After writing marketing copy day in and day out, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, to do the same old thing because that’s what you’ve always been doing.
In this article, we bring you eight examples of successful marketing copy to help spark new ideas for your next copywriting assignment.
Read on for all sorts of copywriting examples, including a diamond search engine, a personalized direct mail piece, a health care bill builder, and one of the most interesting catalogs you’ll ever see.
(As seen in the MarketingSherpa newsletter. Click to get a free email subscription to the latest from MarketingSherpa.)
No one is a bottomless idea machine. We all look for inspiration sometimes.
So here are some examples of effective copywriting to help spark an idea for your next project:
Example #1: Avoid a me-centric structure to your copy
“Simplifying Medicare for You” was part of a test that performed 638% better than “We’re here to help.”
“Get The Ferguson Updates You Want, When You Want Them.” was part of a change that performed 120% better than “Exclusive Product And Event Information Delivered Right To Your Inbox!”
One of the reasons those headlines underperformed is because there was a me-centric structure to the copy. In other words, the focus was on what the company cares about, not what the customer cares about.
Those were two of 30 headline pair examples shared by Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute (parent organization of MarketingSherpa), in Why 80% of the Words on Our Webpages Are Wrong (Part 2): Avoid these 6 common copywriting errors, during which he also taught about me-centric copy structure along with five other deadly copywriting errors.
Example #2: Use a clear message to teach, not a complex message to confuse
Flint McGlaughlin is known for saying “clarity trumps persuasion.”
One industry that typically avoids clarity in its copy is the diamond industry. A little ironic since clarity is one of the vaunted four Cs of diamond grading that determine how much a gemstone will cost.
Paul Sullivan provided an example in The New York Times article, The Secret to Buying the Perfect Diamond, “Despite different budgets, Mr. Taira and Mr. Fennerty shared a trait: fear of getting ripped off in the notoriously opaque diamond market. Both turned to Rare Carat, a two-year-old website that uses an algorithm to value different diamonds based on their qualities — size, cut or clarity, for example.”
RareCarat is an example of a company that used copywriting (in addition to its technology) to differentiate itself in an otherwise opaque marketplace. “Telling it like it is (vs. cheesy, traditional luxury retail) has given us a very distinct voice in the segment,” Apeksha Kothari, Chief Operating Officer, Rare Carat, told me.
Here is an example with one of the diamond search engine’s Facebook ads. It speaks to the fear, anxiety and frustration of its target customer in clear language.
Creative Sample #1: Rare Carat Facebook ad expressing frustrations with diamond industry
In addition to using clear language about the diamond industry, one of the company’s Facebook ads even pokes fun at the marketing industry.
Creative Sample #2: Rare Carat Facebook ad poking fun at marketing industry
The company also clearly communicates on its homepage how it makes revenue:
How is it All Free?
How do we stay unbiased? We earn advertising revenue based on
clicks — we don’t make commissions. Our neat business model has
This clear language gives visitors a reason to believe in the search results — that the website doesn’t have an incentive to steer them to higher-priced options.
It could also be important for the visitors once they see which brands are listed in the search. For example, when I attempted a search on the site, there were no brick-and-mortar locations within 75 miles of my ZIP code, (in Jacksonville, Florida) and I had never heard of the brands listed (in fairness, I’m not too familiar with jewelry and diamond brands).
So understanding that the website isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive search engine, but rather is a paid product search engine that makes money from clicks similar to Google Shopping, helps customers understand that more prominent brands haven’t been overlooked, they’ve just chosen not to advertise — much like Southwest Airlines chooses not to advertise through online travel agencies.
“Respect your customer and don’t try to ‘befuddle them.’ No one wants to feel like they are being talked down to,” Kothari advised marketers.
But she had advice for business leaders as well. Getting marketers involved early and often does more than create effective copywriting, it helps create a business strategy and product that is worth writing about, to begin with. “Don’t silo the marketing team; they are a key part of refining what the company stands for and what should be communicated. They should be in close alignment with strategy, operations, etc.,” she said.
The approach has been working for RareCarat. The company is three years old and already powers more than $100 million in annual sales.
Example #3: Make the right ask at the right time
Even with the right tone, you need to make sure your copy is making the right ask at the right time in the micro-yes sequence.
Here’s another example, courtesy of a split test of a button on the RareCarat homepage using Google Optimize
After 27,000 sessions, Treatment B (“search”) had a 17% lower bounce rate and 25% higher session duration than Treatment A (“buy”).
Creative Sample #3: RareCarat homepage button test winner
“A diamond engagement ring is one of the most expensive purchases for a customer, and one where the person landing on our page for the first time is still in early stages. Coming on too strong with a CTA can be intimidating,” Kothari said.
Example #4: Don’t be afraid to ask clearly
You need the right type of ask based on where the customer is in the thought sequence and buy process. And those calls-to-action need to have powerful copy. When you do so, even changing a few words can make a major impact. For example, we’ve seen a four-word change increase conversion 82%.
In addition to getting the copy right, sometimes you just can’t be afraid to make the ask. Some marketers are far too aggressive in their content marketing, but some don’t go far enough.
For example, TechnologyAdvice had several blog posts that got a lot of organic traffic but converted almost zero leads. But they weren’t really making a clear enough ask, either. A 1,200-word article would have only one CTA at the very bottom of the page.
“This format required a reader to make it all the way through the post before we offered our services. It wasn’t an ideal setup,” said Tamara Scott, Research and Content Manager, TechnologyAdvice.
To try to improve their CTA strategy, when Scott updated the blog post SharePoint vs. OneDrive for Business: What’s the Difference? to correct outdated information, she added a CTA near the top of the page followed by a banner that also linked to the lead form.
Creative Sample #4: CTAs on TechnologyAdvice blog post
With the single CTA at the very bottom, the article had only generated a single lead in the first half of 2019. After the update, that same article generated 63 new leads (between the May 15, 2019 update and October 29, 2019). “We increased the conversion rate for that page from a rate so low Google Analytics wouldn’t even measure it (>0.01%) to 0.18%,” Scott said.
“We spend a lot of time ensuring that our writing is useful to readers, that we get the facts right, and that we give actionable and unbiased advice to readers regarding their software. Sometimes, doing your best to give the readers information isn’t enough. Readers are smart, but they’re not mind-readers. You have to tell them what you want them to do next, otherwise, they’ll take the information and leave. Our readers are well-served by the information we provide, but many could be better served by the services we provide. You have to guide readers to those services if you want anyone to use them,” she said.
I’m going to follow some of Scott’s advice and add a CTA right here in this article. Just fill out a quick form and you can get this free, useful copywriting tool — MarketingSherpa’s Introductory Guide to Developing Your Customer Theory [an interactive worksheet].
Example #5: Make your copy focused on the recipient
Successful conversion copywriters always put the customer first. When reaching out to a large group of customers, such as with the blog post mentioned in the previous example, you can learn about the group in many ways to inform your copy. For example, every conversion copywriter should be skilled at interviewing.
However, the more specific you can make your copy to the individual customer, the more successful you will be. “When the opportunity presents itself to be hyper-targeted, then it’s a potential dream for marketing copywriters,” said Toby Walker, Managing Director, Workshop Marketing.
Direct mail is one of the most trusted channels when customers are making a purchase decision, and offers an opportunity for that focus.
Walker’s team used direct mail to target high-end boutique hotels in the UK for IT services provider Sentis Managed Solutions. They used CRM (customer relationship management software) data to focus intently on the needs of this audience. “The limited size of the dataset meant we were able to spend time researching the likely pain points of every single prospect, and using personalized URLs (PURLs) could weave that knowledge on to dynamically generated landing pages.”
The team used email outreach and personalized direct marketing to attract prospects to the personalized landing pages. As you can see, the direct mail piece was personalized with the recipients’ names.
Creative Sample #5: Personalized direct mailer for Sentis
The inside of the direct mail piece included copy aimed at that specific hotel. In the case of the sample below, the copy in the brochure does what you would expect a personal letter to do — it has context and relevance to the recipient.
The copy mentions another boutique hotel in the same consortium of hotels that is a customer of Sentis: “We work with the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, another hotel in the Pride of Britain Hotels Collection. They recently told us that IT underpins the hotel and they couldn’t run without the kind of support we offer.”
Creative Sample #6: Inside of personalized direct mailer for Sentis
The call-to-action is the PURL: www.sentisms.com/helen (this is a demo page). The page was personalized with their name, title, hotel name, and a picture of their hotel. “When they landed [they found] a page bespoke to them, their hotel and their pain points along with a prefilled contact form,” Walker said.
Creative Sample #7: Example of dynamically personalized landing page for Sentis
While I don’t disagree with Dale Carnegie when he said, “A person's name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language,” I worry that some personalization efforts are mere whiz-bangery. OK, you know my first name. Does that really mean you know me any better? Or understand my wants and needs as a customer? Or were you just able to buy my name and are automatically filling it from some massive database?
If this example just included first name personalization, I wouldn’t have included it as an example of effective copy.
Here’s how the team took it past just whiz-bangery personalization software functionality to smart, effective copywriting. They researched the different facilities each hotel has — number of rooms, restaurants, spas, golf courses, etc., then the team produced copy like “… Dreams Spa, the Manor Restaurant, a golf course and 60 rooms and suites to manage …”
And they went one step further. “This meant we could also make measured speculations about the type of software they would use,” Walker said. His team added copy like “… Property Management System, whether you use Opera, Hotello, RoomMaster …”
In addition, they measured customer behavior to help foster better, more personalized conversations with sales reps. “The technology we used to generate the PURLs provided great analytics for visits to specific pages, which meant the sales team could quickly follow up and book appointments,” Walker said.
In total, the campaign delivered several new clients and an ROI (return on investment) of 8:1.
Example #6: Be who you are
It’s a noisy world out there, friends. To get noticed and avoid dreaded commodification, your copy needs to break through that noise.
So don’t just take a look at your competition and try to write a headline that’s 10% better. Add something unique in the world with your copy and your products that directly taps into your brand’s authentic self.
An example recently came across my desk — a catalog that I can only call the Gardner Minshew of catalogs.
Creative Sample #8: Shinesty catalog cover
“First and foremost, the main goal of any piece of Shinesty content is to entertain first and sell second,” said Dave Welch, Director of Marketing, Shinesty (fair warning, the website includes things some might consider NSFW).
For Shinesty's first major foray into a print publication — sending the catalog to over a million homes — the team took the same approach.
“With the sheer amount of collateral headed straight to the recycling bin without a single page-turn, Shinesty not only had to produce an eye-catching, gorgeous catalog but one that would entertain as well,” Welch said.
For example, the catalog had a spread of eye-catching holiday suits with names like the Dirty Dangerfield and Shamashing Season.
Creative Sample #9: Funky suits spread from Shinesty catalog
The catalog had more than holiday fare. For example, a one-piece swimsuit printed with the pattern of dungaree overalls was called the Jacksonville Jeankini.
As with other effective marketing, the concept went beyond just the copy to the product itself, creating a product of interest and value to its ideal customers. And the copy effectively illuminated these offerings.
Within two weeks of the catalog’s launch, all site revenue increased by 128% YOY (year over year) and branded/homepage search revenue increased by 411% YOY. “All in all, the catalog netted millions in revenue,” Welch said.
The catalog also included copy that some would consider offensive, specific examples of which I’m not including here for obvious reasons. This elicited passionate responses like, “Your catalog is offensive, vulgar, and overtly sexual. Those items of clothing are something deviants would wear. It's the greatest thing I've ever read.”
There were complaints as well. The team doubled-down on their strategy by sending an “apology” email for the catalog, which generated $26,000+ revenue and brought in over 1,000 direct mail opt-ins.
The lesson here isn’t to replicate Shinesty’s brand voice with your marketing copy. The lesson is to find your brand’s authentic voice and communicate it tightly to your ideal customer with your copy. This may mean that others are turned off by your brand and ignore it. But for most companies, deeply penetrating and effective copy can only occur with a tight focus on a customer set.
If your brand has a real viewpoint and powerful voice, everyone won’t buy in. Nor should they. But the right customer will be much more likely to convert than if they were exposed to mere blandvertising.
For Shinesty, that viewpoint is a specific type of entertainment. “Entertain first and sell second. If you make someone laugh or smile, consider that a sale down the road. Plant the seed of positive sentiment and watch it grow into a loyal, returning customer,” Welch advised.
Example #7: Don’t fear long-form content
There’s a common misconception that people will only read short copy.
I think it comes from this subtle but obvious truth — we are not our customers. So in the four walls of an ad agency, that long copy seems unappealing.
For example, I would not read a long page about dental implants. But you know who would? People who are considering getting dental implants.
We are not our customers.
The other benefit long-form content has is with organic search. To wit, Aspenwood Dental Associates was in the midst of a website redesign. “Now that Google values comprehensive content serving a variety of searchers’ needs, our challenge was to improve the comprehensiveness of the content and elevate the quality with the goal of increasing search rankings, website traffic and leads,” said Adam Rowan, Content Specialist, Page 1 Solutions, LLC.
The team rewrote and consolidated 36 disparate pages into six high-quality, user-friendly long-format pages. For example, the dental implants page. The page is so long it’s hard to get a good screen capture, but you can see most of it below.
Creative Sample #10: Long-form content page from cosmetic and restorative dental industry
The new dental implants page saw a 329% improvement in page views and 80% boost in goal completions (leads) compared to the various pages it replaced.
“Don't be afraid to consolidate pages that are underperforming on their own into high-quality, comprehensive long-form content. Thoughtfully constructed long-form content that provides substantive information about a product or service is much more likely to rank on the first page of search results for a wide variety of keywords and search phrases. The more online users who ‘vote with their clicks’ by visiting your page and interacting with your content, the more likely you are to weather Google algorithm updates and continue to do well across your KPIs (key performance indicators),” Rowan advised.
Example #8: Show, don’t tell
A basic lesson for effective writing is that you should show your readers what you’re trying to communicate, not only tell them. Just to tell is lazy and ineffective.
In narrative fiction, you wouldn’t just want to say “Bob is hungry.”
You would want to say “Bob’s stomach growled menacingly as his mind consumed what his mouth could not — the gooey jelly donuts, crispy fried chicken, soft and chewy yet hard and crunchy everything bagel … all waiting, lonely, in his fridge. But he wasn’t in arm’s length of his fridge; he was stuck in this station wagon, a good two feet under a snowpack that greeted him on his drive home after he heard a sudden explosion three days ago.”
For marketing copywriting, don’t tell by writing “… we provide reliable services …”
Instead, show the reliability with your writing: “All our solutions are backed by stringent Service Level Guarantees with cash rebates for under-performance: 1) 99.9% uptime guaranteed 2) guaranteed response time 3) guaranteed time to repair.”
Even better, show with more than just your copywriting. Show with the entire concept. Here’s a great example of using the show technique for a very complex communication challenge.
HealthMarkets wanted to get more people involved in the national healthcare debate. Instead of just telling them about all the different options and considerations in something as complex as America’s healthcare system, the independent health insurance agency created a questionnaire tool for people to live the experience of making these complex considerations.
“HealthMarkets launched OurCareBill.org in 2017 with the goal of letting consumers weigh in on what kind of healthcare system they want — and provide an avenue to reach out directly to legislators regarding it. The tagline was BYOB — as in, ‘Build Your Own Bill,’ and by answering a series of questions, a consumer can create their own ‘bill’ and even tweet or share it with legislators — or the President [of the United States] himself,” said Michael Stahl, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, HealthMarkets.
Creative Sample #11: #OurCare Build Your Own Bill tool
To date, 6,412 “self-built” bills have been created and submitted since the tool’s inception.
“Most insurance companies and agencies don’t hold a high level of trust with the public, but by creating an inclusive approach with consumers and other healthcare stakeholders in the healthcare reform dialogue, we regain and build trust. So that was absolutely a goal and one we felt was achieved through the interaction with the BYOB tool,” Stahl said.
Effective copy is about much more than simply identifying a few power words to use. You need to understand your customers, their journey to your product, your own biases, and then create marketing concepts, procedures, products and services that truly serve their needs and get across what you are trying to communicate in a buzzy, messy, loud, and distracting marketplace. I hope these eight examples help you better serve your customers and achieve your conversion goals.
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