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  Category: Articles » Writing & Speaking » Copywriting » Article

Does Your Online Copy Talk?

By Daniel Levis


When it comes to online copywriting, it's not the words you use that count. It's the reaction to those words in the mind of the reader, as he reads them on the screen…

And it's your ability to anticipate and plan out those reactions that spells the difference between being able to get your web site visitors to opt-in or buy your product in sufficient numbers to make your business a success.

It's like a dialogue between two people, divorced in time and space. You are feeding your reader images, ideas, and emotions across the continuum, in a carefully planned sequence... and he is feeding you back reactions.

You plan for certain reactions, and do your best to make them come about. You hope your reader will understand and agree with the assertions you put forward, and that he will share in the emotions you are suggesting he feel.

Included among these reactions are demands, questions, and anticipations, which must be answered, or your copy will fail...

When you've successfully aroused your prospect's interest, his reaction may be to demand more information, more image, and more desire from your copy, as if to say... hmmm, tell me more? Where you have inflamed his desire, he will demand proof. And even when you demonstrate proof, he is likely to demand to know how those results are to be achieved, so he can judge for himself whether or not the product will work for HIM.

CREATIVE SCHIZOPHRENIA... So your challenge is to play a dual role. You must be copywriter and prospect at the same time. You must walk in his shoes, sense his reactions, feel what he feels at each point in the copy... so you can switch direction at the precise moment his demands arise, and answer them. This fracturing of your mind is one of the most difficult skills to master in copywriting. And naturally it demands a great deal of research into the product, and the market you're working with. This sensitivity is one of the key distinctions between writing "good enough" copy... and writing grand slam home run copy that pulls in obscene returns.

Those anticipation points are crucial. If you miss them, you lose the interest of your reader.

Let's examine one of these demands in more detail. At some point in your copy, your prospect generally will ask this question. "How does your product do all these good things you say it does?" First you must anticipate where this question will arise, and then answer it.


Notice this a very specific kind of proof. It's not a testimonial or an authoritative endorsement. Your prospect is asking for an explanation of the "reason why" something works, which may or may not be included in the aforementioned. It is an explanation of the mechanism behind the magic.

I have seen ads that included every conceivable proof element under the sun fail, because they left this simple device out. They failed to demonstrate the 'reason why' the product delivered the promised results.

Of course John E. Kennedy and Claude C. Hopkins are well known for popularizing the importance of this idea at the turn of the last century, and today many direct response ads make use of it to some degree. But how much 'reason why' is enough, how much is too much, and where in the copy does it belong?


The answer to these questions comes from your market. Are you writing to those who already understand the reasons why your product can do what you claim? Do they accept those reasons as valid? If so, there is not much point in wasting the reader's attention with a lot of 'reason why' copy. For example, if you are writing a car ad today, and the car you are writing about has ABS brakes, all you need do is name this mechanism. Millions of dollars of advertising, perhaps hundreds of millions that has gone before you, has distilled the logic and workings of this technology down to a three letter acronym that just about everyone with a license to drive understands. You simply name the feature, tie it to a benefit, and then move on.

But what about the vast array of products that present a new promise, but where the prospect does not yet understand the mechanism behind the claim? Here it is a simple matter of building a strong promise, backed up by a 'reason why' the product delivers on the claim. In the early days of ABS for example, the pioneers made the promise of greater safety, and then backed up that claim with a reason why. Safe, because you could now steer while braking in slippery conditions, and so on.

Of course, the cardinal sin is to make your 'reason why' copy dull and boring. It is not scientific discourse. It should sell the mechanism, just as hard as the opening sells the promise, and it must continue to captivate and engage the reader's interest and build his desire.

In the later stages of product competition, where the market is sophisticated, and it seems that everyone has the same technology, the same promise, the same price, a new strategy is in order.

At this stage your 'reason why' should take center stage. Move it up from the anonymity of the body copy, and put it in your headline. It is now just as vital as your promise, no longer just a proof element, but a new, fresh incentive for your prospect to read your ad.

Another place in your copy where this reaction commonly arises is where you offer a special price or discount. Your prospect is suspicious. Many advertisers ignore this fact, and are shocked to discover that a price reduction does nothing to increase sales.

What you must realize is that a price cut, like a promise or a claim or a benefit is only as good as the words you use to describe it, and the strategy you use to present it. Price cuts should be justified. There must be a reason for them. A 'reason why' you are doing what you are doing. Without it, you are selling with only a fraction of the power.

Copyright © 2006 Daniel Levis
About the Author
Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant & direct response copywriter based in Toronto Canada and publisher of the world famous copywriting anthology "Masters of Copywriting" featuring the marketing wisdom of 42 of the world's greatest copywriters, including Clayton Makepeace, Joe Sugarman, Joe Vitale,Bob Bly, and dozens more! For a FREE excerpt visit the below link.

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