How To Write Copy & Content That Sells

Successful digital marketers test a lot of ideas. Which means they come up with a lot of ideas. Then have the discipline to go through multiple tests. It requires both creativity and organization.

Conversely, we’re pretty much screwed when we get writers block, only have bad ideas, or get seduced into writing for engagement rather than sales.

What Are Your Marketing Molecules?

These days in digital marketing, we have several very similar things:

  • Facebook or AdWords ads (10-12 words, <=90 characters)
  • Blog post headlines (8-10 words)
  • Corporate elevator pitches (up to 75 words)
  • Unique selling propositions (18-22 words)
  • Email subject lines (3-12 words), and
  • Tweets (about 15 words, 120’ish characters, if you leave room for a link)

These are all basically the same thing- short copy that convinces people to look or buy… I call them marketing molecules. the DNA of your elevator pitch. Your unique selling proposition (USP- if you don’t know what it is, keep reading- and btw you can have a USP for every blog post, every service or product you offer…)

The 3 Most Persistent Marketing Copy Pitfalls

  1. One of the biggest problems we have in modern marketing, content creation and advertising is: how do you come up with enough ideas to test?
  2. Another big problem is: How do you come up with good ideas?
  3. Yet another: How do you come up with copy that sells?

It’s awesome if you can write clickbait, even muted (less annoyingly obvious) clickbait that still arouses curiosity. It’s exciting if you can get 1,000 shares, but… is that piece of content contributing to your business’s bottom line? Sure, a lot content has an indirect benefit and may somehow partially convince someone to buy if you’re lucky and the weather is just right… but that’s sort of like trying to survive on hors d’oeuvres.

Do you have meat and potatoes content that SELLS?

Or are you stuck at the level of just trying to get people to pay attention for five minutes before they flip back over to a viral video on Facebook?

4dAmazing Content Is Four Dimensional

The best copy and content can do all four of the following at once:

  1. Inform
  2. Entertain or Inspire
  3. Compel People To Share It and
  4. Sell Your Stuff.

A lot of content only gets to level one- it informs- boring! Next level writers can entertain, inspire and motivate- that’s 2D Content. If you write the kinds of things people share, you may get to the third level- that’s 3D Content. But to go into the fourth dimension- which is either spacetime, a freaky Devo song, or amazing content that sells, we have to go further- to infinity and beyond.

That may be only the top 5% of content you luck out into writing- and really one out of twenty blog posts or email subject lines that can do this is not a bad ratio compared to how poorly most companies do. But is there a way we can increase your luck and help you create four dimensional copy more often?

Sometimes the things you need to write to get sales are harder to write. They require more thinking, maybe research, maybe even – oh no, the dreaded talking to customers.

Questions and formulas are very helpful… and that is where we’re headed!

I thought I’d show you my process of marketing my new online course… this began with a process of surveying my lists for topics, then testing ideas with Facebook ads, and finally creating two pathways for sales- one is a Ryan Deiss “Funnel Blueprint” series of lead magnet, tripwire and core offer; and the core offer, which I’m also testing as a direct first exposure, is a Jon Benson-style Video Sales Letter.

And by the way, there is a real feedback loop between marketing and product/service improvement. If what works and doesn’t work in marketing doesn’t inform improvements in your product and service- well, you’d better create things that are as awesome as iPhones. You can’t put lipstick on a pig and make it win prom queen.

15 Marketing Copy Elements

Alright- ready for some work? Because yes, you’re going to have to work. You have to answer these questions first… and as I alluded to before, you can answer these for your entire business, or for one product or service. You may find when you try to do the former, that there are really different answers for each product or service, and you’ll have to do this process for each. Yes, it’s a ton of work. Grow up and put your big boy pants on. Do the work, if you want great results. Otherwise, you might as well go waste time on Facebook and get mediocre business results. There are plenty of people creating distracting content that will help you procrastinate.

If you want to do the work- you can list 3 or 5 or whatever I ask, or you can write 10-20. If you write more of them, you’ll end up with better copy. Brainstorming never goes out of style for those whose fashion is marketing results.

  1. BENEFITS: List 5 benefits (problems you solve, and the positive version of that)- ALSO, decide on the CHIEF BENEFIT- this is the most valuable one, the one people are most likely to buy, the easiest one to sell.
  2. TARGET MARKET: List 3 specific types of people who it’s for- could be personality types, job titles, or family roles, for example.
  3. COMPETITORS: List 5 competitors- and I don’t necessarily mean specific companies. For example,
  4. WITHOUTS: List 5 things customers have to do now or think they’ll have to do, but don’t have to, with your solution. List 3 things your competitors require them to do that you don’t.
  5. PROBLEMS: List 3 problems they have without your help, and each of their 3 solutions.
  6. MISTAKES: List 5 mistakes your customers make without you, and the consequences of each.
  7. LIES: List 3 lies they’ve been told about the issue and the truth about each
  8. TIPS: List 5 tips you have for them to solve their problems
  9. SUPERLATIVES: List 5 things your company is first at, best at, most whatever, cheapest, oldest, latest, newest, funnest (I love that word), largest etc. – check out wikipedia superlatives lists
  10. CONFESSIONS: list 3 confessions where you screwed up
  11. PROCESSES: list 3-5 specific processes you use, anything you’ve trademarked or patented… e.g. Google’s PageRank, Facebook’s Newsfeed Algorithm… I made up one called “The Rock Star Effect”
  12. SPECIFIC RESULTS: List 5 very specific results- quantify some aspect of your solution.
  13. CASE STUDIES: Quantify the results for 3 standout customers- if you absolutely can’t quantify it, find the most impactful way to convey
  14. SOCIAL PROOF: Quantify how many customers you have, or if you can’t or won’t, get 5 testimonial quotes from customers. When you ask for these quotes, try to get them to say what concrete benefit or result you had for them. That makes for better copy!
  15. EXPERT PROOF: Get 3 quotes from experts about your solution/product

Now if you actually do that work above, you have a TON of ammo to create a shotgun blast of sniper bullets. And THAT was the worst chimera of a meta-analogy-phor I’ve ever created! Forgive me.

Also, if you want to do humor, come up with hyperboles (exaggerations) of the above… you’ll see what I mean in the last few molecule examples below.

10 Example Marketing Molecules

Molecules are composed of elements. Now that you have all those marketing elements (because you answered all those questions above, right?), we can form marketing molecules out of them. Combine all of your marketing elements into marketing molecules and test them!

After you combine them, you can add other aspects of copywriting wisdom to complete the molecule. The first two of these should look familiar- they probably account for 68.2% of the Internet’s non-horrible blog posts.

  1. List # BENEFIT: example, “3 Tips For Becoming Your Potential Buyer’s #1 Choice”
  2. How To BENEFIT: “How To Get On The Media’s Radar”
  3. DOUBLE BENEFIT: “How To Get On The Media’s Radar And Be Your Potential Customer’s #1 Choice”
  4. USP = SUPERLATIVE + CHIEF BENEFIT, e.g. “The Awareness Blueprint™ Is The Only Marketing Course That Can Transform Your Company Into The Rock Star #1 Choice In Your Niche…
    Even On A Modest Budget.” But of course for 90 character ads, you have to shorten that, so you can create two versions from it, “The Only Course That Makes Your Brand Your Niche’s #1 Choice, Even On A Modest Budget.” and “The ONLY Course If You Want To Get On The Media’s Radar And Be Your Customer’s #1 Choice.”
  5. Stronger USP = SUPERLATIVE + CHIEF BENEFIT + WITHOUT, if you can fit all that in! “The #1 Course For Brand Awareness Without Wasting Time or Money”
  6. BENEFIT + WITHOUT: I’ve found in my Facebook ad tests that benefits get an even higher CTR when you add a WITHOUT to them, e.g. “Finally Make People Pay Attention To Your Company Without Wasting Your Time Or Money”
  7. BENEFIT + COMPETITION: Emails, tweets and facebook posts are all competitors for your attention. That enables me to write copy like: “How To Get Your Brand Noticed Amongst Millions Of Businesses, Tweets, Posts and Videos”
  8. SPECIFIC RESULT: “Want Your Company Seen By 2.8 Million Members Of The Media In Newspapers, TV And Radio?”
  9. TESTIMONIAL QUOTE BENEFIT: “How On Earth Did Your Company Get This Much Attention And Acclaim?” or “Brian tells business owners where to put their marketing dollars to get maximum reach.”
  10. An End To a PROBLEM: “An End To People Doubting Your Company Because They’ve Never Heard Of It”
  11. List # Mistakes + Avoid: “5 Mistakes Brands Make With Publicity And How To Avoid Them”
  12. Step By Step BENEFIT WITHOUT: “Your Exact, Step-by-Step Blueprint For Mega Brand Awareness Without Wasting Time or Money”
  13. Want to sell with humor? Add HYPERBOLE: “How To Get Potential Customers To Stalk You Because They Can’t Wait Til Morning To Buy From You” or “5 Mistakes Brands Make With Publicity That Lead To Public Flogging” – Ok neither of those is hilarious, but I just made them up. And you’re going to have to write at least 20 jokes to find one funny one… sorry, but that’s a pretty standard comedy industry ratio. And I’m not going to write 18 more right now :-p

Write a bunch of them. Applying these to content creation is how you make sure you’re creating content that sells. A lot of the 15 elements above are the things that convince people to buy. There are a bunch of other elements out there like funny videos and animated gifs will not necessarily sell.

adideasexcelMy first use for mine was Facebook ads. I wrote 60, put them in excel to find out how many characters were in each one (the formula is =LEN(cell)), and then rewrote or split up any that were over 90 characters. Then I created another column called “central”. I can’t test 60 ads at once, or at least I didn’t want to, so I asked myself, which of these communicate the central thing about my course? And how central on a scale of 1-10 were they? Your USP is going to be pretty central. I also numbered the ads for easy reference in my facebook ad names.

It’s not a bad idea to use them as Facebook ads first to see what your target market clicks on the most. It’s the quickest, cheapest, easiest way to test. Read this post about that. Once I find out which ones get the best CTR or conversion rates, I’ll pick from the top 3-5 and reuse them as subject lines and tweets and other content.

That’s all folks! Copy the elements questions above into a document and start answering them! :-)