Talia is a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences, teaching conversion optimization and growth on stages such as Google, Unbounce, MozCon, GMIC, CXL live, Search Love, Learn Inbound and many more.
She is the Co-founder & CMO at Banana Splash and was recently listed as one of the most influential voices in conversion optimization.
Latest posts by Talia Wolf (see all)
- Are heatmaps actually effective? Interview with HotJar Founder - April 16, 2018
- Social Listening: How to Increase Conversions Using Social Media Insights - March 18, 2018
- How to go from blank screen to high-converting copy [webinar] - February 22, 2018
At some point in your career you have probably been told that copy doesn’t matter or that people don’t read. 🙄
That’s why most “best practices” tell you to:
- Reduce the copy on your pages
- Remove your explanatory text
- Shorten the subject lines you use
- Right one word headlines
There’s plenty more of those “tips” around the web.
Well here’s the hard truth: These “experts”, blog posts and “best practices” are completely wrong.
Copy can make or break your conversions.
I want to make sure you’re on the path to writing copy people WANT to read, so this week I invited Joel Klettke to give us a crash course on how to write high-converting copy.
And boy, did he deliver.
Joel has helped clients like HubSpot, InsightSquared and WP Engine turn more visitors into customers with nothin but beautiful words.
This training included the most important elements of writing high-converting copy and SO many great examples.
If you want to increase your conversion rates you need to know how to write copy the right way and Joel teaches us just that in this webinar.
Here are the moments you don’t want to miss:
- Level of awareness: The key component for knowing EXACTLY what words to use on your page (06:20)
- Pain & Desire: How to understand the underline emotional-drivers that bring prospects to your product (15:32)
- Frameworks: Putting it all together – Specific copywriting frameworks you can use right now (25:31)
- Social Proof: How to use social proof the right way to grow your conversions (39:14)
Watch the recording here:
Read the transcript and get the slides below:
Okay, let’s dive in. So today we’re gonna be talking about how to go from blank screen to high-converting copy. And if you’re coming in hoping that I’m just gonna riddle you with formulas and fill in the blanks and mad libs, and that at the end of the day you’re gonna go, “Man, copy is easy. I don’t have to do anything,” You’re gonna leave sadly disappointed. What we’re gonna be diving into today is a lot of really sexy thinking and process because if you can think well, if you can plan well, if you can research well, then you can write well. And if you can’t do any of those things well, you’re going to struggle. But first, let’s talk about me for 10 seconds and then move on.
Why you should listen to me if you choose to listen to me, I’m a conversion copywriter and consultant. I work mainly with software companies and B2B companies, though I do dabble in B2C every time the inclination strikes. I’ve worked with clients like HubSpot in the past. We doubled their conversions. WP Enginae and Deputy. I’ve had the privilege of speaking at places like MozCon, ConversionXL Live, CTA Conference and other really cool places, big rooms, people in them. And I’m generally a polite Canadian with the stereotypical of hockey, beer, and apologizing. So if and when something goes wrong today, you’re pretty sure to get a sorry. But let’s get to the content because that’s what you guys came for.
If you ever asked yourself questions like, how long should my copy be, or what should my headline say or how do I organize all this stuff? Or where does this social proof go? Does it go in a slider someplace? Does it go at the bottom, near the call to action? Where does it all go? Then you know the frustration that is trying to write persuasive copy. And so if you’ve ever felt stuck on these things, there’s probably lots of stuff that you’ve tried before. You been like, ”Yeah, I’m gonna google copywriting formulas.” And ”Oh, I’m gonna download some templates from Unbounce,” or “I’m just gonna sit here and cry for a while.” Or like, ”I’m gonna take some drugs à la Don Draper, and that’s where my great copy is gonna come from.” It’s really easy to do all of those things and still feel like this guy, like you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. And if that’s you, that’s okay because I think this is where I’ve been even recently on projects. Even when you know this stuff, there’s always those moments where you’re just thinking, “Man, where am I at? How do I bring this all together?
So I wanna start by trying to reframe the way that we think about writing copy with this quote from a genius named Eugene Schwartz. ”Copy is never written. Copy is assembled.” You don’t just sit down and have inspiration flow out of your fingers. We’re not penning the next Harry Potter here. Copy is never written. It’s assembled. If we believe that what we’re really doing is taking all of the pieces that we collect, all of the intel we collect, the research we collect, and assembling it into something persuasive, then the next logical question is, “Well, what pieces do we need to collect? What is going to be assembled here?”
Today, I’m gonna talk about generally five different pieces of insight that we need to collect to assemble persuasive copy. So the first is we need to understand our customer’s level of awareness. We’re gonna spend a fair bit of time on this because it holds the answer to questions like, “How long should my copy be?”, at least your first draft. It holds the answers to questions like, “Where should I get my headline from? What type of headline should I use?”
Then we also need to know our customer. You can’t sell to an audience you don’t know inside and out. So we need to understand their pain points. We need to understand the underlying desires that bring them to us, that send them looking for a solution like ours. We need to understand their priorities and you could also call this decision criteria. How do they think through their decisions? What are they weighing up? And then we need to understand their anxieties. What might keep them from converting? What might keep them from taking action?
So we’re gonna systematically go through some of this stuff. I’m gonna share some formulas and explain how to use formulas and frameworks properly because it’s not mad libs. And then, we’re gonna talk really quickly about social proof because wielded well, social proof can be really impactful. Wielded poorly, it’s just another thing people will scroll past on your site. So let’s dive in.
Customer State of Awareness
First, we’re gonna talk about level of awareness. So if you’ve ever read the book or heard about the book, ”Breakthrough Advertising,” you’re gonna see a lot of references in my presentation today. I’m gonna say that if you are someone trying to up your copy game, that is a book or a resource to go seek out. It’s probably one of the most expensive books I’ve bought for myself outside of university, but it is worth it. Anyone owns it that you ask will say it is worth it. But where I’m going with this is, if you’ve read that book, then you know Eugene talks about five different levels of awareness, and if you understand the suitcase and what’s in it. So think about your customers as carrying around baggage, that they bring their baggage with them to your landing page, to your email series. We’ve gotta understand what’s in the bag, what’s in the suitcase, because we can’t take them on the journey with us until we know what they’ve brought, until we can bridge the gap between what they know now, what we know now, and what we need for them to know to get to where we’re at.
So the five stages from the top down, most aware. These are the people that already know about your brand, they already understand the offer, they’re just looking for what the deal is. So the people you have a very different conversation, know about you. They understand their pain. They understand that there are solutions that solves that pain, but they don’t necessarily understand what makes you best. These are our comparison shoppers. These are people actively establishing their preferences and about to act on them.
Then we’ve got solution aware. So these are people that know the solutions that they want. These are people that know…they understand their pain, they know what they wanna achieve, but they don’t understand the how. They don’t get the mechanism for whatever you’re selling and whether it’s product or service, they don’t understand how that works, how that’s gonna deliver for them.
Then, further down, lower on the awareness chain, we’ve got people who are problem aware, so people who are problem aware know they’ve got a problem but they don’t know how to solve it. They may not even be aware that solutions are available. So they feel their pain, they’re in the midst of their pain or their desire, but they don’t know there’s something that can solve it.
And then on the bottom, the hardest people to sell to, the most complicated conversation, are people who are completely unaware. These are people who have opinions, beliefs, and ideas mostly about themselves, about their identities, but they don’t know anything else. I mention that you’re gonna have very different conversations with these people, and here’s what I mean. Let’s say that you’re selling dental floss of all things. Somebody who’s most aware, understands what dental floss is, the problem it solves, all they need to know is the price. So you might say to them, ”Hey, if you’ve got something stuck in your teeth, you need dental floss. I have dental floss right here. It’s just 50 cents a pack, so you’ll save a dollar.” That would be all you would have to say.
So if you have something in your teeth, you need floss. I’ve got floss right here. It’s just 50 cents a pack, so you’ll save a dollar. That’s for someone who already knows you, they know the need, they know their options, they just didn’t know the price.
But let’s think about somebody who’s solution aware. Remember, they know they have a problem, they understand that pain, but they’re looking to try and understand, “Okay, well, how does this all come together?” So for them, you might say, ”Hey, if you have something in your teeth, then you need something to get it out. If you need something to get it out, you might consider a toothpick. But if you’re considering a toothpick, you should also consider floss. Floss works like a toothpick, only it cleans more thoroughly since it can reach even the tightest premises. You can get that truly clean feeling around your entire mouth without it getting soggy, breaking, or jabbing you in the gums. Plus, it’s peppermint flavored, so fresh and clean. I have floss right here. It’s just $50 a pack and you’ll save a dollar.”
Now you’ll compare these two conversations and some things become obvious. For most aware, you can be short. You can be direct. You don’t have to do a lot of massaging pain, explaining the how. People have that already, they know that. They just need to know the deal. But with solution aware, you have to work harder to bridge the gap between what they know now and what you need them to know to make a decision to purchase from you.
So the further down you go on the awareness level scale, generally the longer your copy is going to need to be to communicate what you need to communicate. You’ll notice in the solution aware, I’m doing things like discounting other solutions. I’m explaining the benefits that they can get. I’m laying out why it works, how it works.
As we move on here, generally with most, well, you just wanna show them the deal. With product aware, you wanna reinforce that desire, focus on differentiating yourself, and proving that you can do what you say. For solution aware people, you want to show them the how, so show them how this will happen, prove it, and give the desire they have a goal and that goal should be resolved by your product. For people who are problem aware, you want to agitate that pain. Show them that you feel what they’re going through. You build the empathy, layout the what of your solution.
And for people completely unaware, you wanna meet them with that and just speak to their state of mind and that one’s probably the hardest to explain. It takes the longest to do. But the goal of your page, or email series, or whatever should be to progressively move people along this chain, to move them from whatever state of awareness they bring with them to the highest level of awareness so that they’re ready to buy.
So when it comes to length, it’s not about long or short necessarily. It’s about saying as much as is needed to communicate what you need to, then shutting up and getting out of the way. So don’t ramble on. If somebody just needs the price, don’t waste time comparative. Don’t waste time laying out the how. Just give them the price. So how do we learn our customer’s state awareness? How do we figure this out? Because if we guess and get it wrong, you can guess that that would be traumatic to things like conversion rates.
So lots of ways that we can kind of tap into where our customers are at. And to be clear, different customers will come in at different levels. Your job is to understand where and how they’re engaging with you. For example, you could launch an on-site survey asking, ”Hey, had you heard of us before today?” One question. Or you could ask similar questions like, ”What other solutions are you comparing?” or things of that nature.’ You can look at your chat logs. If someone comes on to your chat log, what questions are they asking? Because these can be indicative of what they already know or don’t know. Are they asking very basic questions like what do you do or are they asking questions about how you do it or are they asking questions about what makes you different? All of these can be clues as to where they are along that scale.
If you don’t have chat on your site, consider implementing it or go talk to sales. These are people on the front line and they’re the people dealing with these customers, and ask them what questions they’re getting all the time. Look at your search phrases. So I know, not provided for search engines is a real killer, real buzzkill on this, but look at your search console and look at the phrases that are bringing people into your page or your blog. Are they pain? Are they solution? Are they comparative? Are they looking for best solution that maybe they’re on a different level than somebody who’s saying, “How to give myself a haircut.?” Or whatever it might be. Look at those and try to understand the intent of the people behind those keywords. What are they asking about?
Do customer surveys with your existing customers. Ask them what was going on in your business when you came looking for a solution. How were you solving it before that? Were you aware of us? Turn to your customers now and get them to go back in their journey to talk through that decision with you.
Then finally, think situationally. Somebody who your remarketing is probably already aware because they’ve already had some engagement with you, so they’re probably at a higher level of awareness. Somebody on your email list, if they’d been a subscriber for a long time, probably has a higher level of awareness than somebody who’s brand new. Look at your ad campaigns. Again, what phrases are you targeting? Where are you reaching them?
So lots of ways to dive into levels of awareness. And once you know that, you’ll have a better idea of how you’ll need to frame up your copy, what you’ll need to talk about in that copy and headlines. And I’ll get to headlines later because there’s some really tangible examples of the types of headlines that can work well with each different awareness level.
Pain and Desire
Moving on, now we want to get into pain and desire. Remember, we need to understand the underlying emotional drivers, the underlying desires that bring people to a product. And it’s not just, ”Oh, okay, well I got your CRM because I wanna manage contacts.” Yes, that is the surface level desire, but underlying that, why do they want to manage more contexts. Will they want to be more efficient? Well, why do they want to be more efficient? Well, if they’re more efficient, then they’ll waste less time on administrative work and they’ll make more sales. Well, why do they want to make more sales? Well, because they’re responsible for hitting a number within the organization. And if they can hit a number within the organization, then they’ll make more money themselves and their business will make more money. So see what I’m doing. I’m going, why, why, why. We’re digging down.
And Joanna Wiebe uses an interesting framework for this called, “if that, then this.” So if you want that, then you’ll do this. If you want that, then you’ll do this. So it’s a good way if you use that framework to kind of dig down. But no, we’re not talking 50 shades of covering. So turning back to our good buddy Eugene who’s just a fount of wisdom. You’ll see I’ve highlighted the name of that book because I really do encourage you to buy it. I’m not getting any kind of affiliate or commission on that. It’s just probably the best book on this stuff you could read. ”This is the copywriter’s task, not to create mass desire but to channel and direct it.” That’s something we have to understand as writers, as business owners. We don’t generate desire, we don’t create desire. We give it a focus. We take the things people already want, already need and project those desires on to our product and the outcomes we can give them. So your job is not to make people want stuff, your job is to focus that want on to you, on to your product, on to your service.
So what do we need to learn to do this? We need to understand fundamentally their motivation. If we were to sum it all up into one word, it would be motivation. But underlying motivation are four things. We need to dig into their pain points. We need to understand their anxieties, why wouldn’t they choose a solution? What would keep them from switching? What would keep them from acting? We need to understand their priorities. So again, their decision criteria, because not all desires, not all features, not all elements are weighted the same when we’re choosing something. And then, we need to understand their desired outcomes. What is it that they want to achieve? What does that future version of themselves look like? We need to get to their why.
And so, here’s a process for listening and for using this in your copy. You wanna ask good questions. You wanna record those answers in your customer’s own words. And I’ve given other talks on this, but basically to sum it up, your best copy will rarely come from yourself. It will normally be stolen and iterated on from the mouths of your customers themselves. You wanna do some analysis on that feedback that you’ve already collected, then you wanna deploy it. You wanna write something. You wanna test the response. You wanna measure the response. And then, the cycle repeats. You are never done. You have never gotten it so perfect that your control can’t be beat that you can’t do a little bit better. Unless you’re converting at 100%, there’s always some way that you could be doing better.
For that first stage of the process, well, how do we ask? What types of questions do we ask to learn this stuff? How do we fill up our bag with these pieces so that…remember what Eugene said, “Copy is assembled, not written,” so how do we collect the pieces of copy and insight we need to assemble it into what we’re gonna build?
A good framework for asking smarter questions is to ask about people’s experience, not their opinion. We’re interested in their buying experience, in their life experience, in the experience, what it feels like to have the desires that they have, not their opinions. Is this good or bad? Would you buy this or not?
A good way to get those is to ask in a BDA format, Before, During, and After. What was life like before the product or service? What was it like using the product? What was different? What was surprising? What did it feel like? How did it make you feel? And then after, what have the results been like? What have you been able to achieve? Have you achieved that underlying desire? How do you feel about yourself now? How do you feel about your business now?
Let’s get into some specific questions before questions. So questions for that B part. If our insight to learn is a pain point, if we’re trying to uncover what’s the pain that’s driving them, then asking them questions like what sense you looking for a solution like ours, what was going on in your life or in your business that sent you looking for a solution like ours. And then asking, “What did that feel like?” or maybe in a more pointed way, “What was so frustrating about that experience?” or, “What was so bad about that experience? Or “Why? Why was that so compelling for you?” Never be afraid to get a little human with people and ask them, “Well, why? Why was that important?” It sounds like a dumb question, but the things that you’ll learn about people’s underlying nature and the way that they seek things out is really interesting.
Then we wanna know maybe their past failures. What are they using to solve their problem right now? And your competition isn’t necessarily…let’s say you’re a CRM software, your competition isn’t necessarily other CRM software. It could be paper and pen. It could be Excel. It could be nothing. It could be emails flying back and forth. So your competition isn’t necessarily who you expect, so it’s possible that you’re actually attacking the wrong competition based on where your customers are coming from. You’re discrediting the wrong thing. If we wanna learn about their anxieties and hesitations, then we’ll ask them questions like, “What almost kept you from choosing us?” or “What’s holding you back from making a decision today?”
So we wanna be able to attack those in the copy. We wanna be able to immediately allay those anxieties, overcome those hesitations right on the page. We wanna do that by being able to anticipate what elitist thinking as they go through and then answer it before they can even ask. And you can only do that by asking them at some point, by having these conversations. So copy is iterative. It constantly gets better, evolves as you learn more, as you collect pieces that you can bake in.
Then we wanna get to their underlying desires. So what did you hope to get out of this product when you went looking? What was it you hoped to achieved? What was the thing that you wanted to solve? Getting people talking about this in their own language.
When it comes to During questions, we wanna ask about things like decision criteria. So when evaluating whatever product solution, what did you find most interesting or what made you confident enough to give us a try? Trying to piece out, okay, well what arguments are we making that are hitting home with them. For priorities, what did you like best about the product while you were using it? Or did anything surprise you about it? Or what made this the best solution for you? And listen to the way people rationalize their decision. That’s gonna tell you what parts of your copy you’re working and that’s gonna tell you how they make these decisions for themselves.
Then when it comes to delivery, so for example, if you’re providing a service, what was your first impression of my agency? Or what was your first impression of this person or the service? And you can ask how that evolved as things went on.
So if the incident we wanna learn is impacting results, we don’t just wanna ask what have your results been because that could be overly broad and we may get nothing. You might paralyze a person you’re talking to interviewing, surveying. So we wanna get specific. How has whatever progress solution changed your business, changed your health, change your life?
Now these are a little bit leading. You do wanna ask questions that can be a little bit broader and see what kind of feedback, make sure you’re not filling in the blanks for people if there’s something you’re missing. But then, underlying drivers does this very well too. So how would you describe the results you’ve seen because of this product or solution? Get them talking about what that impact has meant for them. These will point to those underlying desires whether or not you’ve satisfied them, how you’ve satisfied them.
Then naming the solution, so if a peer were to ask you why they should choose or use whatever product solution, what might you tell them? And this will give you a clear indication again of underlying desires and how they would put it forward, how they would give a name to their own pain or give a name to their own solution. And that can be really helpful.
So the mechanism for doing this type of BDA question. I’m not gonna spend a ton of time on this. If you’re interested in it, I did a talk for CTA Conf that’s live. You can go look it up. Just search “CTA Conf Joel Klettke” and it will be right there. You can watch the whole thing. I get really detailed.
But three mechanisms I love is interviewing people on the phone or face to face if you can, running surveys whether they’re on the site or through emails asking these types of questions, and then looking at testimonials and reviews that are out in the wild. There’re even conversations on places like Reddit and you can see there what questions do people ask. How do they either tear down or defend your service? So when people raise anxieties, how do people counter them already? Or how do they make those anxieties worse? You wanna know what’s being said about you already, how people talk, how people think, so that again, you can counter those objections on a page.
So a tangible example, I’m working with a company called Genius Link and one of the questions we saw coming up over and over and over again on places like Reddit, even though we’d stated it on the site, was, “Is this thing Amazon safe? Will it get me banned? Will it result in my affiliate commissions being terminated?” and so on. Because we knew that, we looked back at other solutions and nobody was answering that question explicitly. Now we can. Now we can brand ourselves as an Amazon-safe solution and put a rest to that conversation. We now own that conversation so that it doesn’t have to happen elsewhere. We’ve become the authority on ourselves.
So we’ve collected our pieces, we’ve learned hopefully our leads level of awareness. Now we need to put it all together. We actually have to get to the writing piece. But, questions are still there. What types of headline should we use? How do we actually organize it? What arguments go where? How do we lay it out? And this is something you could easily do weeks-long workshops on. There’s lots of different ways to approach it, but I’ve tried to distill this down to some really simple ideas, frameworks to get you unstuck that will show you if you’re here, try this next. So keep that in mind.
And I mentioned that I was gonna talk about how to use frameworks properly. So the wrong way to use a framework or a formula is to just treat it like a mad lib. Say, ”Okay, I’ve got this headline formula. I’m going to pop in my product and now I’ve got…” They laughed when I boot it up my CRM software, but when I showed them my leads, like that doesn’t work. It makes zero sense for your product-market fit, but if all you’re doing is taking a heap of ideas, plugging your own product or service into them, and hoping you’ll come away with conversion gold, you will probably leave disappointed.
Whether it’s a framework or a formula, you should always treat it like a guidepost, like kind of a torch that someone who came before has left behind that you can pick up and light your way with. It’s not the end solution. It’s a way to get you thinking. It’s a way to get you thinking of different angles, maybe spark something for yourself. But don’t just use a framework or a formula as the end result, use them as guideposts.
One of the simplest frameworks that I love from a writer that I will always love and respect, Joanna Wiebe, super-smart lady. ”If you want to stop struggling with how to write and measure the success of your copy, make every element you write responsible for just one job.” And here’s what I mean by that. When you look at your page, whether it is an email or a page, sales page or sales letter, and if it’s headline, if it’s an email or place for subject line, but what job does that element need to do? A headline, the one job it needs to do is grab the reader by the collar and say, ”Hey, read this.” Needs to get their attention.’ If you’ve got a subhead, then it’s got to compel them to keep reading. It’s gotta bring them into the body. The body copy has to engage them. It has to have a conversation with them. It has to agitate whatever desire or pain they bring with them, and give it a focus. If you have a form, it’s one job. It’s only job is to get filled out and if you have a call to action, it’s one job, is just to get clicked. That’s all it has to do. And when you break it down like this, it becomes easier to understand and organize your thoughts and the way your pages work together.
So here’s an example. I don’t know hardly any copywriting, no webinar or session that will be complete without referencing Basecamp in some capacity. So we can see what their headline, they grab the reader, “We’ve been expecting you.” Oh, that’s interesting. Okay. Then they compel them to keep reading. So all growing businesses running into the same fundamental problems. What are those forums? Hair on fire, buried under email stuff everywhere. Now, notice Basecamp is not here saying they’re disorganized. It’s clunky. They’re speaking in a very human way, probably pulled from customer feedback, the way customers talk about their own products.
Then we’ve got okay, in the body copy…even though this is a short page, we can see that with this little checklist, what they’re doing is engaging, agitating, focusing the desires, showing them the future. They’ve got probably the simplest form, one field, and then they’ve got a call to action. And you can see all of these elements just have one job. They’re just responsible for doing one thing.
Now I talked about awareness level and how that plays into headlines. So let’s take a little trip back to awareness levels. If your lead is most aware, then your headline can probably deal with just whatever your deal or incentive or price might be. Whatever it is the primary reason they should take action right now.
I’ve come up with kind of a stupid example here. We’re gonna talk about gala apples. It was what was on my desk while I was putting this deck together. Don’t judge me. We all get stuck for examples. So in this case, it might be gala apples. Now just 5 cents a pound. Okay great. That’s all I need to know if I’m most aware, and I know what apples can do for me. For someone who’s product aware, you wanna lead with a headline that zeroes in on what makes you superior or different. So introducing the juiciest, crunchiest apple for your price. You don’t wanna deal with those yellow, weird apples or those [inaudible 00:29:56]. Those aren’t gonna do what we need them to do. This is the juiciest, crunchiest apple. For someone who’s solution aware, we need to tie the mechanism to the outcomes. So we wanna lead with the benefit or outcome. So when pastry chefs bake pies, this is what they choose. We’re hinting at that underlying desire like, ”Hey, you wanna be seen like a pastry chef? You wanna make a damn good dessert? Well, hey, this is what they choose.”
Then to problem, we wanna get into the pain and agitation right away. We wanna agitate that pain and desire that they have underlying with our headlines, so things like, ”Hey, do you wanna bake the most delicious apple pie? Are you tired of tasteless fruit letting your recipe down?” We’re leading with their pain. We’re meeting them where they’re at.
And then for someone who is unaware, these are people who only have an idea of their identity. They may not even know they want apples. They may not even know they want to bake pies. We wanna appeal to their identity. So something like, “They came back for seconds and then thirds.” Pure curiosity and somebody goes, ”Well, that’s interesting. What were they eating? Why were they eating it? What made it that way?” So you can see at all different levels of awareness, we’re still selling the same product. We’re just trying to meet the lead with what they already know or what they need to hear.
When it comes to frameworks after this, when it comes to structuring your body copy, whether that’s an emails and landing pages and ads, I’m gonna get into some things that we’ve all probably heard of before, but I’m gonna try to bring them to life with examples. And again, these are guideposts but unlike a headline formula where you shouldn’t play mad libs, these are the good kind of barometer to move back and see, “Okay, have I used a formula that makes sense? Have I set up a rational argument?”
So if you’ve ever watched Glengarry Glen Ross, then you are intimately aware of the AIDA format in one of the best scenes in movie history. But with AIDA, we’re talking attention. First, you grab their attention. And then interest. Once you’ve got their attention, you show them what’s interesting. You maintain that attention by leading them in, whether that’s with pain or whether that’s with desire. Then D, we get to desire, so we’re agitating the desire. We’re showing them, “Hey, here’s why you want this thing. Here’s what it’s gonna do for you. Here’s your future self.” And then you push them to action.
So let’s use a real example here. We used a bit of an AIDA format with one of Genius Link’s still being developed new pages. We’re dealing with an audience here that is pretty much either solution aware or one step down. They don’t know the differences though. They’re not dealing with the differences yet. They don’t understand what differentiates. So we needed to lead with curiosity. So attention, it’s not just a [inaudible 00:32:31], it’s a commission boosting machine. Every other site is saying, “Hey, localized [inaudible 00:32:37] links.” We’re saying something different, we’re grabbing their attention.
And then we’re getting them interested. “Genius Links gives you more ways to turn clicks into commissions than any other platform or plugin.” Again, discrediting, differentiating right off the top, holding on that interest. Now we’re adding desire. “That’s why thousands of top affiliates and publishers like Pat Flynn, Cnet and Shut Up and Take My Money, use Genius Link every day.” So for this audience, for affiliates, this agitates the desire because these are people they wanna be like, these are people that they respect. And if they use this, cool, that desire to use it myself gets a little bit clearer.
And then, we’ve got action. We call them, okay, start selling more. And you’ll notice that I don’t end there. It goes on and we start using it again. A, I, and we grab attention again, we moved down. And it’s not that your whole thing has to just do it once. It’s a good framework, but even for your hero section, even for when you’re structuring something as short as an ad, you can use this and then you can repeat it on and on down the page. Keep grabbing attention, keep holding interest, keep agitating desire.
Here’s another example from an email that I got more recently, and I wanted to show kind of different formats here. Grant, calls me, ”Hey Friend,,” which is an interesting choice, but good on you, Grant, you be you. It’s not a matter of if things fail, it’s a matter of when. Again, that grabs my attention. And then he holds my interest with the travel, technology, time management, miscommunication, feeling sick. It will happen at some point. And then he agitates my desire. “Okay, if you look like a deer in the headlights,” and I do look like a deer in the headlights, Grant, I’m so glad you know me enough to say that, “Then you wanna listen to today’s episode.” So he calls me to action right at the same time as asking me of desire.
The one caveat here is that if you’re using email to drop someone on a landing page, you probably don’t, unless you’re using that landing page in other avenues and email, you probably don’t need to grab their attention to get, you’ve grabbed it in the email. Remember by giving them this, you’ve put something in their suitcase. You’ve taken them a little bit down the journey. So your landing page can focus on going deeper with the jobs that this isn’t necessarily doing.
There’s also a slight variant on AIDA, called AIDCA. So adding conviction, and conviction is essentially just adding some social proof, giving them more reasons to believe that you’re credible. So here’s a page Kira converts, I had the privilege of working on with Kira Hug, a fantastic copywriter in her own right. And so, you can see we’d grab attention with our headline. We hold interest with “Do PR better than PR firms.” We agitate that desire and then, hey, conviction, bringing in some social proof, some specific relatable social proof, and I’ll talk about it at the end what makes for good social proof to get that happening. And then again, we start repeating down the page.
So the next formula is PAS, Pain, Agitation, Solution. Great for those people who are problem aware. They know they’ve got a problem, they don’t necessarily really know that there’s a solution there in the thick of their pain. So what you wanna do is you start by calling up that pain and naming it and making tangible. And then you agitate it. You show them just how bad things are, just how awful things will be. And if only there was some way to solve it. And then riding in like a white horse comes your solution and you lead them there by saying, ”Hey, all of this can go away. All of this can be better if you just take action.”
So here’s a page that I worked on for some buddies in the Traffic Think Tank, fantastic SEO group, private SEO group. We’re going after SEOs and they’re pretty savvy. Right now, they’re solving their problem by reading heaps and heaps of blog posts, but it takes forever and they feel isolated. A lot of marketers, agencies, guys in these agencies, if they’re the smartest guy there, they have no one to bounce anything off of. We started with the pain, ”Hey, you want to get better at SEO, but you don’t have time to read a thousand blog posts or the budget to run endless experiments. ‘And you’re already spread way too thin to chase every shiny tactic.” These are pains we knew they had because we asked them, we surveyed, we talked to them. And then we agitate. ”Well, what if you could learn directly from the experts behind those results? Imagine being able to post your challenges and get advice anytime or being shown behind-the-scenes strategies.” So we start agitating and leading towards the solution.
And then, we call them to action. ”If you’re sick of feeling like the smartest, only SEO on the room, join Traffic Think Tank.” And again, we do this over and over down the page. And just like AIDA, there is a slight modification you can make to this. And that is to call out the pain, agitate it, discredit their other solutions. You remember the floss example, I said, “Hey, you like toothpicks. No, you’re gonna jab your gums, it’s going to be awful.” And then you show them the solution.
So here’s an example of this on the Case Study Buddy website. “You want case studies full of glowing testimonials and impressive stats.” That’s the pain, that’s the thing they want. And then we agitate. So we say, ”Hey, getting buy-in is tough. It sucks. And the back-forth of managing revisions, that’s painful, that takes forever.” And then we start leading them towards their desire, the decision. So you cobbled together case or…we discredit, sorry. So we knew that people were doing case studies in-house, it took them forever. We know that they’re hiring freelancers, but freelancers often butcher these things. They embarrass them. They don’t know how to run an interview, so we agitated that pain and then we presented ourselves as the inevitable solution to get this thing done.
Another one that I like. If you don’t use anything else, especially for a sales letter or a landing page, use this. If you can answer these five questions on your page more or less in this order, you’re doing well. So start by answering, what are you gonna do for me if I listen? What is the benefit? What’s the desire you’re gonna satisfy if I stick with you here? And then ask them, ”Okay, how are you gonna do this?” So then you can get into your mechanism. Remember, for someone who is solution aware, we need to tie our solution and show them the mechanism, show them the how, show them what makes it happen.
Then the answer to the question, who is responsible for the promises you make? So take ownership, show yourself, give some proof, prove your credibility. You can do that with number four. So who have you done this for? Bringing in some proof, people they can relate to, people they see themselves in. And once you’ve answered these questions, you can answer what will it cost me?
Now imagine flipping this for the wrong prospect. Imagine leading with price for someone who has no idea what benefit they’re gonna get out of this. Price will mean nothing to them because they don’t understand what you can do. They don’t understand the problem that you’re gonna solve. So this is one of the simplest but most effective ways to evaluate your copy today, is bring up your landing page or bring up your sales letter, bring up your ads and see can I check off all these five boxes?
Now we’ve got about three to five minutes left and thankfully we’re in the home stretch. So I wanna talk about social proof because you can wield it like a bazooka, but if you point it the wrong direction, you’re gonna blow up the wrong thing. You’re not gonna blow up your conversions, probably just gonna get no traction with it or have it be completely ignored.
How do we wanna use social proof? What’s the right way to use social proof? And there’s lots of different ways to use it, but generally this is the way, as you’re writing copy, you wanna think about it. You don’t just wanna chuck it all on its own page in isolation. That’s like having gold. Instead of taking it to the store, you shove it under your mattress and never use it. So you wanna use social proof near areas of friction like pricing. Anytime that someone might object, bring in a specific piece of social proof that counters that objection. You wanna use it to support big, bold claims. So if you say, ”Hey, we’re the best restaurant POS system in the game,” you better have something that confirms that. Whether it is metrics like your ratings, whether that is awards you’ve won, where that is actual customers saying that, whether that is your customer retention rate. Anytime you make a claim that could be challenged or questioned, think about bringing in some kind of proof, whether it’s a testimonial or a metric.
And there you’ve got to counter real objections. So I mentioned if we can anticipate why someone might not buy, we can proactively counter that objection. So bringing in testimonials, for example, if someone says, ”Yeah, but they’re really expensive.” Bringing in testimonials that proactively state this was worth every penny, you’re countering a real objection. But don’t introduce objections that aren’t real. If people wouldn’t ever actually think that, then bring in social proof that counters objections they didn’t have, not introduce those objections into the mix and might actually work against you.
And then use social proof to show leads their future and tell a story, and I’ll show you an example of that in just a moment. But as you do this, be careful because not all social proof is alike, so BDA is still best. Remember the interview format that I mentioned before, Before, During, After. Well, the best testimonials follow that format. It’s the lead talking about, ”Hey, before I had this, my life was like this. And then I decided to try it and this was what the experience was like and now this is how my life is better.” BDA, make sure that they’re relatable.
So this one I see all the time, especially with software companies, they get one enterprise client and they throw that front and center but 99% of their market is small business. Well, if a small business sees that you did something for Google, that’s really impressive but it might immediately send the message that they’re too small potatoes for you. So make sure whoever you’re featuring is relatable to the audience you want to attract. In other words, the proof you display is the client you’ll attract.
Test or format, so don’t always lean on one. Don’t just use testimonials. Don’t always go for written. If you can get video, test those out. Try metrics. Try different social proof in different situations so don’t have a crutch. And that’s my last point, is use it as supporting copy, not a crutch. Your entire argument can subsist of people really like us. You have to use testimonials, social proof to support the arguments you’re making, not as the only thing people see.
So some quick examples and then we’ll open up the floor for some questions because we’ve moved real fast here. So here’s an example of Clockspot and you can see we’re on the pricing page here. Just above this, they’re calculating their costs. And then we’ve got mom and pop shops, lovers, and large corporations, and then they’ve got kind of a mix of both. And then they’ve got, because we’re talking about pricing, they’ve got testimonials specific to price. So we have definitely received our money’s worth or best investment I ever made.
And if you wanna use testimonials, this is one of my biggest piece of advice for testing. Pull out a quote from that testimonial and treat it like a cross-head, treat it like a headline. So nail their attention with one line so that you’ve got buy in for them to read the whole thing, because testimonials can be long. So if there’s a hook to them, people will probably latch on to that and go deeper but has everything tested.
For countering objections, so for PR that converts, you can see after striking out multiple times working with PR agencies, so the objection would be, ”Well, why wouldn’t I just hire a PR agency to do this instead of trying to do it myself?” And Dmitri here has used social proof to counter that objection proactively.
And then I mentioned to show the future, tell a story. So here GoPro is using social proof, real customer generated content to future pace, to show people, ”Hey, you can do cool stuff like this. This could be you. This could be the type of video that you are making.”
So with all this, remember formulas are just guideposts. Don’t switch your brain off. Everything I’ve talked about today, awareness levels, they’re guideposts to lead you to what you’re going to write. But don’t settle for just taking a template and tweaking things here and there. Don’t settle for just mad libbing with a headline. You still have to think your way through.
So without further ado, and thanks for sticking with me through the tech issues guys. I know that stuff can be tricky, but thank you so much for spending the time listening to me today. Be happy to connect with you. I’m on Twitter a lot. You can add me on Linkedin. You can drop me an email if you feel so compelled, but thanks to Talia for having me on. And let’s get to some questions if there are some.
“How do you do during, before, and after if your business is still starting and doesn’t have any customers yet?”
Joel: Yeah, really good question. And we kind of sort of just answered it. So what you wanna do is look at what already exists. So people are already solving that problem in some way. So you wanna look at, like Talia just mentioned, look at the reviews that your competitors are getting. So one trick is to go to a place like Amazon and let’s say what other products solve the problem that you’re solving right now. It could be a book. If you can isolate the other solutions people are using and look at the reviews for those and look for reviews that are rated as most helpful and look at what they’re saying, look at what they’re talking about, what points are they addressing there, how are they talking about it?
The other piece of it is to go talk to people you wish were your customers about their pain. So you can’t necessarily do before, during, after because they aren’t working with you just yet, but you can speak to their pain, their desire, their situation, the type of solution they’d like to see, what might be valuable to them. So it does mean getting out of your chair and seeking out people and having conversations and put yourself saying, ”Hey, I’m just trying to learn about people like you. I’m trying to build something that would be valuable through solving problems you have. Would you be willing to spend 5, 10 minutes talking to me about the way you do things now?” And that can get you moving in the right direction.
With the stuff I’ve talked about, sometimes you don’t have all the pieces at once and that’s why it’s iterative. You collect what you can as you go and as you keep moving, you refine and you just keep moving head. So don’t wait till you have all the pieces together, just start collecting what you can.
Talia: Awesome. Yeah. By the way, one thing that I like to do, is I am trying to get to a certain customer, I would think about someone that I actually know. It could be a family member, it could be a friend, someone that you know that would be the perfect customer for you. And then basically reach out and look for their competitors. Who is their competitor? Who could you be reaching out to and try and see if you can reach out to them and to your friend obviously.
Matt Wallace wants to know, “There are a whole lot of frameworks and things to test, but obviously everyone has limited time. So how do you prioritize what to do first for most impact?
Joel: Yeah. That comes directly out of awareness and there’s a reason I started with awareness. You need to know where your leads are coming from and that will narrow things down. It’s not always the case of like AIDA versus problem, agitation, solution. I use those more as guideposts for the situation. But if you want a place to start, start by using that five point…Let’s say you’re running a landing page or an email series. Start by using that five-point formula that I showed at the very end and just think about it through the lens of customer questions. For the leads level of awareness once I’ve learned that, do I know that my page is at bare minimum answering their questions in a logical, conversational flow? That should be your baseline. That should be where you begin because you can’t write 18 different pages all at once. And again, you’re gonna iterate and improve over time, but if you know the awareness level and if you can speak to that awareness level from the beginning, that’s gonna give you a good baseline to kind of build on and tweak over time as opposed to creating one page here and one page there and one page there. So start with awareness and make sure you’re answering the questions you know people are asking
“Is it worth using social proof under a signup form or for FAQ? What is best? Is it something that should be tested?”
Joel: Well, think about through the lens. Yes, it’s something that should be tested. Pretty much everything is something that in theory could be tested. But basically, if your signup form is asking for an email, that is a point of friction. You’re asking me to part with something that I value. So you could consider testing…let’s say you’re trying to get signups for an email list. You could try having social proof to say I get more value out of this newsletter than 10,000 blog posts, one quote right below. So yeah, I would definitely try it out there.
Under something like an FAQ, that makes a little less sense to me unless you’re doing a bad…so the problems with a lot of FAQs is they introduce fears. A lot of software companies for example, have an FAQ with a question like, “How does payment work?” And that makes it sound like payment is more confusing. Sometimes you need that. Sometimes it needs to be explained. You don’t wanna shy away from it. But if no one’s ever asked you that question, now you’ve introduced the worry that like, “Is this complicated? I wasn’t worried about that, but now I am.” So I generally, I wouldn’t say that FAQs are usually a heavy spot where I use those, but anytime there’s a point of friction, you ask someone to part with value, you ask someone to take a leap of faith and belief, something you’ve just said, that’s where I would first start by introducing things. You don’t just wanna shotgun them down, like you get some proof and you get some proof. Use this strategically to counter objections or worries people actually have.
Nils asks I get a lot when I talk about awareness levels: “Would you talk about commended building different landing pages for each of the five different stages, or do you have any suggestions for ad targeting to get the right people to a different stage on the landing page?”
Joel: Yeah, so there’s different mechanisms for getting people along the awareness. So for example, let’s not limit ourselves just to pages and ads, some relationships take longer. For example, your blog content can be a means of educating people lower down on the scale, providing them with a kernel of information, and then inviting them to a step that is for someone further along in awareness. Maybe you’ve got blog posts that are focused on pains like how to or how do I do that and you can invite them into a next stage. Maybe it’s an email list or maybe it is some other incentive that focuses on moving them along. I wouldn’t say by default you should always go create five pages for all the different awareness stages because some people just won’t be worth targeting. And also depending on the sophistication of your niche, some markets, like some contingency will be very, very low. Like most unaware people, you may not even have any of those people at this point in time to make it worth doing that.
So yes, I would consider having different resources and assets. I would definitely focus your core site on who the majority of those people are and then leverage assets like your blog or downloadable resources or even video ads to educate prospects to lead them along that awareness level. But I wouldn’t by default pump out five different…But if you find you’ve got two really prominent ones, like say you’ve got a lot of people who are most aware and they just wanna see like incentives and deals, and then you’ve got some people who are just solution aware, then yeah, definitely. I would totally split that apart because if you’re leading primarily all the time with price, price, price, you’re ignoring that whole contingent of people who aren’t there just yet. So for specials in sales, for example, like different page and strategy for sure.
Talia: Yeah, great answer and I agree. I mean you can address all in one page or you could just move people on the funnel from ad to landing page, email, blog posts.
Nicholas asks: “I’m curious about identifying the stage of awareness for a website homepage. Many arrive at different stages of awareness when they arrive on the homepage. So after the research phase, do you identify the most likely stage of awareness and then focus the copy on that for that audience or do you do something different?”
Joel: Yeah, you nailed it. For homepages especially, you have to speak to multiple audiences. Homepages are almost always a compromise but what we do is we look at, well, who do we see the most of and who do we need to speak to most prominently. And then we’ll use other parts of the site to adjust those people with lower awareness to invite them in. So for example, would you take someone completely unaware and intentionally run an ad campaign to push them to your homepage or push them to your pricing page. Probably not, it wouldn’t make any sense.
So your homepage should cater to probably your largest contingent, the most common state of awareness and then you can develop other campaigns and elements surrounding that. It’s not an all or nothing situation. So if I come in and I’m at a lower level of awareness but I see your homepage and those waypoints to point me directions to learn what I need to know, great. But for your primary messaging, speak to the audience who you’re most commonly dealing with.
Joseph asks: “How would you approach to use this on a thank you page?” I think if that’s the question, Joe, please let me know. Maybe I didn’t understand correctly, but I think that was the question. How would you approach this on a thank you page?”
Joel: Yeah. So a thank you page, we’re assuming they’ve taken some action. So what I would do is I would base it on what action did they just take. If they just downloaded an educational resource, they’re probably not ready for me to make them a pitch like, ”Thank you. By the way, save $50 if you buy today,” because they’re still trying to learn.” You can use a thank you page like a situation and it’s like, ”Hey, congratulations. You’ve just accomplished this and we’re so glad you did. And thanks for doing that. By the way, here’s what’s next.” So you can use the thank you page to kind of point to what’s next, but just be careful that it doesn’t feel like a never-ending, disingenuous rabbit hole. Sometimes as a company, it’s enough to just thank the person and leave it there, but if you can use a call to action on that thank you page that points them in the direction of what they would do next, that may be worth testing.
Talia: Yeah. I have a very long article on Copy Hackers actually about how to use thank you pages. It is the most amazing resource that people do not use.
Our time is up unfortunately but as I said, you’ll get the recording, the show notes, the presentation and everything. But if you have any questions, you can then comment and ask them in the actual blog post where’ll be posting everything and Joel will hopefully take the time to answer us, which I’m sure he will. Thank you very much everyone for attending today. It was awesome. Joel, thank you so much for everything. Just let us know quickly where people can find you.
Joel: If you wanna ask questions, if there’s something we didn’t get to, you can totally post this on twitter I’m @Joelklettke. You can find some examples of my work in a very neglected blog at businesscasualcopywriting.com. That Case Study Buddy site that I used as an example is another business of mine. So if you run a business, you need case studies, you can check that out. And then just on LinkedIn under my awkwardly spelled last name as well. I’m always happy to connect with people there too.
Talia: Awesome. Thank you very much and guys, have a great, great day. If you have any questions, let us know.
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