As a writer, it’s my job to read and write content pretty much all day, every day. I’ve seen my share of both brilliant and cringe-worthy ad writing in the process. Like most of you, I’ve speedily clicked on headlines which caught my attention. I’ve also been turned off by brands whose message was inconsistent, confusing, or even offensive.
This article is about how to make sure you’re not one of the brands. There are so many avoidable mistakes people make before pressing “publish.” Here are some of the most common ad writing and messaging slip-ups that cost people sales online.
1) Talking endlessly about yourself, instead of focusing on the customer.
This is the #1 thing that causes my red pen to come out when I’m editing website copy or ad writing. In fact, I could probably write a whole article on this topic alone. But we have a lot of other mistakes to cover here, so I’ll just give you the basics.
When writing something promotional, you must remember that people don’t really care about your business. Unless you give them a reason to care – a reason that resonates with them – your copy will fall flat.
Here are a few of the tricks writers use to craft headlines or ad messaging that make the value clear to your audience.
- Refer to a target audience specifically. If you are selling software made specifically for lawyers, mention lawyers in your messaging. Pretty simple.
- Mention the problem you solve right away. No one cares about your features; they care about how those features can make their lives better.
- Make sure there is a “you” for every “I” or “we” on your website. Are you talking about yourself instead of the person visiting your website? For example, the phrase “I write great ads” resonates a lot less than “I craft custom ads so you can drive leads while spending more time running your business.”
- Ask yourself if your audience would respond “hey, that’s me!” to your writing. If your ad makes people think about their own situation (and how you can help them improve it). you are on the right track!
2) Not justifying “too good to be true” offers.
Trust is the lifeblood of online sales, and buyers can be skeptical. This is especially true if your product or service is “disruptive” and offers something unique or never seen before. If this is the case, or if you’re offering a super-sweet deal, you’ll benefit from first educating people on why you’re doing this and how it works. Offering this information humanizes your brand, builds trust, and stops people from wondering “what’s the catch?”
For example, needls allows people to run social media ad campaigns at a fraction of the cost and time as a typical agency. That’s great. But if we just told you that without explaining our technology, you’d probably be wondering why our rates are so incredibly low. Does quality suffer? Is this for real?
Explaining your why you’re so awesome can boost your ad campaigns and website writing as well as your email marketing. For example, explaining why you are having a sale (“we are clearing out our stock to make way for next season!”) will build trust and relationship with current customers, resulting in more sales.
3) Not addressing possible objections.
One of the biggest advantages of in-person sales meetings is the ability to address concerns and questions from potential customers right away. Ads and websites often avoid the difficult questions which follow any sales pitch. That’s usually a mistake. Just like in a traditional sales call, your response to common customer concerns can be what closes the deal online.
There are some ways to increase online sales (or just get more of those in-person meetings) using clever ad writing. Before writing an ad or website page, write down the possible objections a prospect would have before taking the next step. Is price a major concern? Do they know and trust you, or is this new territory for them? Make sure your messaging puts their minds at ease as much as possible.
For example, if your goal is to book phone calls or meetings with sales prospects, you can address popular concerns about high-pressure sales by saying the calls provide “expert advice with absolutely no obligation to buy.” The ever-popular 100% satisfaction guarantee can also help ease people’s fears about jumping in with a new business or technology. Talking to sales and customer support staff is a great way to learn more about customers’ typical concerns so you can address them in future advertising.
4) Too few words on a webpage.
Brevity definitely has its place in ad writing. Your company description on Facebook should be very to-the-point, long video scripts bore audiences, and paid media slots are very limited.
Websites are a different situation. While there are benefits to keeping certain things like headlines and calls to action short and sweet, limiting your website copy can hurt your performance.
The text on your website tells search engines like Google and social media websites like Facebook what your website is all about. If you limit the keywords or offer incomplete descriptions of your product and services, they’ll be less likely to refer their users to your site.
That doesn’t mean you have to bore visitors with an essay when they arrive. Smart use of images and formatting is important here – for example, our website has a large headline with a header image that takes up the whole screen when you first visit. The additional text is only visible when someone scrolls down.
Blog content or secondary pages with lots to offer can also help fill in this gap and drive more traffic.
5) Calls to action demanding too much of your audience.
A call to action tells your customer what to do when they finish reading an ad. You’ve probably heard the “call now!” or “visit us in-store today!” at the end of an ad before. These calls to action give interested customers instructions on what they should do to buy or learn more about your product.
Online, customers often are able to complete the call to action immediately after reading it. That’s why calls to action are usually placed on buttons that you’re hoping people click on to continue to the next buying stage.
Let’s take another look at our homepage. Here, we have two calls to action:
There are three main things that make people unlikely to opt-in on an ad or landing page:
- It seems like too much of a commitment. A “buy now” button which requires a credit card transaction will not get as much action as a “try now” button which offers easy access to a free trial. Commitment-heavy calls to action (buy, donate, subscribe, etc) may or may not be avoidable for your business, but offering people a “softer” opt-in alongside the buy now (like a free download or discovery call) is usually wise.
- It seems like too much work. “Read our whitepaper” sounds like a lot more work than “let us show you how” or “explore our platform.” People don’t want to sign up for a bunch of work when they click on your button, so making the next step sound easy or fun is a good idea.
- It is unclear. Clarity usually wins over persuasion online. At the end of the day, you want the people clicking that button to be the ones who are likely to buy your product or service.
6) Redundancies (aka words that have no real use or meaning).
Clarity matters a lot in ad writing, and space can be precious. For that reason, you’ll want to choose your words wisely. Sure, you can say the same thing twice or in two different ways to really drive it home – but do it on purpose. For example, do you need to emphasize that a fact is “actually true,” or will “true” suffice? Is “ask a question” necessary, or does “ask” cover that idea by itself?
Here’s a great list of redundant words worth looking over. If you see any of these terms in your writing, take a second look. You may find your sentence is a lot lighter and clearer without these extra words weighing it down.
7) Using language which doesn’t resonate with your ideal customer.
Let’s say you’re selling a health tech product. Would you explain its benefits to a doctor the same way you would a patient? Probably not.
Many companies often go over their target audiences’ heads by using big industry terms. Others turn off people with expertise by being imprecise about what they offer.
The most important thing in ad writing is to know your audience. Buyer personas are critical for this step. Whenever possible, talk to current customers (or at least customer-facing staff) before writing anything to attract more like them. Using the tone and terms that appeal to your target customers will naturally give you better results.
In Online Marketing, Words Matter
Once you engage an audience online, you have a limited amount of time to make a first impression. If you can get their initial attention, people will spend an average of 20 seconds on your website. Over half of that time is spent either reading written content or browsing the words on navigation menus.
The words on your website matter. Moreover, masterful ad writing is critical to driving people to your website in the first place. Whether you create your own messaging or hire someone to do it for you, make sure these seven mistakes stay far away from your online strategy.