Hey,New Orleans business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs! I’ve been working on this thing with my talented friends Julia Sevin and Frank Aymami, and we want to share it with you.
Get Creatives is a pithy 45-minute presentation that packs in a ton of information you need to know if you’re the one who markets your business. Register now on Eventbrite, or read on for a few more reasons to join us on July 13 at 6pm!
Communication design: What it is, and why it matters
You’ll learn how your investment in communication design (including copywriting, graphic design, and photography) actually increases your profits and positions your brand for bigger and better things.
You’ll get actionable tips on where to find “creatives”; how much to pay them; what to ask for; and what to look out for.
And you’ll learn how to scrimp smartly so you can save your marketing dollars without sacrificing the end quality of your product.
55% of your website visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on a given page
Your contract with an independent creative should always specify a kill fee
You might not own the rights to the photographs you commissioned
There’s a lot more where that came from.
We’re going through the entire process of working with a “creative”–everything from how and where to find quality writers, designers, and photographers, to contracts and taxes, to the best way to send feedback and get the results you want.
Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite people. Though long-dead, he’s still a total boss.
Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Claude Hopkins, whom I like to refer to as the Original Gangster of Advertising.
Claude Hopkins is the reason you use toothpaste.
He’s also the reason you use coupons. (And, if you send email newsletters, he’s the reason you have the option to do an A/B split test with different versions of your letter.)
Who the F*** Is Claude Hopkins?
Our friend Claude was born in Michigan in 1866, and grew up working his face off as a school janitor, paper boy, and other various pursuits.
By working until 2AM in the morning every day of the week, Claude eventually ended up writing advertising for Bissell Carpet Sweepers (yep, the same Bissell vacuum cleaner company you’ve heard of).
From there, Claude snagged himself a position as advertising manager at Swift & Company–by asking every single client of his to write a recommendation and mail it to the person in charge of hiring.
THEN, he got his local newspaper to agree to publish a daily advertising column so he could show off his knowledge. He mailed all of the columns to the Swift & Company hiring manager. (Still think writing a cover letter is too much effort for a job application?)
Long story short, our boy Claude ended up managing advertising for Lord & Thomas (which you might know as FCB, or Foote, Cone and Belding–one of the world’s biggest ad agencies.
In 1923, Claude wrote a book called Scientific Advertising, which he followed up with an autobiography:My Life in Advertising. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy with a lot to say.
Here’s Claude Hopkins’ best copywriting and advertising advice from both books. Bullet-point summaries in bold, courtesy yours truly.
1. How to appeal to people
Be trusting. “Try to hedge or protect yourself, and human nature likes to circumvent you. But remove all restrictions and say, “We trust you,” and human nature likes to justify that trust. All my experience in advertising has shown that people in general are honest.”
Know your customer. “We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn how to win one.”
Frame everything as a benefit. “Argue anything for your own advantage, and people will resist to the limit. But seem unselfishly to consider your customers’ desires, and they will naturally flock to you.”
Don’t push too hard. “People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves.”
Promise access to a secret. “Curiosity is a strong factor in human nature, and especially with women. Describe a gift, and some will decide that they want it, more will decide that they don’t. But everybody wants a secret gift.”
Offer cures, not prevention. “People will do anything to cure a trouble, but little to prevent it.”
Don’t be cheap. “We learn that cheapness is not a strong appeal. Americans are extravagant. They want bargains but not cheapness.”
2. How to write persuasively
Write plainly. “Successful salesmen are rarely good speech makers. They have few oratorical graces. They are plain and sincere men who know their customers and know their lines. So it is in ad-writing.”
Write to one particular customer. “Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or woman, who is likely to want what you sell.”
Spend more time on your headline. “The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest…What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for those people. Then create a headline which will hail those people only.”
Be specific. “The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific.”
Pick a descriptive name. “Often the right name is an advertisement in itself. It may tell a fairly complete story, like Shredded Wheat, Cream of Wheat, Puffed Rice, Spearmint Gum, Palmolive Soap, etc.”
3. How to avoid wasting money
Use space wisely. “Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they do not admire salesmen who talk in loud voices…[Large type] may not be offensive, but it is useless and wasteful. It multiplies the cost of your story.”
You’re here to sell. “Do nothing to merely interest, amuse, or attract.”
Instead of “buy one, get one,” offer a free sample… “Before a prospect is converted, it is approximately as hard to get half price for your article as to get the full price for it.”
…but make them work for it. “Give samples to interested people only. Give them only to people who exbihit that interest by some effort. Give them only to people to whom you have told your story.”
Imitate what works. “Before you use useless pictures, merely to decorate or interest, look over some mail order ads. Mark what their verdict is.”
Sell to new prospects only. “In every ad consider only new customers. People using your product are not going to read your ads. They have already read and decided.”
Track your returns. “Never be guided in any way by ads which are untraced. Never do anything because some uninformed advertiser considers that something right.”
Know your customer’s financial situation. “We must learn what a user spends a year, else we shall not know if users are worth the cost of getting.”
Budget for waste. “The cost of advertising largely depends on the percentage of waste circulation.”
Did I mention that Claude Hopkins published Scientific Advertising in 1923? Ninety-one years later, this man still knows more about successful, efficient advertising than most CEOs.
Do yourself a favor and get to know Claude.
You can find copies of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertisingonline, but you should probably just buy it.
What do you think of Claude’s advice? Anything to add? Throw it in the comments.
Sometimes I feel like Atlas, using both hands to keep the world from getting stupider.
Just kidding, y’all. I have long been a natural copy editor–constantly pointing out typos, missing words, and incorrect punctuation wherever I see it (and I see it everywhere).
To a lot of people, copy editing seems like nitpicking. LET ME TELL YOU WHY IT’S NOT.
Copy editing pays (my) bills.
Aaaand on to the next one.
Copy editing improves reading comprehension.
People understanding what they read is pretty much super-pivotal. How many times have you tried to read the impossible “English” on product packaging and been completely enraged by its obscurity?
Or have you ordered breakfast from a badly written menu, and received something other than what you were expecting?
Copy editing makes text as perfect as it can be.
For anyone who appreciates the sheer beauty of words, this is a crucial consideration. There’s nothing like getting into the flow of a piece of writing, and having a typo or missing word straight-up donkey-kick you out of your Reading Rainbow reverie.
Beauty is important. Copy editing, in its small way, helps preserve beauty. [Click to tweet]
Copy editing preserves the English language.
Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, in all of its truthiness, here is the crux of the issue. English is a living language, yes. But like all living things, it can only take so many unceremonious gut-punches before it shudders and dies.
Please stop misspelling “night” as “nite”. Please stop thinking “you’re” and “your” are synonymous. Please stop eliminating commas, one by one, from every sentence (though if it’s a stylistic choice, I’m down for that. But you have to be doing it on purpose; most people are not).
And please understand that these things matter, for the reasons listed above.
I’m not casting myself as the last, valiant defender of a dying art–but I am saying that if you speak to me in “abbrevs” one more time, I will break your laptop.
The “shameless plug” section
Did I mention I’m a copy editor, and that I offer Editor On Retainer packages so you never have to worry about provoking the anal-retentive rage of people like me? Get at me here.
Brace yourself, because I’m about to throw some hard truths at you. But hey, at least they’re not bricks.
Read on to find out whether your website is missing the number-one tool to convert prospects to buyers. (And it doesn’t matter whether you run a business or not — this applies to personal websites and LinkedIn profiles, too.)
The Missing Piece
You shelled out for a beautiful new website design. Your e-commerce store is stocked and ready to ship. Your SEO is ranking well. But you still don’t have any conversions or paying customers. Why?
A gorgeous website without equally dazzling content is like a Michael Bay movie: loud, flashy, empty and frankly disappointing. Design and content go hand-in-hand. You won’t see results if one or the other is missing.
Get Your Words’ Worth
Visitors to your site are looking for reasons to buy what you’re selling, whether that’s gourmet dog treats, dynamite copywriting services, or you and your resume.
They’re not looking for generic hard sells (“The Best Dog Treats Available!”) or bland clichés (“You Won’t Believe Your Eyes…”). These trite turns of phrase turn customers off.
A good copywriter takes what’s special about your product and presents that information to the person most likely to buy. Good copy answers the following questions:
What makes the product unique?
What need will it fill? What problem will it solve?
Where can customers buy it?
Content should never be an afterthought. It should be the first thing you think of as you design your website, flyer, brochure — any piece of marketing collateral.
Consider Your Audience
A good copywriter gets to know your product AND your target audience. Claude C. Hopkins, the original gangster of copywriting, said: “We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn to win one.”
Your target audience is not “everyone,” so your copy shouldn’t target everyone.
Test Your Copy Right Now
There are two easy ways to test your written copy for effectiveness.
Pretend you’re Morgan Freeman. Read your copy out loud in your best Morgan Freeman voice. If it does not sound at least as epic as “March of the Penguins,” hire a copywriter.
Ask the questions listed above and see if your site copy answers all of them.
How does your copy measure up? If you’re not sure, send me your copy at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free evaluation. If you are sure (that you’re unhappy with your copy), I’d love to help. Request a project quote here.