What’s the secret to writing persuasive sales copy?
Simple enough question… with a simple answer…
THE ANSWER : I do not know… and neither does anyone else.
That’s because there is no “secret” to writing persuasive sales copy.
No secret sauce… No magic formula… No two thousand year old discovery that can show you how to instantly get a 100% response rate…
There’s only fundamental salesmanship that can be tweaked and tested to fit different situations.
The truth is, nobody knows what copy will get the best response, before it goes live. The last 100 years of direct response have proven that great looking copy can flop, while mediocre copy, delivered at the right time to the right people, can knock it out of the park.
Now in all fairness, many good books have been written on the awesome power of selling through the written word. And you don’t need me to write another cookbook just to reheat yesterday’s leftovers.
But my hope for this post is by sharing a small taste of my own personal thought process, it might resonate with a few more people.
And who knows, maybe it’ll even help someone up their game a bit.
Disclaimer: In this short post I can’t tell you how to sell your products because I don’t know you, I don’t know your product, and I don’t know who your customers are.
What I do know is salesmanship. My face-to-face closing rate averages north of 70%. And my long form sales copy often sees double digit (percentage) response rates. And in the real world, that ain’t bad.
Most of my bigger sales copy winners have been with “construction trades — prepper/survival/self defense — and self help/self development niches”. But what I’m sharing with you here is not niche specific.
And it’s also not necessary for some copy. (It would probably be overkill for selling impulse items like T-shirts or candy)
Keep in mind these are tools, not rules. I won’t tell you what you “must” do, or even what you “should” do. I can only tell you how I do it.
And maybe it’ll work for you like it works for me…
My audience is only one person
I don’t write for millions of people. I write for one person. That one person is you.
Even though my copy might be read by 1,000,000 people at the same time, you are a single person.
You’re important to me, and my greatest hope is that we’ll connect, and you let me become a part of your world for a few minutes.
Mostly I want you to understand I’m here to help guide you to a better tomorrow. Either away from pain or towards pleasure… Ideally both.
I can’t accomplish that kind of empathy by thinking of, or treating you like just another digit in a large group of numbers.
This brings me to the second thing I think about when I start my copy…
Every person who reads my copy is actually 2 people.
The first is the person they are… And the 2nd is the person they want to be…
Nobody is going to give me money, or buy my stuff, for the sole privileged of ending up where they’re already at.
That’s why I need to open my copy by talking to the person they are, right now. And I need to sell my offer by talking to the person they want to be.
We know good copy calls our ideal customer and offers them a benefit of improved happiness, or a solution to a problem they’re currently having.
And here’s the key…
It has little to do with my product or service. It has everything to do with how my product or service fits into the story of your life. (the story you’re telling yourself about your own life)
My job is to understand who you are. And who you want to be.
Then I can write my offer to fit your story.
Some copywriters do this by finding lists that match certain criteria. Some do it by studying, and becoming part of the target customers world. Some do it through simple market research and observation, and copying what’s already working in the marketplace.
Personally I use all of these, and more, depending on what’s available to me at the time.
Once I can see into my customers world, and begin to understand their story (frustrations, fears, hopes, desires…) I can begin to understand the motivators that bridge the gap between my offer and their life.
Keep in mind, the motivators aren’t always something lofty or deep. Quite the opposite, most people’s baser instincts, emotions and desires, rule most peoples lives.
Take a look at Roy Garnes big 4 emotional appeals… Take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs… Take a look at the 7 deadly sins from some religious sects.
None of these things are complicated. They’re all just basic human nature. And there are many other theories that can shed light on the average person’s basic instincts.
Side Note: I don’t recommend taking any single philosophy as the holy grail of human intention. But a combination of some, or many, can offer insight into why people do what they do. And it can also help you grasp insights into the person they want to be.
I’m convinced that a lack of understanding these basic concepts is one reason many new copywriters think they can just swipe a piece of winning copy, and use it for their own offer. And when it doesn’t work, they have no idea why not.
…There could be many reasons, but the most prominent answer is simple…
They think the magic is in the words. But the magic is really in the emotional connection those words are making with the inner world of our reader. And some emotions simply don’t translate to different offers.
Quick Example: Fear based copy can work great for selling a financial newsletter, because…
“The government wants to steal your money! Those corrupt officials in Washington want to take everything you’ve worked so hard to earn, and the big banks are co-conspirators in the criminal theft of your life savings. But our financial newsletter can help you protect what’s yours”….
But swiping that copy won’t work very well for selling shoes. (few people are worried about the gov’t coming for their shoes)
And this brings me to the next thing I think about when starting my copy…
“I’m in the emotion-delivery business, and my job is to evoke emotions in my reader.”
And that’s why I always try to …
Pick an emotion to build the copy around
It’s been said 1000 times, and I don’t want hammer a nail that’s already sunk, but it deserves repeating…
People buy on emotions and then justify the decision with logic.
When I start writing copy, I ask myself what emotions do you want to invoke in your reader? What emotion does this offer naturally associate itself with?
Am I going for excitement and anticipation?
Greed? The pride of exclusivity, or achievement? Sympathy or empathy?
There’s many powerful emotions you can tap into in your sales copy.
Like anger, revenge, fear, frustration, hope, love, lust, compassion (just to name a few)
But generally speaking, I find it’s best if I stick with just one or two big emotions in any single piece. We can use other emotions in supporting roles, but if we start bouncing people around with too many powerful emotions we diminish the impact of any particular one.
And we also run the risk of confusing or exhausting our reader before they get to the point of our message (the call to action).
Here’s a quick example of how I might go about looking for the right emotion…
Let’s say we’re writing copy for a dog grooming service…What emotions can we trigger with our copy? (NOTE: I’ve never written copy for a dog grooming service. This is just how I would go about getting started)
Well, for starters… Who is my ideal client?
- How old are they? (young, middle age, elder)
- Where do they live?
- Are they rich, middle class, or just getting by?
- Do they think of their dog as a family member, or just a pet?
- Have they bought similar things recently?
- Why would they bring their dog to a groomer?
Answer these questions to start getting an idea of who your best customer is.
Once we figure out who our best client is, then we need to tap into the emotion of why, and how, they choose a dog groomer.
Anyone who brings their pet to a groomer probably cares a great deal about the health and appearance of their dog, right?
And as proud parent of 2 dogs myself, I can testify to the fact that many dogs are more like family members than pets.
Of course we always want to verify any assumptions we make about our market, with actual research. But for the sake of this post, a couple of common emotions could be…
LOVE (many pets are treated like members of the family)
PRIDE (having a beautiful, well groomed dog)
FEAR / ANXIETY (will my pet be treated well at the groomers)
In this case, I might focus my copy on the emotional comfort that your dog will be treated with tender loving care, by someone who loves dogs as much as you do. And your beautifully groomed pooch will also make you the envy of all your friends and neighbors.
So most people generally buy on emotion and justify the decision with reason and logic. And I have quite a bit to say about making sure we also include the “logic” part in our copy, to help our reader justify the purchase. Not only to themselves, but to their friends and family who might ask why they bought it.
And I also have a bit to say about clarity of message, and staying focused on only one big idea per piece.
But the read-O-meter is telling me this post is already getting a bit long.
Also, one of my dogs just came into the room, and now he’s looking at me with those big brown soulful eyes, as if to say “Hey man, dinner is late… Don’t you love me anymore?”
(Guilt is a powerful emotion, so I’m gonna end this post here and go feed my dogs)
I want to thank you for sharing these past few minutes with me. And my greatest hope is that somewhere in all of my rambling you manage to find a nugget of value.
All the best,
P.S. I did start writing the second half of this letter before my pooch came in. If you’d like me to finish it, just let me know. If enough people show interest I’ll post it here in the next few days. If not enough interest, then I’ll finish it up and post it somewhere else. No hard feelings.
Either way, just let me know. Thanks.
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