My Tip for Writing Sales Copy

The modern world is fluid: there are no longer strict times to work, to go shopping, to connect with people. This fluidity is even more dangerous to those who work freelance, especially if that’s from home. It can be difficult to switch off from the endless list of things that can be done at any one moment, causing constant distractions – some welcome, but most not.

One of the bonuses of being a professional copywriter is that clients give you work. However, if you write sales copy full time, there’s a significant chance that at some point you will experience that awful feeling of writing yourself into a corner full of clichés, and it can be a tiresome task trying not to recycle your own work.

But it was while I was tuning up my new TV that I made a career-defining discovery. When you can’t think of any more ways to sell that ugly pair of leather cowboy boots simply take my advice and…turn on the TV.

Yes, you heard me. Turn on the TV.

Switch straight to the home shopping channels – you’ll find you have plenty. And, for once in your life, that’s a good thing.

Watching the endless hours of furious waffling will give you a crash course in how to sell. Home shopping channels are divided into hour-long slots where a presenter is challenged to shift as many units as possible, as though trying to bargain their way out of a hostage scenario. Often they have a whole range to peddle, but the real feats of salesmanship are the solus endorsements.

As the minutes tick away, the programme swiftly descends into farce as the host becomes desperate to snag that potential customer. It’s true. I have actually seen, with my own eyes, a frantic presenter furiously force the backstage crew to fashion a pet fish out of a carrot and a bowl of water, just to show off a panoramic camera.

But the highs (and the many lows) of this kind of television are invaluable to the ‘blocked’ copywriter.

As you sit there in your be-throned armchair, all smug in your new position as the ‘potential customer’, you can see what works – Wow, that mobile really does look like it has everything I want and at such a reasonable price – and what doesn’t – Hmm, I’d rather take memorable photographs of my grandchildren than my goldfish.

As we all know, one of the most important things in copywriting is selling the experience. And that is what these guys (usually) do so well.

To gain your trust, the presenter will start out with the product specifications – the brand, the quality materials, the craftsmanship – but before you know it they’ve segwayed these indisputable facts into the ways that this product will make your life easier, more efficient, and, in turn, make you a better person/worker/mother/friend.

The sole point of the programme is just like a piece of sales copy – it is to build a gradual argument for why this specific product will change your life, and by the end, even the most dismissive viewer can’t help but agree with everything they’ve just said. Except for maybe that bit about the fish.

Of course, I’m not saying this little technique is without its risks. Turning on the TV while you’re trying to work does, after all, take a lot of stamina, mostly to not let yourself get sucked in by Pointless or Bargain Hunt (I’m not judging). But, if you’re stuck on the roundabout of sales clichés, there are worse things you can do than switch to the home shopping channels. And besides, all that red-faced shouting and carrot-bobbing means they can be pretty fun too…

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