This is a guest post by Marcia Yudkin If you hate screaming headlines, exaggerations and a hard sell, you may find it hard to know how to write copy that presents you and your offerings in an interesting way. Simply describing what you do in no-frills fashion may seem too dull. Keep in mind that to someone with an overflowing toilet at midnight, the phrase “24-hour emergency service” is flowery enough. To make sure you’re including everything you need to say, start with a plain-vanilla draft. Then spice up your copy writing with one or more of these six verbal techniques.
1. Extended metaphor
You couldn’t have missed all the cooking references at the site you’re now viewing, including the “secret sauce,” “ooey-gooey emails,” the “cookie-cutter-free zone” and (my favorite) “Lunch & Learn Chefinars.” Yanik Silver uses a spy theme for his “Underground Seminars,” which present hidden Internet success stories. The site Speaking Bonanza explains that its focus is “Bookings that rope in business,” has an “Expert Roundup,” and offers a program called “The Whole Enchilada.” Designers love creating illustrations around such ideas. You don’t have to organize the whole site with a metaphor; you can use it for just one page or even an introductory paragraph.
Use true mini-stories to bring abstract points to life. For instance, in the promotion for an information marketing course, I wrote: “In the 1990s, my husband and I would sit in our living room opening bins full of envelopes, then stacking checks and money orders in one pile and dollar bills in another heap so high they’d begin to topple over. These days it’s not as much work to count the money, but…” Your stories can be about clients rather than about you, such as: “In just 30 days, one of the families we worked with went from sullen faces around the dinner table every night to relaxed laughter, sharing and kidding during almost every meal.”
3. Interesting details
Notice the difference between saying, “We have thousands of satisfied clients” and “3,789 Clients and Counting”? Specifics are always more appealing and persuasive than generalities. Instead of “We serve various industries,” write “Our clients range from plumbing supply companies and corner garages to community credit unions and elite private schools.” Rather than promising “financial freedom,” say “You’ll be able to pay your kids’ way through medical school, buy that house on the lake and donate to help struggling families.”
4. Sensory language
Another way to add flavor is to use language that implies seeing, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting. This stimulates your customer’s imagination and often converts the onlooker from skimming to reading, which leads to more careful consideration, which is the prelude to buying. See this principle at work in some copy from Apple: “Imagine sidesplitting, adventure-filled, must-see flicks produced by you and shot on iPhone 5.” Note that verbs, not only adjectives, accomplish this function: “Grab a beer and settle down to watch the mesmerizing night sky.”
The harder your services or products are for the average person to relate to, the more effective it is to compare them to something familiar. I often pull helpful analogies out of people when I ask them how they’d explain what they do to a ten-year-old. “It’s as if we’re your GPS when it comes to financial security,” says one financial planner. An Internet entrepreneur came up with “Our software has a built-in tow truck that drags you out of the mud and gets you back on the road.”
6. Tweaks of common sayings
I’ve seen scores of sites invite you to join with a word-for-word echo of the American Express slogan, “Membership has its privileges.” Don’t copy. Instead, twist what others say to make it unique. For instance: “Membership has its perks.” “Let your mower do the walking.” “A tweet in time saves nine.” “The Yecch stops here.” Don’t overdo this, though, because a parade of puns quickly becomes annoying and distracting. Your goal is to make your flyer, brochure or website a scrumptious pleasure to read while being also clear and on-point. The marketing results then go from slim pickings to a lip-smacking feast.