Killer copy frightens me. Some days I think if I see one more hype-laden email, web page, or direct mail piece promising to solve all my problems for only a small investment with a value of ten times its price, I’m going to run away screaming.
The really scary ones arrive by email from complete strangers. There I am feeling safe and secure in my office, and all of a sudden someone I don’t even know is hitting me over the head with twenty-seven reasons to buy, buy, buy, now, now, now.
The scariest thing to me about these killer copy assaults is that I see independent professionals — consultants, coaches, freelancers, and others — adopting the over-the-top style of these messages to sell their professional services.
Have you ever chosen a financial planner because she offered you a free set of steak knives? Or decided to work with a personal trainer because he promised to reveal the seven hidden secrets of how to lose weight with zero effort? Or hired a graphic designer who declared she would blow you away with the brilliance of her breakthrough work guaranteed to produce instant results?
Of course you haven’t, and neither has anyone else. Unrealistic promises, overblown claims, and bonus gifts that have nothing to do with what’s being sold are not what convinces us to hire a professional service provider.
Copywriting come-ons like these may have their place. Marketing studies indicate this approach actually works to sell consumer products like nutritional supplements and kitchen gadgets. On the Internet, long, superlative-laden sales letters have (unfortunately) been proven quite successful in selling ebooks and home-study courses. But convincing someone to hire you to do financial planning or personal training or graphic design is an entirely different affair.
There are three things the typical buyer wants to know before choosing a professional to do business with:
1. Do they know what they are doing?
2. Can I trust them to deliver what they have promised?
3. Will working with them be a pleasant experience?
Can those questions be adequately answered by a page (or five pages) of overly enthusiastic, breathlessly-paced killer copy? Not likely.
In fact, if you want to convince people that you are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and easy to work with, you’re probably going to have to employ much more than just marketing copy. To build the know-like-and-trust factor that makes people hire a professional, it’s likely you’ll need to spend time getting to know your prospects personally, write, speak, or volunteer to visibly establish your expertise, or initiate more referral relationships to bring you prospects who are pre-sold.
Your marketing copy alone isn’t going to do the whole job, no matter how good it is. But that said, you do still need marketing copy to use in sales letters, on your website, in your brochure, etc. So if it shouldn’t be full of hype and questionable promises, what should it contain? Remembering the three questions above that your prospects want the answers to, here’s what your copy should address:
- What is the source of your expertise? Refer to your specialized training and prior work experience. List former clients or describe completed projects.
- What specific results do people get from working with you? Describe the tangible benefits clients get from your work. Give examples and cite statistics.
- What has been the experience of former clients? Use testimonials to express this in their own words. Ask clients to describe what they got, not just praise you.
If you focus on clearly and honestly addressing these three points, speaking in your own authentic voice, your copy will ultimately result in more closed sales than any amount of hyped-up verbiage ever could.
So don’t let the prevalence of killer copy out there scare you into thinking you should be using it to market your professional services. Instead, every time you see it, let it be a reminder to run in the opposite direction.