The “short pitch” is the purest form of marketing. When I started out in marketing in nineteen , I did some copywriting for one-page print and direct mail pieces. They required really sharp, compelling, minimal prose. Ever try selling the virtues of a roof consulting firm in a four-inch print ad? Yeah.
Today, nothing demands more of a writer than creating copy for a landing page. You have to communicate your value, get the visitor to keep reading and get them to act. A tall order in any setting. And you have to do it all on a single page.
And while landing pages are online and print ads are, well, print, many of the same principles still apply. Here are eight copywriting tips that ring true regardless of where your copy appears.
Sell the page
Don’t just sell the product. Sell the page.
The very first thing the reader sees should explain why they should stick around. Yes, a great headline helps. But follow up with more. Here’s what I mean:
- “Buy now!!!!” isn’t very effective on its own.
- “Need better widgets? Buy from us!” isn’t much better.
- “A lighter, stronger widget will improve your profit and decrease maintenance life cycles” is great, especially if you follow with “Here’s how.“
I’m not just pushing the product. I’m providing information. I’m going to tell you why my product is lighter and stronger. And, even if you don’t buy my product, you’ll come away with information.
Try the Blank Sheet of Paper Test
If you wrote your headline, subhead, image caption or first paragraph on a blank sheet of paper and handed it to a stranger on the street, would they understand it?
That’s the Blank Sheet of Paper Test. The higher up on the page it appears, the more important it is that your writing be clear without context.
I’ve got some painful examples. Warning: these aren’t for the faint of heart:
“Supreme Court Tries Sodomy”
I’m an open-minded guy, but I don’t think that’s what they meant. This headline might be passable on a print page with explanatory text around it. Online, and especially without context, it’s a disaster. How about:
“Supreme Court Tries Sodomy Case”
A less painful example:
“Lighter. Stronger. The H1.”
Hmmm. What is the H1? If this is on a print page with a huge image, it could work. On the web, where I might see this in an e-mail, in a tweet or in some other snippet, it’s a mystery. Add one word and it starts to make sense:
“Lighter. Stronger. The H1 Helmet.”
If you have the room:
“Lighter. Stronger. The H1 Cycling Helmet.”
Here’s another doozy:
“Royals To Get a Taste of Angels’ Colon”