How to write your own sales copy: a 5-step formula

by simon on May 26, 2010

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If you’re selling your own products on the web, or promoting affiliate products, then you need to produce compelling sales copy.

Ideally, you would hire a professional copywriter to do this for you. But what if you can’t afford one, and simply have to produce your own sales page?

How hard is it? Not too hard, providing you can write a decent sentence or two.

In this post, I’m going to give you a five step formula for producing sales copy for use on the web. It’s not the final word in copywriting, but if you simply want to produce an effective sales page, this will get you started.

You’ve set out the problem, shown why other attempts to solve it went wrong, painted a picture for what life could be like if only it would go away, and demonstrated that your product is the true solution. Now tell them to buy it.

To start with, why would you write your own sales copy instead of going to a professional? Because copywriters are expensive. I should know, I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter for more around 13 to 14 years. Most of my work is for large companies, businesses with marketing teams and budgets and such like.

If you’re promoting a new business, or simply setting yourself up to sell some stuff online, bringing in a professional copywriter is likely to be one expense you’d rather avoid.

Don’t worry, I understand. I won’t take it personally.

So, you’re going to write your own sales page. Where do you start? With your audience.

1. Hey, what’s your problem?

Your product or service has been designed to solve a particular problem, a pain or a predicament that your audience faces. They may not know they have this problem, in which case you’ll need to let them know that they do. Or they may need reminding what a pain in the **** the problem can be in their lives.

As the writer, you should jot down what these problems are. Your headline and opening paragraphs are going to address this problem.

2. Why hasn’t someone solved this already?

So, your audience has a problem. Hopefully, (for your sales and marketing efforts), there are lots of people who share this pain, this predicament. So why hasn’t someone done anything about it yet? Why have previous efforts to solve this fallen by the wayside?

What’s wrong with those previous efforts? Why does the problem persist? Why won’t it go away?

3. If only

The next step is to ask what life could be like for your audience if this problem could be solved. Could their teeth be whiter and their smile brighter? Could they become smarter, richer, happier? Generalisations are OK, but it’s better if you can be more specific.

As the writer, you should make notes about all the ways your audience could benefit from your product or service. Think broadly. Think visually. Picture how the person’s life or circumstances could change for the better. Are there ways you can paint that picture with your words, so they can see it too?

4. What’s new?

So, the audience has a problem, it won’t go away, but if only it would, then life could be so much better. What’s new? Your product or service, that’s what. Now is the time to explain what is new and different about what you have to offer, how it can help them to finally overcome the problem and reap the benefits you set out in step three.

Make a note of what is truly different about your product, and why it changes the game as far as this particular problem is concerned.

5. Do this

You’ve sold them by now. You’ve set out the problem, shown why other attempts to solve it went wrong, painted a picture for what life could be like if only it would go away, and demonstrated that your product is the true solution.

Now tell them to buy it. Really. Don’t be shy about this. Tell people exactly what you want them to do. Do you want them to sign up, give your their email address, press the buy button, ring you? Whatever it is, make it clear.

How to write sales copy – a few more pointers

So there you have it, a five point plan for creating your own sales copy. But before you go, I’d like to point you in the direction of a few other posts I think you should read before you start to write.

First of all, be sure to read my post on how to write scannable web copy.

Check out some advance techniques for writing to persuade

Brush up your sales psychology with how to motivate anyone

And once you’re done, make sure you review the techniques for checking that your sales copy is on target

Incidentally, if you’re writing sales copy for someone else and need to interview them to get at the information you need, then this five point plan can also be a good way to structure an interview.

You can also use this as a way of testing the marketing viability of a product or service. For example, if your product doesn’t really solve a problem for someone, or doesn’t have anything new or different about it, then that’s a major obstacle. Maybe you have the wrong idea. Or you might need to change your product, adapt it to make sure it meets real needs and solves a problem that no one else is tackling.

Photo by Hilarywho via Flickr.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

john August 18, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Great work. I just love it when I come across people like yourself who are truly into just helping people become writers. I’ve always been interested in writing and getting my head round it, the NLP side and trying to construct the perfect Landing Page or web page with all the elements to maximize the sale and keep the reader “nailed to the page” as I once saw it referred to (I like that phrase). I subscribed to your RSS and I’m gonna buy your book too!

great work – cheers

Reply

Simon August 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

John, that’s what we like to hear, someone who’s off to buy an ebook! If you’re into the NLP side of things, keep an eye out for my next ebook, which should be on the site in a few days. It’s called the ‘Courageous Writing Workbook,’ and is designed to help people get over the blocks, specifically the fears, that can make writing difficult.

Reply

Hilary Harper September 22, 2010 at 5:46 pm

My photo looks nice on this page and I’m glad that you like it. Could you please attribute it to me – Hilarywho – and possibly also link it to my Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/hilarywho Thanks!

Reply

Simon September 23, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hilary

Thanks for your comment

There is already an attribution and a link to your Flickr page on the blog post. I’m careful to always include these, as a courtesy to the photographers who release their work under Creative Commons licence.

The attribution comes right at the end of the article. I admit that this is not ideal, but it is about the only place to put it.

Part of the problem is the Wordpress blog platform, which doesn’t treat pictures very well at all. I can never find a way to include picture captions where they really should go, right under the photo.

So I put the attributions at the end of the article. I hope that is OK for you. If you are not happy with that, then please let me know and if necessary I’ll remove your photo.

Reply

Kelly October 1, 2011 at 5:56 am

Simon,
That was a great, well formulated yet concise article that I enjoyed every bit of reading. It was so informative and easy to read, which gives me hope that I can learn something from you and apply it. Thank you.

Reply

Jerusalem February 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Great article! I’m finishing my first book which happens to be a workbook for writing wedding speeches. I’m looking for all the help I can get to market it. Thanks for your help and keep up the good work!

Reply

Serenite February 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Thank you Simon for this consise and effective article. As I started working on my sales letter, it felt more natural (better flow) to put step4 before step3. Is it ok to do that or should i keep the initial order. Thanks for your help.

Reply

simon February 28, 2013 at 11:31 am

Serenite – I guess it all comes down to details and the nature of what you are writing about. The order given is the natural, logical order, but don’t hesitate to move it around to suit the circumstances. A formula always has to be flexible.

Reply

professional designers March 19, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Howdy! I know this is kid of off topic but
I was wondering which blog platform are you
using for this website? I’mgetting sick and tired of Wordpress because I’ve had
issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
I would be great if you cpuld point me in the direction of a good platform.

Reply

simon March 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I’m using WordPress myself, so can’t really recommend any alternatives. I’m hardly an expert on such issues, though. I hear Joomla is good, but might be overkill for a simple blog.

Reply

Princewill Ejikeme April 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Great job! You’ve really done a good job by writing and sharing this post. I’ve actually been looking for this information, and am very excited i found it at the right time, because am considering starting a copywriting business. Kudos, for sharing this timely post.

Reply

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