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What you can learn about copywriting from infomercials

One day while working in the kitchen, I was half-listening to the TV in the other room. There was a silly infomercial on for a double boiler, something that's been around for centuries. However, this infomercial called it a name like ‘the Chocolate Dream’ and was touting the item as the miracle cure for boring desserts. Although I knew this was a commercial for a simple item I already own, I found myself following along with the pitch.

What's the problem?

The first order of business was to define the reason why I couldn't live without this miracle appliance. According to the Chocolate Dream infomercial, my family is falling asleep at the table over their pound cake and turning up their noses in disgust at the cookies being offered to them. Life just has no spark, and everything is dim and grey. Heck, the family isn't groomed and they're badly dressed to boot.

What problems do your customers face? Why do they need your product? Often you either have to create demand or enhance demand for what you sell. By pointing out that you understand their problems, you create trust.

What's the solution?

Why, the Chocolate Dream, of course! With the Chocolate Dream, the lighting is suddenly warm and glowing, the kids have brushed their hair, and Bubba has put a shirt on over that stained undershirt and suddenly looks a lot like Alec Baldwin. The family looks on in delight as they're served chocolate-dipped strawberries, molded chocolate candy, and they nearly explode with happiness as a chocolate fondue appears at the table. Life is again fun and full of promise.

The benefits are what convince people that your product will solve their problem, even if they weren't really aware they had a problem before that point. Notice that we aren't talking yet about how it works, we're merely setting the stage by showing how the problem is solved by this product. It creates a happy family and prevents what's-for-dessert stress.

Is there more?

Of course, there's more! If you order now, not only will you get the Chocolate Dream, but you also get this nifty dipping fork set, a fondue pot, fun candy molds, and so much more. Sure, you can buy a double-boiler at any kitchen appliance place, but you won't get these great extras!

A unique selling proposition strengthens your position with the client and gives them a reason to buy from you instead of anyone else. It also gives them a reason to keep coming back if your product is a frequent purchase.

If you place your order now...

If you want the Chocolate Dream, you need to go get your phone now and call, because they aren't sure how many more they can sell at this price, and the free gifts will run out soon.

This is a key point that many web pages miss, a call to action. You want to let the customer know how to order and encourage them to place the order now, before they browse any competing websites or forget how to find you. It doesn't have to be as blatant or as cheesy as an infomercial, but make sure there are calls to action throughout your copy.

What is a chocolate dream? A chocolate dream is...

If you listen to an infomercial, you'll notice they never refer to the product as ‘it’:

The Chocolate Dream will brighten your life, the Chocolate Dream is easy to clean, with the Chocolate Dream, you'll never have to worry about what to have to for dessert again.

Many writers today will tell you if your copy isn't natural or in a conversational style that it's poorly written. However, infomercial copywriters know that repetition is the key to branding and product recall, so they repeat the name as often as possible.

You can definitely go overboard with repetition, but keep relevance, branding, and recall in mind when writing sales copy and be sure to use the relevant phrase throughout.

List the features

In the body of the infomercial, there is a list of the features of the Chocolate Dream:

  • It's easy to use
  • It's dishwasher safe
  • It works with your existing range
  • It packs together for storage in small places
  • Etc...

Most websites use their features to sell, completely missing the problem/solution demand. While the features need to be in the copy, they don't come first. And the more you show the benefits associated with each feature, the more compelling the copy will be.

Who needs the Chocolate Dream?

It's obvious that the Chocolate Dream is targeting mums. They show mum slaving over the oven; later she's shown beaming with joy over being able to please her family and clean up quickly. She can also throw impressive parties!

Does this mean they're alienating single men, grandmothers, or minority dads? No. They aren't turning down any orders from anyone, however they're focusing their efforts on the demographic most likely to purchase, increasing the effectiveness of their ads and lowering their overall advertising costs.

What do infomercials teach us about web copy?

  • Define the problem
  • Deliver your solution
  • Explain the benefits, not just the features
  • Have a USP, or a reason your company is different
  • Use calls to action liberally throughout the copy
  • Repeat the key phrases frequently
  • Target your audience for best results

No need to reinvent the wheel; infomercials sell millions of dollars of products a year. The formula works! It can be easily adapted to your website copy, regardless of whether you sell products or services. So don't delay, start writing today!

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