The art of the science of persuasion

If you’re like most small business owners, you didn’t hire a copywriter to write your web content. Maybe you’re starting to realize that was a mistake.

You see, the ability to create copy that actually sells has been trained out of us from the moment we could put together complete sentences. It was trained out of me, and it was trained out of you. The only difference is I’ve spent a good time retraining. The way we’re taught to write—at school, at university, and ironically especially in the workplace—produces weak, lifeless copy that couldn’t sell a damned thing. So…chances are good that your website could generate way more sales with the right copy.

Let me prove it with a simple question…

If you were to meet a prospective customer face to face, whether business or consumer…could you sell him using only sentences taken from your website?

I’ll give you a minute to open your site up and have a crack at imagining that conversation. Take your time.

Back already? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Websites are a lot like books…

…people supposedly judge them by their covers. But you know what? Covers don’t sell books. Stories do. The best-selling books aren’t the ones with the most attractive covers. They’re the ones with the stories that resonate with lots of people.

In the same way, a great design might get your reader into your website’s content…but if you want to keep his attention for more than the first sentence, you have to capture it with your words. And listen: if you want your reader to become your customer, you’re going to have to keep his attention all the way to the last sentence.

When you think about it that way, it’s kind of scary, huh? How in the blue blazes do you do that?

The same way books do.

With the power of stories

This is my “secret” weapon. It’s not my only one; but it’s the one I like using the most.

For all the great and complex copywriting techniques that I’ve studied, there’s nothing in the world more powerful than stories. They lie at the heart of every culture (and every piece of great copy). They capture our minds and tug at our hearts. You yourself know how certain stories can reach deep inside you, grab you around your gizzards…and not let go.

Imagine getting your customers by the gizzards like that.

“But I want web copy for my business—not a novel!”

Sure, I hear yah. But let me ask you something. What are good stories about? They’re about people, aren’t they? Groups of people just like us, doing interesting things.

As it happens, small businesses are groups of people just like us, doing interesting things. They have built-in stories waiting to be told. But somewhere along the line, they got this idea that telling their stories is “unprofessional”; that coming out with interesting things that make people think and engage and respond is “dangerous”. Especially when they’re talking to other businesses. Because, you know, other businesses aren’t comprised of people just like you! That’s crazy talk.

It’s much safer to produce meaningless marketing slogans coupled with wooden content (written, if you recall, by someone with the ability to persuade trained out of him). Stuff that would bore the pants off Charles Dickens. That’s bound to generate a great response, right?

If yours is the sort of company that believes this, then I’m sorry to have wasted your time. We won’t be working together. But if you’re seeing the sense in what I’m saying, and you’re thinking you’re willing to be persuaded—well then, let me tell you the story of how great copy gets written…and sells.

Or if you just want to skip the whole reading thing and get talking, by all means…

…let’s talk

How stories sell

The year 1919—New York. 18 year old Lillian Eichler is working for ad agency Ruthrauff & Ryan. She’s given the task of writing an ad for a thousand dusty copies of the pre-1900 Encyclopedia of Etiquette. If that sounds hard, wait till you hear the catch: most of these 1,000 tomes are returns, sent back by their original buyers after the 5-day trial period because of their unacceptably archaic language and illustrations.

Lillian writes a sales letter advertising the Encyclopedia of Etiquette. It tells the story of a young lady dining with a gentleman suitor. The ad whisks every copy of this troublesome book off the storage shelves in just a few days—permanently. The Encyclopedia of Etiquette is still being sold today. You can buy it on Amazon for about thirty bucks.

1975—The Wall Street Journal runs a sales letter hinging around the story of two men graduating college…and their divergent fortunes. The ad is so successful that WSJ doesn’t stop using it for 28 years. In that time, it grosses well over $1 billion in direct response revenues. Yeap, a thousand million smackers from just one piece of copy.

Back to 1958. Rolls-Royce runs an ad written by David Ogilvy for their Silver Cloud. It has a simple headline: At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock. And it goes on to list 13 features of the car. It doesn’t exactly smack you in the face as a story. But therein lies its genius. Stories don’t have to be long—the headline is a story in itself. As is the subhead. As is the first feature mentioned. And not every story has to be structured overtly as such—yet every feature of the ad progressively builds up a larger story in the reader’s mind of this excellent car…and of owning it.

That year, Rolls Royce makes 50% more sales. Although this isn’t a B2B ad, it could be. Often, the best B2B copy is nothing but a finely-crafted story of a product’s features benefiting the prospect. It can be the most challenging copy to write really well—and not a lot of copywriters are willing to attempt it. Which explains why so many businesses settle for weak “editorial” style copy.

Present day—not wanting to “settle”, you hire a student of these and many other great ads, and a consummate story-teller, the ‘Information Highwayman’—to tell your customers a compelling story through your own website…

For first-rate clients only

But perhaps you shouldn’t hire me. Perhaps you don’t understand the difference between price and value, and are thinking of haggling over my rates. Perhaps you’re the sort of person who pushes for unreasonable deadlines, or who likes to micro-manage projects. Or maybe you’re just a scam artist, or your product is lousy.

No? Okay, then it’s a good bet we’re qualified to work together—in which case I’d love to hear about your copywriting needs. I also very much enjoy working with people who contribute to virtuous causes. I’m currently accepting pro bono work, so if you have a charitable project you need help with, let me know!

My offer: turn your site into the fastest draw on the web

Increasing conversion rates is my specialty. Everything I do revolves around it. Which means that I’m an expert not only in copywriting, but also in design.

If you’re interested in getting more business from your website, I always recommend starting with consulting. That way, we make sure I actually can help you—and we know exactly where you stand if you want to go ahead with a project. Whether you prefer face-to-face consultation via Skype, ear-to-ear consultation via the phone, finger-to-finger via email, or a PDF report so snazzy you’ll want to print and frame it—you name your preference and I’ll make it happen.

I ask for payment only after I’ve advised you, because I don’t want you to give me a cent if you aren’t absolutely satisfied. If you don’t believe you’ll see a sizable return on investment by putting my ideas into practice, then don’t pay me. Fair?

When I hired Bnonn I expected to see increased conversions and more effective communication by implementing his recommendations. And I’m not surprised that after a few hours of making those changes, I’m already seeing results. But what I didn’t expect is that because of the way I’ve shifted my approach I’m able to deepen the communication and impact of my purpose, helping people live more limitless lives. The conversions are awesome, but knowing that I’m making more of a difference in the world because of the recommendations from Bnonn is even sweeter.

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The real meat: copywriting

Words are the most important part of your site. People won’t pony up if you don’t explain why they should. Give your web copy’s ROI a real kick in the proverbial by engaging your readers with content that really engages them…and gets them salivating for what you’re offering…

  • full site rewrites
  • homepages, landing pages & sales pages
  • contact forms
  • case studies
  • whitepapers
  • email autoresponders

Plus, you have unlimited access to my design & user experience expertise for the duration of your project. Not just the general advice I offer in my special report on how to increase reader response on your website, but tailored consultation on how to best present the copy I write—so it works as hard as possible for you in the future.

What should you expect a project to be like? It’s good to know up front, innit? So click here to check out my copywriting project process (watch out; it’s a PDF). This is the checklist I work through for every job I do. It’s how I produce copy that knocks people down and takes their wallets every time, and it should give you a pretty clear idea of how a copywriting project works.

Bnonn’s writing skills are rare: his words sell your product. I can wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone who doesn’t already have a Pulitzer prize, because good copy is actually more important than good design (this coming from a designer). —Max Guedy, Agency Zebra

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Perhaps you’re wondering about prices. It should go without saying that the fees of a good copywriter reflect his value. Strong copy is a long term investment—it never stops working to get you more conversions. Spending more now means far greater returns down the line. Take a gander at my services & rates (PDF). They’ll give you a good idea of the costs and timeframes to expect for various kinds of work. And if that all looks good, why not drop me a line to talk about your project?

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