How to optimize crossheads/subheads

Presented live on Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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Most crossheads are quite flat. Often dull. White noise. Placeholders.

They’re written fast. By people who think copywriting is easy.

In this live Tutorial, conversion copywriter, Joanna Wiebe, walks you through four old-school copywriting techniques you should immediately start using to bring your crossheads to life. So you can better simulate reality for your prospects. And get their imaginations working.


Joanna Wiebe: We’re going to be talking through how to optimize your cross heads with something that I’m currently kind of calling simulation copywriting in my head. Because it feels like it needs its own term so that we actually start thinking more about it. And by that I mean everybody we like … There’s a huge opportunity to bring more of your copy to life. And cross heads, the reason that I want to focus on cross heads is because that’s where we tend to see a lot of placeholder copy. Where a cross head might say something like what customer say. And that goes above testimonials or FAQs. And that goes above frequently asked questions.

Joanna Wiebe: But those are like placeholders. Those aren’t really doing anything. So I’m going to show you some examples. And then I’m going to show you how to optimize them using what we’re talking about today. But again, go to Breakthrough Advertising for further detail and more examples if you have a copy of this.

Joanna Wiebe: This is a little bit motivated. Today’s talk is in part motivated by a keynote I saw at CES this year. But it’s also kind of based on something that I’m seeing more and more frequently. So conversion copywriters understand that the best copy doesn’t come from you as a copywriter. It comes from the voice of the customer. So we want to go out and we want to listen to what customers say and then use that in our copy. The challenge though is in finding swappable messages inside what customers say. So sometimes customers will widdle things down, widdle their ideas down into this like summarize statement that they think sounds like copy or like marketing speak and that happens in interviews and in surveys in particular.

Joanna Wiebe: I was reading over copy for a client we have at our agency. And one of the headlines … Sorry, it was a cross head, was tell a better, smarter story. And that was based on this voice of customer data that was it helps me and it is the product, helps me tell it better, smarter story. And as I was reviewing the copy I was like, but that’s just summarized. That’s something that a copywriter could come up with. That’s something a marketer could come up with. Tell a better, smarter story isn’t getting there. It’s not getting there. It’s not simulating real life. It’s I’m making me imagine anything. It might be voice of customer data. But my question, what I want to challenge you with is, is it going to be worth swiping? Is this something you come up with in a boardroom? Is this something your boss could come up with? Or your client could come up with? And if it is, is it doing the job?

Joanna Wiebe: Now, I know like there’s a lot to say about that. But this is more than we’re going to be talking about and thinking about as we go through 2019 in particular. Importantly, we don’t go to the voice of the customer just to find easy language that we could come up with ourselves. Your job is to find copy that you wouldn’t come up with that’s said in a way where you’re like, “Ah, interesting. That’s a unique insight. I didn’t realize that.” So even if you’re like, “Well, it tells a better smarter story.” The previous example that comes from voice of customer data, so we should use it. It’s still not doing the job of conversion copywriting. It might be what some people say, but it’s not getting into anybody’s imagination. It’s not making me think differently. It’s something anybody could write and anybody could say about a lot of products.

Joanna Wiebe: We want to get way more specific and we want to start getting into a world where we can simulate a form of reality with our words, which is what writing has always been about. But copywriting tends to try to make things summarized and vague and we have to push back against that. When we can’t find sticky language inside voice of customer data, that’s when oftentimes we have to go in and insert … We have to write it ourselves. But again, we’re not going to write it just based on our own experiences, but rather on observation of what people are doing when they’re using a product or using a service or thinking about using a product or thinking about using a service.

Joanna Wiebe: Joseph just asked, “find the authenticity then.” In a way, absolutely. I think yeah, if that works for you. Great. The point here … So this was inspired by watching this keynote for Nvidia at CES this year and seeing it was all about gaming. Gaming like gaming. And the detail they were putting in to making this world more realistic. A world that looks perfectly realistic, would like, whatever, it’s fine. It’s a fake world so like don’t worry about it. But the level of detail that they walked us through in what they’re working on to make other people’s games come to life on this platform, it was really inspiring. And it makes me think there’s so much more we can do to kind of simulate this world that people are living in, this reality that they’re living in. That’s what I want to push people to think about simulation. Are you simulating their real life?

Joanna Wiebe: Okay, so how are we going to do that? We have for cross heads that we want to work on [inaudible 00:05:46]. There’re ways of looking at cross heads. I’m going to go through those and I’m going to give you examples of them using a Kickstarter sales page actually. So as you move down the page, and again, this comes from largely … It’s Inspired by part of what Jean Schwartz teaches is this idea of moving through your copy in this order. So this isn’t like … Don’t randomly necessarily pick and choose what I’m going to show you here like these four points I’m going to give you for optimizing cross heads. Use them in this order. So as you go down the page and especially when you’re writing a sales page, but really for anything, you want to start out with your first cross head gives people a thorough detailed description of the appearance of the product or service or its results.

Joanna Wiebe: And again this will make sense to you once we actually get into it. For now just like consume the information just like take it in. Then comes the next cross head down as a thorough detailed description of the product or service in action. Then comes your future pacing the first day of use, and then comes your future pacing and objection crushing moment. Future pacing is this idea of just putting the prospect in their future lives where they are actually using the product. What’s going on when they start using it? So they start kind of connecting the dots and imagining a world where they’re using your product.

Joanna Wiebe: Okay, so this is the order of things is what you want to think through when you’re writing these cross heads in this order. You’re like, “What do I do with my process? How do I make them simulate real life?” Start by following this. Okay, now this does require again that you’re going to step in and do some writing but not based on whatever you feel like based on your observation of what people are going through. Okay, so let’s walk through this.

Joanna Wiebe: I randomly and I love when this like works so randomly, but honestly, it’s so many pages you come across you will see, you’ll start noticing that cross heads are very vague and summarized. So I went to this … This is what this is based on. This is one of the projects that the Kickstarter team has selected and put on their front page. So I clicked on it to see what’s up and it’s just extremely cool product. So I’m going to back … I’m just going to exit this for a second, and you should still be seeing my screen. Sarah if you can let me know if people are no longer able to see this, but one second, okay.

Joanna Wiebe: You should now see this Kickstarter page, yes? Cool. All right awesome. So this is the page that we’re going to talk about. It’s a very cool product and I know it can be like, “Well, it’s easy to write for cool products.” But take a look these are the cross heads were talking about. Introducing the Printbrush XDR. The next cross head is save the planet. The next process is how it works. And the next cross head is technology behind.

Joanna Wiebe: Random thoughts out there about what’s going on, what’s not working with these cross heads? What do you think is not working with these cross heads if anything? Or if you think, “Joanna those are the best process I’ve ever read in my entire life.” Todd says, “They’re a tad dull.” Emily says, “We’re not benefit or customer focused.” Great. Not compelling to read on to specific. “They’re features not benefits. They’re not speaking to pay pain,” Tracy says. Debbie says, “They’re vague. Not involving the customer in the product. I don’t know what it does. They don’t tell me anything if I’m skimming.” Lewis says, “Her eyes are glazing over.” So keeps going, right? And these are awesome. These are great. They’re pretty generic and not specific to the product. [inaudible 00:09:33] just fell asleep. So lots of different things, awesome.

Joanna Wiebe: Yes, this happens all the time. This wasn’t a page that I like went looking for. This was the very first page I looked at to use as an example in today’s tutorial. And this happens all the time and I’m not holding it against the writers of this. They did a great job with so much of this but we tend to not think very hard about these important moments, these cross heads, these big opportunities to keep people reading. Like they’re turning in to images for crying out loud. They had to actually put an image together to make this stand out and that’s what they put on that image, save the planet. It’s not terrible but it’s the idea that people who tend to write cross heads or any copy in this way think, “Oh, copywriting is easy. Don’t worry about a copywriting, it’s easy.” And we need to push past that and do the kind of harder work of it.

Joanna Wiebe: And it’s actually not hard, hard, hard work if you’re a copywriter who cares about this stuff. So let me go back to the actual presentation. Todd says, “Copywriting is easy?” Copywriting shouldn’t be easy. Like all writing if you’re doing it right, it should be hard. So these are those four cross heads again. Now here’s how they match up against hopefully you can see everything there against those notes that Jean Schwartz gave us for how to optimize your copy as you move down the page. We’d want to take introducing the Printbrush XDR and instead replace that with a thorough detailed description of the appearance of the product or the results of it. Then we want to turn save the planet into a thorough detailed description of the product or service in action while still of course, keeping the core of these.

Joanna Wiebe: Introducing still has to be about introducing that. Save the planet, the new cross head that’s going to talk about it in action. We’re really just talking about adding action to this idea of saving the planet. So we’re combining the two. We can’t lose the message. The client’s not going to let you say like, “Oh, we’re not going to use those messages at all. We’re going to totally replace that with whatever we feel like writing because Jean Schwartz said we should.” Nope, we still have to keep those in the new copy that you write. So how would that work? Let’s get into it really quickly.

Joanna Wiebe: These are some rewrites based on what Jean Schwartz says we should do. So introducing the Printbrush XDR, one sec I just have to move my chat away. And this is taken from the copy that they already had on the page. So again this isn’t voice of customer data. I’m not in the business right now I’m looking at the voice of customer data up to optimize these. Although I did go through the comments anyway. But we’re taking what Jean Schwartz says and then we’re just using our observation of the experience to bring that copy to life and kind of simulate reality for people. So introducing becomes magically swiped. A rainbow of words and graphics across a blank page a T-shirt even a wall. There are real magically isn’t minus, a word I would veer away from as a copywriter because it sounds so like hype be but it really is quite magical when you see it. Like you can hold a printer in your hand and you can swipe an actual rainbow of words and graphics across anything.

Joanna Wiebe: Now instead of saying anything or instead of saying words or graphics or instead of saying images. We want to put words that simulate something that’s going to inspire. “Oh, that’s true actually, I wonder,” just what Jean said. But we want to replace the stuff that comes easily with the stuff that’s actually going to simulate the real life experience of using the product or the life before using the product or [inaudible 00:13:21] that is. Trying much, much harder to bring even copy that you think is no big deal and no big whoop. Bring it to life. Do your best to bring it to life. Instead of saying across anything, say across a blank page. And if you just want to say across a blank page and nothing else, can you further bring that blank page to life? Can you say a blank sheet of recycled paper so I can start imagining things.

Joanna Wiebe: Our fear often is that if you get too specific people won’t relate. But people will relate. It’s far better to go in that direction than to go in a vague direction where nobody is seeing your thinking anything. And your imagination is just kind of turned right off. Okay, next one up, save the planet. We’re replacing with what Jean Schwartz had just said before. It’s going to get bigger but we’re allowed to say more things. And this is, of course, a first draft. And we could always tighten it up more. But point here as we want to add some action into this moment. So like really make it a real life experience for me to be holding this tiny printer. So save the planet is the message. So we’re going to lead with finally go paperless so that it matches up to save the planet the overarching message for this cross head.

Joanna Wiebe: But now we’re going to add in the action that Jean Schwartz says to add. Hold this tiny printer in the palm of your hands is the action. It’s lighter than a baseball. Now I can feel it, I can feel it in my hand. You could fit 59 of them inside your old inkjet printer. So it’s getting smaller in my hand out with just 2% of the environmental impact and that again ties back to save the planet. This is the kind of stuff that we need to be pushing harder to do. Not because it is easy, but because it’s hard. That’s my JFK. You’re welcome. How it works is the next one up.

Joanna Wiebe: Okay, I have to move my chat again. I’ve noticed is a lot with Zoom. There’s always little pieces in the way, but it’s a great product anyway. Okay, how it works. Picture it. This is the future pacing, future pacing. Picture it, you pop the printer onto a page and whip it to the right. So we’re future pacing that moment when they first use it. You pop the printer on the page, whip it to the right. Fast or slow, that image comes out clean. No blips, lines or wiggles. So those are words that start living in your head a little bit more. You pop the printer onto a page. You can see that happening, and you whip it to the right. You can see that happening. Fast or slow that image comes out clean. No blips, lines are wiggles. Are people seeing your copy? Can they see it in their lives? And we could push this all a lot further. We could in some cases pulled back but I want to encourage you, especially as you go through this year like no other year really think through.

Joanna Wiebe: Pushing more into your copy, try harder with it, just try like 1,000 times harder with it and you’ll actually have a lot more fun with it. Because when you write a cross head like save the planet, you don’t like writing copy. You’re probably not very excited by what you’ve just produced. But when you talk about holding a tiny printer in the palm of your hand, it’s lighter than the baseball, that sort of thing is like … Suddenly you feel like more useful as marketer right? You’re actually helping people see things. That’s what great writing is supposed to do in the first place. That’s what copywriting can absolutely do. Let’s go now to the final one. This is about the technology behind this very cool product.

Joanna Wiebe: This one Jean Schwartz is all about future pacing that objection question moment. So you want to think about the objection that your prospect has at this moment in the page and you want to future pace the moment when that objection is crushed. So if there are any objection that they’re having, at that point, your job is to create a world for them, where they see themselves not doing the thing they’re worried about. So if they’re worried about in this case ink cartridges, the biggest tech objection that people said in the comments was around ink cartridges. If that’s something then we could future pace the world where they’re easily popping in and out affordable tech or ink cartridges. The thing of this one is although that’s an objection that came up in the comments a lot it could be because the page just doesn’t say anything about ink cartridges so I’m not going to get too deeply into that.

Joanna Wiebe: Instead, I decided to address an objection that might come up based on the copy that is on the page. So the technology behind cross head gets replaced with this future pacing moment. Again, future pacing putting that prospect in that future world where they’re using the product and in this case discovering that objection that they had wasn’t even worth having. So in no time it’ll hit you. This palm sized machine is to printers as smartphone was to rotary. And we can people thinking about, “Okay, what does that mean?” And now we get into the technology. So instead of just saying it’s high tech, we’re comparing it to something else. And using again, visuals to get people there. Engaging imagination and simulating that future life that they’re going to be leading once they get your product.

Joanna Wiebe: These are those four ways move down the page in your cross heads once again so go through and use these when you’re writing cross heads in 2019. All right, cool. Thanks everybody. Thanks for coming to this first tutorial Tuesday of 2019. And we will see you next week. Oh, February, our tutorials in February are all about research and how to find your message in voice of customer data. So how to get through the soft easy language that customers throw at you to the real stuff that you can actually use. Awesome. All right, cool, guys. Thanks Sarah. Thanks everybody. And we will see you next Week.

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