When it comes to communicating the value of a product or service, Ray Edwards is a true legend in the industry. I met him way back in my corporate job days when my boss hired him to work his magic on a new sales letter for a product we were launching. That was when I saw the true power that words can have in generating sales and building a business. Since then, I decided to become a devoted student of copywriting, and a student of Ray’s, in particular.
Fortunately, Ray loves teaching, and he’s very generous with his expertise. You may remember him from way back in Episode 33, but I wanted to have him back to help you dive even deeper into the techniques of writing sales copy that gets results and comes from the heart.
What Counts as Copy? Ray often encounters confusion about what constitutes “copy”…how is it different from simply writing?
"The first level is sales copywriting, which is the copy that is on the sales page—where we ask people to press a button and buy something from us.
"On the other level, though, I believe that all writing is meant to persuade people either that they can do something, or that they should do something."
Basically, if you’re writing something to either empower people so that they feel they can do something, or to persuade them that they ought to do something, you’re writing copy.
…I’d say that applies to just about everything I write for my business, wouldn’t you?
As our freebie for this week, Ray is graciously offering more than 100 email and headline templates that he uses for writing amazing copy every day. Click here to get them now!
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Why Is Persuasion So Important? In a perfect world, we could just say “Here’s what I have, it’s good, buy it if you want to,” and all the right people who need our product would click Purchase. But the thing is, we’ve all become really smart, and really skeptical.
Ray points out that even Apple isn’t immune to the need for writing sales copy—they’re just so good at how they present it that we don’t realize we’re consuming their copywriting!
Very few of us like thinking about “sales writing.” It makes us think of smarmy used car salesmen, trying to con hardworking people out of their money. Ray is familiar with this aversion to copywriting, and here’s how he explains the way to avoid sounding “sales-y”:
"I think people get confused about persuasion versus manipulation. I like to define the difference this way: persuasion results in you making a buying decision that you will celebrate later; manipulation leads to you making a buying decision that you will regret later.
"The key to guiding your clients toward a decision they will celebrate is—no surprise—knowing your clients really well! You think of the problem that you’re solving, and you write about it from the perspective of the person who has the problem, and you describe their pain. Someone once said that the more accurately you can describe the pain of the person you’re selling to, the more they feel as though you automatically have the solution to the problem.
"There’s plenty of brain science that tells us that almost all, if not all, of our decisions are made emotionally. All the rationale that we come up with is to support the emotional decision that we’ve already made. If you can just support the emotions that they’re feeling, and you can do it with integrity—you really do have the solution—then you don’t really ever have to sell hard, or even push to sell. You just give the persuasive story of why what you have is going to help them, and they’ll make a buying decision."
Whew. Great stuff, huh?
Get even more of Ray's insights on how genuine, emotionally persuasive copy can make selling a breeze. Click here to listen to the whole episode.
Okay, now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of writing great copy.
Ray has a couple of frameworks that he teaches anyone who is trying to improve their copywriting skills. The first one is called...
The "Pastor" Framework This one gets its name from the original meaning of the word “pastor”—having to do with being a shepherd. (Kind of an old meaning of the word…look it up.) Not only does this word help you remember the purpose of your business—to help and take care of people with what you sell—but it also just happens to be a handy acronym for setting up the points of your sales page.
P — Problem
Recognize the pain that your client is experience. Describe it to them. Empathize.
A — Amplify
Specifically, amplify the consequences of not solving that problem. This is probably one of the biggest secrets of making a sale—that it’s less about telling people how cool your product is, and more about letting them understand the long-term cost of not getting a solution for it.
S — Story
Every solution has a story about how it was discovered. You’ve heard me tell how I discovered the solution to online marketing that became the sales funnel I teach in the Profit Lab. How did you go from being a person with a problem to being an expert with a solution? This is the “meat” of your sales page.
T — Testimonial
You follow up the story of your solution with the stories of people who have used your solution. The more variety your testimonials have, the better—it shows that your solution can work for anybody.
O — Offer
This is where you say, in plain English, what you’re offering to your clients. You want to focus mainly on the benefits, here—less about the deliverable and more about the results of owning that deliverable.
R — Response
Ask people to take action.
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This last piece of the Pastor framework brings up an important point that should be present in your copy:
Any Decision Is Better Than No Decision Ray says that he would always rather have a potential client say “No, that product is not for me” than have them not take action but constantly wondering if maybe they should.
Bad sales copy leaves people with a feeling of burden or pressure, that they should make a decision, but they’re not sure, but they’ve got to decide soon because the window is closing, maybe they should shop around more, etc.
Good sales copy, on the other hand, can be extremely passionate in expressing “I really think this is the right decision for you!” while still showing that you’re only interested in your client making a decision that serves them. And it doesn’t serve them to constantly be on the fence!
The "Buyer’s Journey" Framework You’ve heard of the “hero’s journey,” the kind seen in epic movies or classic novels—this is basically the same, but seen through the lens of copywriting. As a copywriter, you’re leading your reader through this mental journey, step by step.
Step #1: The Existing Situation
You identify the pain that the buyer is in.
Step #2: The Dream Solution
You contrast how the client’s world is right now, and here’s how they wish it could be.
Step #3: Discovering the Trusted Guide
You bring in the reasons why they should trust you to lead them on their quest for this dream solution.
Step #4: Presenting the Unique Solution
You announce that there is a dream solution, and you’ve found it.
Step #5: Describe the Features
This is the more “physical” description—what’s actually contained in this solution.
Step #6: Describe the Benefits
Explain what each of the features does for the person who uses this solution.
Step #7: The Transformative Offer
Tell them what they have to do to access the solution. (Click a button, make a phone call, etc.)
Step #8: Present Proof
Bring in the stories of others that have used this solution.
Step #9: Justify the Value
Acknowledge the cost to your buyer of making this decision, and explain why it's valuable. You can draw comparisons to other similar products out there, to show how yours is more valuable for the cost.
Step #10: Eliminate Fear and Risk
A buyer’s biggest fear is not that you don't have the solution, but that you’ll rip them off. So frame your offer in a way that takes the risk on yourself, and relieves all the buyer’s fear.
Step #11: Offer Bonuses
These should offer value that relates directly to your product, and that enhances or magnifies the benefit of the product.
Step #12: Invite a Decision
Emphasize that you are genuinely interested in your client making a decision that serves them.
Make sure to listen to my full podcast interview with Ray Edwards--we covered so much more than I could fit into this blog post! And don't forget to sign up to receive more than 100 templates for writing your own persuasive headlines and emails. This is the stuff that Ray normally offers only to students of his copywriting course, so you're not going to want to miss it!