FEATURE 

25 market-tested copy tricks to tune up your landing page and get it selling

Web visitors are like horses, says copywriter Andy Maslen. You can lead them to water but you can’t (always) get them to drink. Here are his 25 top tips to convert visitors into customers.

By Andy Maslen

Let me guess: you’re good with words. You know how to tell truthful stories. You empathise with your reader. And you keep your readers engaged. Your readers always seem happy to take what you give for nothing. But put a price tag on it and they seem a lot less eager. How can you get round their resistance to buying? How can you choose the right words to boost sales?

Here are 25 subtle tricks to turn your precious words into persuasive copy. Some are from the web, or email. Many are old school. Let’s start with writing headlines that grab the attention of potential buyers.

HOW TO WRITE HEADLINES WITHOUT SWEATING BLOOD

1. Start with “How”

People love to get practical advice, and “How” headlines guarantee that you’re going to be giving them some. Here’s an example from a control-beating sales letter for a now-closed PC magazine:

How new-look Personal Computer World keeps you further ahead of the tech-curve

2. Offer news

As a species, we love new stuff. The trick is to link the novelty to a deep-seated need. This comes from a construction industry magazine:

Introducing a new power tool for construction industry professionals

3. Ask a question

Hit them with a question in your headline and hook them straight away. This is a headline for a big UK investment company.

Is the taxman sitting on up to £1,020 a year that belongs in your pension?

4. Make them curious

If you can arouse your reader’s curiosity, you have their attention. But to get them interested, you have to link the puzzle to their self-interest. Here’s a classic, written by David Ogilvy:

At 60 Miles An Hour The Loudest Noise In This Rolls Royce Is The Ticking Of The Electric Clock

5. Repetition

People look for and respond to simple linguistic patterns. Repeating a word helps them make connections between two parts of a headline. This is from an upscale business travel company’s website:

Thinking of Latin America for incentive trips and corporate entertainment? Think Jacada Incentives

6. Go ultra-short…

Sometimes all you really need is one word. Here are two that John Caples cites in his classic work, Tested Advertising Methods:

Hernia

Sex

If you were a middle-aged man suffering with the former, or a randy college kid looking for the latter, you’d probably read on.

7. …or long

Not sure what “long” means? How about 15 or more words? Like this one, for a real estate newsletter:

“Want to profit from the German real estate market?”

REFIRE Intelligence Report gives you the inside story every two weeks

Take a two-issue FREE TRIAL

You see a lot of this style of headline on internet squeeze pages. And for a very good reason. It works.

8. Tell them not to buy

Psychologists call it counter-intuitive. Ordinary folk just call it “wonky”. Like this ad headline for a management consultancy:

Don’t hire another consultant until you read this

9. Use “without”

You’re marketing a weight-loss plan based on exercise and healthy eating as opposed to crash dieting. Here’s how you might work a “without” into your headline, from a classic seventies Schweppes press ad:

How to enjoy your favorite soft drinks without putting on weight

A DOZEN EASY WAYS TO TUNE UP YOUR BODY COPY

10. Tell a story

Storytelling is one of the most effective techniques for drawing your prospect into your copy, especially if you introduce a cliffhanger straight away. Using the past tense is a pretty simple way to get started…

Back when our founder Craig Parkinson started the company in 1985, customers just couldn’t believe the Probe would work. So Craig said to them: “Take me to your worst wet well and I’ll fix it.”

11. One-word paragraphs

How about we open our copy with an ultra-short paragraph? Say, one word. Like this, from the campaign in idea number 3.

Offers.

12. Use stealth selling

Put sales copy where people expect only neutral information, in picture captions for example. Here’s the caption for what appears to be a simple screengrab on a natural health website.

Your NaturalNews.TV video could be here.

Upload your own videos at NaturalNews.TV (FREE)

13. Get personal

When you’re selling, you need a personal, friendly tone of voice. Here’s an example from an email from a big commodities research firm:

Have you ever been too busy to stop for lunch? I know I have.

14. Easy

We’re back to human nature again. People love it when the things they have to do are easy. Infomarketing pioneer Joe Karbo knew this. He called his book “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Riches”. How about pepping up your next blog post title? You could do worse than adapt this one from the MixRank Blog:

Easy wins

15. Power words

When you’re writing your next piece of copy, try to include as many power words as you can. What are power words? Here are a few from a series of emails and letters for the Wall Street Journal:

The right to call the shots.

I think you are savvy enough never to pay full price if you can help it.

You are smart, switched on, connected.

16. Anglo-Saxon words

Let’s follow Abraham Lincoln’s example, and never use a long word when a shorter one would do. Plain English, in other words. This comes from an ad for a leading international wildlife charity:

Ever since those early days, RSPB members have shown their true colours by fighting to preserve wild spaces and wild species so we can all enjoy them where they belong. Which isn’t on hats.

17. Use psychology

You have to make your reader want what you’re selling. A subtle ploy is to suggest that maybe they’re not quite the right people to benefit from your product. You've almost certainly seen this opening sentence:

Quite frankly, the American Express card is not for everybody.

18. Handle their objections

It’s very easy, when you’re thinking about your next webinar, e-book, course or report to focus only on the reasons why your customer might buy from you. But what about all the reasons why they might not buy? You have to identify these and then knock them down till there’s nowhere left for them to go but to the Buy Now button. This is an example from an HR consultancy business.

…Where they offer formulaic thinking based on business-school case studies, we bring real-world experience as corporate leaders and HR specialists.

19. Guarantees

Most magazine publishers offer a money-back guarantee. Here’s how a mountain-biking magazine handles it:

I’m sure Dirt is set to become a permanent fixture in your life. But here’s my personal guarantee anyway.

Either you’ll be 100% happy with the mag I edit, or write cancelling your subscription for a full refund on all unmailed issues. No questions asked.

20. Write your copy on the record

Next time you find yourself struggling with copy, try picking up an MP3 recorder and speaking your copy instead of typing it. Avoid the temptation to speak in perfectly constructed “copywriter” sentences. Just tell them about it in your own voice, using the first words that come out. Here’s an email for a company selling software that helped traders track ship movements around the world’s oceans:

Are you interested in how LNGLive can track the global flow of LNG? It’s all done by what our technical guys call “heuristic algorithms”.

Basically that means the software actually learns as it tracks individual ships in the LNG fleet.

21. Divide the price by 365

If you feel price is likely to be a big barrier, try this. Calculate the average daily cost of ownership. Like this headline in an email from US mailroom giant Pitney Bowes:

Save money AND improve the look of your mailings for just £2 a day

CLOSE THE SALE...NOW

22. A bad two-letter word

Never start your call to action with “If”. The subtext is, “I, the writer, am not convinced you’ll want to buy.” Instead, phrase it like this, with a command, from an industry website:

Start your free trial now. Just enter your email address in the box to register.

23. Repeat your benefit…

Reinforce your reader’s purchase decision by repeating the main benefit. Here’s how listings magazine TimeOut did it in the days before it became a free magazine:

YES! I want to come back to TimeOut and all that London has to offer me.

24. …or your offer

Even though classical marketing theory says, “sell the product not the offer”, if you are making an offer, reminding them can only be a good thing. For a car magazine, the copywriter did it like this:

YES! Please extend my subscription to Top Gear Magazine and send me my free Bugatti Veyron poster.

25. Include a deadline

Make your customer feel that the product they want is scarce by limiting the time available to buy. Putting the deadline next to the call to action ramps up the pressure. This example comes from an ad for an information publisher

Subscribe online before 30 November 2012 and save 20%

TIME TO PUT THE "SALES" INTO SALES COPY

To make your copy sell more, you need to get round people’s resistance, and tap into their motivations. And that’s where these 25 subtle tricks come in.

They’ve worked for businesses and individuals all over the world, in every conceivable market. In some cases, they’ve worked for decades. Online, offline, everywhere you care to mention. Use these tricks successfully and your landing page will sell more. Well, what are you waiting for? Don’t you want to find out how these tricks could boost your sales?