Despite its ubiquity (or perhaps because of it), digital copywriting is strongly misunderstood: the standard line of reasoning is that the online world is so flush with text that it surely can’t have much value, and in scenarios where valuable actions are on the line (product purchases, for instance) it’s the value propositions alone that determine success. After all, how much difference could the language make?
In reality, the online world has a lot of everything, most generic and low-value. The average YouTube video is mediocre at best, yet an excellent video can generate many millions of hits and drive a huge amount of revenue. Similarly, putting out outstanding marketing copy can radically transform a brand’s or website’s fortunes.
The Role of Marketing Copy
As for driving action, marketing copy plays a major part. People might overlookhow good copy nudges their decision-making, but the influence is there. A finely-honed copy can make a product sound considerably more appealing. Empathetic framing can lead a prospective customer to feel understood. Most importantly, though, it’s possible to write marketing copy that slowly (but surely) earns the trust of its readers.
If your readers trust you, they’ll be far more likely to support you in various ways: to act on what you ask of them, recommend you and your content to their friends and family members, and engage with your content through commenting and supplying feedback. Earning that trust, however, is far from easy, regardless of the nature of your content.
In this post, we will look at some key tips for writing the kind of marketing copy that can consistently evoke trust in those who read it — whether you’re writing a blog post, describing a product, or outlining the model of your startup. Let’s get started, shall we?
Lean Hard on Any Social Proof You Can Bring to Bear
Social proof has always been a compelling convincer, regardless of the exact circumstances. When you’re a kid unsure what to do, you trust your parent or guardian. If you’re a student, you trust in your teacher. When you’re a newcomer, you trust in the seasoned pros. And when you’re a general consumer, you trust in the overall assessment of your peers.
The internet is riddled with sketchy sites, questionable brands, and offers that seem too good to be true. If you want people to believe in what you’re saying — however obvious it may feel — then you need to bring in some hard-hitting social proof and as much of it as you can source. Naturally, the demand scales with the importance and value of your offering.
Suppose you’re putting forward something meeting a reasonable standard of objective importance (something concerning adult life, like raising kids, owning property, or making a big career move). In that case, the onus is on you to command trust through social proof. Consider Google’s definition of a YMYL site (Your Money or Your Life): when there’s so much on the line, the site visitor has to be sure the presented information can be trusted.
But if you can’t trust the company overall, those positive claims might make it all seem too good to be true. That’s why the page brings out a three-pronged social proof effort. First comes the “Trusted reviews” point, with five starts shown below. Then, visible above the fold, the actual reviews arrive: Sarah. M was nervous, but “The Breezeful team was fantastic from the application to the approval of my mortgage.” Finally, the media mention section grants the service further credibility: being featured in TechCrunch tells anyone familiar with the tech world that the business is fully legitimate and can be trusted.
Use the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth
The temptation to lie in marketing copy is always there, lurking in the back of your mind. The level of importance and scrutiny placed on the average piece of text isn’t such that some half-truths or total fabrications will be noticed immediately. Why not make some sweeping claims about what your product can do or what your service can achieve? Isn’t that how things work?
Maybe, but it shouldn’t be, and there are three major reasons. Firstly, it’s unethical (albeit in a very pedestrian way). Secondly, it’s inconvenient. It’s hard to keep track of lies. Thirdly, and most notably, it inevitably has an impact — even if it’s difficult to spot. Perfect liars are rare, meaning that most lies appear suspicious even if they’re not consciously spotted.
Take the approach of not only being truthful but also approaching radical honesty (which would involve holding nothing back and thus isn’t recommended for anyone). You can make your copy stand out. Mentioning your mistakes is a great tactic. People or brands that present themselves as perfect are inevitably mistrusted because we all know perfection isn’t possible.
Show that You Aren’t Perfect
We’re looking for great brands and people: they make mistakes on rare occasions, learn from them, and don’t repeat them. They don’t know everything: they’re always learning. So talk about the gaps in your knowledge and your major flaws — not with pride, but with a lack of shame and confidence that says you’re always getting better.
This is heavily about showing that you’re a natural person instead of an automaton (or a brand with real people behind it instead of a strange faceless corporation that runs entirely on profit-hungry algorithms). Though it isn’t a piece of copy, Carslberg’s great ad campaign from 2019 is all about self-deprecation and reinvention.
The company could have hidden those negative social media mentions or simply ignored them. Instead, it used them to get people on its side, turning it into the underdog fighting to redeem itself and reestablish a reputation for quality. If you can embrace this approach in your marketing copy, you can do precisely the same thing.
Focus on Giving Value far More than Requesting It
Imagine entering a store and fielding the pattern of a novice sales professional. What do you picture it involving? In all likelihood, you envision a hard sell with amateur delivery. Trying too hard, yes, but also putting far too much effort into encouraging you to buy without detailing why exactly it’s something that you should want. Come on, buy today! It’ll be great! Do it!
When you encounter that kind of pitch, you immediately distrust the value of what’s being offered. Why? Because framing is immensely important. The more desperate the prospective seller appears to be, the less you’ll believe their offer is something you should seriously consider. If it were, you reason, then they wouldn’t need to be so eager. They could dispassionately present the value proposition and allow you to decide for yourself.
Trust isn’t just about convincing someone that you’re telling the truth. It’s also about getting them to believe you’re bargaining from a position of strength. And make no mistake: you’re always bargaining in some sense. Even if you’re writing copy for a blog that you don’t wish to monetize, you still want something from your readers: you want them to share your content and keep coming back regularly, and they don’t have to do those things.
If you concentrate on giving value first, you show that you have it to provide and are in a sufficiently-stable position to distribute it without immediately asking for support. Don’t try to force anything. The less you harangue your readers, the more likely they will view you as worthy of support. Think about how an online knowledge base works, like the one from Crisp: you’re providing value by empowering your customer to find their answers. That makes you seem more credible as a source, and once you’ve delivered impressive value, you can find the right time to ask for something in return, almost as an aside.
There you have it: three key tactics for writing digital marketing copy that evokes trust. If you can manage these three things — showing social proof, sticking to the truth, and giving value before you even think about asking for it — you can soon earn a reputation for trustworthiness.