The art of the message: do’s and don’ts
July 17, 2015
Great copy can do amazing things. It stops you, even if you weren’t interested in stopping. It elicits an emotional response. Gets your attention. Draws you in. And can close the sale. Here, 3 key principles for creating effective copy online: what to do, and what not to do.
1. Get them in the door.
Copy is critical to communicate your message and to engage people with your brand. When it’s effective, it drives action- clicks, sign-ups, and ultimately, purchases. It will get them in the door.Brevity is key. The goal is to get your customer to the next step, not to tell them everything they’d ever need to know. You have to prioritize your message. Keep it simple and uncluttered, if you want your message to resonate.
- Good copy: FREE SHIPPING on orders over $50
- Bad copy: FREE SHIPPING ON BOOKS IN THIS CATEGORY + SHOES BY THIS DESIGNER + OTHER STUFF SO EXTENSIVE AND LONG-WINDED THAT I DON’T CARE OR BELIEVE YOUR MESSAGE ANYMORE.
It’s tempting to include lots of things to try to hit the right trigger points for everyone. Don’t. You’ll end up saying nothing to anyone. Too many messages become noise.
2. Explain and engage
It’s all about contextual information. Pacing is key. Providing the right information in the right places along the journey, to keep your customer engaged- and on a path towards what you want them to do. On each page, think about what you want your customer to know (and what he or she will want to know), to reinforce your brand, your product, or your offer.
- Do provide social proof. What are your customers or media saying about it?
- Do make it clear how to get there or what to do next.
3. Deliver on it
Tell the truth. Don’t over promise and under deliver. If you say FREE SHIPPING on the homepage, but don’t show it on the cart and checkout, your customers will feel duped. If it’s only FREE with a myriad of exclusions or conditions, and comes via pony and takes a year and a day to get there, your customers will feel duped. You might get the sale today- but they’ll think twice next time (if there is a next time).
Amazon claimed Prime Day would be the biggest sale event since Black Friday- and has declared it a success, but customers disagree. Disappointed Prime shoppers were all over twitter complaining that it was impossible to shop and that it was only the drek on sale. The Kindle was on sale- but only the base version- not the Paperwhite or the Voyage. It wasn’t the ‘good stuff’. See “It’s not living up to the hype” on CNN Money.
- Don’t over promise. If it truly is the biggest sale ever, say so. Then prove it. If it’s not- think of something else to say that reflects your reality. It doesn’t have to say, ‘BIG SALE: all the stuff left over that’s not selling and we need to get rid of’– it just has to be true.
- Do make it fun. Anthropology has a clever way to make further markdowns compelling- they’ve said, “Our sale is on sale”. That’s tempting. It doesn’t yell or scream, or promise rainbows and unicorns, but it does get my attention if I care about getting a great price, without sounding bargain-basement. Moo.com is having a sale- the homepage says only “SALE”, with a little 25% off dot whack and a fun little animated confetti gif. Simple- but effective.
It’s tempting for your writers to overstate to make something sound great- but it’s only great if you can deliver on it. You may get people in the door with a hyperbolic message, but if you’ve over promised, they’ll be less likely to respond to it next time.
The lesson in all of this? Put yourselves in the shoes of your shopper. How will the message make them feel? Are you telling them what they need to know to make a decision? Are you delivering on the promise? How will they feel after they experience it? Emotions drive action- whether they come back to you, or not. It’s up to you.
Great post, and so incredibly true.