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100 Great Copywriting Ideas Summary

Sam’s Five Favorite Ideas

  1. Long Words Don’t Always Make You Sound More Intelligent
  2. Is Your Copy FAB?
  3. Another Headline Idea: True or False
  4. I Object
  5. Tap Into People’s Aspirations

1. Long Words Don’t Always Make You Sound More Intelligent

Some of us like to think that using long, polysyllabic words makes us sound intelligent. But we’re wrong in that assertion. Intelligence alone doesn’t move the reader to take action: clarity does. Why? Because if the reader doesn’t understand you, they’re unlikely to buy from you (no matter how intelligent you might be).

Maslen references an article from The Economist to illustrate his point. In a piece published during the 2008 American presidential race, Maslen noticed that among the polysyllabic words (anathema, insinuate, redoutable), there were simpler, more common words (dodgy, grumpy, sizzling).

His contention is that copywriters don’t use long words to make themselves sound smart, but rather, to keep their writing brief and concise. In other words, they will only use a long word if a shorter one won’t do. 

Bottom line? You can, and should, use long words at times (depending on who you’re writing for, of course), but keep in mind: copy is about the reader, not you. 

2. Is Your Copy FAB?

In the end scene of The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio asks an attendee of a seminar he’s speaking at to sell him a pen. The attendee stammers and then describes the pen and who it’s for. DiCaprio smiles and asks another attendee, and then another, and another, before the movie fades to black. 

Like the oblivious seminar attendees, most would-be copywriters often fall into the trap of describing a product’s features—what it does, who it’s for, the material(s) it’s constructed from. This is a mistake, and a costly one at that. People don’t care what a product does, unsurprisingly; they care about what it can do for them.

One formula that helps tap into a prospect’s self-interest is FAB, which stands for Features, Advantages, Benefits. Features are what things are. Advantages are how those features make a product better than a competitor’s. Benefits answer the customer’s questions, “What’s in it for me?”

To quote Maslen, “If you can hear your customers saying, ‘So what?,’ you’re not talking benefits.” 

3. Another Headline Idea: True or False

Writing headlines is tough. Writing good headlines is tougher. But writing headlines for a product that’s unexpected, unknown, or new? That’s a real challenge.

One headline idea for products that fall under that category is to ask a question that addresses potential ignorance head-on, without making the reader feel stupid.

For example, for a weight loss product, you might write, “You can lose weight without giving up cream cakes, true or false?” Then, in the body copy, you might follow up with, “It’s true.” before explaining why.  

One particular advantage of this headline idea is, if pulled off correctly, it can be highly memorable. If the headline is all the prospects reads, they’re still likely to remember the right answer: yes, you can.

4. I Object

When writing copy, it’s not enough to convince the buyer to say yes by writing about benefits alone. Buyers, for the most part, are skeptical by nature, and for that reason, you have to raise—and overcome—objections that prevent them from taking action.

Objections vary from industry to industry and from product to service. What might be an objection to your product might not be for someone else. There are three objections, though, that are more common than others, which Maslen addresses in his book. 

First, there’s “It’s too expensive” If a prospect says this, you need to demonstrate the value of your product by showing how much they will save or make, versus the cost. 

Second, there’s “I need to talk to someone else.” If heard, Maslen urges you to show the prospect what they could lose by hanging back and sharing testimonials from people like them. (More on that below.)

Third, there’s “I’m not sure I really need this.” If you hear this objection, it’s for one reason: you haven’t sold well enough. Maybe your benefits aren’t strong enough. Maybe it’s the wrong product for the wrong prospect. Whatever the reason, update and improve your copy until it’s no longer a concern.

5. Tap Into People’s Aspirations

HM Revenue and Customers (HMRC) had a problem. At the end of each financial year, UK taxpayers received a letter reminding them to return their declarations on time. Yet, despite penalties for late returns, few returned their declarations on time.

To reduce delays, the HMRC contacted the authors of the book Yes! after hearing about an experiment that helped hotels reduce towel usages. The results were remarkable. When the authors added an additional sentence in the letter referring to the large number of people living in the same postcode paid their taxes on time, tax returns increased by 12 percent. 

To quote the authors, “The more similar the person giving [a] testimonial is to the new target audience, the more persuasive the message becomes.”

You can apply a similar technique in your copy. When selling luxury goods, Maslen suggests focusing more on who is already benefiting from your product. For instance, you might write, “Here’s what other readers—like you—are saying about my work.”

Testimonials are effective, but when highlighting people who are similar to the reader, the results can often convince even the most skeptical of buyers.

Books Mentioned

  • How to Write Sales Letters that Sell by Drayton Bird 
  • The Secrets of Effective Direct Mail by John Fraser-Robinson
  • Advertising That Pulls Response by Graeme McCorkell
  • The Solid Gold Mailbox by Walter Weintz
  • How to Write a Good Advertisement by Victor Schwab
  • Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
  • The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly
  • Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing by Drayton Bird
  • Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves
  • Now That’s Funny! by David Bradbury

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