With any writing project, the magic happens in the hidden places of the mind, beyond logical awareness. Copywriting is no different.
Because copywriting has formulas and checklists, it’s tempting to believe they are enough to write persuasive copy.
They can be, but as a writer, you can do better.
Copywriting checklists and formulas are the place to start, but if relied on too heavily, they shortcut the creative process and cause the writer to miss the good stuff.
The best copy isn’t written by just filling in blanks or coloring inside the lines.
The best copy is pure creative power welling up from the writer’s subconscious. Checklists and formulas give it shape.
How to Become a Better Copywriter: 15 Tips and Insights.
In this article, I share 15 tips and insights to help you become a better copywriter.
1. Write for a Single Human Being.
You can’t sell to everyone, and you shouldn’t try. Trying to persuade a group of people is tough. Trying to persuade an individual is much easier.
Make it personal; write for a single person.
Before you type a word of copy, create a persona of your prospective customer. A persona humanizes the customer in your mind, brings them to life, and gives you a mental focal point.
The process of creating a customer persona is much like building a fictional character for a story. The more real your customer become to you, the more precise and powerful your copy will be.
What are your prospect’s challenges, ambitions, and pain points? The answers will help you understand your prospect’s motivation to buy.
You can learn about your ideal customer from data on current customers, your competitor’s customers, and demographic profiles.
This is a good start, but step into the world of your customer; for that, find them on social media and read product reviews.
Note their age, gender, and relationship status, education, income, career goals, interests, attitude, challenges, problems, and what objections they might have about your offer.
Find an online image to represent your customer.
2. Stimulate Their Senses.
You want your offer to be so tempting the prospective customer believes they cannot live without it.
As much as possible, make the product real for them. Give the target audience a full sensory experience of the product’s benefits.
Bring the benefits to life by creating a multisensory experience for the audience.
We, humans, are multisensory beings.
Life comes at us from every direction and we tend to search for experiences that bring us the most pleasure.
When you paint a word picture with your copy, you stimulate the mind’s eye of your audience, but why stop there?
Target every human sense, at least the ones that naturally correspond with the product or service you are promoting. As much as possible, stimulate sound, taste, touch, sight, and smell.
Naturally, every product and service you promote cannot possibly stimulate every sense.
But, the benefits of even the most mundane product or service can be brought to life by showing the audience how it impacts their senses.
Insert the product into their lives and help the audience experience it as part of their world.
3. Hook ’em with a Story.
A storyline in copy is like the melody of a jingle. It captures our attention and sticks in our minds like a pleasant memory.
When you can weave a story into your copy, specifically when it’s about someone much like the prospect, you draw in the audience.
A story invites the audience to open their mind. Psychologically, the lean forward and want to learn more.
The $2 Billion Wall Street Journal Letter, The Tale of Two Young Men, is said to be the greatest sales letter of all time and ran non-stop for 28 years.
It tells the story of two men who graduated from the same college and who were much alike. They even worked at the same manufacturer.
Twenty-five years later, one is the manager of a small department and the other president of the company.
Naturally, the reader wants to know what made the difference and reads the entire letter to find out.
The story draws in the reader and inspires them to search for the answer, which turns out to be the product, The Wall Street Journal.
A story has a beginning, middle, and end. In the Wall Street Journal letter, Conroy sets the stage on “a beautiful late spring afternoon,” the day the men graduated college.
They both married and had children, but 25 years later achieved dramatically different levels of success.
The clear implication is The Wall Street Journal is the secret to success.
To read this sales letter in full and several letters similar to it, go to The Tale of Two Young Men.
We can remember stories much easier than facts and details.
Storytelling is impactful in any type of copywriting. When you need to explain the product, highlight a benefit or any other detail, make it a story.
4. Dazzle ’em with Facts and Stats.
Much of persuasive copy requires belief. The prospective customer either believes your claims or she doesn’t. But facts are different.
Nailing down facts, statistics, and evidence-based figures throughout your copy is essential because they are readily accepted.
Facts are perceived to carry the intellectual weight of science. They are immutable. No faith required.
Here’s the fantastic thing about using facts and evidence-based details in your copy; they don’t have to relate directly to the product offered!
For example, if you state, “The Turbo Wonder Widget is manufactured in 24,000 square foot high-technology facility in Silicon Valley,” none of the facts relate directly to the product.
However, the use of facts still conveys authority and persuasive impact.
Facts are rock-solid anchors within your copy. They clear the prospect’s mind of doubt and bolster your persuasive argument.
Be careful with facts that might seem too good to be true. In that case, back up the statement with evidence, another point, a testimonial, or 3rd party endorsement.
Look for facts in product reviews, product tests, market studies, press kits about the product or company, product development reports, and compliance standards.
Because adding facts makes any copy more convincing, they are an easy way to punch up your persuasive game.
5. Spotlight Product Advantages
What is the one thing only your product can do?
While researching the features and benefits of the product or service you are promoting, you may realize that not all benefits and features have the same value.
Hopefully, you will find your product has a feature or two with a clear advantage over the competition. One’s enough, but two is better.
These advantages are the features you should promote more aggressively than the others.
It’s essential to include the other features and benefits, too, but shape your copy around the one or two things only your product offers.
For example, let’s imagine you’re promoting a self-watering garden container and the reservoir is twice as large on your product than the competition.
With your product, the customer waters half as often, saving time, money, and energy.
It’s the lazy man’s garden. From this point, you can create a story that continues to build on the significant advantage of your product.
When possible, use the advantage in your headline and lead.
6. Give ’em Lots of Reasons to Buy.
When you don’t have an apparent big reason for people buy, but instead have several smaller reasons, use it to your advantage.
The trick to make this method work is to use several reasons, but not too many. Each reason must be distinct and stand alone with enough elaboration to give some punch.
When the smaller reasons to buy are not fully expanded as benefits, they might appear as a mass of noise to be ignored.
When that happens, you’ve lost the prospect’s attention.
A smart way to capitalize on the many reasons to buy is to present it in a numbered list. This approach then suggests a title with the number in the title.
This is how copywriter and Shuai-Chiao kung fu world gold medalist Matt Furey wrote the sales letter “15 Reasons Why Combat Conditioning is the Best Fitness Program.”
Furey ratchets up the effectiveness of this approach by writing the sales page from a customer’s point of view, turning it into a long testimonial.
It begins as a story told by the customer. He reveals how he was at first a skeptic but then mentions that the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee had done the same exercises.
Then the writer brings in Matt Furey’s international reputation and background in wrestling and Shuai-chiao kung fu before listing the 15 reasons.
You can see the full sales page at 15 Reasons Why Combat Conditioning is the Best Fitness Program.
7. Accentuate the Pain.
Few things can make someone take out their credit card or checkbook faster than pain.
We humans are creatures who instinctively avoid it. When we hurt, we do all we can to feel better as quickly as possible. And, if the pain is sufficient, the cost of relief is immaterial.
Pain is used figuratively here to mean a pressing issue that needs to be solved, whether it is a physical pain or a painful problem.
When we’re promoting a product that relieves pain or solves a problem, it’s only logical to sell it by reminding the customer how much they hurt.
Steve Slaunwhite calls this method the “push the ouch button” technique. You might recognize it as the classic PAS Copywriting Formula.
PAS is the acronym for Problem, Agitate, Solution.
First, remind the target audience of their problem, then agitate it by stirring things up a bit. Finally, step in with the solution, which, of course, is the product or service you’re promoting.
Be careful. Nobody likes to be reminded of their misery. This technique can be easily over-done. If you accentuate the pain too much, your copy will come across as crass and opportunistic.
Agitate the pain just enough to get the attention of your prospect and remind them of their problem, then immediately bring the focus back to the solution.
8. Buy Now or Else!
It’s one thing to get the prospect to buy and another thing to get them to buy NOW. For that, you need to create a sense of urgency.
Unfortunately, most products or services do not have an inherent reason to buy it immediately. They’ve been around for ages, and they’ll continue to be available for a long time.
Things like a housekeeping service, electronics, investment newsletters, or collectibles don’t expire.
A prospective customer may want these things and may even plan to buy them, but there’s no reason to buy now.
The customer knows they can put the purchase off indefinitely and not lose out. It’s easy for them to tell themselves they want to think about it because it’s not a priority.
As a copywriter, you must make the product you’re pitching an urgent priority for the prospect. But, how do you motivate the prospect to buy now?
Here are 3 Ways to Crank Up the Urgency:
- Put the Product on Sale. This method is the most common way to create urgency. A steep discount implies the offer is for only a limited time, although some copy will also explicitly state the offer is limited.
- Sweeten the Deal with a Free Gift. Combine the gift with a firm deadline. For example, “Buy the training course by May 15th and get a free email consultation with the instructor.” (See “Sweeten the Deal” below)
- Remind them of the Consequences of Not Buying Now. First, present the compelling benefits of your product in your copy, then remind them they will lose all those benefits if they don’t buy now.
9. Take On the Competition.
In some market niches, the competition is so intense the best strategy is to confront your competitor’s product directly.
Please understand I’m not advocating a smear campaign or spouting nasty things about your competitor. That’s a sure way to harm your client’s reputation and your own.
However, a side-by-side comparison of your product and the competitor’s product is fair. For this strategy to succeed, you must know the specific advantages your product has over the competition.
Use this advantage as the focal point of your copy and show the prospect how they will benefit.
Be careful. If it’s applied with too much enthusiasm, it can backfire and drive the prospect to the competition.
Or, worse, trigger a defamation lawsuit.
In the end, diminishing the competitor’s product won’t sell your product. The product you’re pitching still must-have features and benefits the prospect values.
In your copy, once you have shown your product to be the better choice, you must still sell your product by building belief, showing its benefits to the prospect, and inspiring the prospect to buy.
10. Give ’em Something Extra.
Perhaps the most potent technique to make your offer irresistible is to sweeten the deal with something extra.
This method is much like a shopping network announcer shouting, “Wait! There’s more!”
You see this all the time on landing pages selling make money online products.
Sometimes it gets a bit ridiculous with a dozen or more gifts, which turn out to be low-quality PLR eBooks, which, unfortunately, reflects on the low quality of the offered product.
However, that isn’t always the case, and if you use this technique, be sure to sweeten the deal with gifts that relate to and complement the main product.
You also need to sell each gift you offer.
An excellent example of selling the gift is the sales page for a Clickbank product that shows how to research, write, and publish an eBook in a week.
To see the full sales page and gifts, go to How to Write a Book in a Week.
On the sales page, you’ll find a short video at the top. It’s worth listening to and covers the same material as the text on the page.
Notice how the narrator sells the product in the first few minutes of video.
He then offers several gifts and spends considerable time focusing on each one, selling it to the prospect too.
11. Harness the Power of Quotes.
It’s not surprising that most prospective customers are skeptical of marketing claims. After all, marketing is all about accentuating the positive.
However, putting a feature or benefit in quotes can help overcome a prospect’s skepticism. Quotes highlight the feature or benefit and bless it with credibility.
The easiest way is to take a single benefit and wrap it in quotes.
For example, “The state of the art XLT Wonder Weed Wiz trims 37% faster than other leading trimmers.”
A customer testimonial is even better.
Prospects will accept the testimony of a satisfied customer more easily than marketing claims. They assume that other customers are not biased and will tell the truth about the product.
If they’re available, use customer testimonials, but what if you don’t have customer testimonials?
First, ask the company behind the product or service if they have testimonials on file or letters from customers. Or, contact customers and ask for a testimonial.
It’s ethical to edit testimonials for brevity and impact as long as you don’t change the meaning.
Also, it’s fair to extract a complimentary passage from a customer’s letter without mentioning their name or personal information. Such a quote could read, “Our customers say the XLT Wonder Weed Wiz makes yard work a breeze.”
12. Sing Praises.
It’s human nature to think highly of a product that has won an award. The entertainment, automotive, and wine industries are masters of marketing through honors.
When a product or service receives rewards and recognition, potential customers notice it. They see the offer as valuable and in demand.
Sing the praises of the product you’re promoting. Tell the prospect of the awards and honors it has won.
An award is considered by the prospect to be concrete evidence the product is quality and high value. It implies an unbiased endorsement and substantially boosts credibility.
13. What to Do When the Client Hates Your Copy.
Criticism can be hard to take, more so if you’re working under the pressure of a deadline or with a client whose ego is larger than his intellect.
Some people like to change things just because they can. And, occasionally, someone wants to put their mark on a project so they can later claim credit for its success.
But, sometimes, the copy truly misses the mark. That’s okay, because, ultimately, you want to create copy that makes money for your company or client.
And, if you’re a freelancer, you want to bolster your reputation for being easy to work with and delivering the goods.
Six important things you must always remember when facing criticism from a boss or client.
- Always be professional and eager to revise the copy.
- Never take it personally and never get defensive. It’s about the copy, not about you.
- Listen to the feedback. Look for where you might have gone wrong and be open to suggestions that might improve the copy.
- Explain why you wrote the copy the way you did. Non-copywriters and people unfamiliar with sales may not understand your approach.
- If possible, show them swipe file examples of where this approach has worked in other campaigns or copywriting books that recommended the method.
- Ask for specific feedback. Vague comments are not helpful. Trying to satisfy someone who only offers non-specific feedback is impossible and may indicate a hidden agenda to make themselves look good at your expense. Don’t guess at what needs to be rewritten. Find out precisely what doesn’t work for the client or boss.
- Are the details accurate?
- Did you miss something?
- Is there fluff or awkward phrases?
- Are the features and benefits clearly presented?
- Does the tone fit the audience?
14. What to Do When Your Copy Flops.
It happens. You put your best into a copywriting assignment only to see it flop.
The sales letter you slaved over for too many late nights goes nowhere, and your boss or client looks at you with an expression that says, “What am I paying you for?”
Remember, even copywriting legends miss from time to time. As much as possible, keep a calm, objective mind.
All is not lost. Campaign numbers, even from a failed attempt, are still valuable and useful.
Be easy on yourself. You cannot possibly control all the factors that might cause a piece of copy to fail. It could be the product, or it might be the list is old and unresponsive.
Or the company targeted the wrong audience. Or the competition is unbelievably fierce. Or a dozen other things you have no control over.
If you have a chance to analyze the results, there are some things to look for that may help you improve a rewrite.
Performing a Postmortem on Your Copy.
- Consider the obvious. Did you leave out an important fact, feature, or benefit? Is the contact information correct? Are the sales links working on the sales page?
- Is the message clear? Are there awkward or run-on sentences, muddled phrases? Confusion?
- Is the vocabulary challenging to read or understand? Are there acronyms or specialized terminology that should be defined?
- Look at the copy from the perspective of the target audience. Is there a reason the prospect wouldn’t buy?
- Try another headline. If the current headline failed to catch the prospect’s attention, the audience didn’t go any farther. Often, the headline will improve response more than changing details in the body.
15. Find the Magic.
Once you understand the mechanics of copywriting, the formulas, checklists, and formats, and you’re an expert on your product, target audience, and competition, it’s time to relax.
It’s how you find the magic.
Our conscious mind offers only limited access to our intelligence and creativity. The more tense and stressed we are, the more difficult it becomes to tap into our creative powers.
Anxiety obscures the connection to our inner brilliance. Until we are relaxed, we cannot find the creative source within.
Relaxation, deep relaxation, is the path to million-dollar creative ideas. Before you begin a project and whenever you’re stuck, relax deeply.
Baroque music, guided meditation, and self-hypnosis can help. Be gentle with yourself and keep trying.
When in doubt, take a nap.