Hype vs Passion: Perfectly Judged Web Copy

Hype-filled website copy

Copywriters face a common conundrum: how do you inject copy with energy and excitement without it reading like a horrible heap of hype?

I’ve been reading around, trying to work out exactly what makes powerful copy that excites people but doesn’t turn them off with the ripe stench of fraud.

Copy that’s redolent of hype makes readers lose trust – and when trust is lost, so too are sales.

It seems that the factors that influence whether copy reads like hype or not can be easily categorised:

The Good Stuff

You can grab attention and get people thinking about your products by telling them captivating stories, or by painting a picture with words.

Powerful words also help your messages to leap from the page and smack your reader in the face. (Powerful words are difficult to quantify, because it depends very much on their context. And many ‘powerful’ words are overused – which dilutes their power. But any word that carries energy or powerful connotations in the context that you’re using them in can be considered powerful.)

Clichés will never be powerful – so avoid them.

The Bad Stuff

Energy becomes hype when you use exclamation marks too much!!! See?

Copy that has loads of energy but no evidence to reinforce claims made is prime hype material. If you want to shout about something that’s amazing, make sure you back up those claims with evidence (authentic testimonials, client names etc).

Unrealistic claims. Don’t exaggerate. If a product could theoretically make a person a million dollars in a minute, but real people had only managed to earn a hundred dollars in a week, don’t be tempted to trade on the potential power of the product. Keep it real!

How to Do More on the Web – Part 2

(Part 1: How to Do More on the Web: A Few Ideas)

Part 2: Thinking about Your Products and Services (Your Offering)

Okay, so you know what you’re selling, but do you know what people are buying?

If you’re selling books, your customers are buying information, knowledge and entertainment. If you’re selling cars, your customers are buying freedom, independence and a romantic idea. If you’re selling beds, your customers are buying a good night’s sleep, relaxation and comfort.

Whatever it is that you’re selling, think about what your customers are thinking about when they’re buying.

Make the Most of Your Features and Benefits

Another way of thinking about the difference between the thinking of the buyer and seller is to think about features and benefits.

The features of a product are things like:

•    Stainless steel construction
•    Dual-core processor
•    Available in 200 colours

These features mean something else to your customers. To a buyer, features translate into benefits.  Benefits like:

•    Won’t rust
•    Handles multiple applications without crashing
•    You can find one that suits you

Whenever you present a product or service on the web, mention the benefits as well as the features. It may sound like rudimentary advice, but it’s an essential part of any website. Many organisations fail to clearly present the basis of their offer. What seems obvious to you, from within your organisation, is potentially alien to your visitors.

See also:

Do People Understand?

How to Do More on the Web – A Few Ideas

How to Sell More on the Web:

A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Success

This guide isn’t just about selling more on the web: it’s about achieving your goals, whatever they are.

That might mean selling tickets to your gigs, or getting donations for your charity, or building support for your big idea. Whatever you’re trying to do, the principles and ideas covered will apply to you. Just bend the suggestions until they make sense for you.

Good websites are full of people’s ideas. Anything worthwhile needs a bit of brain-space. As soon as you start thinking about your website your chances of success increase dramatically. Most websites suck and fail because they are designed and built in haste and then left to gather dust. Always view your website as an evolving work in progress.

If you get stuck, and can’t find a way to progress, email leif@kendallcopywriting.co.uk – if I can spare a few minutes I’ll think about your conundrum.

This guide should answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t anyone visit my website?
  • Why do people come to my website, but never buy anything?
  • What can I do to create interest around my website?

Who is this for?

This guide is designed to help anyone with a website. If you’re a very experienced website creator/owner/manager then this guide might not offer anything new. But if your website doesn’t do a lot, then you might find a few useful ideas.

Success Doesn’t Have to Lead You to Evil

Selling more things, or recruiting more donors, or persuading people that your scheme is brilliant does not need to involve under-hand tactics. Success does not require evil.

If you’re offering something useful then you should let people know. This guide is all about how you can let people know.

Part 1: Thinking about Your Customers

Before you think about your website, you need to think about the people that you created it for: your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want your products?
  • What can you offer them?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you get in front of them?

Who Are Your Customers?

If you’re going to sell anything to anybody, you’ll need to establish who wants what you’ve got. Are they:

  • Young, old, or in-between
  • Male or female
  • Organised around a niche
  • Highly web-literate or borderline Luddites
  • Pinko liberals or conservatives?

Identify your target audience. Think about who they are. Imagine you are them. Step into their shoes and consider their motivations. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What are my concerns?
  • What would make me happy?

Why Do Your Customers Want Your Products?

Okay, so you know what you’re offering, what it does and why people use it… or do you? Do you really know why people use your things, or engage your services?

You might think you know exactly what people are doing with your stuff, but you might be surprised to learn that people are misusing your products – or that they really just want your services for a reason other than the ones you intended.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to find out what your customers are up to. Just ask them. And you don’t need to set up a survey and harvest reams of data. Just call a few people and have a chat.

A few examples of products that have found unintended uses:


Thanks to the following for their suggestions:





Meeting Your Clients in the Middle

Your products and services might be valued for reasons other than the ones you know about. If people think about your work in different ways to you, address this in your website’s copy.

Related blog post:

Apple’s Honesty Policy

What Can You Offer Your Customers?

Are there other ways you could help your customers? Are there additional products or services that fit with your existing range? What would people like from you? How can you make people’s lives better, easier or more fulfilling?

Don’t just assume that your products and services have to stop where they are now. If there’s something more you can offer – something real, something useful and desirable – then start offering it.

Crafting Your Offer to Match Your Customers

Many businesses decide what they do, then create products and services that they think are required, then offer them for sale. Rarely do businesses ask what is required – what is wanted – and then offer it.

It’s easier to sell the thing that people want, than it is to sell the thing that you need to sell. So if you’re struggling to sell something, consider changing it until it meets people’s needs.

Again, it’s a good idea to spend time talking to your clients. And don’t make it complicated. Just pick up the phone, dial a number, say hi, ask some questions.

Related blog post:

Don’t Treat Your Website Like a Commodity

End of Part 1

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will look at your products and services (although really we’ve already thought about this, but in relation to how your customers think about your products and services.) Part 2 is the shortest section.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the aspects of your website that might be failing. This will cover SEO, social media and other wonderful things.

The Absence of Marketing

Oh, and did you notice that I haven’t mentioned marketing ? There’s a good reason for that. Many people in marketing are disreputable,  unlovable rogues who smarm their way through life with slick grins and thin lies. ‘Marketing’ is a word so loaded with negative connotations that I prefer to discuss ‘marketing’ without using the word.

Invisible Copy – Why Your Copy Should Have a Small Ego

Short version

Good copy doesn’t attract attention to itself – it attracts attention to your products and services.

Long version

Occasionally clients expect copy to have some ‘wow’ factor. Perhaps they were expecting poetic, glorious prose. Or perhaps they were expecting copy that their clients would remark upon. Or perhaps they just expected something more sensational.

In most cases, for most organisations, copy should not draw attention to itself. Good copy does not stand out. It draws attention to your organisation, your products and your services. The best copy is like a ninja – it moves silently and people read it without even realising that they’re reading something.

So when you employ a copywriter, or write copy yourself, don’t aim for copy that is loud or spectacular. Aim for copy that communicates clear messages, sinking into the background and focussing attention on you and your offer.

Use the active voice – Copywriting tip #2


Here’s what I mean. Below are two pieces of copy for a hammer:

This powerful hammer can strike nails into the toughest timber.

This powerful hammer strikes nails into the toughest timber.

Pull back the smothering blanket

Using the active voice often shortens a piece of text. It also removes a layer of words that otherwise form a softening, smothering blanket between you and your reader. It’s important that your copy retains a sense of urgency, so use the active voice. Your copy will instantly become more direct, more powerful and more persuasive.

(Picture courtesy of Anna Banana)

Offer benefits – Copywriting tip #3


A wise copywriter once said, “People buy holes, not drills”.

The point being, of course, that when someone buys a drill it’s because they want a hole. And that’s a crucial point. Because if you try to sell someone a drill it’s essential to remember that the most interesting points to entice a buyer will be about the kind of holes that drill can make.

So if you’re a web designer, most of your clients won’t be interested in how you make their website or the technology that keeps it running – they’re just interested in having something that helps their business. People who want websites generally just want more sales, more brand awareness or a better way to communicate with their audience.

If you’re writing copy, remember to highlight the benefits of your product or service. Ask yourself, what does this product do? What can it offer to a buyer? How will it change someone’s life?

Common benefits include time-saving, money-saving and money-making. If your product can save someone time, or make someone money, you shouldn’t have much trouble selling it.

(Picture courtesy of Rae Allen)

Appeal to emotions – Copywriting tip #4

An Emotional Start To The Dance!

Sometimes it pays to get emotional. People are often driven by their emotions and it’s worth understanding this when marketing your business.

Can your products allay fears or reassure the anxious? Copywriters often use envy, status anxiety and guilt to play on their audiences’ emotions.

While I don’t agree with some of the manipulative methods employed by marketers, it is still essential to remember that humans are emotional animals, and much of our decision-making is affected (if not entirely led) by emotional factors.

The lighter side of emotions

Appealing to emotions doesn’t have to involve manipulating your market. You could use brighter, bolder language that makes people smile and laugh. Use honest, emotive language as a way to engage with people.

(Picture courtesy of Drs2Biz)

Remove jargon – copywriting tip #6

Jargon in this case means terminology that is particular to your industry. So jargon is any kind of language that might not be understood by your reader.

But, to be honest, when I think of jargon I’m really thinking of something much worse: management speak. Things like:Buzzword Burnout

  • going forward
  • deliverables
  • paradigm
  • eventualities
  • synergies
  • incentivise.

These are awful, evil words that you should only use if you want to obscure your meaning and sound pompous. Copywriting is about communicating. You can’t communicate if you hide behind indecipherable language and strange words that don’t really mean anything.

Always consider your writing from your reader’s point of view. Will they know what “offshoring” is?

(Picture courtesy of Raspberry Tart)

Edit deftly – copywriting tip #7

Editing is a crucial part of the writing process. But editing does not just mean removing words, or attemptingSpeed 2 Movie Poster to make a piece of writing shorter. You should look to remove unnecessary words. The part of editing that requires the most thought is deciding exactly what is necessary and what isn’t.

When writing, always keep in mind your purpose. If a word or sentence doesn’t help you convey your meaning, then consider removing it. Skilfully edited copy will be easier and more pleasing to read. It will deliver the right information at the right time, and will be more effective at selling, persuading or motivating.

It’s easier to edit someone else’s work, so you might want to get a kind buddy to do your editing. However, choose one buddy, not a whole gaggle. If you start writing by committee you’ll end up with something that’s as bland as a Hollywood blockbuster, and equally memorable.

(Picture courtesy of Kaly Web Design)

Cut yourself out – Copywriting tip #8

Harsh Editing Autobiographies are fine for the famous, but for everyone else it’s probably best to cut yourself out of your copy. So if your copy begins anything remotely like:

“We at Jazzclapper Bargain Drains are the best drain supplier in the world. We offer three hundred kinds of cast-iron drain and we are renowned world-wide for our hyper-efficient supply-chain system. We offer sterling service and…”

This copy is full of “we”. The reader, or potential drain buyer, might be feeling a bit left out. If the copy was more like:

“Are you looking for a comprehensive range of cast-iron drains? Call Jazzclapper Bargain Drains today to see if we have the drain you need. If you happen to need a drain that we don’t have, our unique stock system means we can find it for you in a matter of days.”

This version of the copy puts the reader, rather than Jazzclapper, at the centre of the copy. Naturally, your customers are really interested in their own needs, wants and desires, so make sure you put them centre-stage.

(Picture courtesy of ANVRecife )

10 ways to instantly improve your copy

Parking FeedbackI’m going to be posting a series of copywriting tips that should help anyone who writes copy. These are simple tips that aim to make your copy more readable, more persuasive and more effective at selling. I’ll publish one a week, so check back regularly for more free advice in the coming weeks, or plug yourself in to my RSS feed.

So here’s the first of ten:

Get Feedback

Ask someone to confirm that your copy makes sense. Does it make them want to buy? Do they understand what you’re selling? Can they spot any spelling mistakes?

While it’s a great idea to ask for feedback, be careful that you don’t end up writing copy by committee. Five people might have five opinions on your copy, but they probably aren’t all right. If you’ve done some research into what makes effective copy, then you’ll be able to decide which opinions are worth heeding, and which aren’t.

It’s a good idea to ask someone to review your copy who is “naïve”. By that I mean someone with no prior specialist knowledge of the product or service being offered – someone who represents the target audience for your copy. A naïve reader will provide a tough test for your copy, and if anything is unclear or poorly explained, you’ll find out.

Listening to criticism can be difficult, but stick with it and your writer’s skin will soon toughen into a thick hide, and you’ll find constructive feedback nothing but useful and interesting.

(Picture courtesy of Mixed Species)

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