What is effective sales copy? What do we mean by that?

First things first:

Cutting corners is not allowed.

To pad your bank accounts with effective sales copy and marketing collateral, there are five steps to follow.

Each step flows logically to the next. All steps are equally important. Skipping any step only guarantees your copy will fall flat and fail to convert. It pays to be thorough and methodical.

These five steps are crucial for powering your businesses:

1. Research Your Business, Industry and Target Market

There are two types of knowledge:

  • General Knowledge
  • Expert Knowledge

We all have general knowledge of many topics. But general knowledge only scratches the surface. In other words, we know just a little bit about almost everything.

But we don’t know everything about any one topic unless we are an expert in that particular topic. Knowing everything about one topic is expert knowledge.

A great copywriter needs both general and expert knowledge.

General knowledge helps with creativity and conjuring up relevant stories based on life experience.

Expert knowledge about a particular topic helps with persuasive writing about the subject matter.

The T-Shaped Knowledge Diagram

The horizontal portion, breadth of cross-discipline competence, is general knowledge about many topics. The vertical portion, depth of discipline expertise, is expert knowledge about one topic.

pain points

An average copywriter may not have the required expert knowledge about your industry.

A good copywriter will know at least some things about your industry.

A great copywriter, however, will strive to become an expert by filling in the gaps in his or her expert knowledge of your industry.

It is important for a copywriter to research everything about your product, service, and target market — before writing a single word of sales copy, especially for technical products and services.

Understanding technical products and services takes a lot of research and expert knowledge. Technical knowledge is difficult to obtain, often only through several years of study or career experience.

There are two approaches to researching a product, service and target market:

Top-down approach:

Start with researching the big picture, progressively zeroing down on the finer points of the specific product you are selling.

  1. Research the entire industry first. How does it work?
  2. Dig up information about the target market you want to sell to:
    • What are their demographics?
    • Where do they spend their time online?
    • What publications or websites do they subscribe to?
  3. How do companies in this industry address the problems and pain points of the target market?
  4. Look at the product or service offering:
    • How is the offer different from what other companies are selling?
    • Does the product or service fulfill unmet needs?
    • What are its unique selling points, if any?

Bottom-up approach:

Instead of the top-down approach, start by researching the product itself. Then work your way up to the big picture.

  1. Look at the needs this product is supposed to fulfill. Make a list of its benefits.
  2. Find the pain points of the target market. Are they a good match for the product’s benefits?
  3. Compare and differentiate this product with other products already on the market.
    • Do you find anything unique about the product you are selling?
    • Is there a need that is currently not being met?

The best approach depends on the nature of the product, industry and whether you use a B2B or B2C sales strategy. The top-down approach may be better suited for B2B, while the bottom-up approach might work better with B2C.

Once you have gained expert knowledge about the product, how it works and how it benefits your prospects, and how to reach your target market, you are ready to take the next step.

2. Find the Biggest Problems and Pain Points of Your Ideal Customer

Knowing the pain points of your target customers is vital to writing effective sales copy. Although this ties into researching the target market, this goes a little deeper. Once you have the demographics of your target market, define your ideal customer.

Imagine you’re having lunch with your ideal customer. Visualize this person telling you about the problems he or she is facing. List these problems and dig deeper. Restate each problem multiple times in different ways using different words.

Are these problems really the biggest pain points? Or are these just minor complaints from a handful of nitpicky customers?

Check online reviews. Pay attention to the neutral and negative ones. Even positive reviews may contain useful and constructive feedback.

Comb social media under relevant hashtags for common themes about a particular problem, suggestions “for future improvements”, or angry complaints written out of frustration.

Condense these complaints, suggestions, and feedback into one concise sentence about a particular problem. That is a pain point.

There may be more than one pain point. The more the merrier! Your product or service should be able to address these pain points. Once you have a pain point that other companies aren’t explicitly addressing in their marketing copy, you’ve got a potential winner and a money maker.

3. Dig Up the Best Keywords to Improve Your Search Engine Rankings

No copywriter should go without a comprehensive keyword research tool. And I’m not talking about the free google keyword tool.

Some keyword tools I like to use include SEM RushMOZ, and Long Tail Pro. With these tools I find keywords relevant to your business that aren’t so difficult to rank on, yet drive enough search traffic to make it worthwhile.

Avoid trying to rank on one-word base keywords. They are too general and broad. Competition for base keywords is fierce.

Instead look for long-tail keywords as they are less competitive, more specific and easier to rank on.

Read the best SEO tips in 2017 for some keyword tool suggestions and how to use long-tail keywords.

Once you have about 5-10 keywords that can potentially bring in search traffic, think about how and where you will use them in your marketing copy.

The best places to put your keywords are in the site titlepage titlesh1 heading tagsmeta tag, and the meta description in each page. If you use images, captions and alternate text are good places to put your keywords in.

One practice to avoid is keyword stuffing. When you write content, just forget about the keywords and make it easy to read for your visitors. Your content must flow naturally.

Write for the user experience, not for the search engines.

You don’t want to get an over-optimization penalty from Google. An over-optimization penalty is given to those who use an excessive number of keywords on their pages. Strategically putting them in the page title, an image caption, and a few headings or subheadings should be enough.

You can also rephrase your long-tail key phrase to make it read naturally. The google algorithm is smart enough to decipher these key phrase variations, and still rank your page on the original key phrase.

4. Match Powerful Sales Narratives to Your Target Audience

As master copywriter Joe Sugarman once said, copywriting is a process that uses the sum of your life experience, knowledge, and ability to process information to sell a product or service.

Sales is an emotional process.

People rarely use logic to buy things. Instead, people use logic to either talk themselves out of buying something or to rationalize their buying decisions after the fact.

But at the very moment a person makes a buying decision, emotions take precedence.

To get a person to buy from you, appeal to their emotions. The best way to do that is through storytelling. Some of the best salesmen out there are excellent storytellers.

Given what you know about your audience, their pain points and how your product benefits them, use your life experience and general knowledge to find a fitting and relevant story to lead into the sales process with.

As you build interest and curiosity with your storytelling, you are setting up your prospect to buy from you. Avoid using scare tactics, however.

Stories are part of the broader narrative of effective sales copy.

Not every piece of copy needs to have a story, but your entire sales and marketing campaign should have a sales narrative that is most relevant to your audience to catch their attention and interest.

Once you have their attention and interest, you are ready for the next step.

5. Use Language to Increase Your Sales and Conversions

Once you’ve researched the product and market, found the pain points, chosen best keywords for SEO and found the most relevant sales narrative for your audience, you are ready to use language to convert prospects into customers.

What is the key to using language to increase conversions?

Don’t sell the steak. Sell the sizzle.

Rather than selling the product, feature, or service itself, you sell the benefits. Sell the concept. Sell the dream.

The first part of your copy should frame the buying environment with a story or narrative. The rest of your copy should explain the features and sell the benefits of your product or service. Of course, you should back up any claims you make with facts and proof.

Write in active voice. Write honestly and sincerely. Present yourself as a credible and trustworthy expert. Use a personal tone, as if you are writing directly to a friend.

Make them feel comfortable doing business with you.

Give assurances that they’re not risking anything buying from you. Say if the product breaks or if they’re not happy with the service, they can get their money back or have some certain path of recourse.

Your copy should be interesting enough to keep the reader reading through the end. In the end, you call upon them to act.

The call to action is the most important element of your copy.

Without it, your reader will not know what to do and therefore will not do anything. Make your call to action clear and obvious. People are visual beings. A button, form, or large typeface will work. The call to action must stand out on the page.

Your call to action can be any of the following:

  • Visit your website
  • Engage with your social media
  • Buy your product or service
  • Subscribe to your newsletter
  • Download a free report or checklist
  • Contact you directly by phone or email

You can use several calls to action when moving your prospects through a sales funnel. If you lay all the groundwork correctly in the first four steps, your copy will flow logically, naturally and smoothly in this final step.

Create Effective Sales Copy and Start Selling Now

As a copywriter, I take the following five steps to develop the power within your marketing copy:

  1. Research your business, industry and target market.
  2. Find your ideal customer’s biggest problems and pain points.
  3. Dig up the best keywords to improve your search engine ranking.
  4. Match powerful sales narratives to your audiences.
  5. Use language to increase your sales and conversions.

With all the steps laying the groundwork, the resulting sales copy will flow smoothly and close with a powerful call to action.