The 10 Essential Ingredients of
Successful Sales Pages

image of ten food ingredients

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.

About the Author: Dave Navarro is a product launch manager who can’t wait for you to join the 7,000+ people using his free workbooks in the Launch Coach Library (a crowd favorite in the Third Tribe forums).

P.S.

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.

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  1. Great stuff. I would add, IMAGES. With all that text, there needs to be something to break it up, particularly for scrollers. So images — of you, of those providing your testimonials, of the product itself… Add ‘em in!

    • I like that one, Lain. Product images are always good, and I’ve found that an author image seems to help create some connection and a feeling of “OK, this isn’t some anonymous scammer providing this service/product.”

    • What about VIDEOS as well? To kind of go off Joshua’s point below…we are visual creatures and I think videos of yourself with the product or video testimonials of clients and what they thought, really help rapport & creditbility. As you said Dave, “Readers buy from those they trust and like” and that’s what it’s about. Great breakdown! Awesome post

    • Great addition, Lain. Videos can also work well with the right audience, Justyn – thanks for adding.

    • Images and videos are what I would add in as well. They would break up the monotony of text and since so many people are visual it might actually help to make a sale if they can see the product. I know I won’t buy if I can’t see something other than just words!

    • I feel like “candid” images do work wonders to reduce anxiety and put people at ease with your offer. It’s when you get those sales letters full of nothing but stock photos of “business people” smiling much too hard that I personally get the heebie-jeebies. If your pictures aren’t for real, you aren’t for real.

  2. I’d like to expand on Lain’s point…

    Show images of the product that you are selling. There is a nasty trend to steer away from good copywriting in many blogging circles, and part of that includes just writing a few sentences and skipping the product image altogether…eeek!

    We are visual creatures.

    When a customer sits in front of that screen and becomes interested in the thing that you are peddling, they’re gonna want a picture of that thing to refer to.

    Even if you sell a virtual (e-book) product, as most of us are selling. Without that visual image, the customer is not going to feel the product in his hands.

    She’s not going to feel that emotional attachment if you just have a ton of heavy copy and a “buy now” button. Get that picture up there.

    …also make sure it’s a QUALITY picture. A poor quality image with have the exact opposite effect, causing your prospect to think you’re an amateur.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionare

  3. You left out an important one: use email subject line tests to guide your headline writing.

    Most good email list programs like Mailchimp offer A/B testing. If you run a list, you can A/B test and learn about good subject lines. I think it is safe to assume they are also good headlines. So a clever strategy might be to first run your sales campaign on email, and use the winning subject line as the headline for the sales page for using in non-email campaigns.

    Ditto testing different AdSense ads that lead to a landing page. After a week of testing, rename the landing page with the copy line of the most successful of the ads.

  4. Good comments so far.

    The one thing I believe plays the biggest role in all – which is somewhat touched on in a few sections but never outright stated – is being likable and trustworthy BEFORE people arrive at your page.

    By establishing a name for yourself and credibility in your industry, your conversion rates will be vastly greater than if you are either a nobody or somebody that nobody likes.

  5. Good stuff.

  6. Dave –

    I really like #3 a lot. I have seen architects win multimillion dollar jobs based on their work, but, mostly it was based on their ability to tell a good story that the potential clients could be drawn into. Images also play a role there as well but time and time again, if you can’t tell a story and make it both authentic and relational, then people can lose interest.

    One thing we all universally share around the globe is the innate interest in a story.

  7. This is a great walk-through to get started writing a sales page copy, Dave. I’m going to apply your advice. The testimonials are usually what prompt me to buy as well as the outcomes and experiences. What I’ve learned with testimonials though is that some sites have links to the customer’s websites, but their page is no longer there. I have come to the conclusion that this does not speak well about the product. To me, it seems the author of the testimonial did not really benefit from the product. I think the take away is that sales page writers should seek testimonials much like authors do, from credible sources like an established business in their niche.

  8. “Your headline must pre-qualify the reader based on their needs and wants.”

    That’s got to be one of the most important things I took away from this. It would be far better to suck in 100 people who are just the person for whom the sales page would solve a problem than 10,000 random people.

    OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but using the headline to pre-qualify the reader is really important and not something I’d pinned down so specifically in my head until you said it. Thanks Dave :)

  9. Rosanna Tarsiero :

    I’m going to be a little tongue-in-cheek here…

    A shorter sale letter! I read the intro and first two points, then started skimming and at the end I was just rushing to the end to see the call to action.

    If more people do it the way I do, then your article wasn’t as effective as it could be… ;)

    • If you skimmed this article – it doesn’t matter. You obviously weren’t the target audience for this post. If you were legitimately interested in discovering the essential ingredients of a successful sales letter, there is no way you would have skimmed.

      Beyond being ‘attractors’, headlines can also be ‘negators’. They should not only attract the targeted audience, but also push away the non-buyers or non-readers. Why waste people’s time and energy if they aren’t the intended audience anyways… right?

      • Rosanna Tarsiero :

        Well that’s curious that you say that… I am pretty positive that I am in the target audience, because I’m trying to find not only information but somebody selling me a class, or consultant services, or both, precisely on the topic of sales letters.

        So how is it that I don’t belong to the target audience?

        • Well – if you are in the target audience then I have absolutely no clue as to why you couldn’t get through this blog post. It was well written, concise, to the point, and loaded with value.

          How could you only get through the first two points? You say you want it shorter? What do you want… a list of sales page ingredients without any explanations or theory behind why they are necessary?

          • Rosanna Tarsiero :

            I *love* theories and learning why and how stuff works. I think the stuff that tends to put me off is a copy that is “talked” rather than written, too based on examples, and/or take a long time to get to the end of an argument.

            In this specific case, I think I started growing impatient with the recipe analogy. Then, all those questions… and finally, all those examples did the kill.

            I think I tend to be problem-oriented, analytical and conceptual. So the first part grabbed my attention because it speaks to a problem I can relate to. But the rest was more example-based than I would have liked.

            If you think about the DISC personality test, I’m high in D. I’m problem-oriented, assertive, I know what I want, and I want to understand fast whether something fits me or not. Everything that dilutes the message I’m sure helps a lot in getting other learning styles, but it doesn’t speak to mine.

          • Very interesting.

            And that is definitely one of the challenges of writing great copy. So many people like it so many different ways. And it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to please ‘em all!

  10. Hi there Dave,

    Awesome, You seem to be writing the articles just when I’m about to promote something. This article has come in handy with some sweet insights. Thanks.

  11. I’ve been reading Copyblogger for months now and I’ve learned so much from regularly reading the new posts: the 24 hour rule for example has taken my own blog posts to the next level!

    But I disgress, we’re talking copywriting for sales pages here. I would like to add ingredient ZERO here: know your market.

    This is the most essential part of any sales page and it’s present all throughout a GOOD sales page. Some pionters:

    1) Talk to the prospect about what’s in the heart of the prospect in the language of the prospect. Use forums, blogs, and comments on blogs related to your niche to see how prospects describe their problems, desires, and beliefs and how they talk to each other. Talking to the prospect in his/her own language makes him/her feel like you know them really, really well… and as said before: people buy from who they know and trust.

    2) Once you get a feel for the problems, desires, and beliefs of your prospect (as Jay Abraham would summarize: his/her Core Complex) it’s time to look at what your functional product is. You see, people don’t buy a physical product (aka the features)… they buy what it can do for them (aka the benefits). The best thing you can do is to sit down and list all the sets of performance benefits for your product.

    For example: a car gives recognition (status), mobility, power (horsepower), economy (the ability to drive many miles for less fuel) and more. Then you find the performance benefit that’s the strongest right now. Emphasis on right now: people used to want a car for mobility in the 20s, currently it’s all about economy (durability).

    All your sales page is… is the missing link. It’s the missing link between the strongest desire of the market (the set of performance benefits that counts the most right now) and your market. The most successful sales page harnesses this strongest desire and provides proof as to why the product is the ONLY thing that satisfies this desire completely.

    Very important: this is THE theme the entire page is based on and every other element of your sales page should support your theme. Anything that waters it down or distracts from it needs to be edited out. That’s why ruthless editing of your sales page is so important.

    The ideal sales page looks at why the product is the only 100% satisfaction of the strongest need from as many angles as possible, but again be selective here: why list 10 great and not so great “arguments” or pieces of proof (whatever you want to call it), when you can list 3 really great ones and drive them home… TWICE?

    Hope this helps :-)

    Regards,

    Dennis Miedema

  12. Great post!

    I really liked the point made in #6 about anticipating objections. Whether it be testimonials that help reduce buyer anxiety or case studies, it’s always important to think ahead of time of what may cause a user to abandon the sales page. Knowing this you can then equip the page with the resources necessary to overcome those objections and give them the confidence in themselves to click the buy button!

    • I brought the same point away from this article (along with at least a half-dozen other insanely important reminders – thanks, Dave!) It’s so important that we keep the audience in mind every step of the way. I find myself sometimes starting in the right mindset, but then getting so into what I’m writing and the points I’m making, I don’t make the most of what I know about the audience at every stage of the letter.
      Which, of course, just means more editing 24 hours later! :)

  13. I like the idea of sub headings. It does break the monotony up, and also gives the reader a quick visual clue as to what the paragraph(s) are about. People have too much reading today, and it’s refreshing when content is easy to read, and quick to obtain the info.

  14. Awesome points all. As I was reading these I remembered all those sales letters that almost made me want to call the bank, get myself a credit card and grab the product. All those awesome sales letters used each one of the above mentioned strategies though some had yellow highlighters :). Oh well, every one has their own idiosyncrasies.

    On an unrelated note I am reading your second networking workbook, Dave, and I have been amazed at how much content you are giving away for free. I credit your first workbook, along with Peter *The Shrink for Entrepreneurs* Shallard’s mind hacks in making me get off my butt, overcoming that information junkie state I have been lately slipping into and hustling in the real world.

    These days the last thing that I read before going to sleep are the answers to your questions that you asked in the first workbook. I am sure I will repeat that process with the other workbooks too.

    I reckon that if I keep this up I will be soon seeing dreams not of fast cars or weird colors but me closing deals with clients

  15. Wow great information! I like all your ideas about how to have a successful sales page. It was a great read and very helpful. Thank you!

  16. This is great information, Dave!

    Seriously, some “Goo-roos” charge hundreds of dollars for stuff like this.

    For me, I always try to hook the reader with a good story. Often, I use humor to “break the ice.”

  17. Dave, #3 is incredibly powerful. I took a class in college dedicated to Storytelling in the business environment. Some of my most powerful sales presentations have been nothing more than telling a story that illustrated every point of my topic.

    On the topic of video: I think Jon Morrow’s use of videos in his run up to opening up his Guest Blogging Apprenticeship was phenomenal. In fact, I didn’t even read his sales page. I watched the videos, waited anxiously for the program to open and then scrolled through the sales page as fast as I could to sign up.

    The written word is powerful, but video provides context and helps generate rapport on a different level with your readers/viewers.

  18. For me, the most important part of a sales page is that it doesn’t look anything like the sales pages of a different product from a scammer.

    I can’t bring myself to buy from a sales page that feels scammy. I give it one glance and I leave.

  19. Excellent article! Great points Joshua and Lain, high quality images are absolutely necessary and it shows in the testing process! Like you said, we are visual creatures and nobody likes to read a bunch of text.

  20. Great post. One action I would add is to test. While we all might be great writers (at least in our own minds), the proof is in the conversion. Do the sales go up when that email or landing page is used. Then do A-B testing to make it work even better. Excellent sites can get up to 15% conversion.

  21. Great post and just what I needed. Thank you Mr. Navarro, you’re da man:) There is nothing to add to this but I will try anyway:

    I agree, images are a must but please hold the flashy, animated things that drive people nuts and make them close the browser window right away just so they don’t have to see them any more.

  22. Really enjoyable post to read and I agree that to get the best out of content marketing you have to create a story that your readers can relate to. This will then draw them in where you can them hit them with the other aspects you have discussed to hopefully result in that final click that creates the sale.

  23. I have written copy before, but the beauty about this is the sales pitch is done once though automation. Coming from a direct-sales, door-to-door background it really makes it a lot easier.

  24. Well ding danggity – great copy training.

    Dave, you’re right, there are dozens of “formulas.” But… what I love about your approach is that it presents conversational copy, flow copy, rhythm copy.

    It’s actually easier to write than “sales” copy.

    When I read some of my past copy it’s choppy. It tries too hard.

    And copy isn’t about trying, it’s about talking. Just sharing a little one-on-one time with another human being in hopes that in the end both of your lives will be a little bit better.

  25. Dave,

    Right on head! I like your #6, buyers do not care about tons of testimonials, they care about what it could do for them. I think these are some great tips for making sales or landing page! Some I had not known! Thanks.

  26. I agree with @Dennis Miedema

    You have to build into any sales page a strong list of benefits the customer will receive from your product or service. Here is a great technique I use when looking for benefits:

    1. write down 10 features of your product on the left side of a piece of paper or spreadsheet (e.g. get more time, save money, make money, build a website fast, etc)

    2. make three columns down the middle and label them 1,2,3

    3. in column #1 write the benefit to each feature (e.g. feature automates your book keeping – benefit is spend more time at home)

    4. then in column #2 write the benefit to the benefit (e.g. automates your book keeping – spend more time at home – increased time with family)

    5. and finally in column #3 write one more benefit to the benefit (e.g. automates your book keeping – spend more time at home – increased time with family – a better marriage or improve relationship with your kids)

    Then when you talk about your product you can sprinkle in benefits from columns 1, 2, or 3. If you write down 10 features, and each has 3 benefits, you now have 30 benefits to use in your sales letter.

    People buy more time with their kids over automating your book keeping.

    Great post!! Thanks for sharing.

  27. I’ve noticed that titles are the most important part of affiliate marketing. If you have a catchy title you will increase sales 1000 percent. Its important to draw readers in any way you can…but once their hooked reel them in!

  28. Great information!

  29. Again, I don’t think I’ve seen any site with the creative execution of posts such as this. The ingredients concept is killer, along with the actual article itself.

  30. Hi
    This is awesome post make many valuable points must be using them in my post.

    Thanks For Sharing
    -Abhishek

  31. You know what, this post got me thinking about how important subheads are in an article, blog post, email or sales letter. Sometimes I feel like writing them is an art itself because although you may get your readers’ attention with a great headline, once they scroll through the entire thing and it’s just mostly blocks of text, they’ll most likely go away! Subheads make posts and letters more visually appealing, don’t you think so?

  32. Wow, very detailed post Dave.

    Definitely learned a few things from this one.

    A question though, what would you do differently if you were using a salesvideo and as opposed to a traditional long copy letter?

    Gavin

  33. Dave,

    Amazing piece of sales information. How have you been able to accomplish such amazing guitar work for an equally amazing band such as Jane’s Addiction and STILL find time to write articles for copyblogger? Your talents are beyond my comprehension.

  34. wow…some very good content and input from readers as well.
    thanks to all for this information….very good and valid points that I will put to use!

  35. Amazing article. Thank you so much for all this information on how to have successful sales pages. I agree these things are essential to have a great sales page!

  36. Interesting! I have always wondered how one can control the flow of a sales letter-Good Tips here!

  37. I must confess, I don’t care for the super long sales page. As soon as I see it, I leave. I’ve been conditioned to expect a lot of emotional manipulation that “talks me into” wanting to make a purchase. So I just avoid the whole proposition.

  38. Excellent points and rationales. While reading this, I certainly mentally screened it against my own web pages. There’s definitely one area I could shore up. :)

  39. Writing a sales letter is a challenge, and this post offered excellent suggestions for persuading someone to buy. There are a few other elements I’ve found to be successful when writing a sales letter:

    1. intimacy. By that I mean, write the copy in such a way that the reader feels like you understand his situation; you’ve walked in his shoes. Connect with the reader so that she trust you, likes you, and wants to know what else you have to say. Write your copy as if you were talking to your best friend.

    2. Be sure to illustrate the benefit of your product in a way that the reader can totally relate to. Write the copy so he can actually picture, in his mind’s eye, using your product. This is a very powerful technique!

  40. Don’t forget spelling and grammar. A few slips of either can quickly negate your crafty writing.

  41. Hi Dave

    This is spot on.

    In response, I have my own simple ‘ingredients’ rating for web pages.

    I look at the page in terms of

    1. Speed – can you quickly and easily get a sense of what the page is about?
    2. Relevance – it is about something very specific so that it is helpful?
    3. Rapport – does it have personality, something that emotionally connects?
    4. Credibility – does it have testimonials and/or speak with knowledge and authority.

    With clients, I find it very useful as a way of evaluating what is going on.

    Joe

  42. Excellent article! Each of the points made are essential to crafting a successful sales letter that gets results.

    Another point: when writing headlines and subheads, then the copy itself, it is very important to use targeted words to lead your reader through the copy…entice him or her to keep reading. Paint a word picture so the reader can actually see himself using the product and being helped by it. The best sales letters are written by people that can actually put themselves in their reader’s shoes and write copy that is empathetic, causing the reader to think “yeah, that’s exactly how I feel! This is exactly what I need!” And, when making the offer, make it a promise…a credible promise. That always fosters trust.

    Thanks for a great article!

    Emily