Copywriting for the Most of Awareness Levels

A fundamental of copywriting is to write to the awareness levels of your prospects. But all too often, the awareness level of prospects is overlooked. … and it’s perhaps the most important aspect of writing a promotion.

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“Branding,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Limelight Leads

A fundamental of copywriting is to write to the awareness levels of your prospects. But all too often, the awareness level of prospects is often overlooked. … and it’s perhaps the most important aspect of writing a promotion.

A few weeks ago, I shared a few reasons Why Direct Mail Control Packages Fatigue. And in my last blog, I wrote about Copywriting for the Least of Awareness Levels.

So today, it’s about copywriting for the most aware of your prospects so you can meet them where they are with your copy and offer.

I’ve written about imagining a 1 to 7 scale where a 1 represents that your prospect is completely unaware of any aspect of your product or service, so indirect headlines and leads tend to work best. Conversely, a 7 means your prospect is completely aware where you would use direct headlines and leads. I’ve used information from a class that I teach copywriters for AWAI, along with concepts from a classic direct marketing book, Breaththrough Advertising, by Eugene M. Schwartz. If you missed my last post, read it here for descriptions of Levels 1 to 3.

Levels 5 to 7 are the most aware prospects. Level 4 is where you don’t know whether prospects are aware or not. You should test both direct, and indirect headlines and leads to find out the side of the awareness scale that defines your prospect.

Level Five

Here you’ve crossed the place from unaware (Levels 1-3) to a gradual increase in awareness where your approach can be more direct. If you’ve observed in your own testing, or what a competitor is doing, that success is happening with direct headlines and leads, then enlarge on what’s working.

  • A problem/solution headline or lead will ease you into the awareness side of the scale. This is for prospects who realize they have a problem, and that a solution exists, but they don’t know your product provides the solution.
  • Be mindful that your prospect may become confused if competitors are making claims that aren’t consistent with yours. When that happens, they become skeptical.

Level Six

You’re getting close to that point where your prospects know it all about your product or service. Maybe they’ve bought your product, or a competitor’s product. But there’s still room to introduce something new. Think of it as an opportunity to renew, or restore, a positioning or message.

  • Promise something new that hasn’t been promoted previously.
  • The believability of prior promises could start to become questioned, but if the desire of your market is still there, find a new way to satisfy it (but don’t repeat past claims).
  • Devise a new way to show how your product works.

Level Seven

This level is where your prospects are highly aware of your category of product, and perhaps your brand. They know your product and what it can do for them. They may even be tired of your promises. They’re done with hearing from you and they may not even believe you anymore. So this is where you can use the most direct type of lead.

  • Begin with your offer or an invitation.
  • Find a new credibility element: testimonial or research.
  • Elaborate on something new about your product or service.
  • Better: look for a new feature to refresh your promise.

When you align your message with the worldview of your prospective customer using this awareness scale, your stand a much better opportunity to succeed.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Copywriting for the Least of Awareness Levels

Meeting your prospective customer where they are may be a cliché to many. However, too often, marketers and copywriters still don’t take into account the prospect’s state of awareness about the product or service being offered. As a result, headlines and leads completely miss the mark and fail.

Meeting your prospective customer where they are may be a cliché to many. However, too often, marketers and copywriters still don’t take into account the prospect’s state of awareness about the product or service being offered. As a result, headlines and leads completely miss the mark and fail.

In my last blog post, I shared a few reasons “Why Direct Mail Control Packages Fatigue.”

One reason that messaging — whether for direct mail or any other channel— fatigues is because you lose track of your prospective customer’s state of awareness of their problem, your solution, and where you meet them with your copy and offer.

Imagine a scale of 1 to 7 where a 1 represents that your prospect is completely unaware of any aspect of your product or service. Conversely, a 7 means your prospect is completely aware. If your prospect is completely unaware of any aspect of your product or service, but your message is written at a level of 7, then you have a disconnect. By the way, age or generation seldom has anything to do with an awareness scale.

Of course, you must have good insights about your prospective customers to know where on the scale you want to land. So let’s dive into the first three levels on this scale and begin with ideas about how to reach those with the least awareness of your product or service. . For inspiration, I’ve used information from a class that I teach copywriters for AWAI, along with concepts from a classic direct marketing book, “Breaththrough Advertising,” by Eugene M. Schwartz.

Level One

If you’re at level one, it’s probably because you’re either among the first in the market for a new product or service, or your product or service is only occasionally or rarely considered by any given consumer. Consider this approach:

  • Be simple and direct.
  • Offer context about what you’re offering to solve—even a brief statement that shows you understand the problem the readers is facing.
  • Name the need or the claim in your headline.
  • Bring in your product information and prove that it works.
  • Use a story

Level Two

Here, you expand on what you would do in level one. A declaration headline and lead can be effective:

  • Be bold or even startling.
  • Be concise, engaging, and specific.
  • You’ll need to offer proof of your declaration or testimonials.
  • A newsworthy prediction might work.

Level Three

At this level, your prospects have likely heard the claims. Their desire may be building, so you might shift your approach from what the product does to how it works. Consider using, or adapting the concept of sharing a secret:

  • Promise a secret new way to satisfy a long-time desire.
  • Share an intriguing secret from a credible source.
  • The prospect needs to clearly see how he or she will benefit.
  • If you use a secret, tease it in the headline, then drop clues as your message unfolds.

In my next blog post, I’ll offer ideas about how to reach the most aware levels—levels 5-7—on this awareness scale.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Why Direct Mail Control Packages Fatigue

Almost every direct mail control package will fatigue at some point. The question is simply this: why? Today, I offer my insight and perspective about why winning packages slowly fatigue, and how you can get ahead of the inevitable downward curve.

Almost every direct mail control package will fatigue at some point. The question is simply this: why? Today, I offer my insight and perspective about why winning packages slowly fatigue, and how you can get ahead of the inevitable downward curve.

To understand why a direct mail control — that package you’ve invested time and money that’s now tested and wins above all others — fatigues, it’s first helpful to understand why it worked in the first place. There are a number of reasons, but there are a couple that rise above others:

  • Using the right list, you nailed the emotional hot button of why prospects respond in mass, together at this season in their lives.
  • Using the right offer, you identified the unique selling proposition that sells at this season in their lives.

Key words in the bullets above are, I believe, “at this season in their lives.” Why? Because often, as marketers we’re not always sure the buyer’s mind frame, worldview, or where they are in the season in their lives.

You’ve surely heard the cliché marketers use that says how it’s important to meet buyers where they are. Cliché or not, it’s true.

Your prospect’s state of awareness of their problem, and your solution, along with where you meet them with your copy and offer, dictates your success.

In other words, people are at some point on a continuum of knowledge about their problem and solution. Imagine a scale of 1 to 7 where a 1 represents that your prospect is completely unaware of any aspect of your product or service. Conversely, a 7 means your prospect is completely aware.

To create a winning message — whether direct mail and any other channel — your headline and lead should match the awareness on the 1 to 7 scale to be effective.

If your prospect is, say, at a 2, but your copy is at a 5, you’ll lose them because the prospect didn’t understand what you were trying to sell.

After testing various messaging approaches in your copy to “meet your prospect where they are,” let’s say you finally hit a winner: most of your prospects on the 1 to 7 scale have an awareness of 4, and your sales message aligns with that spot. You’re achieving your objectives. Time to roll out!

So you do, mailing over and over the same direct mail package, or using this message in digital channels. But in time, your prospect has seen your promotion … or they’ve caught a story on social media or TV on the topic … or they’ve read something somewhere that makes them a bit more educated and moves them up the knowledge scale.

In today’s lightning fast news cycle, in a short time — perhaps a few months — but maybe only days or hours — your market’s awareness has risen from, say, 2 to 4, or maybe even quickly from a 2 to a 7. But if you haven’t been testing different copy and creative in anticipation of this increase in awareness, you risk your message no longer being aligned with your market. If you don’t stay on top of this changing awareness and understanding, your direct mail control package or messaging in other channels fatigues, and you’ll wonder why.

In a future blog post I’ll dive into various degrees of awareness, and how you can better determine where your customers are, and where you should be. But in the meantime, here’s what you should be doing:

  1. Assess your prospect’s awareness of the problem your product or service solves.
  2. Write several different headlines and leads, with each aligning at a different level on an awareness scale.
  3. Start testing them against one another to find the sweet spot — in this moment.

Remember: if your successful headline today is a 2, you need to be testing at levels 3, 4 and higher. If you do that and find that a test is “over the heads” of your market today, tuck it away in the wings and consider testing it again when the time is right.

If you don’t identify your future “sweet spot” today, then someday, when you least expect it, your prospects will have moved higher up their awareness scale, and you’ll be resting on your laurels, thinking you’re spending money on a direct mail control winner that’s gradually slipping away.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Are Email Autoresponders Becoming Too Aggressive?

When is the line crossed between email subject lines — usually in a series of autoresponders — that provoke curiosity and prompt engagement, versus those that become aggressive and look like the sender has descended into desperation?

We all get a lot of email. Often, it’s a mystery how one gets on a list. But I suspect that over time, we all get accustomed to the daily barrage of email that we didn’t sign up for. Or if we did sign on, it may have been months (or longer) ago and have no recollection of having done so.

But, I’ve noticed a trend in recent months about email subject lines: they seem to be getting more desperate and aggressive.

Perhaps these aggressive subject line approaches have been tested and are proven to work, but they were enough to prompt me unsubscribe (without even reading the email).

A few months ago, I shared my “5 Copywriting Tips to Reduce Email Unsubscribes.” Looking at the popularity of this blog post, it’s clear that reducing unsubscribes is a hot topic. So I have to wonder if these aggressive subject lines have been tested, and unsubscribe rates monitored.

In another post, “Are Autoresponders Killing Email Marketing?,” recounted my experience of making an inquiry for a direct mail list from an automated website. I didn’t order that day, but suggested to a client that they place an order. Thankfully, they didn’t.

The next day, less than a full 24 hours after I didn’t purchase, they presented me an offer of 15 percent off my order. That seemed smart until I realized that had I ordered the day before, I would have paid full price. I would never have known because no doubt the marketing automation software would have placed me in a totally different sequence of autoresponder follow-up messages. I lost trust in that direct mail list company because while well intended, the aggressiveness of making the sale overshadowed what would have been right for the customer.

There were two comments from readers of that blog about autoresponders worth sharing:

“The balance between follow up, pestering, and offer management … strikes at the heart of the matter. The fact is that marketing automation is pulling marketers into sales roles for the first time and without deep personal engagement to guide the level of aggressiveness. The point at which sales and marketing intersect has always created friction. Marketing automation can amplify good or bad decisions for content at what is really at the top of the sales funnel, bottom of the marketing funnel.”

This reader made a great point: perhaps people who are not trained as email copywriters, and who don’t know what they’re doing, are writing these aggressive subject lines. Do they test these subject lines to know what works? Or monitor unsubscribes? Maybe aggressiveness is a business decision no matter the outcome. Or aggressive subject lines are a new normal.

Then, there was this comment:

“If your email strategy and creative is cr*p, marketing automation simply empowers you to send more cr*p, more quickly. Technology is not the problem. Bad strategy and creative is the problem.”

I’d say that comment pretty much sums it up.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Zapping Suggested Videos: The Pesky Gremlins of YouTube

If you post videos on your website that are embedded from YouTube, you ought to pay attention to what happens when your video ends. Unless specified otherwise when you uploaded your video, when your video is finished, YouTube automatically suggests other videos. They might be other videos from your channel (probably a good thing). They might be a competitor’s (not good). Or they might be the type of video you don’t want your company to be associated with (potentially …

If you post videos on your website that are embedded from YouTube, you ought to pay attention to what happens when your video ends. Unless specified otherwise when you uploaded your video, when your video is finished, YouTube automatically suggests other videos. They might be other videos from your channel (probably a good thing). They might be a competitor’s (not good). Or they might be the type of video you don’t want your company to be associated with (potentially horrifying).

So today I share the simple steps to eliminate those pesky suggested videos at the end of your video on YouTube. In my experience, once you’ve changed this setting in your YouTube channel, it sticks for all future uploads; but I check it every time I post a new video to verify.

Step 1: When you’re logged into your YouTube channel, click the “Share” button under the video image.

How to Get Rid of Suggested Videos on YouTube - Step 1Step 2: Click the “Embed” button (see screen grab below)

Step 3: Then click the “Show More” button as shown here:

How to Get Rid of Suggested Videos on YouTube - Step 3Step 4: After clicking “Show More” from Step 3, the page expands. Look and see if the “Show suggested videos when the video finishes” box is checked, as shown in the screen grab below. If it’s checked, uncheck it.

How to Get Rid of Suggested Videos on YouTube - Step 4Step 5: When you uncheck “Show suggested videos when the video finishes,” the embed code will change. Now you’ll see “rel=0&” appear, as indicated in the screen grab below.

How to Get Rid of Suggested Videos on YouTube - Step 5That’s all you have to do.

If you already have video on your website that is showing suggested videos, and you’d like to suppress them, then insert the instruction string, “rel=0&” into the existing embed code. But be very careful that you insert it exactly at the correct point — just before the instruction string, “showinfo=0” and with no spaces.

Or copy the updated embed code with “rel=0&” from YouTube and use it.

By making this change, you won’t lose any views. You’ll simply now show your video without YouTube suggesting other videos at the end.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Why Do Marketers Ignore Quiet Desperation?

Thoreau famously wrote in 1849: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And, it rings true today. You wouldn’t necessarily realize it because most people deal with desperation quietly. With so many services and products that can help people, it’s remarkable that this deep, internal cry for help — for something, anything — is often neglected by marketers and non-profits.

Quiet Desperation: Stressed, anxious person biting finger nails.Thoreau famously wrote in 1849: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” And, it rings true today. You wouldn’t necessarily realize it because most people deal with desperation quietly. With so many services and products that can help people, it’s remarkable that  this deep, internal cry for help — for something, anything — is often neglected by marketers and non-profits. So today, we dig into the “why” behind this topic.

My regular readers know that I both handle the marketing and perform in an International Champion Men’s Chorus. Winning more Gold Medals than any other group in this particular competition going back to the 1970s, the legacy of this organization is larger than life.

As organizations evolve, this organization has moved from a “compete and win at all costs” attitude to “share the music to touch the heart and soul.” Our musical director sums it up well when he says “music, at its core, is not competitive, but a gift to be shared with gratitude.”

So when we placed second — the Silver Medal — on July 7 in Las Vegas, in front of about 7,000 people in the audience and countless more viewing the live stream worldwide, it was a gut punch to many. Separating us from the Gold Medal winner was just 8 points out of 3,000 possible, a virtual tie.

Embracing both victory and defeat with equal humility and grace reveals much about the character of people and an organization. A line from a Kipling poem is inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon Centre Court: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same; …”

But there is another, more important, part of this outcome that is a reminder to every marketer who is selling a product or service, or raising money for a non-profit.

It’s the stories from people who were deeply touched by the performance, yet didn’t care about the color of the medal. Here are a couple standouts:

I live in chronic pain due to an autoimmune illness. I live in emotional pain because my son is mentally ill with addiction issues. At this time I really don’t know where he is. He is 26 and as a mom if you had told me 10 years ago I would be in this position, I wouldn’t have believed you. I never know whether the calls will be suicidal or not. I’ve sort of suffered in silence because who really wants to know all this? Thank you for the music that takes me away to another place where I can be at peace.

What grabbed me about this writer’s note were the words “I’ve suffered in silence because who really wants to know all this?” She’s right, most don’t want to know the full story. The result: people live daily in quiet desperation.

Or this story:

June 2017 was the worst time I have ever experienced in my life. I thought I had lost everything. My business is gone. I also lost my mentor of 17 years. My life is now on a new path. When a man is in a dark place, sometimes dark thoughts enter his mind. Who knows what dangerous path I would have walked down. Watching how the audience immediately leaped to their feet for the applause, it healed me. I have never been so happy and excited.

At a time when marketers are often obsessed with generating leads, sales, donations and profits, sometimes we have to step back and ask ourselves, “What is our real mission and responsibility to our customers and donors? Are we offering hope during a journey of quiet desperation?”

Revenues are the typical yardstick of measuring a new attitude and strategy, and in this instance, the chorus that I perform with is in a stronger financial position than ever before, and is still considered by most in its community as the greatest chorus in the world.

So when authenticity is rare, but highly craved and valued, an organization’s great opportunity is to identify how to best serve its audience.

This may sound trite, but my experience today says that when you identify how to put your audience first so they can work through — or at least be able to take a break away from their personal quiet desperation — the leads, sales, donations, and profits will follow.

Using Sex for a Sales Breakthrough

How does a marketer who sells a utilitarian, and arguably boring product, breakthrough in a multi-million dollar category? At least one secret sauce ingredient to their success: sex.

How does a marketer who sells a utilitarian, and arguably boring product, breakthrough in a multi-million dollar category? At least one secret sauce ingredient to their success: sex.

The original Dollar Shave Club viral video.
The original Dollar Shave Club viral video.

I first wrote about the Dollar Shave Club in 2012 when they released a video that went viral (with over 24 million views now).DSC introduced how to save a boatload on razor blades and related personal products. And in the interest of transparency, I became a customer myself a couple of years ago (look at my picture for the evidence that I use a lot of razor blades).

So, while the concept of a continuity program where you’re shipped razor blades once a month for anywhere from $1.00 to $9.00 monthly (depending on the razor blade you want) may be boring, it’s their cheeky marketing messages that make this product so much fun and appealing.

Dollar Shave Club's version of content marketing.
Dollar Shave Club’s version of content marketing.

Their blog posts are light, humorous and often touch on the topic of sex. For example, a recent email came with the subject line “Six Reasons Science Says Sex is Good For Your Health.” Who wouldn’t open that one?

I suspect that particular email had a high open rate because it included the word “sex” in the subject line, and it was used in a way that probably wasn’t offensive to most people.

Consider the primal human brain and the all-important amygdala. The amygdala is the primal “fight or flight” part of the brain that flags us to fear, hunt food and reproduce. Because the brain is primal, this explains why messages of safety, never being hungry, along with beauty and virility, can usually be effective. These all touch upon the mass desire of our hopes, dreams, fears and desires.

And it’s getting to these core mass desires that brings prospects and customers back around to razor blades. It’s ordinarily a boring product, but one brought to the forefront of the mind with DSC’s advice about grooming, health and style, with a peppering of sex thrown in here and there, all using highly provocative and clickable headlines. DSC successfully uses content to cross-sell other personal products like shaving cream, skin care, One Wipe Charlies (or “butt wipes” as they call them), and more.

Obviously the marketing of Dollar Shave Club has broken-through and disrupted old-guard consumer product marketers. Unilever acquired them last year for $1 billion.

So what are the lessons here? My takeaways are this:

  1. You can make a utilitarian, perhaps even boring, product sexy.
  2. Light-hearted content marketing works (note I didn’t say “humor,” which often doesn’t work).
  3. You can make light of products with descriptions that don’t dance around nicety, and gets right to what people think (e.g., “butt wipes”).
  4. You can attract the attention of the brain’s amygdala by introducing sex (and safety and eating).
  5. Subject lines and headlines now, more than before, make or break a marketer’s success.
  6. Videos, where the neuroscience of why people share kick in and lead to it going viral, can build a business quickly.

So, adapting the DSC subject line of “Six Reasons Science Says Sex is Good For Your Health,” I didn’t have a list of, for example, “Six Reasons Marketers Say Sex is Good for the Bottom Line” as I had considered.

But the reality is this: the headline of this blog used the word “sex,” and you clicked the link, and if you’re still reading this far. The point about using sex to sell has, arguably, been made.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

How Much Repetition Is Too Much?

Recently, I had a conversation with a client and an agency about sales copy. It was the agency staff’s contention there was too much repetition. I disagreed. Which got me to thinking: When is too much repetition, well, too much?

Recently, I had a conversation with a client and an agency about sales copy. It was the agency staff’s contention there was too much repetition. I disagreed. Which got me to thinking: When is too much repetition, well, too much?

When I refer to repetition, I don’t mean repeating a sentence word-for-word, but rather, rephrasing or reframing an idea in another way.

A strong idea or point deserves repeating. Why? People scan. Attention spans are short. And it’s repetition of an idea or unique selling proposition that reduces the chance that the casual reader will miss what’s most important. Skillful repetition of your idea builds long-term memory.

So why do some marketers think repetition is bad?

I think it’s because, all too often, marketers and their creative teams start to believe they are their own prospective customer and, thus, evaluate everything they read through that lens.

In addition, the marketer or copywriter has read the message multiple times, so it’s familiar — too familiar — to them. It’s not being read with a fresh set of eyes. So when they see an idea repeated, even when craftily reworded, it’s perceived as repetitious, and therefore it’s deemed bad, weakening the sales message.

In the not-so-long-ago days of the most successful of direct mail packages, where I had a hand in their creation, a strong idea would be:

  1. Teased on an outer envelope.
  2. Brought to life in a letter’s headline and lead (and probably repeated elsewhere, especially in a long-form letter).
  3. Stated in a brochure, lift note or other enclosure.
  4. And it sure as heck had better have been repeated on the order device …
  5. … and perhaps even snuck, yet again, into the guarantee.

Repetition starts the path to short-term memory which, as a minimum, is needed to clinch the sale. But well-crafted repetition — or reinforcement of an idea, positioning, or unique selling proposition — leads to forming coveted long-term memory. Long-term memory can succeed in converting a prospect into a paying customer. Better yet, with long-term memory of your idea or USP firmly in place, you increase the likelihood for repeat purchases in the future.

My advice: Don’t be afraid to repeat, or rephrase, a thought.

  • When using email, link thoughts from the subject line to the email copy, once opened.
  • For landing pages, use sidebars or other call-outs.
  • Video content can pass quickly — all the more reason to emphasize important points with repetition (and videos on landing pages should emphasize what the page says).

People scan. Their eyes dart around on a webpage or printed piece. Attention spans are short.

Don’t assume that one passing mention of an important selling message or concept is going to be quickly absorbed by the casual reader. It won’t. Repetition may feel too strong to the marketing team, but chances are your prospective customer is going to remember your message.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Does Your Copy Have a ‘Human’ Voice? Or a ‘Copywriter’s’ Voice?

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And it didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And the voice didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.
business_personalThat experience jarred me into wondering about my own copy: Does it sound human? Do I capture the right “voice” of either the sender or the organization?

Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural — to the point of being distracting or off-putting.

So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”

I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1 to 3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:

  1. ‘Sup my brother/sister?
  2. Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
  3. Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.

In the example email from a friend I cited earlier, the subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” But the tone shifted, once the email was opened to a more canned, more formal, “Hello, nice to meet you” approach.

It was distracting. And disappointing. These unintended — but very real — impressions overwhelmed whatever impact was hoped for about the message content. So my advice is this:

  • Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos or behavioral data.
  • Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.), should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product or its category.
  • Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
  • Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
  • Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.

Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate and, probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.

Just curious: do you feel my “voice” in these blog posts is appropriate? I invite your feedback.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!,” available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Why the Heineken Video Went Viral

Why is online content shared? To build one’s social standing? Or develop the sharer’s self-image? Those and related questions were answered last week in “10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral” for the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference and Expo. I mentioned the recent Heineken viral video “Worlds Apart.” So today, here are a few reasons why.

How Heineken Went ViralWhy is online content shared? To build one’s social standing? Or develop the sharer’s self-image? Those and related questions were answered last week in “10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral” for the All About Direct Marketing Virtual Conference and Expo. I mentioned the recent Heineken viral video “Worlds Apart.” So today, here are a few reasons why.

If you missed 10 Ingredients for Your Video to Go Viral last week, you can still watch and listen to it here.

Participants during my session posed some questions about making successful videos. Here is the Q&A, including my thoughts about the Heineken video.

How Do You Find Out What Your Customers Want to See if You Offer a Service?

Whether you offer a service or product, the obvious answer might be to ask your customers. But I’d actually suggest that your customers may prefer to be surprised. That is, avoid the obvious and consider the obscure presentation that no one thought to ask about.

Think about how you can use the news or headlines to create a story. Or perhaps there is an attitude or temperament you want to tap into. The Heineken Worlds Apart video, released on April 20, has had over 11 million views so far. They don’t sell beer. Rather, it’s a commentary about our culture, and that while some people may be worlds apart, they can agree to disagree, and perhaps even soften barriers over a beer. It’s a brilliant video, and at over 4 minutes in length, delivers a strong message that surely strengthens their brand. By the way, this illustrates that under-two-minute videos aren’t the only way to command views.

https://youtu.be/8wYXw4K0A3g

Behind-the-scenes can always be a pleasant surprise. Show how your product is made — or how it is used, out in the wild. Gather testimonials and let the word-of-mouth tell your story in an unexpected way.

If you’re a non-profit, show the outcomes — with real stories — of what you provide, and make sure it’s an emotional tug.

Is an Informal Video Stronger Than a Professional Scripted Video?

Sometimes. It really depends. The Heineken video doesn’t appear to have been scripted, but rather, a lot of footage was shot and it was edited down to create a compelling story that a lot of people have viewed, and perhaps embraced. More important that the video quality is the audio quality. Social media users forgive shaky smartphone videos, but if they can’t discern the audio or if there is distracting, loud background noise, they may not stay with it.

So Green Screen Videos Are Out?

A lot of interesting graphics and text can be used if you have a talking head on video and recorded in front of a green screen. People want to connect emotionally with interesting people, so I would suggest you need the right person to be on camera if you’re shooting in front of a green screen. Also, a green screen allows for simple, controlled, limited lighting in a confined area. In editing, you have options around the environment the speaker is in—and it can change during the video.