Writing to Sell

It is no small task for a business to communicate in writing such that its reader and target market are persuaded to engage or buy. Large companies and agencies have highly skilled dedicated copywriters. This article reveals the art and science of copywriting so that you can start writing to sell for your business, so you get less snores and more 'tell me more'.


1. The headline is the most important part.

This may be surprising as it the shortest part, but the headline may be 50% of what impacts the reader. Tell yourself that the headline is where you have spent most of your money, so to speak. The job of the headline is to stop the reader in their tracks and persuade them to read the introduction. Think about it: it’s the clincher as to whether you ‘get’ the reader.

Everything else you write is pointless unless your headline grabs the reader’s attention. Focus on your customer’s pain and your unique approach to solving it: “Your BACK PAIN…Gone after 3 sessions with new natural Japanese technique. Guaranteed!” Come up with different options for headlines and then choose the best from these. I have never got my best, or anything like my best, headline at the first attempt. Expect to work on your headline. See what other people think – ideally someone in your target market. Your headline is too important for you to run with the first thing you think of. Get it right. You’ll be glad you spent the time.


2. Always be customer and benefit led when writing – buyers only think about ‘What’s In It For Me’.

Remember your goal is to show them you are the right people to solve their problem. If your marketing copy is based on conveying how wonderful your company is, your customer is likely to think “so what?” unless you translate that into a benefit.

Customers don’t care how long you have been in business; however, they do care that you have hundreds of satisfied customers. Often a feature of your business or product can be translated into a benefit using ‘which means’ to reveal a compelling benefit. For example, “our product quality is outstanding,”  as a ‘so what?’ factor, but when scrutinised with ‘which means’, might become “we won’t let you down or embarrass you.” Think about and refer to ‘you’ and ‘your’.


3. Get your key points in early.

Readers’ attention drifts. The further you go in your copy, the more readers you will lose. Before they go, you want to have made your key points (special offer etc), so try to get them in early and then again at the end.


4. Have a clear structure that makes your piece easy to read.

Each piece of copy has a different structure depending what it is you’re writing, but the standard format is: powerful headline, 1st paragraph to summarise, body to support, elaborate and persuade, building credibility and call to action.


5. Take the reader on a journey.

Linked to having a structure, your text should take the reader from their pain as the starting point to the end, where they make an enquiry or place an order with you. The copy should be such that it makes sense to buy from you, and the reader feels that life will be wonderful when they do. Plan your writing with this in mind. Be aware as you write of which stage of the journey the piece is at.


6. Write emotively.

Buying behaviour is driven by emotions. If you happen to sell industrial machinery or IT systems, you might disagree. However, all opywriters know that as well as persuading the reader, their other challenge is keeping their attention. Copy needs to be engaging to hold the reader’s attention, and readers are engaged when their emotions are evoked. The emotions will vary by the type of industry and market a business operates in. Aim to press the emotional buttons of the reader.

How can you do this? By touching on their fears, desires, aspirations and values – especially in relation to what you are selling. Emotive prose is persuasive and holds the reader’s attention, making them continue to the next paragraph.


7. Be punchy.

Use short clear sentences - they have more impact. Use short paragraphs also – one per point. Huge blocks of text look daunting, and the reader is likely to stop reading.


8. Use a conversational tone.

Save the long words for a formal report - they often get in the way of your sales message. Your goal is not to impress the reader with your vocabulary. If your copy sounds stiff and impersonal, change it - this is how it will come across to the prospect. Write in a way that is personable. A great tip is to read what you've written out loud and see if it comes across as engaging and persuasive.


9. Use numbers and be specific

Numbers catch the eye, stopping the reader when they are scanning. By quantifying, we are being specific. Numbers boost measurability, credibility and believability.


10. Use powerful quotes from credible sources to persuade and build trust.

Customers believe other customers, especially those who they can relate to, and authority figures in your area of business. For example, a product for babies could be sold well with lots of quotes from mums (and dads), and maybe words of support from the National Childbirth Trust and/or a celebrity mum with a wholesome public image.


11. Marketing copy is salesmanship in print.

When you write, you are selling not describing. Getting the enquiry or order will hinge on the effectiveness of your words. It is unlikely that the money will come to you if you simply trot out generalities and facts and features. 


To wrap up...

Good copy presents your company and its products in a positive and appealing light. It can increase your response rates by hundreds of percent and send you soaring past your competitors.