Friday, June 08, 2007

Judging The Written Word

"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, 19th century American novelist
Copy is King!

We've seen that over used phrase everywhere, right?

But it's true... I absolutely believe that copy is the key to your marketing be it online or offline. Your copy is still the difference maker.

But what is good copy?

That's simple... good copy is copy that sells, right? Doh!

Seriously, how do you recognize good copy? How do you judge the good copy vs. the bad?

I know some marketers that use former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's test when trying to classify good copy by saying they can't define it, "but I know it when I see it..."

That may sound cleaver... but it's a cop out.

It won't help your marketing, and I don't see it improving your conversion. Instead, let's define good copy and create a test... and then apply it.

Sounds cool, eh?

Great... so when reviewing headlines I suggest applying the "4 U’s" of copywriting. This means your copy must be:
1. Urgent
2, Unique
3. Ultra-specific
4. Useful.
I think this was originally developed by Michael Masterson and Bill Bonner for developing powerful headlines, but it can also be applyed to e-mail subject lines, bullets on landing pages, teaser copy, etc.

The 4 U's are designed to create headlines that hook the readers interest, tempts him with a promise or benefit, establishes credibility, and encourages him to read on for more.

The perfect headline should leave the prospect thinking, "Boy, that's really interesting. I'd like to know more about it."

Now if you do that... that's good copy.

Let's define each "U":

1. Urgent. Urgency gives the reader a reason to act now instead of later. You can create urgency by using time. For instance, "Make $200,000 in your spare time this year" is more urgent than "Make $200,000 in your spare time." I also like to use a time-limited special offer that makes the reader take action by a certain date.

2. Unique. Your headline must says something new or different. The product or service must be different - in some way - from anything the reader has heard before.
"Why French women have beautiful skin" is more unique and different than saying "Save 10% on Parisian Bath Kits." Good copy should make the offer more real.

3. Ultra-specific. Be as precise as possible, stating facts and figures. For example, "A $5,000 investment will makes you $1,235,987.76" The world revolves on specifics and not on generalizations, as such, so should your copy.

4. Useful. Lastly the headline must offer a benefit. A promise that has value for the reader. For example, "An Invitation to Dine & Save," gives the reader the benefit of saving money while going out to dinner. The benefit must be real and the stronger the benefit the better.

Once you have written your headline, (or you just received it for posting), ask yourself how strong it is in each of the four U’s. Use a scale of 1 to 4 (1 = weak, 4 = strong) to rank it in each category. Apply this test to all your headlines.

Rarely will your copy rate a 3 or 4 on all four U’s. AND if your copy doesn’t rate a 3 or 4 on at least three of the U’s, it’s probably not as strong as it could be — and can benefit from some rewriting.

So just don't sit there... try your hand at rewriting what is missing, making it stronger by applying the missing U's.

A common mistake is to defend weak copy by showing it's positive past performance. "Look everyone, it gets a 6% conversion and that's great!"

The good marketer doesn't think that way.

You must say, "6% conversion is good... but imagine what it could have made with the 4 U’s. Lets re-write it and shoot for 12%!"

Apply the 4 U's with all copy..

I guarantee you'll double your conversions in the first week!

Nice headline, eh?

How does it rank? Apply the 4 u's...