OK, in this session we’re going to talk about formulas for writing persuasive copy.
One thing we rarely see when someone shows us a copywriting formula, is the acknowledgement that they should only be used as guidelines to writing more compelling copy.
Because not every formula will work the same for every offer.
In fact, at last count my archives had around 30 different “formulas” for writing copy. And while most of them have similar concepts, trying to follow them all at once would leave us lost, and turn our copy into unmanageable mess.
So in this post we’re just going to cover a couple of the common elements held by most of them.
Let’s start with the most basic copywriting formula, and expand on it a bit with some standard checklist items…
The most basic copywriting formula is known as AIDA which stands for…
Every solid formula starts with gaining the “Attention” of your target audience. This is where your market research helps, and where your headline earns its keep.
Our world is full of clutter. There’s too much information coming at us from every possible direction, and to be able to function in this world people need to filter out anything that’s not important, or at least interesting.
So job 1 with any formula is gaining attention.
We need to break through the clutter of daily thoughts, get people to stop what they’re doing, and get them to say (or think) “hey, this is worth my time”
Job 2 is to build interest.
This is where our opening (lede) earns its keep.
So if our headline offers a benefit, our lede should quickly expand on the benefit.
If our headline offers to take away a problem, then our lede should agitate the problem and make it bigger so we can present our solution further down the copy.
If our headline is a “curiosity” or “entertaining” then our lede needs to expand on, and flow from there.
Job 3 is to build desire.
Our headline pulled them in… Our opening got their interest… And now we need to build desire by showing how we can either take away our readers pain, or bring them towards more pleasure.
Job 4 is to get them to take action.
This is where we tell them how to contact us, or make a purchase, or visit a website, (or whatever action we want them to take)
The easier we can make it to take action, the less friction there will be at this critical point of the journey.
Each of these elements build on the previous one because…
– If we don’t get your markets attention, then it’s game over. And it doesn’t matter what else you say, because nobody will ever see it…
– If we don’t gain their interest, then they won’t stick around long enough to desire anything we’re offereing…
– And if they don’t desire what we’re selling, then the call to action is pointless.
So yes, these things do need to go in order to have the most powerful effect.
Of course, we already know that the headline is what gets our readers attention and starts to generate interest. And our opening needs to build on the interest, which leads into desire.
Now desire is a tricky bit of business, but it’s also where a lot of the magic happens.
So how do we build desire in our copy?
Well, the first thing we need to understand is for every element of desire we try to build there’s an equal and opposite force pulling our reader away from the desire.
This force is called skepticism. As a society we’ve heard too many promises from too many sleazy sales pitches. And to survive, most of us learn to put up a wall of defense which protects us from being taken advantage of.
That means we need to get past the inner skeptic if we want to have any chance of building desire.
One effective way to do this is to include “proof” of our promises.
Testimonials can often work as proof, but we don’t want to rely on them exclusively. That’s because nobody really knows if they’re for real or just made up. (And if they are real people, were they planted by you and your friends or family?)
So sure, add some testimonials (it doesn’t hurt). But for a better proof element, you can make your sales piece itself valuable to your audience.
If you’re selling a weight-loss program… show them an easy exercise they can do right now, so they can prove to themselves how easy it is.
If you’re selling a “make money” system… give them a tip for free so they can see for themselves that it works.
If you’re selling a fun product… show a video of real people having fun playing with it.
Another great proof element is a guarantee, or risk reversal for your reader. And if you can include a 3rd party element (i.e. “according to this well known expert, this system has proven to…”) it can have some very powerful effects for your copy.
There’s many more “genuine” proof elements you can use (depending on your situation) but the main thing to remember is “the more proof you can include with your copy, the easier it is for your market to let down their wall of skepticism.” And the more natural it becomes for them to believe you, and trust you.
So there’s your basic AIDA formula. Now here’s a couple more basic formulas for you to consider…
Problem (state the problem to get their attention)
Agitate (expand on the problem and make it bigger)
Predict (it’s only going to get worse if you don’t take action)
Discredit (discredit other solutions by pointing out their flaws)
Solution (introduce your solution)
Attention (Call out audience and present biggest benefit, or biggest problem you can solve)
Interest (Reason why they should be interested in what you’re saying)
Credibility (Proof elements showing why they should believe you)
Benefits (Bullet points work well for listing benefits)
Scarcity (Limited offer)
Warning (What are the consequences of not taking action)
Action (Tell them what to do and how to proceed)
Again, these are just a couple basic formulas to get you started.
Also remember, different writers have different checklists to go with their different “formulas.” Which is why I started this lesson by saying “these things should only be used as guidelines to writing more compelling copy”.
Because not every formula will work the same for every offer. And trying to follow them all at once will probably turn your copy into a confusing mess….
Now let me wrap this post up with a bare bones, basic checklist for you to consider when writing your copy.
Bare minimum checklist
1. Does your headline call out to your ideal client and offer them a benefit (toward pleasure or away from pain)?
2. Does your lede flow logically from your headline, and continue building interest?
3. Do you offer proof that your product or service works?
4. Do you offer a guarantee to help reduce resistance?
5. Can you include a scarcity element in your offer (limited time, limited number available, bonus expires at midnight, etc.)?
6. Did you include a call to action, and a way (or multiple ways) for people to respond to your offer?
So that wraps up this short lesson on copywriting formulas. I hope it’s given you some food for thought about how to direct your copy.
We’ve got one more session left before we close up this series on the fundamentals of copywriting.
The next one touches on possibly the most important pieces of the copywriting puzzle. And that piece is the “mindset” of your average reader when they first come across your copy. Learn this lesson well, and the rest of it almost falls into place by itself.
Now mark this lesson as complete, and I’ll see you on the other side…
Here’s to writing more persuasive copy, more often…
All the best,
- Part 2 – The secret to writing persuasive sales copy - April 30, 2020
- The Secret To Writing Persuasive Sales Copy - April 19, 2020
- Here’s Why SEO Writing Can Destroy Your Content (and what you can do to make it better) - March 29, 2020