The Secret to Writing a Great CopyTake a moment to open a spam folder or peruse the daily handful of snail mail credit card solicitations. Advertisers, marketers and copywriters spend billions of dollars every year trying to convince potential customers to spend their hard-earned money. And despite recent hype about the new challenges facing the digital-age advertising industry, the reasons people buy largely remain the same.

The Most Effective Word in Advertising

Free – Despite abuse by unscrupulous internet get-rich-quick schemes and overzealous email marketers, this remains the most powerful word in advertising. According to Roger Dooley of Neuromarketing, “FREE! is more powerful than any rational economic analysis would suggest.” Studies show that two thirds of buyers prefer a free, low-quality product, over a heavily-discounted, high-end competitor. A free offer is very difficult to resist.

To take advantage of this powerful advertising buzzword, be sure to draw attention to it. Use all caps, italics, boldface or a different color to set it apart. Research has shown that readers will typically scan a document before reading it. They look at headlines, bullet points and other attention-getters before devoting their time to reading the copy. Keep in mind that though bulky text is often initially ignored, it is the meat and potatoes of the ad that not only explains precious details, it also provides the necessary stage from which a star buzzword can shine.

Give Customers an Incentive to Buy

Use the word ‘free’ diligently and responsibly. Customers, especially online customers, are very wary of those offering something for nothing. Unless a plausible explanation is given as to why a company is offering this great deal (grand opening, under new management, anniversary, year-end sale, overstocked, going out of business, etc.), using this powerful attention-getter will not create any value and can even turn buyers off.

Another way to create value with the word ‘free’ is to make a conditional offer. This accomplishes two things: it makes the offer valuable and it encourages buyers to purchase. Avoid a common copywriting mistake by coupling the word ‘free’ with a call to action:

  • “Buy One Get One FREE!”
  • “FREE Movie Tickets and Popcorn when you buy $250 Worth of Printing”
  • “Book Your Trip by November 30th and Receive a FREE Travel Bag”
  • “Call in the next 10 Minutes and We Will Ship Your Order for FREE!”
  • “FREE Pedicure with each Manicure”
  • “The First 500 Fans will receive a FREE Major League Baseball Bat”

Look at the marketing campaign from the customer’s point of view. Why is the offer special? The better the deal customers think they are getting, the more likely they are to buy.

Maximize Advertising Returns

The word ‘free’ is a great attention-getter, but it’s just an empty word if there is no incentive for the customer to act quickly. Using advertising buzz words can help with Google page ranking and improve customer response in direct marketing campaigns, but they need to be coupled with a call to action to reap the most rewards on each advertising dollar.