Day 24: Your pre-flight checklist for uber-persuasive copy

Just like cabin crew goes over a pre-flight checklist to make sure nothing is left to chance, it’s important that, before you launch new copy on your site, you go through a copy-editing process.

Copy-editing= going over your sales copy to make sure it’s both grammatically correct and as effective as possible in persuading.

Checklists have proven to make almost any process more thorough and non-dependent on memory. When you have to go over pages and pages of copy, it’s easy to overlook important stuff. Especially if the same person has written and and edited.

So let’s make sure you follow the next steps and that you have somebody else in your team do it as well.

1. Clarity: is your message logical and easy to understand?

As you’ve learned in the previous posts, your page should have one main goal and you should be writing with one main reader in mind. So first, look at the bigger picture:

    • Is the point I’m trying to make clear? Is it clear who the person I’m writing to is?

If your answers to the these questions are confused, it’s time to go back to the drawing (writing) board.

Once you’ve nailed the first step, it’s time to look at the nitty gritty.

  • Make sure your copy uses active voice over passive voice as much as possible. Active voice is stronger, clearer and more direct, while also being less subject to misinterpretation.
  • Does using “you” in this sentence make it clearer or more impactful? If so, do it.
  • Does each sentence convey one idea and no more? If not, can you separate it with punctuation (don’t be afraid to write very short sentences if they help reinforce a point)?
  • Can you say it with fewer words? Being concise helps with scannability.
  • Can you turn any trace of jargon into more conversational copy?
  • Does the copy flow from one point to another in a logical way? Or do you need to patch some holes/remove unnecessary pieces?
  • Is the copy error-free from a grammatical standpoint?

2. Voice: is your brand’s personality shining through in the copy?

Any business can write persuasive copy when they know how to do it. What not any business can do, is finding and using their unique voice.

Voice in writing is the underlying characteristic or the style in which you write. Are you witty, quirky, authentic or passionate? Maybe on the funny side, or more on the motivational / inspirational one?

Whatever type of voice you choose for your brand, it’s vital that you keep it consistent throughout your website and marketing channels. Here your copy-editing task is pretty straightforward (not easy):

  • Scan your page(s) from start to finish, reading line by line and check that your voice is in tune with your brand.
  • Do the same but read from finish to start. This helps you put the flow and context second and focus on the actual language you’re using.
  • Give the copy a final read after/if you’ve edited.

3. Significance and Proof: are you backing your statements with meaning and proof?

We’ve talked about the importance of benefits and features used in combination right? Well this is your chance to make sure each and every piece of copy you’ve written is supported by either a benefit-oriented statement or by proof that what you’re saying is true.

And it’s more intuitive than you think (but often overlooked in the first draft):

  • Step one: re-read your copy and for every claim you find, pretend you are your ideal customer and ask yourself the question “..so what?”
  • Step two: If the answer is not there, add it in (what’s in it for the customer?)
  • Step three: now that you’re answering “so what?”, prove it by adding in social proof (data, gifs, screenshots, video/demo, testimonials, as seen logos or client logos…)

Here’s a good example I just found from whereby.com:

As you can see, it doesn’t require a ton of copy. You can be smart about it and make sure that every claim has deserved its place on the page and it’s backed by proof.

4. Specificity: are you using language that your audience resonates with?

Last but not least, when you’re writing to sell, it’s important that your words create an emotional connection with the reader. And you cannot do this if you use vague or confusing language.

When you are able to make your prospect visualize the end result of buying from you, to make them feel the way they want to feel, you’ve done most of the work required to persuade. Remember, people buy on emotional impulses.

To do this, double check your copy to make sure you’re using:

  • Words that use sensory details to create vivid images
  • Specific numbers (not rounded if possible)
  • Words that summarize -> turn them into specific characteristics (i.e. “tan” -> “hazelnut tan”)
  • Words that engage in the user’s imagination (“imagine if …”, “let’s pretend that”)
  • Copy that connects the dots for the reader (like explaining what a 15% increase in revenue means)
  • Symbols (%, $, “ etc.)
  • Specific comparisons (don’t limit it to “the best”. What makes it the best? Go deeper)

Overall, don’t make the user do any of the work in figuring out what you mean.

There you go. Follow these 4 steps (and have someone else follow them too, if possible) to make sure your copy is bullet proof.

Your homework:

Pretty straightforward: follow the checklist divided in the 4 areas we’ve talked about (clarity, voice, significance + proof and specificity) and edit your page’s copy for maximum conversions.