Your mission, should you decide to accept it:
“Stop me in my tracks–rivet me in place–in eight seconds. Or less.”
(Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
(But only for eight seconds. If you don’t succeed, I’m outta here, baby.)
No pressure, right?
It’s a tough row to hoe, isn’t it? But it’s the row we copywriters have to hoe, every time, if we ever expect to sow a bumper crop of new buyers for our clients.
So here’s how we grab attention
We write riveting headlines
Have you ever noticed how many headlines begin, “Who Else Wants to… (win a car; buy a home; marry a millionaire; fly to Rome/Paris/Frankfurt/New York/Hollywood?)” or “The Top (3,5,7,10) Reasons Why… ” (you should never schedule elective surgery in June; you should get long-term care insurance while you’re young; your credit card is a potential pain in the pocketbook) or “How to…. (grab your audience’s attention in a media-saturated world; earn a seven-figure income working from home; condition your body to run a marathon).
Headlines suggesting that a reader is about to 1.) get incredibly lucky or 2.) avoid some kind of pain, problem or predicament are all the rage. Headlines like these feed on positive and negative emotions, on hopes and fears. And as you already know (if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time) consumers usually buy based chiefly on their emotions. (They justify their purchases using logic-based rationalizations.)
Our first sentence grabs attention
If a headline is the lure that attracts ideal clients and gets them to stop swimming long enough to bite, our first sentence must be cleverly created to set the hook. If it doesn’t do this, there won’t be anything to gather into our clients’ nets. So our first sentence must be absolutely irresistible to our clients’ target audience.
Next , the slippery slope grabs attention
When we’re writing copy, we always remember that at the end of every sentence, wherever a period appears, our readers have permission to leave. This is why good copywriters use every technique in the book, at the end of every sentence and all along the way, to keep the audience engaged.
Some of what we do would give your English teacher a splitting headache and high blood pressure. (“Got milk?”) We start sentences with and, but, so, and other words that would have red edit marks all over them if we were writing classroom essays. Why? Because the insatiably-curious human mind simply cannot walk away from a subsequent sentence that begins with and, but, or so.
We also use alliteration (“weaving words into wealth by turning browsers into buyers”), rhyming (“you’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent; “double your pleasure double your fun with double good double good Doublemint gum”), similes (“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”), metaphors (“I am Mayhem”) and other clever tactics that keep people trotting alongside as we whisk them down the slippery slope to the result our clients anticipate.
Finally (or along the way in more than one spot), the Action Line grabs attention
Unless the readers–our client’s target audience–follow us eagerly and willingly, like tail-wagging puppies, all the way to the action line–the line where we tell them what they need to do now to satisfy the desire we’ve placed or encouraged in them along the way, our clients will have no sale, no conversion, no win. And we’ll get no additional work from these clients. And they’ll give us lousy reviews. And we’ll eventually starve as a sad result.
So, as you can see, being a copywriter is no bed of roses. There are plenty of places where we can mess up and cause the house of cards to collapse in a jumbled mess.
This is precisely why it’s crucial that business owners and entrepreneurs who are looking to hire a reputable copywriter need to know the basics about what good copy writing is and why it costs what it does. Good copy isn’t something we just dash off in a few minutes. It has to be massaged, danced with, tickled, pummeled, and shaped into a series of riveting sound bites that carry potential buyers over the threshold and deposit them in front of your cash registers.
It isn’t a walk in the park. It isn’t a lark. So if you no longer feel completely capable of writing your own copy, hire someone who can. Your bank account will thank you for it, and you’ll be able to write off every dime at the end of the year when you file your taxes as long as the writer you hire is a reputable professional with a business license.