Copywriting Secrets From Mark Silver at Heart of Business
I’ve been a freelance web copywriter for over half a decade now, but one copywriting question still trips me up: how do you write a sales letter that’s not formulaic or full of hype?
Most people wrinkle their noses when they think of the long-form sales letters that dominate the internet, but that copywriting format has become a cliche for good reason: when done well, it works.
Then there are the thousands of long form sales letters that aren’t written well. (I’ve been responsible for at least one.)
Wondering how to be persuasive without being pushy, I asked one person whose sales letters I’ve always admired: Mark Silver of Heart of Business. Mark was kind enough to talk with me about his copywriting techniques and share what I learned with you.
The Top Two Copywriting Mistakes
One of the biggest copywriting mistakes Mark sees clients make is targeting their writing to complete strangers.
“There can be this assumption that if you just write the correct thing, then someone will magically respond,” Mark said. “When someone gets to a purchasing decision, they’re going to have a lot of contact prior to that.
“I think it’s a mistake to write sales copy for someone who doesn’t know anything about you. I’m not writing with that person in mind. I’m not writing with the attempt to convince or convert someone. I’m writing for someone who is already familiar with our business. I’m writing to help them to feel safe enough to make the decision to buy if it’s the right thing for them.”
Another common copywriting mistake Mark sees is when people focus solely on their perspective as an expert. “The language can be esoteric or obtuse, and there’s not a lot of connection,” he said.
How Long is Too Long?
I asked Mark how long he thought sales letters should be. He called the long-versus-short copywriting debate a false dichotomy.
“I see a lot of people not really giving the writing enough space,” he said. “They go, ‘Oh my god, I don’t want it to get too long.’ What people don’t understand is that if you have a conversation … and they have questions about what you’re offering, you’re going to be on the phone for 10 or 15 minutes. If you were to record a conversation that’s 10 or 15 minutes long, you’d have pages and pages of text.
“If someone is really interested, they’re going to have questions, and they deserve your attention.”
Negative Selling is Bad … Right?
Any good copywriter will tell you that effective copywriting describes pain of a situation before presenting a solution. But I’ve had clients and colleagues tell me to focus my copywriting solely on the positive aspects of their business – the solution instead of the problem.
I asked Mark what he thought of this copywriting strategy.
“If you avoid talking about somebody’s problems and you talk about the solution, you’re missing empathy,” he said. “You’re not empathizing. People can come off as feeling not seen or judged with what they’re struggling with. It’s totally unintended. I really get that desire to want to be positive and inspiring, but it’s just common manners to open your heart and connect with that problem.”
For more wisdom from Mark Silver (and some examples sales letters that don’t suck), visit his blog at Heart of Business.
Who are your favorite copywriters?