Writing sales letters sucks. Creating sales copy sucks.
Let’s face it, sales letters suck. Nobody likes to be sold, and most of us are affraid every attempt we make to attract buyers will make us look like a sleazy, shouty, slimeball.
It’s no wonder sitting down to pen these instruments of mass conversion can be more painful than lounging on a jellyfish, and leave us feeling like Darth Vader’s evil twin.
High-converting sales letters use emotive language and hidden cues to lead us through a journey from casual browser to avid buyer, without us knowing what’s going on.
At least that’s what the great copywriters want you to believe. Include these magic words, you are assured, and your readers will practically beg you to take their money. Cover these bases, in the right order and at the right time, and you can print your own money whenever you want. Just churn out a new sales letter.
While it’s true there are some basic principles you need to know, and frameworks you can follow, if you focus on the techniques and forget about the quality of the content, you’ll likely shoot yourself in the foot.
Bad sales letters that attempt to follow these principles abound. Using formulas, templates, and cookie-cutter sentences with the keywords swapped out, they try to wield the same power as the originals, and their writers wonder what went wrong when the money doesn’t come rolling in.
In frustration, they turn to the gurus who sold them the formula. But by that time, the guru has created another sales funnel, another pitch, and moved onto the next hot money spinner.
So what do you do? Buy into the next promise, tweak your existing sales letters into oblivion, or conclude that you’ll never make a copywriter and hire an expert?
As a freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, if you want to attract clients, put food on the table, and keep the roof over your head, you have to create sales letters. Otherwise, your ideal clients will find your competition, read their sales copy, and buy from them instead.
But here’s the big secret: No one knows your business and your customers as well as you do. While a good copywriter can take your existing content and turn it around to appeal to your audience, with a little time and training, so can you.
I know. I’ve been a freelance writer since 2009, writing copy for small businesses, content sites, and even other authors. Stringing words together has never been a problem for me. I’ve even written some sucessful sales pitches – for other people.
I always end up telling my clients the same thing: It’s not about YOU. If you want to connect with your readers, expose them to your offering, upgrade them to buyers, and involve them in your promotional efforts, you have to make it all about THEM. In order to get what you want, you have to deliver what your customer wants first.
The real secret of a good sales letter is it turns the customer into the hero, not you. It talks about their pain, their problems, their search for a solution. Yes, you have to show you can ease the pain, solve the problem, and deliver a solution. But not until you’ve established you’re talking to the right person by showing you understand.
And here’s the good news: to do that, you don’t have to write hypnotic headlines, turn on the hyberbole, and ramp up the sleeze factor.
At this point, you’re probably expecting me to try and sell you something, right?
Everything in this post, from the cheesy headline to the sentence structure and word choice so far has been designed to look and sound like one of those sales letters.
Now I just want to talk to you straight. Because that’s what I, and your customers, want you to do for them. If your potential customers could talk to you right now, here’s what they might say:
Sure, create your brochures, your order pages, your About Us pages, and all the other stuff you need for me to check you out when I am ready.
Yes, create a sales funnel that leads me from your social profiles, to your blog, to those pages, in my own time.
By all means, offer me a lead magnet, ethical bribe to get my email address, or whatever you want to call it, and send me emails when I subscribe encouraging me to learn more.
But please, stop trying to manipulate me. Stop trying to hypnotise me, dupe me, or in any way trick me into buying from you. In short, stop trying to sell me, and start trying to help me.
So what does all that have to do with creating sales copy?
Well, for one thing, it takes the pressure to find the magic words and stick to the formula off. That frees you to tell your story the way that makes sense to you. It also switches the focus from dry, company-centric or product centered descriptions, to talking to your customer about how they can use your product or service to get what they want. And you have those conversations all day, every day. All you have to do is write them down.
If you have FAQs that are actually based on customer questions, and not the questions you wish people would ask so you could give them your spiel, you just need to use them.
That time you spend on social media? Instead of using it to post links to your sales pages, spend it answering real questions from users in interest groups. Copy your answers, edit them, and use them to make blog posts, video walk-throughs, infographics, or whatever makes sense for your audience, and share them instead of your sales pages.
Every time you’re tempted to put out any content, before you even jot down an outline, ask yourself:
- Does this provide genuine value to my customer/reader/client in its own right?
- What question does it answer?
- What problem does it solve?
- Is it transparent, honest, and ethical?
- Or is its sole purpose to add to my bottom line?
If your answer to the first question is no, and the last answer is yes, step away. Think about the other three questions until you can reframe the content in a way that adds value for your customer, or just focus on something more useful.
The real secret to creating sales content painlessly? Don’t try to create sales content. Try to create useful content. Once people realise you really want to help them, and will put their needs first, you don’t need to sell them, they will sell themselves.
Of course, you should always include a call to action at the end of your content that invites the reader to take another step along the journey. To make it less awkward, having to thrust your mini pitch into the end of the post, use email signatures, opt in boxes at the bottom of posts and other automatically included bookends to do the work for you. That way, you can concentrate on ending your conversation naturally, instead of by reminding them you’re trying to sell something.