The 7 simple (but crucial) copy ingredients of a high-converting sales page
As I climbed the next peak, something just felt wrong.
Suddenly, I heard an anguished scream. I rushed to the spot and found a couple down on their knees, clutching their hearts and breathing as hard as an Asthma patient.
They were hauled away to a nearby camp for treatment immediately. By this point though, I was petrified. I wanted to know if it was even safe to continue. I looked around but everyone looked clueless. Except for the Sherpa.
“What happened?” I croaked. The Sherpa gave me a reassuring nod and said simply, “Don’t worry. It won’t happen to you.”
“Did they have asthma?”
“No. Their body wasn’t used to this air. There’s very little oxygen up here”, he said matter-of-factly.
“Look, you prepared for this trip. You’ve been climbing for the last 14 days and slowly your body is getting used to handling it. But, they were in such a rush to get to the top that they hired a helicopter to get here directly. Unfortunately, their body just couldn’t handle it.”
As a professional copywriter, I’ve noticed something similar happen to me. I’m asked, “How do I write a high-converting sales page?” – over and over and over again.
Often, I’ve found that the underlying problem is the assumption that you sit down and whip up 5,000 words, the one evening you feel inspired. Chop! Chop!
When we do this, unwittingly, we become the couple trying to skip the climb.
The reality is that writing a sales page is a grueling process. One which you need to prepare for extensively – before you pen (or type) a single word.
When you don’t do that, you’ll find that within a few days, you’re telling yourself any (all?) of these things:
- “This is SO hard!”
- “Maybe I’m not cut out for this?”
- “Who am I kidding?”
- “I never really was a writer”
If you start googling, you’ll discover phrases like the “Blank Page Syndrome” – which make it seem like not being able to write is a part of our genetic disposition.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Think of writing a sales page like going on a trek. If you were planning for a trek, wouldn’t you order boots? Pack your warmest jacket? Or would you just show up barefoot and ready to go?
The goal with this guide is to get you up to speed on the 7 copy essentials you need BEFORE you sit down to write a sales page.
These essentials make or break your sales argument. So, if you want to get started on a high-converting sales page, jump right in!
Essential #1 – One Reader
Identify the One Reader
The most critical ingredient to writing a high-performing sales page is writing for one person a.k.a your ONE READER.
Our goal is to zoom in precisely on the person you’re trying to serve.
Why does it have to be ONE Reader?
In copywriting parlance:
You NEVER sell your product. You sell the transformation. To do this, you need to match the conversation going inside your customer’s heads.
The problem is: when you think of your audience as a group of people – there isn’t a real person to think like.
Ah, the road to marketing-speak copy. The kind that forces your readers to hit the back button – so fast – they beat the dorky kid to the quiz show buzzer.
To write a high-converting sales page, you need to think like your client thinks and feel what they’re feeling. And you just can’t do it unless you know exactly who you’re talking to.
“But… but… I have 3 different audience segments that I need to appeal to!”
Not a problem.
That is… if all these people have the same goals and the same burning problems. In that case, they’re all thinking and feeling the same things.
Otherwise, why would you want to do that?
What one argument could convince 3 different kinds of people with very different problems into buying the same solution? Answer: None.
If you have 3 different audiences to appeal to – either narrow it down to the one which is most accessible or just create 3 sales pages. No other choice, amigo.
“How do I narrow it down to one reader?”
Narrowing it down feels hard because it is hard to let go. If you get through the mental gymnastics though, the process is, quite simply, elimination.
Start by listing down all the people you can help and specifically, what they need help with.
If you’re offering yoga training. It could be for:
- A stay-at-home mom or dad who’s using yoga to stay fit
- A 9-to-5 employee who likes to relax at the end of the day using yoga
- An athlete who’s using yoga to become more flexible
- A 30-year-old guy who is trying to lose weight
Now, ask yourself the following questions:
Who is going to benefit the MOST from your course?
Who are you most excited to serve?
It’s oft-repeated that your ideal client is a past version of you. That’s because you’re able to feel their pain more viscerally, relate to their challenges more deeply, and see their hopes & dreams extremely vividly.
In that case, the simplest way is to appeal to the person you were.
As in, if you’re a dude who lost 27 pounds thanks to yoga, go with the yoga for weight loss angle.
Exercise: Sales Messaging for a Digital Product
Let’s try to get inside the heads of the audience segments which our course – The ROI Sales Page would appeal to.
#1 – A digital marketer who wants to write his own sales page
He wants the ability to write a sales page. But he doesn’t want a treatise on copywriting.
He’s running a business. So, he’s short on time.
He doesn’t have the time and patience to read Gene Schwartz, Claude Hopkins, and David Ogilvy.
He just needs someone to boil it down to the basics and guide him step-by-step.
Maybe he can’t afford to hire a copywriter.
Or maybe he doesn’t want to hire a cheap one and can’t afford to wait for months to hire a really good one.
Whatever the case, he’s reasonably confident of his writing chops. But, he also knows he’s missing the structure & science behind writing a sales page.
Maybe he’s not cognizant of it but the reason he’s looking for training on writing sales pages is that he doesn’t like the cut-paste ones that he’s seen out there.
#2 – A newbie copywriter
She’s just gotten into copywriting and while she intellectually knows what it’s like to write copy, she hasn’t written much herself.
She’s read a ton of blog posts on copywriting but she doesn’t really know how to bring it all together.
That’s why she wants to learn from someone who’s on the front-lines and actually writing 5-figure or 6-figure sales pages. Ultimately, what she’s seeking is confidence.
#3 – An intermediate copywriter
He’s written quite a few sales pages but he finds it painful and time-consuming to write one from scratch all the time.
But, he doesn’t want to compromise on his artistic sensibilities either. He doesn’t want to resort to working with templates. Maybe he even feels guilty of charging top dollars when he’s just following templates.
Starting every copywriting project from scratch is painful though. He knows that if he ever wants to scale his business, he’ll need frameworks.
Ultimately, he wants to write copy at scale without compromising on the quality.
Can you see how a sales page for each audience will be different?
Essential #2 – One Offer
Creating a Product:
Now that you know your audience, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of your product:
#1 – The Outcome
Your product must help your audience get the one result they most want. If they want 6-pack abs, you have to show them how to get it. The outcome should be your product’s raison d’être.
If your product doesn’t do every single thing it can to help your customer get the outcome she wants – rework it. The difference is massive, disproportionate results.
#2 – The Process
Consider this: Your audience is on the hero’s journey and your product is their mentor. Your product is Yoda. Luke, it is not.
This means outlining the entire journey they need to take and figuring out how your product fits into it.
If you’re the visual type, start with a mind map or flowchart and map everything that needs to happen for them to hit their goals.
If you’re the cerebral type, write your heart out on a notepad. Just don’t censor yourself at this point, write down everything you can think of. (Don’t worry judgment and censoring will come)
Once you have everything – either in a flowchart or a notepad – start grouping. Bring together similar ideas and dump the ones you’re not sure about in the “miscellaneous” category. Then repeat the entire process.
Keep grouping until you’re sure you don’t need to anymore. The categories that you’re left with are your modules.
#3 – The System
Once you have the modules in place, start editing like a madman (or woman).
All you need to do is:
- Identify and plug in the gaps: Keep asking yourself – is anything missing? Keep adding in whatever you think is missing.
- Kill your darlings: After a certain point, you’ll start to feel like you’ve overdone things. Ruthlessly get rid of fluff that doesn’t help your customer get what they want. Fair Warning: Killing your darlings may sound easy but is painfully difficult!
Want a guiding principle for these steps?
The perfect product is no longer but also no shorter than it needs to be. When you’ve filled in all the gaps and cut out everything that isn’t necessary, you have a really good product.
Transforming your Product into an Offer
Your product isn’t your offer. Wait… whaaat? Yep, this was one of my biggest learnings as a rookie copywriter.
What’s the difference you ask?
Well, your offer isn’t what you give. Your offer is what your audience receives.
I’ll say it again because it’s that important: Your offer isn’t what you give. Your offer is what your audience receives.
Remember how your audience is buying the transformation they want? (No? Really? Go back to your One Reader. Cue: Bandersnatch Theme).
Your offer is your product aligned with the reader’s life such that it brings the transformation they want. But how do you do that?
Here are three easy steps to do that:
Step #1 – Get movin’
Take out a sheet of paper and divide it into two. On one side of it write – WHAT and on the other – WHY.
Step #2 – Jot down the features
Start by going through each module you outlined in the last section and jot down what you’re teaching on the left side of the paper.
Step #3 – Tap into the benefits
On the right side, write down why they should care. What value will this add to their life? Or, what’s the benefit?
The simplest way to tap into a benefit is to look at what you’re teaching and ask yourself: So What?
Suppose, you had a digital product that helped guys lose weight through Yoga, and in the first module, you taught them a simple 2-min getting started routine. The benefit could be: a routine they could do even when they’re tired, frustrated, or just don’t feel like doing yoga.
Tailoring your Offer to your Audience
Remember the personas we crafted in the previous section? Let’s see how different our offer would be for them.
#1 – Digital Marketer who wants to write his own sales page
He is extremely short on time. So, we’ll have to make sure that our lessons are as crisp as they can be. More importantly, if we can keep the lessons bite-sized, he’ll be able to find pockets of time to learn <= benefit!
Not only does he need a step by step process, but he also needs to be reassured that he’s making progress. He needs a system that tells him exactly where he’s in the process so that he knows he’s not wasting his time <= benefit!
#2 – Newbie Copywriter
As she’s been learning a lot and not actually writing, the focus needs to be to get her to write.
Hence, the single most important consideration for our offer is: actionability.
We must create templates, checklists, and worksheets wherever needed and add practice exercises so that she can learn by doing and become more confident <= benefit!
Also, one of her major concerns could be that she feels like she isn’t doing it right. To counter it, we can have over-the-shoulder tutorials, field reports, and case studies. Or, we could simply include weekly group coaching calls.
See how our offers differ for different audiences?
Bonus Tip on Creating a Killer Offer
Here’s a bonus tip: create a BONUS. Or multiple bonuses, if you can.
Bonuses stand out from the main offer because they feel like an entirely different offer stacked on top of this one. Bonuses also tap into the strong human bias towards things that are “free”.
Just remember two simple guidelines when crafting your bonus:
- It should be a natural fit for your offer. If it doesn’t, it’s junk.
- The more relevant your bonus to the customer’s life RIGHT NOW, the better it’ll work.
Essential #3 – One Promise
You already know your audience’s needs & wants – therefore, you know the BIGGEST outcome your audience wants. This outcome is the foundation your promise is built on.
What’s a promise?
The promise is your ability to get your audience the result it wants. It’s the payoff of the claim you make.
Think of your promise as your word. If you were a Mesopotamian from 5000 BC, it would have been your honor at stake. And you’d have been burned at stake if you didn’t live up to it. Thankfully, you’re in AD 2020.
A promise is meant to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the risk a prospect feels before committing. It can feel scary because making a promise means you’ve got skin in the game.
But, the scarier the promise, the more powerful it is! (within reasonable limits)
The power of a promise
One of the best promises I’ve come across is from the Experience Product Masterclass by Marisa Murgatroyd
Curious? Here it is in all its glory:
Harness the power of “Experience Products” to make at least $2,000 in the next 12 weeks, guaranteed*
(* Yes, we are legally guaranteeing you’ll make at least $2,000 in 12 weeks – no matter your industry, niche, or stage of business!)
Sound too simple? It is!
BUT, it’s great because it gives you a very specific outcome: an exact amount you’ll earn in a fixed period of time. It’s brilliant because it takes the risk away from the reader. 100%.
For someone who’s getting started and has tried program after program after program without much success, they’ll be compelled to give EPM a shot. After all, what have they got to lose?
“But..what if I can’t promise anything?”
Firstly, it’s normal to feel this way.
However, instead of focusing on this thought, just start by listing all the reasons why people won’t be able to hit their goals. Then, start adding methods to eliminate them.
Think: How can you literally guarantee it for them? Maybe you could:
- Have checklists and worksheets to let them know they’re on track
- Post interviews with people who have achieved the same outcome (especially highlighting their challenges)
- Host a weekly coaching call
One of the biggest barriers to guaranteeing an outcome for a make-money-for-beginner course is the fact that people just don’t market themselves. It brings up way too much resistance.
Hence, Marisa gets you started on Marketing by the end of week #1 (this is the big promise. One that shows up on the sales page guarantee).
Remember: You can always ask your students to turn in assignments, or show up at every coaching call to be eligible for a refund. That way, you can weed out the people who just won’t take action.
If you’ve done this exercise but still feel like there are a lot of variables you can’t control – then ask yourself this: what’s the closest to the ultimate outcome that you can promise?
Even if you can’t promise the $ amount, maybe you can promise that by the end of course, they’ll have an offer that they’ve validated?
For example, Copyhackers’ “most profitable person in the room” didn’t promise any tangible outcomes but still, it was intriguing enough to compel people to give it a try.
Essential #4 – One Big Idea
The big idea can be especially daunting to nail. And it often requires a considerable amount of thinking (read:banging your head on the desk for hours)
The big idea is the central theme. If you think of your sales page as an argument, the big idea is the premise.
Here are three deceptively simple methods you can use to bring your big idea to life:
- Expound the Primary Benefit
- Explore the Contrarian Truth
- Focus on your Point of View
Expound the Primary Benefit
One of the best ways to get started with the Big Idea is to find the SINGLE MOST DESIRABLE benefit of your offer.
Think: What makes your offer Red Hot? What makes it irresistible to your audience? Fair warning: Our deepest desires are not logical, rational ideas. They’re deeper emotional needs.
For this step, focus on what someone is feeling.
For example: Maybe your audience feels like they’ve been wronged or maybe they want the acceptance of the people closest to them.
Explore the Contrarian Truth
The big idea can often be a contrarian truth. And one of the most elegant ways to get started is to ask yourself:
“What the hell is everyone else getting wrong?”
The big idea does not necessarily have to be something new. Since we live in a world where we’re bombarded with marketing messages left, right and center – you’re hardly ever going to say something that hasn’t been said before.
BUT, that’s not a problem. Instead, you’ll discover the big idea simply by focusing on what matters. For example, the big idea about Growth Lab’s course Endless Audience is that it helps you find buyers, not just to drive traffic and get freebie seekers.
If you still don’t know what you big idea is, ask this question:
“What’s the ONE thing I would warn someone about if they took this journey?”
Focus on your Point of View
Another way to look at the Big Idea is to think deeply about your POV (Point of View).
Where do your views diverge from everyone else’s?
Joanna Wiebe’s Big Idea in the 10x Freelance Copywriter sales page is how you never became a freelancer to be mediocre. She appeals to the people who are driven, hungry & ambitious. It stands out because other courses are usually portraying freelancing as a lifestyle business.
One of the easiest ways to develop your point of view is to pick a fight.
You don’t need to pick a fight with a person, you need to pick a fight with an ideology.
For instance, I could create a sales page that talks about freelancers scaling up without being hungry and driven all the time.
In fact, here’s a sales page that does something similar for affiliate marketers!
Expressing the BIG Idea
The problem with identifying big ideas is that often, it just doesn’t feel like it’s a BIG idea. It can seem meh, boring, common sense or whatever.
Take spirituality, for example, one of the biggest ideas for a beginner is “present moment awareness”. If you were to say that to someone, they’d just shrug and say – “Yeah, yeah I know”.
That doesn’t mean your big idea isn’t big enough. Often, you have to express a common-sense idea in a way that it becomes explosive.
Big Ideas to consider
- Just DO It (This one’s Nike’s – please refrain from copying and being slapped with a multi-million dollar lawsuit)
- Small is the New Big
- Get Camera Ready without Hiring a Makeup Pro
Essential #5 – Stages of Awareness
When your reader is solving a problem, she’s on a journey. To be able to sell, you need to understand which stage of the journey she’s in.
|Stage of Awareness||What the reader feels|
|Unaware||They don’t even know that they have a problem|
|Problem Aware||They’ve just gotten aware of the problem but they’re not sure if there are solutions out there|
|Solution Aware||They’re googling around and they’ve found the solutions available but they’re not aware of your solution yet|
|Product Aware||They’re aware of your solution amongst others and they’re considering which one they should buy|
|Most Aware||They’re aware of all the solutions and they’re inclined towards your solution over the competition’s|
Why do we need the stages of awareness?
Think of stages of awareness like walls – psychological walls.
A prospect needs to have sufficient reason and motivation to jump over one and head towards the next. It could be supplied by life events or your marketing and sales copy.
Stages of Awareness are an excellent tool to narrow and focus your message. It’ll help you match what’s going on in their life right now.
To determine which stage they’re in, ask the following questions:
- What prompted them (your traffic) to arrive on your page?
- What message did they recently see before they landed on your page?
Think about it this way:
If you had a friend who loved the Chicago Bulls, you’d just have to tell them you’ve got tickets and they’d JUMP at the chance of going with you.
However, if your friend is a Lakers fan and is pretty meh towards the Bulls… you’ll have to convince him that this will still be a really good game.
If your friend doesn’t like basketball at all, you’d probably have to make an argument about why watching the game is a good option compared to the other ways they could spend the evening – say watching Netflix or reading a book.
And if your friend doesn’t even know what basketball is… well, forget it. Actually, no. You could talk about the novelty of watching a game and even teach them the basics to get them excited!
The point is: Stages of Awareness give you the ability to customize and tailor your message to exactly what’s going on in your prospect’s mind.And if you’re able to match what the reader is thinking right now, you’ll get instant credibility because they’ll start to think that you “GET” them – before you can make them offers (free or paid).
That’s the power of stages of awareness.
Essential #6 – Traffic Temperature
The traffic temperature is an excellent companion to the Stages of Awareness. If you’re a digital marketer, chances are you’ve heard the phrase before.
The key difference is: While stages of awareness help you understand where the reader is with respect to her problem, traffic temperature focuses on the relationship the reader has with your business.
If you’re driving traffic from Google Ads, even though users could be in a later stage of awareness, they may have no relationship with your business and hence they’re cold leads.
On the contrary, if your audience is your email list, they’re warm.
However, when you send out the first email to them, they may not even be aware that they have a problem a.k.a unaware.
This focus on relationship with the audience helps you identify what elements should go into your sales page. If your audience is icy cold, you probably shouldn’t even be sending them to a sales page. Instead, you need them to spend more time building a relationship with you. This could be through blog posts, videos, or social media interaction.
On the other hand, if your audience is warm, the biggest goal of the sales page is to knock down objections and explain why your solution is better than the rest.
And if your traffic is hot, you probably need nothing more than just talking about what’s included, the price, the guarantee, and some urgency.
Essential #7 – Unique Value Proposition
Your reader is bombarded with social media messages and emails all day long. You can safely assume she’s probably seen a dozen different offers similar to yours.
As Perry Marshall, puts it eloquently: “If your offer does not stand out to the reader, it might as well not exist”
If your audience is sophisticated a..k.a if they understand the market really well, your value proposition also needs to be UNIQUE. Or else, why wouldn’t they buy from everyone else out there?
Getting started on your Unique Value Proposition
It’s sad but in most markets, people keep trying a few things over and over again without much success. You don’t need to be in the weight loss industry to know that there are a TON of diets out there.
Worse still, most of them promise to do exactly what everyone else does. Even if you had a new diet, it’s just another diet. Which makes it unattractive to your audience. Unless you make it attractive.
But… how do you do that?
To start off, classify your diet. Maybe it’s Vegan. Or maybe it’s Paleo. Just pick a broad category.
Next, ask yourself: amongst all the vegan diets out there, what makes my diet different?
Remember…There must be something about it that has compelled you to share your ideas with the world:
- Maybe it’s because this diet is convenient (and we know most diets fail because it’s hard to keep up with them)
- Maybe it’s the fact that this diet doesn’t make you go crazy with hunger
- Maybe it’s because this diet is light on the pocket
Whatever the reason – find it. And until you can find a reason, keep digging.
For instance, No Meat Athlete is a vegan diet and it appeals strongly to the vegan sub-section which wants to compete in sports or even just be, feel and look athletic.
Sometimes your big idea can help you build out your unique value proposition.
For the ROI Sales Page, we figured that the problem was that every sales page sounded the same. And so, ditching the sameness to sell more became our unique value prop.
Still not sure….?
Just make a list of all the competitors in your space and check them out. What does everyone else say or do that feels like it’s the same? And where does your point of view differ?
As cliché as it sounds, all you need to do here is – find a way to zig when they zag.
Your Relationship as the Unique Value Proposition
Personality brands can have a strong advantage if they’ve spent the time to build a relationship with their tribe. If you fall into this category, you need to realize that YOU can be the unique value proposition.
You have built a relationship with your audience, you’ve added value to their lives and often, they might not even want to know anything but the details before they buy.
This is the reason why Ramit Sethi has the “Buy Now” button at the top of his sales pages. Many people, including myself, don’t even read because he’s spent an incredible amount of time & effort adding value to my life.
Fair warning though, don’t use this tip to cut corners. You fit the bill only if you know in a heartbeat that you do. Otherwise, you don’t.