If you happen to watch late-night infomercials, you have some insight into copywriting that’s not as obviously demonstrated elsewhere.
A guy somehow gets tangled up and inextricably trapped by his garden hose. A typical housewife spills something somewhere you’ve never spilled a thing. Someone is lying on their couch and gets cold, and an everyday blanket just won’t do the trick.
These scenarios are often comical, but they provide insight into the mandatory first step in copywriting: Present a problem.
Now, infomercials are a little over-the-top in this regard, presenting problems where none might exist, but they demonstrate the necessity to give consumers a reason to buy what they’re selling.
As mentioned, it’s the first step to writing killer sales copy. In a nutshell, great sales copy is structured in three simple steps:
- Present a problem
- Agitate the problem
- Offer the solution
It’s hard to sell a tangle-proof garden hose if tangles aren’t a problem. That spill-proof container? There’s no need for it if you live in a world where you don’t spill things. And you don’t sell Snuggies to people who haven’t ever been cold on their couch.
Here are the three steps explained in a bit more detail:
Present a problem – This is the easiest. Even if no problem truly exists, or if it’s a trivial one, the copywriter’s job is to convince his or her audience that they have this problem, or soon could in the future. This is the easiest step. A copywriter can simply take the product or service being sold and work backward. The product or service is presumably a fix for something. What?
Agitate the problem – This is where print copywriters have an advantage over the infomercials. In a 60-second TV spot, it’s difficult to go beyond presenting the problem, just because of time constraints. But in longer form, the expert copywriter explains how this problem is even worse than it seems. That seemingly minor garden-hose mishap is actually one of the worst things that can happen to you, the weekend gardener. It can impact your whole well-being.
Offer the solution – Of course, there’s a way you can fix all of this. By buying this product or subscribing to this service, you’ll never be the guy tied up in his garden hose or using that completely useless everyday blanket again. This one thing can potentially save you from imminent danger.
If you were to study all the great copywriting in the history of the world, you’ll find these three elements. Sure, there are supplements to this proven formula – testimonials, guarantees, markdowns, product comparisons – but this is as nuts-and-bolts as it gets.
How many writers start to write sales copy and are unsure how to structure what it is they’re about to write? Where to even begin? If nothing else, these three simple steps provide the framework for just about any sales copy, whether it be a long-form sales letter, a landing page on the web or a TV spot.
In fact, if you ignore this proven killer formula, you could end up being the guy tangled up in one inescapable copywriting garden hose.
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