Monday, April 23, 2007

How 'Keeping It Real' Improves eBay Sales

When writing for the Web, for eBay, or for brochures and advertising copy, there are traps you can fall into. For example, your copy can begin to feel and sound *salesy.* This can be bad, because most of us - as consumers - have a built in aversion to overt sales-sounding pitches, attitudes and smarm.

Let me clarify something here. I don't think that there's anything wrong with "sales." This is one of the time-honored traditions in our culture that just so happens to make a lot of people wealthy. Look around you, and you'll see that the best doctors, lawyers, landscapers, babysitters, hair dressers and.. yes.. automobile purveyors are the best salespeople. It's about communication, relationships, confidence and competence, really.

It's also about being genuine. For small businesses, genuine-ness is fairly easy to capture because just a few people are running the show. Goals, strategies and capabilities are fairly clear. It's a little tougher for bigger organizations, where departments and "too-many-cooks" scenarios drive marketing communications.

Pushy, sales nuance -- the kind that we cringe at as consumers -- creeps into copy for a variety of reasons. As sellers (on eBay or anywhere else), we read all kinds of articles and blogs on how to be persuasive and infuse copy with energy and passion. Somewhere along the line the passion train goes off the tracks, though. Preposterous adjectives creep in, outrageous claims invade the pitch, and customers start to imagine diamond pinky rings on used car salesmen and the buddy-buddy demeanor of the time-share "service representative."

What's the trick to avoiding this scenario? Get real. Eliminate excessive adjectives from your copy (some copywriters say eliminate them all!). Find your genuine voice. Picture the prospect in front of you and be totally honest. Sometimes writing allows us to hide behind the words and say things we wouldn't typically. Treat your description as a casual conversation, and imagine a critical consumer in front of you who's just about to say "B.S" to your next claim. Then start writing your pitch/description/title/headline. The more real and factual you are, the more you will sell. That is a fact. And you'll avoid all the negative back-end karma that comes with over-promising and under-delivering.

Warning: Don't write less just because you have to keep it real. Remember, "the more you tell, the more you sell." Just don't over-hype things. If 100 people come to your listing or product page, several will be live, enthusiastic, closable prospects. These people don't want short descriptions and half-assed information. They get pumped up by all the details... so provide them. You'll do a disservice to your product if you don't.

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