishing business.]