The Point

Archive for the ‘Best practices for copywriting’ Category


How to Write a Home Page Headline that Gets the Job Done

Home page headline

You’ve arrived, but feel lost. Or confused. You’re being bombarded with stimuli. Or too many choices. You’re unsure what to do next.

I know exactly what you’re going to do next. You’re going to leave. You’re off in search of a place where you feel comfortable, confident, more “at home.”

Now here’s the rub. You actually were at someone’s home—their home on the web—their home page, but something went terribly wrong.

The problem’s simple enough. The home page isn’t simple enough. The host made you work. As a website visitor, you don’t want that. And as a website host, your goal must be to invoke a sense of belonging.

The home page has a job to do: get clicked

Bounce rate, which is revealed in your analytics, indicates the percentage of web site visits where only a single page was viewed. Translation: zero clicks.

For a blog site, you need not get overly concerned about bounce rate. One-and-done visits are common. However, those that enter your site via its home page are likely to be first-timers. In this case, a high bounce rate is deadly.

So how do you inspire a visitor to click a page deeper into your site? You interest them. And how do you interest your visitor? You communicate an idea that is easy to understand and memorable. Marketers often describe such ideas as “sticky.”

Made to Stick, the bestselling book by Chip and Dan Heath, spells out the formula with six principles. The first, and perhaps, most vital, is simplicity.

I’ll paraphrase from the book where they ask and answer the question, “How do you find the essential core of your ideas?” They submit you must be a master of exclusion. You must relentlessly prioritize.

The book’s chapter on simplicity also offers the following:

  • It’s hard to make ideas stick in a noisy environment
  • You must weed out ideas, even if they’re important, in an effort to highlight the most important one
  • Uncertainty—caused by multiple choices—tends to paralyze readers
  • Powerful ideas are compact and meaningful

Is your homepage simple? Does it elicit the response you want from visitors? If it’s not clear and compact, it’s time to review and revise it. It’s time to simplify. It’s time to learn how to write a home page headline that inspires visitors to stick around and click around.

What’s in it for me?

If you’ve studied copywriting even a wee bit, you’re likely to have read the “WIIFM” lesson. A common derivative of it goes: readers don’t care about your company or product; they care about themselves.

I want to say you get the idea. I want to say everybody does. But they don’t. In fact, I don’t think it’d be outrageous to say a painfully large majority can’t (and maybe never will) comprehend the concept. And it’s a pity because when you shine the spotlight on yourself, you lose business.

Your headline has a job to do

While your typical web-browsing human is obviously not a goldfish, researchers like to explain his or her average attention span falls short of the little orange pucker’s.

This means your job is to create a page, which is capable of expanding the average attention span. You need to grab ‘em fast. This is the headline’s job. The headline on your home page is the first line the visitor reads and therefore the most important line on your entire website.



How to Write a Lead Like a Professional Blogger

Write a Lead


Writing leads is a bitch.

But I just wrote a great one. How do I know? You read the second sentence. And now you’re on the fifth. I’m on a roll. You’re into sentence number seven and I love you for it.

The objective of the first sentence (often called the lead, or lede) is to get you into the second one. Some say the lead is the first paragraph and, as you must have gathered, its goal is to get you to read the paragraph that follows.

Of course, the headline ranks highest, so those that dole out writing advice tend to focus on it. I thought we’d focus on the lead today. When it fails you, your reader takes in only two lines. That’s a form of rejection no writer can live with.

So let’s get back to that bitch

At this year’s International Association of Procrastinators Conference (which was originally scheduled for last year), a poll determined the hardest part of every task is getting started.

Beginning a blog post is no exception. The challenge often thwarts the progress of the most successful professionals. Kristi Hines, professional blogger of the highest order, told me:

“For me, the lead is the most difficult part of the article to write. I’ve found that when I get stuck, the best approach is to write the rest of the article and circle back to it. By that point, I know exactly what I’ve covered in the article and that makes it easier to introduce the content. Otherwise, if I try to force the lead out first, I end up procrastinating on the whole piece.”

We have our first tip: skip the lead if it freezes you. Try to switch to defrost and just dive into the story. (more…)


The World’s Greatest Social Media Marketer [INFOGRAPHIC]

great social media marketer

I wrote this article for MarketingProfs a while back…

The world’s greatest social media marketer has objectives and strategies. They’re documented—on a spreadsheet—or on some social platform where her peers can collaborate.

She understands the whole analytics and metrics thing that matters to the bean counters. Another spreadsheet? You’d better believe it.

Social media blog feeds feed her a daily dose of updates because she knows some genius somewhere updated a social media network with a new feature while she was sleeping.

She can even tell you how many pixels tall and wide your profile pics need to be. Yep, she keeps all this on a spreadsheet—in the cloud, of course.

You too can master such things. But they won’t make you the world’s greatest social media marketer. In fact, you may remain amazingly mediocre.

The world’s greatest social media marketer possesses more meaningful skills.



Copy Editing Tips: Delete + 12 More Ways to Improve Your Writing

copy editing tips

Look at this monster.

It’s a blank page. It’s not a rattlesnake. It’s not an axe murderer. It can’t hurt you. How could it creep you out so badly?

The answer can only be one thing: you don’t know what to do. You feel helpless. That’s a shitty feeling.

I’m going to help you. I’m going to tell you what to do.


That’s right. Write something. Anything. It might be awful. It could be truly amateurish. It doesn’t matter. Write. Right now.

Let me talk you through this, a fictitious, but very real enactment. I’ve done it many times before and it usually goes something like this…

I ask the obvious question, “What’s the problem?”

I get the obvious answer, “I don’t know where to start.”

Next question: “What are you trying to say?”

Next answer: “Well, we’re hosting an event, so I want to tell the prospects who have indicated some interest in our solution the value of attending. They’ll learn a lot and it won’t cost a dime.

My turn: “Well there you go. That’s great. Write that down.”

Response: “Write what down?”

“Write what you just told me. It sounded pretty good.”



You’re out of order.

You came in search of the prescription for this writing disorder of yours and the big secret I offer you is “write?” It sounds kind of lame.

Maybe you take me for a poser now. Not so fast my friend.

Am I telling you the secret to becoming a writer is simply “start writing?” No, I’m not. However, I’m telling you what your biggest problem is.



If You Think You Can’t Write, You’re Wrong


“I can’t write.”

You’ve said it a zillion times, but you’re not going to say it again because it’s a giant, steamy, and stinky pile of crap.

I know what your problem is.

You learned how to write. Then you learned you were doing it wrong.

Blame it on your teachers. Or the man. Or the system. Or the business world. Let’s agree to point the finger at some anonymous entity so you’ll need not feel guilty about it or suffer any consequences.

The truth is you got off to a great start. In your early grade school years, you were merely expected to use legible penmanship and transfer your thoughts—any thoughts—to the paper.

You wrote with abandon. It was fun. It was freeing. But not for long. (more…)


A Great Copywriter Has at Least 21 Personalities

Great Copywriter

Let me introduce myself. I’m, um, I’m, uh … Hmm. I had this a minute ago.

But suddenly I’m a different person. I’m wearing a different hat. I have different strengths and skills. It’s like I switched gears. The chains fall into a different combination of sprockets and I’m cruising along with an entirely different personality.

It happens all the time because, um, because, uh … Oh! I remember now. My name is Barry. I’m a copywriter. This much I know.

An article titled, “50 Attributes of a Great Copywriter” gave me the idea for this one. It was an interesting read (and enormously popular), but it struck me as a bit bloated.

But it’s not my list, so I decided I’d have a different list — not attributes, per se, but rather, personality traits, or types, or …

21 Interchangeable Characters

I’ve been doing this for 25 years. But what’s this? If you think my job as a writer focuses only on crafting sentences in an effort to persuade readers, you’re about to learn how wrong you are.

Doing the job well tasks you with playing a huge variety of roles.  (more…)


Sharpen Your Storytelling Skills to Earn the Audience’s Attention


storytelling skills

Inbound marketing focuses on the power of pull. You  do everything possible to anticipate the needs and wants of your buyers. You then invest heavily in different messages and media to get clicks, appear on whichever rectangular piece of glass flickers before the prospect, and command their undivided attention for a spell. And you usually fail.

We are all hopelessly distracted. It’s not a disorder — it’s the new world order.

Can I have your attention, please?

Whichever methods we put in play with our marketing, we’re powerless unless we’re able to get a prospect to pay attention. It doesn’t come easy. As long as we’re online, on earth, and in a media-centric society, there will always be a shiny object scattering, shattering, and battering our focus.

Okay, when you practice inbound marketing for a while, you start getting good. You figure out how to write a headline cursors and fingers are magnetically attracted to. But a click is nothing more than a click until you, the messenger, truly click with your customer.

You either get remembered or forgotten.

I’ve been tossing that little homegrown axiom out there for years. The gauntlet I’m laying down here: Your goal is to be remembered.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

As you know, it’s damn hard to be remembered for what you wrote or said. And who needs another impossibly lofty goal? The goal, then, is to say or do something memorable by sparking an emotional response.



Free Virtual Conference: Content and Customer Engagement from BrightTalk

Open your calendar please. Mark the dates for next week, Feb. 11, 12, 13.

Of course, I don’t expect you’ll commit all three days to nothing but webinars. However, if you want to take in fun and free lessons from some of the best, have a look at the Content and Customer Engagement Summit schedule and make plans to join the webinars you expect will help you with your online marketing.

BrightTalk has invited me to present two of them…

Rock Your Content

Rock Your Content

The summit kicks off with this rockin’ keynote. I’ve invited three of the world’s best content marketers to join me for this informal roundtable type webinar. The plan is to examine the state of content marketing today and bounce around ideas for rising above the noise like legendary rock stars. Don’t be surprised if suddenly, we fixate on The Rolling Stones or The Clash.

On the webinar, I’ll be joined by:

These three friends of mine rock. They rock their brands, help clients score hits, play rock instruments, and know what it takes to score hits.

Here’s an overview of the session scheduled for Feb. 11, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. PST.

Content marketing strategist Barry Feldman assembles a group of content rock stars to discuss what it takes to score big hits amidst the deafening noise of new media today. The foursome will examine why most content is ignored or easily forgotten while a minute percentage breaks through and strikes a chord with its audience. Feldman and his guests will discuss how some of the legends of rock and roll stamped their indelible signatures on their brands and how marketers can do the same.


Copywriting Tips for the Three Most Important Pages on Your Webiste

copywriting tips websiteYou might have caught my posts about optimizing your home, landing and about pages on the Feldman Creative blog or HubSpot, however, this information has never before been presented live. This webinar is going to be one of the most packed with actionable tips you’ve ever attended.

In under an hour, the session will featue 30+ writing tips. Here’s an overview of the session scheduled for Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. PST.

As vital as website traffic is for growing your business, it’s meaningless if the site doesn’t convert visitors to leads and customers. In this session, veteran copywriter Barry Feldman covers essential copywriting tips marketers can apply immediately to increase conversion. Learn how to make the important improvements to your website’s home page, about page and landing pages that translate to dollars.

Both of these—and all the webinars at the events—are free.


Get Sweaty, Get Steamy and Get the Creative Juices Jamming [Infographic]

I was in the gym pedaling on the LifeCycle. My heart rate was in the 140 area—full tilt for a geezer. The sweat was starting to come. Though I wasn’t plugged into the audio, or even watching really, I was zoning out and into the many TV screens, a welcome respite from the Mac screens that usually devour my mind and time.

And WTF? Ideas paraded through my brain… my next enewsletter began taking shape in my head… several blog post ideas… a pretty rocking headline for an eBook… a funny concept for this direct response campaign I’m on.

For what must have been the millionth time in my depressingly long, er, I mean, impressively long career as a copywriter and creative director, it dawned on me again that escaping the office is the best way to uncork the cranium.

You don’t have to sweat ideas out.

Brain lubricants come in many forms. Some obvious, some not. Some will work for you, some won’t. I thought this through and created the infographic below. Check it out. Print it out. Tweet it out.

But now back to our sweat fest. Get a load of this… (more…)


7 Ways to Create Better Content in a Fraction of the Time

creating great content in less time

This is a guest post by Mike Sobol of ContentBlvd.

Deep content is immensely valuable for your readers, your credibility and your SEO. When you delve into a subject and create a post that others use as reference material, that’s a content marketing home run. Barry does it here on his own blog with astounding consistency. Chances are, however, you aren’t such a prolific content producer. So let’s look at how you can create more fantastic content in much less time.

First, a Disclaimer

Fast content doesn’t mean bad content. If it isn’t useful, don’t create it. No one wins when you publish new content for it’s own sake — not your site, your brand or your readers. So don’t publish something quickly because you think you need to.

The only reason ever to publish a piece is because you believe your audience will benefit.

I happen to be a long-winded person who enjoys digging into the details. Paradoxically, perhaps, that limits my own production. And maybe that limits you, too. You know it’s your job to provide value, so when you aren’t confident in your message, and don’t feel like you have the time and attention to give a topic it’s due, you opt to produce nothing at all.

Well, that’s baloney, and it leads me to my first point. (more…)