Advertising Copy Tips for Small Business Owners Who Are Doing it All

A capital belongs at the beginning and a period goes at the end. Right?
Wrong! Your sentences are special because every single word in each sentence will either make your readers join, buy, or leave.

The average English reader may quickly lose patience with “I want to be you’re freind”. But a more discerning eye – the folks we all want for our customers – are even more turned off by “This may adversely effect your income potential”. I’m going to try to guide you to the perfect sentence with the following three pointers.

1. Don’t wag the dog.
Passive voice: The sales record was broken by Janice Howard.
Active voice: Janice Howard broke the sales record.

The point: There should never be confusion about the subject of any sentence. Here, you’re pointing out something special about Janice, who broke the sales record. Therefore she comes first. This is called the active voice. It may be obvious that in advertising, all sentences should be active. It’s easy to see that “You have found the best online business op” is better than “the best online business op has been found by you.” Keep that in mind when writing. It’s a time-tested technique, and pretty much the most straightforward way to write any type of advertisement.

The passive voice is useful in rhetoric, and in certain other narrative cases, but in ad copy, you want to be as tightly focused as possible. Don’t make the object the focus of your sentences unless necessary, or you will create the equivalent of the tail wagging the dog.

2. Sometimes negative is better than positive.
Negative: She didn’t like milk.
Positive: She hated milk.

Negative: He couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t understand not being able sit at the table with the adults.
Positive: He had always understood the reason why he ate in the basement.

The point: The usual rule in writing, which is reinforced in editing, is to refrain from negative structures. Try to avoid “is not” and “was not” constructions, and do not lump together negatives, as in the second negative example shown, for clarity’s sake. Positive language is clearer and more concrete. Use it predominately in your ad copy, so that you are understood.

Negative command: Don’t miss out on this deal!
Positive command: Grab this deal now!

The point: There is a very big exception in advertising, and that is the command “Don’t”. Something about it seems to make clicking nearly irresistible, if you’ve already got an interested reader. If you use it sparingly, a “don’t command” like the one in the example easily increases the hits to your ad links.

3. Say exactly what you’re trying to say
Weak: Aggressive marketers may in some cases see a relatively higher payoff than less aggressive marketers.
Strong: Your hard work will pay off.

The point: Fainthearted ads do not sell. Make whatever promises you can make, truthfully, but straightforwardly. There is nothing wrong with the first example, but it has too many extra words to hinder your readers from what you’re trying to promise them.

So don’t be wishy-washy. And avoid using two generalizations in one sentence, like “usually”, mostly”, “possibly”, seemingly”. All of these will allow doubt entrance to your ad, and everyone will wonder whether you have any real faith in your own product. Needless to say, that’s not a good impression to make on prospective buyers.

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