When you begin to learn more about the craft of copywriting, you’ll quickly realize that “good copywriting” consists of two schools of thought:

  • Hammer the reader with red headlines, yellow highlighting, and aggressive copy that grips the reader like a terrier shaking a squirrel. Or…
  • Develop a compelling personal voice, nurture a relationship with the reader, and use soft-sell techniques to nudge the reader down the path to purchase.

Now, you’re probably expecting us to tell you that the second school of thought is the “right” one,
but actually, you can benefit from both and, more importantly, learn from both.

The key is to use each school of thought in the right context and at the right time.

How to “Harpoon” a Customer

It’s easy to poke fun of traditional sales pages, but remember, they’ve been widely used because they’ve worked. And worked like crazy. There are even versions that still work well today.

Take infomercials and Cosmopolitan headlines, for example. They may come off as corny, but they’ve convinced millions of people to take action and spend money.

With traditional “hard sell” pages, readers typically arrive either from an ad or an affiliate referral. From there, the prospect takes all of a split second to determine whether or not he’s in the right place. Then, if you’re fortunate, he’ll spend another three or four seconds deciding if the offer is going to meet his needs.

When that’s the case, red headlines, yellow highlighting, irritating pop-ups, and any other tricks of the trade are all on the table to grab a stranger and focus his attention on what you have to offer.

Sure, long sales pages can be cheesy, but if you only have one shot at the prospect, those types of pages can work very well. In a sense, a well-written, traditional sales page acts like a harpoon. If the writer’s aim is good and she gets enough power behind that harpoon, she can make the sale when those likely prospects come swimming along.

But, is a Harpoon Always the Right Tool?

Harpoons work great when you need to strike quickly. But, they also have a few problems.

1. It Doesn’t Work for Everyone

First, the salesy or “ugly” copywriting version that was traditionally used just doesn’t work all that well anymore. It tends to leave consumers with an impression of shoddiness or desperation — a sense that a company promoting itself in that way is sort of “fly-by-night.”

However, it’s important to point out that an impression like that isn’t always accurate. Long sales pages have been used for great stuff as well as junk. The problem comes in that unless you’ve already established a credibility with your audience, your prospects will have difficulty being able to tell the difference.

2. It’s Not a One and Done

It’s tough to write a good “harpoon” sales page that can convert a prospect in one shot. Eugene Schwartz says it this way, “Copy is not written. Copy is assembled.”

In other words, copywriting is a skill. It may seem easy, but good copywriters follow specific formulas to guide the reader from one sentence to the next.

This also means that the difference between a successful sales letter and an unsuccessful one can be surprisingly subtle. Although your sales letters might look like the professionals (to your untrained eye), don’t be surprised if they don’t work like theirs.

3. Cheap Traffic is Getting Harder to Come By

With competitive pay-per-click keywords going for a few dollars instead of a few cents, these single-shot long sales pages are becoming less and less effective. The copywriter masters can still pull it off (and do), but you have to be a master.

The “Content Net” Approach

Here at Scott Digital Marketing, we favor (and teach) a different approach.

Instead of hurling your singularly-pointed communication as forcefully as you can, consider encouraging your prospects to wrap themselves in a friendly, supportive net.

In other words, rather than trying to harpoon customers with single-shot sales letters, snare them in a net of useful, relevant content.

Strong content will continue to lure your prospects back for regular bites. With each bite comes a little more trust. As prospects take more and more valuable bites from your content, you begin to build your reputation as a friendly authority.

Whether it’s a freeform stream of content like a blog or the ordered sequence of an email autoresponder, a well-crafted content net not only snags your prospect for this sale, it keeps him fat and happy for the next one.

And the benefits continue… This content net is also incredibly handy for things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social sharing as well. The more effectively you begin to use communication technology to connect (instead of just pitch), the better your net will work.

How to Use a “Content Net” Without Getting Tangled Up

Great single-shot copywriting is usually the result of many years of work and study.

Creating a net of great content over time, on the other hand, is a lot easier to master. You don’t have to get every word perfect. You don’t need an arsenal of sales tricks.

The simplest content net consists of:

  • A blog to capture attention, spur social sharing, and start to create authority with your audience and with search engines.
  • A social media presence on one or two well-chosen platforms to enhance authority and network with other web publishers.
  • An email list with a high-quality autoresponder to nurture the prospect relationship and pave the road for the sale

When it does come time to make an offer, you’ll still want to use a focused sales page and all of your best copywriting techniques for best results.

But, it’s mostly a matter of figuring out what your customer wants and needs, and then getting out of your own way. Remember, the “fish” will always be a lot easier to catch if you’ve been keeping them happy in your content net.

If you need help creating a content net that is sure to land you some prospect “whoppers” you won’t even have to lie about, reach out to us below to get started.

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