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5 The Secret to Writing Copy that Will Have People Begging to Buy

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Sonja Jobson – Enjoy!


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Please raise your hand if you’ve ever purchased something based on an emotional whim.

If you didn’t raise your hand, I am seriously doubting your honesty.

We all buy based on emotions sometimes – most of us do it regularly.

We purchase clothes that we think will make us look attractive, we buy movie tickets to escape reality for approximately 120 minutes – even our morning latte is generally linked to an emotion (although sometimes, I suppose, that one has more to do with survival).

If you can’t take my word for it, how about Zig Ziglar’s?

“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”  – Zig Ziglar

Or this article on Psychology Today:

“In reality… emotions greatly influence and, in many cases, even determine our decisions.”

If you can tap into this emotional motivation in your customers, you can create copy that will have people eager for more.  Here’s how.

Find your customer’s biggest fear or desire

What is your prospect afraid of that your product or service can help eliminate?  Or, what do your prospects dream about that your product or service can help bring to reality? Hint: some of the most powerful emotional triggers are fear, anger, love, curiosity, and trust.

The first step in creating compelling copy is determining the problem or desire your message will be based on.

This copywriting technique has been successful since the early days of advertising.  Take this vintage (and entirely sexist – funny, what they could get away with then) ad, for example.

While the message might be offensive to modern women the world over, it did a marvelous job of appealing to then-current day emotional pulls.

The copy in this advertisement has almost nothing to do with what it was actually selling: vitamins.  It focused on the emotions that were close to their buyers hearts, and then presented their product as the solution.

You can use that very same strategy in your own marketing (but more appropriately, I would advise).

Find the problem your offer solves or the dream your product/service brings to life and you’ve found your compelling message.

Build your copy around your emotional message

Once you’ve homed in on a powerful emotion, it’s time to build your copy around it.

Start by creating some common ground.

Let your prospect know that you understand where they are at. Sympathize, commiserate, or tell the “I’ve been there” story.  However it fits best into your overall brand and style, create some common ground between you and your prospect.  How can they trust you to offer a valid solution if you don’t deeply understand what they’re going through? Powerful copy builds a connection.

Next, develop the problem.

Chances are, your visitors already know what their problem is and are eager to solve it.  But sometimes people don’t know exactly what’s holding them back or causing them friction. Draw on the fear, frustration, or obstacle you identified and show people how it’s negatively affecting their lives. Alternately, if you identified a curiosity, hope, or ambition, show people how lacking that result could be holding them back.

Then, show them what’s possible.

Paint a picture of life after their problem is solved or their goal is achieved.  You need to demonstrate how your product or service can be the solution they’ve been looking for. Answer questions like: How will you help them?  Why are you the best option? What will their life be like after their problem is gone or their goal is achieved?

The last piece of the puzzle

People decide whether or not they want to buy something based on emotion, but – especially with big ticket items — they back that emotional decision up with logic.

If you’ve done a great job of appealing to your audience’s emotions, chances are they are going to find a way to justify the purchase whether you provide those reasons or not.  But if you can back up your emotional message with logical selling points, you’re in an even better position to seal the deal.

Logical selling points include things like case studies that show how your product or service worked for others, descriptions of features, product samples or free consultations, and money-back guarantees.

Emotions are powerful, and people rely on them every day to make purchasing decisions.  Choose one section or page on your website, and rework the copy to focus in on your visitor’s emotions.  Once you start seeing an improvement in your conversions, I’ll bet you’ll be eager to apply this technique to all your copy.


  • Find and develop the problem, fear, or dream
  • Build a connection
  • Offer your product or service as the solution

SonjaJobson-BioPicSonja Jobson is a copywriter who helps small business owners and entrepreneurs become Incredible on the Internet.  She shares her best marketing advice in her free, weekly Insider Emails.

1 5 Tips for Writing Survey Questions that Don't Yield Statistical Garbage

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Josh Pigford – Enjoy!

Survey Question GarbageWhile the end result of a survey might make the conclusions look cut and dry, there are many ways that data can be manipulated or misrepresented to change the truth. However, the sloppiest (and probably most common) method of fumbling the truth is when data is simply misunderstood.

Even if your survey questions sound great, if they’re not credible they won’t produce valid results. In case you don’t know the difference between discriminant and regression analyses (really, who does?), this post will cover five tips to make sure that your sweet survey doesn’t turn into a statistical bummer.

1. Think First, Ask Second

Think broadly about why you’re creating a survey. What are you really trying to figure out? When you have a clear idea, make a list detailing the kind of information that you’re setting out to look for. Now you can begin to write your questions, always keeping in mind that they must match your original informational targets.

If you realize after collecting all your responses that your questions are actually asking something rather different from what you originally intended, then your data will also be telling something rather different from what you intended. You’ll have to settle for either “different,” or a big lie.

2. Ratings vs. Rankings

Depending on the kind of information you’re looking for, you can either ask your respondents to rate or rank several items in a list. However, it’s important to realize the difference between these two types of questions.

A ranking will only tell you which items are more or less preferred relative to each other, but you won’t actually know from a ranking if a respondent likes or dislikes any items. For this latter purpose, you must use a rating question.

3. The Multiple Choice Golden Rule

Most surveys depend heavily on multiple choice questions since prepping for standardized tests have wiped out this country’s ability to formulate an original answer. Or we’re too lazy. Either way, the possible responses to any multiple choice question must be mutually exclusive. This means that no two answers could equally serve as appropriate responses.

Not only do non-exclusive answers annoy people (you’ve made them think too hard!), but they’ll make accurately analyzing your data nearly impossible. If someone could choose one of two answers and feel good about either response, you won’t be able to determine the respondent’s actual preference.

4. Surveys Are Not Like Airplane Exit Rows

More “legroom” in your question doesn’t make it better. You wrote your survey with a specific purpose, so make sure your questions are direct without giving your respondents too much leeway in answering.

If you want to know how to make your company’s logo look more cutting edge, make sure you specify your desire for responses regarding the logo’s impact, not simply ask about the company in general.

5. Don’t Get Too Excited in One Question

Surveys are awesome, we know, but that’s no excuse for asking more than one question at a time. Each question you ask needs to be aimed at collecting one unique point of information, or else you’ll end up skewing your data by mixing results that should be separated.

It’s even possible to get so excited that in a fit of survey-exuberance you accidentally put two contradictory questions together. That’s not only pretty weird, but it will also void the results for that part of the survey.

Statistics and the wild field of data analysis include another laundry list of Dos and Don’ts, but hopefully these five tips can get you started on creating surveys that also produce credible results.

If you’re ever in doubt about how a question comes off, ask some friends to test it out. If you don’t have any friends, well then you’ve got bigger problems than that tricky survey question.

Josh PigfordJosh Pigford is co-founder + CEO of  PopSurvey, where they’re building online survey software to try and make the survey industry a little less coma-inducing. They’ve got a huge collection of survey templates to help you get started with the click of a button!

5 The New Marketing Machine

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Aaron Dun – Enjoy!

“Don’t Wake Up With Your Website in a Ditch” Expand Your Content & Your Contributors to Keep Your Content Marketing Strategy Humming

As content explodes around you, if you are the only person contributing to your content marketing strategy, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to be in trouble–just like the characters in recent television ads from DirectTV.

Between the “always on” nature of mobile, and the many interactive, online social platforms available, marketers face enormous pressure to continuously deliver compelling, cross-channel experiences to their customers, and keep them interested and engaged. Yet, most organizations, big and small, aren’t set up to optimize their content ownership, authorship, and delivery engines.

In the ongoing effort to get found faster, and to convert more suspects into prospects, companies now need to use all of their resources to publish more content, in more places, more rapidly than ever before. And if you don’t, you may wake up with your website in a ditch!”

“Don’t Fall Into a Dinner Party”

The old saying “many hands make light work” easily applies today to a company’s content marketing strategy.

It seems like content became the new hub of marketing virtually overnight. But in fact content has actually been the lynchpin of the commercial internet virtually since its inception. I suspect that even before that, the real-life inspirations of Mad Men would recognize a good story to be told, even if that story required a three martini lunch to be discovered. Consider then, what the DirectTV ads themselves say about the brand, and how they encourage engagement.

The marketing landscape has continued to evolve and old rules no longer apply – meaning the marketer’s imperative to use content to tell their brand story, and engage with potential buyers has had a dramatic impact on content strategy. There are new digital customer behaviors and expectations, increasing social channels popping up, and evolving SEO rules to abide by. Keeping up with these changes and being prepared for what’s next on the web requires a web content marketing blueprint for success.

Let’s break down this new marketing landscape to get a better understanding of these challenges so you can address them head on. Four key drivers are:

  • Interactive Digital Customer: We’re living in a highly- connected world where the customer is online (mainly through mobile devices). This enables instant access to information 24/7, and offers multiple channels for formulating opinions, sharing, and influencing others via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Quora, and more. Traditional one-way blasting of messages no longer builds brand awareness. Prospects and customers expect more; they want to engage with their brands, they want to “talk back” and even challenge companies with questions and comments.
  • Stiffened Competition: Social’s explosion also presents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to connect people with brands and build relationships and engagement without being intrusive. However, because the digital era has made it easier for small businesses to look larger than life, competition has stiffened as well. Businesses are competing to capture the attention of the same shareholders in the same online channels.
  • New SEO Rules: Keeping pace with evolving SEO demands presents another challenge for marketers. Google continues to change its algorithm in an attempt to help fresh, quality content shine and penalize those who do not stay current. In fact, these changes require that you shift your content marketing strategy from merely thinking about Page Rankings to how you drive inbound traffic through fresh, incisive and relevant content that engages online audiences. (Read more about the New Rules of SEO on my company’s blog.)
  • Complex Technology: In larger organizations, traditional web content technology bottlenecks the content marketing machine: it’s too hard to use, or the workflow process is too hard to manage, deterring those outside of marketing and IT from joining the team of contributors. If the end user feels threatened by complex technology, content delivery gets pushed back through a single resource (marketing and/or IT) to post and publish to the site. For smaller companies updating the website ranges from the simple to the impossible depending on the skill level of the team.

“Don’t Attend Your Own Funeral as Phil Shifley”

So how does a company proceed given this laundry list of obstacles today? You’ll notice the common denominator is the need for providing good, quality content, and lots of it! This can be a daunting task, especially for smaller businesses short on resources and budgets.

However, many content savvy companies have found that by deepening their contributor bench, they can deliver better content — whether it’s articles, blog posts, video, podcasts, etc. — more quickly, and push it out to their social channels where customers are engaging.

Follow these four simple steps to ensure your scaling your content engine.

Step 1: Break Down Silos: No matter how small or how big your company, content typically exists in silos. That content may sit with one team or another, or simply a person without the time to get it online. That content just doesn’t have any impetus to become part of the company story. Your job as a savvy content marketer is to harness all of that hidden content, and bring it out into the open so you can use that content to engage with your community.

Step 1A: Break Down Silos (Again): Stop thinking of your website as discrete from your blog, or your social channels as distinct from your blog. All of those are simply channels to tell your story. If they are not synced, you are missing a huge opportunity to engage with your customers across your community.

Step 2: Enable More Internal Contributors: It’s amazing to me how many people we talk to who are perfectly content being the only person with access to post content to the site. They spend all day editing word docs and patiently explain that the challenge with more contributors has nothing to do with technology or process. People just won’t take the time to write because it seems too laborious to them. Yet, those same “non-contributors” are tweeting 5x a day, and posting 3 updates to Facebook and LinkedIn daily. Make it easy and compelling to contribute, and they will come.

Step 3: Enable More External Contributors: This is the hardest area for many to conceive—why on earth would anybody want to contribute to my blog or my site? Just ask. — There is always something in it for them like incoming links or authorship, etc. Ask your customers or others in your industry to contribute, and once they do, promote the *$%$& out of it. Most people like to see their name in lights. Why do you think I am writing this post?

Step 4: Everything is Content: Stop looking for discrete pieces of content. Start by reshaping your definition of content and you will begin to see all of the content that is around you today. Customer support calls are content, blog comments are content, photos from an event are content…and on it goes. Once you realize that all of these daily moments are in fact discrete pieces of content, you will never worry about having enough content again.

It goes without saying that in a fast-moving, content-driven, web content marketing world your technology better not get in the way. So once you have defined your content strategy, make sure your technology has the horsepower to enable more contributors and is easy enough for these new contributors to engage. Otherwise your shiny new process will careen into the same ditch as your website.

Upholding the spirit of the DirectTV ads, “Don’t let your shiny new process careen into the ditch.” Follow the four simple steps here and get your content marketing engine up and running!

Aaron is Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Percussion Software, a provider of web content management and content marketing software. He is an avid Boston sports fan, and is known to enjoy a good marketing book or two in his free time. Follow him on Twitter @ajdun.  He can also be reached at [email protected].

6 How To Create Influence


arvindgrover via Flickr

Like it or not, most of what we do in marketing involves influence. We are constantly engaged in an attempt to influence someone’s decision-making process.

Now, this can be done for good as powerfully as for evil, but there is a science to it that every great marketer comes to adopt in both writing and selling.

The secret to influence starts with the understanding that most people don’t make decisions with their head, they make them with their heart. No matter how much logic and data you pump into a situation, emotion is always the prime driver.

If you want to create influence motivate the emotional side of the buyer.

And, when it comes to tapping emotion, few things are more seductive than aspiration.

Aspiration is simply another way of describing wishes, hopes and goals – the things, situations, and feelings that people aspire to have in their lives.

Luxury brands have long played on our aspirational desire to feel rich and pampered like the young, wealthy, beautiful players in their ads. Get rich quick marketers know that a good rags to riches, anyone can do it story will get readers to whip out their wallets faster than any other device.

So, as I said, this secret can be used to educate and manipulate, but marketers that understand the power of aspiration can use it to help prospects and customers come to a clearer understanding of the benefits of their products while gently catering to the needs of both the logical and emotional side of buying.

Below is my 3-step formula for telling your story with aspiration.

This formula is just as effective in a sales letter as it is on the home page of your web site. It’s simply a way to put your reader’s desires into an explanation of your business offerings. Used authentically, it is the most effective form of education.

1) Set the table

The first order of business is to let the reader know that you understand them and their situation. You get the challenges they are facing because you’ve been down their path a million times. The use of stories to illustrate this is one of the most powerful ways to attract a reader’s attention.

2) Paint a hopeful picture

Now that you’ve established some common ground, let them hold the puppy. Paint a picture of how it could be. Help them come inside the story so they can build what it will look like once they have what they desire, once they get the problem fixed. Help them imagine a better world.

3) Provide the answer

If you have the product or service that will allow them to realize this better view, and you do because that’s the point, now is the time to let them in on how, when, and why you have just what they want and need. If you’ve taken the time to thoroughly cast the previous two steps your reader should be warmed and ready to act on this part.

Nowhere is this post did I intend to suggest that you use this powerful tool to manipulate someone untruthfully. What I am suggesting is that in the competitive world of business, drawing on one’s aspirations is a crucial way to differentiate your message.

1 Live blogging the Thanksgiving drive

I’m headed down I-35 somewhere south of Oklahoma City fully wireless and blogging – don’t worry I’m not driving.

But here’s the thought I wanted to share. Two of my daughters are sitting in the back seat plugged into a movie – TranFormers (they’re really too old for that, but that’s another story.) The point is that they both have headsets on and occasionally they erupt into various forms of giggles at something that happened in the movie. It’s kind of sweet to hear these spontaneous giggles, but the odd thing is that they giggle at different times. In other words, what they think is funny is different for them.

I wonder how many people visit our websites, read our sales copy and listen to our pitches and, effectively, laugh at different parts, and maybe not the parts we thought they would laugh or not at.

Test, test, test everything. It’s a amazing how different the same web page can appear to different people. Know what you want people to do when you make a point, create a web page, write a sales letter and then get some people together to see if they get it. You are probably too close to know what the funny parts are anymore.

By the way, some of the roadkill out here in North Texas looks pretty good for T-day.

5 Want to write better – read better

On WritingWriting is an essential marketing skill – pretty hard to be very effective without it – whether that’s actually writing the words yourself or being able to recognize a well written sales letter from a freelancer. Most every high school English teacher in the world will give you the same advice: if you want to be a good writer, you have to read a lot. Two of my favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephan King offer this as a key.

Just about any reading will improve your writing, but reading advice and examples from master copywriters will really help your marketing writing. My friends Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg have assembled a tremendous cheat sheet for anyone who wants to head my advice.

Online Copywriting 101: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet Part 1 and Part 2 should take you well into the new year when it comes to consuming some great reading on the subject of writing.

7 Two Questions That Matter Most

When you consider writing marketing copy, throw out all your notions about features and benefits, riveting, detailed descriptions and techno jargon and focus on answering the only two questions that really matter – and do it before you pass go.

1. What are your prospects and clients saying to themselves as they consider purchasing your type of product or service? What are the actual words they think in their heads? (visualize the cartoon bubble floating above) Chances are its not – “gee, I wish I had a new fangled Acme gizmo #156.” No, chances are, it’s more like – “gee, I wish I had more time off or why is running my own business so hard” So, you must discover their conversations and use them as your copy.

I’ve discovered over the years that my prospects are asking something along the lines of “Why is marketing a business so hard or I just don’t know anything about marketing.”

So I might start an introduction to Duct Tape Marketing by posing this question – “Have you ever said “I’m just no good at marketing” or “Have you ever wondered why marketing your small business is so hard?”

2. What would they like to say to themselves if they actually got the result they are seeking? In other words, what would success sound like to them.

I’ve discovered that what my prospects would like to say to themselves is that “marketing can be simple, almost automatic once you understand what to do.”

In this instance it’s essential that I am able to paint a picture of what their world could be like if they had the magic sauce.

These are the mysteries rolling around in the minds of your prospects, but you must find ways to discover, unlock, and communicate the answers in your marketing and sales materials or your copy will never move beyond the level of static.

Oh, and by the way, I just happen to be holding a three session teleseminar on the subject of creating these kinds of education based marketing materials – check it out here – it’s possible we will get into the very subject of this post!

5 The White Paper Marketing Handbook

Bob Bly is the author of over 75 books and is probably best known for his copywriting skills. I spent some time catching up with Bob on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast discussing his most recent book – The White Paper Marketing Handbook.

Any reader of mine will likely already know of my affection for using information products as a way to generate interest from a prospect. Bly’s book is the first and only devoted entirely to this subject. Bob calls this approach “Edu-marketing.” Whatever you call it, you need to employ it.

3 How To Write A Great Testimonial

Testimonials are great marketing tools, but so often they are created in a way that is less than effective.

First some overall tips
Get a testimonial from every one of your clients
Consider audio and video testimonials
Write them for them – or make it easy for them to write it

Now some writing tips
Write as though you are speaking to a prospect (Most people write testimonials as though they are speaking to the owner of the company)
Give a specific, measurable benefit of using the product or service
Don’t hype – write in plain English

Okay, want to get more website traffic using testimonials?
Go to your bookshelf, take down every business book you have ever read (the ones you like at least) and find the author’s website or blog and send them a well-written testimonial. Suggest that they are free to use it on their website. (Include your name and web address)

Heck, why stop at authors:
Send one to every vendor
Your web host
Your accountant
Your mentor

I want to close this little lesson on testimonials with one that found on a book by Brenda Ueland called If You Want To Write

“Run, do not walk to your nearest bookstore and buy If You Want To Write. It is one of the few books I have read more than five times. I have so much faith in Ueland’s book that if you buy it and it doesn’t help you. I will give you your money back. I won’t even say that about my book.” – Guy Kawasaki, MacUser

1 One person at a time – great teachers are great salespeople

Small business marketing is personal. You don’t market to the masses, you don’t really market to segments, you market, when you’re effective, to one person at a time. Like every great teacher I ever had, I wondered how anyone else in the class learned a thing with all the attention I was receiving.

I’m not trying to come up with some new profound marketing trend or phrase. If you think about it, the marketing that always gets to you is marketing that feels like it is directed to you and only you. It’s when you find yourself thinking – how did they know?

It’s an art I think, no, it’s a way of being, for the small business, and it’s a distinct advantage that small businesses hold.

Allan Sloan, NEWSWEEK’s Wall Street editor and a bit of a legend in the journalist world, said in an interview with Kansas City Star reporter Steve Kraske today, “I don’t actually know much about economics, I just read allot and try to understand things and them put them in a language something like English.” That’s it – understand your product, your business, your service and then teach people in a language something like English – one person at a time.