Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Power of Specifics

How much would you be impressed if your telephone or cable company said they’d be “on time” for your home service appointment?

Well sure… it sounds okay. But it’s so vague; your eyes would probably glaze over.

“Whatever… I’ll probably end up sitting home waiting half the day.”

Now suppose instead they said “Your serviceman is currently scheduled to arrive at 10:43 AM”.

I bet that would catch your eye!

It sure did mine.

During a recent trip to Maine I saw that promise made in a commercial for “Bob's Discount Furniture Delivery”. Type your order number into their website and you’ll get a very specific message such as…

“Your furniture is currently scheduled to arrive at 11:34 AM”.

Wow. That got my attention, even though I wasn’t the least bit interested in the commercial and certainly not in ordering or receiving furniture.

Now who knows, it could just be a lot of hot air. Maybe they are late as often as any other company.

But if the goal of an advertisement is to snap you out of your everyday somnolence, as copywriter John Carlton has said, this one worked.

It’s a testament to the power of specificity.

General numbers and phrases imply lack of real knowledge… hedging… maybe even bluffing or lying.

“We should be there in a couple hours.”

Translation: Yeah, right.

Roy H. Williams, in "Secret Formulas of the Wizards of Ads" says, "The simple truth is that nothing sounds quite so much like the truth as the truth, and most people seem to know the truth when they hear it. The truth is never full of loopholes and generalities. The truth is made of specifics and substantiations. It's solid. That's why it's easy to spot in a world full of paper-thin lies, half-lies, and hype."

If you’re writing about a stock advisory service, don’t say “Our service produced impressive gains last year.”

Say “Between February 12 and November 23, 2007 we picked gains of 78%, 143% and 353%”.

If you’re writing about improving health, don’t say “Our program will make you feel better.”

Say “With Acme supplements, you’ll hop out of bed smiling at 5AM… you’ll be able to lose up to 15 pounds in 12 weeks or less… and you’ll love the new vitality you’ll enjoy from our 18 unique and fast-acting ingredients.”

Of course, your product or service has to deliver on those promises. If it doesn't, you might make the first sale, but you'll immediately lose credibility. And even if customers don't return it for a refund, they won't buy from you again.

And adding specific details is more work. You have to dig deeper. Spend more time. Make a bigger commitment.

But just think about what kind of payoffs it can bring you. You could double your response rates to your sales promotions. Your pay-per-click ads could attract thousands more visitors to your site. You could increase your email list size by 25%. And all that could mean hundreds of thousands - even millions - of dollars in extra income for you or your clients.

Side benefit: You'll get a kick out of seeing your writing really coming to life!

Who knew you could get all that just by adding a few specifics?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Avoiding Yet Another New Airline Fee

If you didn't like it when airlines announced $25 fees for "2nd checked bags"... here's worse news...

American Airlines will now levy a surcharge for ANY checked bags.
AP reports AA "will start charging $15 for the first checked bag, cut domestic flights and lay off possibly thousands of workers as it grapples with record-high fuel prices."

For now, competitors are saying they have no plans to match this increase.

We'll see how long that lasts!

Want to avoid these fees altogether? Here you go...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Me? Not Late... Just Running Late

"Peter's running late... but he wanted to let you know he's on his way."

Poor Peter. Something must have happened to him...

But he's doing his best... after all, he's "running". That sounds urgent.

Funny phrase, that "running late" is.

Kind of absolves you of the blame... almost makes your situation passive.

Oh no, I'm not late. I'm just "running late".

That's not so bad, is it?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Copywriting Challenge #1 - Can You Top This Copy?

Ready to go on a mission to save the world? AND get your “name in lights”? PLUS win a genuine Early to Rise hat and T-shirt?

Good, because I’m looking for some volunteers. Now mind you, I’m not talking about stopping global warming, ending the war, or turning “green”.

I just want to make the world safe for… readers. Yes, it’s time to put an end to The Plague of Bad Copy that threatens the planet.

Take a ride around your town and you’ll see it on signs everywhere you turn. Self absorbed… inner directed… and completely without benefit to the reader.

Here’s an example of one I came across just the other day outside a local strip mall.


“Tenants open”? Why should I care about “tenants”?

Obviously the mall owners created this sign to appease their renters…

But what they really should be doing is appeasing their “tenant’s” customers. You and me.

Wouldn’t something like this be more likely to attract shoppers:

“All Our Friendly Shops Open While We’re Sprucing Up!”

I bet you can come up with even better suggestions.

Sure, we can’t expect every retailer and landlord to be professional copywriters - or even well-educated Early to Risers.

But why not lend them a hand - and have a little fun at the same time? So here’s what I propose…

Send me a digital photo of the worst copy you can find. I’ll post it and ask our readers in ETR to suggest better alternatives. Then we’ll take a vote, and maybe even send a copy of the winning entry to the offending “author” if we can track them down.

By the way, here’s one of my favorite examples of a GOOD store sign. I came across one outside Gray’s Papaya in New York City a few years ago:

“OUR HOT DOG – The Thunderous Pop When You Bite Into It – The Saline Tang of the Pink Flesh – Oh YES!! (Please I’m Getting Hungry Already!).

Now that’s got some appeal, don’t you think? It’s almost… erotic, dare I say.

A bit more inviting than “tenants open during construction.”

OK So here’s what to do right now.

Think about better copy for that sign outside the Mall that is open during construction.

Then, post your copy in the comments section below. Next week I’ll take a vote from our readers in ETR, and the winner gets their name in lights and a genuine Early to Rise hat and T-shirt with our compliments.

Meanwhile, when you come across a bad sign in your town, email it to me at Charlie@ETRFeedback.Com.

We might just make it the subject of our next Copywriting Challenge!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is Your Web Developer Chasing Away Customers?

Most web developers and programmers couldn't care less about your site visitors. They're largely technical nerds more interested in bits, bytes and "cool" stuff.

So it's up to YOU to make sure what THEY produce is user-friendly.

Example: Phone number entry fields on forms. How often has this happened to you...

Enter Phone No: __________

So you enter the digits and here comes an Alert Box:




or God only knows what else.
Doesn't this drive you crazy? It should.

It's a sure sign that a real moron programmed this application.


Because it's just as easy for an app to trim the input string into the desired storage format itself, as it is to demand the user do it.

If your site features user interaction, make sure your web developer isn't making your users jump through hoops just to provide basic information.
If he is, kick his butt or better yet, fire him.