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Marketing: It’s all about the pace

I’m a B2B tech copywriter. But some years ago, I wrote for daily newspapers about websites, tech stuff and video games. It was a sideline but very enjoyable. One of the upsides was getting lots of free games and consoles. Friends loved me. The postman developed a bad back.

There comes a point where you’ve had your fill of reviewing games. For me, it started to wane after about the 800th one. My thumbs wore out.

But there’s one video game that marketing professionals must understand – at least in principle. It’s the arcade coin-op classic Daytona USA (pictured above).

Now if you think I’m about to get all Top Gear on you here, don’t worry.

This article is about winning at marketing, not at video games.

In Daytona USA, you’re racing against the clock, which is counting down.

You only have a few moments to race to the next checkpoint … when the game grants you more precious seconds called a ‘time extension’. I’ve marked this on the grab in red below – and there’s a vital marketing lesson that follows.

In the game, you’re constantly battling to win more ‘time extensions’ so you can get to the end. The moment you fail to reach the next checkpoint, it’s all over.

There’s an uncanny similarity with marketing – especially digital marketing and copywriting. You’re trying to win people’s time … their patience and attention, which is in short supply.

Emails are an extreme example. Here’s what I mean …

– Your carefully-crafted email arrives in someone’s inbox

– The subject line sounds interesting so you get a +2 second time extension

– You’re off. The clock is ticking. But by the time the email opens, there’s just one second left

– Fortunately, the headline has them gripped, so they give you a +3 second time extension

– The intro is flat. It doesn’t speak to them. One second left

– There’s too much text. They can barely be bothered to read any more but …

– They spy the call-to-action. It sounds tempting, so they give you a +2 second time extension

– It’s enough to click on the download button to read the free e-book

– They start reading the e-book. Now the time extensions are longer: +10 seconds.

– But the intro is dull and they’re wondering if this was all a waste of effort?

– No more time. It’s ‘game over’ before they got to the core marketing message.

How can you get them to cross the finish line?

I’d suggest 10 pointers:

1) Recognise that customers have barely any patience. Every word will either win or lose you valuable time – at every point in the journey. Wasted words will kill your campaign.

2) Take the view that – at the start – customers are not interested in a brand and its products.

3) If you talk about your customers’ own hopes and fears, they will grant you longer time extensions.

4) If you’re genuinely creative, interesting, entertaining and make them smile, you’ll create more checkpoints for extra time extensions.

5) Using questions and intriguing headings like ‘5 reasons why …’ will arouse their curiosity and expectation – so they give you more time.

6) Short sentences will pick up the pace – so your customers get to your key messages faster.

7) Anticipating their train of thought is vital. Answer each question as it occurs to them. This overcomes objections and builds momentum.

8) Only when you’ve connected with them on an emotional level (and built up a healthy time extension ‘bank’) should you risk getting into product details.

9) These should be presented as the answers to their hopes and fears. It’s all about them.

10) The call-to-action must be attractive (of course) but shouldn’t only appear at the end. Mention it at the start and repeatedly (without being tiresome) … so customers can select it whenever they feel ready.

Are there any cheats?

Yes. Press up, up, down, down, Start and Select.

Seriously though, no. But I hope the above is a useful walk-through guide.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines …

If you need a copywriting co-driver for your next campaign, make sure they understand the approach above.

Footnote: The Daytona USA images in this article are media-approved screengrabs that I’ve obtained legitimately from industry PR sources.

Contact me and let’s discuss some good ideas for your campaigns.

It’s OK to get all emotional

About 90% of my work is B2B tech copywriting. But this piece is relevant to anyone in creative marketing, whether it’s B2B, B2C, tech, FMCG and anything else.

What’s been your most expensive purchase for your home?

For me, it’s been a cast iron woodburner that attracts people into the living room. It’s actually (whisper it) a gas fire. But visitors wouldn’t know … apart from the fact it generates welcome heat within seconds.

So how is this magical fire being marketed?

fire dull picThe product shots look something like this …

(Just to be clear, this fire is not the fire I’m talking about, but it’s a similar marketing picture.)

To me, this kind of image says:
Sanitised, clinical, anaemic, generic, characterless, impersonal and cold (ironic for a fire).

The words alongside the company’s photo are all about features, plus a few benefits thrown in: watch the flames and log-effects through a large ‘window area’, two heat settings, and a remote control, etc. Plus a list of all the sizes and connections required. There’s also a reference to “fits with your lifestyle” – whatever that means.

It’s boring and a bit ‘Noddy’. But someone in marketing probably considers it’s ‘safe’ and acceptable – because all the other fire manufacturers are doing exactly the same thing.

And that makes you think: What a massive opportunity to be different and to get a competitive advantage …

What if the company used a shot like this? (a different fire again) …

happy feet

And some words like this (I’ve written what the fire means to me) …

“We’re out at the cinema and come home late. The house is cold. But within moments, our living room is glowing with warmth. We sit beside the fire, laugh about the movie and have supper together. Home-made soup, crusty bread and whatever else we can raid from the fridge. Hilarious film. Great evening. Perfect ending. Winter nights wouldn’t be the same without our woodburner.”

Because the product is warm, the copy especially needs to be warm and passionate. It must speak to the senses. More than one. People relate to emotional and aspirational stories – especially everyday ones – not some unattainable dreams about climbing Everest.

This makes it much easier for customers to picture themselves as owners of a product – rather than to see a bland, cut-out shot and then try to connect this with their lives in a meaningful way. Not every customer is blessed with enough imagination to make the jump.

With B2B and tech copywriting, the same approach can be used. Business benefits are great. But what about personal benefits? What difference will Product X make to the lives of Dave, Sarah, Mike or whoever else is involved in the purchasing decision? How can you get them to invest some emotion in the product so they can be bothered to take the next step? People have to like it to want it. This is where creative e-books work well.

Great storytelling can make all the difference: Words that develop an emotional connection with the audience, addressing pain points and firing up their ideas and ambitions in a positive way. Product X really can change their lives for the better.

Otherwise we’re just creating bullet lists of features … about stuff in boxes.

The best things in life are not things.

Let’s talk more about people and their stories.

Contact me and let’s discuss some good ideas for your campaigns.

Avoid a Valentine’s Day marketing massacre

With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, I’d like to share a cautionary dating tale involving my wonderful friend Emma (not her real name). It’s more of a fairytale of the Grimmer variety. But stick with it. If you’re a marketing person, it may make you smile.

The story begins …

Like other professional 20-somethings, Emma doesn’t have much time for dating. But she’s made some good friendships at business networking events. She’s at one now …

Enter Brian. He gets in a couple of drinks – and then goes a bit weird …

“Go out with me and save 15% on your typical boyfriend costs,” blasts Brian. He actually shouts the word SAVE and a few people in the bar look round at them.

Emma can’t believe what she’s hearing. Brian continues.

“Worried about stalkers, creeps and spongers?” he yells.

“Erm, yes, I guess,” says Emma. (People just like Brian, she thinks.)

“My parents gave birth to me in 1978. Since then, I’ve gained an enviable reputation for resilience and high performance. I won a fishing award when I was 12. My capabilities are very impressive,” assures Brian. He goes on to name each of them in great detail. His interests too. Apparently, Brian has copies of his old school reports and is willing to post them to Emma, at no cost!

It’s been a long day. Emma is tired. Too tired to move.

Mercifully, Brian seems to be winding down. “If you need support, I can do that. For FREE,” trumpets Brian, as more people look round. “I’m multilingual and can support you in eight different languages.”

I only speak one language, thinks Emma. And you don’t understand that.

Brian pauses. He’s building up to something. His face reddens.

“Marry me tonight and I’ll treat you to a fast-food takeaway every night for three months,” he beams confidently.

But Emma’s gone. She’d slipped out of the venue.

What happened next …

My good friend Emma won’t be marrying Brian anytime soon.

Two weeks later, she met Will, who shared her passion for swimming. And kissing. And kissing while swimming.

Nice one Emma 🙂

Five mistakes that Brian made (and the marketing sub-text)

1) He was abrupt, negative and shouty.
Marketing subtext: Tone of voice is important. The words must engage, charm, intrigue and connect with your audience on an emotional level. They must be clear, fresh and genuine too. From the first line … to the call-to-action.

2) He talked about himself rather than Emma.
Marketing subtext: The biggest and most obvious error. This shows arrogance instead of empathy. If it’s bad before it’s started, imagine what it’ll be like later … after the relationship has been going for a few years!

3) Brian didn’t understand what was most important to Emma.
Marketing subtext: ‘Boyfriend costs’ weren’t foremost in Emma’s mind (although, oddly enough, it did remind her of a couple of people). She wanted someone to make her laugh, who understood her, valued her and enjoyed swimming.

4) He was boring and completely irrelevant.
Marketing subtext: If Emma really got to like Brian, then maybe – just maybe – his old school reports might have made her laugh. But that would be well down the line. Speaking foreign languages were irrelevant to her. And she hated fishing.

5) Brian wanted a huge commitment – on a first date
Marketing subtext: Even if Emma really liked Brian, would she have invested in him so much on the first date? In enterprise B2B marketing terms, we’re thinking about the steady progression from TOFU to MOFU and then BOFU. Before committing, Emma would also value the opinions of her close friends. Likewise, B2B commitments usually require the nod from a whole team of people – not just one person. Useful items like e-books and product guides must speak to everyone.

More adventures from Emma and Brian another time.

Contact me and let’s discuss some good ideas for your campaigns.