Good marketing, regardless of the vehicle that is used to push it out, is all about effective communications.
One of my favorite books is Ogilvy on Advertising (1983) by David Ogilvy. In it, he points out that in 1983 he was still using many of the same techniques he used in 1963, even though the world had undergone a major change â€“ television.
Today, we can add Internet as the second major media change. Although weâ€™ve moved forward another 25 years, the fundamental principles still apply today; getting your message out is only half of it, it also must be understood.
In this post, Iâ€™ll take three of Ogilvyâ€™s copywriting principles, headlines, images and copy, and show you how to apply them to your business blog.
â€œOn the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money.â€
Unless your headline catches the attention of your readers, youâ€™ve wasted 90 per cent of your time writing the text â€“ readers wonâ€™t get to see it. Spend some time crafting the perfect heading if you want readers to continue.
Promise your readers a benefit
Grab a magazine (any popular magazine in your niche), and count the number of times the headline offers a benefit of some type. Does your product or service offer your readers more time to spend with their kids? Does it offer a better way to save money? Does it help them determine the best retirement plan? What about helping them lose weight?
Every business offers something; if yours doesnâ€™t you should be rethinking your business strategy. Offer your readers something that will benefit them.
Regardless of whether you are showing your readers how to use a product better, or showing them a new way to use an old product, make sure you include it in your headline. Remember, show, donâ€™t tell. â€˜How toâ€™ and â€˜what isâ€™ types of posts are the most effective.
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News sells. Take a look at Reuters, Associated Press, CNN, ABC. If you have news to share, donâ€™t make readers wait until the blog post, tell them about it up front and center in your headline. Released a new product or service? Share it with your readers. Found a soap that stops your 8yo from breaking out in a rash? Share it with your readers. Developed a new addon for Twitter? Let your readers know about it quickly by writing a great headline.
Know Your Demographic
If your brand or product is tailored to a specific group of people, include a couple of words in your headline to grab their attention, like 25 year olds, marketers, moms, developers.
While many people advocate writing tricky headlines â€“ double meanings, play on words, etc â€“ try to avoid them in business blogging. You are competing with millions of other bloggers, and readers want information quickly. If they have to try and work out what the headline is, or what it is supposed to mean, theyâ€™re more likely to go elsewhere.
Avoid Blind Headlines
Headlines that donâ€™t say what the product/brand or benefit is, are labeled blind. By using your brand name in your headline, you are also pointing it out to the search engines, and this is important if you want to rank well. Search folk call these key words.
â€œA picture, they say, can be worth a thousand wordsâ€
Use of imagery is extremely important â€“ if the picture is remarkable. What was true 25 years ago, still applies today:
- Donâ€™t use images for the sake of having an image
- The best images are those which pique curiosity
- If you have before and after shots, always use the after
- Images of most interest to readers â€“ babies, animals, sex
- When the copy is aimed at women, use a picture of a woman. When the copy is aimed at men, use a picture of a man â€“ or â€“ a sexy woman
â€œNobody reads body copy. True of False? It depends on two things. First, on how many people are interested in the kind of product you are advertising; a lot of women will read copy about food products, but few will read copy about cigars. Second, on how many people have been enticed into your ad by your illustration and headline.â€
If you have written an attention grabbing headline, and used images that pique curiosity, you should be fairly safe in expecting your visitor to continue reading. Donâ€™t get complacent though, now you need to lead your visitor through your copy in a formulaic fashion, enticing, encouraging and holding their hand through to the end.
Write to each individual reader
When someone visits your business blog, they usually come on their own. They read alone. Present your copy as a personal letter to that one person, not as a speech written for a fully packed conference room. You are one human being writing to another, the second person is singular.
Interest your readers, donâ€™t bore them
Keep the word brevity in mind when you write. Keep sentences and paragraphs short, use subheadings and remove any difficult words. Ogilvy, when writing the Dove campaign, wrote that Dove made soap â€œobsolete,â€ only to discover that the majority of housewives (his target audience) did not know what the word meant. He changed it to â€œold-fashioned.â€ How many people will know what ineffable, abstemious, or unciform mean without the help of a dictionary?
Avoid bragging or boasting
If you have a great product that you want to present to the world, avoid superlatives like â€œThis is the best cell phone in the United States,â€ no one will believe you. Instead, show you readers how great it is by comparing functionality, practicality, usability. Make it more credible by including a testimonial; readers trust their fellow readers more.
If you are selling a product or service, provide the price. How many times have you seen a great product – ring, laptop, movie camera – but try as you might you canâ€™t find the price? Most people walk away rather than ask. Itâ€™s the same on the Web. If the price of a product or service is not easily found, people tend to go elsewhere. Take a look at Remarkabloggerâ€™s Blog Consulting page and youâ€™ll find a perfect example of how itâ€™s done; Michael lists his services and prices in an easy to understand manner.
Copywriting can be learned, but, it does take time. Start by looking at other business blogs and emulating the most successful. Look for inspiration from your biggest competitor – you know, the one with the huge budget, and a great advertising/PR/marketing firm on call, and then do as they do – until you know how to do it better.