12 Most Endearing Ways to Jazz Up a Boring Sales Page
Whether you sell car widgets, consulting, cab service, camping stoves or customized cabinets, the day will come when you have to write up something to sell them. My best advice is to simply write straightforwardly who it’s for, what it is, why people should buy it and how to order.
If your clear and direct draft then seems just too boring to you, you don’t have to do the verbal equivalent of dressing up in a plastic burger suit and jumping up and down at passing cars. You can give your copy a little rhythm and “oomph” with one or more of these more subtle jazzifying moves.
In my first sentence above, I purposely overdid this by having five things in a row that all started with the letter “c.” When you use only two or three sequential words beginning with the same letter or sound, it tends to stay under the radar while perking up the reader.
Tell an illustrative story in only a sentence or two. For a lightweight camping stove, your story could be, “One of our customers came in after hiking the whole Pacific Coast Trail and thanked us for all the cold mornings the stove had enabled him to have hot coffee and oatmeal instead of granola, granola and more granola.” In the description of my program on information marketing, I wrote, “In the 1990’s, my husband and I would sit in our living room opening bins full of envelopes, then stacking checks and money orders in one pile and dollar bills in another heap so high they’d begin to topple over.”
3. Before and after
Right after that sentence about the dollar bills, I contrasted the scene with the present day: “These days it’s not as much work to count the money, but it’s just as much fun to tell each other how many orders came in while we were sleeping, enjoying the outdoors or traveling for weeks and months at a time.” Likewise, you can add color to your pitch by comparing how something used to be and how it is now. “Five years ago, Fineran Consulting had only three clients. Through word of mouth, it grew in leaps and bounds until its client list looked like the Who’s Who of the Twin Cities.”
4. Sentence variety
To inject life into a page that seems like a snoozer, simply fiddle with the sentences so some sentences are short and others much longer, rather than all being of average length. How short? Very short is fine. Inserting a question here or there livens things up also. Notice how I did that in this tip?
5. General to specific
Suppose I had started off this post, “Whatever you sell, the day will come when you have to write something up to sell it.” It’s okay, but my actual opening sentence is spiffier. Look for places in your text where you made general statements and bring them to life by substituting or sprinkling in particulars. Phrase patterns that accomplish this include “ranging from X to Y” or “such as A, B and C, to name a few.”
6. Freshened cliché
A cliché is a phrase so familiar that everyone can finish the wording if you stop halfway through. “Dead as a doornail.” “The real McCoy.” “Read you the Riot Act.” Foil the reader’s expectations by changing one of the words so the phrase still means much the same, has an interesting twist or takes on the opposite meaning. For instance, “In 2009, the local real estate market was dead as a doorstop.” “Bill Barringer, our founder, is the real McSpy when it comes to competitive intelligence.” “When you come to Gentle Waters, we read you the Relaxation Act.”
7. Translated jargon
Most of the time you’re wrong when you think everyone understands the insider lingo that’s etched deeply into your brain cells. For that reason and also for a change of pace, it’s a relief to readers when you add a plain-English explanation of industry terminology, as in “Human capital — that is, people viewed as company assets” or “We bring together all the stakeholders, which in most cases means the landowners, people from town government and representatives of local environmental groups.”
8. Kid talk
You bring an idea down to earth even more usefully and interestingly when you deliberately reword it the way an eight-year-old would understand it. An accountant might say, for example, that she helps companies make sure they’re not spending more money than they actually have. The custom cabinetmaker might say he makes clients exactly the kind of cabinets they want in their kitchen or home office, with smooth edges and joints, crafted so they’ll look great for 50 years. Much of the time, your kid version doesn’t come off as childish at all — only forthright and clear.
9. Unexpected word
Is “jazzifying,” in my first paragraph of this post, a word? Maybe not, but I’m sure you recognized it meant “to make more jazzy.” Don’t be afraid to use one or two words that aren’t normally part of business talk. These shouldn’t be graduate-level, abstruse terms like “ossification” or “anthropocentric” but rather colorful verbs, nouns and adjectives like “bamboozle,” “poorhouse” or “antsy.” I sat up straight the other day when I read a news article about “the Snowden kerfuffle.” (To my surprise, “kerfuffle” isn’t Yiddish but Scottish in origin.) Foreign words like “hari-kari,” (ritual suicide, Japanese), “alfresco” (outdoors, Italian) and “verblunget” (totally confused, Yiddish) simply have a certain “je ne sais quoi” (indescribable quality, French) that adds sonic texture to your prose.
10. Shorter paragraphs
When I update articles that I wrote 15 years ago, when I had one foot in the print world and one foot online, often all I do is divide my long paragraphs in half. They then read much more crisply on the web.
Try it yourself.
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing one of the reasons is the examples. When someone not only says what you should do but also rounds out the advice with examples, readers’ minds get spinning more usefully than from the same advice with no instances of how to do it.
12. An exception
Dial back on a positive attribute by describing one time that it isn’t or wasn’t true. Often, adding an exception has a humorous effect and makes your overall claim more believable. For example, “Unless you stick them in a meat cooler for a month, our widgets start up instantly.” The best example of this I’ve seen in business is The Linton Company, which says “Where nice people answer the phone (with possibly one exception).”
A little of the above goes a long way. If every sentence dances at the reader, you’ll provoke dizziness rather than desire to buy. Use just enough to wake the reader up so he or she pays attention instead of skimming on by.
If you start getting comments about your writing, you may have done a bit too much. The feedback that indicates you’ve done it just right is more people inputting their credit card information, opting in or calling you for appointments. Let us know when all that happens for you!
Featured image courtesy of 416style licensed via Creative Commons.