When I tell people I write for a living, a lot of them look at me like I’ve confessed to being a Gilda from Wizard of Oz.
They -- and you may relate to this -- think that what I do is a special skill that’s as inborn as breathing, and anyone not forged with the love of words might as well turn in their pencils as soon as school is over.
I take a few issues with this.
For one, writing isn’t some lottery talent ticket where only a lucky few draw the winning numbers and have the ability to craft a compelling sentence. Anyone can turn copy into their top salesperson.
And secondly, it’s too important to shrug off the value of good copy as “not in your wheelhouse.”
There’s a reason 73.4% of employers look for someone who is as confident with a pen as they are with teamwork and taking leadership positions.
It’s the same reason that poor writing is costing businesses as much as 400 billion dollars a year.
Because writing that’s thrown together without thought of the reader or attention to detail translates to readers -- customers -- who understand less, are less engaged, and have a harder time trusting you.
But strong writing -- that’s like a kind of magic. It transfers our thoughts from one another, creates better relationships, and gives our ideas a shape that others can interact with.
So maybe I am a wizard after all. Here’s the good news: you can be, too.
Here’s how and why you need to be for your business.
What is sales writing and why does it matter?
Sales writing is the art of creating enticing copy that simultaneously informs and persuades visitors to convert into customers. It can take the form of email sales writing, webpage sales writing, or any other form of sales writing that's aimed at converting visitors into customers.
This kind of copy differs from other forms of writing and is, confusingly, typically distinguished as “copywriting.”
And copywriting, unlike content writing -- which is what you see in this article and every other blog you’ve ever read -- focuses on concision. It’s saying as much as you can as pointedly and quickly as you can.
As a general rule of thumb, content writing opens the deal. Copywriting closes it.
But why does this distinction matter for you?
Because your customers consume more marketing messages than ever before. Some studies estimate that consumer exposure to advertisements across all forms of media has risen 120% over the last decade.
Basically, if you have to get one of them right as an entrepreneur, your copywriting -- more than your content writing -- is what you need to polish.
Otherwise, if the writing you affix to your sales page is just a passing afterthought, it’ll fade into the background with the 9,999 other messages your customers see in their day-to-day.
So if you take nothing else away from this article, remember this:
The writing you attach to your products is just as important as the graphics, payment gateways, and every other feature you use to persuade someone to become a customer.
It’s not a truth confined to small business owners alone, either. Professional marketers have long recognized just how essential a skilled word is for their campaigns. It’s one of the reasons writing is the most outsourced activity in marketing, trumping even design work.
And a lot of businesses have seen great returns when they outsource their copy activities, too.
For instance, by revising the writing on existing pages and creating new, copywriter-guided landing pages, one of the UK’s most high-profile cab networks was able to improve organic traffic by 15%.
Likewise, HubSpot saw an almost 100% conversion increase by refocusing the words on their CTAs, content, and landing pages.
OK, at this point, this might sound like more of a call-to-action for hiring a copywriter. It's not. If you can afford one, you can find great writers on Upwork that are eager to work with you, alongside other professionals who can handle your business tasks to outsource -- but the point isn’t to harp on the need for a professional.
Rather, it’s to illustrate this one simple truth:
Words matter for your bottom line. A lot.
But despite what people will tell you -- people like myself who depend on our ability with a well-turned phrase to make ends meet -- copywriting isn’t hard.
Seriously, it isn’t. This isn’t impostor syndrome rearing its ugly head. Producing great copywriting for your products doesn’t require hiring someone like me -- you just need the right combination of techniques, tools, and a little daring.
5 techniques and tools for sales writing that stands out
Some of these are tried-and-true, learned by every writer in the business and repeated about equally as much, while others are a little more off the beaten path based on my experiences.
Incidentally, our recently-launched sales copy generator uses many of these same techniques.
So if you want to follow along or skip straight to easy-button-mode, give it a go over here and read on.
#1. Incorporate second and first person into your writing
When we’re in school, we’re taught to disavow all forms of writing except the third person.
Even hinting at an implied first-person pronoun can put your papers on the wrong end of a red ink pen, and for many people -- especially if you developed an affinity for academic writing like me -- the thought of including yourself or your reader directly in copy feels blasphemous.
But it’s a notion that you’ll have to divorce yourself from sooner rather than later because second and first-person writing is absolutely vital for copywriting.
They connect the otherwise cold, dead pixels of the words to the user, breaking down the natural barriers that exist between a creator and their audience.
When I talk to you, the emotional impact of what I’m saying stands a chance of resonating -- while if the user is referred to as simply “the user,” they become nebulous and disconnected.
In fact, for the CTAs on your product pages and embedded buttons, first-person should be your first choice (see what I did there?). CTAs that use first-person tense convert up to 90% better than those with second-person tense.
So while the copy on this CTA is strong...
The copy on this CTA is killer.
But as a best practice, mix it up. Writing an entire sales page in first-person runs the risk of sounding self-indulgent, and rather than connecting to the reader and compelling them to take action, it might give them flashbacks to (bad) trope-filled young adult fiction.
You can see this mix in action on a lot of websites. Gillette, in particular, stands out.
Dove is another great example, as well.
A quick word of warning about this approach, however. While it’s been shown to increase brand affinity and enhance consumer engagement, using second and first person language only works in cultures where collectivism is relatively low.
So if your audience is primarily from a collectivist-rich culture, use caution and test the waters slowly.
Otherwise, don’t discount the value of a well placed “you.”