A little before my birthday, I found this in my inbox:

email marketing best practices

I get sucked in by the cupcake and the coupon code. My lizard brain takes over… or maybe it’s my stomach. Don’t tell me this hasn’t happened to you before.

Sure, the copy doesn’t tell me anything about this company, how to apply the coupon code, or if I’ll get 10% off my entire purchase, but I’m willing to throw caution to the wind and dive head first into this sales funnel.

So I click on the Facebook ad and land…here.

best practices pop ups

Immediately, I’m greeted by a pop-up.

I don’t want to enter my email address. But they’re telling me I can receive a $25 off coupon code. If I do, will I still get the 10% off they already promised me?

This seems like a lot of coupon codes to remember. I can barely remember my own phone number these days. I’m going to continue without another coupon code and see what happens…

copywriting tips

And… I’m slapped right onto the homepage. My inner optimizer dies a little inside.

No language about my 10% coupon. No independent landing page with one call to action. And no cupcakes.

Gorgeous sheets that make dogs and babies smile be damned. I’m outta here.

Why does one experience from beginning to end of funnel seem so effortless…

…while another sends you searching for the “back” button?

The short answer: More often than not, the funnel hasn’t been designed with the customer in mind.

[easy-tweet tweet=”This is how you design a high converting sales funnel with the customer in mind:” user=”jenhavice” template=”qlite”]

In fact, most sales funnels revolve around the business’ goals rather than those of the customer. From ad to landing page to checkout to confirmation email, too many marketers are making the online experience all about what’s easiest for them, instead of what’s easiest for the people actually doing the buying.

Which leaves potential customers frustrated, annoyed, and way less likely to convert.

Your online sales funnel should be a conversion-friendly journey where your customers take action based on messaging that informs and inspires — not a money-hungry turbine that sucks them in and spits them out.


How to Turn Prospects into Customers with Better Copy

Now, let me walk you through another sales funnel I found in the wild–from ad to to landing page to checkout page–that actually works. I’ll break down why the funnel is good, based on the questions I ask myself when figuring out how to structure funnel copy.

When you finish reading, you’ll have a game plan to turn your next funnel into a journey that leads your customers to feel successful and inspired instead of racing for the back button. (It also leads to increased sales for you, since that’s what we’re all here for.)

First, let’s get on the same page…

Before we jump straight into the weeds of this funnel breakdown and start pulling up dandelions, we need to make sure we’ve all got the same definitions and goals.

So, in case you aren’t entirely sure what I’m talking about when I say “sales funnel,” here’s a simple working definition of my own: [x_promo]A sales funnel is comprised of a series of steps that guide visitors toward a desired outcome in their customer journey. Ads or emails drive to landing pages, then on to any additional pages necessary to help visitors achieve their goals while the business achieves theirs.[/x_promo]

Notice anything different about my definition than some of the others you may have encountered online?

It’s not company-centric. Instead, it’s all about aligning your customer’s needs with your own so everyone comes out ahead.

Why is that so important?

Because if all YOU want your potential customers to do is hit the buy button, but THEY are in information-gathering mode, your interests aren’t aligned. They simply aren’t ready to spend money, no matter how much you’d like them to. Which means squeezing them into a funnel geared toward making a quick sale not only might result in minimal conversions, but might actually piss off your potential buyers.

Yeah, I’m talking to you, cupcake-flaunting, coupon-promising, gorgeous-linen-selling Boll and Branch.

Okay… so now what?

[easy-tweet tweet=”Your funnel should help customers feel successful and inspired, not racing for the back button.” template=”qlite”]


4 Steps to Writing Effective Copy

I love me a well thought-out and clearly-messaged funnel. Sadly, finding one in the wild is about as elusive as spotting Bigfoot or a hipster in heels.

So when I came across this sales funnel by ThirdLove, a startup that designs well-fitting bras, I knew it would be a great example to illustrate just how to approach the copy in your funnel.

Let’s take a look at the 4 questions to ask yourself when determining what messages to place at each stage of your funnel.

Ask yourself these 4 questions to make sure your funnel is all about your buyer:


Question #1: What is the state of awareness of my customer?

Your customer’s awareness level of their problem, the solutions available, and your brand all play into what information they need (and how they need it framed) as they move from top to bottom of the funnel.

Famous direct response copywriter Eugene Schwartz laid out the stages of awareness in his book Breakthrough Advertising:

  1. Most aware: Your prospect is already sold on your product and just needs the facts.
  2. Product aware: Your prospect is familiar with your brand, but has not decided if your product is a good fit.
  3. Solution aware: Your prospect knows what they want to achieve, but not that you can help her.
  4. Problem aware: Your prospect is pretty sure there’s a problem, but has no idea if there’s a solution.
  5. Not aware: Your prospect has no idea about her problem, solution, or anything to do with your brand.

How much convincing you need to do, and which argument you have to make, relies heavily on where your prospect is on this spectrum. This goes for individual pieces of your customer’s journey (like landing pages or ads) to the entire funnel itself.

Knowing where your potential customer is on her journey helps you to gauge what she will most likely respond favorably to, so she feels comfortable taking the next step.

The closer your prospects are to being “most aware,” the shorter your funnel can be, and the more quickly you can nudge them toward taking action.

At the “completely unaware” end of the spectrum, you have to spend more time persuading prospects about the relative benefits of your product and how they relate to solving the prospect’s problem. You might even have to show them they have a problem.

What would ThirdLove do? ANSWER: Build trust by addressing the problem first

My first encounter with ThirdLove came in the form of a Facebook ad.

facebook ad example

Instead of sending me to a product page and pushing immediately for the sale, they piqued my interest with a quiz designed to help me figure out if I’m wearing the wrong size bra.

Focusing the copy on the problem of fit, along with all of its associated issues, presupposes that I may be aware of a problem, but that I may not be exactly sure what it is or that there is a solution for it.

Based on their research (eh hem, I haven’t mentioned this yet but yes, you do need to do your customer research) they may have come to the conclusion that their target audience won’t be ready to go straight from ad to product page. In my case, this was a smart move. While I know there’s a problem, I’m only vaguely aware that companies like this one are actively trying to solve it.

What else makes this copy effective?

Because like many women, I’ve gone most of my life wearing ill-fitting, uncomfortable bras that promise comfort, and just resigned myself to grinning and bearing it. So I’m going to need a whole lot more information and persuasion before I’ll consider pulling out my credit card for a solution that might be just as bad as the status quo.

By asking a question that gets me to start thinking about this problem, and hinting at the fact that I’m probably not aware of the extent of the problem, ThirdLove triggers my need to find out more. They create a gap in knowledge which drives us to find out more. It’s a tool we call “closing the curiosity gap”.


#2: What problems does my product or solution fix?

In case you didn’t realize this, you’re not really selling that widget, piece of software, or bra. You’re actually selling the promise of how much better, easier, and more exciting your customer’s life will be once your product is in it.

This means it’s critical to understand what problems your product solves and what your customer’s lives will look like after your product has alleviated those problems.

Given the fact the folks at ThirdLove have positioned their funnel at the problem-aware end of the spectrum, it’s critical that they key in on the pain women are feeling and move them toward understanding how wearing ThirdLove bras will make life better than the way it has been. [x_promo] TL;DR: Tie problems to your customer’s state of awareness. If ThirdLove had determined that the prospect clicking one of their ads was much closer to the buy stage, focusing on her pain/problem wouldn’t be necessary. In fact, the more aware your prospect is of 1) what they want to accomplish and 2) that your product can help them do that, the less they need to be reminded of their problems in your funnel. They’re ready to cut to the chase and be told what they’re going to get and the outcome they can expect. [/x_promo]

What would ThirdLove do? Answer: Get prospects to buy in by taking a quiz

ThirdLove takes a more novel twist on getting women to give up their email addresses by offering a quiz. Not only are quizzes an engaging way to educate people, they can entice prospects to move further into the funnel (aka, “Enter your email address to get your results”).

At this stage of the customer’s journey, where she’s trying to wrap her head around the fact that there’s someone out there who understands her pain, the quiz questions gently spell out what the effects of her key problem are (poor fit > discomfort).

sales funnel examples

“Digging,” “overflow,” and “straps slipping” are all words I associate with a bra I’d rather set on fire than wear. Chances are those words paint a similar picture for other women.

sales funnel tips

They got me here. A favorite, fading bra is just one more aspect of this bigger fit problem that I’d rather not admit to. Cleverly, they agitate my pain with the question and then quickly defuse it with copy underneath: “Don’t worry, we’ll never tell.”

What else makes this copy effective?

By using words and phrases I immediately associate with the problem of a poorly fitting bra, ThirdLove shows me they know what they’re talking about.

You can find the words and messages that resonate the most with your target audience by mining your voice of customer research. Learn ways to gather that research from your own customers in Talia’s post, using customer surveys and interviews.

Whether you’re talking about your customer’s pain points or their wants and needs, showing them the words real people use to describe their situation has proven to increase conversions in multiple tests.

Joanna at Copy Hackers has proved this time and time again: for example, Dressipi.com saw a 123.9% increase in conversions with optimized button and headline copy. And I’ve seen a jump of over 60% in a test for Learn Visual Studio by reworking the copy based on message mining.


Question #3: What are the desires/needs driving my customer’s decision-making?

Your customers’ desires are at the core of their decision-making process. Their desires are the emotional component behind why they ultimately buy one product over another. While their problems may drive them to seek out a solution, it’s those deep-down needs that trip their trigger.

When it comes to your messaging and copy, you can think of those desires as the benefits and associated outcomes your products provide on the deepest level. If you’re thinking along the lines of “saves time or money,” you’re not digging deep enough.

The way I figure out how to get to the heart of what customers truly want is to keep asking Why until there are no more Whys left.

Say you’re selling a weight-loss and exercise program designed specifically for college-age women. Why would these women be interested in your program?

  • They want to lose weight.
  • Why do they want to lose weight? Because they want to get rid of the Freshman 15 they put on.
  • Why do they want to get rid of those 15 pounds? Because they can’t fit into their skinny jeans anymore.
  • Why do they want to get back into their skinny jeans? Because they feel more attractive and look healthier when they can wear what they want to wear.
  • Why do they want to feel more attractive and look healthier? Because they will be more confident.

Ahh… now we’re getting somewhere. The real benefit from your program isn’t simply weight loss, it’s a boost in confidence.

Expressing that deeper desire within the context of how your product will help someone realize it is where the magic happens with your copy. Suddenly, your product or solution goes from the impersonal to something they don’t want to live without.

Talia talks all about the “why” in this post about her emotional targeting framework, and how following it can skyrocket conversions and revenue.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Get to the heart of what customers truly want: Keep asking Why until there are no more Whys left.” template=”qlite”]

What would ThirdLove do? Answer: Well…here’s a spot for improvement

While ThirdLove does a fantastic job with their images, colors and fonts to emotionally target their audience, there’s a missed opportunity with their copy. 

For example, the copy above the fold gives you the results of your quiz but that’s about it.

By simply adding a headline above their bra recommendation they can not only reinforce the visitor’s desire for comfort but also the fact that you can test drive one of these bras before buying. So, I might include a headline like this:

Give Your Perfect Fit Bra a Try Before You Buy

Then I would test mirroring the button copy so it reads, “Try Before I Buy.”

Remember that 123.9% increase I mentioned from the CopyHackers test? Conversions spiked after tying the copy from the headline to the button and putting the button copy into the first person.

product reviews

As you move further down the page, the emphasis remains on the fix and the pain it solves. It’s not until you hit the section below that you get an inkling of why these bras will change the way you feel about your day. Except, you have to hunt for those details.

product page details examples

I’d prefer to hit the visitors over the head with that why and remind them of how this hunk of foam and fabric with straps will make them feel. I’d add a cross-head such as:

Feel as comfortable as you do sexy with a bra that fits and flatters

Then, I’d make those features like Truefoam fabric and gold hardware work a little harder by connecting them more closely to benefits. This can be as easy as including a reason why these features are important. For example:

Flexible, nylon-colored, nickel free wires provide support without digging into or irritating your skin.

When you frame your features in terms of benefits, you make it easier for your visitors to never lose sight of why your product is the best fix for their problem.


Question #4: What are my customer’s hesitations and concerns?

Whether you like it or not, your visitors will have hesitations about buying from you. These hesitations can be as mundane as not understanding where to click to as troubling as not trusting your brand. And when they crop up during the customer journey they can derail an otherwise surefire sale.

The key is to bust these hesitations or concerns by providing the right information at the right time as your visitors progress through the funnel. How do you know what messages your visitors need to see and in what order? You’ll need to dig into your customer research to figure that out (I told you that whole customer research thing was important.) That way you’ll have a good idea of what might be stopping them from taking action at each step.

For instance, you may have noticed from your on-site survey that a significant number of respondents mention abandoning the checkout process because they can’t find any information about your return policy. This lack of information creates unnecessary friction.

Ambiguity kills conversions about as fast as a marriage proposal on a first date.

Humans don’t like ambiguity, especially when it involves decision making. We prefer known outcomes over unknown ones even if the probability of coming out ahead is higher. As the Ellsberg Paradox suggests, people prefer “the devil they know” rather than taking on risk that’s impossible to calculate.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Ambiguity kills conversions about as fast as a marriage proposal on a first date.” user=”getuplift_” template=”qlite”]

What would ThirdLove do? Bust hesitations in microcopy throughout the funnel

Busting hesitations and alleviating concerns with copy is where this funnel really shines.

On every page, ThirdLove strategically uses copy to answer those questions that might be stopping a visitor from moving further into the funnel. The screenshot below shows the very bottom of the quiz results page. In it, the copy takes you step by step through what happens once you decide to go through the checkout process.

They answered my critical questions:

  • Is the trial free and how long does it last?
  • What happens if I decide to keep the bra?
  • What happens if I don’t like the bra?
  • When will the company charge my credit card?

copywriting best examples

Now take a look at the actual checkout page. In case you missed any of those critical bits of information because you were sold before making down to the bottom of the results page, ThirdLove gives you the highlights again.


They take the friction out of the buying equation with copy that feels like it’s reading my mind. As soon as I started to fear I was getting sucked into some kind of bra of the month club, they hit me with “P.S. don’t worry, this isn’t a subscription.”

What else makes this copy effective?

The copy is clear and easy to understand. While cleverness might be entertaining, it too can create unnecessary friction for your visitors. Studies have shown that when information is presented in ways that are linguistically, conceptually, and visually less complex people judge it to be more true.

ThirdLove keeps the copy conversational and engaging but doesn’t sacrifice clarity along the way. “Wear it, wash it, live in it. Not a perfect fit? Return it free within 30 days.” I feel like an actual human being is giving me the lowdown on the buying process – which makes the copy more believable and and seem trustworthy.

When you’re ready to tackle your next sales funnel…

Not sure where to begin with your copy? Start by asking yourself these 4 questions:

  • What is the state of awareness of my customer?
  • What problems does my product or solution fix?
  • What are the desires/needs driving my customer’s decision-making?
  • What are my customer’s hesitations and concerns?

Once you determine the answers, you’ll be well on your way to crafting copy at each step of your customer’s journey that helps them move closer to reaching their goals. Do that and you might be surprised at how much closer you are to reaching yours.

Jen Havice is a growth marketer who specializes in conversion focused copywriting and voice of customer research. She’s a firm believer that data-driven research combined with a brand’s personality can make copywriting magic. Grab a copy of her book, Finding the Right Message, on Amazon.

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