Selling with Text: Persuading your Audience in Copywriting

The whole point of copywriting is to sell a product or service, which means that any copywriter worth their salt is a master of persuasive writing. If you feel that your writing is lacking lately, or just want to learn how to start, then this article is here to get you back on track.

Features vs. Benefits

In sales, a feature describes something about the product; a benefit explains what the product does Copywriting relies on writing about benefits, not features. Amateur copywriters will focus on the facts, figures and statistics (features), which can be off-putting to readers who will get bored of what is essentially a bullet-pointed list of facts about the products. Good copywriters turn those features into benefits, which makes the reader want to actually buy the product.

If you’re really stuck, make a list of the product features and then, for each one, write what benefit it gives to the consumer. The copy material should be written using the latter information.

The Motivating Sequence

There are a number of formulas used by writers to structure copy and make content that sells. In this article, we discuss the motivating sequence, a five-step formula that will help you produce the best content.

1. Attention

Headlines are there to grab the attention of the reader. There are a number of ways to do this, including different types of headlines. It’s a good idea to include the product’s strongest benefit here, to ensure that you definitely hook the reader.

2. Create a problem

The advert should point out something that the reader is lacking in their lives. The need for the product may not be at the forefront of the audience’s mind, which makes it your job to point out what they’re missing.

3. Solve that problem

Quickly show the reader that your product or service is the solution to the problem you just told them about. It shows that your product can satisfy the needs of the customer, and therefore encourages a purchase.

4. Back up your claim

Now you need to prove that your product does what it says on the tin. Discuss the benefits of the product, use testimonials or show that the product works by using evidence from studies. This gives the reader evidence that your product is reliable and reinforces the idea that it’s something they need.

5. Call to action

Call to Action (CTA) phrases are essential in marketing. Ask the reader to do something after reading the article. Ask them to purchase your product by whatever means necessary and make it easier for them to do so by including the company name, address and phone number in case they have questions. For retail copy, include store locations and opening times. Put order forms in the catalogue. Essentially, you need to make sure the reader knows how easy it is to get their hands on your product.

False Logic

Copywriting sometimes treads on a fine line between facts and deception. This sounds morally worse than it really is. It is the copywriters job to help readers make their own decisions about products by presenting facts. However, a good portion of the time, readers wouldn’t by products if the facts were presented so simply.

For example, a catalogue for Harry & David says “Not one person in 1,000 has ever tasted them” in an ad for pears. To the untrained eye, this makes the product seem luxurious and rare; on the other hand, a logician might say that the pears aren’t very popular.

This is called false logic, a term coined by Michael Masterson. It is used by the top marketers, simply because it’s a very effective technique. Even McDonald’s uses it, promoting their “billions sold” slogan to lead consumers into the logic that, just because something is popular, it must be good. Copywriters must twist facts into statements that make consumers want to buy the product.

Unique Selling Proposition

A Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, is something that your product offers that competing products don’t. There are three requirements for a USP:

  1. A benefit or promise to the reader
  2. An element of uniqueness that differentiates the product from similar ones
  3. The differentiation cannot be minor; it must be important to the reader

So many adverts flop because they fail to create a real USP. It isn’t actually all that hard to come up with a USP, but it does require some thought. A popular method is to find a feature that other products don’t have, but writers often slip up here in that they don’t make the USP significant enough. The USP needs to be something that cannot then also be stressed by the competition.

A long-term method would be to build brand personality. Malboro-man commercials marketed Marlboro as the ‘macho’ cigarette, which differentiated it from other cigarettes based solely on brand impression. This, of course, takes much more time, but it can pay off for large companies.

Target Audience

This might seem an obvious point, but it’s absolutely imperative to know who you’re writing the ad for. Successful salespeople can empathise with their customers, understanding their needs and personality (and even their prejudices). Understanding why the customer would buy your product is key; put yourself in their shoes and consider what would make you want to make the purchase. Copy should please the audience in a way that makes them feel understood and like their needs will truly be met by your product.

Thinking like a consumer is an easy way to write copy that sells. Make sure you know exactly who you’re selling to, and that way you can write copy that sells.

Final Thoughts

Copywriters are, in essence, salespeople. This is why, as a copywriter, you need to be able to know the sales techniques and how to incorporate these into writing. Once you get the hand of it, you can put your sales hat on every time you sit down to type and put yourself in the customer’s head. As long as you develop a unique selling proposition, know your audience and provide them with obvious benefits, you can be writing excellent copy in no time.

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