10 Tips to Energize Boring Copy (And Increase Sales by 30%)

by Scott Martin

Last updated on April 3rd, 2018

If you’re serious about marketing, then every word of copy has only one purpose: persuade the reader to take the next step in the sales process.

The next step could be calling a toll-free number, filling out a form, or reaching into a pocket or purse and pulling out a credit card. Whatever the next step, the copy must steer the prospect toward buying.

So the copywriter is not a writer. The copywriter is a salesperson. OK…a salesperson who writes. You get the picture.

You wouldn’t hire a boring salesperson

Just for a second, think about the salespeople you’ve encountered in the last 12-18 months.

You may have met some boring salespeople but you most likely met exciting, and excitable, salespeople who were enthusiastic and “up” about their product or service—even if they’re selling a boring product.

We don’t buy from boring salespeople—or we don’t buy as much. We’re more likely to buy more from salespeople with personality. And, as such, we buy more if the copy has personality.

Yes—boring copy can sell if it contains the important information but to maximize conversion, copy needs color, punch, impact, and stories. In short, high-converting copy needs to be VIVID.

As you’ll discover in the list below, one way to add color is to include a story. I was recently writing an online advertorial for a company that sells dietary supplements. The current control was the result of testing over 500 variations, tweaking everything from photos to headlines.

I created a new version that included a story about a nurse who uses and recommends the product. Response increased by 30%.

So the real reason to “get vivid” is to increase conversion, click-through rates, and revenue.

Here are 10 ways to energize boring copy.

1. Use a thesaurus.

Noted copywriter Dan Kennedy has several on his desk when he writes. I have a copy of Richard Bayan’s Words that Sell with me when I write. This provides 6,000 words commonly used in sales copy.

thesaurus and Words That Sell

2. Create a swipe file.

When you see copy you really like, it’s perfectly acceptable to use elements of that copy…but not completely imitate or copy the copy. The latter is illegal. However, the top copywriters have a file that’s stuffed with examples of excellent copy. They “swipe” words and phrases and use the swipe file for ideas and inspiration.

3. Hunt the dull words and destroy them.

Vivid words make your copy irresistible. Replace learn with discoverproblem with crisisupset with disgustedangry with lividincreasing with exploding…and so on.

4. Use similes and metaphors for colorful comparisons.

You’ve seen the Geico ads that bleat: “It’s so easy, a cave man could do it.”

That’s an excellent metaphor. Similes are more direct and include the word “like.” If you’re selling a golf club, you can write: “Using the TG14 is like having a rocket launcher in your fists.” Use similes and metaphors sparingly and make sure they make sense and don’t sound too crazy or you’ll lose the reader.

5. Buy a tabloid.

You’ll find the most vivid journalistic writing in supermarket tabloids and newspaper tabloids. A classic headline from the New York Post: “Headless Man Found in Topless Bar!” Now that, my brothers and sisters, is VIVID.

new york post headline

6. Discover the joy of adjectives.

In the headline above, it’s not a man, it’s a headless man; it’s not a bar, it’s a topless bar. “Man found in bar” barely resonates but “Headless Man Found in Topless Bar!” makes you want to keep reading. Think of adjectives as the words that spice up bland nouns. The steel isn’t good, it’s bulletproof. The steak isn’t nice, it’s sizzling.

7. Use stories.

Stories can illustrate the benefits your product or service provides. But make sure the story is true and has a happy ending. Boring stories that make no sense are like bad jokes.

8. Find very specific numbers instead of generalizations.

For example: “90% of people who tried Tiger Gel reported a reduction in joint discomfort.” Or “3 million people currently use our product.” Or “Companies using the software have enjoyed a 34% decrease in datacenter costs.”

9. Sell happiness.

Get the potential customer or client to imagine themselves using the product. And yes, you can even use the word, “imagine” just like John Lennon. Let’s say you’re selling a zit cream. “Imagine going to a party and people commenting about your beautifully clear skin and rosy complexion.”

10. Be a cheerleader.

Yes…the football team can be losing 65-3 but the cheerleaders are smiling. If your product isn’t really that exciting (like a bathroom cleaner) it helps to pile on words like amazing, exciting, powerful, delightful, spectacular, astonishing, joyful, and thrilling. Yay team!

When you want to see further examples of vivid copy and colorful presentation, closely examine the successful people in direct response marketing…the “gurus.” Yes—the technology changes but the core concepts never change.

  • Jay Conrad Levinson has made a fortune by calling direct marketing “Guerilla Marketing.”
  • My mentor in this crazy business doesn’t call himself an expert, he’s “The Legend.”
  • A group of hip digital marketers recently wrote a book about direct marketing but called it “Inbound Marketing.”

For proof that vivid copy produces results, you may want to invest in Denny Hatch’s Book: Million Dollar Mailings. The book, which weighs about 10 pounds, includes well over 200 direct mail packages that each produced more than $1 million in revenue; the copy in the samples is always colorful and vivid.

So “getting vivid with it” can help you sell more PLUS it can even help you re-package an old concept.

People do not buy as much from “boring” salespeople. Make sure your copy has personality and color… and sell more.

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Scott Martin

Scott Martin is a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has also written or edited 18 books including The Book of Caddyshack: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Scott provides free resources for marketers including direct response checklists.


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