In my seminars and workshops I’ve referred for years to a couple of “million dollar” copywriting tips which, at a stroke, can dramatically transform the effectiveness of everything you write, writes Robert Clay of Marketing Wizdom.
Both tips are incredibly simple and easy to apply, but less than one in a hundred written pieces even begins to get them right.
Write as you speak
You’ve undoubtedly seen classic bureaucratic writing like this:
“Your letter of June 30, 2008, is acknowledged. Pursuant to the request therein, said request is hereby denied. Any and all appeals regarding aforesaid decision must be submitted in writing to the undersigned by July 15, 2008. There are no exceptions to the aforementioned procedure.”
You have to admit that is terrible! Nobody speaks in such a convoluted way in day to day life, so why write that way? Writing in such a detached manner demonstrates a disdain for others and suggests that you’re devoid of all human feelings and emotions. It is both belittling and disrespectful, and it makes the reader feel angry and resentful.
Yet amazingly some people are still taught to write that way. My former PA completed her law degree in 2005, and was taught that this was the correct way to write. She eventually conceded that emails or sales letters written that way would immediately be thrown out, unread. And that’s exactly what will happen to your letters, emails and other written communications if you write in a bureaucratic style.
My first million dollar copywriting tip is therefore to “write as you would speak” (within reason!). Be you. Use everyday language. Give your writing a human voice … and let your passion shine through. It is easier and quicker to understand … and infinitely more effective.
Use the “Point of YOU”
My second million dollar copywriting tip—a golden rule for effective direct response copywriting—is such a simple concept, yet it will have a profound impact on how your written communications are received.
It is to write everything from the reader’s perspective, not yours, and use the word “you” in your correspondence far more frequently than than the word “we.” The higher the ratio you have of “you’s” to “we’s,” the better the results you will achieve.
Here’s an eye-opening exercise you can do right now: Grab your existing letters, emails, brochures, direct mail pieces, adverts, website copy, company profile … and any other written communication pieces you use.
Next get a couple of highlighter pens. A red one and a green one. Then go through each written piece … and highlight with your RED pen every time you see the words “I”, “me”, “my”, “we”, “our”, “us” or the name of your company.
Then with your GREEN pen, highlight every time you see the words “you”, or “your” or the other person’s name, or the name of their company.
Now count the number of green and red highlights in each written piece. If your communication is effectively written in what we call “Point of YOU” format, you’ll have about 5 GREEN highlights (you’s!) to every RED (we’s) highlight.
If you have more reds than greens, which most people do, you have a problem. Your focus is on YOU, not on the reader … and your written pieces won’t perform anywhere near as effectively as they should. You therefore need to rewrite everything in a “Point of YOU” format.
Turning copy around
Here’s a headline written from the typical “we” perspective:
“Why We Can Teach People Everything They Need To Know About Selling On The Internet”
The headline is quite frankly ineffective. If you’re the reader, it’s all about how SOMEONE ELSE can teach OTHER people what THEY need to know about selling on the internet. There are no benefits in it for YOU, it doesn’t involve YOU in any way, and it gives no reasons why YOU should read on. You’d probably dismiss an ad like that in an instant, assuming you even noticed it in the first place.
Here’s how it could be rewritten in a YOU orientation:
“How You Can Discover Everything You Need To Know About Selling On The Internet”
What a difference! Suddenly there are strong benefits in it for you … and a good reason to read on if you’re in the market for such a service. I promise you it will work many times more effectively than the first headline.
Examples of the “we” perspective
Here’s an example of a typical ineffective advert, email or sales letter:
ABC Copiers services and supplies photocopiers, printers, fax machines and scanners. We have been trading in our industry for more than twenty years and we pride ourselves in offering the latest office automation technology with value for money and excellent local service, etc …
You’ve probably received endless letters and emails along these lines from people in many different industries … and most of them have probably been chucked out within seconds of opening. You may even—unwittingly—have written letters like this for as long as you can remember. DONT! it doesn’t work.
Here’s another example of a letter written from a “we” perspective, this time from a bank:
Dear Mr Smith,
I write further to your recent conversation with my colleague, Fred Jones, to introduce myself and the service I provide which I believe will be of interest to you.
I operate from Bank House where I act as Relationship Manager to various small businesses. My objective is to provide my customers with a specific point of contact for all their banking requirements.
In future, I would be delighted to act as your business manager and would suggest that we meet up to put faces to names and consider any ways I may be able to help you, etc …
Who is that letter about? It’s about the person who wrote the letter, not about you the reader! This extract contains thirteen “we’s” and three “you’s”. To be effectively written there should be no more then three “we’s” and more like thirteen “you’s”.
A letter written in “point of YOU” format
Now let’s look at a letter specifically written in “point of YOU” format. We wrote this letter for a recruitment consultant ten years ago. Recruitment is an extremely competitive industry and they found it hard to get through the door to see new prospects. They had tried letters, but none had worked. They tried everything they could think of but the door was still slammed firmly in their face … and they were fed up with it.
We first created a “behind-the-scenes” story setting out everything that happens—from a client perspective—when you deal with this particular recruitment consultancy. Extracts of that story were then used to create a three page “door opener” letter in “point of YOU” format. It was tested initially on twenty prospects who had already slammed the door in my client’s face. Fifteen responded within a few days requesting a meeting.
Ten years on, that letter is still used whenever the client wants to open new doors. It still works like crazy, and in the meantime his business has grown ten-fold. Here are the first few paragraphs from the 3-page letter to give you a flavour:
“Your Hassle Free Search & Selection Service…
Providing Valued Managers who Share
The Same Ethics and Drive as You”
Dear Mr Smith,
For your company to perform as effectively as possible, you need to find the right people for senior and middle management. Not only do you need people with the right background and experience … but you deserve people who’ll be valued members of your team.
By discussing with you your individual requirements, you’ll experience a hassle free process on which you can depend. Your time will be left free to manage your business until your shortlist is ready for presentation.
Understanding Your Needs
Our first meeting with you will identify your exact requirements. Firstly we want to know as much about you as possible. A history of your company; the nature of your business; your markets; your strategy and culture – the challenges that face you in the future.
You’ll feel more secure knowing that we fully understand the purpose of your role; its dimensions; the primary relationships (internal and external); the key result areas; the performance indicators; the decision making demands; the key competencies and the job challenges.
This information will enable a profile to be designed of the person who will best suit your requirements, enabling us to look for far more than just the right background and experience.
After the meeting this information will be fed back to you so that you can be sure we have a full understanding of what is required from your new team member before your recruitment drive commences, etc …
Can you see the difference! This letter is totally about YOU the recipient. Here is a company that is clearly dedicated to solving YOUR problems and making life easier for YOU. So much better than saying: “ABC Recruitment supplies permanent and temporary office staff. We have been trading in anytown for more than twenty years and we pride ourselves on providing value for money and excellent local service, etc …”
The extract above contains 29 “you’s” and five “we’s”. That’s roughly a six to one ratio. No wonder it worked so well, and it still works just as well today as it did ten years ago.
The advice that paid for itself in advance
I’ll finish this post with a quick story.
Around three years ago I received a phone call from a complete stranger. He owned a business and wanted to become a client, there and then, for a service we were offering at the time. I told him it would cost at least £16,000, and could be as much as £28,000. He didn’t bat an eyelid and wanted to know how soon he could go ahead.
Somewhat taken aback, I tried to explain what the service entailed, but he didn’t want or need to know. He had already decided he was going to work with us, and that was that. Because that was somewhat unusual, I asked him why.
It turned out that he knew another of my clients socially, and when they were chatting over a drink in the pub one day my client passed on to him the copywriting tips mentioned in this post. It made sense to him so he hurried back to his office and rewrote all of his copy without delay. His revised letters immediately produced TWELVE TIMES the response he had ever achieved before. The basic message was unchanged; it was sent to the same list of recipients; the cost of getting it out to them was no different; but the way it was written, in “point of YOU” format was entirely different.
He asked my client what it would cost to work with us. Since he’d already had a payback several orders of magnitude greater than any sum he would have to invest, he considered our service had already more than paid for itself in advance. He became a client. We developed a great relationship. He was introduced to many more low-risk/high-return strategies in the months that followed. He continued to get great results. It just shows you how powerful these seemingly simple copywriting tips are.
If you don’t implement these suggestions, who knows how much potential you’re leaving on the table. You can’t afford to make that mistake at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a major recession.
If you have any comments about this post, or would like to share the results you’ve achieved using these or similar tips, we’d love to hear from you.
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