2 (and a half) Lazy, Ineffective Copywriting Tactics I’m Tired Of Seeing

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I really wanted to start this post with something like:

“I’m sorry…”

Or

“I messed up…”

Because, well, I did.

If you’re signed up for my newsletter, I promised you one copywriting tip per week and the truth is — 

I HAVE BEEN SLACKING.

While I am sorry about that, starting a post with some shit like “I messed up” is a cliche.

In fact, that’s a problem with a lot of copywriting today.

The internet has made the skill and techniques of copywriting spread quickly. 

But, during that process, these skills have gotten into the hands of some copywriters who have used these tactics so much they’ve become practically useless.

Because of all that (and because I don’t want you to become one of those copywriters) — 

I want to point out 2 (and a half) examples of cliches I commonly see in copywriting today and show you how to fix them.

Why 2 and a half?

Well, I tried to find 3 examples.

I really did.

That might look better in a headline, but the truth is — 

I LIKE COPYWRITING.

There. I said it.

I just couldn’t find another thing that was worthy of a complete third bullet.

I did find one that comes close, though. You’ll find out what it is soon enough.

So let’s get into it.

Note: I’m not a copywriting god. I’m just a dude trying to get better and share my thoughts with you. I’ve done ALL the things I call out here. So, don’t take this as me saying I’m perfect.

I’m not.

The examples you see below probably work in some circumstances. And maybe I’m wrong about them. But I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Here are 2 (and a half) Lazy, Ineffective Copywriting Tactics I’m Tired Of Seeing

1. “What you’re doing isn’t good enough, you need [product].”

Full transparency — I’ve done this.

And I think many beginning copywriters have.

Hell, even experienced copywriters at good brands do it. Check out the copy on Leadpages’ homepage.

Why is this (in my opinion) bad?

It’s preachy. And it tells, rather than shows.

As a brand, a copywriter, whatever, you should come across as more knowledgeable than your reader — 

But this knowledge should be implied. You don’t want to beat your reader over the head with it.

This copy has taken what’s likely voice-of-customer (the phrase “get online”) and then weaponized it against the reader.

“Hello, up there! You can come down from your podium now!”

I’m sure this copywriter meant no ill will. The intention of this copy is actually good:

They’re trying to position the reader’s current situation (getting online) as a problem (“not enough”) and then tie their product (Leadpages) to a benefit the reader wants (growing their business).

All that is great.

But the execution misses the mark.

Beyond the preachy tone, this copy tells the reader something instead of showing it.

Here’s what I mean:

Instead of showing the reader WHY they should get online, they’re simply told they should do so — with no further explanation.

There’s a slight silver lining, because the next section goes into customer profiles for different niches, like Speaker & Coaches, Artists & Educators, Health & Fitness, etc.

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 7.50.46 AM.png

I think that’s genius, because it sub-communicates (and shows) that people like you, the reader, are using Leadpages successfully in their businesses.

But I’d do it a bit differently.

I’d still link to these profiles, but I’d pull a quote from each of them about the benefits/results those customers have gotten with Leadpages.

“2 months after downloading Leadpages, we grew our email list by 2,637 people and increased revenue by 135%…”

Not an actual quote, btw. But something like that would work.

Why?

Because it instills a desire in the reader that the current copy does not.

If you tell me:

“You need to cross the street.”

I’ll say:

“Nah I’m actually happy where I’m at. Thanks though!”

But if instead, you say:

“Hey, the last guy who crossed the street found $100 in that ditch over there.”

I’ll be much more likely to cross the street. And you’ll probably find me 15 minutes later crawling on my hands and knees in that ditch.

That is the difference between showing and telling.

2. “Quick Q for you bro”

Shout out to Chris Orzechowski for this.

In his course, Email Copy Academy, he breaks down 14 different types of emails.

One type he mentions is the “suspiciously personal” email.

You’ve definitely seen these. Subject lines like:

“Quick question”

“Following up…”

“Call on Monday”

That sort of stuff.

I’m guilty of this too, though.

I recently did an email copywriting challenge in Copy Chief, ran by Mr. Orzechowski himself.

The subject line I chose?

“Connecting you and John…”

These subject lines aren’t inherently bad. But Chris gave me some sage advice on them:

“But just remember, with great power comes great responsibility. These kinds of suspiciously personal SLs [subject lines] do well. But think of them like cayenne pepper: just a pinch or you’ll get burned.”

Case-in-point:

I signed up for somebody’s newsletter the other day — let’s call him Jeff — and it feels like ALL HE DOES is send these “suspiciously personal” subject lines.

At this point — 

I’m over it.

It’s like the guy who walks up to you at the bar — who you’ve never seen — and tries to act like your best friend.

He wants it to be disarming, but really, unless done VERY well, it feels more skeezy than anything.

Because it makes you wonder:

“Okay, so what do you want from me?”

And until you find out this guy’s “angle,” you’re reserved. You don’t trust him.

You’re waiting for the “catch.”

If you’re falling into a pattern of these types of subject lines — and it’s easy to do — just be straightforward.

Ask yourself:

“What’s the benefit of this email? What value am I delivering?”

And then be honest about it.

Here’s a real-life example from Jeff.

Jeff’s subject line is:

“Following up on Anthony”

(A lot like the subject line I used — “Connecting you and John…” — isn’t it?)

And the email is about one of his clients, named Anthony, who uses Jeff’s sales script to get two new clients.

In fact, Anthony went 2 for 2 on his first sales calls with this script!

If I were the target market, I’d be interested. It seems legitimately valuable.

But since Jeff has tried so hard to be “buddy-buddy” with me and given me a weird taste in my mouth — 

I probably never would have read the email if I didn’t do it for this article.

If you want the privilege of being friends with your audience, you have to show them you actually have good intentions.

The easiest way to do that is to be straightforward about the benefit of your email in the subject line.

I would have changed “Following up on Anthony” to…

“Anthony used these complete sales scripts with 100% success”

Or…

“The full sales script Anthony used to close 2 deals last week”

Or…

“[FULL SCRIPT] Use this to close your next sales call”

Or anything else that clearly conveys the benefit.

You can still be a bit salesy. You can still use a little mystery.

Just don’t act like you’re my best friend until you’ve actually earned that privilege.

Jeff’s repeated use of the suspiciously personal subject line makes me feel like he’s trying to get one over on me — 

Which is a damn shame, because he’s actually offering a free 45-minute call. HUGE VALUE there.

The takeaway?

As Chris told me:

It’s cayenne pepper! Just a dash is all you need.

When in doubt — 

Show a clear benefit.

2.5. “You do this… You do that…”

“You can’t sleep at night…

Your family is starting to think you’re crazy…

You’re even starting to agree with them…”

“You-focused” copy at the beginning of a sales page is hard to get right.

But this one doesn’t deserve a full bullet — and that’s a good thing.

Because it can be effective. And if done correctly, it’s not lazy.

Some people get “you-focused” copy right.

I’ve seen Joanna Wiebe do it very skillfully (but who’s surprised? Not me. She’s great.).

HOWEVER — 

If you’re a mere mortal like the rest of us, “you-focused” copy is very hard to get right.

It’s a bit like walking a tightrope.

Because you’re banking on your reader nodding as they read along, but what if they don’t?

In our example above:

What if the reader slept like a baby every night?

What if their family didn’t think they were crazy?

Even if the product is EXACTLY what they need, they might not ever hear about it, because the lead didn’t align with their experience.

That’s why, if you’re going to use “you-focused” copy at the beginning of a sales page — 

You better have a DAMN good idea of who your reader is…

And you better know EXACTLY what their experience is like…

And you better hit their pain points directly. Like, right on the mark.

Otherwise, they more likely to think the product isn’t for them (even if it really is) and say:

“Welp, see ya later!”

So, what should you do instead?

Dig a little deeper.

Rather than guessing at or telling your reader how (you think) they feel, find a story to illustrate your point.

Let’s imagine you’re selling an online course that helps first-time entrepreneurs, and you want to write:

“You can’t sleep at night…

Your family is starting to think you’re crazy…

You’re even starting to agree with them…”

Don’t do that.

Instead, talk to entrepreneurs about what it was really like when they were starting their first business. 

You’re looking for a story. Ideally, one that illustrates the feelings you’re trying to convey with that “you-focused” copy.

Here’s an example of something that would work better:

“WILL YOU TURN THAT DAMN THING OFF?”

Greg’s wife rolled over and punched his shoulder.

4:45AM…

The alarm had been going off for 15 minutes.

This was starting to happen more often…

And he could tell she was getting tired of it.

Boom. 

Now, you’re drawn into the copy nearly immediately…

You feel the sense of fatigue Greg is experiencing…

You feel the pressure from his wife…

And, if you’re part of the target market…

You get it.

And I didn’t have to use the word “you” once. ;)

Look — 

I’m not crazy enough to think that the tactics I’ve mentioned today NEVER work.

I’m sure they do — 

Sometimes.

But they’re hard to get right. And they’re a bit cliche. All I’m saying is be careful out there.

Robert Lucas