Image: Eran Sandler via Flickr

Writing effective sales copy is like holding the reader’s hand and leading them gently and firmly to the solution to their problem. Along the way, a professional copywriter will paint a picture of how awesome life will be without it. Here are the seven steps to writing a copy that sells.

1. Know what you are selling

Every product or service carries an underlying experience. A book might promise romance or adventure, while a piece of furniture could tie in with visions of family togetherness. Before you write, have a clear vision of exactly what you’re selling, including the experience. Write about both.

2. Know your audience

Whether speaking to your established readers or luring a new audience of potential customers, you can’t write persuasive sales copy without knowing who your target audience is. Not sure? Use all the tools at your disposal to find out, including analytics and social media polls.

3. Choose a tone of voice

Are you the friend with some word-of-mouth information, the consummate professional with the benefit of experience, or something in between? Now that you’ve determined your target audience, you need to carefully choose the most effective tone of voice. For example, humor works great for some audiences but can come off as unprofessional to others.

Keep in mind that how you say something is often as important as what you say, and choose your tone of voice accordingly. Then start telling a story.

writing a copy

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4. Story Part I: Present a problem

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, storyteller. Your reader has a problem that you can solve, and you must describe that problem in a way that convinces them you have a firm understanding of it because you have been in their situation. The connection of a shared problem is often the turning point for a reader, building trust and making them curious about how you solved it.

5. Story Part II: Play on an emotion

Emotions are powerful motivators, and if you can make your reader feel just one strong emotion through your storytelling then your job is halfway done. Use emotion to make your reader imagine a life without The Problem. Positive emotions are usually preferable to negative, but fear is known to be an excellent motivator, and most people would not categorize fear as positive. How could you use fear in sales copy? Make your reader fear that, without your product, The Problem will never go away.

6. Story Part III: Solve the problem

By now, your reader should be hooked and ready for the final tug. This is the Aha! moment where you reveal how your product or service is the solution to their problem. There are a few things you must do here in order to be perceived as credible: provide proof, add details, give examples, and cite your sources. Can you hear the collective sigh of relief?

7. Eliminate barriers to acceptance

This is where you might expect me to talk about calls to action, so I will.

Include a strong call to action.

There. Now I will go on to say that while it is important to urge your reader to take action and click, download or buy what you’re selling, you also need to make it ridiculously easy for them. If you’ve completed the previous six steps successfully, your reader is already primed, and your most important job at this point is to make their transition from reader to customer as smooth and painless as possible.

  • Need them to fill out a form? Embed it directly on the page.
  • Have a storefront or product to sell? Link to it with a directive to Buy Now!
  • Selling a PDF or ebook? Place the order form directly after or alongside your sales pitch.

Put contact forms in plain view and lay down a red carpet that leads readers directly to the point of sale.

There is a silent eighth step in writing a copy, especially if you are selling a product or service online, and that is the fine art of following up. Once your reader has completed a transaction, make sure they know it was successful, then follow up with a note of thanks. It doesn’t hurt to include information on what they should expect to happen next. Communication is key, and extending it beyond the sale will keep your customers coming back for more—and bringing their friends.

All effective copywriting formulas draw from these steps, with some variation. Every good copywriter has his or her own version of this process, but following these seven steps will help you write more effective sales copy.