Copy can boost your sales by 19.5x on the same offer.
Think about that for a second: the same price, the same features, the same benefits and the same product can create average sales, or… Simple changes to copy can boost the bottom line by 19.5x. That’s huge. And it’s directly from the mouth of John Caples, the great copywriter and ad man. He tested every headline and promise he wrote to see what worked and what didn’t. That’s all well and good, but I’m sure you’re asking… “How do I actually sit down and write better copy?” It’s much easier than you think. But first you need to lay the foundation and get into the right frame of mind. Switch your mindset and use these five simple guidelines next time you sit down to write your copy:
- You Don’t Matter
- Find the Pain
- Map The Buyer’s Journey
- Build Your Bridge
- Create One Clear Action
1. You Don’t Matter
Plain and simple, your business writing is not about you. This is by far the most important axiom of any copywriter. The reason? Because you’re selling to other people and therefore what they need and want is much more important than you. How many times have you read copy like this? “The mission of ABC company is to deliver the highest level of customer service by providing innovative products and services unmatched in the marketplace. Our world-class staff is the best because we treat them well so they deliver the best to our customers. We have been in business for eight years serving clients in various industries like…” No one cares. Contrast that to the primary message on Basecamp’s home page: Do you see the difference? Basecamp writes from the perspective of the person who is experiencing the pain points that will push them to buy a subscription to their project management software. Use the word “you” to speak directly to your prospects and customers. After all, you’re providing a product or service to them, and you’re asking for their money in exchange. For example, I have an ideal customer profile called Michelle the Info Marketer. Michelle is 35 and runs her own coaching business. She does well financially, but she’s short on time and her business has plateaued. She’d love higher-paying, more interesting clients and more time with her three-year-old. Would you sell to Michelle based on money or time? Trick question: both, but ultimately time will be the most important factor. Now it’s your turn to build an ideal customer profile. It’s okay to have more than one, but no more than three. Once you have an ideal customer in mind, speak directly to them in all of your copy. They’re so much more important than you are! Take this action: Build an ideal customer profile.
2. Find the Pain
Use this thought experiment to find your ideal customer’s pain points: Right after you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and pretend you are your ideal customer. Ask yourself a few questions while you’re putting yourself in their shoes:
- What’s on your mind in the morning? In the afternoon? When you end your workday?
- How do you prepare for your workday?
- What triggers your stress or makes you upset?
- What do you read and who do you see as credible?
- What are the things that you need to accomplish?
Answering these questions will help you understand the pain that your prospects and customers are facing. Understanding their pain should go far beyond just your product or service, because you’ll often find that things you least expected are the biggest motivators for people to buy from you. For example, a test prep and tutoring business was selling their services on the merits of its tutors. The problem is that everyone in the tutoring business advertises that their tutors have the best credentials, got the highest test scores, the highest graduate degrees, etc. They needed to do something else to stand out. When I interviewed their customers, I found that the biggest benefit was the confidence their tutors instilled in students. The pain isn’t just low grades and test scores. It’s low confidence. The copy I wrote followed this line of thought. I emphasized that tutors would contribute to higher test scores, but also contribute to their students’ confidence. With more confidence, students could take on any test. Here’s another example from Adroll: They’re showing a pain that their ideal customers have — mediocre conversion rates — and highlighting it by suggesting retargeting could make the difference. Excellent copy indeed. Action steps: Identify customer and prospect pain with surveys and direct conversations.
3. Map the Buyer’s Journey
Everyone goes through a process before they make a decision to buy. The same is true for your customers and prospects. The more you understand their process, the more likely you are to give them what they need along the way. A typical buyer’s journey looks like this:
- Awareness of problem
- Awareness of solutions
- Research and compare solutions
- Refer and recommend
Your job is to write out the process of how your buyers make their decisions. For example, if someone has a headache they become aware of a problem (the headache!). Where do they turn for solutions? How do they compare the solutions? The answers will inform how you approach your marketing and the copy you write. You see, copywriting is a vital factor in every step, but let’s just focus on #1 of the buyer’s journey. It’s okay to remind your prospects of their pain and then illustrate how you’ll help them solve it. Video hosting company Wistia does this well by describing a core feature: They remind their prospects that people watch, skip and re-watch videos. Using their software to determine how your video content is received will tell you more about which content to create in the future. They even show you how you’ll quickly solve this pain with their highly visual charts and heat maps. Brilliant. Take this action: Complete a buyer’s journey worksheet for your business (you can download a worksheet at the end of this post).
4. Build Your Bridge
Now that you’ve researched your ideal customer’s pain points and buying journey, it’s time to build your marketing so it meets your prospects along the way. That means anticipating their questions and answering them exactly where they need to be met. The idea is simple: Build a bridge between where your prospects are and where they want to be. You’ll need to do this in several ways. The first, and most important way, is through your website, email and the content that you deliver. For example, look at the Ontraport demo offer copy: This landing page meets prospects at a relatively early stage. It defines Ontraport’s essential value proposition: “Save time and money by automating your small business.” The demo is also positioned as a Strategy Session rather than as the typical “Let Us Show You How Awesome Our Software Is.” Why? Because Ontraport is showing you they’re focused on their customers. Starting with the demo page on their website, they build a bridge to prospects through a demo and discovery call, content resources and a series of emails to gauge buying intent and timing. Here’s a little secret about building a funnel to meet your prospects on their buying journey: it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, keep it simple to start and let the funnel grow organically. When I started, I had only a website that I put up in an evening. My funnel looked like this:
- Direct outreach / referral
- Web visit
- Contact form completion or phone call
- Direct sales
Now that I have more content and much better understanding of both my prospects and their buying journey, my funnel looks like this:
- Webinars / blog posts / teaching events / direct outreach / referral
- Email signup and/or download
- Email outreach
- Email newsletter
- Three-part lead nurturing campaign
- Contact form completion or phone call
- Direct sales
Not only have I increased the number of steps, I’ve also increased the number of channels I use. The bottom line: more ways to bring in new business. Take this action: Create a funnel with the essential steps you need to connect the buyer’s journey to your own sale.
5. Create One Clear Action
Now that you’ve done all of this work, you’re ready to get down to the bottom line. That is, write copy that gets people to take action. Before you write anything, write out the goal that you want people to take. Here are a few example goals to get you started:
- Sign up for newsletter
- Download whitepaper
- Click through to sales page
- Watch video
- Buy a product
Here’s a look at how I do it for my own content: As you can see, I literally write out the goal of every piece of copy that I write. Even this pro sometimes forgets what he set out to do. Don’t let it happen to you! Here’s another example from Brennan Dunn’s recent Double Your Freelance Clients course: There are so many things he could ask you to do, but the one thing he really wants you to do is sign up for his course. And it’s exceedingly obvious: he clearly follows this rule. Take this action: Write out the specific action you want your readers to take.
Get started with better copy by taking these few actions and you’ll be able to write better copy every time. Making these simple changes in your mindset will create changes to your bottom line. Take these actions and you’re set up for success:
- Build an ideal customer profile.
- Identify customer and prospect pain.
- Map the buyer’s journey.
- Create your funnel.
- Write with an action in mind.
About the author:
Liston Witherill is a marketing strategist and Chief Creative at Good Funnel. He helps tech and info businesses understand their customers to sell more and studies persuasion, pricing, positioning and automation to help businesses hit the hockey stick – or at least come close to it. Liston has a MS in Environmental Science and a BA in Political Science and Economics. He’s an environmentalist and hip-hop artist, too – but that’s a different story.