Ladies, let’s get real.
Writing for the web is kinda incredible. When it’s done right, it can do insane things for you and your business (and consequently, your clients).
But there’s a not-so-glamorous truth about web writing, which is this:
Once a reader pops on your page, you have about 7 seconds (or less) to harness their attention.
Which means your headline – especially on sales pages – is kind of a big deal.
But like, how the heck do you make sure you’re crafting a haute headline that’s as succinct, snappy and sizzling as humanly possible, so you don’t lose your readers to puppies, kittens or Mannequin challenge videos? I got you. 😉
Here are a few notable things to know about headlines:
+ You don’t have to open with “pain points.” Yes, some sales pages open with what most marketers call “pain points” because psychology says humans are more motivated by fear of loss than gain. (For example, a health coach might open with a line about how awful it is to “turn down brunch dates with your babes because you can’t handle yourself in front of a plate of pancakes” rather than how amazing it will feel to “fit into an itty bitty teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini.”) But if that idea gives you the heeby jeebies, I need you to know you have another option: opening with the benefits. Speaking to what your dream client desires (rather than what she fears) might not be scientifically as effective, but it definitely works. And it’s worth a try when it comes to your audience. Play around! What does your dream client respond to?
+ Use the Rule of One: I follow something called the “Rule of One” when writing my own headlines. In non-marketing speak, that means I try to keep my headline focused on the most powerful emotional benefit of the offer, rather than trying to pack 3-5 big benefits into one sentence. Pick one benefit to highlight, and use the rest of the page to dig into the others.
+ There are like a zillion different ways to whip up headlines. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find hundreds of articles full of “proven” “magnetic” headline formulas. But one of my favorite ways to whip up a wicked headline is by looking at print mags – espesh Cosmo – for headline inspiration. No joke, Cosmo’s got headline-writing down to an art. All you have to do to ‘borrow’ their genius is to look for a headline that fans your flame – say, “4 Signs He’s the One” and make it relevant to your industry a la “4 Signs This Client is ‘The One.” It’s simple and it’s hella fun.
Oh, and just in case Cosmo isn’t exactly your jam, here are a few other “proven” headline styles to get you goin’, adapted from the (incredible) book Great Leads:
The “Painless” Lead – “Get [most desired result] without the [biggest struggle they face while trying to achieve desired result]”
The USP Lead – “[Offer] is the only [what it is] to [most desired result]”
The Fantasy Lead – Imaginative phrases like, “Imagine if [thing they want most]? ” or “What if…[thing they want most]?” or “How would life be different if [thing they want most]?”
The Fantasy Lead – Imaginative phrases like, “Imagine if [thing they want most]? ” or “What if…[thing they want most]?” or “How would life be different if [thing they want most]?”
The Big Secret Lead – “The easier way to X” or “The top-secret way one woman radically achieved [most desired result]”
The Proclamation Lead – “Did you know more than 80% of startups fail within the first three years?” or “A good – even great – sales page ISN’T all you need to sell your stuff online.”
+ Finally – just like when it comes to trying anything new – don’t expect perfection, especially the first time! I’m a big fan of writing my headlines last – after I’ve refined the page’s overall message and positioning. And then, I usually brainstorm about 10-20 okay-but-not-awesome options before I truly “nail” it. Don’t put the pressure on to get it “just right” because honestly, there’s no such thing, and you’ll be writing yourself into burnout or severe hand cramps. 🙂
And that’s it! Over to you, beauty town.
What questions do you have around creating killer headlines?
If you’ve been in online business a hot second, I know you’ve heard the term “brand message” or “core message.”
I also know your eyes glaze over when you hear it.
I understand. It’s not the sexiest term, and I’m sure there are tons of other “business-building” things you’d rather spend your time on (ahem, Periscope, vision boards, Facebook groups – does scrolling through Instagram count?…).
But I’d like to re-introduce you to the idea of messaging because the truth is, babes, your message is INSANELY important.
Now, here’s how I like to think about it: Remember when you were 13 and trying to dip out the front door in a sparkly tube top and low-cut denim shorts (and butterfly clips in your hair, natch) and your dad/mom/grandma would catch you and snarkily say something like, “Do you know what message you’re sending the boys with that outfit?” (Just me? Okay, then…)
Anyway, dad/mom/grandma was right: What you put out into the world sends a certain message, whether you mean to or not.
And it doesn’t just happen IRL. It also happens online – every time you write a blog, put up a piece of sales copy or post on Facebook.
Aaaaand until you get clear on who you are and what you actually want to say, you might be telling the world something totally confusing, off-base or downright boring. (And we can’t have that, now can we?)
So, let’s talk messaging in business.
Your message is simply a statement that drives everything you create, talk about or write about in your business.
And not-so-simply? It’s a statement that defines what you do, who you do it for, what they get out of it (aka the “transformation” you provide) and WHY you do it.
(If you just read that line like, “Ugh, transformation, really?” I understand. I know this can be a real hang-up for lots of businesses – especially product-based businesses – but trust me, every single business provides a transformation. For example, if you sell ooey gooey, gourmet caramels, you might take your customer from bored and hungry and totally over all those other basic sweets, to feeling unique, different and of course, satisfied in the stomach. See?)
A solid brand message is important because it forces you to GET SPECIFIC about what you do, who you do it for and why the hell it all matters.
Plus it makes life (and biz) a helluva lot easier.
Once you’ve mapped out your core message, you’ll notice that…
: Content ideas crop up everywhere (and posts practically write themselves)
: You feel WAY more confident promoting your products + services
: You (finally) know how to talk about what you do in a unique way that doesn’t bore people to tears
But HOW do you discover your message? Sit tight, sweets. 😉
You’ve probably seen this formula for defining your message:
I’m a [insert what you do here] who helps [insert brief description of your dream client here] to [insert the main benefit you provide here].
BUT I BELIEVE THERE’S SOMETHING *HUGE* MISSING FROM THAT FORMULA:
Why do you do what you do?
If you want to create a truly unique (and true-to-you) message, you HAVE to articulate your reason for pursuing this particular path.
So here’s how I think this formula should ACTUALLY read: I’m a [insert what you do here] who helps [insert brief description of your dream client here] to [insert the main benefit you provide here]….because I believe [whatever you believe – your WHY].
And THIS is where it’s get juicy. Because NO two people have exactly the same backstory, life history, values or beliefs…every WHY is different.
Because here’s the deal: ANYBODY can be a writer, designer, life coach or stylist. And ANYBODY can work with women business owners, or millennials, or stay-at-home moms. And yes, ANYBODY can help your clients get similar results.
But what they CAN’T do – and the ONE THING that will set YOU apart from alllll the other entrepreneur crayons in the box – is WHY you do it.
What you BELIEVE IN is what makes your message unique.
Once you nail down WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN….that’s when the real magic happens especially in the content department.
When you nail your message (or today’s iteration of your message – because this will evolve), you’ll NEVER have to question whether a piece of content makes sense for your business EVAH again.
All you’ll have to do is (silently, unless you want people staring) ask yourself, “Is this piece of content I’m about to create aligned with my message?”
Can you connect what you’re about to write (or tweet, or periscope) back to what you do, who you do it for, a benefit of working with you or WHY you do what you do?
This gives you the freedom to play around in your current biz – without seeming like a total wishy-washy weirdo. (For example, I just saw one of my fave biz mentors is running a workshop on how she uses essential oils to fuel her business. Because she often talks about rituals and creating ease and space in your business, this actually makes total sense even though essential oils literally have NOTHING to do with business when you first think about it. See what I’m saying?)
Pretty sweet, right?
Sooo, let’s turn it over to you. If coming up with your message has become the bane of your existence, here are the four MAGICAL questions you need to answer right now:
- What do you do? (Create luxury soap? Write about pages? “Play” matchmaker?)
- Who do you help – specifically? (Busy and nearly-burnt-out 20-somethings? Yoga studio owners? Self-employed business peeps?)
- What transformation do you provide (or, what is the juiciest benefit of working with you)? (A moment of pleasure and peace amidst the chaos of day-to-day millennial life? Clearly articulate their studio’s unique vision? Find life partners who won’t get jealous over their laptops?)
- And why the hell do you do it? What do you believe in that drives your desire to do this particular thing? (This is the part I can’t really give an example because it’s SO personal.)
Voila! You now have a simple business message to refer to as you create content for your business.
Wanna see the finished product? Here’s mine: “I’m a message mentor + copywriter who helps young, creative womenpreneurs find their unique voice, own their message + write content that connects + converts so they start making real cash from their craft because I believe self-expression is THE KEY to a well-lived life.” (Whew!)
Now, I know that might not sound like anything revolutionary – and yours might not either.
But I want you to know that’s okay.
The message you can create using this formula IS NOT meant for client-facing copy (unless it’s freakishly good – in which case, by all means). It’s simply a blueprint for you to use on the backend to keep you focused as you create content for your business.
What should you do now? Write your message on a Post It, in a Google Doc or in your Evernote and refer to it regularly.
DON’T just keep it in the back pocket of your Paige jeans (metaphorically that is).
Make it a part of your content creation process to review this message (and tweak or refine it when the time comes) to keep you aligned…and watch business get THAT much easier. 😉
YOUR TURN, BEAUTYTOWN! //
1. Draft your message using the formula and questions above.
2. Post it in the comments for feedback from moi, totally gratis. 😉
P.S. Are you still stuck? No worries, love. I’m thisclose to revealing a super cool thing to my list about how we can work together to infuse your message into every piece of your content. Hop on it so you don’t miss out:
The number one fear I hear from my clients goes summin’ like this: “But I don’t want to alienate anybody!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that excuse when people sit down to write, in reference to things like…
: Adding your fave slang word to your copy to make it more fun – because you don’t know if your clients will “resonate” with the term “hella”
: Using a super specific example that’s totally ON POINT– because it references children and you don’t want to “put off” your childless prospects
: Concocting a beeeeautiful metaphor that might not make 100% sense to somebody who isn’t also a rabid Kardashians fan
Here’s the thing though (and if you’ve been studying copywriting for any amount of time, you’ve heard it before): When you speak to everybody, you speak to nobody.
You’re NEVER going to make everybody happy with your copy – whether you use corporate jargon or Urban Dictionary.com-approved slang.
You’re NEVER going to appeal to every single person out there who might need your stuff.
And you’re NEVER going to make more sales if you don’t drop the fear of getting specific like it’s hot.
What you need to worry about instead is focusing on speaking to that one person who not only needs what you have – but GETS YOU, too.
The one who will literally LOL that you said “hella” on a sales page, who will TOTALLY get that reference to sippy cups and will nod her head in agreement when you write an entire blog post about what all business owners can learn about Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame (sex tape scandal included).
She’s out there, but you’ll never know it unless you get over your fear of being who you really are on your website.
Just try it and see.
Confession: I’ve had this blog post in my “Drafts” folder for over a month.
Yes, a month. That’s 4 entire weeks, 30 full days and who-the-heck-knows how many hours.
And yes, I’m a writer…who makes a living pumping out content.
But despite that, it still took me an exorbitant amount of time to pump out the bulk of this blog post.
Why, my friends?
Because of a little something I called “Blog Terror.”
Okay, so “Blog Terror” really isn’t as horrible as it sounds. It doesn’t mean you hate blogs, or break out in hives when you read them. (And if that does happen to you, well, lady, that sounds like a personal problem. That needs taken care of. ASAP.)
Blog Terror is more about that terrifying, gut-tickling feeling you get right before you sit down to write a blog post that makes you feel like you have absolutely NO RIGHT to be writing on insert-topic-of-choice. Y’know, that whole “Who the fuck do you think you are?” and “What the hell do YOU know about anything?” thing that happens & kinda-sorta takes over your entire body.
And honestly? That is still freaking happening to me as I write this post and proooobably won’t let up until I finally hit Publish – and then read it a month later and wonder (happily),” Damn! Did I really write that?”
But I digress.
So, the bad news? Blog Terror is pretty freakin’ real – for most of us – and it stems from that oh-so-human (and usually unavoidable) fear of “not being good enough.” It derives from our natural instinct to doubt ourselves – especially when we’re about to do something “outside the norm.”
But there is some good news! Blog Terror truly has little to do with the fact that we’re “terrible writers” or “don’t know what to say.” It’s not because you don’t have amazing ideas (you’ve got loads!). And it’s surely not because you’re devoid of any opinions on your industry, or not able to articulate helpful things to your audience.
YOU CAN DO ALL THAT.
The only thing that’s stopping is you a FEELING, INSIDE YOUR HEAD.
It’s just that damn “not good enough” voice getting the best of you – and causing you to spend an entire afternoon binging on Pretty Little Liars & justifying ice cream for dinner. (It’s dairy! That’s gotta count for something, right?)
Luckily, there are a few ways to beat the Blog Terror monster down to size.
Here’s how to tackle Blog Terror + create kick ass content even when you’re scared shitless:
1. Quit giving a flying you-know-what about what you think everybody else wants.
I know, I know. This goes against every morsel of marketing advice that you’ve ever read about writing online ever. You’re supposed to focus on your prospects and their needs and wants and desires and the questions they’re asking. And yes – that is amazing advice and 99.9% of the time you should follow it. But when the real issue isn’t a lack of ideas but rather a lack of actually-getting-shit-done? Sometimes you just have to simply write from your heart.
You have my permission to write a blog about whatever the fuck you want. And once you get into the mood (and you will, trust me!) go on to tackling the more prospect-centric subjects. There.
2. Remind yourself you know soooo much more than you’re giving yourself credit for.
Yes, it feels like everything you could ever wanna say has always been said a million times before by somebody a million times more eloquent than you. And yeah, that may be true. In fact, it probably is true. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to say what you wanna say. Only YOU can express your viewpoint in the way YOU express it.
Plus, you’re actually hella smart and probably know a ton of different things – things that that mentor/guru/ridiculously entertaining blogger simply can’t know because they aren’t you and haven’t experienced life through your lens.
3. Just start.
You totally hate that one, don’t you? I used to, too. Until I realized that that’s the only way anything gets done – ever. Sometimes you just have to set the damn Pomodoro timer and try to write. It won’t always be easy. In fact, it won’t be – for the first ten minutes or so. But just like when it comes to working out getting to the gym is half the battle, half the battle of writing a blog post is opening the damn browser window and typing the first few words. After that, it gets easier!
4. Write like SHIT.
Once you’ve started creating, challenge yourself NOT to use the backspace or delete buttons until you’ve written an entire draft. Don’t search deep in the recesses of your brain for a “cool” or “magnetic” word. Don’t take a break to read other blogs (worst. idea. ever.). Don’t even make the mistake of reading what you’ve already written. Just write. And expect it to sound like shit.
Because the important part of creating anything is actually creating it. The ONLY THING that matters is getting it all out of you. (And don’t let the pros fool you, either: ALL the magic and the beauty and the “awesomeness” that is writing happens in the editing process!)
First drafts are always shit. Prepare for it and don’t worry about it. It’s normal!
Over to you, beautytown! //
Do you have your own “foolproof” process for writing content? I’d love to know any tips-n-tricks you’ve picked up over the years for churning our compelling content….even when you’d rather watch 24 hours of the Golf Channel.
I’m about to get real bold here, ya’ll. (And I don’t just mean with my font, but yes, that, too, in this case.)
There really are a whole plethora of reasons your dream clients aren’t lapping up your program like skinny-yet-ridiculously-delicious Sbux frappucinnos on a humid, sunshine-y June afternoon.
But the #1 reason your stuff isn’t selling is soooo simple, you’re probably going to laugh. Or cry. Y’know, depending on how you process things. 🙂
So what is it? I’ll tell ya.
Your program isn’t selling because you wrote a sales page that speaks to you – not one that speaks to your people.
What does that mean, exactly? Lemme break it down.
Let’s pretend for a quick sec that you’re a relationship coach. You’ve done a ton of work on yourself and you’re now the queen of super-awesome relationships. You’ve got a ridiculously hot husband, a hip, meticulously-decorated house most peeps your age would DIE for (with or without the white picket fence, because really…do houses even have white picket fences anymore?) and maybe even a kiddo or two created from you + your hub’s awesomeness.
But it wasn’t always this way. You actually were once a huge, hot mess in the ‘ships department – like so crazy that you’d creep by your high school sweetheart’s house over + over + over in your blue Ford Focus just to make sure he was actually eating spaghetti with his parents like he told you…and NOT secretly hanging out (read: banging) that Avril Lavigne look-a-like who shot him flirty glances in study hall. (Except, in your defense, he actually WAS, so, I mean…)
But the point? You went through a MAJOR transformation in how you think about relationships (and life) – and so YOU know creating a good, quality relationship is about sooo much more than the stuff you think it’s about – like looking flawlessly gorgeous in your LBD and catching up on the NYT so you know WTF to talk about on a first date. (And yes – all those acronyms were TOTALLY necessary, BTW.)
YOU know nabbing a wonderful man who treats you like a freaking princess (who can also totally take care of herself, obvs) is about loving up on yourself big time and accepting who you are and having passions outside of your relationship.
So what’s the issue? Well, most of your dream clients – the women who totally NEED your stuff – aren’t Googling things like, “How do I accept myself so a man will love me?” (Okay, they MIGHT be.) But most likely they’re actually typing in shizz like, “Why is everyone else around me picking out expensive ass wedding gowns and I’m still painfully single, ladeling Ben + Jerry’s into my mouth – alone – every Friday night?” or “Why do I keep attracting broke, ambition-less ex-cons who only want me because I’ve got a hefty amount of zero’s in my bank account?”)
YOU know the answers to those questions. YOU know finding true love starts with loving yourself and all that good stuff.
But your dream clients don’t. And worse? They don’t even realize that self love and acceptance is their problem because they don’t know what you know!
Now, you can (and should, and will, damn it) provide them with all that information + goodness in your program. Because that’s what you know, what you’re good at…and it’s what they need to know to get what they want.
But you are NOT – I repeat, ARE NOT – going to make the idea of self love/acceptance the crux of your sales page, ya hear me? Because YOUR DREAM CLIENTS JUST WANT A SWEET, WARM BODY TO COZY UP WITH ON FRIDAY NIGHT, WHO’LL SHAMELESSLY HOLD THEIR HAND THROUGH THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (for the third time)…AND WHO (HOPEFULLY) DOESN’T CARRY A SWITCHBLADE IN HIS BACK POCKET.
So what do you do instead?
YOU SELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT, BUT GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEED.
You’re going to tell them that your program covers every.little.thing. they need to know to nab the ultimate, perfect-for-them kinda guy. You’re going to tell them that if they buy your program, they’re gonna learn exactly how to turn themselves into a good-guy-magnet so they never have to run a $29.99 background check on their next date – just in case – ever again.
You’re going to make sure your sales page speaks to them – in the way they speak about their problems in their heads. (Need a bitta help gettin’ inside your prospect’s heads? I wrote a totally fun [and non-creepy] post on how to read your dream client’s minds.)
You’re gonna delete anything that sounds like straight up “coach” speak (ahem, authenticity + clarity).
And, as always, you’re going to give it a touch of flair + personality by telling your story + throwing in some of your signature slang and/or references to other shizz you dig. (Need help with that? Crushworthy Sales Copy’s got ya covered.)
And then? You’re going to sit back, relax + pour yourself a nice, tall, sweet glass of moscato as you watch the sales roll in, because congrats, beautiful – you’ve just written a sales page for your program that’s actually gonna SELL.
Trust me on this one (especially the moscato).
I don’t normally write posts like this.
In all honesty, I really don’t like to tell people what to do or not do. I’m a rock-solid advocate for trusting your intuition and doing what feels right in your own heart when it comes to your business. I think at the end of the day, you know your ideal clients better than anyone else (you’re usually only a few steps ahead of them in the game, anyway) and I don’t think someone on “the outside” can truly know what will resonate with them better than you.
Plus, I am a totally off-the-beaten-path kinda girl myself, and I like to push the envelope (however slowly).
So don’t get it twisted. I love when I see people doing business differently – and I especially love when I see those crazy antics paying off.
What I don’t love is when I see brands trying too hard to be different…and totally missing the mark.
In online biz, your success really depends on how easily you are able to build trust with your brand. And when your brand is the wild child of your niche – and if that doesn’t exactly vibe with either your own personality, or other’s perceptions of you – it can totally kill your brand, point blank.
But as always, this is totally avoidable.
Here are 5 copy no-no’s that almost always crush your credibility:
1. Dropping f-bombs for no reason.
Girls, don’t get me wrong. I love a well-placed “fuck” or “shit” or other profanity. It’s proven that surprises like this jolt people back into the moment – which is fabulous when you’re trying to hold someone’s attention for long periods of time.
But when overused? All the obscenities can become trite, not to mention they really can damage your credibility IF people don’t think they’re authentic.
If you’re a brand that prides itself on it’s large corporate sponsorships, throwing out a buncha expletives doesn’t exactly make sense from a branding point of view.
For a brand like mine, however? I don’t go no fucks and I do what I want. (See what I did there?)
2. Getting TOO sexy.
Obviously, I love sexy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sex or intrigue or mystique (in fact, it’s my Fascination Factor).
What I don’t love is when people go overboard. There’s a very fine line being sexy-classy and being sexy-trashy.
Of course, it works for some brands. But I’m going to bet unless sex is an integral slice of your brand identity, it’s probably throwing people off more than anything.
Is there a better way to create a sense of “gotta-have-this-ness”? In most cases, yes. I like to keep the sexiness more subtle than overt, and I think it works.
3. Giving yourself a totally unrecognizable title.
It’s all the rage these days to NOT want to call yourself what you actually are. If you’re a health coach, you want to be a “smoothie-wielding warrior”…and never mention your coaching credential at all.
I think all that is fine + dandy..until you create a title for yourself that NOBODY understands. Again, creativity is one thing. But as always, clear trumps clever and at the end of the day, what people really want to know is what the heck you are and what you can do for them.
Still tempted to use a fancy-schmancy title? Think of it this way: Your TITLE does not have to include YOUR MESSAGE. Your overall message is better off making an appearance in your tagline. Keep your title simple, if only for SEO purposes (because no search engine knows what a “dream activator” is, promise).
4. Choosing “fun” words over “power” words.
There are certain words guaranteed to inspire action on your clients. (Seriously – just Google “power words” and you’ll get thousands of results.)
Sometimes, unfortunately, these words aren’t super fun. Or hip. Or even that creative. (Case in point: “Imagine” and “you” are among the top most powerful words you can use in your copy. Not exactly Pulitzer Prize material, non?)
I want you to know that it’s okay NOT to sound hip in every sentence of your copy. In fact, most of the time you probably shouldn’t – you should just sound straightforward, clear and like you know what the heck you’re talking about.
5. Not being your damn self.
I know how really freaking hard it can be to drown out the incessant noise from other people in your industry, or even other entrepreneurs in general. Seriously though – if you ever want your true voice to emerge, you gotta stop letting others voices seep into your own.
How can you do this? Pare down your email subscriptions, stop obsessively stalking your mentors and just do your own damn thing for at least 30 days. I love to use 750Words.com every morning just to whip up some writing of my own, before I’ve let any noise from the day enter my brain.
The less chatter you take in, the more your real voice will radiate out. But you have to give it space to take shape.
When you start using your real voice, that’s when the magic happens.
Dig this post?
Are you guilty of a copy faux pas? Tell me all about it in the comments. And if you want more tips like these, be sure to head on over and check out my e-book Crushworthy Sales Copy 101 that’s chock full of good advice on how to write in a way that sounds like you and makes cash, too.