The Rules for Writing Copy That Sells

So you’re trying your hand at writing your own copy, but not sure how to take it from good to great and words to sales? Well we’ve got some tried and true rules for you to follow that will help you write copy that is by definition, compelling.

Brevity and clarity are essential to ensure that your message is digestible. This is the only way to get your words actually read. That being said, the clearest, most concise copy ever written is still a bust if it doesn’t compel its readers to act.

All compelling copy has one thing in common. It fascinates its target audience and drives them to pull the trigger on your call to action, which is the whole point of it. How does it do this? By capturing their attention, discovering a pain they’re desperate to ease, and presenting a mutually valuable, solution-driven call-to-action.

The good news is this can be taught! So today, we are going to break it down for you:

How to Write Copy That Sells

Before you start work on the next company newsletter, try some of the tips below. Working through them will take some effort, but it will be worthwhile when you walk away knowing exactly how to frame your message to achieve the best response.

1) Get to know your target market.

The most effective fishermen vary their bait depending on the fish they aim to catch. They know that bass, for example, go after earthworms but that salmon is attracted to something much different. Fishermen also adjust their technique depending on the time of day, the water conditions, and the season. They soak up as much information as possible about the fish and it’s environment, ultimately using what they’ve learned to successfully lure a fish.

When you want to put on your copywriter hat and attract customers to click on your call to action then you’ll need to behave like a fisherman. Learn as much as you can about your target before casting your message. By doing this you’ll be able to highlight enticing benefits throughout your copy.

To accurately and efficiently isolate your target prospect’s problems (which will illuminate the benefits most fascinating to them) start by answering a series of questions about their personal background, their company and the position they hold, and their challenges, goals, and shopping preferences. In other words, a persona or defined target market As a result, you’ll amass an abundance of invaluable information that you can then use to attract attention and inspire action.

2) Exploit the idea of exclusivity.

If you want more buzz than a bee’s nest make your prospect feel special. Tell them they’ve been “randomly picked” to receive your offer. Isolate them … in the best way possible. Make them feel important.

In an article for Fast Company, Robert Rosenthal points us to this U.S. Marines tagline: “The Few. The Proud.” And this American Express tagline: “Membership has its privileges.”

Google has played the exclusivity card, too, creating a frenzy when they launched a soft beta of Google+ and invited select users to create a profile. Google’s marketing team wasn’t trying to be mean, they were trying to create desire (that compels) out of thin air. And they succeeded. Psychology’s good for that.

3) Get emotional.

When it comes to converting a prospect, the features of your product or service will only get you so far. This is because features only appeal to your prospect’s logical brain and purchases aren’t driven by logic. They are all about emotion, which explains why good commercials make us want to laugh or cry or pick up the phone to call home.

4) Create analogies and metaphors.

A confusing message is rarely compelling, mostly because people don’t pay much attention to what they don’t think is valuable. Value is a major human driver throughout all aspects of life. Therefore, when writing copy, your job is to first and foremost figure out the value in what you’re selling and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words.

The latter is almost always harder to do. And if you’re new to writing copy, it may feel almost impossible, like trying to thread a needle while wearing hockey gloves (see what we did there?). That’s where analogies and metaphors can lend a hand. They’re especially effective at putting concepts into perspective.

Keep this in mind: you’re doing your reader a favour by helping them experience your offer in a new, descriptive, and interesting way.

5) Stay away from weasel words.

‘Weasel words’ are used when people want their statements to maintain some believable deniability. Politicians trying to avoid making any definitive comments, for instance, would use weasel words. Copywriters use them a lot, too, especially if their product’s promise is weak or loose. For example:

  • “Viva Hand Cream fights dryness.” (i.e., you might not win.)
  • Reduce hair loss with Thick & Lush!” (i.e., you won’t cure it.)
  • “Rent from as little as…” (i.e., you’re probably going to spend more.)

These words are named after weasels because of the way the little guys eat their eggs: puncturing a small hole and sucking out the contents, leaving the egg appearing intact but, nevertheless, very much empty. Ever held an empty egg? It’s fragile and delicate, right? Given the slightest bit of pressure, if feels like it would collapse.

Is that how you want your copy to come across? Weak and listless, like ants floating in a puddle? Of course not. So avoid the weasel words when you can. Your writing will be stronger, more authoritative, and more compelling for it.

6) Create a sense of urgency.

The more relaxed and comfortable we are physically, the less eager we are to move. Nobody plops down in their favourite recliner, puts their feet up, cracks a beer, and thinks, I can’t wait to get up. That doesn’t happen. People don’t like moving when they’re in a comfy position.

The same goes for people in a comfortable state of mind. So, if your copy leaves readers with the impression that your offer will always be there, patiently waiting for them to pull the trigger, they may use that as a justification to not convert on your call-to-action. They’ll sleep on it, consider their options, and weigh the pros and cons. After all that, they may very well do nothing at all because you gave them the chance to talk themselves out of it.

So remember, always create some urgency. Set a deadline, using time-sensitive language like “This offer ends tomorrow,” or “Last chance,” or “These savings won’t last.” You can also play the scarcity card, reminding them that “There are only a few seats left” or that “Supplies are limited.”

Make your target market feel uneasy about waiting. Strange as it sounds, the more uncomfortable they are, the more likely it is they’ll be compelled to act.

7) Tailor your Call To Action.

When you want more rice at Mad Mex, just ask.

When you want a ten and two fives back instead of a twenty, go ahead and ask.

When you look at them and realise you want to spend your life with them, ask.

You have to ask. Whether you’re at Max Mex, in line at the grocery store, or in love, if you want something, typically, you have to ask for it. Why would copy be any different? That’s why a call to action, is one of the most compelling elements your copy can possess — as long as it’s well-executed.

In other words, don’t settle for the standard “Click now” copy every time. Instead, strive to make your calls to action simple and powerful; creative and forthright. For example:

  • “Start your free trial now”
  • “See how it works”

So now everyone will be compelled?

Sorry, that is not quite how it works. You’ll try hard and attract more people than last time but you’ll never get everyone. Don’t get discouraged though! Copywriting is honed over time. So keep trying. Practice these tips and over time, you’ll steadily compel more people to take action more often. Until one day, these techniques will become second nature to you.

Not sure you’re quite ready to get started? Understanding your target market is the first step. Check out this blog post for some great insights.