Copywriting that Converts
A website has less than 15 seconds to grab your attention. Which means you have less than 15 seconds to capture your prospect’s attention and ultimately turn them into a lead or customer. And you’ve only got 3 ways to do it; design, functionality and content.
Ideally all 3 should work together but your content is crucial. And the easiest content to create is text, or in marketing terms, copy. If your copy is well done, it will grab your prospect’s attention as they surf from site to site to site and ultimately convert them into a customer.
What Exactly is Conversion Copy?
Let’s start by highlighting what conversion copy isn’t. It’s not text that talks about your product or service. As a business owner or manager, this is always a hard thing to wrap your head around – after all, it’s your website so why wouldn’t we immediately talk about your offerings? Because even though you know how amazing your business is, no one else cares. They only care about what’s in it for them. Conversion copy isn’t about you, your business, or your products. It’s always about your consumer.
Think of conversion copy as writing that compels the reader to react in a specific way. This doesn’t mean to go all ‘Michael Scott salesy’, it simply means write copy that feels authentic and relatable. Speak directly to your target audience, in their language and let them know that you understand their woes. Your copy’s job is to engage your audience and move them along so that ultimately they do exactly what you’re hoping for.
Every page on your website has one job and one job only: it should help the reader advance along the path to pull the trigger on your CTA (call to action).
Features vs Benefits
When it comes to moving a prospect through the sales funnel, writing only about the features of your product or service doesn’t work. Why? Because features appeal to our logical brains. And purchases or reactions aren’t driven by logic. They hinge on emotion, which explains why a good commercial will make you want to laugh or cry or pick up the phone to call you mom.
As a copywriter, your job is to figure out the value (or benefit) in what you’re offering and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words. Determining the real benefits of what you’re selling is actually a bit trickier to do than you may think. But there are some techniques and writing tips that can make this a bit easier.
Here’s a simple tip that can help you move past the features of your product and really start to understand what motivates your target audience. Start by asking the question, “so what?” Every feature that your product or services offers should be broken down until you can understand why it would appeal to your audience. And the way you appeal to your audience is to solve a pain point that they have. When you ask, “so what”, you start to understand how you can change your product feature’s into an emotional benefit.
For example, if you sell gluten free cakes, start by asking “so what?” Why does it matter that your cakes are gluten free? When you start to really break it down it may lead you on a path where you’ll understand that your cake-loving target audience struggles with regular cakes because they give them horrible stomach pains and a bloated belly. So even though gluten free is your feature, it’s not the benefit. The benefit is that you’ve allowed them to eat cake… pain free! Heck you’ve even made their birthday a whole lot more festive, because finally there is a cake that understands them.
Ok, so now that you know what problem your audience is having, what do you do with this information? Tell them. Relate to them and let them know you totally understand how they are feeling. In a clear and concise way let your consumers know that not only do you understand their problems and fears but you have a solution for them.
There are two proven formulas to do this, one is called: Problem-Agitate-Solution (PAS) and the other is Attention, Interest, Desire, Action (more widely known by the acronym AIDA). Let’s take a closer look at what these mean and how incorporating them can help you convert web visitors into customers and ultimately brand ambassadors.
Problem Agitation Solution (PAS) is sometimes affectionately referred to as the ‘you really get me’ framework and it’s widely used by effective copywriters.
The premise of the PAS framework is that you open with a problem that your reader is having. Then move on to agitate the problem and really make them feel it. And only then do you introduce the solution: your product or service.
Why does this work?
It works because we all have problems. And despite this shared human condition, we overlook or play down other people’s problems all the time. So, it’s refreshing when someone actually understands what you’re going through.
Imagine for a minute that you have a bad cold and are trying to get through your work day. Is the following reaction familiar to you?
What you hear: “So sorry you are feeling under the weather. It’s really going around right now.”
How you feel: “Like death. Your nose is raw. You can’t breathe, you haven’t been sleeping and you still have to get through the rest of the work day, and then go home and take care of your kids.”
When problems are our own, they feel so much worse and we just want them to go away. Imagine if someone came to you, really understood what you’re going through and then offered you a solution.
Your product or service is THE solution for your target audience’s problem or pain-point. This is great news. Now, use the ‘so what’ exercise to really hone in on what struggle your audience is facing. Use the PAS framework to engage your audience so that you can show them how you’re going to make their life so much better. To do this start with a headline that’s going to speak directly about their pain-point.
Sweatblock does this well. Their headlines get right to the pain point the consumer is having, which in the following example is embarrassment and loss of confidence. Their products are introduced as the solution.
Sweatblock doesn’t get into the features on their homepage. To understand how Sweatblock works you need to read the FAQ section, they don’t bog you down with a lot of information about themselves, it’s all about what they are going to do for you.
If you’re struggling with this and still want to lead with your product or service, remember this, your consumer doesn’t care about your product. Even if your product is the leading one on the market, has do-dads and bells and whistles that none of the competition has. They don’t care. Consumers only care about their problem. When someone lands on your website and it starts with an acknowledgment of the struggle they’re having, you’ve hooked them. They are grateful and relieved that someone finally understands them. You now have an audience who’s going to stick around for more than 15 seconds and be more responsive to your message.
Once you’ve lead with their problem it’s time to stir the pot. Meaning that it’s time to really dig into their pain. And no, this isn’t to be cruel. This step helps to connect on an emotional level by revealing even more frustration or reminding them about how horrible their pain can be or could get. It’s important to reach your reader on an emotional level, because people make decisions emotionally first, and then justify that decision with logic. If you introduce a solution before your audience is reacting on an emotional level, they won’t see your solution.
Ok, we’ve identified the problem and then reminded the consumer of how that problem is impacting their life. Finally, you can talk a bit about you because you have an engaged reader who is now willing to listen.
It may seem to take a long time before you actually mention your product or service and that can feel uncomfortable. You may worry that you’ve introduced something negative into the lives of your readers or that you seem negative. But, you didn’t actually introduce anything, you are simply mirroring the feelings they are already experiencing. When you do this, you justify those feelings and prove to them that you really understand their problem, which leaves you wide open to finally offer a solution. This doesn’t mean you start to list all your features. The solution is where you show them exactly how you’re going to solve their problem or fix their pain. Yes, the features are important of course, but it’s the relief they’re looking for. The features come next, because it helps justify the emotional craving for the product or service that you’ve just established.
The PAS approach is especially effective for consumers when they fall into one of the following categories:
Unaware – no idea who you are or what you offer
Pain aware – they have a problem, but don’t know if there’s a solution for it
Product aware – they have a problem, understand that there is probably a solution, but don’t know what the solution is
The Fear of Being Effective
So you may be asking that if the PAS is effective, why isn’t everyone doing this? One word… fear. The PAS framework is bold. It makes people feel uneasy. Many people want to point out the solution without identifying the problem. This is why it’s not often used on websites. And why it’s so easy to find generic websites that speak to no one. Once business owners see the PAS framework in action they are nervous to follow through with it. They fear it’s too strong, too negative or too in-your-face. Add in that it takes a bit of time to offer the consumer a solution that most business owners pull the plug on this copy without even giving it a go.
The other approach that is highly effective is AIDA: Attention-Interest-Desire-Action. This is a four step process that a consumer goes through before they become a customer. And your copy needs to take your audience through these steps in order to get them to take the desired action. It’s important to note that much like the PAS Framework your brand has to first appeal to your audience on an emotional level, not a logical level.
Here’s a breakdown of how this works:
Attention – Research first, write second. You need to understand your target audience’s problems and passions before you can write anything that will grab attention. You can do this using the ‘so what’ approach or you can research to see what makes them tick. Once you understand your audience, write a headline that speaks directly to them. One that will solve their problem or pain point or one that focuses on their passion. Use powerful words that will catch attention so that your reader will want to know what you have to say next. Again, like PAS, this headline should be all about them and not about your business.
Interest – This is a challenging stage. Once you have their attention it can be tricky to engage with them in a way that is strong enough to keep their interest piqued so that they take the time to understand your message in more detail.
In order to do this, you must stay focused on their needs. You can do this by highlighting their problem or passion even more which will lead them to want to hear about what you are offering. The key to this stage is writing in a way that is personal and is all about the consumer.
Keep it short and simple so that it’s easy to quickly pick up on the messages that are relevant. You can use bullets or subheadings and break up the text to make your points stand out.
Desire – Now that you’ve had a personal conversation with your audience and they’re thinking about their passions or worrying about that pressing problem, it’s time to be the hero. Show your prospect exactly how what you’re offering can be of benefit to them. What will they get out of it? Remember, people make decisions emotionally so listing a bunch of feature fails to tell the consumer what’s in it for them. The features are a way to justify their emotional decision, think of features as the trust factors. These should only come after the emotional connection has been established. When you explain your features, keep the benefits of them front and centre, keep it short, keep the language relatable to your audience and keep it down to just the few key features.
Action – You’ve done it. You’ve kept their attention long enough that you are now the solution. So at this point make it very easy for your audience to follow through, immediately. This could be a CTA (call to action) button that leads to a click-to-buy product page or a form to collect emails or a phone number if you need to directly hear from them. But don’t clutter your CTA, keep it simple. They shouldn’t need to make a decision on which way to contact you at this point. Just give them one clear and direct way.
Basecamp is project management software that does a great job at following the AIDA format. Take a look and see how they lead their audience through the process and introduced the features but highlighted them as benefits so it is very clear what is in it for the consumer.
PAS and AIDA
There are many similarities between the PAS Framework and AIDA Model. Remember that regardless of which direction you choose, it’s critical to get to the root of how your product features are solving consumer pain points. To do this get in the habit of asking, “so what?”, research your target audience, keep your copy about them and write with language and a tone that they’ll relate to.
Writing can feel overwhelming, but if you start having a conversation with your customers using what we’ve discussed above, you’re well on your way to writing conversion driven copy that will have your audience clicking on the buy now button.