Big Bums, Scuffles, and How to Craft Copy Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Write

Big Bums, Scuffles, and How to Craft Copy Your Competitors Wouldn’t Dare Write

Reader Comments (33)

  1. Joanna,

    A great reminder our message could use a little punch. I’m shamelessly stealing your method of looking at how our customers talk. Thanks for a nice bit of inspiration this morning 🙂

  2. Excellent insight with very interesting results! We are exploring ways to gain more clients and traffic to our site and I think this could be an intriguing way to do it. However, our company does continuous improvement consulting work for many different kinds of businesses. Often, I am told that our material needs to stay very professional for our clients that are frequently in upper-level management. How do you balance risky copy with clients that expect a certain amount of respect and professionalism?

    • I wrote copy that sold QuickBooks – including QuickBooks Enterprise – for 5 years. All I heard was how “professional” we have to be. But it was when we wrote in a more casual, friendly voice that we got our best results. That could be because all those accountants we put in suits in our personas were actually humans that liked to hike on the weekends, ride motorbikes, play with their dogs, go out with friends… They’re not the stodgy people they play on TV.

      So I’d say that you don’t have to use the word “bum” in your copy for it to push the boundaries. If you’re told to keep the tone of your copy “professional”, push the boundaries of that. How do professionals really talk? How do their voices really sound? Do they see no room for friendliness in business?–if they do, how friendly can you try to be in your next copy test?

    • I would agree with Molly. Many of our agency’s B2B clients are conservative and tend to water down even marginally clever copy that is nowhere near risky. In other words, insert bland language here. They also tend to see things literally and strike down what they believe to be abstract. So how do we give them risky?

      • When clients think your copywriting is all about you sitting in front of a desk dreaming up ideas, they think they can 1) do that too and 2) do it better. So it’s hard to convince them they’re wrong about their boring, bland copy because, for them in that moment, it comes down to yours vs theirs… and why would they prefer yours when everyone prefers the sound of our own voice?

        So don’t make copywriting about you at a desk, quill in hand.

        Instead, tell your clients you’re gonna use data – “voice of customer data” – to drive every single line of copy you write. You’re gonna eavesdrop on prospects / customers online; you’re gonna sneak into their meetups with a voice recorder; you’re gonna listen to what they say and how they say it before you write your copy. If, in doing that, you find that said prospects / customers speak in a boring way, voila – you’ll write boring copy. If you find they speak in a way that sounds more like locker-room talk or Big Bang Theory talk or whatever, voila – you’ll write copy that sounds like that.

        Make it about the customers – not you and not your clients – and only the crappy clients will have a problem with your copy.

  3. I LOVED that post about the two CTAs from Copyhackers you drew from (shout out to Jen Havice).

    Big bums and boobs.

    Nothing like a little T&A to salt your CRO. 😉

    But seriously … fantastic post today! I agree with Demian: my new favorite.

  4. I learned a lot about copy from Gary Halbert. Then for some reason everything seemed to become safe with as few interesting ideas to read as possible; just drab, grey words.

    An awesome piece for me to read right at the start of a new PPC campaign. Thank you.

    • Awesome, Michael! Gary Halbert’s amazing. We need to work hard to keep more of the great, founding ideas in mind when writing copy. Whatever keeps the drab, grey words out!

  5. Loved this post. Great copywriting is my passion and I couldn’t agree more with your examples. As a marketing consultant, I would run focus groups with highly targeted customer segments in the name of research. But what really excited me were the verbatim statements that came from group participants. I would get shivers up my spine as a recognised another ad headline tumbling out of the mouth of a real live customer.

    • It’s funny you mention the great messages you hear in focus groups. The team over at Rewired Group (the jobs-to-be-done masters) told me last year about how often they hear wicked messages in the interviews they do. Truly great messages are waiting all over the place out there. But sadly we too often sit at our screens, waiting for inspiration to strike, instead of going out, listening and borrowing words and phrases verbatim.

  6. “Boring to boring” — LOVE IT. Why people assume that B2B copy needs to be dry as day-old toast, I’ll never know. Copy doesn’t have to be unprofessional to gain reader attention, either — it just has to be *interesting*. The next time a client tells me “*gasp!* We can’t say that!”, I’m sending them a link to this post.

    • Yes, do it! Risky copy is at least worth a shot. And as we showed in the Beachway example, copy that dares to be different doesn’t have to be “daring” – it just has to speak in a real way, in a way that’s different from how one’s overstuffed competitors speak to the same audience.

  7. Love this piece Joanna. “Voice of customer data” is a secure way for brands to venture out of the boring-copy zone. It’s a scientific approach so copywriters aren’t flying completely blind when they use it.

    Sometimes fear prevents brands from standing out. But other times it’s ego, which is why VOC data is so cool. A customer’s voice can be the ticket that opens the door for the shift away from bland messaging that centers around a business, to creative copy that connects with the audience.

    • Totally, Mary. And sometimes that “creative copy” may not feel super-creative – because Lord knows copy rarely needs to be creative to convert / move people to act. But it does need to feel authentic to the prospects reading it. Which is, as you say, where VOC data goes a long way for writers.

  8. “So, if our audience talks about themselves in a certain way, what is the risk for us talking to them using the same words?”

    I’m sharing this article with some of my B2B clients who believe using contractions and actual customer language will somehow make them “unprofessional” and scare away all their clients.


  9. Your methodology & confidence are inspiring! I’m 100% with you (which is why I’m taking your course and bought all your books).
    In a day like today, where I am asked to explain why I’m not writing for “everyone” for the 4th (!) time… as well as defend my “gread” for accurate as apposed to “hunches” .. it’s nice to be remembered that the time’s they are a-changing!

    Thanks for paving the way!!

  10. “Unusual and surprising words engage the brain” – Truly said. I think it’s always good to take the risk. If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained. Even in writing, being different and bold is always helpful.

    • Especially in writing! There’s way too much to read online today – and too many distractingly awesome videos and podcasts – to let your writing take a day off. It’s gotta work its butt off. It’s gotta get noticed and create fans or die trying.

  11. Joanna, any advice on pitching this to clients? How do I get my conservative clients to even agree to testing this daring copy? That’s the main trouble I’ve had in the past.

  12. If this is the first time you’ve heard of Joanna or Copyhackers, go to the site and grab those ebooks. The advice on research radically changed my copywriting workflow and reduced a lot of anxiety for me.

    I now understand how to find emotional, compelling copy for any industry I do work for.

  13. Great article, daring writing can be amazing if used in the right way. Or even just a daring tone of voice can make a huge difference in keeping the reader sucked into the content. And sometimes it can actually be easier to write I think.

This article's comments are closed.