in marketing

My notes in copywriting

Copywriting is selling with the use of print or online content. It’s the skill you use to make ads, sales letters, commercial video scripts, brochures, and other content. The goal of copywriting is to make sales, not to win awards or please the literary critics. To win sales, we must first understand why people buy.

Figure out what people need and want

First it’s about needs. There are essential things that people can’t live without. We need food, water, and shelter. Second it’s about wants. We want to look and feel good. We also want to get better than the present version of ourselves (or get better than others). We also want to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. We also have problems that we want to get rid of and buying stuff might solve them.

So to become successful in copywriting, we must address the needs, wants, and problems of prospects. A requirement though is that people must be aware of their own needs, wants, and problems first before they become receptive to our offer. For example, your product is a course about investing. Why should people buy that? What problem does it solve? If a person is already wealthy, why should she try to learn more about investing?

Answers to those questions will actually help us make our offers more compelling. When people know their needs, problems, and wants AND they have the means and willingness to buy your products or services – that’s what we call a market. (I learned the concept ABILITY + WILLINGNESS TO PAY from this I Will Teach You to be Rich post)

Once we know our market, we can then craft our offers and ads so that they will align with the customers’ specific problems, needs, and wants. For example, you know that your target market wants hassle-free investing. They don’t want to learn all the technical details. They just want to know how to get started quickly. They also wanted to monitor the returns just once a week. Nothing more. They don’t want to get overwhelmed with much information.

Tell the benefits and make them clear

With those info in mind, we can now create an ad that says something like: “Learn how to set up investment accounts in 3 easy steps with this guide.” That’s it. The offer and benefits are clear. You can further elaborate by saying that they don’t need to watch all the numbers and read all the news to monitor the performance of their investments.

The key here is to knowing the needs of your target customers. Then you simply tell that your product meets those needs. You tell them the benefits and how your product solves their problems. It’s best to keep it simple so customers can easily understand what your offer is.

Aside from directly saying the benefits and solutions, we can also start with reminding the customers about their needs and pain. Many people are already aware about their problems. Maybe it’s just a feeling and they don’t think it’s really a big deal to solve some of their problems. Or maybe they haven’t verbalized their own problems yet.

That’s where we come in. We create an ad or sales letter that reminds them of their problems (or makes them clearer to your customers’ minds). It’s like opening a wound. It doesn’t ache for now so you don’t do anything. But if someone accidentally touches it, the wound really hurts. You reach out for a remedy fast. You want a solution now.

Many ads and sales letters start the same way. When they remind people of the problem, customers feel the pain immediately. And they want to get rid of it right away. As a result they become more receptive to the solution offered. A sense of urgency develops. They want it now because they want to take away the pain immediately.

Remind the problem

We may take it further than just by reminding them of the problem. We can actually help them realize that their problems are much worse than expected. As said earlier, maybe the customers don’t see their problems as a big deal. They’ve been living fine through the years with their seemingly small problems.

I realized this while reading SPIN Selling. For example, people don’t start investing maybe because they think that they can always do it later. But if you tell them that they’re actually losing money right now because they didn’t start earlier might compel them to start right away. You’re now emphasizing the potential loss they’re getting because they haven’t started yet. Again, a sense of urgency develops. People always want to avoid the pain of loss because they realized that the problem is much worse than it seems.

Let’s go back to the “wound analogy.” It’s just a simple wound. But if you say that it can cause severe infections and tons of hospital bills, the person might get more alert. It becomes an urgent and important matter. The same goes with selling (either through online content or in-person). If we can say a few things that will help people realize that there are bigger problems beneath the surface, our offers become more urgent and valuable as well.

After we’ve established the need for our product, it’s time to add credibility to our offer. For many people, it will seem that our ads and sales letters came out of nowhere. Maybe they’re just browsing and doing nothing special in the internet. Or they might just be using Google and typing something, and then they saw your ads above the search results. This means that you and your company is a total stranger to them. For sales to happen, you should establish some level of trust.

Use testimonials

One way to add credibility to your offer is to let others do that for you. Don’t do all the talking. Let some of your satisfied customers do that. You do that by adding testimonials to your site. Your satisfied customers will say something good about your product. Your offer then becomes more believable to your prospects. You gained credibility and added social proof to your offer. (I first encountered the concept about “social proof” from a book by Dr. Robert Cialdini)

Testimonials serve as proof that your product works. People don’t want to make mistakes. They fear they might be making a mistake if they buy your product. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe it will be a waste of money. With testimonials, you alleviate that fear. Your prospects will realize that your product will also work for them because it has already worked for others.

Testimonials can mean the difference between a few sales into thousands of sales. If we have a great product or service, it becomes more important to use testimonials to boost more sales and serve more people. It’s our job now to reach as more people as we can so they could benefit from our great product or service. We’re sure that our product works well but our prospects still have fears. With testimonials, we help them get over that fear and trust our product.

So how do we get testimonials? We can just send a survey to people who have bought our product. We can ask them how our product helped improve their lives, including specific results and the “before picture.” The Perfect Testimonial Framework is like this: The customer says her problem or past belief. Then she mentions the solution (which is your product or solution). Finally, she tells the results (or accomplishments) that she has gotten because she used your product.

The perfect testimonial should relate with your prospects. When it says the problem first, customer will think, “I have the same problem.” Then as you mention the solution and your results, the prospect will think, “This will work for me too.” Customers expect results and one way to make them at ease in buying your product is to show that other people have already achieved some successes with your product.

Become an authority

Another way to add credibility to your offer is by becoming an authority yourself. Or you can also borrow credibility from authority figures and experts. The latter is actually an extension to testimonials. If you can make known people to talk about your product, it adds a lot of credibility juice to your offer.

About becoming an authority yourself, it works well because people trust the experts. We’re more likely to listen to people who have tons of accomplishments. We’re also more likely to listen to people who have already demonstrated their expertise and achieved desirable results. To be perceived as an authority, one way is to tell your accomplishments that are relevant with your current offer. Continuing the ‘investing course’ example, you can say that you’re a successful entrepreneur and investor (if you are really one). People will see that you’re a success on your own in your field. That could serve as another proof that your product works.

Use the power of scarcity

We’ve already covered meeting customers’ needs and solving problems, getting perceived as an authority, and using testimonials. Another thing that can drive more sales is by using the power of scarcity. “Available for a limited time only”, “Only 14 spots left”, and “50% Off until Saturday only” are just a few examples of how marketers use scarcity.

Fear of loss is much stronger than the potential of gain. We hate losing anything. The fear of missing out will make people take urgent action. We also perceive that the less there is of something, the more valuable it becomes. One factor that increases fear of loss is the real limited supplies available. Another is competition. Other people might get it while we just sat back and did nothing.

Now, our prospects are ready to buy. They know the benefits, the solutions to their problems, that our product works for other people, that we’re credible, and they might lose the chance if they don’t buy our products now. Next is that you tell them what to do. You must make call-to-actions or CTAs so that your prospects know what to do next. It’s the big BUY NOW button or CLICK HERE. Without those clear CTAs, the whole ad or sales letter might just serve as a good form of entertainment. Customers won’t buy, even if they really want to.

How to write compelling headlines

Lastly, let’s talk about the headline. Why is this last? If no one reads our sales letters or ads, it doesn’t matter how brilliant or compelling our sales letters are. For our prospects to read our whole ad, they should take interest and click our headlines first. As David Ogilvy said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

How do we write headlines? First let’s keep in mind that the purpose of a headline is to get our first sentence in our sales letter to be read. The headline should also naturally tie in with the whole sales letter. It should be clear and not misleading.

We can make our headlines simple and direct. Just say “Gadgets 70% off” or “8 Channels for the Price of 1.” We can also emphasize the benefit right away just like with our earlier example, “Learn how to set up investment accounts in 3 easy steps with this guide.” We can also make it news-like (because people love reading news). Example, “Introducing an innovative way to…” (You can learn more proven tips at Copyblogger)

Keep in mind that the headline’s purpose is to make the prospects read your sales letter or click the ad. Spend extra time writing your headline. We can also do some A/B testing to know which one works best. It’s just testing for a different versions of our headlines and see which one has the highest conversion rate. Once we’ve known which one’s the best, we can use it again and again to drive more results.

So that’s it. If in any way this article helped you, just share this to your friends and colleagues.

I was inspired to write my notes in copywriting by: