Category Archives: Copywriting

What’s in a word?


People hate the color brown – studies show they think it is boring, ugly, and reminiscent of dirt.  One color that people do like is mocha. They appreciate its warmth and earthiness. Even when shown the exact same color, people prefer the color labeled as mocha over the one labeled as brown.

While we all like to think of ourselves as modern, logical thinkers who are immune to the charms of marketing, the reality is that we are all heavily influenced by subconscious emotional connections. Mocha is not a word, it is an experience – the warmth and contentment of a hot and chocolaty drink on a cold morning.

Your company has a limited amount of space on its website and brochures, and only a limited amount of engagement from your reader. Instead of wasting precious seconds of interaction on overly long and detailed descriptions of products and services, use short and evocative copy that taps into their subconscious. Let your future clients make their decision to work with you based on their emotions and they will proceed with confidence rather than waffling over lists of features that may or may not matter to them.


goldfish-537832_1920Attention spans are declining, supposedly the average American attention span now sits at a whopping 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Goldfish ring in at 9 seconds.  Thus the rise of TL;DR.  Too Long; Didn’t Read.  Not even willing to write out “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

You can either weep for the inevitable decline of society, or you can move on with the times.  Because, really, it’s not all bad news – research shows that the decline in human attention spans is simply responsive adaptation to new environments.

Furthermore, while we have definitely decreased in sustained concentration (focusing on a single task for a long time), we have improved in task switching (switching between tasks while still maintaining concentration) and selective attention (avoiding distractions).

Take a moment to evaluate your marketing content. Look at your brochures, social media posts, your flyers, your website content, blog posts, ad copy, and product descriptions.  Nothing should approach essay length.  If you do have longer copy, a person should be able to get the gist of what is going on in 15 seconds or less (at a maximum).  Break up whatever you can into small attention grabbing sections.  Be brief.  You may find yourself getting more results with less content.

Is Your Marketing Too Me-Centric?


Even if your company brochure is a masterfully crafted combination  of beautiful photographs, subtle graphics, and polished copy, it may still be ineffective at connecting to your prospective clients.  Your customers are not looking for a simple product or service, they are looking for something to fulfill their own needs.

When your copy only lists features and benefits that highlight how awesome YOU and YOUR COMPANY and YOUR PRODUCT are, you are not connecting with the consumer.  Any message that doesn’t directly target your customer’s need and offer solutions , is a waste of space.

When looking at your existing marketing copy, try to analyze it within the context of the eighty/twenty rule.  At least eighty percent of your copy should be written aimed at your consumer and be written in the second person (i.e. “you”) and no more than twenty percent should be written in the first person (i.e. “we”, “I”, “our”).  The harsh reality is that no one cares about your company except in the context of how is it helpful to them.  So, avoid the trap of selling yourself. Instead, sell consumers on their own possible lifestyle, success, and fulfillment.

People Don’t Read Your Emails during the Holidays

We really wish they did.  However, data shows that people open emails differently during the holidays than they do over the rest of the year.   And these aren’t just promotional emails, if you are trying to establish a client relationship, schedule a meeting, nurture a professional referral, this change in behavior will still affect you.  Accross the board, from November to January, email open rates vary wildly as do response rates.

The evening before Thanksgiving, email open rates drop 6% and that rate does not return to normal until December 1st. The data shows it is absolutely worth it to wait the one week to send your email.  The week before Christmas surprisingly corresponds with a 6% increase in the average email open rate. People are trying to get everything done before Christmas and are more attentive to their emails, you can use this as an opportunity.  But if you wait too long, there is no going back.  Email open rates decline 91% on Christmas Eve, and 260% on Christmas Day.  The trend continues, last year email rates were still down by over 33% on the Monday and Tuesday after Christmas. Almost 60% fewer emails were opened on New Year’s Eve and 160% fewer were opened on New Year’s day than the average.

If you are trying to engage new contacts, then the New Year, as always, brings new opportunity. Email open and response rates are actually notably higher than average the 4 days after New Year’s Day.  People are returning to work and anxious to catch up on everything and take care of responsibilities.  Take advantage of this renewed vigor!

Speaking to Your Audience

A common mistake in marketing pieces and website design is trying to target everyone – creating copy and even an aesthetic that is meant to impress your customers, your investors, the man on the street, retail employees in Anchorage, Alaska, everyone.  But nothing is appealing to everyone.  Writing and design that manage to be acceptable to everyone can be pretty much summarized as bland.

Instead, when creating a marketing piece it is important to stop and really ask yourself, who is this meant for?  Is it meant to increase your business’ exposure?  Are you selling things and speaking to potential customers?  Attracting potential investors?

If you are not sure, then you need to stop before you spend a significant of time and money on dud marketing.   If you ARE sure who you want to target and you quite clearly want to target all of these people at the same time then you also need to stop and reconsider.  There is no way that the result will be useful and effective.  If you absolutely must appeal to several distinct groups of people then it is time to consider how you can split your efforts, using separate marketing for each group.


The Call to Action: A Copywriting Perspective

So, you need a call to action.  That’s a basic marketing requirement – to convert readers of your website and direct mail materials into actual customers, you must first give them a push and ask them to take specific action that will get them started. Whether you want them to make a call, fill out an a form, sign up for a newsletter, or download something free, you MUST ask people to do that specific action or they never will.

A call to action provides specific direction to your users, brings focus to your marketing, and also measures your marketing’s effectiveness.  There are many ways to approach constructing an effective call to action – here are some great tips to consider as you get started.

  1. Active Language

Use active verbs that clearly tell users what you want them to do – Call, Buy, Register, Subscribe, Watch, Donate, Start, Win, Listen, Learn, and Download are all good ones to start with.

  1. Identify a Problem

Identify a problem that your audience can relate to and position your brand as the solution. Even if you don’t include this in your direct call to action you can use it in close proximity. Remember that a call to action is only as strong as its surrounding copy.

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency

You want your users to act now and not simply decide to consider and then move on – losing connection with a potential customer is not good.  Give them an incentive to act right now. Create a deadline (e.g. Offer expires on March 10th, For a short time only) or offer an incentive (e.g. Donate now and receive a free t-shirt, First ten reservations get 20% off, Like our Facebook page and receive a free e-book).

  1. Address Obstacles

Everyone know the line from the Geico commercials – “15 minutes could save you 15% or more!”  What obviously makes this line work is that it sounds good, it’s easy to remember, and they have repeated it enough that any person who has owned a TV in the last ten years could repeat it to you.  What makes the line great though, is that it not only offers an incentive (save 15%) but it also addresses unspoken obstacles that potential consumers may have.  Plenty of people may want to save 15% but really not want to talk to an insurance agency, expecting incredibly extensive questions, upsells, and an hour of wasted time. In promising a 15 minute phone call they are promising callers a relatively stress free and quick process.

  1. Prioritize Clarity

Use clear and concise language – this is not a time aim for complex language or length or perceived cleverness.  “Visit our website” is a thousand times better than “Point your web browser toward our home page.”  Don’t have three different calls to action that confuse people, if you MUST have more than one, turn to graphics to make the most important visually obvious.

  1. Make it easy for users

Don’t require long steps, make forms as short and straight forward, provide any necessary information.  Make sure to include, phone numbers, website addresses, and maps if you expect customers to go your location.

  1. Simplify

While beautifully crafted Calls to Action have their place, the most effective are often the most simple.  On an e-card website, a simple button that says “Start Creating” is straight forward and let’s your customer know that it is just that easy, no unnecessary signups or paywalls required.

Understanding How People Interact with Websites

Understanding how people interact with different types of media can be essential to the design process. What many don’t realize is that the way the average person interacts with and reads content on a website is distinctly different than the way they read something printed.
The average user only reads 20% of the words on any web page, spends 80% of their time on what is immediately visible, and 69% of their time on the left side of the page.
A prominent eyetracking study in 2006 conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group brought focus to website-user interaction. The study observed that most users followed fairly consistent reading patterns that roughly follow an “F” shape. Users usually read with one strong horizontal movement at the top of the page, another a paragraph or two down, and then skim quickly along the left horizontal edge of the website copy.

The pattern is not precise with every user every time, sometimes they will vary a little, and often a picture will draw heavy attention, but over hundreds of users, a consistent depiction of use arises. This interaction can be termed “detailed scanning”. Users certainly won’t read every word that you write and in general practice scanning or skimming but there are certain points on the page that the majority of readers will read carefully and in detail, consuming entire chunks thoroughly.
IT and marketing professionals learn design and write in ways that best takes advantage of this documented pattern. The first two paragraphs are the most important and should be filled with the most relevant information. The beginning of every paragraph should be as information heavy as possible. The website itself should be design to encourage scanning and reading quickly, without huge sections filled with blocks of information.