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Strategies for Writing Advertising Copy for the Internet Audience

Internet Strategies for Sales and Advertising Writing

It has already been mentioned that every marketing document you create should be saved as a Microsoft Word or PDF File, to be included with your Internet Marketing.

Internet marketing should not be considered "be-all, end-all," although some companies do their marketing, advertising, and sales entirely over the Internet. But no modern business can afford to ignore Internet marketing, either -- unless you're ERNIE'S GAS & GO service station off of Route 66 in Arizona. Odds are, ERNIE'S has a website now, too.

Internet marketing can consist of e-mails, links, banner ads, videos, and more. You also can bring in substantial incremental income via affiliate programs and links, retroactive advertising, AdSense and eBay, or Yahoo Stores. The latter are best suited for home businesses.
If you're going to market on the Internet you'll want to.remember one very important rule:
No Spam!
"Spam" is an uninvited and/or unwelcome e-mail solicitation. Anyone receiving one can simply click on "Mark as Spam" and your Internet Service Provider can remove you from their service at will, leaving you adrift in cyberspace until you find another one -- if you can find another one.

There are easy ways around this: Instead of a spam e-mail, offer everyone visiting your site the opportunity to "join your mailing list" for free. Voila! Even if they report your later e-mails as spam, you have their digital signature to prove to your Internet Service Provider that you aren't spamming them. (E-mails with links to "opt out of future mailings here" may pass muster as well).
For the purposes of Internet marketing, if you're part of the creative team of a large organization, odds are that web development will be its own separate department, although they will probably want to interface with you often. If you're a single business owner, web development and marketing will probably be wholly up to you, unless you contract out for it.
Business Websites
Pre-designed business websites for small companies are available in many places, we suggest doing a Google search and then narrow down by user reviews.

These are easily created "WYSIWYG" ("What You See Is What You Get") site-design templates; their advantage is, you don't need to know HTML (web programming language) to create them. In many cases, such sites are free, but they end up as "subsidiaries" of the larger site. Also, due to the proliferation of the Facebook phenomenon, many businesses will have their own websites, and a Facebook page. Nothing wrong with that, however, you'll probably want to own your own domain name as it seems more professional to web-surfing consumers. Free site hosts will also attempt to make their money back from your site by placing like-minded ads and links on your site, which might conceivably be links to your competitors!
Registering your own domain name can be done via any accredited ICAAN organization, for example, Network Solutions, Register.com, or GoDaddy. You'll need to see if your site name is available; if JacksRoofing.com is not available, JacksRoofing.org might be, or .net, or .biz, or .us. Domain registration is an expense, and hosting is another (ongoing) one, so you may wish to begin with a free site and upgrade to your own domain later.

Many small companies use a web page as a "virtual business card" with their title, location, specialties, and contact information. There's certainly no harm in doing that, but that's the minimum information your website should contain. Think of it as a brochure; use short, bold sentences, compact writing and visual flair wherever possible.

Beyond advertising your business, your website should detail the history of your company, its track record, various departments and personnel. Clients are looking to your site to provide communication and feedback, as well as information about your specialties -- better writing than your competitors in this area may influence a buying decision -- and, of course, a method of buying, or at least to get quotes.


"We've Got You COVERED In the Tri-state Area"

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Founded in 1982 in Hoboken by laborer-turned-designer

JACK RIFKIN, JACK'S ROOFING has been founded on three principles:

1) Take Care Of the Customer.

2) Take Care Of the Customer.

3) Take Care Of the Customer.

These inevitably have led to thousands of successful projects and satisfied clients, from your neighbor's home to the legendary Goodspeed opera house! But don't take our word for it. Click on the links above to view our work and history, read rave reviews from previous clients, or get a quote from us!
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Advertising, Marketing and Sales Writing.

---Thanks For stopping by! Remember, no matter where you are in the Tri-state area, "We've got you COVERED!"

---Jack Rifkin

Click on the photo below to see Our Most Massive Undertaking YET!

(Wow, that is pretty massive, Jack. Is it even a roof?)

For a roofing company, this is a good page. Jack shouldn't offer, "Click here for a chance to win a free roof," and probably can't get a whole lot of reciprocal links -- although he might do well to share links with his satisfied customers -- but it demonstrates his company's range, history, principles and the pride he takes in his work.

Jack's company is such that he probably won't be sending out e-mails for work; he'll get by on word of mouth alone, and let clients come to him. Your company may have to get more creative:

  • Save the e-mails of clients and prospects, and continually add them to your e-mail list.
  • Create and send a weekly or monthly e-mail newsletter to the people on your list, informing them of any new happenings at your company, some good helpful hints, and a special offer.
  • Create an affiliate program wherein Internet affiliates agree to keep your banner on their site, and any sales gained through "click-throughs" allow them to keep a percentage.
  • Offer contests, sweepstakes, and prizes.
  • Have a standing banner ad on your site, ready to be uploaded and used.
  • Keep a "'visitor log" of how many people visit your site. Some companies will look at a site's "hits" to see if they're a viable Internet business partner.
  • Give your staff members "intranet" e-mail addresses (for example, Jill@JacksRoofing.com) and encourage them to use your website link in their Internet correspondence.
  • Ensure that all your other marketing mediums contain your website address.
  • If you're marketing beyond the United States, add a translation link that will enable your page to be read in the various languages you're marketing in.

Remember that Internet consumers are using the web for speed, simplicity, and convenience. This means that your pages must 'load' (display themselves) quickly. Although pictures and graphics are a given on any website, keep them under one megabyte (even lower than that, if possible). If your page takes longer than 20 seconds to download, most surfers will click off and look elsewhere.

Too many sites are forcing visitors to register and log in with all kinds of hurdles to jump. Nobody really wants to do that. If you can, exchange registrations and logins with links, such as, "Click here to receive our e-mail newsletter" or "Click here to leave a comment", and simply ask for a first name and e-mail address when doing so.
The writing involved in advertisements is called "Copy" -- a short, convenient business term. Not everyone agrees on what it is, but everyone agrees on what it must do: Sell.
Your copy does this by tying your product to the basic human drives:
Pleasure: The drive for enjoyment, comfort, entertainment, travel, and fun.

Pain: Rather, the avoidance of it: safety from pain, illness, death, poverty, and shame.

Author and personal development coach Anthony Robbins states that these are the primary human drives: the desire to move towards Pleasure and away from Pain. You yourself have probably been coached that your employment resume needs to shout how much revenue you've made for employers (Pleasure), or how much revenue you've saved for your employers (Pain). Every other human drive is theorized to be a sub-set, or variation, of those basic drives:

Power : wealth, prestige, influence, popularity, strength.

Convenience: savings of time, effort, and money.

Love and sex: being needed/appreciated/protected/satisfied by others.

Family/Togetherness: success, protection, and admiration of one's family unit.

Health: beauty, attractiveness, vitality, vigor, longevity.

Altruism: c harity, generosity, desire to help others, contribution

Knowledge: intelligence, wisdom, curiosity, mental stimulation, new experiences

This list goes on, and it's in no particular order. Once copywriters of earlier eras found Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, they were all probably off and running.

Your copy writing exists to sell. It does this either by fulfilling a drive or need, or to create a drive or need if it does not already exist. You establish this in your headline; reinforce it and introduce the product in your subhead, and then list all your other salient points in your body copy.

Your product or service, itself, should point the way toward what need or drive it fulfills. Let us pretend that yours is the new REAPER Lawnmower.

You, the copywriter, know that it is new, and that's about all. The saving grace of the REAPER is that it's not made in China! It's made in the Ukraine out of recycled Yugos. Therefore, it's cheaper than most other lawnmowers. From the product information you're given, you yourself see no particular advantage in owning a REAPER over any other lawnmower, except that it will cost less.

Regardless, your ad deadline is 4 p.m. today, and it's already 3.

Thinking all the way back to basic marketing: What does this do? It mows lawns, clearly. Who will want it? Anybody who wants a mowed lawn. What drive does it fulfill?

Several. On the PAIN side, nobody wants to lose money paying more than they have to for a lawnmower. On the PLEASURE side, a neatly-mowed lawn is a joy to behold.

First of all, a mowed lawn represents pride in one's possessions (Power), a responsibility to one's household (Family), and willingness to keep up community standards (Altruism). The REAPER also represents a substantial cost savings (Convenience) while doing virtually everything else any other lawnmower does (Power).

So you have several options.

1. Hype the savings. Your ad reads:
For $125.00, you can buy HALF of a John Deere Lawnmower, or ALL of the Brand-New REAPER! (The visual shows two men side-by-side, one frowning over a lawnmower cut in half, one smiling over his Reaper.)

2. Hype its performance with a bit of humor. Your ad reads:

It WAS a JUNGLE out there ...

Until you brought home the brand new REAPER! (The visual shows "Tarzan's"

lawn crazily overgrown, then neatly mowed with him standing beside the Reaper.)
3. Hype its performance even more, to make it seem like it'll replace all other more expensive lawnmowers. Your ad reads:
What to do with your old, expensive lawnmower now that you've got a REAPER! (The visual shows a man and his children flipping burgers over an old lawnmower that has been flipped over & converted into a barbecue grill).

These headlines and visuals could theoretically function as print advertisements in and of themselves, although their effectiveness would be suspect. Most consumers would smirk at the headline or visual's entertainment value, and might recall the name "Reaper" the next time their lawn needs a mow. However, headlines, subheads and visuals generally only grab and hold the reader's attention, and only for as long as it takes to read the advertisement. (Current advertising trends seem to insist that advertisers only have a matter of seconds to make an impression on the consumer, so most written headlines contain one to three sentences, maximum.)

It is your body copy that will steer customers towards a buying decision, and a relationship with you. In print advertising, you the copywriter have "inside information" for the potential buyer. To put it bluntly, your headline is your way of saying "Pssst! C'mere!" and your body copy is your way of saying, "Have you heard about this?"

Even if you've got enough product information to fill a magazine, your body copy will only be one, two, or three whole paragraphs, and not incredibly dense ones, either. Similar to the strategies used in brochures, you want shorter sentences in layman's terms, describing your product's benefits within the pleasure/pain context.

To create good body copy, consider the following:

1. Familiarize yourself thoroughly with your product and its benefits.
2. Determine who it's for, or who's most likely to buy it -- your "market segment". Savvier advertisers will break down their market segments into smaller and smaller "targets." Single urban males = single urban male athletes = single urban male athletes living in New York City, etc.
3. Decide if it's a product that would be bought on impulse (a soft drink), or only after careful consideration (a car). If it's an impulse buy, you can afford to be whimsically entertaining and hype style over substance. If it's a planned purchase, you'd better combine multiple benefits with hard-hitting facts.
4. Weigh your purchase price against your competitors'. Between two seemingly equal products, the one with the lower price is almost universally selected. If you have the higher price, you'll need to justify it to the consumer. ("As a matter of fact, we DO cost more, and we're worth every penny. Here's why.")

Keeping these in mind, let's crank out some body copy about the REAPER.

You know its potential buyer is going to be a cost-conscious homeowner. You

know it's not an impulse buy. You know you've probably got the lower price.

Since we're going after the cost-conscious homeowner, I would personally try to create body copy that suggests to the buyer: "You've dug every last coin out of your couch cushions to be able to finally buy your own home. Now you've got one! But now you need a lawnmower too! How much do you have left to spend? Well, we've got just the thing."

When you decided on your dream home, the "dream lawnmower" probably wasn't on your mind because there was no such thing, until now!

Europe's been raving about the REAPER ™, the no-nonsense, fuel efficient power mower that costs hundreds less than its competitors. Lightweight, easy to maneuver, perfect for suburban lawns! Now available for the first time in America! Own one today, and "REAP" the rewards -- and the savings!

This initial piece of body copy could conceivably be used as a radio advertisement as well. To be used in a print advertisement, it would probably need to be combined with the proper visual (perhaps two men mowing small suburban lawns made of dollar bills; one scowling down at his huge riding mower, another happily using a shiny new REAPER). Over time, you'll notice that the visual element in print advertising is just as important as the writing, and how good copy seems to conjure up the right visual element to go with it.

Use a plain, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Arial or Garamond for body copy. A bold font can be advantageous if all of the body copy is bold .

Italics can work well to highlight key words if the body copy doesn't continually jump back and forth from regular to italics too many times. A 12-point type is best, unless you've got lots of space to use, like a billboard.

"Offbeat" fonts are better left for your headline. In fact, an offbeat font can reinforce the emotional tone your ad wishes to set:

Westminster welcomes you to THE FUTURE!

Comic Sans MS could be the voice of YOUR CHILD.

IMPACT makes you want to Drive FAST!

Tempus Sans ITC is your fantasy world.
Lucida Handwriting's a note from your Mom!
The choice is up to you.but if it's a choice between stylistic flair and legibility, go with legibility every time.
Keep a few things in mind when writing ad copy:
Don't promise the moon; stick to what you can honestly offer. Remember the warnings we discussed in "What NOT to write".

Remember K.I.S.S.: Keep It Short and Simple.

Stay within the bounds of good taste. One ad for the Showtime network literally proclaimed the channel as "The Best Sh*t on Television." The ad was yanked off the air so fast, some viewers probably thought they'd imagined it.

Finally, although effective ad copy appeals to emotions, avoid the "rule by fear" strategy. If you've ever driven from Orlando to Tampa, you might have seen a prominent billboard near Interstate 275:

From the way people drive on I-275, you'd think they all owned VOLVOS.

I'm sure the billboard sold more than a few Volvos, but it made me want to avoid I-275 (and therefore Tampa) altogether. A condom manufacturer featured their product in close-up with the copy, "If you don't have a parachute, don't jump, genius."

"Fear" ads do work -- they're a perennial favorite in political campaigns -- in an underhanded, manipulative manner. But they're just as likely to leave a negative feeling in the mind of the consumer -- probably connected with the advertiser. And these days, nobody needs to have more fears broadcast to them.

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