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5 No-Hype Copywriting Techniques That Keep Your Promotions Out of the Gutter

by Marcia Yudkin

Whether you're a business owner or nonprofit head who wants to promote your offerings with dignity or a copywriter troubled by the prevalence of exaggerated, over-the-top writing on the Web, you're wondering whether it's possible for marketing copy to nail the sale without overheated language and without stretching of the truth. The answer is yes.

If a carnival-barker tone, overheated language and stretching of the truth bother you, you can still nail the sale with dignity and measured drama. There are plenty of honest, effective copywriting techniques with which to stock up your promotional toolbox. Use these five no-hype techniques to perk up your marketing while keeping you out of the gutter.

1. Story telling. A true tale with dramatic happenings attracts and holds a reader's attention and can illustrate a general point vividly. For example, I might describe receiving tubs full of envelopes at the Back Bay post office in Boston and opening them with my husband on the floor of our apartment. Each envelope contained either a $2 check or two $1 bills, which we stacked in piles that got so high that they tipped over. (This happened in the early 1990s.)

Anecdotes with this kind of specific detail brings reality to life for readers, more so than an abstract summary like "It's fun to make money" or ungrounded promises like "Your neighbors will gossip that you must have won the lottery." A story can be about you, about someone who experienced what you're selling or even about a historical figure.

Learn From the Masters of No-Hype Copywriting
In 2013 and 2014, Marcia Yudkin convened the most articulate and experienced practitioners of no-hype copywriting for an exchange of ideas on writing copy that persuades without excessive showmanship or stretching the truth.  Presenters included Peter Bowerman, Nick Usborne, Shel Horowitz, Karon Thackston and others. Order the recordings from this telesummit.

2. Before and after. For greater impact, writing teachers have always advised, "Show, don't tell." Hardly anything convinces more than using words or pictures (or both) to show the situation prior to the application of the service or product you're selling, then the situation afterwards. In using photos, realize that you may also need verbal description, because without commentary, the uneducated eye may not see the dramatic differences that a professional notices immediately.

3. Creative touches. Whereas hypesters use outlandish and inflammatory metaphors, you can spice up your presentation with the same techniques, but used sparingly and gracefully as an aid to the imagination and understanding rather than as extreme promises. For instance, an executive coach pitched his services for corporate leaders as helping them "navigate the seas of change": "organizations need leaders who know how to survive stormy seas and avoid hidden reefs and icebergs." The design also accentuated the nautical theme with images of compasses, and the overall tone was restrained and professional.

4. Skillful use of language. Did you notice the wordplay above in "techniques that perk up your marketing while keeping you out of the gutter"? The words "perk" and "keep" contain the same pair of consonants, but in reverse order, which pleases the reader's ear.

Another guideline: Never use an abstract expression when you can instead create an image in the reader's mind. Reach especially for language that gives readers something to hear, see or touch in their mind. For instance, my bio doesn't say I was published often in magazines but rather, "her bylines in national magazines on journalistic and opinion pieces began piling up." Such concrete wording imparts vigor and energy to your marketing.

Copywriting Course

Learn to Write No-Hype Copy
Six-week self-study course teaches you to wow people into buying through the power of well-chosen words.  Includes challenging and varied assignments to practice on, with answers from the instructor and participants.  Replace incomprehensible jargon with reader-friendly, motivating content.  Copywriting course.

Orchestrating phrases the way expert speechwriters do (as in "of the people, by the people, for the people") is one more way to give your presentation balance and finesse.

5. Proof. This element can set you most decisively apart from those relying on hype. Provide evidence that what you are selling does what it promises to do, and more. Your evidence might consist of client testimonials, third-party endorsements, media coverage, scientific research results, credentials, case studies, client surveys, referral statistics, descriptive details that only someone immersed in your work would have and why-it-works explanations. All of these persuade to the extent that they are firmly and frankly grounded in reality.

To avoid hype, be truthful and vivid. You'll thereby keep the reader awake, connect with the reader's imagination, quash skepticism and arouse the reader's desire to buy.

   

 

 
   
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