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Copywriting

Risk-Reversal’s Role Reversal

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The greater portion of my career has been in copywriting, selling, and direct marketing. And one of the common denominators I've found in any successful piece of copy is the power of risk reversal.

That is, taking more of a risk from the sale than the purchaser of your product.

Risk reversal is a powerful method to increase sales by easing the buying decision and allaying fears consumers might have.

When people are considering an offer, and if the offer is “too good to be true,” they will invariably seek out more secure means to benefit from it. Otherwise, they will have a tendency to think, “What's the catch?”

The greater the guarantee, the greater the sales. This has been consistent in almost every industry in which I've worked, and with every split-test I've conducted.

For example, a 30-day guarantee will outsell no guarantee. A 90-day guarantee will outsell a 30-day one. And so on and so forth.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Sometimes, shorter or more creative guarantees can outperform longer ones.

Why? Perhaps this is because, in a promise-filled industry oversaturated with, and burned by, over-the-top hype, long, unrealistic guarantees make the offer suspect.

People might be left scratching their heads wondering if the guarantee is an attempt to pull the wool over their eyes.

Guarantees that are too strong (like one or even multiple years, lifetime, etc) can unconsciously convey that the product is so poor that either the purchaser will forget about the promise during the guarantee's extended lifespan, or the seller is trying to build perceived value in areas other than the product itself to make up for the lack.

But length doesn't always mean strength.

In other words, the strength of a guarantee is not limited to its timeframe.

Creative guarantees work extremely well, especially in an industry where people encounter typical money-back guarantees. These include guarantees that don't necessarily have anything to do with refunds or money. By being different, a unique guarantee can provide a powerful twist to an offer.

Notwithstanding the legal requirements to offer a money-back guarantee, think of guarantees that include gifts, discounts, credits, vouchers, etc.

For example, just recently a friend of mine launched an intensive and pricey classroom-style training program, but with a very interesting angle. Whether you succeed or not, or whether you like the program or not, you get your money back.

It sold out in just a few hours.

Ultimately, guarantees exist because we fear making bad decisions.

And a purchase is a buying decision.

But remember that a guarantee's job is not to remove fear. Not in a direct sense. It's to increase the customer's confidence that the product will do as promised.

In fact, in an article titled “The Great Customer Service Hoax,” the author, Belinda (who is also a copywriter), said it perfectly. “The simple truth about customer satisfaction,” the author writes, is this:

You might think that to maintain awesome levels of customer satisfaction you need to have outstanding products and services, diligent processes and reports and excellently trained staff who know when to make a decision that’s right for the customers. Well, you do need those things but the truth about consistently good customer satisfaction is much simpler.

Customers are satisfied when you met their expectations.

Guarantees help to communicate this important promise. A guarantee communicates not only that the product has value (e.g., “it's so good, I guarantee it!”), but also that the product will meet their expectations.

A guarantee encourages sales and profits. (Sales is self-explanatory. But profits? Yes! Guarantees can also decrease refunds. I'll come back to this in a moment.)

So objectively, add a guarantee that's easy, strong, and reasonable (that is, it's not far-fetched). If it has the appearance of being too long or unbelievable, either reduce it or add copy to justify your attempt.

Just like the power of “reasons-why” advertising, don't forget to back it up. Provide a logical, commonsensical explanation behind your guarantee to justify why it's so strong. The more you do, the more believable your guarantee will be. Otherwise, an overzealous guarantee will make it questionable.

(For example, with a “lifetime guarantee,” people will often ask, “Whose lifetime?”)

But in the majority of cases, if you failt to offer a guarantee let alone a strong one, you're losing a great percentage of potential sales.

In addition to communicating value of and confidence in a product, a guarantee can also become a powerful positioning tool.

Take for instance the story of the Monaghan brothers. The two ran a small business in order to pay their way through college. While one worked the day shift in order to attend school at night, the other did the converse.

After about a year in the money-losing venture, one of the brothers sold his share of the business for a beat-up old car. The other, however, with a good dose of stick-to-it-iveness, decided to make something of his fledgling pizzeria.

According to some interviews he recently gave, Tom Monaghan said that, at the time, he wasn't quite sure that his decision to put a guarantee on his pizza delivery would change much. But obviously, history tells us that his decision was a good one.

By simply marketing the strength of a guarantee (i.e., “Pizza delivered fresh in 30 minutes or it's free”), Domino's Pizza became the multimillion-dollar franchise operation we know today.

Online, strong guarantees are more than just sales tools.

The Internet has opened many doors, including those to many unscrupulous entrepreneurs. Scams and snake oils are rampant online. Millions (if not billions) of dollars are lost to these scamsters each month.

The Internet is rife with fraudulent offers, phishing attempts, and shoddy products. Even laws and anti-scam tools won't stop crafty entrepreneurs who are determined to bypass the systems to scam the unsuspecting.

So people are understandably leery, skeptical, distrusting, and cautious.

Obviously, the use of testimonials, demos and tours, statistics, laboratory tests, clinical trials, case studies, free trials and samples, real pictures of the product in question, and so on are all incredibly important.

But in addition to these methods and elements of proof you can and should add to your copy, strong and creative guarantees are equally powerful proof elements and probably some of the most underutilized.

Why? Mostly because business owners are leery themselves of adding, extending, or creating guarantees because they fear the onslaught of losses from returns.

If the product is mediocre, then this fear is sadly justified. But most products are good. (Granted, there are just as many fraudulent consumers out there as there are scams. Businesses fear them equally as consumers fear buying from fraudsters.)

But generally, guarantees will increase sales.

Chris Ayers, former publisher of Unlimited Traffic!, gives an astonishing real-life example. Writes Ayers:

“One of my first direct mail products years ago was a self-study program. When I first offered the program in a magazine, my sales weren't even enough to cover the cost of the ad. I changed my ad and sales letter to include a guarantee. The number of responses to the same ad increased by a factor of 20 and my conversion rate from my sales letter rose from 10% to almost 40%.”

Remember that adding a guarantee might increase returns and refunds. But try it and do the math. In some cases, a small increase in refunds might be greatly overshadowed by a disproportionately larger increase in sales.

For example, in one test I've conducted with a consulting client, we raised the guarantee from a 30-day guarantee to a 6-month, double guarantee.

(The “double” included a 100%-money-back guarantee within six months, and a double-your-money-back within the first 30 days.)

The result? During the test, there were no refunds within the initial 30 days. But refunds within the first six months increased from about 4% to 6.5%.

Of course, that's significant.

But look at the increase in sales…

Sales conversion went from a little less than 3% to 7%. Mathematically, it means refunds increased by 62.5%, while sales increased by over 133% (i.e., twice as many more sales as the increase in refunds).

The lesson is this: while a guarantee might increase refunds, the increase will be negligible when contrasted by the more significant increase in sales.

This is true in the majority of cases. But in other cases, net profits can increase quite substantially. Even more than the norm.

Why? Because, unbeknownst to many marketers, one of the most important benefits of using a guarantee is the fact that it can actually reduce returns.

If you have a professionally-looking website, an ethical sales approach, and a proven product or service, the lack of a strong guarantee will still, particularly on the Internet, cause most prospects to perceive your offer as questionable in the very least.

But adding a guarantee — particularly a strong one — not only increases sales because it removes the risk from the buyer's mind, but it also increases perceived value and therefore overall confidence in the product and the seller as well.

Guarantees also grant you an almost instant credibility with potential customers.

And finally, strong guarantees also help to raise tolerance levels.

Customers are more apt to ignore or even accept a few flaws, thereby reducing the need to return the product at the slightest imperfection.

This is because they feel they are in good hands, whether they know this experientially or not. The confidence level that the guarantee created acts as some sort of psychic security net.

In other words, a guarantee not only reduces the skepticism around a purchase, but also contributes to what psychologists refer to as “The Halo Effect.”

Ultimately, add a strong guarantee to your offer. But don't stop with just at increasing its timeframe. Be creative with your guarantee.

Think about multiple-money-back guarantees, add-on guarantees, gift certificates, credit or discount vouchers, the ability to keep bonuses if they return the main product, keeping the product even if they ask for their money back, etc.

Bottom line, guarantees will increase sales. The stronger the guarantee is, the larger the increase will be.

Categories
Copywriting

To Up Sales, Up Words!

I first taught this technique in 1998. While there have been tons of improvements since then, today I still see copy on so many websites, sales letters, or emails using a language that only the person who wrote them understands.

The bottom line is, most marketers and copywriters still seem to ignore the most important part of their sales copy: their own readers.

Abraham Maslow once commented, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Abraham Maslow may have been a psychologist, but his comment applies just as well to copywriting and selling.

Even now, I see sales messages that fail to communicate with their readers, particularly at their level. I'm not talking about a socioeconomic or educational level. I'm talking about the level at which they understand and, above all, make buying decisions.

One way to ensure it does is to use “upwords.” UPWORDS is an acronym that means “Universal Picture Words Or Relatable, Descriptive Sentences.” Words that paint vivid pictures in the mind, or expressions that describe an idea to which the mind of your reader can quickly and easily relate to.

Several years ago, I took a media communications course in which I discovered an interesting example of the way the mind works. As part of a given lesson, a videotape was shown of a televised newscast during which a journalist was about to give a live report on a large, devastating forest fire.

The news anchor in the television newsroom said:

“We now take you to reporter Sally Smith, who's in the station's helicopter flying above the scene of the fire.”

He then turned around to face the background screen, which showed a live bird's-eye view of the raging fire. Asked the anchorman:

“Tell us, Sally, how big is the fire?”

In a voice partially drowned by the whizzing sound of helicopter blades, Sally offered this interesting insight:

“John, the forest fire so big, it's covering well over 140 acres of land. That's about 200 football fields back-to-back for you and me.”

The mind thinks in pictures, not in words or numbers — unless it is told to do exactly that. The mind hates confusion, so it will naturally translate words or phrases into something it can refer back to, something it already knows, often rapidly and unconsciously, in order to understand what it is told.

If the reporter didn't give a visual equivalent to 140 acres, the audience would have either ignored and skipped over this piece of information, or attempted to visualize what was being said and probably imagined it wrong.

For instance, if I told you to think of a garbage can, you're not going to think of the word “garbage can” or the letters “G,” “A,” “R,” “B,” etc. If I asked you to think of a garbage can your mind will automatically visualize some sort of garbage can.

It is Mark Twain who once said, “Numbers don't stick in the mind; pictures do.”

Microsoft and Apple dominate the marketplace in operating systems because, rather than typing some elaborate command for your computer to execute, you can simply use your mouse, point to an icon that represents the command (an application), and click.

Icons are apps, and they represent commands, which, when clicked on, are translated into programs that the computer can understand and execute.

In the same way, the mind works very much like a computer does.

People who know little about computers will likely have a difficult time understanding the various written commands, scripts, and codes that the computer needs to process. But on the other hand, most of us can easily identify the icons that symbolize them.

Similarly, the brain instantly translates the information it receives into something it can easily understand and act upon — something it already knows and can easily refer to. Albeit a quick one, there is always a translation process going on.

As we write our copy for our audiences, we must be aware of that. We must be aware of how our readers will decode the message we are trying to communicate — hopefully, they will decode it in the way we intended when we encoded it in the first place.

Therefore, the challenge facing most marketers is to ensure their copy is encoded in the right way — so that it communicates effectively to its audience, especially when getting that message and its benefits across is at the heart of making profitable sales.

The big test is to put ourselves in our reader's shoes.

The more you use upwords in your copy, the more your reader will not only be able to visualize and grasp the message you're trying to convey, but also appreciate that message at a deeper, more intimate, and more visceral level.

And that is the level I was referring to, earlier.

Upwords help people easily read understand and understand your message through the use of mental imagery, examples, analogies, metaphors, picture words, stories, etc.

For example, I often wrote copy for cosmetic surgeons. And a challenge among doctors is the fact that people will call for a quote over the phone when a surgeon needs to see the patient beforehand to make an assessment.

People don't understand why doctors can't simply give out quotes over the phone. Some even get upset about it.

Cosmetic surgery is an uncommon process. So as a way to work around this problem, I tell doctors to use a more common approach, such as dentistry for example, as an analogy.

Unlike cosmetic surgery, most people have had their teeth done at some point. That way, their brains have something they can remember, picture, refer back to, and relate with. So doctor say this as a response:

“Just like a dentist, I can't give an estimate over the phone without any X-rays of your teeth” or “without the knowledge of how many cavities you really have.”

Marketers are certainly in a similar position.

Many tend to communicate in a language that only a few understand. If you're a programmer selling your services to business owners, and your copy is laced with technical jargon that only geeks will understand, you will obviously do very poorly.

Speak their language! This is a step beyond using simple industry buzzwords and niche-related jargon your audience is used to and comfortable with. You should also mold your message in a way that it can be easily understood by your target market.

If your market consists of artists, use art examples. If it's comprised of managers, use business analogies. If it's made up of fishing aficionados, use fishing metaphors. For example, say you sell customer service consulting to florists. You can then say:

“Your clients are like fresh-cut roses; they need to be handled efficiently. But if handled improperly, they can prick and hurt your business, or simply wilt away.”

One website I critiqued sold a facial scrub that helps to smooth away wrinkles. Problem is, she used the term “microdermabrasion.” But no one understood that. Sure, most people may have heard it before. But most of them don't really know what it really means.

So after some investigation, I realized that her lotion offers three main benefits.

  • It reduces the appearance of wrinkles,
  • It comes in a easy-to-use homecare kit,
  • And it's gentle on skin, or “pH balanced.”

But these are not benefits let alone ideas her target market can easily appreciate. Again, they may understand what these are, and they likely understand what they mean. But they don't fully understand what those benefits mean at an intimate level.

So, I told her to change it to:

“Reverse the aging process and give your skin a youthful radiance with our non-acidic, non-greasy facelift in a jar! Just imagine… no inconvenient clinics, no risks associated with harsh chemicals peels or injections, and no costly doctors or painful surgeries. Get beautiful skin in hours in the comfort of your own home! It's like getting the power of a sandblaster applied with the gentleness of velvet glove!”

There are many more ways of applying upwords to your sales copy. Here are some brief examples of how to mold your message in order to communicate more effectively…

Repetitious Words

As the adage goes, “Repetition is the parent of learning.” Repetition aids comprehension and increases retention, especially of complex or critical ideas. The objective is not to repeat the same words over and over. It's to use different examples to illustrate your point and drive the idea home.

To that end, substitute certain words with synonyms and add new pieces of information each time the idea is repeated. Here's an example to show you. In order to drive the idea that privacy policies on a website help to increase sales, it can be repeated with:

  • “Privacy policies promote purchases,”
  • “Privacy statements increase sales,”
  • “Confidentiality is a key to online success,”
  • “Posting a privacy policy is profitable,” etc.

Emotional Words

Words are not messages in themselves. They are symbols. They are chosen in order to symbolize the message we intend to say and hopefully get others to understand.

Different words mean different things to different people. As such, they can be interpreted differently. While several words can be used to communicate a single message, your choice of words is the most important decision you will ever make.

Words can actually alter the impact of your message. For example:

  • Instead of “cost,” say “investment,”
  • Instead of beautiful “teeth,” say beautiful “smiles,”
  • Instead of “skinny,” say “slim” or “slender,”
  • Instead of “products” or “services,” say “solutions,”
  • Instead of “cost-effective,” say “return on investment,”
  • And instead of “house,” say “home.”

Positive Words

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon himself who also wrote the bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics, states that the brain is a goal-seeking organ. He said our brains need a goal in order to function.

For example, if I told you to not think of a white carnation, you will have hard time since your brain needs a goal. It will naturally picture what it is supposed to avoid. The mind needs a reference point and will tend to think about what it is being suggested.

On the other hand, if I asked you to think of a pink carnation instead of a white one, you will think of a pink carnation. (And you won't think of a white one!) I gave your mind a goal rather than taking one away from it. I replaced it, in other words.

Avoid using negative words. Say what it is, not what it isn't. By stating what something isn't can be counterproductive since it is still directing the mind, albeit in the opposite way. If I told you most dental work is painless, you'll still focus on “pain” in the word “painless.”

Here are some examples of using positive words:

  • Instead of saying “inexpensive,” say “economical,”
  • Instead of “this procedure is virtually painless,” say “there's little discomfort,”
  • And instead of “this software is error-free,” say “consistent” or “stable.”

Also, one of the most negative words we use is the word “but.” “Buts” can turn any message, which in essence may be positive, into a negative. A statement followed by the word “but” can subtly communicate that what was said up to that point was a lie or unimportant, and what follows is the truth.

If you're like most people, a former girlfriend or boyfriend dumped you saying: “You're really nice and I like going out with you, but…”

Consequently, leave the “but” out. Rather, use “and” and then focus on the positive.

Say you're a web designer. Instead of saying, “It's a great website but expensive,” say “it's a great website and worth every penny.” Instead of, “it's a large website but it's going to take at least a month,” say “it's a large website and it will only take thirty days to get it up and running.”

We are all different. We each have a unique set of education, experiences, and environments. They all condition our thinking. So use analogies, metaphors, and imagery that will make your message easier to grasp by the majority of your market's set of circumstances.

As Jack Trout once said: “A word is worth a thousand pictures.”

Categories
Copywriting

The Seven Deadly Sins of Website Copy

Throughout my research, I'm always surprised when I stumble onto websites that are professionally designed and seem to offer great products and services, but lack or fail in certain important elements.

Elements that, with just a few short changes, can help multiply the results almost instantaneously.

Generally, I have found that there are seven common mistakes. I call them the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Is your website committing any one of these?

1) They Fail to Connect

Traffic has been long touted to be the key to online success, but that's not true. If your site is not pulling sales, inquiries or results, then why would it need more traffic?

The key is to turn curious browsers into serious buyers. Aside from the quality of the copy, the number one reason why a website doesn't convert is that the copy is targeting the wrong audience or fails to connect with them.

First, create a “perfect prospect profile.” List all the attributes, characteristics and qualities of your most profitable and accessible market.

Don't just stick with things like demographics and psychographics. Try to get to know them.

Who are they, really? What are their most pressing problems? What keeps them up at night? How do they talk about their problems? Where do they hang out?

Then, target your market by centering on a major theme, benefit or outcome so that, when you generate pre-qualified traffic, your hit ratio and your sales will increase dramatically.

Finally, ensure that your copy connects with them. Intimately. It speaks their language, talks about their problems, and tells stories they can easily appreciate and relate to.

Since this is the most common error that marketers and copywriters commit, and to help you, follow the following formulas.

The OATH formula helps you to understand the stage of awareness your market is at. (How aware of the problem are they, really?)

The QUEST formula guides you in qualifying and empathizing with them. And the UPWORDS formula teaches you how to choose the appropriate language your market can easily understand, appreciate and respond to.

2) They Lack a Compelling Offer

“Making an offer you can't refuse” seems like an old cliché, but don't discount its relevance and power. Especially in this day and age where most offers are so anemic, lifeless, and like every other offer out there.

Too many business believe that simply offering a product or service, and mentioning the price, are good enough. But what they fail to realize is that people need to intimately understand the full value (the real value and, more importantly, the perceived value) behind the offer.

Sometimes, all you need is to offer some premiums, incentives and bonuses to make the offer more palatable and hard to ignore. (Very often, people buy products and services for the premiums alone.)

Other times, you need to create what is called a “value buildup.”

(In fact, premiums are not mandatory in all cases, particularly when the offer itself is solid enough. But building value almost always is.)

Essentially, you compare the price of your offer not with the price of some other competing offer or alternative, but with the ultimate cost of not buying — and enjoying — your product or service.

This may include the price of an alternative. But “ultimate cost” goes far beyond price. Dan Kennedy calls this “apples to oranges” comparisons.

For example, let's say you sell an ebook on how to grow better tomatoes. That might sound simple, and your initial inclination might be to compare it to other “tomatoe-growing” ebooks or viable alternatives.

But also look at the the time it took for you to learn the best ways to grow tomatoes. Look at the amount of money you invested in trying all the different fertilizers, seeds and techniques to finally determine which ones are the best.

Don't forget the time, money and energy (including emotional energy) people save from not having to learn these by themselves. Add the cost of doing it wrong and buying solutions that are either more expensive or inappropriate.

That's what makes an offer valuable. One people can't refuse.

3) They Lack “Reasons Why”

While some websites are well-designed and provide great content, and they might even have great copy, they fail because they don't offer enough reasons for people to buy — or at least read the copy in the first place.

Visitors are often left clueless. In other words, why should they buy? Why should they buy that particular product? Why should they buy that product from that particular site? And more important, why should they buy now?

What makes your product so unique, different and special? What's in it for your customers that they can't get anywhere else? Not answering those questions will deter clients and impede sales.

John E. Kennedy, a Canadian fireman and copywriter at the turn of the last century, talked a lot about the power of adding “reasons why.” His wisdom still rings true to this day, and we know this from experience.

Once, my wife had a client whose website offered natural supplements.

It offered a free bottle (i.e., 30-day supply). But response was abysmal. Aside from being in a highly competitive industry, the copy failed to allay the prospect's fears. They thought it might be a scam or that there's a catch.

So all she did was tell her client to add the following paragraph:

“Why are we offering this free bottle? Because we want you to try it. We're so confident that you will see visible results within 30 days that you will come back and order more.”

Response more than tripled.

Similarly, add “reasons why” to your copy. To help you, make sure that it covers all the bases by answering the following “5 why's:”

  • Why me? (Why should they listen to you?)
  • Why you? (Who is perfect for this offer?)
  • Why this? (Why is this product perfect for them?)
  • Why this price? (Why is this offer so valuable?)
  • Why now? (Why must they not wait?)

4) They Lack Scarcity

Speaking of “why now,” this is probably the most important reason of all.

A quote from Jim Rohn says it all, and I force myself to think about it each time I craft an offer. He said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.”

People fear making bad decisions. With spams, scams and snake oils being rampant on the Internet, people tend to procrastinate, and they do so even when the copy is good, the offer is perfect and they're qualified for it.

Most websites I review fail to effectively communicate a sense of urgency. If people are given the chance to wait or think it over, they will. Look at it this way: if you don't add a sense of urgency, you're inviting them to procrastinate.

Use takeaway selling in order to stop people from procrastinating and get them to take action now. In other words, shape your offer — and not just your product or service — so that it is time-sensitive or quantity-bound.

More important, give a reasonable, logical explanation to justify your urgency or else your sales tactic will be instantly discredited. Back it up with reasons as to why the need to take advantage of the offer is pressing.

Plus, a sense of urgency doesn't need to be an actual limit or a deadline. It can be just a good, plausible and compelling explanation that emphasizes the importance of acting now — as well as the consequences of not doing so.

For example, what would they lose out on if they wait? Don't limit yourself to the offer. Think of all the negative side-effects of not going ahead right now.

5) They Lack Proof

Speaking of the fear of making bad decisions, today's consumers are increasingly leery when contemplating offers on the Internet.

While many websites look professional, have an ethical sales approach, and offer proven products or services, the lack of any kind of tangible proof will still cause most visitors to at least question your offer.

The usual suspects, of course, are testimonials and guarantees. Guarantees and testimonials help to reduce the skepticism around the purchase of your product or service, and give it almost instant credibility.

(I often refuse to critique any copy that doesn't have any testimonials. It's not just to save myself time and energy. I would be wasting my client's money if the only recommendation they got from me was to add testimonials.)

Elements of proof is not just limited to guarantees and testimonials, either.

They can include the story behind your product, your credentials, actual case studies, results of tests and trials, samples and tours, statistics and factoids, photos and multimedia, “seals of approval,” and, of course, reasons why.

Even the words you choose can make a difference. Because, in addition to a sense of urgency, your copy also needs a sense of credibility.

Today, people are understandably cynical and suspicious. If your offer is suspect and your copy, at any point, gives any hint that it can be fake, misleading, untrue, too good to be true, or too exaggerated to be true…

… Then like it or not your response rate will take a nose dive.

So, help remove the risk from the buyer's mind and you will thus increase sales — and, paradoxically, reduce returns as well. Plus, don't just stick with the truth. You also need to give your copy the ring of truth.

To help you, follow my FORCEPS formula.

6) They Lack a Clear Call to Action

Answer this million-dollar, skill-testing question: “What exactly do you want your visitors to do?” Simple, isn't it? But it doesn't seem that way with the many sites I've visited.

The KISS principle (to me, it means “keep it simple and straightforward”) is immensely important on the Internet. An effective website starts with a clear objective that will lead to a specific action or outcome.

If your site is not meant to, say, sell a product, gain a customer or obtain an inquiry for more information, then what exactly must it do? Work around the answer as specifically as possible.

Focus on the “power of one.” That is:

  • One message
  • One audience
  • One outcome

If your copy tells too many irrelevant stories (irrelevant to the audience and to the advancement of the sale), you will lose your prospects' attention and interest.

If it tries to be everything to everyone (and is therefore either too generic or too complex), you will lose your prospects completely.

And if you ask your prospects to do too many things (other than “buy now” or whatever action you want them to take), you will lose sales.

Use one major theme. Make just one offer. (Sure, you can offer options, such as ordering options or different packages to choose from. But nonetheless, it's still just one offer.)

Most important, provide clear instructions on where and how to order.

Aside from the lack of a clear call to action, asking them to do too many things can be just as counterproductive. The mind hates confusion. If you try to get your visitors to do too many things, they will do nothing.

Stated differently, if you give people too many choices, they won't make one. So keep your message focused or else you will overwhelm the reader.

7) They Lack Good Copy

It may seem like this should be the number one mistake.

While it's still one of the top seven mistakes, it's last because the ones above take precedence. If you're guilty of making any of the previous six mistakes, in the end your sales will falter no matter how good your copy is.

Nevertheless, lackluster copy that fails to invoke emotions, tell compelling stories, create vivid mental imagery, and excite your prospects about your product or service is indeed one of the most common reasons websites fail.

Top sales trainer Zig Ziglar once said, “Selling is the transference of enthusiasm you have for your product into the minds of your prospects.”

Copy is selling in print. Therefore, its job is no different. In fact, since there's no human interaction that you normally get in a face-to-face sales encounter, your copy's job, therefore, has an even greater responsibility.

It must communicate that same enthusiasm that energizes your prospects, excites them about your offering and empowers them to buy.

Aside from infusing emotion into your copy, give your prospects something they can understand, believe in and act upon. Like a trial lawyer, it must tell a persuasive story, make an airtight case and remove any reasonable doubt.

Above all, it must serve your prospect.

Many sites fail to answer a person's most important question: “What's in it for me?” They get so engrossed in describing companies, products, features or advantages over competitors that they fail to appeal to the visitor specifically.

Tell the visitor what they are getting out of responding to your offer. To help you, first write down a series of bullets. Bullets are captivating, pleasing to the eye, clustered for greater impact and deliver important benefits.

(They usually follow the words “you get,” such as “With this product, you get.”)

But don't just resort to apparent or obvious benefits. Dig deeper. Think of the end-results your readers get from enjoying your product or service.

Do what my friend and copywriter Peter Stone calls the “so that” technique. Each time you state a benefit, add “so that” (or “which means”) at the end, and then complete the sentence to expand further.

Let's say your copy sells Ginko Biloba, a natural supplement that increases memory function. (I'm not a Ginko expert, so I'm guessing, here. Also, I'm being repetious for the sake of illustration.) Here's what you might get:

Ginko supports healthy brain and memory functions… so that you can be clear, sharp and focused… so that you can stay on top of everything and not miss a beat… so that you can be a lot more productive at work… so that you can advance in your career a lot faster… so that you can make more money, enjoy more freedom, and have more job security… so that (and so on).

That could have turned another way depending on the answer you give it, which is why it's good to repeat this exercise. Here's another example:

Ginko supports healthy brain and memory functions… so that you can decrease the risks of senility, Alzheimer's disease, and other degenerative diseases of the brain… so that you won't be placed in a nursing home… so that you won't place the burden of your care on your loved ones… so that you can grow old with peace of mind… so that you can enjoy a higher quality of life, especially during those later years… so that (and so on).

Remember, these are just examples pulled off the top of my head. But if you want more help with your own copy, my FAB formula is a useful guide.

Bottom line, check your copy to see if you're committing any of these seven deadly sins. If you are, your prospects won't forgive you. By not buying, that is.