Over the last 20 years I have worked as a copywriter for some of the world’s biggest advertising agencies and brands. I was trained by, and have worked for, some of the top industry writers, and created multi-award-winning campaigns.
Throughout my career, I have helped make companies thousands, if not millions of pounds in sales – and now I’m sharing the secrets to writing compelling copy with you.
So here are my five golden rules for writing copy that sells.
1) It’s all about you
One of the first lessons I ever learned as a junior copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather in the mid-90s was how to use the word ‘you’. In fact, I remember an early training exercise in which I had to rewrite a piece of copy and add in as many ‘you’s as possible.
Why? Because great selling copy doesn’t talk at people, it talks to you. It engages you, connects with you, empathises with you and convinces you. And if your copy is all me, me, me, you’ll fail to achieve any of these things.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean. Which company are you more likely to call?
We’re a fantastic design agency. Call us now and get details on the latest work we’ve created for our clients.
Do you need fantastic design? We can help! Give us a call to talk about your needs and we’ll share some case studies with you.
So next time you’re writing sales copy, remember this simple rule. Try to make your copy as engaging as possible, and once it’s written read through it again and see if you can spot any opportunities to swap a ‘we’ with a ‘you’.
2) Understand what your customer wants
The second golden rule of writing copy that sells doesn’t involve writing at all. It’s about knowing.
You see before you can craft beautiful, compelling sales copy you need to know exactly what your ideal customer wants. If you don’t, there’s a very high risk that your copy will miss the mark and fail to be convincing.
So what exactly do you need to know? Here are some common questions that are answered on pretty much every professional sales copy brief:
- Who is your target audience for this copy?
- What is the problem you want to solve for them?
- How do you solve it?
- What makes your product/service/offer unique?
With this knowledge under your belt you can confidently write powerful sales copy that will appeal to the people you are talking to, and convince them to act.
3) Keep it short and sweet
If you have a fantastic product or offer, it’s easy to be tempted to tell people everything about it. But try to resist that urge!
Potential customers don’t want to know every last detail about what you do – they just want to know about the bits that matter to them. And if you’ve done your homework from golden rule number two, you’ll know exactly what that is.
When writing sales copy, stick closely to your customer’s problem, and your specific solution to it. A common structure for sales copy looks something like this:
- Outline the problem
- Introduce the solution
- Explain how the solution works
- Highlight what makes you unique – your USP
- Offer proof (testimonials or results)
- Reiterate the problem/solution
- End with a call to action
Within this structure you need to be as brief as you can. Waffle on, as witty as you may think you sound, and you’ll soon lose people.
As an exercise, I recommend you write your sales copy as normal then, once you’re happy with it, set yourself the challenge of halving the length of it. As tough as this sounds, it’s a great way to really assess just how essential some of the points you make are, and to weed out overly-flowery descriptions.
4) It’s all about the beginning and the end
If we were to tell you the most looked-at part of a traditional sales letter or email, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was the headline. But what about the second most looked-at part?
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s the PS – that throwaway line at the end of the communication that usually re-iterates the offer or deadline.
So when crafting your brilliant sales copy, spend most of your time thinking about these two elements (if you don’t have a PS then switch your focus to your call to action – more about that in a minute).
Usually I write my headlines last, once I am happy with my body copy. And when I do, I’ll try out several options before settling on my favourite. Remember that most people will base their decision whether or not to read on, on your headline, to make it compelling.
Once people have read your headline, they’ll often quickly scan down your copy (a reason why lots of subheads are a really good idea) and check out your last line before diving into the body of it.
So make sure your PS or call to action is equally compelling with lots of active language, and a timely prompt. I do recommend including a time-limited offer in your end line to give people a reason to act NOW. Otherwise they may think ‘nice idea, I’ll do that sometime’ and file your lovely copy away at the end of a long to-do list, never to be seen again.
5) Always include a call to action
One of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make in their marketing materials is to forget to include a call to action – or write such a poor one that they may as well have not bothered!
You can write the most powerful sales copy in the world, but if you don’t tell your eager audience what to do next, you won’t get a single purchase from it.
So once your copy is crafted, consider what you want people to do – click on a link to a sales page, call you or visit a store – and tell them how to do it. Include any details they may need, such as a website address, telephone number or actual address (don’t assume they already know it or will go to the effort of finding it), and make sure you include a compelling reason for acting.
Here are a few examples of calls to action:
Visit <URL> now and download your free guide to unblocking troublesome sinks easily.
Sick of your pest problem? Call us on <number> now and we’ll visit you within 24 hours.
Want to try the town’s best chocolate brownies? Visit us at <address> this weekend and get a free coffee with every brownie.
Spend time on your copy and get it right
It’s worth spending time getting your sales copy just right. And when it’s finished, don’t just fire it off. Give your copy time to go ‘cold’ and revisit it fresh (I usually give mine the overnight test, waiting until the next day to read through).
With a fresh set of eyes you’ll find it easier to spot any spelling mistakes or simple errors. You’ll also have a more critical perspective of it, and be better able to judge whether you’ve got the tone and content exactly right.
Then, once you’re really happy with it – and only then – you’re ready to unleash your brilliant sales copy out into the world.