11 Copywriting Tips: How to Turn Marketing Drivel into Serious Sales Copy

Sad dog salivating

Do you know how to avoid marketing drivel in your sales copy? Well?

Let me guess…

You’re an honest person.

And when you talk to potential customers on the phone, you sound genuine, helpful, and frank. No fluff. No marketing drivel. No sleazy sales talk. You give honest advice.

But what happens when you write copy for your brochure or your website? Do you sound as sincere as you do on the phone?

Marketing drivel seems hard to avoid. Most websites are full of it.

A dash of sleaziness sneaks into your copy without you noticing it. Creepiness crawls into your brochure just because you couldn’t find the right words.

How can you eradicate the marketing prattle and write honest copy that sells?

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Let’s look at 11 copywriting tips that give sleazy sales-ness the middle finger. Follow these tips, and your copy instantly becomes more sincere, more enchanting, and more persuasive.
Sound good?

Tip 1: Cut crappy phrases

How do you know your copy contains crappy phrases?

Put on your devil’s advocate hat, and ask yourself for each sentence: what does this mean? If you can’t come up with a specific answer immediately, then cut or rephrase until your text is concrete and meaningful.

Crappy:
Our world class widgets help you increase email sign-ups
Much better:
549,333 websites use our widgets to increase email sign-ups

Further reading: 5 Common Words that Should be Banned from Sales Copy

Tip 2: Slaughter marketing claptrap

Words like hundreds or millions may seem specific, but they sound like a marketer exaggerating the truth. Use specific numbers to draw attention and increase credibility.

Marketer claptrap:
Hundreds of small businesses use our accounting service to save time
Much better:
254 small businesses use our accounting service to save time

Further reading: 5 Tips to Boost the Credibility of Your Sales Messages and Sell More

Tip 3: Stop pussyfooting around

Subtleties and politeness are great (of course!).

But a subtle call-to-action gives people an excuse not to do as you ask. Starting a call-to-action with if, is the best way to give people an excuse. Be bossy and tell people exactly what you expect them to do.

Overly polite:
If you’d like to join the Enchanting Marketing newsletter, just add your email address and click join
Simple and direct:
Add your email address and click join now

Further reading: What to Call Your Call to Action (by Peep Laja) and 10 Call-to-Action Case Studies (by Michael Aagaard)

Tip 4: Give people a reason to do as you tell them

Do you want people to listen to you and follow your suggestions? Just give them a reason why. How are you going to make them happier, healthier, or richer? Which problems, complications, and difficulties will you help to avoid?

Not bad:
Get updates (it’s free)
Better:
Learn how to create persuasive content. Sign up to receive free updates.

Tip 5: Give people a better reason

What do your readers really want?

Try to avoid fake benefits and focus on a benefit your readers are looking for. Most real benefits are related to saving money, making more money, becoming happier, being free from fear and worry, a feeling of belonging etc.

Okay:
Learn how to become persuasive. Sign up to receive free updates
Even better:
Learn how to become persuasive and win more customers. Sign up to receive free updates

Further reading: Now Featuring Benefits! (by Brian Clark)

Tip 6: Cut sugary testimonials

You know the type of testimonials that sound like they’re written by a marketer? The sugar-coated words that tell you how wonderful, amazing, and super-perfect a service or product is?

Do you think anyone believes these fantastic testimonials? Well?

Write story-based testimonials that help you overcome objections.

Sugar-coated stuff nobody believes:
Henneke is an amazing copywriter. I’d highly recommend her to anyone.
Much better:
I wasn’t sure about hiring Henneke. She seems a little crazy and she’s not even a native English speaker. But the copy she’s written for my business helped me to win more customers. And she was fun to work with.

Note: just like all other examples in this article, the above example is made up.

Further reading: The Secret Life of Testimonials, Six Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials, How to Use Objections to Get Awesome Before-After Testimonials (all by Sean d’Souza)

Tip 7: Don’t walk away from the difficult stuff

Do you believe in miracles?

In business they don’t exist. I’ve never seen objections magically disappear. You need to address them.

If customers think you’re too expensive, then explain how you help customers save money, how you help them make more money, or explain how much more enjoyment they’ll get from your product or service. Prove your value.

What objections do your customers have to buying from you? How can you address them? Copywriting is about sales. And selling is about taking away customer objections to buying from you.

Further reading: The old-fashioned Aga sales manual, written by the legendary David Ogilvy in 1935, provides examples of how to overcome objections.

Tip 8: Kill self-indulgent nonsense

Marketing messages become drivel if they go on and on about a company and its products. The quickest way to turn drivel into sales copy is to address a benefit or a problem your customers have first.

Self-indulgent:
Award-Winning Web Designer with 20 Years’ Experience
Much better:
Websites that Convert Web Visitors into Business

Further reading: Why Most Copywriting Formulas Stink (and How to Really Write for the Web)

Tip 9: Don’t use exclamation marks

Exclamation marks are the signs of a lazy writer or a sleazy salesman. Simply remove all exclamation marks from your copy. Period.

Tip 10: Don’t commit superlative sins

Superlatives like best or easiest are a surefire way to sound insincere. Only use superlatives if you can prove why you’re the best.

A copywriting sin:
We provide the quickest printing service in town.
Much better:
Get your brochures printed in 48 hours or receive a 25% discount.

Further reading: Do You Make These Two Subtle Copywriting Errors?

Tip 11: Eradicate adjective mumbo jumbo

If marketers have nothing to say, they add adjective upon adjective to their sentences. It makes your readers think yeah, yeah, what nonsense or it sends them straight to sleep.

Mumbo jumbo:
This relaxed, romantic collection of beautiful cookware has a look all its own, right up to date yet completely classic with a result that’s perfect for your kitchen.
Mucho better:
The classic look of this cookware collection suits most kitchen styles.
Even better:
Show pictures of your cookware. Or explain who inspired the design. That’s much more interesting than marketers’ hogwash.

Further reading: How to Avoid the Destructive Power of Adjectives in Your Marketing Copy

How to stamp out all marketing drivel

You’ve edited your copy to remove the marketing fluff.

Now, imagine talking to your favorite customer on the phone and read your copy aloud.

If your customer slams down the phone, then your copy is still too sleazy. Get back to work.

If she gets a little impatient and interrupts you, then you’re nearly there. Just a little more fluff to remove.

And if you can’t persuade her to buy, then you’ve not addressed her problems or you’ve picked the wrong benefits. Ask her how you can help.

When you write sales copy, you need to think about your customer (of course!). But you also have to remember who you are. Be yourself. Be honest. Be enchanting.

This blog post is part of a series about writing sales copy.

Image credit (adapted): Shutterstock
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Comments

  1. Kitty Kilian says:

    You can do better than that!

    ‘She seems a little crazy, if you catch her unawares she is mumbling in a weird guttural tongue and she seems married to her bicycle which she rides at dangerous speed over highly unsuitable terrain. I sometimes wonder if…’
    ;-)

    • Henneke says:

      Ah, yes. And occasionally her language is less than enchanting, especially when she complains about dangerous motorists who overtake her on her bike… ;-)

  2. Janine says:

    Chock full of great examples and helpful links. Direct, pithy, and candid. Superbly helpful (maybe that one’s OK)?
    Happy cycling/muttering and of course writing.

    • Henneke says:

      Yep, your adverb plus adjective is fine with me, especially if it’s a compliment ;-)

      Good to see you again, Janine :)

  3. Caroline says:

    Great, down-to-earth advice as ever. What I like about your suggestions is that they’re easily applicable, a real toolkit for getting marketing copy right. And it’s nice to build a gradual picture of the person behind the blog ;-).

  4. Yikes, I think I may have written a sentence way to similar to the mumbo jumbo example for the cookware. Couldn’t I just make life easy and use “Buy this, damn it!” for every product on my site? Oh, but no exclamation mark. As always, this was a fun piece to read with lots of great advice. Thanks Henneke.

    • Henneke says:

      Yep, you can write Buy it, damn it! You might get a few crazy people like me to buy ;-)

      Most product descriptions on e-commerce websites are full of mumbo jumbo. You’re already doing better than most if not each description is mumbo jumbo. :) Most of us get tired of writing product descriptions after some time, and that’s when the mumbo jumbo sneaks in, because we can’t think of anything else to say anymore. Try not to write one category in one go, but jump around from category to category. That usually helps to keep it fresh. :)

      Thank you for stopping by, Carole.

  5. Barry says:

    Good post, helpful advice.
    Thank you.

  6. Marie Krebs says:

    A great number of my notebooks are finding their pages filling fast everytime I read a blog update from Henneke!
    Marie Krebs recently posted…4 SEO mistakes and 5 quick fixes for Real Estate Agent websitesMy Profile

  7. I’m guilty of doing all of the above at one point or another. I think a lot of the time it’s the pressure to get up to a certain word count, whether for SEO purposes or because the employer has the idea that more content = better content. I think a lot of this fluff comes about from the quotas that are set. I know I run out of things to say when it comes to pots and pans.

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, that’s an excellent point. Word count can be a big problem. When there’s nothing left to say, you can only add more drivel. And often people think that if you write more words, they should pay you more, but it’s often harder to be concise.

  8. Mohammed Ali says:

    Great post Henneke! :-) I lot of business writing is done this way, and many consider it normal. But because it’s normal, it doesn’t impact the reader anymore. I really like way you’ve showed the tips with the ‘much better’ version!
    Mohammed Ali recently posted…Where do the Hearts find rest?My Profile

    • Henneke says:

      Thank you. I agree with you – marketing fluff seems normal, but I don’t believe it truly connects and engages readers. It encourage people to scan rather than to read because too much text is irrelevant or even nonsensical.

      Good to see you here again :)

  9. Sandy says:

    Enjoy your work. It is often timely. I like the succinctness.
    I have to say, though, sometimes adjectives provide a necessary padding. Might be useful to distinguish when.

    I’d love to share the cute dog photo and quote on my FB page with a reference to your work.

  10. Paul Keep says:

    It’s funny how the best copywriting tips are sometimes just a lesson in communication.
    Paul Keep recently posted…The Truth about FREEMy Profile

    • Henneke says:

      Yep, you’re right. Many tips are also applicable when having a face-to-face conversation or talking on the phone or presenting in a big meeting, too.

      Thank you for stopping by! :)

  11. Andrea says:

    Brilliant, helpful article – thank you.

    I would like to point out, however, that you used an exclamation mark in the last paragraph of your article tut tut – point 9 ;-)

  12. Alex says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Henneke. We’ve been making a big push lately to cut out the “fluff” in our copy, and the results have been outstanding. Will have to give some more of these tips a try — especially with our testimonials! I think most folks are hard-wired to give you the glowing testimonial, because they think it’s what will help you the most, and the linked story about asking the right questions is awesome.

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, I love those blog posts by Sean d’Souza, too. Well done on cutting out the fluff! Thank you for stopping by :)

  13. Thank you for the ideas in copywriting. I could implement it in my primary language :-)
    Hanif bin Abdul Bahar recently posted…BismillahirrahmanirrahimMy Profile

  14. I really find your post “enchanting” (I know that is your way of saying Wonderful. On my blog, I use “FantaFab”). The tips are so helpful and revealing. The idea of imagining yourself calling a potential buyer and she slamming down the phone is quite hilarious. I love the overall touch of humor around here. Great to be here.

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, we all have our favorite words – mine are enchanting and seductive. Favorite words help to define your voice.

      Is Tope your first name? How do you pronounce it?

      Thank you for stopping by!

  15. Yes, you are right. Tope is indeed my first name. Its pronunciation goes like this…
    “To” is pronounced as “Tour”; Pe is pronounced as “Pair”. Anyway, the p sound in my language (Yoruba) does not exist in English and vice versa.

    However Tour-Pair would do just fine. Maybe over time, we would know each other better and I would be able to send you a voice note of how my name is pronounced.

    What about yours? How is it pronounced?

    It’s FantaFab being here again.
    Tope Fabusola recently posted…I was Raped. Can I have an Abortion?My Profile

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