Copywriting is one of the best skills you can develop as a digital marketer. Thankfully, many smart marketers have shared insights and shortcuts to writing great content that converts.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the process you should follow before you start writing. I’ll then share some proven copywriting formulas you can use to frame your argument and get people to take action. Let’s dive into this email copywriting guide.
Consider your audience
Many Fortune 500 companies consistently run great advertising campaigns. If you had to name a handful of companies, Apple would be on the list of most people.
When you analyze the advertising campaigns run by Apple, you’ll notice that all of their advertising campaigns are focused on product features. That’s logical. After all, if you want to sell a product, you need to create desire.
Let me use an Apple ad for the iPhone 12 to illustrate my point.
The ad creatives decided that the camera was the main selling point of the phone. The photograph is a close-up of the key product feature. The copy supports the advertising message, focusing on the benefits of a great camera.
Samsung, one of Apple’s main competitors, understands that the best way to generate sales is to focus on the product. Here’s an example of an ad from Samsung where they contrast their ‘superior’ product with Apple by comparing features.
The marketing message here is crude but clear; “we have a better product.”
Before you start writing your ad copy, you need to determine two things:
- What do you want to achieve with your message?
- What will make your audience react to that message?
Spend time considering your customer persona. Think about your offer and consider why your audience will care.
Great copywriting is built on an understanding of audience motivations. If you can get this right, regardless of whether you’re creating a landing page, writing an email, or running Facebook ads, you’ll get a higher conversion rate.
Create a messaging hierarchy
Once you’ve defined your audience’s motivations, you should try to rank those motivations in order of importance. The most important point will be your primary marketing message. That’s the headline issue that you focus on.
The other pieces of your message should support that overarching message.
For example, if you were copywriting for a banner ad, you might distill your message to the minimum number of words. You can see how Apple has taken this approach in the advertising example below.
The target audience for this ad seems to be content creators. That would include people who are posting content on Instagram, running a YouTube channel, etc.
You could distill the message down to the following; “you can use an iPhone to create movies that look professional.”
The copy is just the right length for the medium. The copywriter focused on the primary marketing message.
If you have more space to write copy, you can expand your argument. You can see that Apple takes this approach when they write sales pages. The long-form sales pages that Apple use runs through all of the main features that would make a person want to buy a phone.
I counted 29 sections on their sales page. The copywriters discuss everything from the phone’s size, processor speed, image quality, and a whole lot more.
Your messaging hierarchy will play an important role in a marketing funnel. For example, your funnel might start with an email to subscribers. In that email, you’ll cover only the most important points to make a person want to click on your link.
Here’s an example of a nice sales email from the guys at AppSumo.
You can see that they have distilled their marketing message into just three paragraphs. Those three paragraphs served a purpose; to get a person to click on the link.
The sales page provides a lot more information to the visitor than the email.
The copywriter used 828 words in an attempt to sell the offer to the visitor. Each aspect of the offer and why a person might be interested in the product is covered in depth.
You should take the same approach to copywriting.
As an aside, it’s essential to create a consistent brand experience across your funnel as well. That means using the appropriate visuals, color scheme, and font selection. You want your audience to feel that each stage of the funnel logically fits together.
5 Copywriting Formulas You Can Use
If you want to write great copy that converts, you need to understand your audience’s motivations and then write content that works with the medium.
In the remainder of this guide, I’ll share five effective copywriting formulas that you can use to make your audience take action.
1. Before – After – Bridge (BAB)
The Before – After – Bridge (BAB) is a well-known copywriting formula. The idea behind this formula is you help people understand how your product or service can help solve their problem. Here’s how it works:
- Before: You have a problem
- After: The problem is solved
- Bridge: How do you get the result
Here is an example of the BAB in action:
The example above reveals how the approach works in practice.
2. Problem – Agitate – Solve (PAS)
Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) takes a similar approach to BAB. You identify the problem, agitate the issue, and offer the solution.
- Problem: Identify a problem
- Agitate: Agitate on the issue
- Solve: Provide a solution
Here’s an example from the About Us page of Freshworks, a software company.
P-A-S is one of the most commonly used copywriting formulas.
3. Features – Advantages – Benefits (FAB)
The basic lesson in copywriting is that you sell the benefits, not the features. The Features-Advantage-Benefits (FAB) copywriting formula is based on this insight.
- Features: What does the product do?
- Advantages: Why is it better than the competition?
- Benefits: What are the tangible or intangible benefits the consumer will receive?
Below is an example of FAB in action from a sales page for Rapid Results, a weight loss plan.
The features section could be expanded with bullet points breaking down each part of the plan, so the potential customer knows what to expect.
A FAB statement or copy does three things. It mentions the features of a product, highlights the advantages over similar products, and then sells on the tangible or perceived benefits to the consumer.
4. Attention – Interest – Desire – Action (AIDA)
The Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) copywriting formula is ideally suited for direct mail and email campaigns.
- Attention: Catch the reader’s attention
- Interest: Provide interesting and relevant information that appeals to the reader
- Desire: Highlight the benefits while providing validation and proof
- Action: Entice the user to take action.
Here is an example of a direct mail sent by Yesware.
The AIDA copywriting formula is extremely effective.
5. The Four C’s
If you want to create the highest impact with limited words, the four C’s are your go-to copywriting formula.
Here is an example of the Four C’s from an email campaign by Basecamp.
The entire message is conveyed in four sentences. Clear. Concise. Compelling. Credible. It’s also an example of BAB.
Mastering the art of writing great copy takes years of practice and a dash of inspiration. In this guide, I tried to share a step-by-step process you can follow to prepare for a project.
Start every project by considering the goals of your audience. You need to understand people’s motivations. You can then use the insights you gain from considering your audience to decide on your main marketing message and create your messaging hierarchy.
When you’re ready to start writing, you can use copywriting formulas to frame your message. Formulas like AIDA, BAB, and others on this list are proven to get people to take action. Best of luck with your copywriting.
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Written by Michal
Michal is immersed in developing, implementing, and coordinating all manner of content marketing projects as the Content Marketing Manager at GetResponse. He has 8-plus years of expertise in online marketing with a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Marketing and Consulting from the University of Birmingham (UK). Michal is the author of more than 100 articles, ebooks, and courses for both GetResponse and renowned websites like Crazy Egg and Social Media Today.