When you see dozens of copywriting formulas promising “the perfect sales page,” how do you know which ones to trust?
After all, each formula seems to have a successful direct sales superstar behind it, and each one looks like a solid plan. What do you do in the face of these wildly different sales letter styles?
The first step is to realize that copywriting is more than any one “formula” — it’s an exercise in communication and persuasion.
Just like a recipe, different formats will give you different results. The recipe you’re looking for will depend on your audience — and you’ll have to test yours to find out what they respond to best.
But whatever sales page recipe you choose to follow, the important thing is to understand the reasoning behind the “ingredients” that go into it. Let’s take a look at what every successful sales page should have — regardless of how your recipe gets stirred up.
1. Headlines that make promises and demand attention
Here at Copyblogger we’ve talked extensively about writing great headlines — and the importance that a solid lead-in has for getting your copy read.
If you don’t nail the headline (the single most important part of your sales letter), no one will stick around for the rest.
Your headline must pre-qualify the reader based on their needs and wants, as well as promise them an intriguing result if they’ll stick around and read what comes next.
Want to get good at making this happen? Practice. If you’re not cultivating a headline swipe file and honing your attention-grabbing skills with each blog post you write, then you need to get started now.
2. Opening paragraphs that promise and persuade
Presuming your headline piques your readers’ curiosity, you then need to lead readers to a psychological commitment to read every word of your copy.
You can do this by using those initial paragraphs to draw them in, establishing rapport, and expanding on the promise you made in the headline.
This is the place to get more specific about what your readers are about to learn. Most important of all, let them know how that knowledge will get them closer to their desired result.
There’s a reason opening paragraphs are often called “teasers” — they’re meant to show just enough to make the reader want to see more.
Continue to help your reader understand they’re in the right place (and that there’s juicy knowledge to be gained by scrolling down), and they’ll keep reading all the way to the very end.
3. Stories that reveal the reasons behind the offer
The old expression “Words tell, stories sell,” is still 100% true — people become more emotionally connected with copy that tells a story. You’ll do well to create a compelling (and true, of course!) backstory to why the offer you’re making came into existence, because that pulls the reader into your copy on a deeper level.
We all want to see how the story unfolds — and that’s precisely why so many effective sales pages include transformative stories about the product’s author (or the people the author has helped). The reader wants a result via your offer, and they’ll pay close attention to storylines that involve that result coming to pass.
If you’re not a natural storyteller, then revisit some sales pages you’ve seen in the past and read them again with an eye for story. You’ll be surprised how you see good writers work these seamlessly into their copy.
4. Details that foster rapport and credibility
Many sales letters include a “Who am I and why should you listen to me?” section meant to establish credibility (and more backstory) about the product author. You can definitely emulate this straight-to-the-point delivery, but there are other ways of achieving the same result with more subtlety.
Let’s go back to the story — this is the perfect place to weave in the writer’s background — the results received, the credentials that establish authority, and the reasons that make that person the perfect choice for satisfying the reader’s needs.
Readers buy from those they trust and like. Pepper your copy with details that make the product author an interesting and authoritative source, and the overall message becomes much more compelling.
5. Subheads that stop scrollers and make reading easy
Solid subheads serve two powerful purposes in a high-conversion sales letter.
First, they make it easy for the reader to know why they need to read the section of text below. Essentially, they are mini-headlines designed to set up a promise and entice the reader to keep going.
For each text block in your sales letter, ask yourself “Why should anyone read this?” and translate the answer into a compelling sub-head. Revisit blog posts you loved reading, and watch how the author kept you hooked with solid sub-headlines.
The second purpose of subheads is to convey such an attention-getting promise that the people who “scroll and scan” stop in their tracks and say “I’ve got to go back and read this.”
Don’t let a subhead into your sales letter without first asking if it’s “stop-worthy.”
6. Anxiety-reducing testimonials
Most people treat testimonials as an exercise in stroking the product author’s ego.
But readers don’t care about that. They care about their own problems (and specifically, getting them solved) and they care about the objections they have when they consider clicking that “Add to Cart” button.
They’re going to be thinking things like:
- “Will this work for my situation?”
- “Is this going to be too hard?”
- “Will I have time for this?
- “What if I need to return this?”
- “How can I trust this person?”
It’s your job to anticipate their objections and gather testimonials that show an antidote to the anxieties behind them. Take a look at your testimonials and ask if they’re doing their job. If not, you know what to do.
7. Proof that your product or service actually works
If “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” then you need to have some full bellies to show to your soon-to-be-customers.
Walk them through specific examples of how the product or service worked for you (which incidentally, you can easily do by weaving these elements into your story).
If you have customers on hand with success stories, here’s where you work these in as well — taking special care to position the results in a way that reduces customer anxiety.
Look for ways that previous customers were able to get results despite the obstacles, setbacks, or circumstances that your new customers are likely to be worried about. Then use those examples to show how your new prospects can do it, too.
8. An offer they can’t refuse
Remember, you’re selling more than just a product or service — you’re selling solutions, outcomes, and experiences.
Break out every detail of what your product does for them (and weave that into your story as well), and get very specific as to how much each benefit is worth — financially and emotionally.
Paint a clear picture of everything they’re getting. Stack value upon value until your readers are filled with the sense that your offer is exactly what they need — and furthermore, that the price is a no-brainer bargain.
Shoot for the “10X factor.” If you can show the reader that your offer is truly worth ten times what you’re charging, the buying decision becomes much, much easier. And if you can show how the product pays for itself (essentially becoming “free”), so much the better.
9. A risk-free environment
People are terrified of being oversold, scammed, and taken advantage of on the internet — and so their shields are up when it comes to trusting what you say.
That’s why it’s such a good idea to offer a strong guarantee that takes all the burden of risk off of their shoulders.
It’s called “risk reversal,” and it’s easy to do. Simply offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee — if they don’t like what you’re giving them within 30 or 60 days, let them get their money back.
Never make refunds difficult — the goodwill you generate from being a no-hassle provider is worth any cost of returns.
Of course there are some exceptions — when a return is truly costly to you (for example, for a physical product), you may need to put some guidelines on returns so that you don’t get taken advantage of.
But if what you’re selling is digital, the downside just isn’t there. The small and temporary cost of refunds will be more than made up by the word-of-mouth referrals of happy customers.
10. A solid close that gets your “buy” button clicked
All good things must come to an end, and when your sales message does the same, you need a strong call to action.
Remind your customer what benefits they’ll get when they buy, and resurface the pain and inconveniences that will go away when they’ve fully used your product or service.
Once you’ve done that, ask them explicitly to buy. Not doing so will cost you conversions, and it’s an easy mistake to make because we can be hesitant to ask for things.
You don’t have to do the “hard sell” here — just invite them to “join you,” or “get access,” or “download” — just by clicking and making a purchase.
And that “P.S.” that’s such a sales letter cliché? Works like a charm.
When people get to the end of your letter, all their lingering objections get put on one end of the scale, and your price tag gets put on the other. Here’s your opportunity to tactfully let them know that they have the chance to get the benefits they want, and solve their problems at the same time.
Your call to action: Tell us what else you think is essential to a great sales letter
As I said at the beginning, there are dozens of copywriting formulas out there, and all of them serve their purpose and have solid avenues of conversion. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it’s meant to give you the basic framework for persuasive copy.
Why don’t you join us in the comments below, where you can add your wisdom and get access to the ideas of others? Click in the comment box below and tell us what other essential “ingredients” you would add to this list. We’ll see you there.
Don’t forget to bookmark this page after you leave your comment, so that every time you return to it in the future, you can learn even more about writing great sales letters.