Salesletter Copy: 7 Tips To Do It Right

Salesletter copy is different than other content. It takes a certain finesse to get it right. Read on for 7 ways you can improve your salesletter copy and stand our from the crowd.

There are certain things you can do immediately to help you drastically improve your salesletter copy. Granted, writing persuasive content is in itself deserving of an entire book. But given a choice, I believe there are seven simple tips for increasing attention, readership, and desire of your current sales copy. Here they are:

1. Headline

You might have heard of the famous “AIDA” formula in direct marketing. Successful direct response web copy is contingent on your adherence to that well-known formula. AIDA is an acronym that stands for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

The first part (i.e., “Attention”) is probably the most important on the internet. Crafting a headline on your site’s front page that immediately captures the prospect’s attention is critical to your success. Why? On the web, our attention span is enormously short. You only have a fraction of a second to capture a person’s attention and pull her into your copy.

If the prospect hits your front page and does not immediately feel a need to read further, she’ll leave at the single click of a mouse. And if so, the rest of the formula goes straight down the tubes, no matter how great your copy is. Therefore, in order to limit my writing to the confines of this short article, here are at least three important things to remember when developing headlines.

A) The 3 Top Human GOALS

The first is to focus on the three most important goals in human nature, which are to either save (or make) time, money, and energy. (And by energy I mean “effort.”) These three are possibly the most common and easiest ways to build headlines, because everyone wants to save time, make money, or work less.

B) The 3 Top Human DESIRES

The second is to focus on the three greatest human desires, which are greed, lust, and comfort (or convenience).

Of course, when I say “lust,” I don’t mean the topic of sex. But there is a way to use sex in a headline without appearing crass or even pornographic. Whether your product or service helps to make a person feel good, sexy, attractive, powerful, potent, virile, appreciated, happy, loved, etc, these are all elements we desperately seek. It all comes down to emotions!

C) The 3 Top Human TEASERS

Third, use an element of curiosity, scarcity, or controversy in your headline. For example, with curiosity you want to produce intrigue. Don’t mention everything to your readers — give them ample information but not too much so that it pulls them into the copy. Leave an interesting tidbit out or keep them on the edge of their seats, eager to read and absorb more.

Here’s an example. Don’t say, “How to Triple Web site Sales.” Instead, say, “Discover these six unconventional secrets for tripling Web site sales!” People will then wonder, “What are they?”

2. Headers

On the web, people don’t read. They scan. They seldom read entire web pages from top to bottom. If the headline is compelling enough, then the likelihood that they will read the entire body copy will be greater. However, the chances of that happening 100% of the time are very small.

One way to overcome this is to use headers at every two or three paragraphs so that, when the reader scans the page, headers pull readers into the salesletter copy. Similar to the headline, don’t be vague or general. Use benefits. Be specific. And think keywords. Rather than saying “Background,” “Profile,” or “History,” say “The Strange-but-True Story of How Michel Fortin Went From Colossal, Bankrupt Failure to Becoming a Million-Dollar Success.”

Just as the headline is meant to grab people’s attention and get them to start reading your copy, their desire to restart scanning and jump a few paragraphs is almost excruciating. Time is scarce, and with so many things vying for our attention both in our lives and on our computer desktops, people get easily distracted — and more so today, with the Internet, than ever before.

So write and include headers throughout the copy to get readers to stop scanning any further, and to continuously bring them back into your salesletter. Write your salesletter copy as an amalgamation of several “mini-articles” with headlines for each, strung together in one flowing, fluid letter that keeps them riveted from the first word to the buy button.

3. Bullets

Insert bulleted lists within your salesletter copy. If at any point you list more than three items, use bullets! Bullets are short, captivating, and pleasing to the eye. They give the reader a visual break, especially with the long copy salesletter style. Most importantly, they reinforce the offer, help deliver straight-to-the-point benefits, and are clustered for greater impact.

An effective way to incorporate bullets is when they follow the words “you get” or “reasons why.” This grants the reader the ability to know exactly, item by item, what they are getting out of responding to your offer. For example, use bullets after the words “with this [product], you get” or “here are the reasons why you should buy [this product].”

Again, people scan. If you scan up and down a salesletter, you will naturally stop at anything that’s visually out of place. Along with pictures, graphics, and boxes, bullets are indented and keyword- or keyphrase-driven. So bulleted lists provide eye gravity, help to stop scanners, and force them back into the copy.

4. Postscripts

Postscripts (or “P.S.’s”) at the end of a sales copy are great tools for a number of reasons. While they can surely be used to restate or summarize the offer, postscripts can also emphasize the critical points mentioned earlier in the copy and especially in the headline — such as the element of scarcity — that can give that final “push” prospects need to go ahead.

An extra bonus not offered in the copy as a last-ditch effort to close the sale, a link to the order page with emphasis on the fast approaching deadline, or an alternative (such as a downsell to an alternative, perhaps lower-priced alternative) are all elements that can be used very effectively with postscripts.

Don’t limit your copy to a single “P.S.” Add a “P.P.S.” or more. And don’t just stick with plain body copy. Like bullets and headers, they are some of the elements people read first before they read the entire copy. They really work! For example, add FAQs (frequently asked questions) in the postscript section. You could also include testimonials, case studies, or a video.

5. Emphasis

In speech, we use tone, pitch, rhythm, and inflection (i.e., emphasis on certain syllables, words, or expressions) to stress the message being conveyed, its meaning, or certain key points we wish to drive home. On the Web, however, there are no verbal cues like these. People can’t grasp the context and meta-message (i.e., the message behind the message) of what is written.

Fortunately, HTML is an effective tool to address this problem. Since most people will scan a Web site, through text formatting we can accentuate certain words or phrases that we want the reader to read and understand — words to which we want the reader to pay greater attention and grasp an underlying or implied meaning.

Things like bold lettering, italics, underlines, colors, font sizes, tables, borders (borders and framing text help to increase readership by about 20%), and so on can make a message and particularly critical points of the copy more impacting and forceful.

Emphasis also aids comprehension, especially of complex and critical ideas, and can be used to drive home important points. Like speech, it can make the message more seductive and meaningful. Take, for instance, “I love you” versus “I *LOVE* you!” The latter is more appealing, more invigorating, and more significant. The emphasis implies, “I really, really do love you!”

6. Messages

I spoke about meta-messages in an earlier point. Words are not messages. They are symbols used to convey them. As such, words mean different things to different people. The words you choose can literally change the meaning behind the message (this is what’s often called the “meta-message”).

For example, words can emphasize, support, or even contradict the message. People may read your copy and understand the basic message. But with certain words, they can make assumptions — assumptions that might be counterproductive to the sale. So the words you choose are important, as they may impact the reader in different ways. Here are at least three techniques I use:

A) Repetitious Words

As the old adage goes, “Repetition is the parent of learning.” Like the earlier point on emphasis, repetition aids comprehension, especially of complex or important ideas. However, the key here is not to repeat the same words over and over, but to use different examples to illustrate your point.

To that end, paraphrase, or substitute certain words with synonyms, and add new pieces of information each time the idea is repeated. For instance, in order to drive the message “privacy policies promote purchases” home, that message can be repeated with the following:

  • “Privacy statements increase sales,”
  • “Confidentiality is a key to online success,”
  • And “respecting visitors’ privacy is profitable.”

B) Emotional Words

Again, words are not messages in themselves. They have different meanings to each of us and can be interpreted differently. While many words can be used to communicate a single message, the words you choose can dramatically alter its emotional impact. In copywriting, it is not so much the message that’s important, but the meaning behind it. For instance, look at these differences:

  • “Cost” versus “investment;”
  • “Beautiful teeth” versus “beautiful smiles;”
  • “Skinny” versus “slim” or “slender;”
  • “Products” or “services” versus “solutions;”
  • “Cost-effective” versus “return on investment;”
  • And “house” versus “home.”

C) Positive Words

Avoid using negative words. Say what it is, not what it isn’t. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of the bestseller “Psycho-Cybernetics,” states that the brain is a goal-seeking organ — it needs a goal in order to function. For example, if I told you not to think of a white carnation, you will have hard time since your brain needs a goal — it will naturally picture what it is supposed to avoid because the mind can not function when blank.

But on the other hand, if I told you to think of a pink carnation, you will then think of a pink carnation and not a white one — I gave your mind a goal. Similarly, stating what something isn’t can be counterproductive since you are directing the mind, albeit in the opposite way. If you were told that dental work is painless, for instance, your mind would still focus on the word “pain” in the word “pain-less.” Here are some other examples:

  • Instead of saying “inexpensive,” say “economical;”
  • Instead of saying “this procedure is “painless” or “pain-free,” say “there’s no discomfort with this procedure” or “it’s relatively comfortable;”
  • And instead of saying “this software is error-free,” “bug-free,” or “foolproof,” say “this software is stable.”

7. Urgency

Add urgency or scarcity to your copy. Use a technique called “takeaway selling.” As Jim Rohn once said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.” Procrastination is the biggest killer of sales — particularly online, where the chances of a prospect staying or returning to a Web site (in order to think about buying) are scarce in today’s click-happy world.

Takeaway selling is in fact based on the concept of supply and demand. As the saying goes, “You don’t know how much you want something until it’s about to be taken away.” Look at it this way: if you give a chance for your prospects to procrastinate, they will.

So add a deadline or some kind of constraint, such as a time-sensitive or quantity-bound offer. Such limitations implore at some unconscious level, “You’d better read this and take action now!” Put an actual end-date or a specific, limited quantity to your offer. But always make sure to back up your limitation with a logical, genuine, and easily justifiable reason in order to avoid appearing misleading or disingenuous.

Don’t just stick with limiting orders or time, either. Think about the offer. Perhaps your offer contains certain bonuses or a pricetag that, in its current combination, must be limited — especially if the bonuses come from third parties over which you have no control. The product (especially if it’s a digital one, which is often perceived as limitless) may not be limited. But the offer, in its current state, certainly can be.

Also, urgency can be applied to current events, situations, or circumstances. For instance, not taking action soon may cause the reader to aggravate their current problem that your product solves. The longer they wait to buy, the more they lose out.

The Bottom Line

Look at your salesletter copy and read it carefully with a discerning eye. Does it violate any of the above laws — in other words, is it easy to scan, does it grab people’s attention, and above all, does it excite them about your products or services? And more importantly, do people truly understand the meaning behind the message in the way you anticipated? Or do they interpret the message differently?

If you can, have someone else read it and tell you what they understood — you might be surprised!

Craft a message that jumps out at people and compels them to respond — or, at the very least, to read further — using the seven elements above. Finally, remember that you should tweak and test your copy regularly, and the above pointers are great places to start. Because you never know: one little change can potentially send your conversation ratio through the roof.

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