Thursday, June 4, 2020

3 Tips to Write Less Hard-Selling Copy That Sells

less hard copy

By Jason Yiu


All too often, marketers face a situation where, having written a great piece of content about a product or service is, it ends up with low engagement and even lower conversion rates. In short, it hasn’t helped sales at all. 


If this sounds familiar, it may be because the content is too ‘salesy’. Of course, the idea is to sell solutions, but the reality is that being salesy is no longer useful people are doing their best to stay away from direct marketing altogether. 45% of ‘salesy’ direct mail remains unopened forever, and 200 million people are on the Do Not Call Registry to prevent cold calling.


To avoid the trap of ‘salesy’ content, there are three essential tips one can implement. 


Make the content memorable


A sound bite is a short clip of speech or music extracted from a longer piece of audio to highlight a point, a tool commonly used in journalism. However, in the copywriting world, it’s more like a proverb–it makes a point in a concise, memorable way. A sound bite can communicate an idea through one short, minimal sentence, and if done right, can leave a strong impression. 


One famous example of a sound bite is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s well-known quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s simple, yet powerful, communicating one idea with great force.


Max Atkinson, in his book “Our Masters’ Voices”, suggests that humans usually applaud at the end of the third point, which he refers to as the ‘claptrap’. His conclusion was that the human brain finds it easier to remember things in groups of three. This is a useful tidbit to remember when writing copy: always try to group three points together.


The trick to coming up with three hard-hitting statements that leave the strongest impression is to focus on the features of the product. For example, Apple’s latest MacBook Pro is more powerful and performs better than the previous iteration. Apple’s copywriter used these characteristics to construct the first two statements of the product’s tagline, and the third reinforced the product’s name by using ‘Pro’ as an adjective. Thus, the new MacBook Pro is being advertised with the following copy:


More power.


More performance.


More pro.



Make friends with the audience


Content marketing can often feel like an info-dump, throwing ideas at the audience who will retain very little. Very few people will want to read through content like this. 


What people do enjoy is chatting with friends. Narrowing the distance between marketer or seller and the potential customer is a strategy that many international brands employ on their social media. To do so, step into the shoes of the intended audience by conducting a customer persona exercise. Observe how they think and write and construct any printed copy to match their tone.


For example, when a smart copywriter is working on website headline for a SaaS company (Software As A Service) selling customer support software, the copywriter understands the audience wants to be showed clearly that the software works and helps them. Instead of writing wordy, factual copy such as “ABC customer support software provides 24-hour automated instant chatbot function”, using a more casual tone could lead to better conversion figures. 


In this case, it’s useful to highlight the end result: the product solving the customer’s problem. In the SaaS example, the customer service software is automated, and the buyer will rarely need to step in or troubleshoot issues with the platform. An example of more casual copy might be: “Relax. Your customer support is automated.”


Additionally, use easy-to-understand words, especially in countries where English is a second language. Keep it as concise and straightforward as possible to be accessible to the maximum number of readers. 


Awaken the audience’s curiosity with storytelling


Pitching a product using only numbers and statistics is the most common cause of death for marketing copy. To step up and leave a strong impression, use the facts as supplements rather than relying on numbers alone, and tell a story to connect with the reader, brand and product. This will have the dual effect of changing the one-way message into a conversation, and holding readers’ attention.


The story is responsible for creating a scenario for the reader to relate to; however, it’s not necessary to use a story to describe the features of the product. Successful companies, particularly those in the fashion and sports industries, use stories to promote their brand image and ideology.  


One example of this strategy is Nike Hong Kong’s campaign for their new sneaker series, which they promoted through Facebook. Instead of highlighting the comfort or the new technology used in the design, Nike marketed the sneakers using the story of a well-known LGBT key opinion leader, Kayla Wong. 


Starting with an introduction to Kayla’s career, from being a model to a photographer, the story showcased Kayla as a dare-to-dream opportunist. The storytelling route taken by Nike successfully branded the new sneaker series with a positive, yet provocative image that imbued the product with emotional ideology. The last sentence of the campaign asks if the reader is willing to create opportunities for themselves like Nike and Kayla did in an implied call-to-action to purchase the sneakers.


When writing marketing copy, keep these three tips in mind –they will keep content fresh and help to avoid writing ‘salesy’ material altogether. 



About the Author


Jason Yiu is a Journalist in Residence at Jumpstart Magazine. Based in Hong Kong, Jason is a bilingual copywriter and marketer with years of experience in hospitality, food & beverage, and retail, at both international brands and start-ups. Jason has served in multiple roles throughout his career, and wears many hats ranging from copywriting specialist to hotelier. 



The Jumpstart Journalist-in-Residence program invites passionate writers from around the Asia-Pacific region to write for Jumpstart, learn about the startup ecosystem, and have the chance to attend premier tech events. To apply to the program, visit today!


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