We toss the word “conversion” around a lot.
Consider the literal definition and a reality check is in order. My online dictionary says conversion means “cause to change in form, character or function.”
We don’t do that. Online marketers aren’t quite that magical. We don’t transform or change prospects. You might say Apple transformed us. But they didn’t pull it off with a page.
Our objective is more humble than transformation
The marketing definition of conversion is “get the prospect to take action.”
How do you get someone to take the action you want? You need to make them comfortable.
Marketers are hard to trust, right? We brought it on ourselves because we were “full of it” for decades. Or, at least, we were full of ourselves.
So when a potential buyer arrives in your marketing den for the first time, they’re not exactly in a hurry to proceed to the bedroom. Or relax into a chair.
At best, they’re curious. Realistically, they’re anxious. And usually, they do just the opposite of what you want. They leave.
Why? Discomfort. It’s the almighty conversion killer—the meanest mutha’ in marketing.
So here’s what I propose: drop the transformation ambition and aim a wee-bit lower. Aim to overcome the causes of discomfort. You need to craft your content to put prospects in their comfort zone.
Who’s in charge of the comfort zone?
The copywriter is the chief conversion officer.
The copywriter’s output must seal the deal or at least write something compelling—and comforting—enough to start some sort of relationship.
But it’s not quite as imposing as it sounds because it doesn’t call for converting them. It calls for tapping into a desire they already have. You merely need to help them conclude this is the time and place to take action.
Okay, how’s it done?
Copywriting principles: make your writing overcome 7 causes of discomfort
1. Eliminate confusion
The key to overcoming confusion is clarlty. You need to:
Write a clear headline— Something led your reader to your page, a topic they wanted to learn more about. The topic caught their eye in large part due to a keyword or keywords. As the result of clicking-through, the reader needs to see the same words again, prominently, in your headline, the first thing they’ll read.
You want readers to nod and think, “I’m in the right place.” They shouldn’t have to work to come to this conclusion. You’ll lose them to confusion.
If they just clicked on a subject line, tweet, ad, or anything that read “content hubs,” the headline on the landing page should include these keywords.
For example: Want to read about content hubs and how they provide the secret to a long and prosperous life in publishing? A landing page like the one that follows (featuring our new eBook) delivers the clarity needed.
Watch your language— No one likes to muscle through jargon and marketing BS. Imagine a landing page that reads “Executing Real World Operational Strategies to Propel Innovation.” It’s pure babble.
Get to the point and point to the get. What’s your point? Get right to it. What’s the reader going to get? Point it out quickly and clearly. The landing page above makes its point immediately and points out the free eBook delivers lessons for a long and prosperous life in publishing.
2. Eliminate distraction
The key to overcoming distraction is focus. While, of course, the design and layout of the page must offer a focal point, the headline and copy must too.
Keep it simple— An effective web page has one job to do. If it’s a landing page created to offer an eBook in exchange for an email address (and perhaps a few customer data points), make the proposition simple to see and understand. If it’s a “leading page,” that is its goal is to lead you to another page, make that equally understandable.
Keep it singular— Give readers a slew of choices and they’re bound to make none. Give them one. Fill out this form. Watch this video. Apply now.
I’m not proposing you shouldn’t build your case with support points. You should. Here’s the lower half of the landing page for Scoop.it’s new eBook about content hubs.
The upper half of the landing page tackled the task at hand. However, the page goes on to build a case. It includes: the length of the eBook, the eBook’s most important lessons, and an “about the author” (yours truly) blurb. It’s not distracting; it’s informative.
You can make a perfectly clear and focused landing page with supporting points to build your case. Just be sure to present them from most to least important and remove anything potentially distracting.
3. Overcome apathy
A reader can become apathetic at any point in the process of consuming your content. Your challenge: craft copy that makes everything feel required, urgent and relevant. You do that by keeping them emotionally involved.
I created an ABCDE formula to spell it out.
Application— Your selling proposition must articulate how your offer applies to the reader’s needs.
Benefits— You need to answer “What’s in it for me?” Get features out of the way and arrive at a clear benefit statement. Try this simple exercise. Fill in the blank in this simple fill-in-the-blank exercise:
How to ______________________________ .
Note you cannot put a feature in the blank and have it make sense. Example: How to content curation. No good, right? How to create more useful content. Good. The reader knows what’s in it for her.
Context— Be specific and even polarizing. Your offer isn’t for everyone. Disqualification can be the great qualifier. Write copy aiming to rally the right people and repel the wrong ones.
Difference— What can you say that no one else can? This may be the most difficult challenge I’ve put forth today. Work at creating a true, authentic and compelling answer.
Emotion— If you’re reader’s not feeling it, apathy’s inevitable. Explain how your solution’s going to give them pleasure or eliminate pain.
Want a lesson on tapping into emotions? The headlines on the cover of popular magazines are plastered with great examples.
4. Evade boredom
You can’t bore people into buying. I believe content marketers are so fixed on delivering lessons they often lose sight of the need to entertain. It’s been written the magic formula for great content is:
Education + entertainment + inspiration = great content
Consider the equation vital to your conversion rate too. You can’t convert someone who got bored and bailed.
Make your writing fun— Your copy stops working when it feels like work. Fun it up with questions, characters, anecdotes, challenges, dreams. Review what you’ve written and ask yourself, “Would I read that?”
Above all, don’t fixate on your company. Nothing’s more boring. The reader needs to find himself in your story.
Give it rhythm— This sentence has five words. Should I do it again? It’s getting boring to read. You get the idea here. The writing has no rhythm.
It is a monotonous sequence. It is a complete bore.
Break it up. If you write a long sentence like this one where it takes me far more words to make my point, follow with a short one. Kapish?
Apply this mentality up and down your pages because online readers are skimmers. So:
Use bulleted lists
Use white space
Vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs
Make your lead short and provocative
Use photos and captions
Try pullout quotes
“Write rhythmically to keep readers engaged.”
5. Nix the friction
You might say “the comfort zone” concept at large is about removing friction. Friction spells “bounce.” This formula is a cool slap upside the head:
Desire – Friction = Conversion rate
The biggest source of friction is difficulty. Your readers are looking for ease. Supply it.
Introduce ease— Write passages assuring readers you’re leading them down the fast and easy path.
What do we have here? A HANDBOOK. Beautiful. Handbooks sound nice and simple.
We crave simplicity in our cluttered complex lives. When writing for conversion, highlight things such as shortcuts, secrets, fast tracks, templates, cheat sheets, checklists and so forth.
Reduce risk— “What if” always lingers in the mind of the potential buyer. Give your readers practical reasons to be fearless.
The solution’s dead-simple? Cool. Complexity’s a killer.
6. Earn trust
If “know, like and trust” is the holy trifecta of marketing and sales success, trust is surely the hardest one to achieve. You have to earn it.
Write conversationally—We talk too much like marketers. Listen to your customers and talk them. Forget the writing style you were taught in English or Journalism class. Win your reader’s confidence by writing conversationally and casually.
Here’s a stiff (and ironic) stinker:
Marketing Automation for the Real World.
Here’s real world conversional copy:
Your marketing platform gets you hot leads fast.
Use first and second person voice— Be real. You want your reader to become a friend. In my examples above I turned “The company’s marketing automation” into “your marketing platform.”
Offer proof— Publish evidence your product, service, content, or people, have earned the approval of others.
You can increase trust with testimonials, reviews, ratings, badges, customer logos or numbers that suggest what you offer is a winner.
7. Remove mystery
We’ve come full circle. First, I suggested you overcome confusion with clarity. Now I want to remind you mystery has its place.
A tweet or subject line are a couple of examples where you can create curiosity with a touch of mystery. Even the headline of this post is meant to itch your brain a bit. Your call-to-action or conversion point should not.
Ask for action— Readers are far more likely to do what you want when you ask them to.
Reiterate the value— In your call-to-action remind readers the value of what they’ll get. Generic CTAs such as “submit” or “click” lack a value proposition. Don’t fear writing longer calls to action such as “Start producing higher conversion copy now.”
Activate with verbs— Use active verbs when you’re asking for action. Strong candidates: get, reserve, try, buy, start. Conversion testing often indicates a first person voice (e.g. “Sign me up”) will improve your results.
A great landing page from Square tells you to “Start selling today.” Note the use of an action verb. The button reads, “Get Started.” Zero mystery. 100% clarity.
Be a transformational copywriter. Convert.
Ouch. That first attempt at my closing subhead really sucked. And now you know why.
Discomfort is a deal-breaker. Steer your reader into a comfort zone.
You may not change or transform your readers, but when you apply these copywriting principles you’ll get them to feel good about taking action.
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