This summer, as part of the training course on Creating Your Marketing Plan, we discussed “Effective Copywriting” in great detail. It was fun to see so many offices engaged in the topic by writing headlines and sharing them with others in the course. In fact, we found it so beneficial we decided to cover this topic again at the Fall Summit earlier this month. The section on Design Sins was only a short part of the presentation, but one of the most easy and important to incorporate without needing to be a copywriting aficionado. You can create an internal checklist that is referenced in the proofing stage when you’re creating marketing pieces to avoid these sins in the future.
Ask yourself, “Which of these 5 design sins have I been guilty of?”
SIN #1. No Eye-Catching Headline
The headline is the most critical component of any marketing piece! You only have a couple of seconds to catch the reader’s attention, therefore 50% of your time should be spent on writing a powerful, attention-grabbing headline. The headline is the equivalent to the subject line in your emails, so the same rules apply to any email alerts. The headline or subject line should cause an emotional reaction, such as:
- Instant Gratification
- Saving Time
The headline should cause the reader to want to read MORE. It should be tied to the subhead to tell a story, but each of the two should also stand alone and encourage the reader to keep reading. If your headline is low impact, the rest of your message won’t be read, no matter how well written it is. Before assuming that your entire marketing piece is ineffective, ask yourself whether the headline creates a strong emotional reaction. If not, draft a new one, or rephrase your existing one into a question that causes the reader to answer. Or perhaps rework it by including any number of headline boosters.
SIN #2. Emphasizing You, Instead of Benefits for the Reader
Effective copywriting focuses on the reader, and connects with them on an emotional level, not a rational or logical one. A common mistake made by those who are new to creating ads and direct response writing, is thinking they have to prove they are better than the competition by writing all about themselves. They take up a significant portion of their marketing space (or seminar time) on themselves, trying to boost their credibility by emphasizing where they went to school, what awards they have, etc. Instead, your writing style should be conversational, clear and specific, with an active voice that taps into their emotions and fears, creating urgency which results in action (they take advantage of your offer).
An example of this we see often on direct response pieces is the law firm logo and law firm name appearing above the headline, in large size, taking up the prime “attention grabbing” spot. Or the law firm/attorney bio is way too long, taking up critical space that could be used for a “call to action” offer. Remember, people will respond only because you’ve stirred up enough emotion that they want a solution. If the primary space of your ad is devoted to telling the reader why you are better than others, you are missing the opportunity to push sufficient emotional buttons to get them to respond to your offer. (By the way, an “offer” is essential for any marketing piece, since it’s not a design element, we won’t go into detail here.)
SIN #3. Illegible Fonts and/or Ad Space Too Small
The target audience for estate planning is seniors and sometimes we forget that their vision is not as good as it once was. It’s important that your ads, direct mail pieces, letters, newsletters, seminars, and websites are all legible and easy to read. As we review marketing pieces Members send in, from time to time we come across pieces where too much copy is packed into a small ad size, and rather than selecting a larger ad size or editing the copy down, the font size is reduced.
Font styles are also important to consider. Calligraphy style or overly cursive-type fonts are much more difficult to decipher and read. Remember to keep your fonts simple. Serif fonts such as Times New Roman are great for print, while Sans Serif fonts, such as Arial or Calibri are great for websites and email. During the design and proof stages of any marketing pieces, it’s important to ask ourselves, not only whether we can read it (with younger eyes), but whether a client would be able to read it without a magnifying glass, because if they can’t read what you wrote, it doesn’t matter how good the copy or the offer are, and you won’t get a response.
SIN #4. Going Crazy With Formatting and Animations
Too many colors and fonts or distracting graphics, animations and videos take away from your message, your offer, and the impact it has on the reader. Use a maximum of 2-3 fonts and colors. There should be one primary font and color and the others are accents used to call attention to something important. It allows the skim reader to understand the heart of your message. If every other line or paragraph has a different font, bold emphasis, underline or ALL CAPS, IT IS HARD TO READ, without losing focus. The same thing is true of your seminars and videos. Too many animations or moving parts are distracting to the eye. Any images you use should have a purpose behind them, for example, to generate an emotional response tied to the pain/gain concerns raised in your copy or script. On the flip side, if you lack formatting, you’re missing an opportunity to highlight the main points of your message and catch a reader’s attention.
SIN #5. Missing Contact Information
Looking like a local, credible law firm that will be there to support clients and their families for years to come is critical. When your office address, phone number and/or website are missing from your marketing pieces, there is no impression of stability and reliability. Without this information, they won’t know how to get in touch with you, if they wanted. Having a website is also critical, not just for SEO, but because people often like to look you up online and make sure you’re a legitimate place of business. They want to also see if you sound like someone they want to work with before they respond to the offer you’re making. I know I do this pretty often, what about you? So the reminder here is to not make it difficult for people to find you, let them know where you are and how they can reach you. Remember to add your information towards the bottom of your marketing piece, so the prime space that catches the reader’s attention focuses on them.
One last thought… Be sure to track the effectiveness of each marketing piece you use so you can measure what your return on investment (ROI) is, and remember to only change one thing at a time so you know what the impact is of the change you made.
Practice Leadership Coach
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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