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Tips for Writing Effective Sales Copy

Without fail, every single time I lead a Search Engine Workshop, I get a bevy of questions on how to write effective ad copy. Obviously, the many elements involved have received voluminous regard in myriad books, lectures and seminars spanning more than seven decades. So, to simplify such a wide ranging subject is difficult, to say the least.

Regardless, there are many easily identified basic elements and strategies that can be applied to lay the foundation for solid and effective sales copy. So, without further adieu, here's a grab bag of recommendations that I've gleaned from my own experience combined with the tips I've received from other well respected authorities on the subject.

Customers buy benefits not features. As the old saying goes, sell the sizzle not the steak. Always remember that features have a purpose. Never assume the customer will figure out for themselves what that purpose (benefit) is. It's a mistake to write about a 3Ghz computer without connecting the fact that such a system is blazing fast and then talk about what it will do for them.

"Forget about waiting for your programs to load! ...our new 3Ghz chip makes computing so blazing fast that you'll be challenged to keep up even if you're a wizard on the keyboard."

Always view your product, and your copy, from the customer's point of view. When you read what you write, put your copy to the test by saying. so what! who cares! ...because your customers will. Think about it: don't you when you read someone else's sales pitch? ...we all do.

That is why... You must present a unique and compelling reason for a customer to do business with you, a reason that stands out in a crowd of competition. This concept is most frequently referred to as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Ask the questions: What is it about your product or service that is unique? What do YOU offer that your competitors can't? These questions may not always elicit easy answers but, nevertheless, you must find, and articulate, good answers to them.

Do you offer...

the lowest price,
the fastest delivery,
the best guarantee,
the only widget available this side of the planet Saturn?

...what compels me (the selfish, I-don't-give-a-heck-about-you, customer) to do business with you when I can choose from a basketful of your competitors? Once you truly grasp this fact of marketing, it becomes easy to see that finding the right USP and articulating it in your sales copy can literally spell the difference between (excuse the clich?) success and failure. It truly is that important.

Make sure your site loads within 30 seconds or less. No matter how effective your content is, if your visitors have to wait for your page to load, you'll lose them. Remember, we live in an increasingly impatient world where time is precious. People tend to think there's something wrong with slow loading sites, and they don't want to do business with losers.

Pay attention to layout. Place your headlines where they will be seen first, and arrange your presentation in an orderly fashion. It has been said that effective sales presentations are arranged somewhat like a tour. There's a beginning, middle and an end - in that order. Avoid putting the customer in control of the order in which they participate in the tour.

Give them a focal point - an obvious place to start reading as well as a well laid-out path to follow all the way to a conclusion. Tell them up front what you're selling or offering. If they have to guess, you'll ultimately be the one guessing why they left your site without buying.

Use graphics (images) to invoke emotion or to draw the eyes to text you want your readers to see. Do not use graphics to gratuitously fill space. Always ask yourself what you want the graphic to accomplish. Does it demonstrate the product? ...illustrate a benefit? ...promote a professional image? ...or draw attention to an important section of a page? All of these are good answers and validate the use of graphics.

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