Boring catalog copy is not a good thing.
Boring product descriptions are uninteresting. And prospects and customers uninterested in your copy are easily enticed by copy that is more invigorating.
This realization about the consequences of boring catalog copy came upon me recently via a rather unlikely source: my dog.
I’ve owned my dog for six months now. His name is Doc, and we adopted him from Northeast Coonhound Rescue. Doc is a hound mix, part coonhound and part pointer.
Doc’s kind of a high-energy guy when he’s outside and for that reason, can’t go off leash. (Otherwise, he runs off for five hours to hunt in the swamp, but that’s a story for another day…)
About a month ago, Doc suddenly seemed to dislike going for walks. It got so bad that, at one point, he wouldn’t even leave the house unless we bribed him out with cookies. This was very weird behavior from a dog who previously would drag me down the steps if I even cracked open the door.
Once we got him outside, he would refuse to move. Out came the cookies, more bribing, and eventually, we’d get him going. But even during the walk, there would be bouts of stopping and refusing to budge.
Now, I’ve been around dogs all my life, but Cesar Millan I’m not, so I got the name of a trainer from the rescue we adopted Doc from.
The trainer emailed me and asked all kinds of questions about Doc, to learn about his behavior and background. She also asked me to send a short video of Doc walking (or rather, not walking) on the leash, which I did.
After viewing the video, she responded that based on Doc’s behavior and body language while on the leash, she believed that his problem was that he was bored. That where I wanted to take him was not interesting to him, so he refused to follow.
Huh, imagine that.
And just like my dog, who found some walking routes so tedious to bear that he balked at following; boring, dull catalog copy can have the same effect on your prospects and customers. They won’t want to follow along, either, if it’s not interesting to them.
And when that happens, you’ll have bigger problems to deal with than just a dog who refuses to move.
(Check out my earlier blog post for some tips on spicing up your catalog copy.)
Since I’m a catalog copywriter, when I shop, I suspect that I look at product descriptions a little bit differently than the average shopper.
With every product description that I read, I notice how it’s arranged, specifically, which details about the product get top billing.
As a copywriter, I know that the most important information about the product is its benefit to you, the consumer.
And those details should always be front and center in the product’s copy.
For some reason though, a lot of catalog copy out there doesn’t adhere to this very basic rule of thumb.
A lot of descriptions out there bury the benefits later in the copy, which is unfortunate, since potential customers may not see it there. Why? Because they gave up after the first paragraph or two of generalized, unimportant (to them) information. Information that didn’t answer their compelling question: “Can your product solve my problem?” So they moved along.
Pointing out a product’s benefit immediately is crucial, for both online and print catalog copy.
“But wait!” you say, “If a customer found me online, she already has an idea of what she’s looking for, she’s already thinking about buying, so why do I need to sell her with benefits?”
Why risk it?
Sure, the customer is there because of her search query; her keywords matched yours. Kudos to you, your SEO is working. But your job is not done.
Now, your prospect needs confirmation that your product is what she needs because it will solve her problem.
And this is where your benefit-stating copy grabs her. Immediately. And converts a potential sale into a definite sale.
Would you like an example of copy that was slow to mention a product’s benefit? This happened to me just recently.
I have a horse and he’s developed girth galls. Girth galls are a condition caused by rubbing or chafing around the girth area of a horse. The girth is the “belt” that fastens on both sides of the saddle when the saddle is on the horse’s back and it keeps the saddle secure and in place. These girth galls can become raw and sore and cause the horse much discomfort.
So, now I have a problem that I need to solve. A horse with girth galls. And I’m pretty sure the current girth I have is contributing to the rubbing and chafing. Looks like I need a new girth.
I’ve heard that mohair girths can help horses with girth galls. So I google “mohair dressage girth” and the first result that Google presents me with is a Stillwater Mohair Dressage Girth. I click on that one.
The product page appears, and I begin reading the product description. The first thing I’m told is that the girth is hand-made in the USA from therapeutic, all-natural, 100% mohair.
Hmmm, since the girth is called a mohair girth, I had already assumed that that’s what it was made of, so the copy starts out with redundancy.
It goes on to say the girth will provide unbeatable comfort for my horse. This is a generality; unbeatable comfort as opposed to what? The first paragraph finishes by telling me that the girth will ensure the security of the saddle and rider. I would hope so since that is the purpose of a girth.
At this point, I still don’t know if this girth can help with girth galls.
The next paragraph explains to me in its first sentence how mohair, sheared from Angora goats, is one of the strongest, softest, and most manageable of fibers for creating a very durable and beautiful girth. I must confess, in all the years I’ve been around horses, not once have I ever looked at a girth and admired its beauty.
And still nothing about girth galls.
But the next sentence, halfway through the second paragraph, I hit pay dirt. I’m told (finally) that mohair prevents cinch sores and sweat galling.
My question to whoever wrote this copy is this: Why delay sharing this important benefit? Why not build it into your first line of copy?
Whether you’re writing a product description for a print catalog or its online version, never hesitate to immediately point out a product’s benefit to a potential customer. The sooner you mention it, the better your chances of making that sale.
Your email got opened…success!
Well, not quite.
Half the battle has been won because your recipient was intrigued enough by the subject line to take a look.
Now, the job of the email is to produce some kind of action - a click to your web site or a reply to your message.
Whatever result you’re hoping to achieve, it’s imperative that the crux of your message be significant and convincing. So, make sure it clearly states to the reader LOOK HOW MY PRODUCT/SERVICE CAN HELP YOU!
Regardless of what you’re selling, your prospect isn’t considering buying it because of the product or service itself. No, the prospect is thinking about buying it because the product or service:
Get the idea?
People buy stuff when they perceive that the said “stuff” will provide a positive result or benefit for them.
Everyone has a reason for buying and it’s not just because they want to spend money on your product. They want to spend money on your product because they believe that your product will do (fill in the blank) for them.
Emails that tune into this mindset strongly increase the chances of provoking the desired response.
Give it a try and watch your email marketing results explode.
Specifics sell, period.
When prospects are shopping, they don’t want to just read about a product’s features, they want to know why they should buy it. They want to be given an incentive - a reason to buy.
Using specifics makes the job of selling easier, because the copy contains no vagueness or ambiguity.
Here’s an example of a headline that I saw recently in The Vermont Country Store catalog. The item was combed-cotton pajamas and the headline read, “Featherweight Pajamas Won’t Cling or Stick to Your Body When Temperatures Rise.”
This headline alone could convince a woman looking for lightweight and cool pajamas to place an order. It is straight-forward and to-the-point and speaks directly to the important benefit to be gained from buying these PJs.
Another item in the same catalog used specificity to pitch the value of its Portuguese flannel sheet-blankets.
The copy began like this: “If you’re not familiar with old-fashioned sheet-blankets, you’ll find they’re just what you need to add another layer on bitter cold nights and have just enough heft on their own to keep you feeling “just right” on warmer nights.”
The copy continued with the sheet-blankets features, but that first sentence explained specifically why buying their sheet-blanket would be a smart move, which gives shoppers a reason to buy it.
So much selling power is lost when copy speaks in general terms. By focusing on specifics, your copy is much more persuasive and convincing, which ultimately produces sales.
Catalog copywriting skills reach far beyond the pages of a catalog…did you know that?
That’s right, the skills needed to write short catalog copy are easily transferable to other types of short descriptions, for example, a real estate property description.
Recently, I was asked by a realtor to rewrite a property description.
I was happy to oblige because like any other freelance copywriting professional, I’m always willing to demonstrate my abilities.
Without further ado, this is how it went:
The Original Version
WELCOME TO THE SHINING ROCK COMMUNITY, THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR AN EASIER LIFESTYLE... Start checking the boxes!!! *1*. More free time without giving up comforts of home. *2*. Light, bright, clean, freshly painted and move in ready * 3*. 1st floor Master Bedroom retreat with separate commode *4*. An open concept floor plan. suited for entertaining * 5. * 3 Bedrooms and 2/1/2 baths * 6. * Two car attached garage and full-size basement to finish, workshop space and storage *7. * Location This unit is at the end of a tree lined lane and walk to Award Winning Golf Course and Rockdale Grill., *8* Private deck and outdoor space. *9* Must allow Pets. Absolutely. *10*, Great commuter location. 495, 90, 146 Worcester, Providence, and Boston. ****** All year around or "lock it and leave it" snow birds, this is a comfortable attractive property to call home.
My Revised Version
HAD IT WITH THE HECTIC LIFESTYLE? 10 REASONS WHY LIFE’S SIMPLER AT SHINING ROCK…
1. No more time-consuming home and yard maintenance. More time for fun stuff!
2. Move-in ready; light, bright, freshly painted, and clean.
3. Open concept floor plan, if entertaining is your thing.
4. Your own retreat – 1st floor Master bedroom with separate commode.
5. 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths for visiting family or guests.
6. Two-car, attached garage and full-size, unfinished basement – that workshop or extra storage you’ve always dreamed of?
7. Peaceful location at end of tree-lined lane that’s walking distance to award-winning golf course and Rockdale Grill.
8. Private deck and outdoor space.
9. Pets are ALWAYS welcome.
10. Worcester, Providence, and Boston less than an hour’s commute away; 495, 146, and 90 close by.
Whether living year-round or ‘lock it and leave it’ snowbirds, this no-fuss, appealing property epitomizes what home should be.
Like catalog copy, property descriptions have restricted word capacity, so the less words you can use, the more specific your copy needs to be.
And specificity always outpulls generalities. Hmmm, sounds like another blog topic…
In any event, whether you’re writing 25 words to pitch a handbag or a house, the basic copy approach is the same.
Know your audience, know the item’s major selling points and their benefits, and then compose your copy so it speaks to your customers and promotes the benefits.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter