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How to Make Marketing Copy More Persuasive

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Do you think people actually
read all the information in your literature, in your press releases, or on your
Web site? Think again. Most people just scan copy, looking for information that
will be helpful to them. In fact, in a recent study by John Morkes and Jakob
Nielsen, 79 percent of test users scanned any new page they came across instead
of reading word for word. Morkes and Nielsen have been running Web usability
studies since 1994. For this one, “Applying Writing Guidelines to Web Pages,”
test users’ job titles included system administrator, systems analyst, software
developer, and senior programmer.


This clearly means that you are
likely to communicate with readers most effectively if your copy tells them why
they should purchase your book even though they’re just breezing through what
you wrote.


Techniques you can use to create
copy that’s more scannable include:


·      Apply the AIDA formula:

·      Get the readers’ attention quickly
with text that gives them a reason to continue reading.

·      Highlight keywords that are
important to your readers with colors, boldface type, italics, and/or hypertext

·      Break up copy with functional
(rather than cutesy) subheads that communicate benefits.

·      Use numbered or bulleted lists set
apart from the text.

·      Use professionally produced

·      Use testimonials and endorsements
from well-known people to build your credibility.

·      Less is more. Keep it
straightforward and simple (KISS), using short text blocks.

·      Follow the adage, “Tell me quick,
and tell me true, or else, my friend, the heck with you.”


Good, Better, Best


The examples below show different
techniques for writing marketing copy. Their “Usability Improvement” numbers in
the right-hand column indicate how well each of them worked in relation to the
control copy in the top block. As you will see, each technique improved the
control copy’s functionality, and combining the techniques improved it most.



Sample Copy

Usability Improvement
(relative to control condition)*

Copy trying to sell instead
of inform

You will sell more books and
make more money by selling to nonbookstore markets. In fact, most publishers
selling to special markets, either fiction or nonfiction, have found they can
reduce—if not eliminate—returns and distribution discounts,
increase their profitability, improve cash flow, make their marketing efforts
more effective, and lower their risk of publishing unsellable books.

(Control condition)

Succinct copy with about half
the word count and less hyp

Selling books to special-sales
markets can help publishers in several ways. It’s possible to reduce returns
and distribution discounts, increase profitability, improve cash flow, market
more effectively, and publish sellable books.


Layout that facilitates
visual scanning, with copy similar to that of the control condition

You could sell more books and
make more money by selling to nonbookstore markets. In fact, most publishers
selling to special markets, either fiction or nonfiction, have found they


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Reduce—if not eliminate—returns

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Reduce distribution discounts

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Increase their profitability

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Improve cash flow

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Make their marketing efforts more effective

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> And lower their risk of publishing unsellable books.


Neutral copy
using less promotional language

Possible benefits of selling to
special markets include a reduction of returns and distribution discounts,
improved profitability and cash flow, more effective marketing, and
publishing content that tends to be more sellable.


Copy that is concise,
scannable, and objective

When selling books to special
markets, you could realize these benefits:


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Reduced returns

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Reduced distribution discounts

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Increased profitability

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Improved cash flow

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> More effective marketing efforts

style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Lower risk of publishing unsellable books




These data confirm that people
don’t want to sift through hype to find out whether an offer will help them in
some way; they also reflect the need to customize marketing copy for the
intended readers, offering them specific benefits. For example, marketing copy
for gift-shop buyers might show that your sales history and promotional efforts
could increase store traffic and inventory turns, and marketing copy for
librarians might focus on specific information that their patrons would find


Most important—and somewhat
paradoxically—the study data show that a sales pitch doesn’t sell best.
What sells best is concise, informative, well-designed, scannable copy that
communicates benefits.


Brian Jud is author of <span
class=8StoneSans>Beyond the Bookstore
(a Publishers Weekly book), The
Marketing Planning CD-ROM
and a new series of booklets published
by R. R. Bowker, Proven
Tips for Publishing Success
. Editor of the <span
class=8StoneSans>Book Marketing Matters
special-sales newsletter and creator of the <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Special-Sales Profit Center
, he is
reachable at Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357; brianjud@bookmarketing.com;
and www.bookmarketing.com.



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