Be Bold, Think Benefits and Use Emotion, Sinkinson Advises

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What is your elevator pitch—your igniter, your perfect question? That's what Jim Sinkinson of Fired Up! Marketing wanted to know at his recent copywriting bootcamp at SIPA Annual 2018. (That session—in video—and most others are available to members at this link.)

"What open-ended question would you ask a prospective subscriber or conference attendee if you met her in an elevator and you had only three minutes in which to excite her so much about your publication, that she gets off with you at the great ground floor and says, 'That sounds great—tell me more!'"

That's what your headline and subject line need to do, he said. The promise has to be big and it must have benefits. "'Hi Alex, Jim Sinkinson. What if I told you I have a way to double the circulation of your magazine in two years?' That's the way to pull someone into your booth."

Or... "'What if I told you I could increase the open rate of your email marketing 23% in the coming year just by changing one simple thing in your subject line? How interested would you be?' [You might say] 'I want to know more.' This is how we sell people things. We make an appeal to their needs and desires."

Some of Sinkinson's rules for persuasive copywriting:

Think about how you want your customers to feel. Writers don't often consider that, Sinkinson said. They want to craft pretty sentences and impress people "But what emotion do you want [your reader] to feel?" He gave an example of Cook's Illustrated's slogan: Recipes That Work. "It's such a simple promise. 'What does our company stand for? Recipes That Work. Three words. Just do it. I'm not suggesting that you come up with a three-word brand promise, but it ought to be a promise that something will change in somebody's life."

Always offer a benefit. "'We give you so much information, news, research.' That's not a benefit. A benefit is the promise to transform someone's life for the better." It should make a positive, tangible difference—either emotional or material. "Let's not forget the emotional part of it," Sinkinson reminded us. "Remember, people buy things for emotional reasons. It's the same with renewals. 'How does it feel right now?'"

Make the connection for the customer of the feature and benefit. What will your life be like when you use this product? Our customers buy benefits, not features. Features are factual, objective, verifiable, value and utility neutral. Benefits are relative, subjective, in the customer's mind, promise a better world. "That's the business we're in," he said. "That's what our copy should be about. Show them a new reality, a promise of no penalties, any change of a successful investment, a new medical procedure."

To capture buyers' attention, you have to be bold. Great marketing is not a promise of information, analysis or content, he explained. "Telling someone you're going to give them information is boring. And it doesn't matter if you're an emergency doctor" or another drama-filled profession.

Learn how to sell. "In order to write great copy, you have to know how to sell," Sinkinson said. "You need to know what that process is like and understand why people buy things." "This course helps petroleum marketers, fuel resellers and end-users stay ahead of today's unpredictable fuel marketplace," OPIS wrote in a successful ad that he posted.

Use fear or greed (aspiration) to find your benefit. Do your tax accountants fear being called up for an audit? Or do they just want to make a lot of money? When you write marketing materials it's one of those two appeals/motivations. They're either aspiring to become a better person (or rich) or they fear making an error and getting into some kind of trouble. Greed in the case of a turnaround letter—I want to make a lot of money. Or I want to be a better doctor.

To write good copy, you have to identify the need. What need am I solving? "Information doesn't do it. Analysis doesn't do it." What do we have to tell someone in order to get them to buy? "I can help you solve this problem you have. I have a superior way to do that at a better price."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…