Every entrepreneur and business owner needs to have an email list. As a sales conversion copywriter, one of my main jobs is to write copy for landing pages that entice a specific target audience to willingly hand over their email addresses.
So … give me your email address and nobody gets hurt?
No no no. I said entice, not coerce.
Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s so much better.
I know, right?
Building an email list - also referred to as lead generation - should be a main goal of every entrepreneur and business owner. After all, once you have the email, you own the traffic - and owned traffic is better than borrowed any day of the week for several reasons:
The thing is, my clients don’t want to spend an arm or a leg on paid traffic. They also don’t want to spend all their free time trying to get the right kind of people to opt in. My goal as a sales conversion copywriter is to create copy that will get as many qualified leads for my clients as I can as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
No matter what type of traffic they use though, there’s one common denominator that can be the make or break of the whole lead generation system - the landing page.
Having a high-converting landing page that captures attention, nurtures connection and clearly communicates the value of the offer is the key to cost- and time-effective lead generation. So let’s dive into my four steps for writing landing pages that convert like crazy!
Step #1: Know the Target Audience
I know I’m always preaching on knowing the target audience, but it really is one of the most important things a sales conversion copywriter must do in order to get results for their clients. In order to run successful lead generation that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and attracts the RIGHT kind of audience, a client must:
Step #2: Offer Something Valuable
Lead generation is all about exchanging value.
Think about it like this. Your client is asking the reader to give them their email address. This is information the reader considers to be rather personal, and they’re not going to do it unless they feel they’re getting something they value more than keeping their email address private in return.
I’m not saying my clients should give away the farm or anything, but they do need to consider what they can offer their target audience that they want. I also encourage them to offer something that doesn’t require any personal time or energy on their part besides the initial creation of the lead magnet. Some examples of lead magnets that tend to convert well are:
Step #3: Write a Compelling, Results-Driven Headline
The first thing a visitor sees when they click on a landing page is the headline. If the page doesn’t capture the visitor’s attention in the first three seconds, they’re gone, so honestly, the headline has a pretty big job. In fact, some landing pages ONLY have a headline and an opt-in. So the headline has to capture attention, and it has to do it well.
My favorite way to write headlines for lead generation landing pages is to just get straight to the point with the result the reader is going to get if they give their email.
Notice I said RESULT. Not the actual download or whatever the lead magnet is. The result is where it’s at - where the true value lies. Without the result, the lead magnet is just another file cluttering up their hard drive.
The image above is an example of a high-converting landing page. This lead magnet was run from March through May. It generated 1500 leads at around $1.20 each and converted between 60-80%. Dang, that’s good. The lead magnet wasn’t anything special really. It was just a list of my 10 favorite free tools that I use every day in my online business. Note how simple the headline is.
“Working From Anywhere Just Got Easier With These 10 Online Tools”
This is a very results-driven headline, and it worked because I knew who my audience was and took into account current events. I launched this lead magnet right as everything shut down because of the global pandemic. So let’s run through this so you can see the thought process behind the headline.
What does the audience want? Business (aka money). They are afraid their business is going to suffer because of social distancing. They want to keep their business alive, and they know online is the only way that can happen right now.
What result am I giving them? “Work from anywhere”. I’m giving them a list of tools that they don’t have to go hunting for that will help them set up their business remotely, making their lives easier and their business feel more secure.
I almost always use the result-driven headline for lead magnets, and there’s a reason for that. Sure there are other types of headlines. I could use a pain-points driven headline or a super crazy attention-grabbing headline. Ninety-five percent of the time though, I go with results-driven headlines for lead generation. Why?
Because the promise of a result they want is enough to hold their attention and get them to trade their email address for it. You don’t need to bring in the pain points - not yet. Not until you want to convince them to whip out their wallets. A crazy headline is great for ad copy, but can be confusing on a landing page. Results-driven headlines are where it’s at for landing pages.
Step #4: Use Sub-Headlines Sparingly
I rarely use sub-headlines for lead gen landing pages. Most of the time it’s just not necessary, but because I was running completely cold traffic, I knew that the sub-headline I used here would add to the value of the offer by giving it street cred. Check it out.
“These Tools Are The Tested & Proven MVPs In My Remote Business ... And They're FREE!”
It helps the reader to know that these tools are being used successfully inside a remote business already, and the reminder that they’re free really dials in on the fact that the reader only stands to gain by opting in.
Step #5: Keep Copy Brief
Landing pages for a free opt-in do not have to be long. In fact, short and to-the-point landing pages almost always outperform longer ones. Here’s why I think that is. If you have something that’s valuable and free, you shouldn’t have to talk the reader into it. It should be a no-brainer for them.
Most of the landing pages I write for have a headline, a short piece of text or three bullets that clearly outline the result they’ll get, an image of the lead magnet, and the opt-in. That’s it. I don’t even encourage clients to include a bio or About Me section. Short, sweet, and to the point is all it takes to get readers to convert to a free offer if steps 1-4 are already in place.
More From Christa Nichols
Ready to try out these tips on the next landing page you write? Awesome! Before you do, click here to grab my FREE targeting guide. It will help you zero right in on exactly who your client’s target audience is so you can craft the exact message they need to read.
Everybody wants the freebie, but nobody wants to buy.
Is that really true? No way! Buyers are out there, and as a copywriter, you’re in the unique position of being able to help your clients find them. In this article, I’m going to let you in on five non-negotiable steps you must take to successfully move audiences from the freebie list to the red hot buyers list.
The best part is, these five steps work at any stage of the client’s marketing strategy and can be used to move audiences from free opt-in to the tripwire and on up the value ladder to the main offer and beyond.
Step 1: Provide Value
There’s a common three-step digital marketing strategy that goes something like this:
Lead magnet (free opt-in) > Tripwire (low-priced offer) > Main offer (moderately priced offer)
It looks super simple on paper, but is it though? Is it really? It’s so frustrating to slave over a beautiful opt-in and a flashy tripwire, only to end up spending a bunch of ad budget generating leads that never become buyers.
The first step to moving people into becoming paying clients and customers actually starts with the free lead magnet. Make no mistake - just because a lead magnet is free doesn’t mean it’s worthless.
A good lead magnet contains valuable information or services that the audience is willing to trade their email address for. In this day and age of spam-filled inboxes, people are less and less motivated to give away their email addresses. In other words, make sure everything you offer is GOOD.
But just because the lead magnet needs to contain a lot of value doesn’t mean it has to be labor or time intensive for you. A good rule of thumb to follow is to make sure the lead magnet doesn’t require your personal time and energy beyond the initial creation of it. You’ll quickly burn out because that’s not sustainable.
Good lead magnets should be things that are one and done for the business owner or entrepreneur. Some examples of good lead magnets are downloadable guides or cheat sheets, e-books, or short training videos. These items can be easily delivered to an email inbox over and over again without needing the client’s direct input.
Step 2: Create a Measurable Result
There are a lot of lead magnets out there that contain a lot of value that still don’t do a very good job of moving people from freebie-seekers to buyers. Yep, there’s MORE. The lead magnet also must, if implemented, create a measurable result for the user.
For example, let’s say your client has a lead magnet that has 16 pages of information on why dentists need online sales funnels. Is that information valuable? Sure. There are plenty of dentists out there who could benefit from understanding what an online sales funnel can do to help grow their practices.
But it’s all facts and ideas. It’s a nice read, but it doesn’t give them a measurable result. There’s nothing there for them to say, “Wow, that’s amazing! Look at what that did for me. I’m going to stick around to see what else this guy has got!”
What if, instead, your client’s lead magnet was a step-by-step checklist with 10 steps they can take right now to make sure their website is ready for traffic? Now THAT’S a lead magnet with actionable steps and a measurable result. They read it, they do it, and when they’re done, they have a website that’s ready for traffic - something they didn’t have before.
Now your client is the expert in their eyes, and they’re going to pay attention the next time they see something your client puts out.
Step 3: Give Them the Next Logical Step
Once the audience has been primed with an actionable, results-driven lead magnet, they’re ready for a paid offer. Not just any paid offer will do, however. There’s one main mistake I see clients make with the tripwire that practically guarantees the tripwire WON’T sell - and totally preventable.
They don’t offer their audiences a tripwire that’s the next logical step to the lead magnet. I’ll illustrate this with an example many of us can relate to - ice cream.
A Tale of Two Ice Cream Cones
It’s a super hot day, and you’re outside walking your dog in the park. Fido needs his exercise, hot or not, but you’re dying. Then you hear the happiest sound in the world - “Ice cream! FREE ice cream!”
You pivot towards the sound so fast that Fido gets whiplash. There, in the corner of the park, is a little ice cream stand, and sure enough, they’re handing out cones for free. YES! In about two seconds you’re in line with your hand out, and as your scoop of vanilla is made, the ice cream man asks, “Would you like a bowl of flamin’ hot chili for just $5 more?”
“Are you kidding me? It’s about a million degrees out here!” you exclaim. “A bowl of hot soup is the LAST thing I want.” You thank them for the free ice cream, and you wander off with Fido at your heels, happily licking your ice cream cone. You never think about the hot soup offer again.
That’s how it feels to people when the tripwire doesn’t match the lead magnet. Now, let’s look at this example again, only a little differently this time.
Same day, same dog, same ice cream stand. Only this time as you watch the ice cream man scoop your cone, trying not to drool, he says, “For just $5 more you can turn this cone into a double scoop and have access to the add-ons bar.”
You look where he motions, and there, next to the ice cream stand, is a salad bar display set up with all kinds of toppings - crushed candy bars, fruit, whipped cream, sprinkles - you name it, it’s there.
No brainer, right? You fork over your $5, doctor up your double scoop, and wander off with Fido at your heels, happily licking your (now enhanced) ice cream cone.
Now THAT’S an offer. See the difference? Although the bowl of chili and the toppings bar were both food items of the same price, one was a raging success while the other was a flop. Why?
Because when the freebie is valuable (ice cream on a hot day) and provides a measurable result (something yummy that cools you down) people WANT to take the next logical step to whatever the freebie is.
When your client’s tripwire is the next logical step for the audience member, they will be MUCH more likely to buy it.
Step 4: Ask More Than Once
Of course, not everybody will go after the paid offer straight out of the gate. A number of people will walk away before taking the bait (even if it is as good as an ice cream toppings bar).
Humans are skeptical, and this is a normal human reaction. Studies have shown it takes approximately seven unique “touches” to get people to take action. In other words, don’t give up too early!
Remember when you were a kid, and you really really wanted something? Like, REALLY really? You would dog your parents for days about it until you finally wore them down and they gave in, right?
I’m not suggesting that you do that to your client’s list. At all. But what I am suggesting is that sometimes our clients get discouraged and just plain give up too soon. So send the follow-up email. Engage the Messenger chat bot. Give those freebie fans one more chance to buy.
Step 5: Stay Visible and Present
Of course, the end goal is to continue to move the tripwire buyers up the value ladder so they’ll become main offer and potentially high-ticket buyers. Post-tripwire purchase is not the time to drop them. In fact, it’s time to turn up the heat, and by heat, I mean nurture them towards becoming red-hot buyers.
So make sure they’re added to the post-purchase email nurturing sequences. Have your client invite them to Like and Follow their Facebook page. Encourage them to keep up on their social media posting.
This is the long-game folks, and so many business owners forget that. They take the sprint, then die out before they ever reach marathon status, thinking that’s just the way it goes.
It doesn’t have to be like that. Continuity and longevity is possible, and it’s vital to the growth of any business. This is the perfect opportunity for your client to stay in the game and use that amazing lead magnet tripwire combo you’ve helped them create to keep people in their spheres and serve them better.
More from Christa Nichols Messaging
Make sure the lead magnet and tripwire copy is a perfect match for the target audience by asking your clients the eight questions I ask all my high-ticket copy clients in my FREE guide, “8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects & Converts”.
"Yeah, I’m a runner,” she said as she laces up her Nikes and heads to the treadmill for her daily two-mile jog.
“Yeah, I’m a runner,” he said as he slips on his Vibram 5-finger runners and hits the trail for a ‘short’ 20-mile loop.
Are they both runners?
Heck no! She’s not a runner. She couldn’t handle a hardcore ultra race.
He’s crazy! That’s not running. That’s torture to the extreme!
In the general sense of the word, sure, they’re both runners. But when it comes down to what they actually do and how they do it, the word “runner” seems to have multiple meanings depending on the circumstances.
The same can be said for the term “copywriter.”
Two Types of Copywriters
There are two main types of copywriters - content copywriters and sales conversion copywriters (sometimes called direct response copywriters). People outside the copywriting industry tend to group all public-faced writing under one umbrella and often don’t recognize there’s a wide gap between the two types.
Let’s break down the two types of copywriters, what they do, what they accomplish for their clients, and where you might see examples of both types of copy.
What they do: Content copywriters write the words that fill the spaces target audiences go to for information about their clients (hence the term “content”). Don’t let this definition of content fool you - content copy isn’t just throwaway copy, not by a long shot. Quality content copy makes a huge difference.
What this does for their clients: The main purposes of content copy are to engage and entertain the client’s audience, keep them visible and top of mind, and educate and indoctrinate the audience about the client’s mission and vision. Content copy also helps drive search engines by providing the SEO-based keywords needed to attract Google’s attention and push traffic.
Where you’ll see content copy: You’ll see content copy on websites, blogs, social media profiles, and everyday emails.
SALES CONVERSION COPYWRITERS
What they do: To put it in really simple terms, sales conversion copywriters write the words that sell the things. They write super targeted copy that urges readers to take a specific action.
What this does for their clients: The copy that sales conversion copywriters create accomplishes five objectives:
Where you’ll see sales conversion copy: You’ll see sales conversion copy in ads, sales emails, sales funnels, direct mail sales letters, and sometimes in social media content.
“VS.” OR “AND”?
Is one type of copywriting better than another? No way! Content copy and sales copy are both important, they just accomplish different goals. The truth is, clients need both types of copy in their businesses. Why?
Because nobody likes to be communicated with in the same way all the time.
If all a business did was entertain and engage their audience, it wouldn’t be a very profitable business, right? On the other hand, if all a business did was sell, sell, sell, the audience would quickly tire of it and feel used.
A healthy mix of content copy and sales conversion copy helps balance both sides and give the target audience an enjoyable customer experience. When it comes to business growth, it’s ALL about serving the customer and nurturing the customer experience.
SHOULD COPYWRITERS SPECIALIZE?
If content and sales copy are so different, what does that mean for copywriters and business owners? Should a copywriter specialize by choosing to focus on either content or sales? What’s important for the business owner or entrepreneur to know as they search for the right copywriter to support them?
The longer I serve clients as a copywriter, the more convinced I am that you can get better, more consistent results for clients if you specialize. Can one person write both types of copywriting? Yes, but it can be a challenge. As you switch back and forth between the two types of writing, you’re constantly requiring your brain to go back and forth between sales mentality and content.
Specializing allows you to stay in one zone for your clients. When you can devote more time to one type of copywriting, you grow those skills faster and can more quickly become known as an expert in that area.
As for the business owner or entrepreneur looking to hire a copywriter, understanding the difference between content copy and sales copy and which type they need is really important. Hitting the market with “I need a good copywriter. Anybody know one?” will send a mixed bag of recommendations to their inbox. They may end up having to wade through a bunch of copywriters who don’t have the expertise they’re looking for. Bummer.
Does that mean sales copywriters and content copywriters can’t coexist?
Are they destined to live on separate planes, never crossing paths like two ships in the night?
Not at all! Copywriters all have the same bottom-line goal - to support the client. When content and sales copywriters work together to present a unified and cohesive messaging across all channels, it’s SO powerful. Campaigns are enhanced (and so are conversion rates!) when the content copy messaging matches the sales conversion messaging. The best-performing campaigns I’ve ever worked on had content and sales copywriters to cover both the engagement and sales spectrums simultaneously.
THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
Will our two runners ever run the same way? No, probably not … and that’s okay. They don’t have to, because they’re doing two different and equally valuable types of running.
Content copywriters and sales conversion copywriters are in a similar position. Will they ever write the same way as each other? No, and they SHOULDN’T. This can be a tough one for the client to understand sometimes.
“Why doesn’t my sales page sound more like my website?”
“Why can’t my blog be used as my Facebook ad copy?”
Just as our runners in the example above wore different kinds of shoes for different kinds of running, so copywriters must use different strategies and techniques for different types of copy.
It’s a GOOD thing.
More About Christa Nichols
So what about me? What do I specialize in? I’m a sales conversion copywriter - I write the words that sell the things. Want to learn more about being a sales conversion copywriter?
Download my FREE 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects & Converts PDF Guide. It gives you eight of the questions I ask every client before I ever write a word. These questions are so foundational, and no one ever talks about Question #2!
Have you ever just gotten something SO WRONG that all you can do is laugh?
I have. This week, in fact.
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that we’ve been on vacation for the last two weeks. You’ll also know that while we traveled through the Western states, something special arrived at our farm.
Two pot-bellied pigs.
If you’ve ever seen a pot-bellied pig, you know that they’re really something. And by something, I mean they’re so ugly they’re cute.
These two have it all going on - the smooshy snouts, the hanging bellies, the wiry, bristly hair. And the willingness to eat anything and everything you offer them.
So, of course, we gave them names befitting their appearance. They look like big, bad piggos, so we named them after some big, bad personalities - Hambo and Chunk Norris.
I love it. I’m still laughing at “Chunk Norris”. It’s definitely the pinnacle of my pet naming career. Or so I thought …
A Shocking Discovery
And here’s where it all went wrong. Last night a friend of ours stopped by and asked us a question that stopped me in my tracks.
“So are you going to breed your pigs?” he asked.
“What do you mean? Wait - are they GIRLS?” my husband replied.
Yep. The “minor” detail we had neglected to verify was that Hambo and Chunk Norris are, in fact, female pigs.
I was instantly horrified. We gave our girl pigs boy names! What is the world coming to!?!
Getting Your Audience Right
Of course, Hambo (Hambina?) and Chunk (Chunkita?) Norris could care less. They get back scratches and leftover spaghetti. They’re living their best lives.
It’s not quite the same when it comes to digital marketing and your human audience. Get the target audience wrong, and you’ll know it. How? Well, either the campaigns won’t convert, or you’ll get backlash from the audience you are targeting. Probably both.
Target market research is SO important. It’s more important than just about anything else in marketing, especially when it comes to writing sales copy that converts. If your client doesn’t know who needs their products and services …
… and I mean KNOW know, as in who they are, what they do, and what their needs, desires, and pain points are …
Then they don’t really have an offer - not one that will sell anyway - and you will have a really hard time getting results for them, no matter how good your sales copy is.
Your clients’ products and services exist for someone else, and that someone else will not buy them if they don’t feel your clients understand and relate to them. And the only way you can communicate well with someone else’s target audience is if you put in the time and energy on target market research.
Getting the Job Done
Target market research is a necessary step, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I do it over and over again for my clients, and I’ve broken it down into a step-by-step process that’s easy to follow, yet very effective.
Want to see it? I have a FREE downloadable cheat sheet that will help you dial in on exactly who your clients’ target markets are so you can serve them well and write sales copy that’s specific to them.
Not Hambo and Chunk Norris.
Click here to download the FREE guide now.
It’s a rare occasion that I don’t close a prospective client on a discovery call.
I don’t say that to brag. Believe me, I spent my fair share of calls filled with imposter syndrome, doubt and desperation oozing out of me. When I first started out as a digital marketer, I agreed to any and every project that came my way at whatever price was offered.
Even if it was something I didn’t enjoy doing (like social media platform management).
Or didn’t really know how to do (like build sales funnels).
I burned out in six months.
It wasn’t until I dialed in on what I really loved doing and was good at that things changed for me. I fell in love with my clients. Work became fun again. And discovery calls got a whole lot easier.
Today, I close around 80 percent of my discovery calls. Of the remaining 20 percent, most don’t sign because they’re looking for a cheaper option, which is completely understandable. I don’t try to sell someone into something they can’t afford - that’s just not my style.
The Key to Closing is in the Questions You Ask
So how do I do it? Am I some super-celebrity rockstar with a huge reputation?
Nope. Except for within a few niche communities, I’m sure most people have never even heard of me. I’m just an Iowa housewife who happens to be good with words and discerning human behavior who loves helping entrepreneurs and business owners sell their stuff. I love it to the point that I’m pretty well obsessed with helping them get inside their ideal clients’ and customers’ heads. Sounds creepy, I know, but it works.
The thing is, they don’t know that before they hire me.
They don’t know how well I’m going to do on their sales copy. I can show them examples of my work, and give them client testimonials and results, but until we work together, there are no guarantees. Yet I rarely have a discovery call that doesn’t result in a signed proposal, and I’m convinced a great deal of the cause for that are the questions I ask them on the call.
There are 5 main questions I always ask the prospective client on a business call that knock their socks off and make them want to work with me above other writers, even if they’re more well-known than I am.
Question #1: Is your offer a converting offer?
There’s a huge difference between writing for a brand new offer, an offer that has converted but has never seen paid traffic, and an offer that’s consistently converting with paid traffic. Each scenario requires a different approach.
Why this is important: It’s important for you to know this at the outset so you can meet the client where their offer is and set reasonable expectations as far as turnaround time, revisions, and testing and optimization. Reasonable expectations are good for EVERYONE.
Question #2: How large is your list?
The size of the list is a great indicator of where the campaign needs to start. Conversions aren’t just about sales, they’re about list building, webinar attendance, and challenge enrollments.
Why this is important: If the list is small, the client will want to start with list-building. Emails are owned traffic, and owned traffic is money in the bank. It’s much easier to get conversions from someone on the email list than a random person hopping in the funnel from social media.
Question #3: How warm is your target audience?
Most of you probably already ask about the target audience on the discovery call (if you don’t, start now!), but do you ask where they are in terms of their engagement? Even entrepreneurs and business owners with huge lists struggle to sell if the list is dead cold.
Why this is important: A warm audience buys faster, easier, and with much less financial investment. List size is important, but don’t ignore the fact that a small hot audience will outperform a large cold one every day of the week. Pitching to a cold audience can result in poor sales conversions. Nobody wants that.
Question #4: What campaigns have you run before and how did they perform?
This won’t apply as much to a prospect with a brand new business or offer, but knowing what has worked and what hasn’t for the prospect can help you get a quick feel for what their audience likes and doesn’t like as well as what marketing has proven effective. If they’re new, that’s really important to know too. See question #1.
Why this is important: Knowing what they’ve done before gives you a place to start and a baseline for growth and improvement. It also gives you a look at where to start in terms of optimization where things aren’t working and where to not reinvent the wheel for things that are working.
Question #5: What are your average conversion rates?
There are several different stats I ask for - cost per lead, cost per click, and cost per acquisition. I also always ask for the landing page and sales page conversion rates. Most prospects I talk to have never had a copywriter ask them about conversion rates before. Sometimes they themselves don’t have a clear idea what their baselines are.
Why this is important: Asking about their conversion rates lets the prospect know that you’re about results and that you understand that the data tells the story when it comes to what’s working and what’s not. They will feel like you are on their team working towards a common goal instead of just looking to get paid.
The discovery call process is not just an interview. Yes, it’s an opportunity for the prospect to ask you questions, and they should. Let them guide the discussion and ask you whatever questions they like, but the discovery call is as much for you as it is for them. Make sure you sneak these five questions in.
These five questions serve two purposes. Not only do they really impress the prospect and show them you know your stuff, but the answers provide you with information you need to be able to make informed suggestions for their campaigns and even decide whether the client is a good fit for you or not.
More from Christa Nichols
Want another list of questions I always ask my clients once we start working together? Grab my FREE 8 Must-Ask Questions guide. Inside you’ll find eight questions I always ask about my clients’ target markets. These questions help me write copy that follows the five stages of sales copy - and it WORKS. Click here to download it now: 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects And Converts.
When I was a much younger bride, I decided I was going to plant a garden. My family had a garden when I was a kid, and I remembered how nice it was to have fresh produce to eat and spend time playing in the dirt. I wanted to recreate the nostalgia by planting some seeds, watching them grow, then eating the veggies.
There wasn’t much more to it than that, right?
I drove to my local Walmart and had a wonderful time picking out seeds. My main criteria for choosing was based mainly on how nice the photo on the front of the packet looked. I didn’t pay much attention to soil types or growing zones or anything like that. This was Iowa. Things grew here. It would be fine.
(Insert Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating, “It was not fine.”)
Now that I had all the seeds, I knew it was time to figure out where I was going to plant them. I realize that most people would have already settled this “minor” detail, but not me. I begged my husband and my dad to till a patch of yard, and I was off to the races. I took my seeds out to the garden in a little basket, ready to do some planting.
Except I didn’t have any garden tools. After a quick search through the machine shed, I came up with a rickety old hoe and a trowel. “Good enough,” I thought. I marched myself and my tools back to the garden and spent a few hours planting seeds.
Fast forward a couple weeks, and I have little plants sprouting up. I was thrilled … until I realized I hadn’t made a record of what I’d planted where or marked the rows. I had no idea what was what, and to make matters worse, I didn’t know how to tell if something was a little veggie or a weed!
The whole gardening season went like this. Lots of trial and error. Lots of being totally unprepared and not having what I needed to do gardening well. Here are a few more highlights:
I could go on and on about my first garden mishaps, but let’s get to the point. There are certain things you have to do in a certain order for plants to sprout and produce vegetables. You have to
And then, when the time is right and conditions are met, you reap the harvest. You can’t just throw some seeds at the ground and expect the harvest to be amazing.
Yet isn’t that often how people expect sales copy to work? They throw an ad up on Facebook and think people will read it and instantly buy. When it doesn’t work, they grow frustrated and discouraged. They wonder what went wrong and start to doubt themselves and their calling. Sometimes they even throw up their hands and walk away.
Sales Copy That Converts Happens in 5 Stages
The truth is, sales conversion copy is like gardening. There are certain things that need to be communicated in a certain order if you want people to buy. Occasionally, yes, you can throw some words out there and someone will throw money back, but most of the time it doesn’t work like that.
First, you have to catch the attention of the right target audience. Then you need to address their needs and desires so they feel cared for and understood. When it comes time to make the offer, it’s important to break down objections that stand in the way of them taking action. Finally, once they buy, you don’t stop. Repeat the process with them within their new context as buyers to keep them ascending to the next level of service.
Sales conversion copy is a process that has five stages. The target audience must be led through these five stages in order to convert.
Each of these objectives need to happen in that order to move people from cold to the idea of buying to ready to throw credit cards at your face. If you try to skip stages, your conversion rate will suffer. If you try to do them out of order, again, your conversion rate will suffer.
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Want to learn more tips on writing copy that converts? Grab my FREE 8 Must-Ask Questions guide. Inside you’ll find the eight questions I always ask about my clients’ target markets that help me write copy that follows the 5 stages of sales copy . Click here to download it now: 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects And Converts.
“What is your rate?”
When the question popped up in my DMs, my heart sank. I’m not at all offended by people asking what I charge - I expect prospective clients to want to know my rates, and I’m happy to share them. The reason my heart sank this time was because this was the very first communication I’d ever had with this person, and they were asking the wrong question.
Why is this the wrong first question to ask a copywriter? Because when it comes to copywriting, price is a horrible measure of its value. It’s bad not only for the copywriter, but for the client too. In this article, I’m going to tell you why that is, what to do if you’re faced with this situation, and what questions to look for instead.
Equating Price With Value Is Bad For The Copywriter
When “What is your rate?” is the very first question a prospect asks, RUN.
Does that sound dramatic? Of course I don’t mean you should strap on the Nikes and literally peel out. What I do mean is it’s okay - no, it’s GOOD - to have specific criteria for your ideal client type, and some of that criteria should revolve around how a client approaches your rates.
Your criteria on how clients approach you about your rates may not be the same as mine. I’m a people-pleaser, and I love serving my clients. This makes me a great service provider, but not so great at protecting my time.
Early on in my career as a writer, I would let myself be talked down in price and end up getting burned out because I was taking too many projects for the time available. It was a no-win situation. I wanted to keep growing my business, but something had to give.
Today, I feel comfortable stating my rates with confidence because I have the results and testimonials to back it up. I’m proud and grateful for what I do because I know how it helps my clients and the people they serve.
If someone only wants to hire based on price, they’re likely to be more focused on how much they can GET for their money rather than on how much they can GIVE to the people they serve.
Say that again for the people in the back, right?
I’m not saying price isn’t a factor in who you hire for a job. It absolutely is, and I NEVER hard sell or encourage people to invest more than they can in my services. Ever. But price shouldn’t be the only factor.
Price tells the prospect nothing about what you can actually do for them or how you can help them serve their target audiences. If all you and your services are to them is a number, then they will probably not value your work no matter how good it is.
I also want to address this from the other side of the coin. If you’re reading this and you’re a copywriter, let results dictate your rates. Start out charging a reasonable fee, then adjust your rates when you have the results and testimonials to back it up.
I know service providers who have charged premium rates just because they want to earn premium rates. I’m not okay with that. If a service provider can’t back up what they’re claiming to deliver (and a higher price-tag does automatically bring with it an expectation of high-level, results-based service) it will reflect badly on their business.
Their own business isn’t all that will be negatively affected. When promised results aren’t delivered, it can reflect back negatively on an industry as a whole. I can’t tell you how many client’s I’ve had who paid thousands of dollars for a copywriter who didn’t deliver. They have to turn around and pay me or another copywriter to come in and fix it, and that’s frustrating and expensive.
Equating Price With Value Is Bad For The Client
I'm not a proponent of price-gouging or pulling a Naomi Campbell by refusing to get out of bed for less than $1,000 a day. I’m also not a proponent of undercharging just to land clients. Both situations are lose-lose because price does NOT equal value.
Just because a copywriter charges high-ticket rates doesn’t necessarily mean they deliver great results. And just because a copywriter is cheap doesn’t mean they’re not talented. The truth is, when you make a decision on a copywriter with price as your only consideration, you don’t know what you’re getting. Assigning value according to how much they charge does not take their skill level or results into consideration, and that’s a big mistake.
Let’s say you’re hungry. Someone hands you a menu and tells you to choose what you’d like to eat. You take the menu and say “thanks”. You could really go for a cheeseburger with fries, or maybe a nice caesar salad with dressing on the side.
But when you open it, you blink in surprise. Instead of the tantalizing descriptions and delicious-looking images you expected to see, all you see is a list of numbers. The menu is nothing but a price list.
“Hey,” you say, tapping the person who handed you the menu on the shoulder, “I think I got the wrong menu. There’s nothing on here. How do I pick what I want?”
“No, that’s right,” they say. “The prices are there. Just pick what you can afford.”
“But what if I don’t get what I wanted? What if I get something that tastes HORRIBLE!?”
They shrug. “So? At least you know what it costs.”
See what I mean? Making a decision on a copywriter based only on their prices is no guarantee you’ll get the right copywriter for the job.
Questions to Ask Instead
If price shouldn’t be the first question on either party’s mind, what should? What kinds of questions should you listen for when you’re looking for the right copywriter or service provider to hire?
Here are my favorite questions to get asked on a discovery call. When a prospect asks me questions like this, I know they understand the power of copy to move traffic, appreciate service providers’ skills, and are looking for the best person for the project.
What kinds of clients have you written for?
It’s a rare copywriter who writes for any and every industry. Most copywriters have a niche, an area they spend more time writing for. If a prospect asks you what industry or niche you write for, this is a good sign. It means they recognize the importance of experience and expertise.
What kind of results have you gotten for clients?
This is the bottom line right here. A prospect who asks about your results or wants to see examples of your work understands that anyone can put words on a page. They’re looking for someone who really gets it and can perform.
What is it like to work with you?
This is a GREAT question to ask. This indicates that they’re not just thinking about your as a means to an end. You’re forming a relationship with them and their business, and this question shows they care about a good working relationship.
What would you suggest for ________________?
Anytime they ask you what you’d do in XYZ situation is great. If they’re asking this question, that means you’ve already built some trust with them. They will likely be good at listening to what you say and trust your process.
How much do you charge?
Aha, finally. The million-dollar question should only come in after they’ve determined whether you’d be a good fit or not. They might still turn you down if it just plain doesn’t fit their budget, and that’s okay. You’ll both walk still away feeling valued and heard.
I don’t blame or feel angry with prospects whose sole focus is price. Sometimes, especially with start-ups, that just is the top consideration at the moment. I’ve learned it’s more of a reflection on where they’re at than anything else. And whether I join them there or not … that’s my decision, and one I can now make with confidence.
More from Christa Nichols
Hey copywriters, want to turn the tables and grab some awesome questions to ask your clients’ target markets? Click here to download my free guide on the 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects And Converts.
Our dog never used to be afraid of storms.
We got Finn as the cutest little 6-week-old German shorthair puppy, and he’s basically been the sweetest, most loving dog ever. He’s never had a want or a fear in his little life.
But last year he was outside during a really loud burst of thunder. Is that a thing? A “burst” of thunder? No wait, it’s “clap”. A really loud clap of thunder. Anyway ....
That one loud clap of thunder terrified him, and from that moment on, he gets really upset when the weather gets stormy. He whines, runs for a stuffed animal (his ultimate “prize” or comfort toy), and becomes super-glued to one of us.
It doesn’t help to remind him that he wasn’t afraid of thunder before. It doesn’t matter if we reassure him and try telling him he doesn’t need to be afraid. He had an emotional experience, and it has permanently changed how he feels about storms.
He is afraid of thunder now. It’s just something that IS.
Change Affects People Too
Right now, the whole world is reeling from a thunderclap unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. Try as we may, it doesn’t help to remind ourselves that we weren’t affected by pandemic before, or that everything will be okay and we don’t need to be afraid.
Things are different now. And that’s just something that IS.
Once you’re affected by something, it changes you. It changes how you feel and think, and it changes how you make decisions and what actions you take. It changes what you need help with and where you look for that help.
What does that have to do with your clients’ marketing?
You Can’t Continue To Market The Way You Did Before
If crisis teaches marketers anything, it’s that we must help our clients create messaging and offers that are relevant to today. What your client offered before the pandemic may not be what their audience needs in the midst of or after the pandemic.
If you haven’t helped your client assess where their target audience is in terms of their needs, wants, emotions, beliefs, and actions, then your client may be missing opportunities to better serve their audiences.
They also may be missing opportunities to grow their businesses, even during crisis.
The world needs enterprise and entrepreneurship and small and large businesses right now. As marketers, we can help our clients create a plan to meet their audiences right where they’re at and serve them at a high level.
If your clients can create ways to give their target audiences what their target audiences need NOW, guess who they’ll come to tomorrow, and next month, and next year?
Lessons From a Dog
The best thing our clients can do for their target audiences is to meet him where they’re at and be there for them in the way that helps them most right now. For Finn, that means letting him hover with his chin on one of our knees and telling him he’s a good boy.
For our clients, that may look like creating some educational content, showing up live more often to offer help and assistance, opening up more ways their audience can contact them, or creating unique offers that specifically address issues they’re having right now.
Those who can do this now and do it well build trust and validity with their ideal clients and customers. Here are a couple of examples of several clients and friends of mine who are doing it will. (Names are withheld for privacy reasons.)
Client A has created a day-long virtual workshop to help marriage partners and family members gain the skillsets, tools, and strategies they need to create more peace and harmony at home during social distancing.
Client B has created a Facebook group and is going live every day with the open invitation for business owners running ads to come and ask questions for free so they can keep their ads up and running well.
Client C broke open their vault of amazing resources and created a new, financially-accessible membership specifically designed to teach entrepreneurs and business owners how to create systems and processes needed to help their businesses grow during the crisis.
I could go on and on with amazing examples of how I’ve seen people step up to the plate and really, truly serve their audiences right now. And there are many, many small and easy-to-implement ways to serve right now too, like free guides, extra training sessions, or extended access to membership features that would normally have expired.
More from Christa Nichols Messaging
The point is, we’re in a new world working towards a new normal. The way we marketed before will not work today. We need to meet our audiences where they are and serve them with value. And if you’re a service provider like I am, you can help your clients come up with ways to do the same for their audiences.
Want to learn more about how I work one-on-one with clients to create sales conversion copy that helps them catch audience attention, connects with their audience on a personal level, communicates important information, and leads to conversion? Visit https://go.christanicholsmessaging.com/home
“That sounds GOOD,” I thought, leaning back in my desktop chair and stretching my arms overhead. “It’s going to work great!”
When I first started out writing copy, I didn’t know what I was doing. Sure, I had a degree in journalism and mass communication, and my time in newspaper and magazine taught me how to write targeted, concise, and attention-grabbing copy, which is a solid foundation for a copywriter.
If you’d asked me why I was good at writing sales copy that converted, however, I couldn’t have given you a reason. It “just did”. … until it “just didn’t”.
The copy I was patting myself on the back for above? Total fail. Oh sure, it was clever, it was funny, it was attention-grabbing … but it didn’t convert, and I had no idea why.
“How could the audience not like it?” I huffed in frustration. “It’s so funny! That’s just crazy.”
I’ve learned a lot since that moment years ago. The things you SHOULDN’T do when it comes to sales copy are just as important as the things you should. This article covers three mistakes copywriters make and offers solutions that will stop these mistakes from sinking your sales copy.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to just tell you all the “don’ts” and leave you hanging out to dry. I’m packing this article with solutions and free resources!
MISTAKE #1: Too Much “You” in the Copy
Just because I think something sounds great doesn’t mean the target audience will agree. You have to take yourself out of the equation when you’re writing sales copy because if you don’t know the target audience and what they want and need, your copy won’t resonate with them, and that’s a problem.
This one might be the most difficult for me to avoid. I think I’m very entertaining, and it’s easy to default into my voice and my style if I haven’t done enough of one of the most important things we copywriters do. Research.
THE SOLUTION: R-E-S-E-A-R-C-H
Out of all the solutions, this is the easiest (although likely most time-consuming) one. Research is research. You don’t have to make judgments or try to create angles during the research phase. You just want to gather as much information as you can about the target audience and the brand voice.
Your goal during the research phase is to get to know the target audience as well as or better than your client. It’s going to take more than a single-page questionnaire or a quick glance at the client’s website. If you really want to get your client results, know their audience.
When we write for clients, our goal is to write AS the clients. That means we have to know what they sound like, words and phrases they use, and how they normally communicate with their audiences. You don’t want the target audience to feel disconnected from the copy, especially when sales are involved. Need some help knowing how to dial in on the brand personality? Download my FREE Personality Booster Pack here.
MISTAKE #2: Focusing Only On The Features
You know how you tend to get really, really excited about your favorite new thing? You can’t wait to tell everyone you know all about its features and how awesome it is. Our clients are the same way with their offers. They’ve worked long and hard to create a product or service, pouring their heart and soul into creating something valuable that checks all the boxes and does all the things.
So when they talk to you about their offer, oftentimes they focus almost completely on the features, descriptions, and bonuses of the offer. They’ve been in it so long that they forget what it felt like BEFORE.
Their audience is still in the BEFORE. While they might be wowed by features and bonuses and clever descriptions, that’s not what really coverts them. What converts them are the results they’ll experience because of the offer. If the sales copy doesn’t give the audience a clear and compelling description of how their lives will improve because of the offer, they’ll be gone.
THE SOLUTION: Give The Reader What They Want
Go back to your research on the target audience. If you don’t know what they want, you can’t give them the solution they need. Make a list of the problems they have and the results they want, then connect each of those things with the offer in a way that shows how the offer is the solution to their problem.
Not sure what questions to ask to get that information about the target audience? I have a downloadable guide that gives you the eight questions I ask EVERY client that really helps me pinpoint exactly what the target audience needs to hear in order to convert. You can download it for FREE here.
MISTAKE #3: Ignoring The Data
I saw the DM notification and my heart sank. Reluctantly, I clicked over to Messenger and read my client’s message.
“The landing page isn’t converting. Can you look at it again?”
Ugh. We’ve all been there, right? Here’s the hard truth - sometimes campaigns don’t go the way the client wants them to, and one of the first places the client tends to blame is the copy. When you’re a sales copywriter, that is the one thing you do NOT want to happen.
In reality, there are a lot of factors that can contribute to a campaign not converting up to par, and it’s not always the copy. Customer service, the offer, the ability to close the sale on the back end - all of those things can contribute. So how do you determine what the cause really is? How can you communicate with the client about it in a way that is confident and respectful, especially when it’s NOT the copy’s fault?
Your new best friend in these situations is the data. When it comes to paid traffic, data is invaluable to copywriters … but it’s not something many copywriters even talk about. This is a big, big problem.
THE SOLUTION: Learn To Read Analytics
There’s only one way to correct this mistake, and that’s learning to read analytics. There are certain analytics in the back end of ad campaign data that will tell you what you need to know in order to:
Learning how to read analytics has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my business, and not just in terms of client results, although that’s certainly true. It’s been something that allows me to make recommendations and confidently guide my clients towards solutions that work.
Take the situation above. I could have panicked, cried, changed everything on the landing page, and prayed it worked. Instead, I asked her some very specific questions about what her Facebook ad analytics were showing and calmly pointed out what the problem might be, suggesting what I believed should be changed first. The situation ended up being a win-win.
Want to learn more sales copy tips so you can get Written Results for your clients? Click here to follow me on Facebook.
The 3 Most Important Things You Can Do For Your Clients (That Have Nothing To Do With Writing Words)
“I’ve hired other copywriters before, but they just didn’t get it,” my client said. “I feel like I ended up with something that doesn’t sound like me. My target audience isn’t responding at all, and now I’m stuck with something I paid thousands for that doesn’t even work.”
If you’re a copywriter, pay attention.
I’ve heard stories like this countless times, and they tell me one thing. If we’re only focusing on the words, we’re missing the very things that should be foundational to our calling.
This may be surprising to hear from someone who makes her living as a writer, but it’s not all about the words. In order to be good - really GOOD - at writing sales conversion copy, the work starts way before you ever open up that blank Google document and start writing headlines.
There are three things we must do for our clients in order to be able to write sales copy that will get them the results their offers deserve. These three things are the foundation of my business. Without these three things, I would not be the writer I am today, helping my clients serve (and generate!) millions.
The crazy thing is, on the surface, these three things have nothing to do with writing.
First, You Need to Care
What your clients are offering their target audiences matters deeply to them. There’s a reason they’ve put their time, energy, and resources into creating the product or service they’re selling.
To them, this is PERSONAL. Sometimes it’s so personal they struggle with what to say and how to communicate with the people who really need what they’re selling. They have a hard time being objective. That’s why they come to us.
They need us to see the importance of their offers. They’re trusting us to create something that supports them in their desire to serve their clients and customers, and that trust is a gift. If you don’t care - if you’re only doing this project for the money - it will show in the quality of your work.
But when you do care and can put heart and soul into their messaging? That’s when the magic happens. Audiences pick up on that. They feel seen and heard, and so will your clients.
Second, Ask The Right Questions
I consider it one of my main jobs to ask questions. It’s the best way to get down to the nitty gritty and get the answers I need so I can write copy that converts. In fact, I have a whole framework of questions I take new clients through so I can make sure I’m covering any objection, any false belief, and anything else the audience might be holding onto that might keep them from buying.
I ask tons of questions about their target markets and what they want and need and what they’re thinking, feeling, and experiencing. I ask about their current campaigns and what types of results they’ve gotten in the past. I even ask about the client’s own goals and dreams for their offer.
Often, I ask questions even the client has never thought to ask themselves. Getting the answers to those kinds of questions can literally unlock the exact hook or angle an offer needs to get off the ground and get results.
Finally Research, Research, Research
The last thing copywriters need to do for their clients before they write is research. Research is the last brick in the foundation your sales copy will build on, and it’s SO important.
Once the client and I have gone over all the answers to my questions, I dive into the research phase. I study the target market. I study the industry the client is in. I study the offer and others like it. I look for what’s working and what’s not. I take note of cultural and societal factors and situational and circumstantial occurrences that can affect sales.
It all comes into play. It all matters. Then when I have a clear understanding of the entire picture, THAT’S when I start writing. If I missed even one of those three things, I’d be doing my client a disservice.
So before you sit down with a pen (or keyboard) at hand, build the foundation. Focus on caring, questions, and research.
Steal My Questions
Want a jump on asking the right questions and diving into the research? Grab my FREE 8 Must-Ask Questions guide. This guide gives eight of the key questions I ask all my clients before I write and comes in a downloadable, fillable PDF you can save and fill out over and over again for different clients.
Want to learn more about me and what I do? Visit my website at https://go.christanicholsmessaging.com/home. To get your hands on the “8 Must-Ask Questions You Must Ask In Order To Write Copy That Connect & Converts” resource I mention in this article, click here and I’ll send it straight to your inbox!
Hi, I'm Christa, an Iowa-based messaging expert specializing in targeted messaging, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Track and field! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) Using words to help people promote what they love is my favorite!