Podcast: The Power of Words with Jeff Sexton

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In this episode of Landing Page Optimization, SiteTuners CEO Tim Ash chats with Wizard of Ads partner and cross-channel writer Jeff Sexton about copywriting best practices, approach differences between traditional mass media and online content, videos, buyer personas and scenarios, and temperament-based messaging. 

Mass Media vs. Direct Response

Tim and Jeff start the discussion by identifying the differences between mass media and direct response and their implications for copywriting. They note that while the former is primarily for branding, with the goal of being remembered well enough for your audience to look up you up some other time. With direct response, people are expected to act immediately, and so should be provided the mechanism to do so. Additionally, mainstream branding reaches the masses, so copywriters have to assume that the majority of their audience is not in the market for what they’re selling. This is the reason ads and commercials sometimes sacrifice messaging for creativity to keep the audience’s attention. On the other hand, in the online world for direct response, the people pulled in through AdWords or PPC are in the market, ready to buy. Jeff says this is why it’s important to have a relevant sales message that pulls people through the sales process and gets them to buy.

People Have Different Intent: Sales Funnel-Based Writing

Jeff shares that the AIDAS (attention, interest, desire, action, satisfaction) formula works in copywriting since it’s about working someone through all the stages of the sales funnel. He says that “satisfaction” is relevant to conversion, as there is a lot of follow up that can be done that can dramatically improve satisfaction, although Tim notes that satisfaction is a function of experience and not necessarily a conversion parameter. Either way, a marketer brings in a visitor for one sale, but the goal is a lifetime of repeated use or repeated sales

Tim and Jeff tackle how a user’s stage in the sales funnel affects the copy that they should see. The keywords a user puts in the search engine can be used to identify how far up or down the sales funnel someone is. And this this should dictate which page the visitor sees.

 Jeff notes that sometimes laziness drives marketers to direct all of their AdWords to the same landing page, and this doesn’t work especially for complex, more considered purchases. Early in the funnel folks might be in the market for your product or service, but shouldn’t be taken to the sales page right away. He says this is where the “content” of content marketing comes in – you give top of the funnel folks information, insights, or the solution they’re looking for based on their intent from their keywords. The further up the funnel the visitor is, the less hard sell, the more informative, friendlier the copy should be. Meanwhile, the further down the funnel, the more “about business” the tone of the copy should be

People Do Read on the Web: Text and Videos

Tim asks how text plays in with the emphasis on images and videos that we’re seeing in Google search results. Jeff explains that while people like averaging out the experience and say that users don’t read on the web, they do read when the text is relevant to what they want. For example, people on the Amazon homepage looking for a Nikon D600 DSLR will click on electronics, then cameras, then DSLRs, then hit Nikon, then D600. They will read the D600 page because it has the information that’s interesting to them. All the previous pages, they will not read - they will scan for the scent trail and click through. Jeff also points out that although videos have been proven to be effective online, tests show that videos with text work better than videos alone

People Want to Know What’s Next: Video Best Practices

The two talk more about videos and how much time web users are willing to invest in them. Jeff says that if a video is more than two minutes, it’s less than optimal. Tim adds that for educational content, our brain resets attention every eight to 10 minutes, so unless there is a radical shift, people are going to tune the video out. For anything promotional or action-oriented, 30-60 seconds is ideal.  

It’s best to carefully select the image that represents the video overlaid with the length and topic. This will let people know how much time they’re going to be asked to invest. If the length is unknown, people will assume that it’s too long.

Jeff adds that setting people’s expectations is universal. People always want to know what’s going to happen next. For any action you want people to take, giving them a preview always increases people’s willingness to take the next step. This is true for lead forms and “Add to Cart buttons.”

People Have Baggage: Buyer Persona and User Scenario 

Tim and Jeff stress that the number one driver of conversion is matching intent, and a big part of matching intent is anticipating and answering questions within the context of visitor conversation with your website. Jeff says websites commonly commit the mistake of making people work very hard by burying the answers people look for within an FAQ page, or worse, not having the answers at all. 

Tim points out that first step in redesigning a site should be creating user scenarios- finding out who’s showing up and what they’re trying to do - then grading the site performance against those. These scenarios are designed with people’s expectations, along with the baggage they’re bringing. 

Jeff adds that using buyer persona and scenario and planning out navigation paths help because people don’t navigate a website based on information architecture. They don’t look at the top-down navigation scheme - they follow the clickstream which they think will take them where want to go. Baggage is important because there’s often a precipitating event that moves somebody from considering something to buying something. Jeff says if you don’t plan for these events, you can end up with a copy that doesn’t speak to the visitor’s emotional state when they’re ready to buy. 

People Run on the Same Operating System: Identity-Based Copywriting

Tim observes that people run on the same “wetware” and that good copywriting seems to be based on tapping the emotional brain rather than the logical one. Jeff agrees and adds that there are two important things in good copywriting: relevance and credibility. Emotion is a big part of relevance, and the thing to focus on is the visitor’s self-identity as nobody willingly takes an action that directly conflicts with their self-image. Jeff says, to identify what messaging will appeal to someone, you have to ask the following questions: 

  • How does a person see himself/herself?
  • How does your product or service or the decision you’re trying them to make relate back to that self-image?

He shares that you can try to understand what motivates people by using the four temperaments. He notes, though, that the problem a lot of people have is marketing to their own temperament and neglecting the rest. He adds that of the four temperaments, the maximum that you’re going to have is 35% of the population, which means you’re leaving at least 65% of the population under-messaged. 

First Air Date: September 23, 2013

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