How Web Writers Can Improve Their Copy with White Space

Pillars Four

I want you to imagine a statue. An aged bronze sculpture of a young girl, possibly eight years old, in a long dress. She stands about 50 inches, so roughly four feet tall.

Her head is cocked to the left, a pensive, sad look on her face. Both elbows are pinned to her side and her forearms stretch upward, her palms open to the sky, a bowl in each hand.

As if she is feeding the birds. [Read more…]

A Simple Way to Get People to Believe Your Big Claim

Open Pickle Jar-001

Another way to get people to buy into your claim is to explain the mechanism behind it.

For example, let’s say a fitness trainer makes the claim that in just 14 minutes a day customers can add muscle to every inch of their body.

Notice what is NOT suggested: that these will be particularly big muscles. The implication is, at the very least, customers can achieve a toned body.

That’s still a big claim, but the trainer can bring it into the realm of believability by explaining how this can happen.

In this case, let’s say the fitness program involves a chair. The value proposition can be summed up like this: a 14-minute chair routine that builds muscle on every inch of your body.

Notice, too, the trainer used several of the previous tips to accomplish this.

One, the claim is very specific about the amount of time it takes and the equipment necessary. In other words, it’s heavy with details.

In addition, as part of the live presentation the trainer could demonstrate with a video. All of these factors help sweep aside skepticism.

Finally, he could add a creative guarantee, and his close rates are sure to go up.

This article originally appeared as part of this Salesforce article (which I am told by a source close to the company is their most socially popular post). 

P.S. Want a daily, but small, dose of essential web writing advice? Then check out my new podcast Rough Draft.

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Is This the Proper Response to Fame?

Cathedral Corridor

Our anticipation and response to fame should mirror the anticipation and response of the ancient acolyte to a visitation from the gods.

During the new moon the acolyte enters the temple, dons the vest, lights the incense, and prepares the sacrifice. In that prescribed order. There is nothing more he can do.

And then he waits.

With each piece of content the writer performs a similar ritual. She crafts the headline, neatly lays out one sentence at a time, shapes short paragraphs, selects the appropriate image, closes with style, and publishes it. That’s all she can do.

Then she must wait.

When the gods arrive the acolyte falls flat on his face, overwhelmed by a sense of fear, respect, and awe. He can not control whether they arrive or not. He is at their mercy.

When the audience arrives the writer falls flat on her face, overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude and obligation. She can not control whether they arrive or not. She is at their mercy. And grateful for any attention at all.

And that is the proper response to fame. Do you agree? Drop a comment.

P.S. Have you seen my new podcast Rough Draft?

Gimpy Web Copy? Use This 4-Step Formula to Make It Killer

Donut Messs

Do you want a simple, sticky formula that turns your listless copy into something that rivets attention, stokes desire, and gets action?

If you said “yes,” then the 4 Ps is what you are after. Let’s start with an example.

Here’s a short ad promoting a fantasy

Wanted: Ugly Men
Listen, ugly men, with one little pill, I can make you so attractive that women will throw themselves at you every time you walk through the mall.

Want proof?

Just ask Marty Feldman or Michael Berryman. They now beat women off of them with sticks.

Call 1-800-ugly-men now if you are interested.

See any pattern in the above copy? I’m using the Ps. So, what are the 4 Ps?

  • Promise
  • Paint
  • Proof
  • Push

Let’s break this little ad down so I can show you how this formula works. [Read more…]

Introducing My New Podcast: Rough Draft

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And then there was the podcast: Rough Draft.

Essential writing advice you need to succeed online, in about four minutes a day, four days a week.

It’s a sequential show. A journey. I start from the very beginning and work through principles and practices of writing for the web. Tomfoolery included. With the occasional semi-robotic surprise guest host.

If you’re a pure writer, and you wonder how you’ll be able to build your own online platform that actually gets seen, this show is your shortcut.

Subscribe to Rough Draft on iTunes

While you are at it, check out some of the other shows in the Copyblogger podcast network: RainmakerFM.

I’m particularly fond of Sonia Simone’s show art (Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer). Intrigued by the angle on editing Stefanie Flaxman takes in her show (Editor-in-Chief). And smitten by the name of Loren Baker’s podcast on SEO (Search and Deploy).

And not to mention the next four episodes of The Lede (with Jerod and I) are going to be good. Like so good the world will end, children will forget their names, and birds will bring us food.

Come, join us.

How to Be More Successful When You Ask a Favor

Big Belt Buckle

While Enlightenment-era thinkers would like you to believe otherwise, we are not as rational as we think we are.

Books like Irrational Exuberance, Emotional Intelligence, and Descartes’ Error teach us that even the most analytical among us make decisions with emotions. Furthermore, we learn that without emotions we can’t make a decision in the first place.

In the sales context, this means people buy based on desire.

Whether someone wants a promotion at work or a healthier lifestyle, they desire these things for emotional reasons like prestige, approval, sex appeal, or security.

However, those desire-based decisions are eventually justified with logic. That’s where “reason why” advertising comes in.

In essence, if you make an offer, state a claim, or ask a favor, expect your prospect to wonder why you are making that claim. Satisfy her curiosity. Sweep away her skepticism.

Kill the troll.

For example, explain why you are giving away a free sample of your book (because you know the advice in the first chapter will help them survive Manhattan traffic that very night).

Explain why you are throwing in a free 30-minute consultation with every contract (because this helps clients warm up to your strange coaching process).

Elizabeth Langer’s famous 1977 Copy Machine Study demonstrates we don’t need much. Your reason why could be as simple as “I’m just a generous person” or “because.”

Whatever it is, make it clear. Otherwise people will wonder if there’s a catch and remain skeptical.

P.S. Have you seen my new podcast Rough Draft?

This piece originally appeared as part of this Salesforce article (which I am told by a source close to the company is their most socially popular post).