Copywriting - Useful Notes, Links and Articles

Ongoing list of articles on copywriting

Posted by JB Uy on November 23, 2013 at 09:42 PM UTC
Edited on December 20, 2013 at 06:16 PM UTC

6 Notes

SupportFu -

  • They have a page to address any objections potential users would have
  • This page highlights what's different about them from Zendesk

Posted by JB Uy on February 05, 2014 at 02:58 PM UTC
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How to Create an Amazing Value Proposition

  • Give relevancy by indicating how it will improve their situation
  • Quantify the value ("save money" vs "save $30/month")
  • Don't simple sell benefits your customers already expect to see
You may match a competitor on every dimension of value except one. In at least one element of value you need to excel. In this way you become the best choice for your optimum customer.
    Posted by JB Uy on January 23, 2014 at 05:25 PM UTC
    Edited on January 23, 2014 at 05:32 PM UTC
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    5 Principles of Persuasive Web Design

    Less than 5% of the users we surveyed had changed any settings at all. More than 95% had kept the settings in the exact configuration that the program installed in. Key lesson: people do not mess with defaults (unless they’re designers or developers)!

    1) Clarity Above All

    • Learn to craft a compelling value proposition. Your value proposition needs to answer this: why should I buy from you and not the competition?
    • Bad: "Our Point of Sale Systems Integrate Hardware, Software and Internet Social Media Marketing Into One Giant Revenue Super System."
    • Good: “Start accepting credit card today"
    • Don't use superlatives (ie. "The easiest..."). People won't believe you.

    2) Visual Appeal

    • People make snap judgements
    • Takes 50 milliseconds for people to form an opinion about your site
    • "If it looks like crap, must be crap!"
    • People like websites that have:

    "low visual complexity (the simpler, the better) and high ‘prototypicality’ (how representative a design looks for a certain category of websites) were perceived as highly appealing."

    • follow conventions, make your site simple and familiar
      • people have an idea of what an E-Commerce site looks like

    3) Strong Visual Hierarchy

    • The order in which the human eye perceives what it sees.
    • certain parts (buttons, CTAs) are more important, put an emphasis on the
    • rank elements based on their business objective (ie. Add To Cart)
    • ie. a picture > headline > CTA Button
    • It's not about color in A/B tests
      • it's about standing out from the noise
      • A color may lose out, because it blends in with a page's primary colors
    • White space emphasizes what matters

    4) Conserve Attention at All Costs

    • getting attention is easy, sustaining it is hard
    • images capture attention. Make sure they're relevant to what you're selling
    • Photos of people looking straight at us (example: 37 Signals product pages)
    • Use the element of surprise
      • unexpected copy makes you read closer
    • Ways to KILL attention:
      • A wall of text
      • "Irrelevant, ego-centric jargon."
        • “Welcome to our website”. — "waste of space that doesn’t resonate with anyone."
        • “Who We Are”. — "Who cares! People care about themselves and THEIR problems. Not you."
        • “Our Philosophy”. — "Seriously? No one gives a damn!"
        • Cheesy stock photos. — "So fake I want to flee instantly."
    • 'What's In It For Me' --> keep this in mind at all times
    • Design for novelty
      • change the layout around
      • ie. alternate the position of images and text

    5) One action per screen, when they’re ready

    • start with a clearly defined CTA and optimize for it
    • don't start with a registration form, they're not ready yet.
      • "Will you sign up? Didn’t think so! They’re asking you to register before even explaining properly what the site is about and how it works. Not a good idea on their part. You have to present the call to action when the customer is ready to act."
    Posted by JB Uy on January 21, 2014 at 09:32 PM UTC
    Edited on January 21, 2014 at 10:18 PM UTC
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    Features vs Benefits/Results


    Feature: 50 number speed dial

    - benefit but thinking in features: fewer keystrokes

    - benefit but thinking in terms of results: won't get frustrated misdialing, keep in touch with less effort.

    As well as credited with coining the term “globalization”, former Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt is quoted as saying “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Sell the hole, not the drill.
    Posted by JB Uy on January 13, 2014 at 07:41 PM UTC
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    Question for CopyHacker's Joanna Wiebe


    I'm reading chapter 3 in Where Stellar Messages Come From (Write Copy for 20 to 35% of Your Visitors – Not 100% of Them). It's great so far!

    What's your opinion on Trello's copy? That's
    They don't really target a specific market, as they see it as a horizontal product (the founders talk about that here:<wbr>items/2012/01/06.html).

    What about having a generic landing page like Trello's, but then have more targeted pages for specific industries within?

    Or do you think targeting a niche first, then moving outwards is the better idea. You give an example of in chapter 3, where you suggest that as they grow they can expand the targeted message.


    I like your question... and so please bear with me as I give you my take on starting broad vs starting with a niche...

    In the case of Trello, Fog Creek already had a solid reputation and a rather strong user base to launch Trello to; with a name like Joel's behind the product, developers were quick to adopt (which then spread out to startup-geek marketers like yours truly).

    If you have a platform, you don't necessarily have to 'niche out' because you'll already have access to a user base.

    But if you don't have a platform / audience / fanbase, then you're really marketing from the ground up. You're building awareness of the existence of a solution to X pain... then building awareness of your product / brand as the solution to X pain... then helping people understand why they should trust [little known] you to solve their pain instead of going elsewhere... And that's just the beginning. Businesses that already have a platform, like Fog Creek, get to skip straight to a launch email to their 10,000+ list, a few tweets to Joel's 80K followers, a first-page Hacker News post (because they've got tons o' clout there) and, if they feel like it, guest blog posts on the sites of their high-traffic blogger friends. Voila! Product launched broadly.

    Without much of a platform, launching a product -- with all the awareness-building and trust-building -- gets expensive. Consider just a handful of the marketing activities you'll have to engage in pre-launch, during launch and after (i.e., starting now and never stopping):

    • Developing a value proposition
    • Getting people to follow you on Twitter
    • Getting people to follow your Pinterest, Facebook or Instagram account
    • Buying PPC ads
    • Buying Facebook ads
    • Retargeting
    • Guest blogging
    • Getting upvoted on HN, Inbound, etc

    Each of those activities gets 1) easier and 2) cheaper when you target a niche. A value proposition is much clearer when you can say "Organize your medical transcripts as a team" (niche) instead of "Organize anything, together" (Trello)... and you quickly know what PPC keywords to bid on and avoid, where to guest post for maximum impact, whom to target with your Facebook ads, if you should bother with Pinterest, if it makes any sense to post to HN, and more. And let's not forget research! You can do better research in your earliest stages because you'll be able to call, say, local doctors and medical transcriptionists to pick their brains about pains they experience... rather than calling hairstylists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, agencies, accountants, legal aides, florists, startups and on and on.

    If you really want to see if your business idea has legs, start narrow with an audience you can reasonably a) reach and b) build something for that they will c) love and d) tell their friends about. From there, as I wrote about, reinvest your success in broadening your reach, expanding your value prop to natural extensions of your initial target (e.g., if you started with doctors, branch out to dentists and hygienists) and growing.

    Ultimately, targeting your business means targeting your message, which is always going to be easier and cheaper than going broad. 

    Posted by JB Uy on December 31, 2013 at 03:22 PM UTC
    Edited on December 31, 2013 at 03:55 PM UTC
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