Copywriting 106: Using Proof to Show vs Tell in Website Copywriting

David C Justin, The CopyGeek, Dallas Freelance Copywriter, Blog Writer

If you’ve ever done any creative writing, you’ve heard the old adage, “Show, Don’t Tell.” This simply means don’t tell your audience what’s happening. Instead, allow them to experience it through action verbs and sensory details. Take this comparison of Tell versus Show…

An example of Tell:

Darth Vader was mad at Admiral Ozzel for coming out of hyperspace too close to the Rebel Alliance base on Hoth. He decided to kill the admiral for his mistake.

An example of Show:

Darth Vader’s blood boiled inside his protective suit. His rage radiated outward causing the instrument panels in front of him to shake. Ozzel was a fool for coming out of hyperspace so close to the Rebel base – an arrogant tactical mistake that would be his last.

Obviously, Vader was upset with Ozzel, but wasn’t it more interesting to read how Vader was feeling when you show how Vader is feeling instead of just saying he’s mad?

By showing versus telling, you give your reader a more visceral experience by allowing them to actually feel what’s happening. This is a fantastic and effective way to engage and immerse your audience in the story.

The only problem is that when it comes to website copywriting, it simply takes too long.

Now, there’s all sorts of data on how long a visitor stays on your site before bouncing back. Some experts say as long as 62 seconds, while other say it’s as short as 10-20 seconds. The point is that you don’t have a lot of time to communicate your value proposition.

That’s why this longer type of Show vs Tell is better suited to case studies and blogs.

And while the use of sensory words and action verbs are valuable copywriting tactics for keying in on audience emotions, for website copywriting you need a different type of show versus tell.

Instead of telling your audience what you can do, show them by giving them proof. Proof gives your audience the confidence they need to commit to buying your product or service.

Factual Proof

In copywriting, there are two types of proof – factual and social.

Factual proof is based on metrics or science. This type of proof is easy to support because you have real numbers or actions to back up your claims. Because these facts are synonymous with truth, they’re easier for the audience to accept.

Different types of factual proof include:

Demonstrations. While it’s practically impossible to demonstrate how your product or service works through copywriting, videos and webinars do the job nicely. Just imbed your video or add a link to sign up for a webinar and let them see first-hand how you can help improve their life or their business.

White Papers. These long-form documents promote products or services by using authoritative, in-depth reporting to educate your audience. They present a specific topic or challenge, then use studies, statistics and scientific findings to show how your product provides an effective solution.

Statistics and Metrics. Numbers don’t lie. They typically show the unbiased truth of things and help you prove your solution is needed and effective.

For example, let’s look at the question of whether or not a blog is relevant. With statistics and metrics, you don’t even have to use any significant copy to prove it. Take a look at some of these numbers about blogs compiled by OptInMonster:

  • 70 million blog posts are published each month on WordPress alone.
  • 57% of marketers gain customers specifically through blogging.
  • Companies who blog get 97% more backlinks to their website.

While factual proof is good for satisfying the logical side of the argument of whether or not to buy your product or service, you need to reach your audience on an emotional level as well. To do this, you need social proof.

Social Proof

The term social proof was first coined by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In essence, he said when we don’t know what to do, we take cues from the people around us and model our behavior on theirs.

To translate this to your website, you simply include endorsements or testimonials to provide the cues for your audience to follow.

Customer Testimonials. Research has shown that customer testimonials, even from complete strangers, is very influential to prospects looking to buy a product. According to a Nielson survey, 70% of people said they trust reviews and recommendations from complete strangers. (Want to see some of my clients’ testimonials? Click here.)

Expert Testimonials. Most of us tend to trust experts because we believe their credentials or experience leads them to be more knowledgeable than us. When they support your claims or you quote them on your website, you create a deeper level of trust with your audience.

Celebrity Endorsement. While a celebrity may not be an expert, they have something just as valuable – appeal. Celebrities are seen by many as the pinnacle of society, living a rich, glamorous life that most of us can only hope to achieve. Therefore, we tend to listen to their recommendations and endorsements because if they’re using a product, you know it has to be good.

The Best of Both Worlds

While factual and social proof are both very effective at building trust with your audience, there’s actually a perfect hybrid of both that combines metrics with customer testimonials to deliver the most effective way of promoting your product or service.

This is the Case Study.

While often underutilized, case studies (aka use studies) are designed to provide analytical data while offering client testimony on the effectiveness of your product. By providing a link to a case study or by hosting a page full of them, you give your audience the opportunity to fully understand how your solution can help them. Want to see some examples? Click here.

To learn more about using proof to influence your website audience, click here and send me an email. I’m here to help explain the best ways to use proof to show versus tell.

Until next time,

David C Justin, The CopyGeek, Dallas Freelance Copywriter, Blog Writer

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