9 things you need to know to write copy that makes sales
Copywriting for small business owners is an ABSOLUTELY vital skill.
If you’ve been trying to get more people to buy from you…and they don’t.
If you’re sick of seeing others make it look like this business thing is easy…and you’re tearing your hair out scrabbling for every sale.
If all you want is some SUCCESS...and it never seems to arrive…
Then this post is going to help you learn all about copywriting for small business owners. It’ll arm you with 9 vital tips and secrets that you can use right now to make more sales and grow their business. Using words…and nothing else.
Some of these tips are things that your competitors are probably already doing. And if it’s working for them, you want to catch up.
Some of them are things that a lot of them don’t know yet. This is your opportunity to get ahead of the pack.
Because I don’t think you’d be here if you weren’t confident that you have something valuable to share with the world.
You wouldn’t be in this business thing if you didn’t know that your talent is worth something. You’re here because you just aren’t ready to give up.
And it’s copy that will make the difference between wanting to give up, and finally having the success you’ve worked so hard for.
Follow these tips when you write (or rewrite) your copy and content – on your website, emails, social media, wherever – and I think you’ll see an immediate difference in the response you get…and the money you’ll make.
There’s more you can learn (much more) about copywriting for small business owners, but this is a good place to start.
Tip 1: Sell the outcome
What happens when people buy from you?
Will they be happier? More organised? Richer? Healthier?
Whatever it is, there must be a clear outcome . Something’s got to happen after they hand you their cash.
But way too much small business copywriting doesn’t talk enough about outcomes and results. It’s too easy to get bogged down in talking about how your customers will work with you, or the amazing features of your product, that you forget about what it is you’re really selling. And that’s the outcome.
It can be scary to do. It’s hard to find the confidence to say ‘this is what will happen’ – but you must. People want to buy from you…but they won’t if they can’t see a clear reason to do so.
If you’ve read anything about copywriting and marketing, you’ll no doubt have read about how important it is to talk about benefits in your copy – and not just features.
You can think of outcomes as super benefits. They’re the really big things that your customers will connect with emotionally. They’re the things that will really get their attention.
Features are the technical details of your product, or the things it’s made of, or the processes you use. Your customers want to know these…but only once you’ve already got them interested.
Benefits are the things that happen as a result of the features. For every feature you identify, define what the benefit of it is.
The outcome is the ultimate, life-changing benefit that will have your customers reaching for their credit card and throwing it at you.
To identify your outcome, ask what happens when the customer gains the benefit.
If a benefit of your product is that your customer will save time, what does that mean for them? How will it make them feel?
More time with their kids, so they can have a happier family life?
More time to work on their business, so they’ll be able to 5x their revenue and plan for a secure financial future?
More time for everything, so they can stop feeling constantly stressed and bathe in relief as they finally carve out some me-time?
Whatever it is, identify the outcome your customers really want and show them how they’ll feel when they get it.
Tip 2: Forget your ideal client
Ever done one of those exercises where you have to write down everything about your ideal client? Including their favourite food, what car they drive and what their kids’ names are?
Yep. Me too. And I used to tell my clients to do this too.
But I’ve changed my mind. Because while those kinds of detailed ideal client exercises can be really useful for visualising the person you’re writing for, they can also be a massive distraction.
Because what really matters is what people need from you and whether they can pay you for it.
Ask yourself these questions before you write anything:
- What need does the thing I’m selling meet?
- Is this a really desperate, heartfelt, deep-down in the stomach kind of need? Or is it something that they can take or leave? (if it’s something they can take or leave, see if you can go deeper and find the thing they really want).
- Can the people who I’m targeting afford to pay me for this?
The products that sell are those that meet a really important, emotional need, and that your customers have the money to pay for.
If you understand that, your copy begins to write itself (but not quite…which is why you need the next tip).
Tip 3: Use your customers’ own words
The best copy you’ll ever write has already been written for you…by your customers and prospects.
Look at your testimonials and reviews. What do people say about your results and how they feel when they’ve got them?
Look at reviews, such as Amazon reviews, of other products similar to yours or that provide similar outcomes (this is especially useful if you’re brand new). Your coaching programme might have a similar outcome to a popular book, for example.
What do the 5-star reviews tell you about what your prospects value? And what do the 1-star reviews tell you about what other products are lacking, that yours doesn’t lack?
Check out social media – Facebook groups especially – where your target customers hang out. What do they say about the problems they have that you can solve? How do they talk about the outcomes they want?
Find the language your customers use, and then use it too.
If the same words or phrases pop up over and again, use them in your copy.
You don’t have to write everything from scratch – the words are already out there. Use your customers’ own words, and they’ll recognise themselves in your copy. They’ll know you understand them.
Tip 4: Add urgency (but don’t fake it)
You know those crazy countdown timers you get on sales pages and launch emails? It’s hard to ignore them…but you know that half the time, they’re a massive bluff. And the same thing will be offered somewhere else the next day.
Fake urgency sucks – and I’m not suggesting for 1 second that you use it.
Instead, identify when it really is urgent that your customer acts now.
What will happen if they don’t buy now?
Others will get ahead of them..
They’ll lose valuable time when they could be working towards the outcome they want…
And if there really is a risk of selling out (or your price going up) – tell people that.
If it’s genuinely important for people to act quickly, for their benefit and not just yours, make sure they know.
Tip 5: Offer the right thing at the right time
Whenever you write something (website, sales page, landing page, social post, blog…), you need to understand what people already know when they read it.
Are previous buyers who already know all about you and what you do?
Have heard of you before, but aren’t quite convinced that you’re the one to choose over your competitors?
Know about your competitors, but not about you yet?
Haven’t heard of you or your competitors, but have a nagging feeling that they need some help?
Don’t yet realise they need any help?
Wherever your customers are now…meet them there in your copy.
If they’re previous buyers, talk about the results they’ve already had, and how they can get even better results when they buy your next product. Make it easy for them to get over that line.
If they’re still choosing you over your competitors, go hard on testimonials and proof. Show them why you’re the one to choose and what you do differently that others don’t.
If they don’t know about you yet, show them you understand what they need and talk about how you can help.
If they don’t know about the solution you offer, focus on their problem and their needs. Show you really understand them.
If they don’t know anything yet, introduce them to the problem that you solve. Show them how their life will be better when they recognise it and begin to look for a solution.
Don’t assume what people already know about you or what you do. Find where they are and go there.
Tip 6: Provide a journey
Your copy needs to two 3 simple things:
- Grab attention
- Hold attention
- Guide people to take action
To do these 3 things, your prospects need to be taken on a journey by your copy. Each element of your copy has a job that will guide them on that journey.
The job of your headline is to grab attention and provoke curiosity. If it doesn’t do that, no-one will want to read on.
The job of your first line is to keep that attention, and to satisfy the curiosity that’s already been provoked.
The job of your second line? Yep, you guessed it.
At every stage, ask yourself ‘what’s the next thing my reader needs to know here?’.
Depending on the copy you’re writing, and where your reader has come from, the next thing at any one stage might be:
- A testimonial
- Details about benefits
- A demonstration that you understand their problem
- The outcome.
- The price
- A way to contact you
The exact structure will vary depending on what you’re writing (if you’re writing a web page, take a look at the Storybrand structure)
You can also use PAS – problem, agitation, solution. This is a super-simple but trustworthy formula that will help you write just about anything in a way that will create that all-important journey.
Start with the problem – define the problem your reader wants to solve.
Move to agitation – talk more about the problem. Get deep into emotion – how does it make them feel to have this problem? What are the impacts on their life? Show them you really get it.
Present the solution – show why your solution is the one that will solve the problem.
Don’t just write. Use a structure to create a journey that leads inevitably to the outcome you want.
Tip 7: Prove it
A lot of my small business copywriting clients feel weird about proving their own worth. They feel it’s bragging to include testimonials in their copy. They feel it’s uncouth to talk about the results they get.
It isn’t. People want to know that you’re good at what you do. They want to know that you’ve got results before. They want to hear about the clients you’ve already worked with.
Anyone can claim anything they like – it’s up to you to prove you really can do what you say you can. You’re letting people down if you don’t do that. They’re interested enough to read your stuff…make it easy for them to turn that interest into a sale.
What if you don’t have any proof yet, because you’re brand new, or you’ve pivoted your business? Offer something small for free to a few people in exchange for a review. Do a great job, and they might just buy something bigger from you. And if they don’t, you’ve at least got the proof you need to sell to someone else.
Never by shy about proving your worth.
Tip 8: Ask for the sale
This is another thing that a lot of small business owners feel awkward about. But again, you are letting people down if you don’t tell them what you want them to do.
If they’re not interested, they’ll already have stopped reading.
If they’re still reading, then they want to take action.
That action might not be to buy. If they’ve just landed on your blog for the first time, they’re probably not going to buy your £2k programme right now.
They will be interested in signing up for your mailing list, though.
Decide what action you want someone to take before you start writing. Then guide them towards that throughout your copy.
Tip 9: Forget your grammar
One of the biggest small business copywriting hangups I see is that people don’t think they’re good writers.
Maybe your English teacher always marked you down. Or you failed your GCSE. Or you just can’t spell.
None of that matters. I’ve got an MA in authorship and I’ve broken all sorts of ‘rules’ in this post. Because persuasive writing isn’t about grammar.
But remember this: copy is about emotion and action. Identify the emotions. Drive the action. If you have to break a few rules to do that, break them.
Banish that English teacher’s voice from your head. It has nothing to do with where you are now.
Has this post helped you with small business copywriting?
This post has been a fast-paced ride through some of the basics of small business copywriting, informed by 10 years as a copywriter for small business owners (as well as for big-name brands and agencies).
I’ve written it because I know that most small business owners can’t afford to pay a copywriter for much, if any, copy. Even if you can afford a copywriter for your small business, unless you understand some copywriting basics, it’s hard to evaluate their work. Use this post to write your own copy and to help you work with any freelance copywriters you hire.
Learn more about how to write copy that sells: get your free 12-step, biz-boosting copy checklist