It’s a classic phrase used when reviewing copy: “Don’t just tell the reader…show the reader.”
And it’s absolutely true.
The education I received in the early years of my direct marketing career drove that point home in a powerful way. Especially with fear-based promotions.
Some of the more successful promotions I’ve ever seen included messages about “blood in the streets.” And one of my most successful controls warned of an “imminent collapse in the U.S. housing market.”
Very quickly I learned that it was not enough to just tell investors that a bear market was coming. Or that hard times were looming around the corner.
That’s the sort of thing you see all the time in average sales copy. Tentative sales copy. Weak sales copy.
The writer doesn’t want to sound “crazy” so he or she waters down the message.
You can’t do that and expect to be successful.
Powerful sales copy goes so much further than just warning of a coming storm. As the late Clayton Makepeace used to say, “You’ve got to grab the reader by the eyeballs.”
So that “coming bear market” or “imminent collapse” gets ratcheted up a notch. But more importantly…it gets made personal.
Instead of saying that a bear market is coming…you’ve got to describe in clear detail precisely how this coming bear market will impact the everyday life of the reader.
In some cases – where an extreme market meltdown is being predicted – this can involve asking the reader to imagine how they would feel if tomorrow they woke up and were unable to access the money in their bank account.
Or that half of their retirement account was wiped out in a “flash crash” – causing them to postpone that retirement they had dreamed of and instead had them looking for a part-time job at the local Wal-Mart.
Instead of warning a reader that inflation is set to rise even higher, you need to paint the picture in vivid detail.
As the reader to “Imagine seeing a news alert pop up on your phone about a sudden spike in inflation. How would your family be impacted if your family’s weekly grocery bill went from $200 to $400 in one month’s time? Could you even afford to continue driving to work if the cost to fill up your gas tank more than tripled in two weeks? Here’s why this could happen at any time…”
Again, the idea is to make it personal for the reader.
Your reader – or target prospect – is bombarded with information on a daily basis. They see predictions, warnings, forecasts and messages of all kinds.
But rarely do they take the time to scan more than just a headline or a few sentences.
When the copy directly engages them – and causes them to stop and think about a drastic change in their daily life – that’s a different story.
The same principle, by the way, applies to greed-oriented promotions.
It’s not enough to promise that an investment could offer “huge returns.”
Even in those cases where you can add specificity – and say something like “collect up to 50% gains” – that’s also simply not good enough.
The most powerful copy asks the reader to consider that an investment “could turn every $1,000 into $29,748.” Or even better, paints the picture of suddenly being able to afford those luxuries in life they’ve always dreamed of having.
Many successful promotions illustrate how a specific investment could provide “Amazon-sized” returns – or offer some other direct comparison to an investment that has previously delivered huge gains for early investors.
Obviously, any claims made need to be backed up with solid proof – and the more evidence that is presented, the more credibility you’ll have with your reader.
But the basic idea remains simple, yet powerful.
Making predictions – or just “telling” the reader – is not good enough in this competitive environment.
You must paint a remarkably vivid picture of the fundamental change in the reader’s daily life that he or she must be most concerned with today.
The more specific – and the more vivid – the description you provide (while still maintaining credibility) the greater your odds for a successful campaign.