It’s easy to sell to someone who has made up her mind about what she needs and the price she’s willing to pay. But not every shopper falls into that category.
Many are considering a purchase, but, for a variety of reasons, aren’t steadfast in their desire. These are the people who need persuading or justification. And this is where the inclusion of benefits in your copy comes into play.
The definition of benefit is something that is advantageous or good; an advantage.
Sure, you like a particular item and it would be nice to have, but do you really need it?
Maybe it’s a little pricey or maybe you don’t need more (for instance, another pair of shoes), or maybe you don’t need it right now.
In any of the scenarios described above, the mention of a benefit could be what sways the undecided or hesitant consumer to open her wallet.
I’ll use shoes as an example.
You’ve come upon a pair of navy blue shoes. You love the heel height and the look of the shoes. In that instant, you’ve decided that you might possibly buy them.
Here’s where sharp catalog copy is a must.
You’ve a potential buyer on the precipice, waffling about what to do. Your copy should cajole with a benefit and explain to your prospect why she needs to buy this.
Wearing jeans or a skirt today? This shoe adapts!
That copy might convince the reluctant buyer who feels she has too many shoes to take the plunge. “They won’t just sit in my closet!” Or, maybe she’d be able to justify buying them for this reason, even if they’re a bit more expensive than she’d like.
Aha! An advantage to making the purchase!
Shoes (that I don’t really need) that can be worn with a variety of outfits, so they won’t collect dust in my closet.
Explain to shoppers in your catalog copy why making a purchase will make their life better or easier and you’ll see your sales drastically improve.
Catalog copywriters know that catalog copywriting isn’t easy, (but for some unknown reason, we continue to do it anyway…)
Our job is to write a description for a product or service that entices the target audience, i.e., the customer, to buy said product or service.
The catch is, catalog copy usually allots only a certain number of words to be used. Especially print catalogs, because the physical page in a catalog measures only so big.
And here lies the challenge, choosing the right words in that limited allotment to most successfully promote the product and make the sale.
And what if the copy block for the item you’re writing about only allows you to use, oh, let’s say 15 words, headline included?
Now do you see why I said catalog copywriting isn’t easy?
Being able to write persuasively and sell using minimal words is a skill.
And I bet that there are loads of people who’ve attempted to tackle this and after hours of frustration and struggle, threw their hands up in disgust and cried out, “There must be professionals out there who do this kind of stuff!”
And to that lament, I respond with a resounding “YES!”
Maybe you’re a cataloger who delegates your catalog’s copywriting to whichever staff member is least overworked. Or maybe you’re a cataloger who just takes the manufacturer’s copy and runs with it?
Really? Risk losing sales because your catalog’s copy isn’t sales worthy? It didn’t boast benefits or speak clearly and simply to your customer?
Maybe you aren’t a cataloger, but someone who sells for a living and needs to write ads to sell your product, for example, a realtor. Do you want to spend hours agonizing over copy for a listing, or hand it off to a professional copywriter, so you can do what you do best?
The quality of your catalog’s copy directly impacts your sales. Why take a chance?
Take advantage of the skills that an experienced catalog copywriter can offer and make your job easier!
Keep It Simple
At first glance, anyone starting out as a catalog copywriter might think that writing this type of copy should be easy – after all, you’re just describing a product. So, the more adjectives or highfalutin words you use, the better, right?
Just pull out that thesaurus and keep it handy. Who knew there were so many different ways to say “spacious,” like, commodious…really?
Catalog copywriters walk a fine line with the words that they choose to use to sell a product. And that fine line is the border between speaking to the reader in her language or speaking in a language that is foreign.
And how do you expect someone to know what you’re talking about if she doesn’t understand the language?
Writing clear, understandable catalog copy is key to making a sale. And clear, understandable catalog copy is copy that’s written for a specific audience - your customers.
When the catalog copywriter knows who she’s speaking to, her word selection should match her readers’ vocabulary. And in most cases (but not all), simpler is better.
Don’t think that your prospect is going to stop and refer to a dictionary when she comes across a word in your copy that she doesn’t know the meaning of. More likely, she’ll move on with annoyance or leave your Web site entirely.
Uh oh, another lost sale!
When you are required to use a “big” word, for example, because the manufacturer of the product says they want you to use it, be fair to your customer and explain it to her. Include its definition in the copy, so confusion is avoided.
Writing simple and clear copy probably won’t win many literary prizes, and that’s okay, since the purpose of a catalog’s copy is to produce a sale.
Since the nature of catalog copy is short, particularly for print catalogs, every word counts.
For this reason, the heading, what’s on top of the copy block, can play a huge role in making or breaking a sale.
Let me explain.
Essentially, there are two types of headings.
Examples of “Name” headings are “Dress” or “Lamp.” Plain and simple, these headings just tell you what the item is.
Examples of “Descriptive” headings are “All Business” (dress), and “Stylishly Bright” (lamp). These headings go beyond just telling you what the product is, they suggest what the product could represent.
Stay with me here now…
With these two heading types, there are three copy style choices.
Basic headline copy is bare bones: “Blue Linen Dress.”
To the point, no-nonsense. If I were looking for a blue linen dress, I’d definitely know I’d found one.
Romantic headline copy tries to provoke an emotional response: “CEO-In-Training.”
Hmmm, If I were an up-and-coming executive looking to professionalize my wardrobe, whoa, this would catch my eye.
Positioned copy, as the name states, helps position the product for its primary use: “Perfect for that Executive Board Meeting.”
This heading suggests to me where this dress would work best. Nice! I don’t have to figure it out.
So, what does this all mean for your copy?
Well, the right heading can drastically improve the likelihood of getting an order. And the right heading is the one that matches who your readers are. Which is why it’s so important to know this.
When you’ve got a good handle on who your customers are, what they want, the problems they face, you can tailor your headings to suit their needs and hopefully, convince them to take the plunge.
Sure, you can play it safe with straightforward, basic name headings, but for any given product, do you ever wonder if a little romanticizing might spur some impulse buys? Or if you use some clever positioning, perhaps your copy might unwittingly produce a convert or two?
Playing it safe isn’t always the best choice. A skillful copywriter can turn the mundane into the magnificent with a brilliant headline that romanticizes or positions.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter