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Justyna Piotrowska
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Justyna is the Growth Hacker in Residence at 500 Startups. She has over 10 years experience in sales conversion optimisation, email marketing, content marketing and SEO. For 6 years, Justyna was one of Mindvalley’s entrepreneurial marketing experts in the area of psychological and content marketing, responsible for launching 3 successful businesses in less than a year with more than US$3M in revenue.

In her last few years in Mindvalley, she was responsible for more than 70% of the revenue of the company that came from business automation. Justyna is certified in landing page optimization, email marketing and in the fundamentals of online testing by Marketing Sherpa, and Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula. She is currently the co-founder and CMO of Rascals Depot – a growth consultancy working with startups.

500 Startups

December 11, 2017

Copy Sells or It Doesn't

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DISCLAIMER: If you are looking for a step-by-step guide on how to write templated sales copy, this piece is not for you. Nor is any other that claims so, because there is no such thing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

You are not in the business of making money. You are in the business of solving real problems. The more problems you solve, the more money you will make.

Pick any company and you will see that statement reflected in their product. But why is it that most companies miss out on that when it comes to the same product’s marketing message?

Copy either sells or it doesn’t. The purpose of your marketing message is not to appeal to your customer’s wallet, it is to appeal to their motivations first.

In my experience of working with startups, when crafting a website landing page, 99% of the time marketers tend to think about the design first and the messaging later. Quite often the designers decide how the whole page will flow.

WRONG.

You need to know what to say before you can figure out how to say it.

When it comes to writing compelling, effective web copy, every sentence you write needs to convey a message your ideal visitors want to hear. As Sam Parr explains it, “The purpose of the first sentence is to convince the reader to read the second sentence. The point of the second sentence is to entice them to read the third (and so on).”

When you understand your customer and the motives behind their decision making process, convincing them to read the next sentence becomes easy.

But before we get into that, it’s important to understand this: people don’t buy based on logic, they buy based on emotions. It is emotional decisions that rationalise a justification.

So when she says “I want this dress”, what she really means is:
“I want to feel good”
“I want to be noticed”
“I want to feel appreciated”

Take the example of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. The campaign began over a decade ago when Dove was looking to refresh their brand. After conducting a study of 3,000+ women from 10 different countries, they found that fewer than 5% considered themselves beautiful. That’s when they struck gold and “Real Beauty” was born.

Executed via a variety of mediums including print, video, outdoor advertising, digital and more, the message of the campaign was simple: Dove’s wants “to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and to make them feel more confident about themselves”.

That marketing message didn’t only appeal to the customer’s wallet, it was in line with the Dove customer’s motivations and beliefs. The campaign made it about something larger than just buying a product, it was about how the product made you feel.

And the result? Since the launch of the campaign, Dove’s sales shot up from US$2.5B to US$4B.

Your marketing message needs to be more than your product. It needs to take a holistic approach including your customers beliefs and what they stand for. So ask yourself this: what does your brand stand for?

To answer that, let’s take another example. Say you are a car manufacturer. How would you go about understanding what your brand stands for? Culture for one, would play a big part here. For example, in Europe, car equals engine whilst in USA, car equals prestige.

Take a look at the Porsche and Mustang ads below. Same industry, two different appeals.

porsche.pngford.png

Source: Ads of the World

People unconsciously assign different meanings to things based on the different culture they grew up in (for further reading on this, I highly recommend Clotaire Rapaille‘s The Culture Code).

Coming back to the car example, just like Porsche and Mustang did, your marketing message would need to communicate how special and exclusive one would feel using your product. Just like the Dove example, it’s all about how your customer would feel driving the car, not just about how it is made and assembled.

At a high level, there are 2 sides to crafting a marketing message: 

  1. Target a specific pain point
  2. Understand what motivates your customer i.e. what do they stand for

Your copy will be first and foremost about what your user wants. Secondly, it will talk about how your product satisfies those wants. As Joanna Weib says, “You cannot create motivation on your site. You can only reflect existing motivations of your users – and, when you’re really good, build on those motivations.”

A few weeks ago, Applecrumby & Fish were launching their new products: an Applecrumby Baby Laundry Detergent and a Bottle & Utensil Cleaner.

They had 6000 products in stock and all of them sold out in 10 days!

How did they do it? Instead of talking about the product itself in their marketing message, they answered a mother's biggest concern: how using chemical based products influence a baby’s overall development (watch out for the full case study which I will be sharing on this blog soon).

You see, motivation is not a discount. It’s not a limited-time offer. It prevails. So how do you begin prevailing your marketing message?

Every product or service has a list of features and benefits. Here’s an example to illustrate:

Feature: gluten free cake

Benefit: eating delicious cakes and not being worried about celiac

You understand your customer’s motives by zooming in. Here’s what I would like you to do: fire up Google Drive and create a spreadsheet with 5 columns:

  1. Features
  2. Benefits
  3. Your USP
  4. Problem - Solution
  5. Motivation

Features: a feature is a part of your product or service that does a unique thing. In the first column, list all the features that your product or service offers. There is no such thing as a feature that’s too small. Whilst a feature may seem unimportant to you, it can be crucial in the decision making process of your customers. So create an exhaustive list of ALL the features of your product/service that you can think of.                                                                               

Benefits: a benefit is the outcome of what that feature does – it’s the value your customer gets from using the feature. In your second column, list all benefits of each feature you’ve listed down. It doesn’t matter if your benefits are repeated.

Take note that not all of your benefits will directly correspond to your features. Some of them with be based on your corporate values for example:

  • Supporting social causes - Toms: buy one pair of shoes and we will send the second one to those in need
  • Supporting environmental causes - Honest Company: we protect animal rights by using only vegan-certified ingredients

Think about what makes your product/service different. Very often, the benefits tap into the customers motivation i.e. why your customers do what they do.

Your USP: before you get to this column, you’ll need to do some competitive research. Start by listing all the features and benefits your competition is offering. Then cross out the ones that are the same or similar to what you are offering and focus on the rest. Highlight the features-benefits that make you stand out from the crowd.  

Problem - Solution: I mentioned at the beginning that you are not in the business of making money, you are in the business of solving problems. The more problems you solve, the more money you will make. For this column, go ahead and list down all the problems that your unique features-benefit pairings solve. If you have multiple customer avatars choose the ‘x’ feature-benefit that helps solve the ‘y’ problem for that specific avatar.

Motivation: list all the beliefs, patterns and motives that drive your customers in life. Either support them or go against them. How can you know your customers beliefs? The best way is to ask. Make a list of your repeat customers (include some first timers in there too), pick up a phone and call them. Acknowledge them and throw in a freebie for every customer that picks up the phone and gives you valuable feedback.

That’s all it takes. So go ahead, open up a spreadsheet in your Google Drive and start filling the fields below.

 

Features

Benefits

Your USP

Problem-Solution

Motivation

Product 1

         

Product 2

         

Product 3

         

Product 4

         

 

When you have it all filled out, start writing your very first headline, followed by your ads and landing page copy. Make sure the entire marketing message ties in together. If you want to run it by me, get in touch here and I’ll give you my 2 cents.

Remember, ALWAYS ZOOM IN.

Further reading: How do you growth hack your startup? Read my guide here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justyna is the Growth Hacker in Residence at 500 Startups. She has over 10 years experience in sales conversion optimisation, email marketing, content marketing and SEO. For 6 years, Justyna was one of Mindvalley’s entrepreneurial marketing experts in the area of psychological and content marketing, responsible for launching 3 successful businesses in less than a year with more than US$3M in revenue.

In her last few years in Mindvalley, she was responsible for more than 70% of the revenue of the company that came from business automation. Justyna is Certified in landing page optimization, email marketing and in the fundamentals of online testing by Marketing Sherpa, and Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula. She is currently the co-founder and CMO of Rascals Depot – a growth consultancy working with startups.

Visit her author bio page to find out more about Justyna and connect with her social profiles.

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