All posts by Graeme Keeton

The Part-Time Nihilist’s Guide to Marketing Terms You Hate, But Need

shutterstock_548874589
It’s about time that we take a step back and have a little chuckle at ourselves. Image via Shutterstock.

Plenty of products and services help people, making them healthier and happier. For those things, marketing is great — but sometimes, the way we talk about ourselves is absurd. Yeah, I said it, it’s absurd, but it’s all right because this post has a happy ending (stay tuned).

If you work in any sort of marketing role, you might have noticed that as a collective, we’ve done something incredible:

We’ve turned buzzwords into real, salaried jobs.  

You can be a Growth Hacker these days, or a Content Marketer. If you work somewhere really cool, you might even be a Conversion Ninja. Plenty of people do these jobs (myself included) and one day we’ll have the awkward pleasure of explaining to our grandchildren what it was like being paid to be a Solutions Architect, or a Dev Mogul.

“Neat, grandpa! Did you invent a new form of calculus?”

“No, son. But I had over 25,000 Twitter followers. I was an influencer.”

This is the part-time nihilist’s guide to all those marketing terms you hate (but need). It might also clarify why your parents will never understand what the heck your job is.

Homer gets back to basics with marketing. Video: Fox.
Disclaimer: This post tears down marketing terms and the idea of becoming an influencer. We hope that it is popular and that you share it. We see the irony, and we’re disgusted by it, so just move on, okay?

Being considered an “expert” or a “genius”

To be considered an expert in most other professions, you need to have studied and practiced for years and years and years. You study, you’re tested, you pass, you advance. After what feels like a lifetime of this, people trust you as a voice of authority, as an expert.

Pro tip: Inclusion in a listicle or roundup guarantees automatic employment — should you want it — with some of the most prestigious companies in Silicon Valley.

There are expert marketers, of course: people who have been to school, who dedicate their lives to the craft of combining insight and communication into the most irresistible calls to action. But if you’ve got a profile photo, maybe a Linkedin Premium account, and a byline on somewhere like Unbounce (Hey, that’s me!), you might be considered an expert.

This will do one of two things to you:

  1. It’ll make you lazy, because you’ll think that you’ve reached the top of the mountain. (By the way, there’s no top. There’s no mountain either.)
  2. It’ll scare the crap out of you, and you’ll work your ass off to become a genuine expert, or at least, someone with useful insights.

I hope for everyone’s sake that it’s the second one.

Bonus option: You’ll develop a nasty case of Imposter Syndrome, where you’ll live in constant fear of being called out. It’ll make you triple your efforts, but it’ll never be enough.

Pursuing “thought leadership”

As a marketer, when you have a good idea, you call it a thought leadership piece and you milk it until it’s red and sore. Never mind the idea that “thought leadership” sounds like some sort of mind control, it’s just damned impressive that we managed to turn the act of having ideas into a tool for marketing.

In a way, being considered a thought leader is a lot like being considered an expert. Not so long ago there were real thought leaders, people like Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.. Now, all you need to do is tip that scale from 9,999 followers to 10,000 and praise, be! You’re a thought leader.

“One of us, one of us, one of us.” Video: Fox

Free infographics and ebooks

The only real way to tell whether a post is legitimate — whether the author’s really serious about the information they’re giving you — is to check for an associated infographic or ebook. At Unbounce, they call these in-post giveaways Conversion Carrots. Some other places call them Lead Magnets. I call them necessary evil.

nihilist-marketer-graph

“Can we make it go viral?”

I once worked at a place where a department, armed with five grand, asked us if we could make them a viral video. In their defense, they didn’t understand the process of how something becomes viral (another gross marketing term), so points at least for the thought. But directly asking for a viral video, or setting out with the intention of making a viral video, is like marrying a stranger for the tax benefits, and not because you love them.

Influencer marketing

Hey bud, if you RT me, I’ll RT you.

As a marketer, you want eyeballs. You’re hungry for eyeballs, you want to pour them all over your website. Some people have lots of eyeballs looking at them; those people are called influencers, and if you’re kind to them, sometimes they’ll let you borrow their eyeball collections.

People with a lot of eyeballs in their collection tend to be good at making things go viral. They often make infographics and eBooks, as well. They are the Aaron Orendorffs of the world (Hey, man!), and they are all-powerful.

“We simply could not function without his tireless efforts.” Video: Fox

“Epic,” “unicorn,” “guru,” etc.

No, it’s not. No, they’re not. No, you’re not.

“That’s hilaaaaaarious.”

“We need more user-generated content.”

The idea behind user-generated content is sound; it’s word-of-mouth for a digital age. Having a strategy to develop user-generated content, though?

Do you ever watch those videos publications like Gothamist do on some donut shop in Brooklyn that’s been around for 140 years? You think, “Wow, they must have a lot of user-generated content!” No, they just make great donuts. If you want your users to generate more content, just make stuff they like.

“Can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!” Video: Fox

Time to follow in mommy and daddy’s footsteps?

For over 20 years my dad spent most of his days with his hands plunged into ice water, gutting and slicing one fish at a time. I spend my days trying to get prospects to type their names into a CTA form field. In those final years before the sun explodes and we’re all plunged into an every-man-for-himself scenario, who’s going to be more useful? My money’s on the old man.

I told you that there was a happy ending, and in a way, the sun exploding and annihilating everything from Mercury out past Pluto is a happy ending. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, from your parents and their grinding manual labor jobs, to us word-pickers and graph-checkers who moan when we can’t find the right long-tail keywords to optimize conversion rates. One day everyone that’s left will go together, burning up with all the finest email lists, and all the leads. It’s all going to be fine.

People make some great stuff, and for the short time we’re here, it’s up to us to help get it in front of as many of the right people as possible. That’s your job, and it’s a fun one.

What are some of the marketing terms you hate to need? Drop them in the comments below, then download this free infographic. Jokes, there’s no infographic.

More here:

The Part-Time Nihilist’s Guide to Marketing Terms You Hate, But Need

How Big Brands Use Urgency to Drive Conversions During the Holidays

urgency-holidays-blog
Hurry! Holiday shopping is upon us, which means big conversion opportunities await. Image via Shutterstock.

What’s worse than not being able to find the perfect Christmas gift for someone you love?

How about finding it, then realizing it’s sold out? Sold out.

The thought alone is enough to cause a pre-Christmas meltdown, but while we’re all fretting over the perfect gift, big-brand retailers and ecommerce site owners are off singing carols, waiting for the dollars to roll in. But how do they do it? How do they make us want to buy so feverishly every year? It’s not as if holiday marketing differs significantly from one year to the next.

Holiday marketing is — and always has been — all about urgency, about creating a real (or at least semi-real) timeframe in which people need to act, or they’ll miss out.

In this post, we’re going to look at how brands including Apple, Toys R’ Us, Target and Starbucks use the power of the ‘limited time only’ offer, to turn browsers into customers, who combined will spend billions of dollars online and in-store over the holidays. Then, we’re going to show you how to apply those same principles to your landing pages, so that you can create high-converting offers in time for the Christmas sales.

Urgency: Nothing new at Target

If anyone knows when these Target ads are from, please drop a comment below. They certainly predate the internet, but look at the copy; it wouldn’t look out of place on landing page made today.

The ad features a catchy headline with a clear CTA (“Charge it!”), a descriptive subheader (“Open to midnight! Every weeknight till Christmas.”) and a few simple visuals to show the reader exactly what to expect.

target-full-page-ad
This ad may be decades old, but the principles that made it a success then still ring true today. Image via Target.

It might be a print ad from the 1950s or 60s, but this Christmas ad from Target has almost everything a great landing page needs. Let’s examine it a bit more closely.

target-headline

We talk about headers and headlines a lot at Unbounce. They’re the first port of call for visitors to your landing page, and if you’re not pitching something worth their time, they’re going to bounce.

Your headline creates intrigue, suggests benefits and, especially in the case of holiday campaigns, creates urgency.

Target’s “Be gifty, be thrifty” approach is cutesy and memorable, but also totally appropriate for introducing a holiday sale — it’s about gifts and savings. But “Be gifty, be thrifty” isn’t strong enough on its own. Adding ‘but hurry!’ turns the appreciative smile that comes with a good rhyme, toward a sense of urgency. Better hurry, this ad says, or all the best deals will be gone. It’s a technique that’s been used since cavemen first scratched ads for saber-toothed tiger skins onto the walls of their caves, and it works every time.

Show ’em what you’ve got

Here’s something else we see on modern landing pages — show the people what you’ve got. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an ad, a landing page or an overlay, it’s a pitch. You’re showing people what you’ve got, and at Christmas time, the best way to show people what you’ve got, is to literally show them what you’ve got.

target-featured-products

Make it easy

There’s another key tactic at play here: Make it easy. That means, make it clear that shopping with you is going to be simple and straightforward (more so than if you were to shop with the competition). Time is short, and you need gifts — we’re here to help. Target makes it easy by telling its customers that their Dayton’s credit cards are good there.

Apply it: Target’s four simple rules for creating urgency

  1. Create an attention-grabbing headline which mentions gifts, savings and timeframe.
  2. Ramp up the urgency by getting specific about limited availability.
  3. Show the people what you’ve got.
  4. Suggest to the people how easy the shopping experience can be.

Buy one get one free at Starbucks

For Starbucks lovers, the BOGOF on holiday drinks offer is legendary. And so is the three-hour window in which you can redeem that offer. You’ll rally your friends, you’ll take a half day if need be, but you’re getting to Starbucks between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00.

starbucks-bogo
One for me, one for you… or maybe two for me, none for you. Image via Starbucks.

The variety of holiday drinks on offer is actually secondary in this ad. The focus here in on getting you into the store at a very specific time (between 2:00 and 5:00, when Starbucks is likely to be less busy because everyone’s at work.)

Where’s the urgency? It’s unlikely that they’ll sell out of your favorite, unless they run out of gingerbread syrup. The urgency lies in getting in before the offer closes. You can always come back tomorrow, but Starbucks has us by the brain and we want it now.

The BOGOF offer is so effective, and not just on Starbucks holiday drinks, it almost doesn’t matter what you’re giving away, because one of them is free. That’s evidenced here by the headline and subheader, which are literally a statement of the what/when/where of the offer — no frills required!

Use images that resonate

You go to Starbucks for one reason and one reason only — coffee. Starbucks creates urgency with its visuals by showing customers what they want to see — red cups.

Apply It: Create urgency using limited time offers

Whether it’s a countdown, an end date or a specific timeframe during which people can redeem your offer, or sign up for your webinar, create urgency on your landing page by guiding visitors towards not only what they can get, but also when. Making your countdown highly visible, with either a static image or an animated countdown, only adds to the sense of urgency, too.

Super crazy Christmas cracker bonanza!

If it looks urgent, it’ll make people feel urgent. Most of us are highly receptive to design elements such as color, font, font size and the shape of various elements. Seeing lots of different sized fonts on an ad can be distracting, but it can also create a sense of urgency and liveliness. Look at this example from Toys R’ Us:

toys-r-us
Only a toy store at Christmas could get away with design this over the top. Image via Toys R’ Us.

Most of this is just branding — it’s the way Toys R’ Us does its thing — but around the holidays, the mixing of lower and upper case letters, the bouncy font and the enlarging of certain words has the effect of creating a sort of… hysteria. That’s perhaps not the right way to describe it, but you get the idea, right? It’s all SAVE! SAVE! SAVE! THOUSANDS! TOYS! SHOP EARLY! BIGGEST EVER! QUANTITIES ARE LIMITED!

Apply it: No holds barred

Let’s just go ahead and list every bit of urgency and sale-related copy in this ad:

  • Biggest Cyber Monday Sale Ever!
  • Online only!
  • Save up to 60% on THOUSANDS of items!
  • Quantities are limited, so SHOP EARLY!
  • Shop now

Liberal use of the exclamation mark, capital letters in the middle of sentences and restrictions on when and where you can shop, turn this ad into an assault on your sense of urgency. You know what they say: Go big, or go home. When you’ve got product to move, and if you’ve got the confidence to shout about it from the rooftops, then you go all in.

Stuff, stuff stuff: Shop now for some stuff

What was true fifty years ago is true now; people love stuff, and if you show it to them in a thoughtful way, they’ll buy it.

apple
Apple might have all the budget in the world, but the principles they leverage are free for the taking. Image via Apple.

This ad from Apple is actually for the Black Friday sales, but it works just as well as a Christmas sales ad. Remember in our first vintage Target ad where they showed us what was on offer? Apple doesn’t just show us what’s on offer, they base their entire design on it.

Normally, it’d be pretty crude (and difficult) to sneak your logo into the same ad five times, but don’t forget, when it comes to Christmas sales and ecommerce, as with your landing page, those who dare, win.

Ready. Set. Shop.

How many times do we need to say this? There’s nothing subtle about creating urgency in Christmas sales ads. Apple’s “Ready. Set. Shop.” headline pulls no punches. This is a race, son, and if you’re not quick, all the best stuff will be gone, gone, gone before grandpa nods off after his second cup of eggnog.

And, like old-school Target wanted you to know that your Drayton’s credit card was ok with them. Apple wants you to know that you can shop online or in-store, it’s totally your choice.

Apply It: Leverage your products

There’s a theme running through most of these Christmas ads, and it’s that your product is your greatest asset when it comes to creating urgency.

There will be people who want what you’ve got, and those people are your target audience. The Christmas sales are not a time to pitch for new customers, necessarily. What they are, is a chance to ride the wave of urgency and raise both awareness and revenue. If that means pushing your product more than usual, now is the time to do it.

As quick as a kiss underneath the mistletoe

There certainly is plenty of room for festive cheer, and we encourage you to Christmas up your landing pages as much as possible. But the fact is, people respond to urgency, we don’t want to miss out. It’s why the same techniques work year upon year, and why creating a high-converting holiday landing page really isn’t so complicated.

Still not sure how to build high-converting holiday landing pages?

Download Unbounce and Campaign Monitor’s free guide: The Ultimate Holiday Email Marketing + Landing Page Guide
By providing your contact information, you’re authorizing Unbounce and Campaign Monitor to contact you with marketing materials. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Excerpt from:

How Big Brands Use Urgency to Drive Conversions During the Holidays

25 Inspirational Resources for Copywriters

copywriter's workstation
Image via Shutterstock.

As a copywriter, you need to be immersed in what’s going on in the world, even when those things seem completely unrelated to what you’re doing. Why? Because you’re writing for real people, who may end up being customers if you treat them right. We’re all just people, and what we really connect over is stuff which makes us go, “Woah!”

For example, did you know that the poster for Netflix’s nostalgic 80s sci-fi series, Stranger Things, was designed using an iPad Pro and Apple pencil?

Stranger Things poster made on ipad
Image via Kyle Lambert.

That may not seem relevant when you’re building out marketing campaigns and landing pages, but when you understand how people are thinking, and what they’re doing with technology, art and words, you have a better toolkit for building conversion-friendly content.

Here are 25 inspirational and practical resources, aimed at expanding your mind and copywriting toolkit. If you think we’ve missed one, drop us a comment below and help us to grow this list.

Technical and grammar

Interesting reads on writing well, and how not to use the semicolon.

1. The Writer — readability checker

The team at The Writer are all about making your words work harder. There’s plenty of general advice there for strengthening your copy, but what I really love is their readability checker, which gives you instant feedback on how readable your copy is, on a scale of Harry Potter to Harvard Law Review.

2. The Oatmeal (posters)

I wish they’d do more of these posters, because not only are they funny, they’re also genuinely useful.

The Oatmeal semicolon poster
Check out the one on semicolons: “Using a semicolon isn’t hard; I once saw a party gorilla do it.”

3. Mary Norris, Comma Queen (The New Yorker)

One of my absolute favorite resources is the Comma Queen series by Mary Norris, copy editor at The New Yorker. In her witty, to-the-point style, she’ll teach you how to properly use commas and semicolons, and how to understand the difference between lie and lay.

4. The Unbounce Dejargonator Extension

There are ways to writing convincingly, without using heady, technical jargon. When you’re speaking to people who aren’t marketers — or even if they are — it’s really beneficial to speak like a human being. Simple, right? This awesome extension for Chrome helps you do just that, by suggesting changes to your landing page copy. It’s like having an Unbounce editor all to yourself, you lucky sausage.

5. Ellen Brock, Editor

Ellen Brock is a freelance novel editor, but her advice is extremely valuable for all kinds of writers. When you understand story arcs and how to prioritize your work, you can apply those skills to your marketing copy.

6. Thesaurus.com

No, it’s not just a website for looking up synonyms, Thesaurus has a bunch of other really useful articles and tools for improving your writing. Between it and Dictionary.com there’s a lot of information on the difference between the likes of Who and Whom, and commonly misunderstood words.

Want to Write Copy That Converts?

Download the Conversion Marketer’s Guide to Landing Page Copywriting!
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

Content marketing

Using what you write to inform, entertain and convert.

7. Shopify Blog

A little bit like Entrepreneur, only focused entirely on e-commerce. If your landing page is for an online store, what you learn from Shopify could help to make sure customers stick around and spend once they arrive.

8. Copyblogger

Really more of a general content marketing blog these days than straight copywriting advice, Copyblogger is a great resource for anyone in need of specific know-how, or just a bit of inspiration. Well-written, engaging posts and updated regularly.

9. Copyhackers

If you’re a new freelancer, or new to content marketing, Copyhackers is the place to go for fundamental advice on running your show. Even if you’re an experienced writer or marketer, if you need trusted advice in a hurry, bets are that Copyhackers have covered it.

Whether you’re a new or an experienced copywriter, this comprehensive guide to freelance copywriting is a cracking place to start. And then there’s the Beginner’s Guide to Writing Facebook Ads.

10. Ceros Blog

Another gem in the world of content marketing, the Ceros blog features loads of examples of effective creative content, in the form of opinion pieces and big brand analyses.

Reading and culture

Get outside the world of click and convert for a bit, and see what words can do for your soul.

11. Stephen King — 20 Rules for Writers

I hate seeing the words rules and writing put together, but King’s top 20 — let’s call them guidelines — can help to get you on track, or back on track depending on where you left off.

Stephen King

12. The Electric Typewriter

Feed your soul at The Electric Typewriter. Possibly the internet’s most delicious collection of articles, essays and short stories from the world’s best journalists and authors. This is online reading for connoisseurs.

13. Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man

Here’s something for when you need some downtime. Science-fiction author Ray Bradbury’s brilliant collection of short stories, The Illustrated Man. I’m a big fan of short stories, and I believe that reading and understanding them can help you to craft more potent copy. Why? Check out this post “For More Meaningful Copy, Think Like a Fiction Writer”’ to find out.

14. The short stories of O. Henry

Henry is considered a legend amongst short story authors. His command of simple language, and how he used it to offer incredibly short, but always poignant ideas makes his work a good body to study if you’re trying to learn how to be more economical with words.

15. Brain Pickings with Bob Dylan

A little off the beaten track here, but in this interview with the singer-songwriter, Dylan muses on the value of new ideas and what it takes to create something with real meaning. Lofty, for sure, but like I said at the start, it’s good to know what’s going on in the world.

16. Stephen King, On Writing

In relation to my last point, if you’d like some advice on writing fiction, then Stephen King’s On Writing is a fabulous resource.

17. How To Format a Screenplay

Here’s a fine example of stepping outside your comfort zone. Writing exists in so many formats, and screenplays for TV and movies are one of the most technical and, in my opinion, difficult examples of the craft. Approach this as a pencil illustrator might approach drawing with ink for the first time, and enjoy it, it’s an interesting read.

Journalism

To-the-point advice from leading journos and editors at The New York Times.

18. The Opinionator blog, NYT

Plenty of musings on the technical and metaphysics of writing from opinion writers at The New York Times. Interesting reads, and the occasional gem of inspiration or practical advice to be had.

19. Writing rules and advice from the NYT

If you really want to write well and effectively, then taking heed of how (arguably) the world’s best newspaper does it is smart.

20. After Deadline blog, NYT

A more technical, nerdy look at The New York Times’s approach to copy and editing. An interesting blog to scan over in your lunch break. Keep it bookmarked and build up a vast knowledge of copy-related wisdom from seasoned writers and editors, which might come in handy one day.

Video

Talks and interviews with linguistics experts, authors and journalists from around the world.

21. Charlie Rose interviews

Charlie Rose is arguably the greatest interviewer of all time, and he’s had some of the most famous and influential people at his table over the past 25 years. I’ve linked here to his segments with key journalists, but you’ll also find talks there he’s done with well-known authors, including David Foster Wallace and Stephen King.

22. TED playlists

Inspiring talks from authors and linguistics experts on how to tell stories, how language evolves and even the origins of words themselves. Look out for The Mystery Box talk from Star Trek director J. J. Abrams, in which he talks about how to effectively draw your audience into a world of possibilities — exactly what you want from your landing pages, right?

Typography

Get to know the letters which form our words and shape our world.

23. I Love Typography

You click, you change the font, you click, you change to another font. Typography affects readability, emotional impact, tone and whether people stick around long enough to click, or buy. Take a dive here into the completely nerdy world of typography.

Advertising

When words become household sayings.

24. Fast Company, “The Best Advertising Slogans of All Time”

My all-time favorite slogan has to be the one Toys R’ Us used for a period in the 1980s — “You’ll Never Outgrow Us.” Creepy as hell, right? Here’s Fast Company’s round-up of the most popular advertising slogans of all time.

Bonus

25. 10 books For copywriters

Unbounce veteran contributor Aaron Orendorff recently tweeted this top 10 list of copywriting books by copywriters. I’ll confess that I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but Aaron knows his stuff, so you should check these guys and girls out.

That’s it for now, but we’d love for this list to grow. If you have an awesome resource that you’d like to share with your fellow writers, drop it in the comments below, and we’ll add it to the list.

Original post:  

25 Inspirational Resources for Copywriters

Simple Recipes for No-Fail Landing Page Copy [+ Free Downloadable Worksheet]

cake ingredients
Who knew landing pages and cake had so much in common? Image via Shutterstock.

In some ways, building a landing page is like baking a cake. Certain people prefer chocolate, and others like cream fillings, but there are some fundamental formulas (for both cakes and landing pages) that are tried and tested, and proven to produce positive results.

This post is a recipe for a solid vanilla sponge landing page. For advice on design (a.k.a. the buttercream frosting), check out these posts on user experience and essential design principles.

Here are the formulas we’ll cover in this post, using examples from great landing pages:

  • Action words + Product reference = Winning headline
  • Your exact offering + Promise of ease = Winning subheader
  • Your best offerings + Worded in the form of benefit statements + Appropriate sectioning = Winning body content
  • Active words + ‘I want to…’ + A/B testing = Winning call to action

Want to test the formulas out for yourself?

Download our FREE worksheet for creating no-fail landing page copy.
By entering your email you’ll receive weekly Unbounce Blog updates and other resources to help you become a marketing genius.

The header is always active — it wants you to do something. The header almost always directly references the product or service, as well. As Kurt Vonnegut said,

To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

What are active words?

In the same way that active voice makes a sentence stronger by shifting focus onto the subject, active words help to promote action and create urgency. Active words in headers are usually verbs like build, get, launch, unlock, pledge, invest and give.

Here are a few examples of effective, action-led landing page headlines.

Codecademy winning headline
Codecademy’s headline is about as close to perfect as it gets.
Lyft winning headline
Lyft doesn’t use the “Get started” CTA we’ll talk about, but that headline is a winner.
Pro tip: To maximize your conversion efforts, ensure there’s message match between your click-through ad and headline.

Your exact offering + Promise of ease = Winning subheader

Your header is an active statement, introducing your product. Your subheader is the second wave, there to support the header and give visitors a reason to continue reading. In the subheader, you tell your audience exactly what you have to offer, and highlight how incredibly easy the whole process will be.

Easy as pie

Online, all it takes is a few taps and a few clicks to make a potentially big decision, but if it’s not easy, a lot of us won’t bother doing it. That’s especially true of a landing page, which is essentially a 24/7 elevator pitch for your business.

As a visitor to your landing page, I need to know if what you’re offering is going to benefit me, and that by handing over my details, you’re going to do most of the heavy lifting for me (at least to begin with.)

In our model for the no-fail landing page copy, the relationship between header and subheader looks like this:

Header: Introduces the idea or service in an active way (inspire your audience to do something).

Subheader: Backs up the header by giving a reason for your visitor to read on.

Outbrain winning subheader
Ooo, easy setup — just what we all love to see.

This example from Outbrain might not have the prettiest header or subheader, but both illustrate exactly what we’ve been talking about. The header is active, and so is the subheader, which tells you exactly what the main benefits of using Outbrain are, along with the promise of an easy setup.

Your best offerings + worded in the form of benefit statements + appropriate sectioning = Winning body content

The bulk of your landing page copy does the same job as the header and the subheader: it presents the benefits of your product to the user, and encourages them to act.

It’s tempting to go off-piste in the body content, to talk about your values and how you donate half of your profits to charity, but hold off. You need to make sure that your product is one your audience wants first. Stick to the benefits, and expand on those.

Break up your content

You’ll probably have more than one point to make on your landing page, but even if you don’t, breaking content up with headers and bullet points increases the chances of something catching your reader’s eye. It’s the equivalent of a supermarket arranging its products into categories and shelves, rather than bundling everything together in a big bargain bin.

With your body content, just like with your subheader, focus on what you have to offer, why it’s better than the competition’s and how you’ll do most of the heavy lifting should your prospect hand over their valuable email address. Let’s take a look at how MuleSoft connects header, subheader and body content.

Mulesoft body copy

The header: In this case, the header is just what the product is, which is likely the most appropriate approach for this audience.

The subheader: The subheader — or supporting header — focuses on the main benefit of the handbook. Clearly, MuleSoft knows its audience, and is giving it to them straight.

The body: It’s still laser-focused on those main benefits, giving visitors ample opportunity to become engaged.

Pro tip: A landing page is a pitch, and like any pitch, your job is to put forward your best offerings and do your best to secure a follow-up. If you’re struggling to prioritize your offerings, consider the following:

  • What does your product do, and how does it make your prospect’s life easier?
  • What are your product’s most ground-breaking or useful features?
  • Who does your product help?
  • How easy it is to get started?
  • Who else uses your product?

Here’s a great example from Startup Weekend. The body content answers all of the main questions, with no BS:

Startup Weekend landing page copy

Active words + “I want to…” + A/B testing = Winning CTA

Since we’re talking about no-fail copy, like blueprints for you to riff from, we’ll tell you straight up that the most common call to action phrase that makes it to live landing pages, is “Get started”. That’s followed closely by anything with the word “get” in it.

Why does ‘Get started’ work?

It needs to be clear that your call to action is where the next step happens. If you want serious leads, then the call to action button is not the place to test out your funniest one-liners. Just like the header and subheader, the call to action is active, it’s job is to create momentum.

“Get started” suggests a journey, it suggests self-improvement, which is probably why it works better than “Submit” or “Subscribe.” It could also be that “Get started” works because it finishes the sentence we’re thinking when a sign-up is close: “I want to… get started.”

Pro-tip: Best practices are best practices for a reason, but don’t use a “Get” CTA just because I suggested it. Do some research, craft a sound hypothesis and A/B test your button copy for maximum conversions.
Fluidsurveys CTA copy
FluidSurveys‘s button copy is active and timely.
Cheez burger CTA copy
Cheezburger pairs tried and true button copy with another one of our favorite words: free.
blab cake CTA copy
BlabCake uses a slightly different version of the “Get” formula for their coming soon page.

Conclusion

Let’s look at all of the formulas together:

  • Action words + Product reference = Winning headline
  • Your exact offering + Promise of ease = Winning subheader
  • Your best offerings + Worded in the form of benefit statements + Appropriate sectioning = Winning body content
  • Active words + ‘I want to…’ + A/B testing = Winning call to action

What you’ve got in these formulas, is the recipe for a basic vanilla sponge — the foundations of a successful landing page. Put them together and then — like any good marketer — your job becomes testing that landing page to see what works best for your audience.

What are your favorite copywriting formulas? Share ’em in the comments!

Original article – 

Simple Recipes for No-Fail Landing Page Copy [+ Free Downloadable Worksheet]

For More Meaningful Copy, Think Like a Fiction Writer

writer and typewriter
Think like a fiction writer (typewriter not required). Image by Everett Collection via Shutterstock.

Copywriting is part of a bigger strategy aimed at selling something in exchange for money, for time, for support and so on. We know that appealing to emotions such as sadness, happiness and frustration works, but we’re grinding this method into a rut.

The world’s great fiction writers invite us on a stroll through an emotional garden, using a complex map of ideas, which over time is gradually folded back onto itself into some sort of resolution. Great stories will introduce conflict and danger, tempered with moments of love and happiness.

It’s the ups and downs of a story that get us. It’s the story’s ability to press on some common nerve we all share: love is good, ghosts are scary and so on.

ghost-drone
What’s the consensus on ghost drones? Image via Giphy.

Sure, novelists have tens of thousands of words to bring us to the resolution of their ideas, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from their methods.

Here we are going to explore how great stories are structured, and then how to apply that structure to your copywriting.

Breaking rules in writing is encouraged, by the way, so feel free to read this post and then disregard everything completely. In fact, drop a comment below about how you structure your writing — maybe we’ll learn something.

How stories are structured

I’m not the first person by a long pitch to outline the common structure of stories — people have been doing it since forever. Kurt Vonnegut, author of Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and other books and short stories, describes stories as curves:

Somebody gets into trouble, gets out of it again. People love that story, never get tired of it.

That, and a few other variations, is the foundation of lots of stories, but we can break it down even further. Think of any famous great story — Moby Dick, Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Green Mile and see whether you can pick out the following four structural elements:

  1. A larger scale problem: This is the overarching problem affecting the world in which the story’s characters exist. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the larger scale problem is a society in which people are cripplingly oppressed. It’s usually a problem, because problems offer more opportunities for conflict and transformation.
  2. A conflicted protagonist: Stories are about conflict, and about attempts by the characters in them to resolve said conflicts. Vonnegut said, “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them, in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”
  3. A threat(s): As readers, we feed on drama. We don’t like when the protagonist is faced with a threat, but we crave it all the same. The threat is ever-present, always clawing at the protagonist. Even in fairy tales, the princess is often threatened by a wicked witch.
  4. A transformation: From conflict comes transformation, the other thing we crave from stories. Transformation comes after the character has been raised up, knocked down, ground into the dirt and then raised again.

Treating your copy like a story

You can take the four elements of a fictional story and use them to figure out how to present your message. Think of it as building a jigsaw puzzle, then picking the piece which best represents the whole picture.

Here is what you should consider, if your intention is to make your copywriting representative of a larger story:

Is your campaign related to a large-scale problem, idea or state of being?

In other words, what’s the context? What’s going on in the world?

Does your campaign have a subject the audience can root for?

That can be a character, or you can use the reader as the subject — put them in conflict.

What’s the threat?

What’s the thing that’s going to get the reader’s blood pumping?

Where does the transformation happen?

This could be where your actual copy lives. Everything else is a set-up for the transformation.

Here are are a few examples to show the storytelling approach in action.

landing page
Well if this doesn’t pull on your heartstrings…

Designed to Move’s landing page uses some pretty standard techniques for stirring your emotions, but it’s for a good cause. The message conforms to some of the structural elements we’ve mentioned, which make stories so appealing.

We have protagonists (the children) and we have threats (obesity, disease, etc.) The problem is this idea that children today might die before their parents do. The transformation, then, is up to the reader. Specifically, it’s up to the reader to click on Designed to Move’s call to action in order to trigger the transformation.

klout landing page
Seems pretty non-threatening… but is it?

How about this example from Klout? Here, we’re thrust into the story as the protagonists. There’s no doubt — this landing page wants the reader to examine their life and what they’re doing with it.

What’s the larger scale problem? Well, it’s not a problem per se. Rather, Klout eludes to the idea that you’re not being recognized for the things that make you tick… that you’re not living your best life. Think about that for a second, and now examine the feeling you have… that’s the threat. And it’s enough to make you want to sign up, to transform. By reading Klout’s message, you’re pulled into your own story, and only you can resolve it.

Nailing that one-liner

Before you set off to pen a landing page worthy of a Pulitzer, here’s a little more inspiration for that first line.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

Powerful because: We learn something about the narrator, something about the object of the narrator’s affection and about the tone and content of the story. For those who haven’t read Lolita, let’s say that while the protagonist is conflicted, he’s certainly not conventional, or even appropriate. In spite of the controversy, there’s a world to be imagined from this opener, and it’s fewer than 10 words long.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – George Orwell, Nineteen Eight-Four (1949)

Powerful because: The scene is set, and something is awry — clocks don’t strike thirteen. Orwell’s opening line goes one of two ways: we imagine a world where things have changed for the better, or one where things have gone horribly wrong.

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” – Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis (1915)

Powerful because: It’s menacing, it’s right to the point and it’s so completely off the wall, that we’d be bonkers not to read on. Vonnegut said, “To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.” Rather fitting. Remember this when you write your own copy.

“All this happened, more or less.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Powerful because: It’s a classic opener, promising epic tales of misadventure, but with a sardonic twist which suggests a keen eye might be needed. It has some classic storytelling elements, too, namely that we might be dealing with a narrator who’s experienced great trauma or adventure.

“Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash.” – J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)

Powerful because: Who’s Vaughan? Why has he been in more than one car crash? Why does it matter? There are no car crashes without drama, and we’re bound to be introduced to some pretty traumatized characters later on.

The best one-liners present a curiosity to fret over, or a character to wonder about. The best one-liners hint at a widespread problem and prompt the reader to think about a possible transformation. The best one-liners, like the best stories and the best copy, are invitations.

If you can invite your reader into a world of stories and conflicts and transformations with your copywriting, then you will have created something commercial, with a truly fictional heart. And that, is a story worth telling.

Read More – 

For More Meaningful Copy, Think Like a Fiction Writer

BLUF: 4 Examples of High-impact Copy Inspired By this Military Tactic [+ Free Downloadable Worksheet]

Woman morse code
Imagine you’re tapping out a telegraph the next time you write your landing page copy. Image by Everett Collection via Shutterstock.

Right before the Titanic sank, at around 1:00 a.m. on April 15, 1912, somebody sent the following telegram, an incredible — albeit sad — example of BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):

CQD CQD SOS SOS = FROM MGY (RMS TITANIC) = WE HAVE STRUCK ICEBERG = SINKING FAST = COME TO OUR ASSISTANCE = POSITION: LAT 41.46 N. = LON 50.14 W. MGY

BLUF is originally a military communications technique, in which the conclusion — the most vital information and actions — is placed right at the start.

As a copywriting tool for your landing page, BLUF is effective for a few reasons, including:

  • highlighting your best copy right away,
  • reducing the likelihood of people bouncing due to lack of clarity and
  • giving the reader what they need to make an informed decision (respect people’s time and intelligence and they’ll respect you).

Look at this example from the Starbucks website:

Starbucks ad
Starbucks proving that sometimes less is more.

When the folks at Starbucks released their Italian-Style Ham & Spicy Salami sandwich in January, they knew that all they really needed to do was show the sandwich and tell you what’s in it. Throw in some colorful words, like handcrafted, splash and tangy, and you’re salivating.

This is BLUF. Starbucks has given you everything you need to know about whether this sandwich is for you, all in about 30 words. If you really want to “Learn More”, you can  (it has 480 calories and little pickled peppers, if you’re interested).

Now that you know what BLUF is and have some idea of how it works, let’s look at some more examples, and then how to put BLUF into practice on your own landing pages. Get ready to nerd out.

Download Your Free Learn How To BLUF Worksheet

Craft killer BLUF-inspired copy that converts with this FREE downloadable worksheet.
By supplying your email address, you authorize Unbounce to update you with content from the Unbound Landing Page and Conversion Optimization Blog.

BLUF example #2: Gumroad

Gumroad landing page
Gumroad’s landing page is a strong example of BLUF, giving visitors the pertinent info they need right up front.

What is Gumroad’s BLUF?

Sell music directly to your listeners.
See higher conversion, lower fees and more customer control.

Gumroad’s bottom line is that it allows musicians to sell directly to listeners. That might be enough for some people, but the landing page includes some key features of the service, like lower fees and the possibility of higher conversions. If you’re a musician, Gumroad is sounding pretty good by now, so the next logical step is to attempt to seal the deal by inviting you to sign up for free.

There’s more information in the page section below if you’re in need of a bit more convincing, but essentially everything you need to know to make a decision is right there up front.

BLUF example #3: Human

Human landing page
Human recognizes that we humans have very limited attention spans.

What is Human’s BLUF?

Human’s BLUF is even simpler than Gumroad’s; its app will encourage you to do 30 minutes or more of exercise every day. It’s a fitness tracker that feeds you little nuggets of praise, pushing you to do more.

Like Gumroad, the copy on Human’s landing page passes the Blank Sheet of Paper test, giving visitors only the bare necessities in order to make a decision.

Again, the call to action mentions that the app is free to download, making it harder to refuse.

BLUF example #4: Dyson

What if the thing you’re offering is complex? Further, what if you want to highlight the fact that it’s complex, but still have people understand it? All the more reason to use BLUF. Nothing changes.

The Dyson team prides themselves on making things that are intuitive and easy to use. They also want you and the competition to know that there is absolutely nothing else like a Dyson. They’re not shy about giving you the technical details, but look at how they do it.

This unique 360 vision system uses complex mathematics, probability theory, geometry and trigonometry to map and navigate a room. So it knows where it is, where it’s been and where it’s yet to clean.

What is Dyson’s BLUF (and what else have they done right?)

Dyson landing page
Dyson effectively blends simplicity using the BLUF tactic with the complexity of it’s high-tech product.

Nobody who’s just looking for a bog-standard vacuum cleaner is going to be interested in the ins and outs of the 360 Eye — or its $1,200 price tag. The people who are interested in this cleaner are gadget geeks and tech brains with money to burn.

The folks at Dyson know that, and they sell based on the vacuum’s features. The bottom line is that the people who are most likely to buy the 360 Eye will be attracted by certain words and phrases, like “robot navigation technology” and “probability theory.”

Dyson knows that the people who buy this cleaner will want to stand and look at it with their friends and say,

It uses trigonometry to figure out that it still needs to clean near the fridge.

Plan your copy using BLUF

Planning what to write on your landing page with BLUF is easy.

If I’m a visitor to your landing page, I have a specific need to fill. I want you to:

  • show me how your offering meets my needs (whether it’s a car alarm or a cake decorating set),
  • give me reason to think that your thing is better than everyone else’s and
  • invite me to learn more, sign up or buy.

If I want to know more, I can scroll, but if you can fulfill my need convincingly right there in your opening, I’m less likely to visit somebody else’s landing page, right?

Consider this: How often do you stare at an article or landing page and have no idea what you’re reading? Let’s avoid that.

Exercise: Learn how to BLUF

This is just for fun, so don’t panic. Thinking about the examples above, pick a product or service (your own or someone else’s) and have a crack at this. I’ve filled it out for PayPal as an example:

Words/phrases you associate with this product/service Problems this product/service solves Things which make this product/service better than the rest
Money, finances, security, payments, safety, ease, simplicity, universal, send, receive, business, invoice, used by millions, trusted, fraud protection • Sending and receiving money safely
• No need to hand over bank details
• Trade in different currencies
• Keep track of business payments
• Can receive payments/send invoices to people who don’t have PayPal
• Work easily with any currency
• Access your money anywhere in the world

Visualizing your thoughts and features like this starts to give you an idea of what your conclusion, key points and actions might be. It’s the framework for your BLUF copy.

We’ve now got plenty of material to create a PayPal landing page with. We might say something like:

Send and Receive Money Safely
Access your money anywhere. Trade business invoices in any currency.
Start trading today

Outlining your copy first can be useful for informing your design. It’s something that copywriter Alastaire Allday talks about in his ebook, Think Like a Copywriter.

Wrapping up

The essence of BLUF is about giving your reader the information they need right away, and allowing them to make an informed decision about a follow-up.

While being so scant in your introduction may sound scary, just like in dating, confidence pays off big time. It’s much easier for people to buy into your idea when you’re completely behind it yourself. You still need to be descriptive, but highlight your best parts straight away. Don’t beat around the bush.

Good luck using BLUF to take your landing page copywriting to another level.

From:

BLUF: 4 Examples of High-impact Copy Inspired By this Military Tactic [+ Free Downloadable Worksheet]