Words that work: How to sell without sounding like a sleaze

Too often, business owners believe that just because they know how to write, that their words will persuade people to pay attention, buy their products or provide word of mouth. But effective copywriting to compel an action or convey a brand takes a special skill. Today, Jared Matthew Kessler, Chief Copy Officer (CCO) at The Kick Ass Copywriter will share some insight as to how to sell by solving problems, not just tooting your horn. He’ll also dish on his process for crafting irresistible website copy, how to pitch without sounding schlocky and the biggest mistakes business owners can avoid if they want a compelling message.

Jared’s mission is to transform key ideas into words that sell and help companies stand out from the noise (not just add to it).

RS: Welcome Jared! How do you balance effective selling “techniques” for your clients without sounding overly cheesy?

JK: You know, we’re all a lot smarter these days. We know when we’re being sold and when we’re being helped. However, there’s this fine line between offering a product or service that you know will help people and slapping someone over the head with it.

When I take on a project, I ask numerous questions up front. In fact I gather as many marketing materials as I can and, if I need to, I send them a 7-page questionnaire that really helps me understand their brand – and whether or not there’s what I call a “B.S. factor.” So when I come up with a few concepts and start writing and developing them, I come from a conversational standpoint. Meaning, I literally have a conversation in my head between the prospect and the company owner. At any point, if I feel the “B.S. factor” is coming on too strong, I try and verbally pace the situation. Meaning, if it’s too good to be true you can say, “Listen… I know that sounds too good to be true. And honestly a lot of times it is. But…”

In addition to that, once I sense they are “pitching” someone, I just remove what was written and start again.

It should be about stepping inside the mind of your prospect, and getting people excited, without giving something away. So the product or service would be set up as the solution to your prospect’s problem (if that makes sense). That’s where you have to understand every single aspect of your audience before writing any copy.

I often say, “If you talk to everyone, you’re talking to no one.” It’s a conversation. Not a
sales pitch.

RS: So true. It’s about them, not about you! What big mistakes do you see when business owners write their own marketing or sales copy?

JK: There are four mistakes I see over and over:

1. Telling everyone about how great you are. How qualified you are to help someone. And how “life changing” your product or service is, giving everyone the overblown sales pitch of how much you can help someone. You can’t sell anything without rapport. Without trust. So make it about your prospect first. Then you, last.

2. Underestimating the power of your words. I mean this is similar to #1 in that a lot of people misunderstand what “copywriting” means. They think it’s all about making something sound good. And I think, huh? There’s so much work that goes into not just what I do, but what any true Copywriter does. And the reason I say, “true” is that I’ve seen a lot of “writers” tout themselves as Copywriters because of how much money they can make. And that makes me sad.

The main difference is that when you write copy you don’t just make something sound good. It has to be relevant to your audience. Sell a product or service without the greasy sales pitch. Increase your sales. Build your brand. And work.

I think too many people fall in love with an idea, instead of falling in love with a result. Recently, I had a client’s web site I rewrote the copy for and within hours she had people wanting to work with her. I love that! However, there was a TON of work and research behind that. I sent out surveys to send to her clients that really love her. I’ve written pages and pages of copy for each individual web page. Wrote a new tag line that served her brand much better than her web designer tried to pull off. Developed multiple concepts and… more importantly she didn’t change any of my work – which is the main reason I love her so much. 🙂

3. Building a website instead of a brand. I love a great ad campaign! One that’s smart. Effective. And solves their prospects problem in as a few words as possible (that’s 100% original). The best ones are when all the ads align with each other. For instance, take that David Beckham Superbowl ad (I’m sure you remember it ladies). Now it’s nothing to write home about in terms of incredibly original. But my point is, if you looked at the colors in the commercial. The style. The simplicity. It’s exactly the same look and feel as if you went into the store.

What I see of a lot of smaller businesses is that they just have a certain look and feel to their website. A certain look and feel to their business card. A certain look and feel to their actual business. And their brand is just inconsistent across all platforms. From their marketing collateral to their website, it really needs to be cohesive. It has to all click – not just one piece of it.

4. Have you or your web designer write the “copy” yourself, just to try and save a few bucks. What’s unfortunate is that people mistake a great looking website for an effective one. And that’s really two different things. It’s like me saying, “Well I can design your website for you.” I mean, I’ve never done that, nor would I ever! In fact I’m the first one to recommend a professional web designer to someone, because the design should support the copy (or vice versa).

In addition to that, I unfortunately tend to see certain business owners lose more money in lost sales, than trying to hire someone like me to begin with. What’s worse, is that if you’re a new brand, you have to build trust in the beginning. So if you’re looking to hire a Copywriter to “save the day” for your failing business months/years later, it’s unfortunately not going to do much good unless you rebrand yourself. Because once you lose someone’s trust, it’s really, really hard to earn that back. Even then so, it’ll take a lot more time and more money, than hiring a professional Copywriter from the start.

I mean, look at the rebrand JC Penney’s is going through. And how many millions of dollars in advertising are they spending to get you to revisit them after you already experienced them years ago?

It’s the same thing with trying to save any flailing business. Do it right from the beginning, or even if you’re doing it right, keep it consistent and hire a professional. In the short term, it might be more money than you thought. But in the long run, at least you’ll stay in business.

RS: Awesome points. You’ll end us spending more money (and losting more sales) if you don’t get it it right from the start. And it’s an investment in your business, not something you should skimp on.  One reason people cite is that “Another writer won’t sound like me if they write my copy.” How do you approach writing projects when you have your own writing style but need to reflect a client’s brand or voice?

JK: This is a great question! People get caught up in this a lot. They think that since you haven’t written copy for cell phone companies, or for medical sales or _______ that
you’re somehow unqualified – or the owner can do a better job than a professional Copywriter.

For me specifically, it’s similar to how actors research a role. I recently saw an interview with Brad Pitt on taking the role he did for Moneyball. In the interview, he mentioned how few people research roles nowadays. He mentioned how he could pick up certain character traits from spending months with the actual character he portrays. And how important the research process is for any project he takes on.

I mean, when you spend that much time researching your client, reading their marketing materials, talking with them over the phone, reviewing their answers to your questions… it’s only natural to pick up someone else’s style. Not only that, a lot of times you even help them discover their own voice, their own brand they didn’t even think they had. What’s more exciting than that?!

 What copywriting or messaging techniques have you found worked (or didn’t work) in your business? Please share your story in the Comments.

Learn More With Maria

Ready to join the revolution?

Find out how empathetic your brand is RIGHT NOW, and join our newsletter to start shifting your perspective and transforming your impact.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.