I’m a big fan of biographies. Whether about individuals or companies, I’m constantly watching Bio or Biography on CNBC. It was what I heard during CNBC’s program on Sears, Roebuck & Company that made me smile with pride.
One of the people CNBC interviewed made the statement that Richard Sears was an innovator: He knew what people wanted and found a way to give it to them affordably. But this, in and of itself, wasn’t where his success came from. It was due largely to <drum roll please> his copywriting and the ability to differentiate his company from the competition. (Two things I’ve been preaching for years.)
Let’s take a look at a product description from the 1937 Sears catalog. This item is for a wagon.
NEW… Buckboard Racer
Boy! It’s 45-inches long (the usual wagon is 33 in. long) and it’s sleek, speedy and different with its streamlined, hard-wood sled top, cadmium plated and polished heavy steel airplane type front nose, and its flashing chrome plated tubular steel tongue with “D” grip. The heavy steel under gearing is brightly enameled in a silvery color, braced to take a lot of punishment. It sure is a dandy racer!
Throughout each Sears catalog, the copy would not only play up the products themselves, but you’d also see page headlines, starbursts and Johnson-type boxes that proclaimed lower prices and better quality. The entire catalog highlighted the benefits to the customer of buying from Sears.
Applying Time-Tested Strategies to Your Website
If you have time, search online for a copy of the old Sears catalog and flip through it. You’ll see a master at work in each publication. And the techniques that made this 19th and 20th century copy pull in sales by the bucket load will help your website do the same thing. For instance:
1. Write TO the customer, not ABOUT your company – Richard Sears understood that the customer should be the focus, not Sears. Instead of writing “We have the lowest prices” he would write “You’ll pay far less at Sears.” Count how many times you use the words “we,” “us” and “our” in your copy. The word “you” should be used far more often than those.
2. Play up the features – Notice the comparison between this 45-inch wagon and the usual 33-inch variety. Sears didn’t say, “heavy steel tipped protective guard on the front.” Instead he conjured up an image by writing “heavy steel airplane type front nose.” I can hear those little boys now reading this and thinking “Holy smokes! It looks like an airplane!”
3. Highlight the benefits – After all those features, Sears wraps it up by saying this wagon is braced to take a lot of punishment. And that’s something any mom or dad of a little boy can appreciate.
4. Use super verbs and adjectives – Plain, ordinary language is boring. Jazz it up and make your copy interesting by substituting powerful words for more typical ones. Instead of just “chrome plates” it’s “flashing chrome plated.” Rather than “narrow and quick” Sears uses “sleek and speedy.”
5. Differentiate your company – Sears didn’t manufacture these products. Other stores sold the same things he sold. Why was he more successful? In part because he understood what unique and valuable advantages his catalog had to offer and he communicated that at every turn.
Follow in Richard Sears’ footsteps when writing your copy and you’ll likely see greater results from your website.
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