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5 copy mistakes that are killing your sales

Not reaching your sales goals?  It’s your own fault.

Not reaching your sales goals just sucks, in plain English.


The mediocre performance.  The abysmal market share. That smug look on your competitors’ faces.  It all makes you want to go hide in a corner. Because, just like most fender benders, your sales shortcomings were completely avoidable.


And admitting your past actions led to such utter failure can be one of the toughest pills to swallow.


As someone who’s worked in advertising for years, I can tell you one fatal flaw that hinders sales growth—in every industry: having faith in bad copy.


Back when I managed paid search campaigns, clients would wonder, “We’re getting more site traffic… why haven’t sales increased?”


Then they’d pour more money into media buys and hope more exposure would lead to more sales.


And don’t get me wrong; exposure is valuable.  But when you advertise to droves of consumers and don’t have the ROAS to show for it, then it’s time to sit down and evaluate your copy.


So, how do you pinpoint copy mistakes?


Be On The Lookout For These 5 Warning Signs Of Revenue-Killing Copy


1. Mistaking Features For Benefits


This has been said before, but it bears repeating: customers don’t care about your business.  That means they don’t care about your products, and they certainly don’t care about your services.  That is, not until they find out what’s in it for them.


Don’t forget; customers are people.  And people are impatient.


Customers don’t want to give you any more of their time than is absolutely necessary.


If you want to sell something, then your copy must instantly show customers how buying from you improves their lives.


People already have a predetermined list of needs they’re constantly trying to satisfy: love, money, power, beauty, status, health, safety, security, opportunity,

acceptance, positive experiences, fun, etc.


Copy that effectively communicates your product’s or service’s benefits will almost always tie back to at least one of these needs.


Does Your Copy Pass The Test?


Here’s a fast, easy way to figure out if your copy effectively communicates benefits: imagine you’re in the market for the products or services your company sells.  Now take a look at a piece of your brand’s copy. Read it aloud, and ask yourself, honestly: does this copy describe any benefits I stand to gain as this brand’s customer?  Does this copy demonstrate what makes this brand superior to others in the same industry? Does this copy make me feel like I’ve found the answers to my problems?


If your answer is “no,” then congratulations: we’ve just figured out how to increase your sales.


2. Poorly-Worded Promotions


Department stores in particular tend to make this mistake repeatedly.  Here’s an example of some confusing promotional copy I recently found on a well-known department store’s website:


(promo code and background imagery have been changed to keep this retailer’s identity anonymous)


Obviously, the intention was for the “20% Off” to catch your attention.  But adding the “Extra 15% select depts” qualifier below starts to muddle this promotion.  What exactly do I need to do to get 20% off my purchase? And is the extra 15% off on top of the 20%, or are some departments 20% off and others only 15%?


Having worked in a retail environment, I can tell you with absolute certainty: if your sales messaging leaves any room for misinterpretation, you are bound to piss off your customers.  That’s a fact.


Luckily, there’s a pretty quick fix to ambiguous promo copy: be specific.  Let shoppers know which discounts apply to which product categories. If everything’s discounted, then say so.  If not, let shoppers know which items are on sale right now, and how much they can expect to save.


Create urgency; let shoppers know how long the promotion is running.  Don’t give them a reason to comparison shop. Make it clear that your sale is the one they need most.


But above all else, make sure your promotions are carefully worded, or you’ll end up with unhappy customers who feel like you’ve betrayed them.



3. The Brand Voice Needs Work



Much like powerful people, powerful brands possess well-known identities.  And well-known identities come with recognizable voices.


Wendy’s is witty.


Apple is innovative.


Google asks, “why not?”.


These brands each communicate their identities in unique, distinctive voices.


A recognizable brand voice lets your brand differentiate itself from the countless competitors fighting for market share.


There are two key factors to creating a powerful brand voice: first, you must share a lexicon with your customers (AKA you’ve got to “talk the talk”).  And second, your brand’s personality needs to shine through every piece of copy.


Now, sharing a lexicon with your customers is crucial for success, but it will inevitably create some overlap between your brand’s messaging and that of your competitors’.  This is where your personality comes to play.


Maintaining a distinct brand personality can ensure your brand’s voice isn’t drowned out by the noise from your competition.


So, are you witty?  Sentimental? Family-oriented?


Are you a thrill-seeker?  Do you love to party? Do you rely on sex appeal to sell?


Whatever your identity, sing it loud and clear in your bran’s beautiful voice!



4. The Sales Message Is Drowning In Too Much “Fluff”


There are plenty of copywriters who have other aspirations besides writing advertising copy: screenwriting, songwriting, comedy, poetry, even penning the next great American novel.  And while every great campaign requires some creativity, your ads should never look like the result of a copywriter trying to live out a different dream.


Unless your business is MGM, the goal is never to create art for the pure sake of creating art.


Instead, your best advertising will combine a healthy balance of artistic flair and meaningful messaging that contributes to your company’s bottom line.  Whether your goal is to announce a new product, launch a new brand, or anything in between, customers should never be left wondering what the hell you’re promoting after they’ve seen one of your ads.


So with every campaign, new web page, email newsletter, Facebook ad, blog post, etc., always check to make sure there’s a clear sales message your customers won’t miss.


Which brings us to our final revenue-killing copy mistake:


5. There’s No Call-To-Action



Possibly one of the biggest revenue-killing mistakes is expecting your customers to read your mind.  Again, never leave any room for misinterpretations!


call-to-action (AKA CTA) is simply a command that tells your audience what to do with the information you’ve just shared with them.


So, whether you’re running a brand awareness campaign, launching a new product or service, or advertising a special, limited-time promotion, always tell your customers which actions to take to reap the benefits!

Simple, but oh-so-effective!


Does Your Advertising Copy Pay For Itself Yet?


Need a new creative strategy?  Let’s talk!  Contact me directly at (631) 210-7282, or send me a message using the form below.


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