4 Handy Formulas for Kick-A** Copywriting

I can’t write.

I’m no good with words.

I have a really hard time getting thoughts onto paper.

I HATE WRITING!!

Sound familiar? If so, you’ve come to the right (write?) place!

It’s a common misconception that writing is a talent you either have or you don’t.

Sure, some people are born with a natural talent for wordsmithery. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us should throw in the towel and accept our verbally-challenged fate.

Writing is skill–one that can be learned and honed.

For marketers, being able to articulately and effectively communicate your message is absolutely crucial. It’s your job to make sure your target audience knows who you are, what you are offering, and why you can fulfill their needs in a way that nothing and no one else can.

It’s a tall order, to be sure.

But one of the nice things about copywriting is that there are a ton of proven formulas out there ready and waiting for would-be writers.

Yes, you read that right.

There are actual step-by-step formulas you can follow to create compelling, effective copy that gets RESULTS. A method to the marketing madness, if you will.

Because we are charitable sorts, we’ve hand-picked four of our favorites that cover a variety of online marketing situations.

So without further adieu…

THE FORMULAS FOR COPYWRITING DOMINATION

PAS

“The most reliable sales formula ever invented” – Dan Kennedy

  • Problem – Describe a problem your target audience encounters
  • Agitation – Remind them how annoying/angering/appalling that problem is in such a way that they feel it in their guts
  • Solution – Present them with your one-of-a-kind solution to ease their troubles

Best for:
Web/landing pages in general, but applicable to everything from social media to long-form sales pages.

How it works:
This formula capitalizes on man’s propensity to avoid pain. We are far more likely to do (or not do) something in order to avoid a negative consequence than we are to do something for positive gain. You confront your audience with a problem you know they experience and then stir up a visceral response to that problem (think pouring salt on a wound). Then you’ve got them right where you want them. In comes your product or service to save the day!

Examples:
PAS is great for landing pages; Ramit Sethi’s is the perfect example. But it works just as well when you are limited on space (Twitter, email subject lines, etc.). For instance:

Tired of being passed over at work? Accept your underling status OR learn how to be the office Alpha. Find out here: [enter short link]

FAB

  • Feature
  • Advantage
  • Benefit

Best for:
Deeper body copy, long-form sales pages, product descriptions; can also be applied to CTAs and social media

How it works:
This approach is ideal for more deeply engaged prospects and people actively seeking additional information. It centers on your product’s benefit, the “what’s in it for me” factor. As the old adage goes, features tell, benefits sell. Painting a very clear picture of just how your prospect will benefit from your product or service gives meaning and emotional value to what would otherwise be empty features.

Example:
Zappo’s does a great job of working FAB into their product descriptions. Like the Mephisto Huelda sandal, for instance:

  • Adjustable buckle strap allows for a secure, personalized fit.
  • Suede lining with Air-Relax cork and latex footbed is anatomically designed and absorbs shock.
  • 100% caoutchouc lite outsole with shock absorber heel reduces the jarring effects for comfortable stride.

Before/After/Bridge

  • Before – Describe the current state of existence
  • After – Illustrate how glorious the future could be
  • Bridge – How you can help the customer get there

Best for:
Blogs, social media, email marketing, landing pages

How it works:
This no frills setup is surprisingly effective. Getting your target audience to imagine how awesome their life/body/wardrobe/whatever could be after reminding them how lame or unsatisfying things are right now ups the emotional investment factor; presenting a ready-made solution gives them a way to fix the problem without having to do the mental leg-work.

Example:
Before-After-Bridge is ready-made for tweets:
Tweet by Buffer's Kevan Lee

The 4 C’s

  • Is it clear?
  • Is it concise?
  • Is it compelling?
  • Is it credible?

Best for:
Everything, from headlines to tweets to sales pages and beyond

How it works:
Think of the 4 C’s as more of checklist than a formula. Go over your copy with a fine-tooth comb to make sure no “C” is missing, weak, or vague. Anything you write needs to pass the 4 C’s test before you hit that publish button.

Hook, Line and Sinker

Command verb + offer + urgency

Best for:
Calls to action, buttons, text links, and ad copy

How it works:
Powerful action verbs work in conjunction with the pressure to act immediately to nudge your prospect into taking the step you want them to take. You grab your audience’s attention and tell them exactly what you want them to do as succinctly and specifically as possible.

Examples:
E-commerce: start with buy, shop or order “Shop the sale, ending today!”
Newsletters/Subscriptions/Ebooks: “Subscribe now” “Get your free ___ ”
Lead Generation: “Find out more” “Save my spot” “Sign up for free”
Get creative: “Follow the Magic” “Your ____ sucks. Let us fix it”

Bonus Round!

Winning Headline Formulas

Your headline is the first thing your audience sees–and quite possibly the only thing, if it’s no good. Your headline is the single most important and influential part of any advertising message.

The saying goes that you should spend at least half as long writing your headline as you did writing your piece.

Sometimes that’s just not possible, though. Nor is it always necessary. There are plenty of effective, attention-getting headline formulas out there. Because we like you, we’re sharing some here:

How to survive your first _____

What (celebrity/professional/group) can teach you about (their given industry)

The Ultimate Guide to ______

X little known factors that could affect your _____

X Things I Learned from [unusual/challenging experience/person/place]

The Only [SEO keyword] Made Exclusively to [achieve most important/desirable result/benefit]

Behind the scenes of _____

What everybody should know about [something amazing, awful, or highly desirable]

To the [role] who will settle for nothing less than [best outcome imaginable]

Now go forth and prosper, ye masters of marketing

And there you have it. These are just a sampling of the many copywriting formulas floating around out there.

Before we say farewell, though, we need to emphasize this:

None of this will do you a lick of good if you don’t have a rock-solid understanding of who your target audience is and what they really want / need. The success of these formulas rests 100% on your ability to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and truly speak their language. We’ll even go so far as to say that exactly how you phrase your message won’t matter, as long as you are saying the right things in the right way to the right people.

And always remember, the best way to be a better writer is simply to do it. Write as much and as often as you can.

Godspeed, internet soldier.