Credible copywriting: Who ya’ gonna trust?

January 4, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

If you asked me what was wrong with most copywriting, I’d say two things:

1. Much of it is trite and lifeless. Like a bowl of limp noodles.

2. Too much of it is outlandish B.S. Over-the-top hard sell.

Both extremes can kill your copy, but the second is a bigger problem. Lifeless copy might still sell if the product and offer are appealing. But outlandish, unbelievable copy creates distrust and leads people to think, “Yeah, right.”

I’m talking about credibility. This is an essential but often ignored part of good copywriting. If people don’t believe you, they won’t respond to your copy.

So how do you build credibility? Lots of ways. Here are 6 of the simplest:

Never assume anything. Never assume your reader knows anything about the product or the company. Never assume your reader understands the benefits. Never assume your reader believes you, trusts you, or gives a damn. You have to make all these things clear through your copy. Lack of clarity is a red flag to consumers, so you must go out of your way to clarify everything.

Tell the truth. Do I really need to remind you about this? Ethical issues aside, telling the truth is just common sense. Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Being truthful makes for an easier sell. You have the facts on your side. You don’t have to “make up” anything. You don’t have to be clever. Don’t lie, just choose the most effective truth. If one truth doesn’t work, find another truth.

Reveal drawbacks. This is counterintuitive. It would seem more logical to reveal only the good points about the thing you’re selling. Why bring up negatives? But actually, revealing a drawback is a sign of honesty that creates instant credibility. No one will believe a product is perfect. But they will believe you when you say, “This product won’t solve all your problems, but it will solve this one.”

Be precise. A tax consultant once told me that a messy tax return is a red flag for the IRS because cheats try to hide behind illegible handwriting. Similarly, obfuscating the facts in your copy raises a red flag for your reader because “cheats” try to hide behind generalizations. Don’t write “about 100 features,” write “107 features.” Don’t write “You can lose a lot of weight fast,” write “You can lose 15 pounds in 30 days.” Precision generates trust.

Guarantee it. If you’re telling the truth and being precise, guarantee what you say. Many think that a guarantee is a legal requirement. But really, a guarantee is a selling tool. If you say you can lose 15 pounds in 30 days, guarantee that claim and promise to return the customer’s money if that doesn’t happen. Don’t you feel better when someone stands behind a product you’re buying? Your reader feels the same way.

Share testimonials. People expect you to say good things about the widget you’re selling. So even if they trust you, your words will never carry the same weight as the words of customers. When other people say “This works!” and “I love it,” your reader will feel less risk in giving it a try. And if you don’t have testimonials, you can use a variety of other credibility enhancers such as the number of customers the company has, how many products have been sold, or how long the company has been in business.

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3 Comments on Credible copywriting: Who ya’ gonna trust?

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  1. Mark on Jan 5th, 2010 7:35 pm
  2. Your RSS subscription mechanism sucks, IE It doesn’t work.

    I think the mechanism is trying to be “too” smart.

    All I want to do is to save it to my reader’s bookmark folder and it won’t let me do that. I don’t need a million options I just need the RSS feed.

    The inability to subscribe properly is of course one of the biggest problems with Feedburner and always has been.

  3. Dean Rieck on Jan 6th, 2010 2:12 pm
  4. Sorry you’re having a problem with the RSS. Talk to Feedburner. Or contact the organization that created your reader.