Brand messaging coach, copywriter, ferocious ice cream eater (not necessarily in that order...)
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In my eyes, these 3 specific tactics are used to serve the seller, not the customer because they don’t have the best interests of the customer at heart. And not only that they’re downright dodgy because they play on fear, shame, and blame in order to get someone to buy.
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PEOPLE & RESOURCES MENTIONED
Maggie Patterson from Small Business Boss: https://smallbusinessboss.co/
Let’s get started well, hello, my friend, and welcome to episode six of the fierce impact podcast. And as always, it’s divine to have you here, I hope you’ve been enjoying the episode so far. And if you have, I want to take 10 seconds to just invite you to leave a rating, or a quick review in your favorite podcast app. It just helps me to know whether it’s hitting the right note and helps others to decide whether or not to listen in. And so it would absolutely mean the world to me, if you’ve been enjoying them. So thank you in advance.
Now, how the heck has your week been? Wherever you are, I hope it’s been more productive than mine. Because the joys of lockdown. running your own business and playing your 86 game of pillow forts is such fun. Anyhow, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.
But what I am fired up to talk about today are some common sales page copywriting techniques that I truly believe needed to die in a ditch. Because in my eyes, they’re there to simply serve the seller, not the customer, and they don’t have the best interests of the customer at heart. And not only that, they’re decidedly dodgy because they play on fear, shame and blame in order just to get someone to buy. And here’s the thing as business owners trying to navigate how to write sales copy for our business can be immensely difficult, especially if copywriting doesn’t come easily to us. Which means we often fall back onto what we see others doing. And sometimes that can be people in our profession. Sometimes it can be other entrepreneurs that we look up to that we respect and admire. And sometimes it can be calling on the help of our good friend Google. And because we see other people doing it, you know, especially who those who we respect and admire, it can make it seem like it’s the thing to do. Like, if it works for them, it should work for me or if it works for them, then you know, surely it must be okay.
So through no real fault of our own. And let me just be clear, this isn’t a blame and shame episode. You know, these rather dubious copywriting tactics become ingrained, they become the norm. And so it goes kind of round and round like a hamster on a wheel, essentially. But it’s important for us as business owners to stop and take stock sometimes. And I know that’s, that’s really hard when you’re already so busy and to ask ourselves, whether these tactics feel right to us whether they align with our values, are they the way we want to do business? Are they respectful and placing people first? Or could they be doing harm? And it’s difficult? I know, because we’re not always aware that some of the tactics that are used in things like sales pages and marketing and sales copy, we’re not always aware that those tactics can actually do harm, and that they can actually prevent people from being able to make an informed decision.
Because what a lot of people don’t know is that some of the common tactics that are used in things like sales pages and on websites and in emails, they actually shut down a person’s critical thinking ability and so they remove a person’s agency and manipulate them into taking action. And so if you ever get that kind of yucky feeling inside when you’re writing something, or if you ever question whether something sounds too sort of salesy or pushy, it’s your gut telling you that it doesn’t feel right to you. And it’s okay if it doesn’t feel right to you because it means you don’t have to do it. It, you get to decide what kind of sales copy, you want to write for your business. You don’t have to follow what anyone else is doing or what anyone else says that you should do and me included. So, you know, write in a way that feels good to you, and that aligns with your values. And you can absolutely, you know, connect and engage with your ideal clients, and you can sell through your copy without needing to play hardball with people’s, you know, emotions. So, let’s get into it, shall we? And it’s a meaty topic. And I’ve got three common sales page tactics that are dubious, dodgy and downright dirty that I want to talk about.
So let me kick things off by asking you a really quick question. Hands up, if you’ve ever read a sales page and felt any or all of the following. So your anxiety or your stress levels rising, maybe a bit of shame or embarrassment, a fear of missing out or FOMO feeling like maybe you should be investing in yourself at any cost. And like this quote, and I’m, air, quoting here, be the one thing that makes the difference in your business. And I know that my hand is raised right now, how about you? I’ve certainly felt all of these feelings when I’ve read certain sales pages before, because our purchase behavior is typically driven by emotional factors. So sales page copy is written to tap into our emotional core, and is designed to make us feel a range of emotions, especially discomfort at the prospect of staying exactly where we are and in pain. So this brings me to my first rather dodgy copywriting tactic. And that is rubbing salt into pain points. I’m sure that you’ve heard people saying, you’ve got to speak to your clients pain points. And when it comes to selling your services you do you do need to identify the main problems that your ideal clients have and the impact that it has on them. Because how else will your ideal clients know what problem you’ve solved? If you don’t tell people what that problem is that you do so.
But where things start to go a ride, where they start to get a little bit funky and dodgy, is when the sales copy keeps kind of poking and prodding at a rubbing salt into the readers pain. And it can dig too deep and start shifting into a territory of making someone feel less than or shamed because they’re not where they want to be. By making the reader the potential customer really feel the struggle and strife that the pain is causing them. It makes them feel a whole lot of discomfort. And when people are feeling discomfort they buy to get out of that discomfort. And so ultimately, it makes people feel crappy about themselves. So the pain point copywriting makes people feel really rubbish about themselves, it makes them feel that the only way forward, the only real option, they have to end that feeling of pain that they’re in is to buy whatever it is that is being sold to them. And essentially, this is the crux of pain, point copywriting. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want the copy I write to make people feel crappy about themselves. So an alternative approach is to begin on a positive note.
So when you’re writing your sales copy, begin on a positive note, highlight a positive highlight a goal or a desired state, you know, your ideal client wants to achieve, highlight a shared value or a shared perspective that you know that you both feel or have to connect at a much deeper and more meaningful level. That’s more warming and kind of uplifting. So it’ll help you to do that you’ll be able to connect at that deeper, more meaningful level. Instead of dwelling on the negatives by agitating those pain points until they’re really really sore. Encourage your reader to imagine their situation improved with your help, but keep it realistic because, you know, instead old page copy, we don’t need to over exaggerate in order to sell. And so I think that this alternative approach, this more positive approach just creates that greater air of positivity, and is far more respectful and uplifting, which is a much nicer kind of way to connect with your potential clients than to weigh them down with all their pain points. So ask yourself when you’re about to write some copy?
How do you really want people to feel when they’re reading your sales page or website or social media copy, because when you think about it from this perspective, it can make a really big difference to how you write. So being clear on how we want our readers to feel, and what action we want them to take shapes the tone and approach we take with our copy. So do you want them to feel inspired and empowered and motivated and excited? Or do you want them to feel disheartened and focused on all the problems they have, and all the reasons that everything feels so hard. So you can probably feel how writing with those two different mindsets and two different approaches can change the way that you speak to and resonate with your ideal client. And so really, what it comes down to is the values that you hold, and the way that you want your relationships with people to begin.
Okay, so diving into number two, and this is atypical testimonials. So out of the box testimonials, so most of us know that providing social proof in the form of testimonials on our websites and sales pages, social media, is a really powerful way to add credibility to your your offer or service. So by carefully weaving your client testimonials into your copy and your marketing, you can use your clients voice to support the benefits and points that you make. And so, testimonials, essentially help potential clients during their decision making process by enabling them to get an insight into, you know, how you work, the kinds of results that you get for people, and how people feel now that they’ve obviously had that transformation. So, by being able to understand that through testimonials, it helps potential clients to feel more secure about making the decision to work with you or to, you know, purchase your course or your program.
People want reassurance that you can help them to solve their problem, and that you can help them to achieve the results that they desire. But what you may have noticed on sales pages is a tendency to highlight exceptional testimonials. This is the technique of using testimonials that share exceptional out of the box results or a typical results. And so the problem with this is that using a typical results in a testimonial, particularly those showcasing kind of incredible financial results. And using those testimonials on a sales page in a high pressure situation is actually really misleading. Because the people who are in a state of pain with the problem they’ve got, who are feeling stuck or disheartened, etc. Seeing testimonials with incredible financial results can push people over the edge to buy, because they believe that they too will able be able to get that kind of result.
I’m not saying that they can’t ever get that kind of result. But you know, the reality is, is that if it isn’t a typical result, you know, and you’ve got a testimonial about that a typical result, it’s likely that a whole lot of other factors have have been in play for the person that did get that result. But the nature of a testimonial, which is obviously sort of short and to the point doesn’t ever provide enough scope to be able to add all the context that enabled that person to get that exceptional result. So for example, you know, were there are other factors that enabled the person to get that fantastic results. So, you know, did they have a big team? You know, have they got a full time employee working with them. If they already got a large loyal email community of customers who are kind of ready to buy and really warm, did they have a well engaged social media following.
All of those sorts of things that will actually affect the kinds of results that someone might be able to kind of get out of the box straight away. So, in cases like this, it’s often useful to ask yourself, when you’re working out what testimonials to use, ask yourself whether such a result. So if you’ve got some atypical results that have been amazing, ask yourself whether it would actually be better as a case study, rather than a testimonial. Because a case study allows you to provide detail about what else if anything, may have contributed towards that success. And occasionally, if you look carefully at the fine print on the bottom of a sales page, you will see a statement that says something along the lines of y ou know, the results featured are not typical for most students. So it’s not on all sales pages. But sometimes when you’ve got testimonials that have amazing financial results, and then you might see an asterix, or at the bottom of the sales page, you might see something that does say, you know, these results featured are not typical for most students. Whenever I see that kind of message, I kind of think to myself, well, why include those results, why include those specific testimonials, particularly if they don’t have any context around them. So you can see how it could potentially mislead someone into taking action.
You know, to do this knowingly, and then to add a disclaimer about the results not being typical is, in my view dodgy because those results coupled with other persuasive copywriting tactics kind of combined to create this pressure cooker of making people feel like this is what could be the one thing that could help them that could propel them forwards. And in the cases where the stakes are high as in, it’s a substantial investment for someone to make. It’s important for us to be conscious about the information we’re sharing with people as part of that decision making process. So are we enabling them to make a really informed decision. And, you know, I know that we all want to put our best foot forward and to showcase what we have helped people to achieve. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I’m just sort of saying, you know, we need to be careful when we’re selecting testimonials that we don’t simply use testimonials that showcase results that are the exception to the rule, so that we’re always providing that context. Or we’re always providing an overview of the different types of results and experiences that people have had when working with us or participating in our programs.
I’m not trying to take away from any of the fantastic results. As I said before, just ask yourself, if this type of result is typical for the work that you do, and for the clients that you work with, or for the course or program you’re launching. What’s the best way to share it to give the required context for the purpose you want to use it for. Lastly, moving into number three, this is around invest at all costs messaging.
I’ve saved perhaps one of the most controversial tactics until the end, because we’ve all seen the social media posts and discussions around needing to invest in yourself to grow in business and it is a really good discussion to have and I 100% believe that we do need to invest in the right support at the right time to help us grow in business. Absolutely. But and you know there’s a but coming in sales copy, particularly sales pages for high ticket items, you know, coaching programs and more. There is this trend to weave in invest at all cost mindset messages into the copy.
What this does is make the reader doubt any valid objections and concerns and reasons that They may have for not investing at that point in time. And so this kind of message messaging kind of suggests that the fears and worries that someone might have around spending money are related to mindset, and nothing more that you need to back yourself and invest if you want to grow. Yes, it’s scary to invest, but you have to have faith in yourself. And, you know, it’s, it’s essentially down to your mindset and you’re getting in your own way. So you will see lots of messages within sales pages that talk to that. And essentially what it’s doing is it’s trying to rebut any objections around spending money or investing.
So it’s, it’s basically sort of pre empting, any of those kinds of financial objections and trying to bus them essentially, sometimes you’ll see this kind of messaging used in a scenario that paints that you can either invest in yourself and in 12 months be further ahead than you ever could have imagined. Or you can stay exactly where you are trying to figure things out yourself. And then what you’ll often see is that kind of statement backed by testimonials with revenue claims that are attributed to having invested in that said, program, or course. And so it’s an investment or cost message designed to get anyone who is concerned about making a financial investment, regardless of the reason to buy. So it’s all about encouraging people to buy.
But the reason this approach is ethically question questionable, is because some people simply do not have the money to invest, and doing so could cause serious financial hardship or have other financial consequences. And you can see when it’s presented alongside other sales, and consumer psychology copy tactics, such as the ones I’ve discussed today, so you know, the tapping into pain points, or such as hype and over promising, and the exceptionalism around testimonials, things like urgency and scarcity. So you can see how the way that some sales pages can then override people’s cognitive function and their reasoning, and coerce people into making ill informed decisions. So what’s the alternative to this one, and so really, it my advice is, don’t resort to any kind of invest in yourself messages, on sales pages, in particular. And in many cases, if you need to resort to messages about investing in yourself, it’s often a sign that your messaging or offer isn’t strong enough in its own right.
I just don’t believe we should be trying to handle every objection that people have, especially those that are financial objections, because we don’t know someone’s situation. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, we have to remember that our potential customers are adults capable of making their own decisions. And so we should give them the space and respect to let them make their own decisions without using any kind of messaging that blames their mindset, or that says that the investment is the one thing that is standing in the way of their goals and dreams. And if you’re interested in the invest at all costs messaging tactic. Another person that talks about this really well is Maggie Patterson from small business boss. And so hat tip to Maggie, because her discussions about invested or cost messaging have really shaped my thinking, from which I’ve then been able to go on and further shape my opinions and thoughts about it, and particularly my opinions and thoughts about handling financial objections. And so I’ll put a link in the show notes to Maggie’s website. So you can go and check out all the interesting topics that she’s talking about.
So, a bit of a bigger and I hope thought provoking episode today, and it’s not going to be the last time I talk about topics like this, but I believe these conversations are really important for us to have even if they feel a little bit uncomfortable, because we don’t know what we don’t know right? And if you’ve ever used any of these tactics and not realize Is or thought about them in this kind of way. I know that I certainly have as a copywriter. And now I am actively working on unlearning all of this. And it’s hard because it’s so ingrained as the norm. But now that we know about it, we can choose to change how we do things. We can choose to do business our own way. Choose to write copy, so that it feels really good to us and is respectful to our readers.
If you have any thoughts or alternative perspectives, or light bulb moments about any of this, I would love you to send me a DM on Instagram or screenshot this episode and share it on stories. and tag me in at Hayley Maxwell writes. And as always, if you’ve enjoyed this episode, and want easy access to my episodes when they drop, follow or subscribe to this podcast in your favorite podcast player, and until next time, go forth and be fierce