A Sales Copywriting Crash Course

You may not have aspirations to be a copywriter but if you want to market and monetize your know-how, knowing how to sell through words is an essential skill. You may decide to outsource this role to another expert but it’s nevertheless useful to what makes good sales writing so that you can assess, modify and fix non-performing copy. While each product can be sold in myriad ways, copywriting can distilled into a simple process which we will outline for you.

Forget about selling, focus on building trust

Your prospect will only buy from you if (a) they trust you, and (b) they trust your product will deliver the result they’re looking for. The purpose of your sales copy therefore is to build this trust by (a) demonstrating you fully understand your prospect’s problems, fears and anxieties (i.e. their pain points), and (b) providing proof that your product can deliver the desired outcome.

  1. Know your audience. Create your customer avatar. For whom are you writing? Your most important target is your potential customers and you need to know who they are. Your goal is to understand your customer so well that they feel you are talking directly to them. This is the first step in building trust. Consider your market research, particularly the part about the people most likely to be interested in your product. Perhaps do some additional market research in order to get to know your audience better. You can do that by searching for your keywords and reviewing the results, for instance – what kind of people post about problems that your product can solve? They are your audience.
  2. Address their problems. The next step is to appeal to your target audience. In order to do that, you need to consider their problems and make your writing relate to it. It is always a good idea to address the issue directly in your sales copy and illustrate it with a real-life example. Tell a story in the form of a case study. If your prospect can see how you solved this problem for others, they will take a further step towards trusting you.
  3. Amplify the pain associated with that problem. Once you have identified the pain, you need to amplify it. Being overweight is a pain, you amplify it by talking about how it affects the prospect’s self-esteem; how it might make them feel less attractive; how it has hurt their confidence or how it has hurt their dating/relationships and so on. When amplifying pain, exercise empathy – what would you think and feel in your prospect’s position? The goal of pain amplification is to make your prospect more receptive to a solution.
  4. Provide them with a solution to the problem. Your story should offer a solution to the problem. The story you’re telling needs to serve as an inspiration to the customer. (You are not trying to close the sale at this stage but, instead, you’re helping your prospect see a new, positive possibility). We’ve previously written about Skillcrush’s Adda Birnir – this CEO employs a case studies strategy in order to sell her learn-to-program  blueprints. She uses real stories from real people about the how their lives have changed for the better.
  5. Focus on benefits, not features. Features are dry and factual; benefits are emotion-based and appeal to your prospect’s imagination. If your prospect believes your product will help them, their imagination does the rest. People buy because they want to harness the benefit of your product, not its features. An example of features versus benefits: I buy a Mercedes not because of the quality of its engineering (a feature – as good as that might be); I buy a Mercedes because I want people to admire me and see me as successful when I drive down the street (the benefit the prospect is seeking).
  6. Show them the outcome. Selling positive transformation is one of the most powerful sales copy techniques available. You have opened your prospects’ minds to a new possibility (e.g. learn to program; lose weight; train for a marathon etc.) now your prospects want to know exactly how your product will help them. What outcome are you promising? How will you guarantee this outcome? i.e. what information will you teach them and what teaching medium will you use, e.g. ebook, video training, live coaching, workshops, online course etc.
  7. Give proof. Show your prospects why your solution will work for them. Ideally, draw on testimonials and case studies from past customers who have used your product and achieved positive results. If you do not have past customers, use your own story as evidence that your product works. If you have other forms of proof, e.g. income reports; praise for past products you created; speaking at industry events etc. include those.
  8. Ask for the order. It’s surprising how few experts will ask for the order. They assume that because they have presented their case for buying their product their prospect will do the rest. They won’t. Unless you make the call-to-action clear, your potential customer will choose the easiest option, i.e. do nothing. Always make the call to buy your product clear.
  9. Introduce scarcity/urgency. Where you can, introduce scarcity and urgency. Scarcity refers to the amount of your products left for sale; urgency refers to the current price being subject to change or the availability of your product, i.e. you may withdraw the product from sale in the future. If you choose this method, you must be true to your word, i.e. if you say the price of your product will increase after a certain date, you must raise that price as you said you would. This is a question of integrity but may also be the law in certain jurisdictions.
  10. Offer a guarantee. Finally, some prospects may be on the fence for fear of making the wrong decision and losing their money. The solution is to offer a 30-day, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee. Yes, some prospects may call on this guarantee (and some may even abuse it) but they’re the minority; the extra customers you gain by offering a guarantee and standing by your product, will cover the refunds and see you come out ahead.

Takeaway points

  1. Identify your audience.
  2. Identify an outcome they would like to achieve. How does your product help them achieve this?
  3. Give proof that your solution works.
  4. Always ask for the order.

Action steps

  1. For another perspective on writing sales copy, see our post: How to Convert Your Email Subscribers into Customers
  2. If you’re starting out, a copywriting framework that has stood the test of time is AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Whilst selling with stories is growing in popularity, storytelling applies AIDA principles.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Start keeping a swipe file of copywriting you find persuasive, that would convince you to buy. See if you can identify the techniques being applied, e.g. story telling, social proof, focus on benefits. Use these swipes as a framework for your own sales copy.

Photo credit: Jameziecakes via Flickr.com / CC BY 2.0

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