5 Common Copywriting Mistakes That’ll Turn Prospects Against You

by 6 08/07/2012

It was amazing how quickly my feelings changed toward that baby.

On a stunning spring morning I opened the blinds in the living room to let the sunshine spill into the house and something caught my eye.

Not more than 10 feet away from the house was a tiny baby bunny, maybe 2 months old, happily munching away on the dew-covered grass.

I was captivated. It immediately brought out the nature lover in me and I stood there for a few minutes enjoying the show.

But then something changed. The bunny hopped a bit closer to my house and went from munching on the grass to destroying the flowers I recently planted.

In that instant that bunny went from welcome guest to unwanted pest and I wanted to get him!

The nature lover in me vanished and out came my inner Elmer Fudd.

Images of Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack attempting to destroy that pesky groundhog on the golf course ran through my brain. (Please note: No rabbits were harmed in the making of this article!)

The rabbit’s initial appeal to me was lost in an instant.

When copywriting, you may be able to initially hook a reader with an attention grabbing headline, but that’s just the first step. If you’re not careful, you could make one of these common copywriting mistakes and go from trusted source to wascally wabbit.

Here are 5 biggies to watch out for…

1. Focusing on yourself/your company

People have one burning question they want answered when they visit your website…

What’s in it for me?

If the site doesn’t answer that question quickly, they’re gone.

Prospects don’t care about you, your company or your products and services. They only care about how those things can make their lives better.

As a business owner you need to understand what keeps your customers up at night, what language they use to describe their problem(s), and what they’d like their life to look like/what they want to achieve after purchasing your product or service.

That should be the focus of your copy – not how great you are, what an awesome team you have or how incredible your products or services are.

(This key concept is what led me to come up with the idea of adding an About You page on your website that’s all about your ideal prospects, not your company.)

2. Focusing on features

It’s probably the most common and often repeated copywriting rule…focus on benefits, not features.

As I said above, people want to know the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” and you do that by stressing the benefits of your product and service, not the technical features.

And be sure you’re stressing the real, ultimate benefits people are after, not the “fake benefits” as master copywriter Clayton Makepeace calls them.

When talking about features vs. benefits a lot of people use the example that you’re not selling the drill, you’re really selling the hole in the wall. But that hole in the wall isn’t the ultimate benefit.

Ultimate benefits are emotional.

So, for the hole in the wall, the ultimate benefit isn’t the hole. But could be something like the appreciation, admiration, or boost in self-esteem they’ll get by securely hanging their Masterpiece painting on the wall for all their friends and family to see and enjoy.

Copy that gets to the core emotions of how your product or service ultimately benefits your prospects will keep them fully engaged.

3. Being too formal, stiff and/or boring

With all due respect to English majors, you don’t want them writing your sales copy (though there are certainly exceptions!). Formal, literary quality copy that uses big words and strictly sticks to the rules of proper grammar ain’t gonna sell your product or service.

Again, you want to connect with prospects emotionally to keep them engaged. Copy should be short, simple, punchy and written like you’re talking to your best friend. And if some rules of grammar are maimed in the process, so be it.

One way to do this is to use power verbs to do the heavy lifting in your copy instead of a bunch of flowery adjectives.

I’ll turn to an example from copywriting legend John Carlton’s course “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel” that illustrates this perfectly.

This is the “English major version” with lots of descriptive adjectives:

“She was a mean, cruel and heartless lady, whose long, flowing ruby colored locks danced around her flawless, porcelain-like face as she told her teary-eyed, sobbing beau that their torrid love affair was over.”

Now here’s the short, punchy version that’ll rev up a reader’s emotions with action verbs:

“The red-headed bitch ripped his heart out and stomped on it.”

4. Saying too much

This is not an argument about long copy vs short copy. Long copy can and does work very well in the right situations.

This is about rambling.

Say as much as you need to say to lay out your complete and compelling sales pitch…but no more.

Ever deal with a sales person who didn’t know when to shut up? They get to a point where they have you sold but instead of closing the deal they kept on babbling so much that you lost interest and just wanted to high tail it out of there.

It’s no different in copywriting. Ramble and your prospects will disappear faster than you can say “What’s up doc?”

5. Weak (or Non-existent) call to action

It’s shocking how many web pages don’t have a call to action. You’ve done all the hard work of getting them through your copy, let them know what to do next!

Give them a phone number, contact form, newsletter sign up, etc. so they know exactly what their next step should be. If there’s any confusion about what they should do or how to contact you, you’ll lose a lot of prospects.

Having a weak call-to-action will hurt you too. Use a call to action to reemphasize the benefits a prospect gets by acting. Try to stay away from generic requests like “Click Here” and “Sign Up Now” and use things like “Click Here to Get Instant Access” and “Get Your Free Report”.

Initially captivating your prospect’s attention is the first step in good copywriting. However, the bigger challenge is not alienating your prospects before they convert.

Avoid the common copywriting mistakes above and you’ll be well on your way.

About 

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on

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6 COMMENTS

Damien Elsing

I particularly agree with 3 and 4. See these mistakes all the time. People either being too scared of offending someone and hence playing it too safe, or waffling on with info that just isn’t relevant and hence diluting the stuff that is.

August 7, 2012 Reply

Ilias Chelidonis

Hey Adam, kudos for number 2, i kept making this mistake for many years, a business really needs to think carefully its ultimate emotional benefits e.g security by using a backup service, trust by using a reliable provider, safety by shopping on a reliable e-shop, finding love by signing up at a match making website and many more

August 8, 2012 Reply

Adam

@Damien – You’re absolutely right. There is a lot of dry, boring copy out there that doesn’t say anything interesting or unique becuase people are so afraid about offending someone.

@Ilias – Thanks for the kudos! Great examples.

August 8, 2012 Reply

Clark

I was looking forward to learning about copy writing mistakes that drive readers away but I couldn’t get past the weird rabbit intro.

August 15, 2012 Reply


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