A 12 Step Formula for Writing Effective Sales Copy

If you want to market and monetize your know-how, good sales copy is crucial. There are many varieties of sales copy – long-form, short-form, bullet benefits, video sales scripts, storytelling, case studies – they share common characteristics and here we’ll break down a proven structure used in almost every piece of effective sales writing.

A useful sales copy framework

The purpose of any sales copy is to overcome the prospect’s resistance to buy and persuade them to take action (e.g. buy your product or subscribe to your email list). Here is a clear sequence of proven steps to maximise your chance of achieving this.

  1. Understand your prospect’s needs. You will never succeed in creating powerful sales material if you don’t have a profound understanding of your prospect; the problems they face and the solution you’re offering. We’ve all been on the receiving end of someone who just wants to talk about themselves and who have no interest in what you’re going through – a lot of poor copy is like that. Inferior copy talks about how great the product/company is and ignores the customer’s situation.
  2. Understand all the reasons why your prospect won’t buy. To get your target from where they are to where you want them to be requires you to navigate an obstacle course of their objections. These objections include:
    – they don’t believe your claims
    – they don’t feel any urgency to take action
    – they don’t know/trust you
    – they don’t like the price
    – they’re worried about making the wrong decision
    Your sales material needs to address each of these common concerns at some stage.
  3. Start by getting their attention. The first thing you learn in sales copy is how to write powerful sales headlines. The headline is what draws the prospect in to read or watch your sales pitch. If it fails to do that, the rest of your sales copy is wasted, no matter how good it may actually be. The headline is the most important piece of copy you will ever create. If you are struggling to come up with one, a good place to start is to follow the formula:

How to [do something] and [achieve a benefit] in just [specific time frame] even if [obstacle].

     For example: How to start a podcast and land great guests in just 30 days even if you are a “nobody” in your topic niche.

  1. Prove you understand your prospect’s problem. It’s incredible what you can achieve if you can establish rapport with a person. In sales, that begins with understanding your prospect’s goals and desires.
    – What is the biggest problem they face in this area of their life?
    – What is the outcome they most desperately want to achieve in this area?
    – What keeps them awake at night?
  2. Empathise and amplify. Once you have identified your prospect’s problems (pain points), you need to demonstrate empathy. How would you feel about the problem if you were in their shoes? Imagine the thoughts that would go through your mind. Write about these pain points in detail. Your goal is to increase the pain, fear and frustration associated with the problem, e.g:You invested your dreams and hard-earned money into becoming a successful trader but you’re watching the dream slowly die. We’ve been there. We know what it’s like to watch your account bleed away and with it your hope of succeeding as a trader. The dream has never been further away and whatever new system or strategy you try, nothing is working. You’re embarrassed and annoyed when people ask you, “how’s the trading coming along?” Deep down, you’re not sure you have what it takes, as though you will never be able to make it as a trader. It feels like you’ll be a part of the 95% who don’t make it. It feels like it’s time to quit.
  3. Present your solution. Once you have amplified the pain, you present your solution. Here is where you give your prospect new hope. Introduce your product and explain how it product will solve their problem and achieve their desired outcome.
  4. Tell your story, build your credibility. You may have your prospect’s attention at this stage but they may be sceptical and need convincing. At this moment, tell your story. Start with where you were and where you are now. An attention-grabbing opening is powerful, e.g: Two years ago, I was stacking shelves in a supermarket to put food on the table. Today, I run a multi-million dollar video marketing agency with some of the biggest brands in the world paying me $100K+ per video. I’ll share with you my step-by-step strategy but first, I want to tell you how I went from broke to rich in two short years and how you can absolutely reproduce my results – or better…”
  5. Focus on benefits, not features. Every copywriter knows to sell the benefits, not the features of a product. Don’t say “This camera has 30 in-built filters” say, “This camera will allow you to reproduce high-quality professional images that will astound friends, family and clients“. People buy benefits, not features. If you find yourself writing about features, simply explain why those features are attractive/important. Benefits trigger emotions and emotions drive sales. We always buy for emotional reasons (benefits) and justify the purchase with logic (features).
  6. Demonstrate social proof. Social proof is a powerful tool for selling your product. Arguably the best social proof is customer testimonials. If you don’t yet have customers, ask friends and family to review your product or offer a free 20-minute Skype consultation in your area of expertise in exchange for a testimonial. (Your testimonial does not have to be for your product per se. It could be an endorsement for other work you’ve done or your level of expertise, e.g. you could say, “Here’s what customers have said about other products I have created…” or “Here’s what customers have to say about my expertise in this area…
         Other powerful social proof to include on your website are company logos of clients you have worked with or media appearances you have made. People are impressed with logos.
  7. Make your offer. After listing your benefits fully and building momentum to carry your prospect towards making a purchase, simply ask for the order, “Are you ready to [become a successful trader/launch a successful podcast/build your best physique ever]?…” Then write, “Get access to:” and show three bullet points summarising the offer, then a large order button with the words “Let’s do it!” (not “Order” or “Buy Now”). There is no indirect way to ask for the order nor do you necessarily need one. Just ask.
    An ideal example of asking for the order.

    An ideal example of asking for the order.

  8. Offer a no-quibble money-back guarantee. Remember one of your prospect’s resistance points is being frightened of making the wrong decision. You easily defuse this concern by offering a no-quibble guarantee: if your prospect is not happy with your product for any reason, you will refund their money.
    What if people abuse this guarantee? Unfortunately, that is the reality of internet business. However, you will get more customers by offering a guarantee than not. The extra customers will cover those who decide to be sleazy. You can’t let the actions of a few unscrupulous individuals stop you doing business. What’s the alternative? Never produce anything? Never sell anything? Of course not. Accept it will happen and move on.
  9. “You are at a crossroads”. Close your sales copy with a reminder to your prospect that they need to make a choice. They can choose to do nothing and carry on with the life and results they have now or they can choose to take action, order your product and create a different, more desirable and compelling future. Emphasise the pain of doing nothing, of continuing down their current path:
    – worrying about making ends meet;
    – failing whilst others succeed;
    – working in a job they hate;
    – watching other guys get the girls;
    – living a limited life;
    – struggling to find enough clients;
    – watching another year pass without making any progress… and so on.
    Tell your prospect, “You can continue to do what you’ve always done and get the same old results. Or you can start a new journey, with me, today – right now. Enough talking – it’s time to get this handled. What do you say? Let’s work together to make your success a reality“. Show the order button one final time. The end.

Takeaway points

  1. Effective sales copy is 20% art, 80% science.
  2. Effective sales copy knows who it’s targeting; captures attention; understands the pain; amplifies the pain; introduces the solution; lists the benefits of the solution; asks for the order.
  3. You can apply this sales framework to any medium you’re working in: text, video, audio, graphic.

Action steps

  1. Write a sales letter for your product using the above framework. It will not be perfect. Just get your first draft down then edit it repeatedly. (This is what professional writers do. Writers often say, “There is no such thing as writing, only re-writing.”) This is an important exercise as it gets you into the mind of your target audience.
  2. Capture all the benefits of your product. First, list all the obvious benefits that come to mind. Next, list all the features of your product and writing down why those features are important – these reasons are further benefits. For example, you may be selling a course whose features include 12 hours of video training. The underlying benefit is, “With 12 hours video training, you will receiving the most comprehensive training on the market, shortcutting your learning time by years“. Always focus on selling the benefits.
  3. Reach out to target audience members and ask for customer testimonials in exchange for a review copy of your product or (preferably) a 20 minute Skype consultation. Getting customer testimonials is vital for building social proof.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via Flickr.com / CC BY-NC 2.0




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