Be bossy in your copy!

If you want to improve your copywriting, read this article now.

I’m going to give you one of the most powerful secrets for making your words work harder in any promotion. And it’s about as simple as copywriting tips get. Ready?

Tell people what to do.

That’s it.

I told you it was simple. But it works. You see, for the most part, people do what you tell them to do. You can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, but if the request is reasonable they’ll comply.

Do a little experiment. At the grocery store, walk up to someone and tell them to hand you something off the shelf. “Excuse me, sir. Hand me that box of Cheerios.” You can soften it if you like. “Excuse me, sir. Will you hand me that box of Cheerios?”

Every now and then, you’ll get a cantacerous old fart who will tell you to “buzz off,” but most of the time the person will do what you tell them to do. People respond to commands.

This works in advertising too. If you want someone to fill out an order form, don’t leave it for them to figure out. Tell them to fill out the form. If you want someone to call to get your free white paper, give them the number and tell them to call.

It really is simple. But many, many copywriters don’t like being bossy. It feels too … well … bossy I guess. I don’t have that problem. I’m quite comfortable telling people what to do. My wife would say I’m TOO bossy. But that’s another topic for another post.

There’s a good reason for all this. People are not proactive most of the time. Yes, they’ll know they need to fill out the order form or call a phone number or visit a Web site, but with their brain in passive mode, knowing doesn’t translate into doing. Giving a little command such as “call now” is often all it takes to push the action button in their brain.

Now, once again. You cannot make people do what they don’t want to do. There’s just no such thing as forcing action. This technique merely gives people the nudge they need to do what they want to do anyway. Just tell them what to do and exactly how to do it.

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7 Responses to “Be bossy in your copy!”

  1. Janice C Cartier on May 14th, 2008 12:32 pm

    Pushy advertising guys…grumble grumble…:)

  2. Ted Grigg on May 14th, 2008 7:02 pm

    Its so basic, yet many companies fail to do this in their promotions.

    In fact, telling a customer or prospect what to do helps the recipient by reducing indecision into immediate action. Human inertia is the number one enemy of direct response.

    I cringe at making multiple offers in direct marketing promotions because I don’t want the recipient to have to make too many decisions. This approach can actually reduce response regardless of how well it is done.


  3. Mike Sieber on May 19th, 2008 1:44 pm

    It’s amazing to see so much marketing copy – especially online – that doesn’t include a call to action. I think people just assume that the offer should be enough to entice people to take action.

    I also wanted to say that you made a great point in the recent discussion about freelancing over at Copyblogger. I planned to leave a comment, but you already said it best.

  4. Janice C Cartier on May 19th, 2008 2:02 pm

    I am going to underscore what Mike just said about your comment in the freelancing discussion.

  5. Dean Rieck on May 19th, 2008 2:24 pm

    >>I am going to underscore what Mike just said about your comment in the freelancing discussion.

    I think the comment was misunderstood. It sounded to me like an unnecessary dig at freelancers.

  6. Janice C Cartier on May 19th, 2008 2:44 pm

    Nope. Practical. And real. I think it is important in terms of balance to say exactly what you did. It may boil down to semantics. Here’s where your accuracy is so valuable. The essential point in freelancing is to devise freedom and flexibility. The build an asset not a job is a valid point in diversifying the portfolio of services and products. To propose freedom from freedom of choice is silly.
    I think the entrepreneur echo chamber is again at work here in the post to some degree…do you?

  7. Janice C Cartier on May 19th, 2008 3:02 pm

    Oh, just read your “propreneurs” which I LOVE.

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