How To Write Content That Sells – The Tactics

April 30, 2018 Carol Forden

Marketing today is all about content, and it’s content that is well written that produces a connection with your audience that drives sales.  This is commonly known as copywriting, or content that is intended to sell.

Copywriting is key in the conversion process and for customer engagement.  It can make or break your entire content strategy.

Copywriting is not…

Regular writing.

Literature, a research paper or an article.

Flowery prose or fluffy text that doesn’t address the target audience problem.

Copywriting is…

Persuasive writing.

Writing with purpose.

Persuading consumers to take action.

The action can be a purchase, subscription or opt-in to a newsletter.

It’s magic.

It’s critical to ensure that your marketing strategy converts.

Copywriting is used in many forms randing from:

  • Sales pages
  • Email marketing
  • ebooks
  • Web copy
  • Brochures
  • Business ads
  • White papers

How to Write Content That Sells

How To Write Content That Sells

Let’s take a deep drive into the tactics on how To Write Content That Sells.

No product or service will ever sell itself, that takes copy.

And good copy that converts.

As Smashing Magazine reported, good copywriting can “increase search traffic by 50 percent and conversion rates by 30 percent.”

Words work, words are emotions.

Words matter and determine your success.  When a consumer lands on your web page or opens your email, the copywriting decides how long you can hold their attention and how they feel about your product.

Today, the average consumers’ average attention span is 8 seconds – 1 second less than a goldfish. It’s 4 seconds SHORTER than it was in 2000 and still falling as we are bombarded with ads, videos and more every day.

How do you keep a consumer on your landing page or website?  Copywriting that engages and captures their attention can change this and expand the time spent on page.

For the average web page, users will have time to read about 28% of the words on a page during an average visit; 20% is the average read.

A good copywriter won’t waste words.

Every sentence is written to draw readers in and move them deeper down the marketing funnel — even in an 8-second attention span.

So, how do you write this attention-grabbing, conversion-making copy that captures attention and sells?

Its little things that add up. For example, when you give people a reason why they should sign up. Simply adding the word “because” was found to increase agreement from 60% to 94% in a study. (Robert Cialdini)

Know Your Product. Intimately, Inside and Out.

You will never be able to overcome an inferior product with great content.  If your product is inferior or poor quality, stop and take the time to fix it.

Once you are assured that the product quality is exceptional, you now need to qualify why your product is so great and how it benefits your target audience.

A quick exercise for this is to write a few short, concise sentences that qualify the product or service:

  • What does your product do to solve their problem?
  • What makes it unique?
  • What makes it unique?
  • What are other benefits there for your target audience?

Now take these statements and make a feature/benefit chart.

The chart will make up a large percentage of your finished copy, so spend the amount of time needed, this is not where you want to rush the task.

For example, an auto dealer would have this on their chart:

Feature: We sell cars

Benefit: No matter where you need to go, we can get you there in style

Know Your Audience. Intimately, What Motivates Them, What Problem Are They Trying To solve.

To persuade and convince your target audience, you have to get inside their heads.

You need to understand how your product fits with their motivations and desires and addresses their problems.

This starts with the buyer persona (age, gender, family status, location, hobbies, occupation, etc.) and does a deeper dive into what motivates them.

How would they describe your product?

Why did they ultimately decide to buy?

What features are most important to them?

Once you know who your target audience is, you know what they’ll be willing to buy to solve their problem and how to persuade them to act.

Take a mini food chopper.

The product isn’t for everyone. It appeals specifically to people who like to cook, want to chop vegetables, fresh spices or meats in rapid order. Fresh ingredients matter to this person along with a need for speed or dicing. A knife and cutting board won’t cut it.

Knowing this information, a copywriter will use action words and keep it quick, concise and to the point.  This type of individual is in the market for a product to solve their problem; they don’t want to waste time on wordiness.

By highlighting features — fast, fresh ingredients chopped how you need them, anywhere, anytime — without a hassle  — they can capitalize on their targets wants and more efficiently persuade them to purchase.

A Killer Headline Is A Must

Follow the 8-second attention span rule?

If you want to garner — and keep — your target audience’s attention, you need to deliver an opening they can’t escape from. This is called a hook.

A hook can be a headline of a blog post, subject line of an email or a greeting above the fold on a website.

According to Copyblogger, some of the best copywriters of all time recommend spending 50 percent of the entire time it takes to write persuasive content on the headline.

There is no discounting the importance of the hook.  As Copyblogger notes, 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, and 20 percent will read the balance of the article or copy.

People read headlines, and most aren’t intriguing, engaging or well-crafted to get them to read more of the article.

To avoid this, focus on the “Four U’s” of headline writing:

  1. Your headline should be ultra-specific.
  2. Your headline should be useful.
  3. Your headline needs to convey a sense of urgency.
  4. Your headline needs to be unique.

Just improving your headline by including only one or two of the ‘four U’s” will help your headlines hook readers.

The other critical section of a headline, it the subheadline or the sentence right under the headline. A good headline will grab attention; the right opening sentence will engage and inspire them to read more.

How To Write Content That Sells

Health insurance is tedious, frustrating and confusing; Oscar does a great job of making it friendly and open. Using the power of words alone, Oscar has the potential to get a lot of positive attention.

The copy is unique and tells the reader exactly what to expect while staying short and engaging.

The CopyWriting Formula That Will Set You Apart

With a new or renewed understanding of your target audience and product features and benefits that are important to use as features in your copy.  Let’s go through what your overall goal is.

What are you trying to accomplish with your copy?

A sale?

An opt-in to your email list?

Adding a subscriber to your blog or newsletter?

What emotions and thoughts do you want people to experience when they read it?

Inspired, entertained, educated or excited?

Once you’ve answered these critical questions not its time to answer a few vital questions with your copy.

Copyblogger has pulled together a helpful 1-2-3-4 formula:

  1. What is the product — a simple overview of your product
  2. What does the product or service do for you — here’s where you wow with the product benefits
  3. Who are we? — The introduction phase; this is where you establish your authority and trustworthiness
  4. What to do next — the call-to-action

This formula, when added to one of the copywriting techniques we’ll go into detail on below, will be the framework for writing compelling content that engages and sells.

Copywriting Techniques

The Science of Persuasion

To persuade people, you have to understand what motivates people to act and buy.

Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, outlined six steps to incorporating persuasion into copywriting:

  1. The act of Reciprocity – if you give someone something (free in-depth educational information in the form of blogs, emails, and similar) people are more willing to give something back in return.
  2. Scarcity – The fear of missing out, or FOMO.  Consumers want to know what’s unique about your product, and why they will lose if they are not purchasing or using it. Use limited time or quantity or exclusive offers to draw customers in.
  3. Authority and Credibility– People listen to authority and credibility. By being an expert and providing facts and examples, consumers will be more likely to listen and ultimately trust your advice.
  4. Consistency – Consumers stay with what they know, and are comfortable with. Ask for small commitments, like an email or newsletter enrollment, or participation in a social media group.
  5. Likability – Once you’ve honed in on your target audience, you can talk to them in the language style they are most likely to respond to and engage with.
  6. Consensus — Consumers tend to trust what is popular. Try to use endorsements and testimonials in your copy.

If you want to learn more about these principles, review this video by Dr. Cialdini.

These techniques are the some of the best aspects of incorporating psychology into your marketing, and content.  Each brings you one step closer to speaking the language of persuasion in your copy.

A good example is how Spotify leveraged the scarcity principle or FOMO by making the service invite-only when they launched.

How To Write Content That Sells

The strategy and its copy made the service appear exclusive, which makes its audience want it that much more.

On the other hand, you’ll find that many marketing, B2B, and the better B2C companies — use the reciprocity principle, giving away in-depth educational information and do-it-yourself posts to engage and educate their target audience.

How To Write Content That Sells

Storytelling

The oldest rule in storytelling is show, don’t tell.  The same rule that you had in kindergarten with show and tell.

A good copywriter understands this and is tuned into the fact that you don’t want to tell your readers about your product and it features, you want them to experience it.

Imagine reading copy that says “this hamburger is delicious,” verses describing it regarding a thick, juicy, charcoal flavor” with grill marks and melting cheese that oozes out the side of the bun.

Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?

You need to describe your product or service in a way that puts the reader in the restaurant, seeing the burger, smelling it, tasting it, mouth-watering as they wait for the first bite into the hamburger.

Take a look at ManCrates they do a remarkable job of this.

The description of the Cow-Pocalypse Crate speaks directly to their target audience, “manly man,” who is the exact guy most likely to purchase a crate full of meat. By using copy that forms an emotional connection, the buyer feels understood, and he’s more likely to buy.

If you don’t know your target audience, and what they want and desires are this strategy will fail every single time.

Focus on Benefits; No One Cares About Features

Now, let’s review your feature/benefit list from earlier in this article.

Great content focuses on what your company offers your target audience, and why they should choose you over a million others market options.

This is why you need to focus on and sell them on the benefits — what they gain from using your product or service.

Take a look at how Basecamp sells the benefits of their product offering:

Basecamp does a great job of focusing on benefits

They focus on benefits.

You don’t hear or read any mention of the features, such as “it stores information, sends notifications and is easy to learn.” The focus is exclusively on the benefits of using their service and product.

So what is more useful for you personally, reading boring features or benefits and how they make you more effective in your job?

Keep it Conversational

Here’s where most people get stuck: copywriting needs to be human and relatable, it doesn’t have to be witty or humorous.

It can beespecially when storytelling — however if it doesn’t come naturally, it won’t be sincere and this is not where you should spend most of your time.

Take the MailChimp homepage for example:

Quick, to the point, and extremely effective.

Action and Power Words are a Must– And Tweak Them Often

How you describe things can have a significant impact on how people feel about them; not all words are created equal or have the same effect.

Take a look at the following sentences:

This simple process yields great results.

This easy process yields enormous results.  

There is nothing wrong with the word ‘easy,’ but it brings the connotation of shortcuts, incomplete work or subpar performance, while ‘simple’ has a minimalist feel. Same with ‘great’ and ‘enormous.’

The time effort and attention that you put into everything you write will pay off.

In fact, U.K. shoe company Schuh  and Write My Site “found that altering its product page call-to-action from ‘Buy now’ to ‘Add to bag’ led to a 17% increase in shopping cart size to their check-out.”

Brands that are creative and do not stick with the status quo such as, Buffer don’t use the typical boring “Upgrade Now” call-to-action (CTA). Instead, they use phrases such as:

Upgrade to Awesome”

Tiny tweak like this makes the CTA that more unique and intriguing; making a significant difference in overall engagement.

Stats Sell

No one like bragging in any context or form.  And it’s not good form for copywriting either.

If you have impressive numbers and can back it up with data, share it; readers are curious.

An excellent example of this is Unbounce one of the leading landing page software company.  Unbounce has the data to back up the claim:

“We were able to A/B test our conversion rate from a 5% all the way up to 20%. We did this without driving any more traffic; our client is getting four times the leads that they were getting before.”

If you’re looking for landing page software, it’s precisely what you want to hear from your vendor.  While this may not appeal to someone who is not in the market for landing page software, it has great emotional appeal to those that are.

It conveys confidence and results.

Wrapping It Up – A Few Tips and Tricks

A few closing tips to keep in mind as you write:

  • Write in short, clear sentences. Avoid anything overlong or cliche.
  • Use a combination of bullets and paragraphs; with white space.
  • Speak simply. If your reader even thinks about consulting a dictionary, you’ve lost them
  • Double and triple check to assure that there are no grammar or spelling errors
  • Explain all products and directions clearly — don’t be afraid to state the obvious
  • The tone needs to be consistent throughout your website, landing pages and on all marketing material

Get Started Now

It doesn’ t take a world-class writer to write effective, persuasive copy that drives results.

With a good foundation and a clear understanding of your product or service, your target audience and the benefits your product brings.

Another good reference is “Facts Tell, But Stories Sell – Great Brands are Storytellers.”

Ideally, you can add the techniques above into your copywriting to make your content as compelling for your target audience as possible.

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