Setting aside the hyperbole and self-promotion, let's just take a moment to examine what effective copywriting is and how businesses can use it to create better results.
Copywriting is, in essence, writing that is intended to influence or persuade its audience to a particular type of action such as buying a product or service, opting in for more information or perhaps even supporting a cause. And how does copywriting move people to take a desired action? It does so by illustrating how a product or service solves a problem or fills a need they already have. Unlike the caricature of the "slick" marketer who plays fast and loose with the truth in order to "sell" someone something they don't really want or need, the great marketer understands that good copywriting merely highlights the benefits and compelling "reason why" to connect a product, service or cause with someone who has a legitimate need or desire. They know that is the only way to achieve long lasting and easily repeatable success for their enterprise.
Copywriting puts a lot of emphasis on psychology and persuasion because most people don’t buy logically, they buy the emotional experience they expect that product or service to provide. How the transaction or ownership makes an individual feel is as much a part of the product, service or cause as the features themselves.
While there are many formulas and techniques that my colleagues and I have developed over years of trial and error, there is a basic overall process you want to bring your audience through - no matter whether it's an offline ad or an online landing page. The acronym for the process - coined in 1899 by advertising pioneer, Elias St. Elmo Lewis - is AIDA.
• A stands for Attention – In a crowded marketplace with the average individual being exposed to thousands of advertisements every day, the first job of the copy is to grab the attention of the audience. This doesn't always mean being louder, more shocking or audacious. Knowing who your audience is enables you to personalize the message for their particular needs. And, knowing where the advertising will appear can help you determine the best way to differentiate and stand out from the crowd.
• I stands for Interest – Of course it's not enough to capture attention. It is vital that the message in your copy transform that initial attention into an interest to know more. This is going to be dependent on both the targeting (whether or not you're talking to the right audience) and your ability to connect your message to the initial idea that captured their attention.
• D is for Desire – Even the most logical and intelligent people buy based on their emotions and justify with facts. Knowing this, the most successful advertisers make sure that they understand what their audience desires and connects the features and benefits of what they are advertising to either the gain of pleasure or avoidance of pain. Think about it, almost every ad you see is promising to make your life better in some way - either by overcoming some problem or giving you something you desire. Even charitable organizations sell us on how we can feel better by helping others. Done correctly, it's not manipulative. Instead, it taps into an individual's unique wiring and desires and stirs them up to take action.
• A is for Action – In my experience, online or offline ads, web sites, press releases, etc... that don't have a clear call to action are a tremendous waste. Sure they can effectively help the audience remember the advertiser's name (termed in the industry as brand awareness). But, to what end? I am aware of many brands that I have never purchased from or done business with - simply because they never made clear what they were offering and nor gave me the option to purchase or learn more.
A call to action does not always have to be asking for the sale - and in the case of products that are more expensive or need to present a good bit of information to differentiate from competitors - it shouldn't be. A 'soft offer' of free information (report, audio, video, webinar), an online quiz, free consultation, or even an in-home trial can all help someone take baby steps towards a deeper relationship with you. And, if you have an online optin or get their contact information in some way through the process, you will have the ability to follow-up with a group of prospects that have already identified themselves as truly interested. Spending less on advertising to a broad target and generating a targeted house list of interested prospects that you can focus more upon is key to increasing the ROI for your time and dollars.
I often tell my clients and audiences that when it comes to marketing, there's "doing the right thing" and there's "doing the right thing the right way." Other than possibly hiring a professional copywriter or marketer, the cost of placing an ad or generating traffic to a landing page is the same. However, a poorly written piece could get very little response and lose money, while a well written message could easily pull a 300%-700% return on your investment or more. Whether you do-it-yourself or have help from a professional, making sure your messages follow the AIDA formula will help you gain the returns you need to grow your profits.