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.