How To Craft Awesome Sales Copy (!)
2006 May 12 by Josh
I'm in the process of wrapping up Steven Levitt's wonderful Freakonomics. If you're the type that is fascinated by hidden stories that can be found in statistics (or, if you're fan of Malcolm Gladwell's works) you need to grab a copy. Today.
In Chapter 2: How is the Ku Klux Klan like a Group of Real-Estate Agents? Levitt lists several terms commonly used in real-estate ads. What may (or may not) surprise you is that terms like "fantastic" and "charming" and "spacious" are commonly used to describe homes that really don't have anything worth describing. And as Levitt points out, "an exclamation point in a real-estate ad is bad news for sure, a bid to paper over real shortcomings with false enthusiasm."
Conversely, real-estate ads with descriptive terms like "granite" or "maple" emphasize the true selling points of the home, and can result in a higher sales price.
We live in a world where the signal to noise ratio is tilted heavily towards the noise. There is so much crap we have to dig through to find what we're truly looking for. If you're building a website or creating the next big web application, there is a key principe you can learn from real-estate ads when promoting your site:
Avoid meaningless adjectives like "awesome" or "superb" and instead simply tell your audience what your product is about.
For instance, we could say "Blinksale is an awesome way to send your invoices!" But instead we choose to say "Blinksale is the easiest way to send invoices online." It's a bit understated, but it sticks in your mind.
Anita Campbell recently picked up on this Blinksale attribute at this article about remarkable sales copy at BNET. She notes, "What immediately struck me was the simple, playfully worded—yet remarkable and memorable—website. You visit the website and the first thing you see is a clear statement of what the product does: 'The easiest way to send invoices online.' That's nice and clear..."
We play up that "easiest way.." tagline a lot. It's in the title element of our web pages, it's on our business cards, it's on our collateral. Another by-product of our clearly worded copy is better search results. It's put Blinksale at #4 if you Google "invoices". (Dang that A List Apart...)
Now there's something else I must note: I truly believe Blinksale IS the easiest way to send invoices online. You can't go making statements like that unless you believe your site or service has the chutzpah to back it up. Using descriptive terms like "granite" and "maple" to describe your home only works if you actually have granite and maple in your home. Otherwise, you'll be called on the carpet by your customers. And that is most definitely not "totally awesome."
The importance of clear, no-bull copy shouldn't simply be reserved for your website tagline either. It needs to become a way of life. Check out Skobee (the best way to make everyday plans). Their simple homepage tells you exactly what their service is about ("Make plans with people").
Finally, I believe there's still a place for superlatives like "fantastic" or "heavenly." This place is in customer testimonials. There is an old proverb that basically says that it's better to receive praise from someone else instead of heaping it upon yourself. Let others be superlative while you stick to the basics. Be confident in your voice, but don't be the cheesy salesman. If you're site is worth talking about, others will talk about it. You just need to provide them with the facts. Simple, straightforward, friendly sales copy does just that.