Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to Test Your Marketing Copy to See What Works

Part One:
Let Your List Decide

By Susan Kendrick

See "Testing Tips to Get You Started" at the end of this article!

If you are working on a critical piece of marketing copy—like a book title or subtitle, business name or tagline, headline or other branding sound bites—you can get to a place where you know you have good copy, but it may not be clear if it is the best copy.

Why can “short copy” be so tricky?

There are two good reasons. First, the kinds of short phrases mentioned above are your primary “hooks,” the most visible components of your positioning and sales copy. Everything else depends on getting this short copy right, because it has the lone job of getting people interested enough to stick with you, read the rest of your copy, and take action—to literally “buy” what you have to offer. Whether you want people to buy your books and products, speaking presentation, consulting services, or just to contact you to find out more, your copy needs to get them interested enough to take the next step.

Second, writing this type of high-performance copy requires you to step outside of your own tastes and preferences. You know the value of what you have to offer, but how do you put that in terms that matter to someone else? Another way to put this is that is awfully easy to fall in love with our own ideas. Even the well-meaning feedback of friends and colleagues will still be somewhat biased in your favor. And, more to the point, your friends and collegues may not have anything in common with your target audience and what's important to them.

To resolve both issues associated with writing effective short copy, the best thing to do is test your copy in the real world. It is easy, relatively quick, and what you learn will amaze you.

It Takes a Village

The following copy-testing technique was suggested during a group coaching session with a client of ours who was in the early manuscript stage for his book series. He wanted to nail down the subtitle for the first book so his team could move forward with his website and marketing for this new brand.

The group that came together to talk about this book and product line included the client, editor, project manager, myself, and my favorite book marketing expert, John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books.

John gave his feedback on the subtitle choices I had created for the client. There were some solid options, and what didn’t work for the subtitle would clearly make great marketing headlines and branding sound bites on the client’s website and elsewhere. The task was to choose among these good choices for the best subtitle choice. John’s advice was to test our top two choices for the subtitle this way:

Create Two Versions and Let Your List Decide

To do this yourself, select something you can offer people as a free download. If you are testing a book title or subtitle, the download can be an excerpt from the book. If you are testing a business name or tagline, headline, or other sound bite, the offer can be for a special report, evaluation, checklist, or tip sheet.

Next, position the offer as if there were two choices. For example, if you are a financial advisor, you could offer a tip sheet with your unique approach to helping families save money. You will be offering just the one tip sheet, but the offer will be made to look like there are two choices, because each will have a different title or sales headline. One could be called:

“The Official Money-Saving Handbook for Busy Families”

The other copy you test could be called:

“Money-Saving Secrets of America’s Wealthiest Families”

(Not bad for two made-up names, huh?)

Again, no matter which tip sheet people choose, they will receive the same download, but you will quickly see which marketing copy gets more results.

Testing Tips to Get You Started

If you are on the fence about a key piece of copywriting you need to market your books, products, and services, keep the following tips in mind to get the best results:

1. When testing any marketing copy, test only two versions or two copy variables at a time.

2. Whether you are working on your own or with professional copywriters like my partner, Graham Van Dixhorn and me, make sure you are testing two good pieces of marketing copy that have already been carefully developed and fine-tuned as much as possible.

3. Carefully select the free download you offer. Make sure it offers valuable information you can stand behind and are proud to circulate.

4. Offer the free download to your own list. In addition to testing your copy, doing so will help you learn more about your list and their current needs and interests. This is information that will be helpful to you in continuing to reach out to them with your products and services.

5. If possible, also send the offer out to other lists, that of a colleague or expert in a related field whose readers and subscribers would value your offer.

6. Use this testing technique only once for each download you offer. In other words, don’t test two copy versions for the tip sheet above, and then test another two versions a week later for the same tip sheet, at least not with the same list of people. You can do repeat tests with different copy variables as long as you use a different list each time.

7. Put a time limit on the offer. You want immediate feedback you can start putting to use to move forward with your marketing.

8. Allow yourself enough time to use what you learn. If you need to finalize a business name or tagline, book title or subtitle, or website headline, and you are working with other team members like a graphic artist, book cover designer, or website developer, allow time to test, choose, and have your final copy ready for them to use.

If you have questions about which marketing copy you should test, please contact us at, or call us toll-free at 1-888-634-4120.

May Your Best Copywriting Win!

Susan Kendrick, Write to Your Market, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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