Author & Consultant
you learn a few fundamental principles
and techniques, writing persuasive catalog copy,
web copy or product
descriptions for printed
brochures or sales sheets becomes
an easy, enjoyable process.
Step 1. List features and benefits, then connect them.
If you've read anything about copywriting, you've heard about the
importance of including the benefits of products as well as their
features. For instance, when you say your widget is a 2-inch pink
plastic paperclip, you are describing its features. When you say it
enables you to color-code stacks of papers or it attracts attention on
someone else's desk or it makes a great gift for your
organized-like-mad teenager, you are describing its benefits.
For concise, interesting product descriptions in a printed or online
catalog, it's essential to combine features and benefits, weaving them
together tightly yet unobtrusively. Here's a sample excerpt from the print
catalog The Territory Ahead, mixing features and benefits:
Over cobblestone or dirt,
concrete or causeway, the
compression-molded midsole and metatomical footbed
provide all-day, all-terrain cushioned support. (In other words,
supreme comfort like we've never seen in a huarache.)
Keen's patented bumpered toe prevents stubs and smashes.
The traditional, tire-styled outsole features linen fabric
inlay for additional strength and flex.
The widget's feature X gives
you benefit Y. In one way or another (and there are at least 16 different
ways to make this connection), this forms the foundation of catalog copy.
Step 2. Brainstorm angles and choose one as your opener.
Almost always, you'll also need an attention-getter for the headline and
first sentence of your product description. Use the checklist below, or
the expanded one in 73 Ways to Describe a Widget, to come up with an
interesting way to
think about the item. For instance, The Territory Ahead actually starts
the product description quoted above with this answer to the question,
"Who is it for?":
anatomically logical and muy guapa,
Keen's huarache overhaul was done with the global
wanderer in mind.
You can weave other elements
from this brainstorming into your descriptive copy as space allows.
Step 3. Polish up your descriptions in a consistent voice.
Did you notice the way that the writing from The Territory Ahead has
personality? Technically, this element is called voice, and it's what
unifies the descriptions at a web site or in a catalog so that they have a
corporate identity. When there's a tight match between the writing voice
and the customers' interests and needs, the shopper feels the company is
speaking directly to them, and that they're
looking at the kind of widgets they'd most like to buy.
While the samples above from The Territory Ahead have a kind of masculine
romance about them, a catalog or web site's voice could be efficient,
technical, playful, practical, compassionate, soulful ... There are
a zillion possibilities.
Whatever the voice chosen, it must be consistent throughout the catalog or
web site, or prospective customers get confused.
Step 4. Proofread, checking details.
As with any marketing or sales piece, the last step consists of
proofreading, to make sure that you've included all the elements that
people need to know before making a buying decision - size, color,
composition, weight, price, etc. -- along with making sure that the
details provided are accurate.
Four steps -- that's all there is to mastering the art of tantalizing
product descriptions for catalogs or web sites.
Yudkin, author of Persuading on
Paper and 10 other books, specializes in compelling, yet
hype-free copywriting. This article is adapted from her
report, 73 Ways to Describe a Widget: Never Be Brain Dead
Again When Having to Write Catalog Copy or Sales Material,
available from http://www.yudkin.com/catalog.htm
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