Hard sell vs. Soft sell – 5 Tips to Copywriting

I interned as a copywriter at a local agency this summer and find that there are different approaches to selling your product/services to the public. Compare A and B:

A: “Lose 10 pounds in 7 days or 100% cash back!”

B: “Do you want to experience fitting back into the slim jeans you bought last summer? Try XxX and lose as much as 10 pounds in a week.”

The difference between Hard sell and Soft sell is not only the language used in the copy but the “call to action” as well. Hard sell version uses more direct language and specific call to action, e.g. “FREE!” “Now!” etc.

On the other hand, the soft sell version uses more reserved tone and less direct promises. The way soft sell works is to get the customer into the “right mood” and suggest the possible results of buying the product/service.

I’m working on a cross-centuries news analysis project with my Mass Media History class. Through my study I find that the 18th century papers, like the U.S. Gazette 1730s, used more of soft sell approach whilst the 19th century papers such as the New York Herald in 1841 used a hard sell version in their advertisements. Due to its nature of being a penny press at that time, the editor preferred more sensational writings, thus resulting in more hard selling copies.

Dean Rieck has the following suggestions for copywriters:

Before deciding whether you want to approach your target market using either of the version, make sure you –

  1. Ask for a definition – Know what your client is thinking.
  2. Ask for examples – Get an accurate reading of what your client thinks is hard sell/soft sell.
  3. Consider the context – Know what product/service you are selling, find the right tone.
  4. Consider the medium – Though not restricted, Radio = hard sell; Magazine ad = soft sell.
  5. Trust your instinct – Know that copywriting is a craft. It can be subjective. However, it is still up to your advertisers to consider whether your tone is hard sell/soft sell. Know how to defend your ideas.

After intern-ing for three months working with clients directly, I kind of figured out that B2B communications normally requires hard sell whilst B2C can utilizes either of both.

Continue reading “Hard sell vs. Soft sell: What’s the difference?” via ProCopyTips.

Ever considered mixing both approaches? Watch the following clip to find out more!


About Jason Tham

Jason Tham is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. His research interests are digital pedagogy, connectivism and connected learning, computers and writing, and visual rhetoric.
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