Writing Sales Copy That Converts (Part 2)

Cole Wiebe
November 27, 2013
Read time: 4 minutes

« Continued from Part 1

In part 1 we covered the right place to "sell" on the Internet, the importance of knowing who your customers are, the power of an amazing title and ways to stand out from the content 'noise' your readers are subjected to every day. Let's continue.

4) Getting in Front of Eyeballs

You may have written the most brilliant copy of your entire life, guaranteed to make even the most jaded reader whip out the plastic and feverishly click 'Buy Now', but if you have no readership, you're SOL.

Writing 'findable' content involves including keywords your readers will use when searching for your products or services. Last week I recommended compiling a list of keywords each of your customer personas will use to find you.

Select the most relevant keywords for the copy you're writing, and for the persona you're addressing, and have them ready as you begin to write. Try to include several variations of your primary and secondary search terms, and include the primary keyword in your title. Here's an example. Your primary keyword search term, used in the title, might be "Vancouver golf pro shops", and your secondary keyword may be "golf stores in Vancouver". A long tail variation you may include could be "high end putters in greater Vancouver".

5) Make it ALL About Them

Your customers are only interested in their unique WIIFM (What's in it for me?)

Prepare yourself for a shock. Your readers don't actually care about you, your brand, the company or people behind it or even your products or services. Really! So what's the upside for your reader? Can you make their life easier, eliminate a worrisome problem, improve their value to their company, customers or family, save/make them money, give them some of their time back, elevate their status or improve their lifestyle? How are you going to provide enough value to make reading your copy worth a few minutes of their time?

Your sales message should not come from a "we" perspective. "Our company has been providing effective solutions to... for over 20 years," And they're thinking, "Yada, yada, who really cares." Speak to them, using the words like "you" and "your" frequently in the copy.

6) Sell the Benefits

Your competitor proudly proclaims, "Our new model features a 9-speed "9G-TRONIC" electronically-controlled automatic transmission. Here's the latest Motor Trend magazine article. Check out these tight gear ratios..." The prospect's eyes glaze over.

Contrast that with, "You'll enjoy a "smooth as silk" ride, free of any noticeable shifts, thanks to the amazing new transmission. Why, you'll forget you're even in a moving vehicle as you're whisked to your destination in quiet luxury..." That's a benefit they may actually get excited about: incredible distraction-free comfort, with a generous topping of status.

Every time you catch yourself listing a "feature", or bragging about your company, take a moment to jump over to the reader's side of the desk and ask, "And I give a shit because...? "

Your benefits must speak to their "trinity of emotions", their problems, their fears, their desires.

7) Place Your Most Important Information First and Last

Here's another shock for most writers. Your readers won't take the time to read and absorb most of the copy you labored over. They glance at it, scan it quickly for sub-titles, bullet points and interesting photos, grab a quick snack and then move on.

Some years ago I lived in the Canadian high arctic for a while. I had the opportunity to watch wolves 'read' a herd of caribou. At times they would just watch for a while, then retreat over the horizon. My Inuit friend would tell me that either they were just "window shopping" for later, or had decided the potential return on investment wasn't worth making the strenuous charge just then. On two occasions I watched the successful completion of the hunt. To my surprise, the wolves would pick at the best bits until their immediate hunger was satisfied, then saunter off, leaving most of the carcass for the foxes and ravens. The alpha male had torn out the heart early on, guarding it between his forepaws. Before leading the hunting party away he took the time to savor his prize.

That's how your readers will pick at your copy. They may read the first paragraphs under the title, then scan down to a subtitle that sounds interesting, tear off a few sentences, scan down again to munch on a few lines under another subtitle. Some bullet points may warrant a quick chew. Then, just before they leave, some will snack on the summary at the bottom for dessert.

A few months ago I came upon a blog post in which the author asked, in the "The Takeaway" summary at the bottom, whether we'd noticed that most of the article was just 'Lorem ipsum' text. I admit, he got me! He had rightly assumed that most of us wouldn't read most of the article and as a test put real content only near the top. and immediately below subheadings.

To make an impression, you want to put your best copy in the first few paragraphs, some more great stuff under the subheadings and wrap it up with a compelling grand finale.

Continued in Part 3 »

Read More

Related Posts
Writing Sales Copy That Converts :: Part 1 of 4
Writing Sales Copy That Converts :: Part 3 of 4
Writing Sales Copy That Converts :: Part 4 of 4

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14 comments on “Writing Sales Copy That Converts (Part 2)”

  1. Hey Cole
    Loved the article man. A bit of reality for us.
    I was just writing something similar to someone the other day - what is in it for me.
    I have read about this issue before, and I am really starting to understand it. After all, we are trying to garner attention or sell something, and doing it with blah blah does not really cut it anymore. People want to know how it helps them solve a problem and what is in it for them.
    Great work

    1. Hi Ashley,

      It is weird how often I'll write something in a post, notify the social networks and then begin commenting on blogs, only to discover that the same topic I felt inspired to write about has been covered by dozens of other writers within the past 48 hours.

      Even a few years ago, I believe people felt they had to suffer through shameless marketing in order to be entertained or receive useful information. Even the content seemed to come from a "we" perspective. It was backed by an agenda we could feel.

      I come from a magazine publishing background and ads would take up roughly half of each publication's real estate. I noticed the other day that even that model is changing with digital media. When digital magazines first came out, they were 'digital copies' of the newsstand versions, with all the advertising. But recently, I'm seeing electronic magazines with perhaps two ads in the entire publication, probably just enough to pay the reduced staff of one or two people that assemble and publish each issue. The content is usually contributed free by writers, in exchange for a link in the bio, and most of it is helpful and devoid of any marketing angle. I've discovered that it's now common for me to spend an hour or two, per issue, checking out the websites of the authors, subscribing to blog feeds, downloading their freemium item in exchange for my email address, following the authors and joining their social networks. We're moving quite a few clients to a new hosting company because of a very helpful article I read on WordPress hosting. And I've discovered that, "If you help me with really useful information, and I believe it would be advantageous to do business with you, I will hunt you down, even without a bio link." No ad I've ever seen had that influence. "You"-focused marketing is powerful.

      Looking forward to your next post...

      - Cole

  2. Hi Cole,

    I agree with all that you've written 🙂

    I think if your content doesn't come in the search engines, you are losing out on all the traffic and how can anyone ever find out what you have written! The importance of keywords cannot be ignored, even though the Google animal updates confuse all of us to a great extent. I guess we try the best ways possible to rank the keywords, and yes, using the right variations is the key factor for it.

    Lol...true - it is all WIIFM!! And if you can give your readers just that, they are bound to leave happily and come back, asking for more.

    Though it saddens my heart, but you are right about readers just roughly scanning our posts - no matter what you write, which I hope isn't the case always! So, unless your post is compelling enough, no one's gonna stay long enough reading it. Yes indeed, the first few lines HAVE to be catchy ones, and so do the sub-headings and the way you end it, or your call to action. I don't think anything else really works - unless you have something in color, or a captivating image.

    Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to the next part. Have a nice weekend, and Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      It will be interesting to see what happens as Google's focus on keywords shifts, under Hummingbird, towards semantic search based upon user intent. I have noticed just recently that some of the software we use in SEO no longer lists keywords searchers used to arrive at our clients' sites because Google is encrypting that information. Today, keywords still matter. By 2015 they may have become a relic of the past. It's a good thing we're adaptable creatures.

      You may have noticed that I had a little fun in this series with "captivating images". Normally, I would choose an image I believe creates interest, but also aligns with the title. As I fleshed out the outline for this series of articles, one of the points was going to be that people don't really read most of the content anyway. I mentioned in this post that one blogger used 'Lorem ipsum' filler text in his post, to see how many people would even notice. I have used images that relate to a story or analogy deeper in the post, but appear to have no connection with the title. My hope was that someone may become curious enough to read the content a little more carefully, to find out what a pump and bucket or wolf eating a carcass could possibly have to do with sales copy. 🙂

      - Cole

  3. Hi Cole,

    These are some great tips for writing sales copy. I just started learning how to write my own. My first one really sucked, no one bought a thing.

    I think that just like anything else it takes practice to get better. Your tips will definitely help someone understand what needs to be included in the sales copy.

    Sure you could always outsource, but I think it's best to learn how to write your own. After all learning how to write compelling copy is extremely beneficial for anyone. Thanks for sharing these tips and I hope you have a great day.

    1. Hi Susan,

      I agree that knowing what makes sales copy convert is good background information for anyone involved in business. Some of the top bloggers do outsource their sales copy when marketing a course or ebook. Selling is not where their expertise lies.

      Sounds like you're very hands on, like me. I find one of the most difficult decisions a business person must make is determining when delegation or outsourcing are the best choice. Over the years I've watched quite a few upstart competitors rise up and surpass my business. While I was trying to build and maintain a working knowledge of all the many facets of a web design/development, SEO and content marketing business, they focused on doing one thing well and hired/outsourced everything else. So I certainly understand where you're coming from. I'm realizing more and more that growth and letting go tend to go hand in hand. For example, I have written code for at least a hundred websites over the years, but just because I can, doesn't mean I should. I'm a visual person and my business always does better when I focus on creative and hire the coders.

      - Cole

  4. Hi Cole

    I must admit I'm not great with keywords. I know it's something I need to work into what I'm doing but I often just forget.

    I'm considering getting some software to help me with finding long tail keywords and that should help the process quite a bit.

    I've always tried to make my writing about the reader and not about me, although it is about my blogging journey! I share with my readers what I've personally learnt that will help them move forward with their blog. I definitely need to think more about selling the benefits and getting to the point though :-).

    1. Hi Tim,

      We've had considerable success with both HitTail and Wordtracker for suggesting keywords. They are particularly useful for locating low hanging fruit, keywords that are heavily searched but for some reason the competition isn't targeting them.

      - Cole

  5. Hi Cole,

    That's excellent content and I want to say that all you're saying here should be obvious for any average copywriter, but I guess it's not always so.

    I've just read a post where the blogger took a very bad email from Verizon and showed us how badly written it was starting with an ugly, long and not interesting subject line. You would think a company that big would have their email marketing together, right? Well, seems that they really don't 🙂

    It's never about the product or the seller, but all about the potential buyer, and if I could tell anyone to remember at least one thing this would be the one.

    1. Hi Sylviane,

      Thanks for your input. You raise an interesting point, that many of the big companies don't handle sales copy and communication very well.

      Our clients are all small businesses and it can be challenging for them to level the playing field against the big companies, because they don't have the budget for a sizable content marketing team. Most large companies are having a hard time detaching from the old idea of advertising "at" their customers. There is an advantage in being small and nimble. It's attention to the fine details of copy, the passion the comes from living and breathing our small enterprise 24/7, and a far more personalized "you" focus that can give our smaller businesses or blogs an edge.

      - Cole

  6. Great article Cole.
    I'm chiming in with Tim about not being oh so great with keywords...especially if it goes hand and hand with the title.
    Because if I want to call my post something that is relevant to the subject at hand - but that doesn't make for a good keyword, it seems to become a choice between what seems authentic and what's designed to bring in readers.
    It's a tough one.
    But I do recognize what you said about the WIIFM. Ultimately, everyone who surfs the web, shops or anything else - they're looking for what's gonna be of value to them.
    As do I 😉

  7. Hi Cole,

    YOU copy is powerful because your audience profits you. We copy, not so powerful. People want you to talk them about, and "them" means lots of you's.

    Gotta stress those benefits. We buy based on benefits, whatever it is that we purchase. Some bloggers forget that we are selling a dream, or some beneficial benefit before anything else.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hey Cole,

    Well you know that I definitely agree with what you've shared here because I preach some of this myself as you very well know. Not along the lines of being an excellent copywriter but the quality content and helping your readers learn what it is they want to know. As you said, it's all about them.

    Now the skimming part I get too. I read a heck of a lot of posts and I'll land on some that it's just hard for me to stick with it so I'll skim. For the most part though, when it's darn good content my eyes are pealed to every single word.

    I wrote a post several months back seriously asking for people's help. I spelled out everything that I needed as plainly as possible and that post alone had almost 200 comments on it with people coming to my aid. Know what the problem was? Most of them didn't read the entire post and were commenting about something that I wasn't needing. Had they read the darn thing they wouldn't have wasted my time. By about comment 75 I was starting to seriously get pissed off. That just proved to me how much people don't read the entire post so that put a very sour taste in my mouth.

    Now about that hunting story, OMG! I know you're using an analogy here and I know that wild animals have to hunt for their food but my goodness. That's just sad Cole. Great point though but sad... Just had to tell ya! 😉

    Thanks for sharing this and great information here. Oh and guess what! I read the whole thing.


    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I personally favor short sales copy for the web, but there are many that still believe in the traditional long sales letter, as popularized by the late David Ogilvy, and more recently by Internet marketing copywriter Corey Rudl. The content has to be spectacularly interesting and well written for someone to read a few thousand words from top to bottom, but long copy still converts incredibly well in those rare instances, particularly when it's supported by sufficient social proof.

      - Cole

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