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Six No-Hype Copywriting Techniques: How To Be Lively, Appealing And Truthful In Sales Writing

Feb 26, 2008
A lot of my clients shrink from using hype in their marketing messages. Hype is a style of overexcited, exaggerated writing that can fire up the eager reader, but at the cost of trust or credibility in the eyes of someone who is temperamentally or professionally skeptical.

For instance, here is a hype-y headline of the sort found all around the Internet: "If You Can Write Your Name, You Can Write and Publish a Book in 7 Days - Guaranteed!" Having been a writing teacher, I know that the only way such a claim could be valid would be to play games with the accepted meanings of the words "write" or "book." People who can write their name cannot necessarily write a coherent sentence or paragraph - much less have enough ideas in their head to fill a book of average length. Because of its implausibility, such a headline is all the more appealing to those who feel impatient for results.

Many copywriting experts hold that if a headline or marketing pitch sells and is not downright illegal for some reason, it's the right way to write. However, I support my clients' instinctive recoil from hype and help them with more truthful yet still lively and appealing persuasive techniques. You can create vivid, powerfully persuasive copy without crossing the line into hype by learning these techniques.

No-hype Technique #1: Create rapport with the reader.

Think your way into the mind of your ideal customer and express what they're thinking and feeling. Then build on that. This wins over readers by connecting with where they are and showing them the next logical step. For example:

Wishing that your book in progress could just finish itself already? Writing a book can be an exercise in procrastination, frustration and roadblocks. But when you use the "Two-a-Day"" Method, your book gets completed easily, steadily and finally.

No-hype Technique #2: Use emotional words and phrases.

Dry, matter-of-fact language isn't as persuasive as wording that acknowledges and expresses what's at stake in the customer's situation and the feelings involved.

BEFORE: Our database offers detailed listings of more than $3.7 billion in available scholarship funding.

AFTER: Access to our members-only database of more than $3.7 billion in free, no-strings-attached scholarship money means you can attend the college of your dreams without enslaving yourself to future loan payments.

No-hype Technique #3: Add colorful details.

For every general concept you want to mention, substitute or add specific, concrete details. Abstractions and generalities never hit home as well as statements containing numbers, names, places, stories and other specifics. Also, general statements have little impact because they sound like things we've all heard a zillion times. Copywriters call the technique of adding detail "dimensionalizing" because it turns a square little statement into a 3-D patterned shape that the reader has never quite encountered before.

In these two examples from Paul Lemberg's home page, the section in parentheses dimensionalizes the claim just before it:

* How to boost sales quickly; (50-100% year-over-year sales increase is not unusual among my clients.)

* Escalate short-term profits and build long-term equity; (One client recently sold their company for three times what they had been led to expect by the so-called expert investment bankers...)

No-hype Technique #4: Pair problems with solutions.

Listing problem after problem that a product solves or prevents can come across as unbelievable and even depressing. The opposite strategy, listing benefit after benefit from the product, can seem too good to be true. When you link the problem with the solution and at least hint at a reason for the positive result, customers feel they're getting something solid and valuable when they buy.

To illustrate this, here are three bullet points from Susan C. Daffron's description of her book "Happy Hound: Develop a Great Relationship With Your Adopted Dog or Puppy":

* The two main reasons dogs generally jump on people and four ways to convince the dog you really don't need that type of greeting

* Six safety instructions you must teach your children not to do to avoid dog bites and the four things they should always do if they encounter a dog they don't know

* Three keys for surviving "canine adolescence." As with human children, adolescence is a time when dogs test limits and try your patience!

(By the way, the numbers in those bullets help dimensionalize the book's content, exemplifying tip #3.)

No-hype Technique #5: Paint vivid scenarios. Feed the reader's imagination with what can realistically happen after they buy your product or service. You're not promising this will happen, but by putting the reader into the future, he or she pictures it happening and feels motivated to have the result.

Here, for instance, is how I fed the reader's imagination in promotional copy for my report, "Marcia's Makeovers: 24 Press Releases Transformed from So-So to Sizzling":

I challenge you to cite a greater return on investment than that produced by a world-class media release that lands you on page 1 of a major newspaper, in a two-page spread in your top industry magazine or in the fluffy final segment of a network newscast. Just one major score like this, and you can milk the credibility payoff for your business practically forever. Inspire a feature story that gets picked up by the Associated Press, and enjoy people all over the world clamoring to get their hands on what you sell.

No-hype Technique #6: Incite curiosity. Reread the bullet points for tip #4, and if you have any interest at all in dog behavior, you'll find you really, really want to know the techniques that are described there in an incomplete yet tempting fashion. Reference to the "Two-a-Day" Method has the same kind of effect - the reader wants to know "two of what?" Show a little while holding something back.

Like the other five techniques described here, enticing the reader is a truthful, effective, no-hype way to make the reader want to step forward and buy.
About the Author
Veteran copywriter/marketing consultant Marcia Yudkin is the author of Persuading on Paper, 6 Steps to Free Publicity and 9 other books. She runs a one-on-one mentoring program that teaches no-hype marketing writing and business savvy. For more information, go to http://www.yudkin.com/become.htm
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