“Need to Tell” vs “Want to Tell”

In marketing copy, “need to know” info is the facts your prospect has to hear to help him make the decision to buy your product.

But it’s often the “want to know” info that has more pulling power. By that I’m talking about things your prospect has an emotional interest in.

Put your finger on the latter and you’ve got an extra edge when formulating your pitch.

On the copywriter’s side of the fence, however, it occurs to me there’s another dynamic to consider. It’s the difference between “need to tell” and “want to tell” information.

It goes like this…

“Need to tell” describes what you can’t leave out. Because without it, the sales message just ain’t compelling enough to seal the deal.

So what’s “want to tell?”

It’s the stuff you WANT to jam into the copy somewhere… but might not need to. The jokes and puns, the clever subheads and lengthy anecdotes, the trivia — the extras that satisfy the writer’s ego, but don’t do much for the reader.

Dumping a gut full of “want to tell” copy onto the page can be cathartic.

It can make you feel smart. It can make you sound funny or witty. But it’s no way to sell.

How do you know when you’re “over-telling?”

Grab a red pen (or put your finger on your delete key) and go back over the copy, reading it aloud. Study it visually on the page too. Are there places where you hear or see yourself making the same points over and over again?

How about your proof? Usually, three strong proof sections will do the trick. Much more than that and you’re just showing off.

And take a look at what you’re promising. Offers that give the prospect lots of things can be fine. Just make sure you’re not over-compensating by throwing in the kitchen sink. At some point, it can make your product seem cheap rather than valuable.

Look, too, for personal anecdotes, inside jokes, and passages jammed full of exclamation points or florid, hyped-up descriptions. Copy can be aggressive and exciting and still work well. Sometimes extremely well. But not when there’s nothing substantial under the fluff.

The bottom line is this: You know when you’re working hard to get something into the copy because you “just like it” instead of knowing the copy will fail if that particular bit isn’t included.

Arm yourself with Hemingway’s principle: “When in doubt, cut it out.”

P.S. Writing a sales letter is a creative process — to a point. But, the letters that bring in the best results must have certain elements. And they must follow a certain structure to keep the reader engaged. The good news is that writing sales letters is a skill anybody can learn. Find out just how easy it is here.

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  • Art

    In other words – make sure your copy is not jejune.