How to Write For The Web, And Sell Snowblowers

28 Nov

Weh-Ming Cho and his 11 horsepower snowblower of ecstasy.

It’s the biggest blight online, dull boring copy. Let’s face it, you may watch a half-dozen videos a day, if you have lots of time to kill. But you’ll read thousands of words, maybe tens of thousands and little if any of it will do anything more than lull your brain into a coma.

So let me share with you how to make your copy jump off the screen and give the reader’s grey matter a big wet sloppy kiss.

Start by selling a snowblower. You don’t have a snowblower? No problem, let’s take a look at how one Canadian went about selling his on a northern version of Ebay.

Weh-Ming Cho, a resident of Moncton, New Brunswick (think far, far north east) could have snapped a picture of his snowblower, dropped in a few specs and slapped on the $900 price tag. Instead he wrote this: (The post is 800 words, you can find it here. I’ll share some highlights.)

Do you like shoveling snow? Then stop reading this and go back to your pushups and granola because you are not someone that I want to talk to.

Let’s face it, we live in a place that attracts snow like Magnetic Hill attracts cars, only that ain’t an illusion out there. That’s 12 inches of snow piling up and, oh, what’s that sound? Why it’s the snow plow and it’s here to let you know that it hates you and all the time you spent to shovel your driveway. Did you want to get out of your house today? Were you expecting to get to work on time? Or even this week?

-snip-

Here’s the deal. I have a snow blower and I want you to own it. I can tell you’re serious about this. It’s like I can almost see you: sitting there, your legs are probably crossed and your left hand is on your chin. Am I right? How’d I do that? The same way that I know that YOU ARE GOING TO BUY THIS SNOWBLOWER.

This is a post that speaks to you, literally. It doesn’t attempt to present itself like CNN, or more appropriately CBC. It is one guy talking to you. And he doesn’t stop when it gets to the machine’s specs.

This isn’t some entry-level snow blower that is just gonna move the snow two feet away. This is an 11 HP Briggs and Stratton machine of snow doom that will cut a 29 inch path of pure ecstasy. And it’s only 4 years old. I dare you to find a harder working 4-year-old. My niece is five and she gets tired and cranky after just a few minutes of shoveling. This guy just goes and goes and goes.

-snip-

You know how many speeds it has? Six forward and two in reverse. It goes from “leisurely” slow up to “light speed”. Seriously, I’ve never gone further than five because it terrifies me. I kid you not, you could probably commute to work with it dragging you.

Ok, I know that you’re probably thinking this really isn’t applicable to your challenge. But you’re wrong. The fact is that the same mindset used to sell a snowblower should be applied to every piece of content online.

  • Start by thinking about the person reading the copy. Are they reading this over breakfast? On a cellphone, across their desk?
  • Make sure the tone and content are appropriate for environment. Maybe you don’t need to be so overt, or even as sarcastic, although I find a little sarcasm is a wonderful tool.
  • Reward the reader for their time. Newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have for years known the value of a great turn of a phrase or powerful quote. Find a way to put a smile on your readers’ faces.

So what do you get for investing all this effort? In Weh-Ming’s case the ad delivered, in spades.

  • It was viewed more than 350,000, three times the population of Moncton.
  • 50,000 people shared it on Facebook
  • Several job offers
  • Requests for dates and a marriage proposal
  • And several offers to buy the snowblower, one of which came from a newspaper writer he admired.

So what could you achieve if you invest a little more effort in your copy?