Whether you’re a low-level marketing manager or novelist of 30 years, the writing process can be agonizing, especially when you’re writing about something you are passionate about.
Copywriting for marketing is no different. It’s hard. Not only are there very specific things that work and very specific things that don’t work, the things we learned in school are often completely antithetical to what works in the marketing field.
That being said, good copywriting is more about unlearning than learning. Unlearning how to write in a hoity-toity academic style, best suited for scholarly articles that no one ever reads. Unlearning how to talk about yourself like you’re trying to get someone to hire you for a job. Unlearning how to make things flowery, poetic, and over the top.
The good news, though, is that it’s not out of anybody’s reach. There are some very specific techniques and stylistic methods to making your writing more successful and convert visitors to your website. That’s why we wanted to include persuasive copywriting as a foundational piece in our online small business marketing course, Digital Marketing Strategies and Tactics to Grow Any Small Business.
If you follow these tips, your writing will get better. And not only will it get better, you’ll see more conversions on your website and a greater ROI for your company. Plus, you’ll feel less like a sleazy salesman looking to quick make a quick buck.
Before You Write
What you do before you sit down to the computer is equally – if not more – important than your writing. Any serious writer will tell you that the research process for their project is what really makes or breaks the quality of the work. Copywriting is no different, except instead of doing research on a historical event or a person, you’re doing research on your own product and your customer.
According to Conversion Rate Experts, you shouldn’t start writing until:
- You know everything about the product.
- You have bought and purchased the product with your own money.
- You can understand why people buy it.
- You could sell it to yourself or to your friends.
- You know all the objections and have great counters to those objections.
- You’ve gathered legal proof to support all your claims.
Now, sometimes it’s not realistic to have bought your own product. People selling $100,000 yachts can’t be expected to purchase their own product, especially on a salesperson’s salary.
But you do need to know your product intimately and how to sell it in person before you ever write about it. Your website is, for all intents and purposes, “a robot sales person,” and it won’t be any better of a sales person than you are. If you can’t sell it, your website won’t sell it either.
Become Your Customer
If you can, buy your own product. Beyond that, go through the entire buying process your customer would go through. Shop around for products like yours. Send your product back. Call technical services. Spend your own money if you can. Is it worth it? What are some of the problems that you find in the process? Can those be fixed? What objections do you have to your own process? This knowledge will become integral to you writing about your product at a later stage.
Now use your own product. Take it out, unpackage it, put it together, use it at your own home and in your own life. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What are the things that it offers that competitor products don’t? This is the experience that your customer will have. And if you’re gonna’ write about your own product, you need to know what that experience is like.
Ask your current customers directly about their experience. Ask them what areas of weakness you have on your website. Inquire about the aspects of your product that make buying difficult for them. Find out what their objections to purchasing were. You can do this in a couple ways:
- Conduct a survey on your website homepage.
- Talk to some of your customers one-on-one.
- Interview a VOC Aggregator.
A VOC aggregator is someone that’s heard the customer voice so many times they know the answer to their questions. These are the people talking directly to your customers. They can be a sales person, a technical support worker, or a repair person. They should have the opportunity to let you know what the customers are concerned about in their journey to purchasing your product.
The process that a buyer goes through before they purchase your product is called the “buyer’s journey”. During the buyer’s journey, your prospective customer is going to think about a great many things, including:
- If your site is relevant
- If your product is the best of its type
- The ease of finding your product
- If the product is what they really need
- If your site’s claims are supported by proof
- Whether their objections are answered
- Whether the experience was pleasurable and they’d do it again
Writing persuasive copy is about answering these questions before the customer does. You want to make the experience of your customer on your website as delightful and informative as possible. By knowing your product and your customer intimately, you’re going to be infinitely farther along than other marketers that don’t do this work on the front end.
Enchanting Marketing calls this entire process “writing with your ears”.
1950s and ‘60s copywriter Eugene Schwartz said that the ability to listen is one of the greatest assets a writer could have. Instead of trying to create his own copy, Schwartz stole marketing messages from his customers and his prospects instead of inventing them himself. He essentially fed people’s words back to them so they would be more likely to make a purchase. And it worked.
By listening to his customers, he was able to write some of the most effective copy of his time.
As You Write
Now comes the writing process. What you do before you write is very important. But the techniques you use while you write are equally as important. Bad copy on the website can quickly turn a prospective customer away. It can make you look unprofessional – or worse, insincere.
But there’s good news here: most good copywriting techniques simply boil down to writing in the way you would actually talk to someone.
Use A Structure
When people talk about a product that they like, they generally follow a specific format:
- Problem: what was the problem they were experiencing?
- Solution: what was the product or person that solved that problem for them?
- Proof: what proof is there of real transformation?
- Action: how can the person they’re talking to repeat their experience?
This is also true for spiritual or philosophical transformations.
Here’s a couple of ways this could be expressed in real life.
I was really struggling to get good sleep at night now that I have my baby. A friend told me about CBD oil over coffee one day. Though I was a little hesitant, I gave it a try. I’ve had some of the best sleep of my life using it! Even better than I had before my baby! You should check it out. It’s easy. You just search for it on Google.
I was really depressed about some of the things I’d done in my previous marriage. It was really affecting my life. A friend of mine invited me to church. At first, I didn’t go because I was skeptical. But finally I attended one week and all that pain came out at the service. I started going more regularly and, though I certainly don’t have it all figured out, it’s really helped me to get out of the rut that I was in. It seems like you’re struggling with the same thing, so I thought that maybe you could come with me some weekend.
Every argument follows this same structure. And the good news is that your copy is little different. It should simply follow the same general structure as if you were telling it to someone over coffee.
There are multiple structures that different copywriters have suggested.
- The PASTOR method
- The 1-2-3-4 Method
- The Inverse Pyramid
We here at White Hat Matt use the PASTOR format, so we’ll focus specifically on that structure in this post. This method was popularized by Ray Edwards and that’s where we learned about it. Thanks Ray!
P is for Problem
What is the problem your customer is having? Are they losing money because of a subpar software solution? Are they getting made fun of because of their acne? Are they spending way too much money on their Internet service only to have it crash on them every weekend because of overuse? Your copy needs to address the problem of the customer.
A is for Amplify
What’s going to happen to the customer if they don’t buy your product or service? Will they continue to lose money? Will they continue to experience social ostracization and feelings of negative self-worth? Will they continue to be frustrated by their internet’s sub-par performance? Amplify what’s really at stake here if they don’t accept what you have to offer.
S is for Solution
How does your product or service solve their problem? What benefits are they going to get by using your product, both practical and emotional? This is not the place to talk about the specifics of your product. Instead, talk about its benefits. What’s in it for the customer?
T is for Testimonial
Who has already experienced these benefits from your product? What did they say about it? What evidence is there that your product works and will work for your prospective customer? People don’t like risk. And the risk of making a purchase is less if others have gone before them and had a good experience!
O is for Offer
What exactly are you offering? Are you offering them a free trial of the product? Are you offering them a 10% discount for their first buy? This is where you get down to the nitty gritty of what it is you’re offering.
R is for Response
What are you asking your prospective customer to do? What action do you want them to take? Do you want them to fill out an email opt-in form? Are you wanting them to call you so you can talk more about their needs or desires? Do you want them to add your product to their shopping cart? Be specific about what you want your customer to do.
There are other copywriting methods than the PASTOR format, but they all boil down to the same thing: problem, solution, proof, and action.
Whichever structure you choose, it’s important that you follow it and address every section. If you do, you’ll be writing like a customer thinks. And thinking like your customers is the most important thing in the writing process.
Write Like A Human
Karl from Conversion Rate Experts says that “the act of writing turns many a genius into a moron.” What he means by this is that as soon as people sit down to write, they stop writing like they talk and start writing like they think they should. (source: How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters)
Good writing should sound human.
Your writing should sound the same way you actually speak in real life, just more polished.
A couple of ways you can do this is to record yourself speaking your sales pitch. Analyze it, then repeat that in your copy for your website.
Use as many words in your website copy as you do you selling your product face-to-face. This will probably make your website longer than you are comfortable with. But remember, your website is a robot sales person. If it is going to make sales, it needs to have all the information that you would have in a real life sales meeting.
Also, after you’ve written a draft, have someone else read it out loud for you. Where do they get confused? Where did they get it wrong? Where did they get hung up? These might be areas you need to improve.
Brevity is the soul of wit. Shorter sections and sentences are easier for people to read. People shouldn’t have to work hard to understand who you are, what you’re offering, and what you can do for them. It should be easy.
You can do this by using short and broken sentences. Like I’m doing right now. In high school and college, you may have learned academic writing which uses long, complex sentences. Sales copy is different. It has to be easy.
So use short sentences. Break up your copy with segments. Short segments are much less terrifying than a giant block of text. This also makes your content skimmable so that people can read it over quickly to take what they need and move on.
We’ve all been on that website where we’re halfway down the page and we still don’t know exactly what they offer. Don’t be that page! Get right to your unique value proposition with your heading. Be specific about what you’re offering and the benefits your customer will accrue.
|Bad Heading||Good Heading|
|We Love Web Design!||We’ll Transform Your Website Into Your Best Sales Representative!|
|Cool Art Products For Sale!||The One-Stop-Shop for All Your Art Supplies At a Discount!|
Generic statements make you sound like a sleazy salesperson. Use specific statements to boost your credibility.
|Bad Statement||Better Statement|
|We’re the best copywriters in town!||We’ll improve your conversions by 175% and your ROI by 124% in one year.|
|We believe in quality as our highest concern.||Last year we had only a single quality infraction in over 900,000 products shipped.|
Keep your sentences simple and to the point and avoid flowery adjectives. Don’t talk about your product being the best at something. Instead, state the facts that prove that it’s the best.
|With our powerful, affordable product, you’ll see results quickly!||Engines that use MagnaPlus oil see a 10% reduction in wear the first month it’s used.|
|Our Calendar App is the best on the market!||Our calendar app had 1 billion more downloads than the 2nd place app last year.|
Be Concise, Be Specific… But Write Long
One of the biggest myths in marketing is that nobody will read long copy. People are too busy, you might think, so I’m not gonna write that much on my subject.
That’s true if people don’t really care about what you’re offering. But if someone is going to spend $8000 on a new snowmobile, I promise you, they will read your copy.
Write as much as you would say in a one-on-one meeting with someone. You need to answer all objections that a customer may have about your product.
I had a friend who recently wanted to buy a new laptop. But glossy screens hurt his eyes. He knew that he needed to have a computer that he could fit with a matte screen. If a website did not answer this objection for him, he would certainly not make a purchase from them.
Every customer will have objections and questions just like this. You need to anticipate these objections and specifications and answer them in your website copy.
Write To Your Audience, Not To Yourself
Many business owners are tempted to write what they think would be interesting or convincing, not what their customers would. But remember, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for your customers. Instead of thinking what would make me buy the product, think about what would make them buy the product.
You might want your website to have a flowery, inspiring heading. But with that convince your audience to buy? You might understand big words like rotator cuff and antinominal, but would your audience understand them?
Instead of using the terms you use to describe your business, use the terms that your audience uses to describe your business.
We recently did a website for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy. Mountain Valley Therapy is a company in rural Eastern Oregon that offers physical therapy and other holistic therapy methods, such as pericardial massage and craniosacral therapy.
Consider if Mountain Valley physical therapy wanted to change their name to Mountain Valley Holistic Therapy. This might more accurately describe what they do, but to an audience of highly-conservative Eastern Oregon Oregon clients, this name would be confusing, not well searched for on search engines, and maybe even off-putting. For this reason it’s probably better for Mountain Valley Physical Therapy to keep their current name.
Remember, writing is about what your customers search for and understand. If you’re writing what you think is powerful copy and that conflicts with what your clients want and are searching for, you’re in for a rough wake-up call when your website doesn’t sell.
Write About Your Customer, Not Just About Yourself
Make sure that your copy is about the value that will be provided to your customer, not just all the features of your product.
Neil Patel used the example of the new iPhone 5 copy to showcase this technique. On the sales page, the word iPhone appeared 81 times. “Apple” appeared an additional 26 times. But the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ were even more prevalent. They appeared 110 times.
By writing about your customer, you make them feel at home and cared for on your website. You make them feel like it’s more about what they need than your product. Because it is more about filling their need than it is about your product, right? Only write about your product in regards to what it can do for your customer – not the other way around.
Support Your Claims With Evidence
The trademark of a charlatan is that they say things without any evidence to back it up. Don’t be a charlatan. Back up your claims with solid, specific evidence. If you make a claim, link to the case study that you’re referencing. This will build trust with your customers.
Also, use technical details to show your expertise. Technical details about your product make you more convincing. Showing exact details like names, data, and materials used shows you know what you’re talking about. You might think that these aren’t really all that important. But like Neil Patel says, details sell.
You can also bring people into your product with fascinating stories. Stories are personal and interesting ways of proving your product’s value. Do you have any stories you could tell about your product? What successes have you had in the past? Stories are a human way of bringing your prospective customers into your world and entertaining them a little bit.
Write Clear, Respectful Calls-To-Action
A call-to-action is a call for a customer to take a specific, desired action on your website. This could be a link to another one of your pages. It could be a button bringing them to your Contact Us page, or it could be to download your white paper.
A good call-to-action should be specific. It should be clear about what you’re wanting the customer to do and why they should do it. A good call-to-action should summarize the benefits, present the offer, and justify the price to the customer one more time.
A good call-to-action should also be respectful. It shouldn’t assume that the customer is ready to take that action. Give your website visitors more than one option. “Start today” should be followed closely by a “Read More About Our Product” option. In this way, more people will continue on their buyer’s journey on your page than just the ones ready to make a purchase.
After You Write
Woo hoo! Congratulations. You’ve written your copy. And it’s really, really good!
But this is just the beginning. Once your copy is up and working for you on your website, it needs to be optimized. Optimization simply means being revised based on data. Going back and optimizing your website copy will continue to make your website better and more profitable.
This can be done in multiple ways including:
- A-B Split Tests
- Heatmaps On Your Site
- Surveys on your pages
I’m not going to go into the specifics about all of these in this blog post except to say it’s important. According to a presentation with Paris Chopra, the founder and CEO of Visual Website Optimizer, a single word change on a website can lead to a 161% increase in conversions.
Visual Website Optimizer re-wrote copy for one company with the keywords that people were searching for on search engines. As a result, this company got 150% more leads, $15,000 in additional sales inquiries, and an increase in annual sales of $500,000. This is not small potatoes.
Bottom line, after you’re done writing, use analytics to drive further insights and make changes. Use search tools to figure out the keywords that people are actually looking for. And use surveys to gain insight into what your customers want and are having trouble with on your website.
Does all this sound just a little bit too daunting for you? That’s OK. You can hire someone to do this for you. You can learn more about White Hat Matt’s copywriting services on our copywriting page or hire someone locally in your area.
But whoever you hire, make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing. If you’re going to hire out your copywriting, make sure it’s someone who is getting wins with their copy in a professional setting.
Writing clearly and persuasively and thoroughly demonstrating the benefits of your product or service is something that anyone can do. With a little bit of learning, and a lot of unlearning, you, too, can be on your way to writing copy that works for your website.
We recommend you start by picking up a free copy of How to Write Copy That Sells, by Ray Edwards. This may only be available for free for a limited time; if you find this link has gone down, just try searching for the book on Amazon.
Otherwise, please check out:
Ray Edwards – How to Write Copy that Sells (on the Smart Passive Income Podcast)
Conversion Rate Experts – How to Beat Most Professional Copywriters
Conversion Rate Experts – Making Websites Win (Available in Hardcover or Kindle Format)