The 5 Secrets to Writing Copy That Converts Every Time

When it comes to copywriting, some people just get it. They can create magnetic headlines, stories, and highly-converting copy that effortlessly attracts prospects and guides them through the buying cycle.

However, for most of us, myself included, writing great copy that converts can be a struggle.

So, what do people like Brian Clark, Founder of popular marketing blog Copyblogger and a terrific copywriter, know about creating really great copy that we don’t?

A few weeks back, I had the good fortune of being able to sit in on an Unbounce unwebinar featuring Brian that explored the topic of creating highly-converting copy for landing pages. If you can carve out a 45 minute hole in your schedule today, I highly recommend you check it out. If you’re looking to become a better copywriter, webinars like this are a great place to start.

If you’ve already been doing some research into what separates the so-so from the superb when it comes to copywriting, chances are you’ve stumbled across ‘the 4 Ps’ – Promise, Picture, Proof, and Push. These Ps have been a cornerstone of copywriting for a long time.

But in his presentation, Brian takes things a step further by introducing a 5th P; a P that he considers to best the most important. One that “makes the difference between “okay” copy and blow-out brilliant copy.”

And while this unwebinar was, understandably, focused on how the 5 Ps can help you “crush your conversion rates” on landing pages, you can really apply Brian’s 5 P approach to any element of your marketing and sales strategy that involves copywriting.

Here’s Brian’s approach.

After struggling to execute the traditional 4 Ps in practice, Brian realized that something was missing from the formula of Promise, Picture, Proof, and Push. After sitting through the webinar (and re-watching it a few times), it makes complete sense as to why. The old formula lacked context. It lacked a premise.

1. Premise

By definition, a premise is “a proposition that forms the basis of an argument or from which a conclusion is drawn.” In more basic terms, the premise sets the table. As Brian explained, the premise you create should serve to tie everything else together, from your promise to your push, to help create a compelling, cohesive, and persuasive narrative that leaves the right prospect with no other choice but to arrive at the conclusion you want them to get to.

There are 4 elements to creating a great premise:

Don’t be like everyone else. People are naturally skeptical of things that are the same or conform to a set of expectations.

You have a limited window of engagement with your prospects. According to the recent research, the average attention span is about 8 seconds these days, so it’s important to get to the point as quickly as you can. “Perception in an instant” is what matters.

It’s important to make things as real and concrete as you can; your premise can only resonate in the proper context. The message is what matters and you need to make it relative to your prospects. For example, Brian brought up the case of Art Silverman, profiled in Made to Stick, who used the concept of relativity and tangibility to bring home just how bad a bag of buttered popcorn is for you.

Don’t stray too far from where you actually live. You’ll do yourself more damage by misrepresenting yourself.
Overall, you can view your premise as “the golden thread”, as Brian put it, or something that weaves its way through the entirety of your copy. Once you’ve honed in on a great premise, you can then move through the traditional 4 Ps to help you create great copy.

2. Promise

The promise you make sets the tone for the rest of your copy.

Brian noted that typically the promise you make is exemplified through your headline. The headline sets the tone for everything that comes next. After all, as Brian has noted before, the real purpose of a headline is to get the first sentence read. If you can, try to blend intrigue and curiosity into your promise to make it that much more interesting to the prospect.

For example, Brian noted that while he was in real-estate, he might have written a blog post entitled, “Did you know most real estate agents are working against you?” This headline has both a promise (by insinuating that Brian will help you understand why a real estate agent might not have your best interests at heart) while also peaking the prospect’s curiosity by being unconventional. The key here, however, is following up – don’t make a promise you can’t keep. Everyone hates ‘link bait’ that doesn’t deliver substance.

3. Picture

The 3rd P involves creating a picture that exemplifies the situation you’re going to rectify through storytelling.

As Brian noted, the best way to paint a picture in someone’s mind is to use literal storytelling techniques. Think elementary school story time. Use words like “imagine”, or “picture this”, or similar trigger words to get your prospects in the right frame of mind. When you get people thinking, they’ll generally take care of the rest for you, for the most part.

According to Brian, “invoke the prospect’s mind’s eye in a way that benefits your ultimate goal – advancing your call-to-action”. Present a vivid picture of a problem or pain point your prospect has and set the expectation that you’re going to help them figure out how to solve it.

4. Proof

Brian started his explanation of the 4th P with a great piece of insight: “One of the truisms of psychology is that we’re emotional beings who like to consider ourselves rational”, he said. And he’s right.

We all tend to make emotional decisions and then try justify them later, e.g. “I didn’t really need that new pair of shoes, but I’m expecting to get a raise at work next week”.

Recognizing this truism, it’s important to demonstrate that what you propose to do for your prospects is true. Your content might do a great job of scaring or delighting a prospect into following the path you’ve laid out for them, but you also need to provide content that can help people justify these emotional decisions to their bosses, their spouse, and so on.

This is where ‘Features’ and ‘Social Proof’ comes into play. By including content such as case studies and testimonials in your landing pages or website, you’ll do just that.

5. Push

Simply put, don’t beat people over the head. If you’ve done a good job with your promise, your picture, and your proof, the push should speak for itself.

So what does this all look like in practice?

Let’s take a look at an example of how Unbounce actually put these principles to use on the landing page it used to register people for the unwebinar:
Unbounce Webinar

1. Premise
By playing on intrigue, i.e. an almost mythical 5th P!, Unbounce has ensured its copy meets the guidelines for a great premise: unpredictable, simple, tangible, and credible.

2. Promise
Using a bulleted “What You’ll Learn” section makes it easy for the viewer to immediately identify what they’ll get by investing their valuable time in watching the webinar.

3. Picture
This is certainly an example of a more literal picture, but the landing page does a great job of setting expectations and detailing the situation.

4. Proof
Integrating elements of social proof by using real quotes, photos, and Twitter handles of prospects who have previously watched Unbounce webinars helps to reassure the reader about the quality of the product. Brian’s biography does a great job as well.

5. Push
Simple and to the point. “Watch The Webinar” says it all.

Thank you to Unbounce and Brian for taking the time to put this great webinar together! Again, I highly recommend you check it out.

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The 5 Secrets to Writing Copy That Converts Every Time