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5 Copywriting Tricks for Turning Blah Text into Persuasive Copy

Persuasive copy

Feeling overwhelmed when writing your content?

You’re not alone.

Learning to write better copy can be frustrating. Everyone has more tips, more advice, more copywriting rules.

Write tight. Use attention-grabbing headlines. Add features and benefits. Don’t forget the hook. Check your grammar rules and punctuation. No jargon. No adverbs. No … whatever.

Trying to remember the advice makes your head spin. Following the rules sucks the energy out of your content (and out of you, too).

But writing doesn’t need to be such an exhausting, grueling and tortuous process. It can be relatively simple.

The five most critical copywriting rules follow.

Concentrate on these five basic rules only, and you’ll find yourself writing pretty persuasive copy. You’ll turn so-so text into seductive content, and win more business.

Sound good?

1. Start at the end

Staring at a blank sheet?

Pulling out your hair because you can’t come up with your first sentence?

Pro copywriters don’t write the first sentence first. They start at the end.

Before you start typing, answer this simple question first:

What is the purpose of this piece of content?

The purpose of this blog post, for instance, is to help you write better copy so you can win more clients. Each piece of content should have one specific goal. A few more examples:

Once you know the purpose of your content, for every sentence you write, ask yourself, Am I on a side-track and confusing readers, or is this sentence helping achieve my content goal?

When you know the ultimate goal of your content, you find yourself writing both faster and better.

2. Answer the So what? question

Your copy is about your product, your service, and your company.

Right?

Not quite. Good copy speaks to readers. It tells them why your product or service makes them happier, richer, or more productive.

When you live and breathe your business, you want to share your enthusiasm; and it can be surprisingly hard to focus on your readers. The So what? trick helps you focus on what you can do for your readers. This trick works in any industry:

  • Our cars have cruise control. So what? You don’t have to watch your speed all the time. So what? You can feel safe.
  • We monitor your servers. So what? Your servers won’t go down. So what? Your staff can continue working, uninterrupted.
  • I design high-converting websites. So what? You can convert more web visitors into leads and business.

Persuasive copy connects to your customer’s desires, such as feeling safe, saving time, reducing costs, growing your business, or becoming happier and healthier.

How do you make the life of your clients better? Which problems, glitches, and hassle can you take away?

Whenever you share details about your service or features of your products, ask yourself So what? And write down why your reader should care.

3. Write with your ears

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz said he writes with his ears because he believed that the ability to listen was one of the greatest assets of a writer.

Writing with your ears also saves you a ton of time.

Did you know that Schwartz was one of the highest paid copywriters in the 1950s and 1960s, but he only worked 3 hours a day?

He could work so fast because he stole marketing messages from customers and prospects. Rather than trying to be creative, he asked people what they’re looking for, and repeated their words back to them in his marketing copy.

When you use the language of your readers, your content becomes more engaging; and when you write about what’s important to them, your content becomes more persuasive.

Have you asked your clients why they love working with you? You might be surprised by their answers.

4. Avoid marketing prattle

You’re a fan of Pamela Wilson, right?

So, I expect you to be a bit like her … honest, helpful, and frank.

But could it be that a dash of sales hype sneaks into your copy, turning off prospects? It happens all the time. The web is full of marketing prattle.

By making your statements more specific you can stop gobbledygook from sneaking into your content. For example:

Vague marketing speak:

  • Our world-class widgets help you increase email sign-ups
  • We provide the quickest printing service in town
  • Friendly customer service

More specific and more persuasive:

  • 549,333 websites use our widgets to increase email sign-ups
  • Get your brochures printed in 48 hours or receive a 25% discount
  • We pick up the phone within 3 rings

Generic statements make you sound like a sleazy sales man. In contrast, specific statements instantly boost your credibility. They turn hollow phrases into tangible arguments for buying your products and services.

So for every sentence you write, ask yourself: Can I make this more specific? Can I paint a more vivid picture in the reader’s mind?

5. Cut redundant words

Wordiness is a copywriting sin.

Wordiness slows readers down, and invites them to start scanning your content rather than read it word by word.

Cutting the flab in your writing requires discipline. Try these tricks:

  • Ask a friend to read your copy and tell you when they’re getting bored
  • Read your copy aloud and notice where you stumble
  • Look for weak phrases you can either remove or replace by stronger words—phrases like very, actually, and just
  • Replace complicated words with simple versions that are easier to understand—to ease is better than to alleviate
  • Cut all sentences and paragraphs that don’t contribute to achieving your content goal

When writing your first draft, write as fast as you can because it can make your copy more enthusiastic. But when you edit, slow down. Examine each sentence. Review each word. Make your copy as tight as you can.

The truth about persuasive copy

Writing seductive copy isn’t about knowing which word converts best. It’s not about putting your commas in the right place. It’s not even about perfect grammar.

Persuasive copy is created with a specific audience in mind.

Identify who your audience is. Crawl into their mind to understand their dreams, their motivations, their wishes, and secret desires. Know what problems they’re struggling with. Understand their hesitations and fears.

When you understand your customers, persuading them to buy from you becomes easy.

Offer a service they love.

And tell them why they’ll love it.

Pamela Wilson

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18 thoughts on “5 Copywriting Tricks for Turning Blah Text into Persuasive Copy”

  1. Hi Henneke – I love this article. You give real examples of how to make a sentence more powerful. Thank you so much. I feel motivated to get into my customer’s minds and answer the so what?

  2. Great post Henneke.

    It’s easy to talk about ourselves, our products and services, and our companies. We’re filled with all of this knowledge and want to share it with our customers.

    But as you point out, when we fail to understand our reader’s needs and problems, they think “so what”? They close their minds to our message and move on to something else. We’ve lost their interest.

    It’s hard work to look at things from our audience’s perspective. And many of us are afraid to ask them what their biggest problems are. But when we do, we gain insight into what they will read and the products they will buy.

    That’s how to build customer loyalty.

    P.S. – I spotted the techniques I’m learning in your EBB course when reading this post. I’ve learned how the magic works!

    • Once you know the tricks of the trade, it’s not magic anymore! 😉

      And yep, it can be harder than we think to sneak into the minds of our customers. We often are quite used to thinking from our company’s perspective. But real persuasion starts with understanding who exactly our customers are (and having the courage to choose a specific customer rather than going for everyone) and then learning how we can help them.

    • You got it! Simplicity is really the secret to good writing 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by, Raphael.

  3. Finally got to red the pot you created for Pamela’s site, good to see you on CopyBlogger more often.
    love your blog as always
    Love and Blessings
    Annamarie

  4. This is just what I needed today, thank you Henneke. Your writing is a wonderful example of highly engaging, persuasive copy. I’ve read your articles on Copyblogger and your writing voice stands out from the noise. Best takeaway for me: the reminder of the level of specificity needed to “be heard.”

    • Thank you for your kind words, Gail. Nice to “meet” you”!

      And yep, when you can make your content more specific, you stop sounding like a marketer, and you become more persuasive.

  5. Great tips as always Henneke. Writers have a way of using big words to make their copy sound more credible. This post needs to be absorbed and studied – and applied.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Eeva

  6. Thanks again Henneke for the great tips! It’s come at the perfect time as I’ve been struggling with editing some GP’s in Jon’s class. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and you’ve helped me to tone it down and keep it simple.

    Thanks you again for your help,
    Chuck

  7. Writing copy is such a critical skill in marketing. Even with all the new technology and video capabilities, good copy is crucial to online success. Your points here form a base of key know-how to write for humans, not just for search engines.

    • Yep, that’s so true. Without good copy it’s hard to achieve anything online. Even a YouTube video requires a good headline to entice people to watch it.

  8. Henneke,

    Great post — no surprise there! I especially like your point #4 about marketing prattle. I see so many sites with promises to “take it to the next level” and similar vague promises. Getting specific is one of the biggest challenges of copywriting for anyone, and it’s the true mark of a pro.

    Cathy Goodwin

    • Thank you, Cathy. I also hate all the marketing prattle you see on so many sites; and I believe this is where small businesses can win from larger and more corporate competitors. Small businesses are more likely to write with a human voice. They sound less like marketers and more like humans.

      Of course exceptions exist. Some big companies have gobbledygook-free copy, too 🙂

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