An introduction to conversion copywriting

6 minute read

Ah, copywriting. The art of selling products or raising awareness by putting the right words in the right order. Historically the act of writing adverts for TV, magazines and out-of-home media, a copywriter’s responsibilities have blurred in the digital age to incorporate website writing, social media, blog and conversion copywriting.

So, what's conversion copywriting?

Conversion copywriting narrows the focus of writing to a single goal - to convert. To get the reader to do something there and then.

What does a conversion look like? It could be any one of the following:

1. Clicking a call-to-action button.

2. Making a phone call.

3. Filling out an online form.

4. Adding something to an online basket.

5. Subscribing to a list or newsletter.

6. Sharing an offer on social media.

7. Going to another page of your website.

 

In trying to persuade the reader to convert, the copywriter's goal is to write simple, single-minded content that educates the reader as to a product's, service’s or brand’s proposition and then - most importantly - explains the benefit it brings to their lives.

To show what we mean, take a look at SEO software giants Moz's homepage:

Example of a call to action on the Moz website which says Try Moz Pro free

Moz open up with a simple statement that not only states what they do, but that their way of doing it is better than how you're doing it now.

The sub-copy then concisely explains the benefits they bring to your business.

An eye-grabbing call to action comes next, in a bold colour but one that doesn’t upset the conversion-centred design. The call to action copy is simple, leads with a verb (“Try” and throws that all-important word in there - “free”.

A final message invites people to pick a plan that works for them, whilst informing them that they can cancel at any time.

All in all, that's a promise of a better SEO future, a list of benefits, an alluring call to action and a reassuring no-obligation message.

Not bad for 31 words, right?

Note that they don't talk about their years of experience, why they're “smarter” or how they do what they do. Because this part of the site is all about converting, not explaining. That comes elsewhere, once the user is sufficiently intrigued and they want to learn more.

Conversion copywriting differs from other forms because it’s so singular. It doesn’t try to entertain, to be cute or clever, like print ads, social media or blog content might. It’s there to explain what a brand has to sell and how it can benefit whoever decides to buy it.

Four tips for getting started with conversion copywriting

So, how to go about creating effective conversion-focused copywriting? Here are four tips to get you on your way. 

1. Do your research

Like all copywriting, you've got to research before you write. In fact, research should be the biggest part of a conversion copywriter's job.

During this discovery phase, you’ll want to uncover:

  • The features of the product
  • The product's USP
  • The needs of the customer
  • Who the typical customer is (the marketing persona)
  • What benefits the product provides
  • Why it's better than the competition
  • What customers have said about it
  • Any statistics relating to its transformative performance
  • The hierarchy of messaging (the right order in which to present your messages to the reader).

During this phase, you’ll speak to - or gather information from - various internal teams (engineering, sales, marketing) and potential, existing and ex customers. 

From this trove of information, you can understand what the customer needs, how the product can meet those needs and the order in which the messaging has to appear to offer the best chance of conversion. You can also use customer testimonials, product reviews and supporting statistics as proof of how good the product is.

A rigorous discovery phase is about arming yourself with all you need to convince a reader to take action. Without it, you’re just guessing. And if there's one thing that makes for poor conversion rates, it's guesswork.

2. Start at the finish

With the research done, now’s the time to get the kettle on, roll up your sleeves and get writing. You’ve got all the information you need - you now need to articulate it in the right way and put the messages in the right order.

'One page, one message' - so goes the conversion copywriter's mantra. And with good reason.

Maximising conversion rates means having zero distractions that might take people away from your ‘one message’.

Ask yourself: What do I want this copy to achieve? What do I want the reader to do? 

Is it to harvest email subscriptions? To encourage ebook downloads? Are you convincing people to sign up for an event or free consultation? Or is it purely sales driven?

Whatever your conversion goal is, get it crystal clear in your mind before you start writing. Only then can you write single-minded copy that resonates with the reader and inspires them to take action.

3. Understand the buyer's journey

In the research phase, you’ll have delved into the needs of your prospective customers. You’ll have worked out the problems they face and how you can help overcome them. Great.

The problem is, your customers have different needs at different times - and your copywriting needs to reflect that.

Whether buying a car or a colander, people go through the same buying process, the buyer’s journey:

  • Awareness - the prospect knows they have a problem and are researching possible solutions.
  • Consideration - the prospect is comparing potential solutions.
  • Decision - the prospect is making their choice.
Image showing the three stages of the buyer journey, as defined by Hubspot: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.

In the awareness stage, conversion copywriting has to help potential buyers diagnose their problem. 

In the consideration stage, copywriting has to show the features and benefits your product brings to the table. 

And at the decision stage, you’ve got to prove you’re the company worth choosing, showing testimonials, statistics, product reviews and other forms of ‘social proof’ that convince readers of your ability and trustworthiness. 

Let’s take an example - buying a waterproof jacket.

In the awareness stage, your buyer will have a trigger - perhaps an upcoming hiking holiday - that prompts them to say “Hey, I need a waterproof jacket!” 

But what kind of fabric should it have? How sturdy should it be? Which jackets offer the best protection from those harsh mountain winds? How much do I need to spend?

This is where a blog, social post or video will come into play, taking your buyer through these questions and educating them as to what they need. The point of this content is to get the prospect to the next step of the buyer’s journey by understanding their problems, answering their questions and prompting them to find out more about your brand via a purposeful call to action. (More on them later.)

In the consideration stage, your copywriting must focus on showing the features of your products (the Gore-Tex fibre, the breathable lining, the helmet-compatible hood) and their benefits (stay dry even in torrential weather, stay warm without sweating, wear over your cycling helmet so you stay dry and safe.) 

Consideration content might include comparison articles (“Brand X vs Brand Y - which is best?”), case studies and in-depth reviews.

And in the decision phase, your copywriting must convince readers that you’re the brand for them via product reviews, testimonials, demonstrations, discount offers and so on. 

Remember that at each phase you need to ‘start from the finish’. Work out what you want your copywriting to achieve - what action do you want your reader to take - and write words that inspire them to do it.

4. Nail your calls to action

Call to actions like 'Find out more' and 'Submit your enquiry' are extremely important to get right. Why?

Because they help turn prospects into customers.

Before writing your call to action, revisit that all-important question of what do I want my reader to do.

Perhaps you want them to:

  • Take up our discounted offer
  • Sign up for a free trial
  • Download my ‘Top 10 SEO secrets’ ebook

You need to know what you want to do before explaining how someone can do it. The best call-to-actions keep things short, lead with emotive verbs and finishes the reader’s question that starts: I want to…

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A lot more engaging than ‘Find out more’, right? By the way, CTAs aren’t just about the copy. They’ve got to be bold and eye-catching (without compromising the overall design). And they’ve got to be placed at key points in the communications. You should always include a CTA at the top of your web page, like Trello here:

An example from Trello of a call to action for conversion which sats 'Sign Up - It's Free!'

But what if the reader doesn’t take you up on your initial CTA? Then you need to season the rest of your page with them, like this:

An example from Trello of multiple call to actions on one page.

Notice that the calls to action refer to specific actions that Trello wants its users to take - and that also reinforce other aspects of the platform not covered off in the web page’s opening section. 

Trello then finishes their home page with the same CTA they started with:

An example from Trello of their homepage call to action that says 'Get Started - It's Free!'

Note that this affirmative call to action - Get started! - is also supported by a proof-of-value statement that says millions of people already use Trello… so why wouldn’t you?

Are you a convert?

Next time you’re writing a home page, a landing page, an advert - or anything that needs to persuade someone to take action there and then, consider the following principles of conversion copywriting:

  • Do your research. Find out what you’re selling, why someone should buy it, who the target audience is.
  • Start at the finish. Work out what you want your readers to do and work back from there.
  • Take your reader through the buyer’s journey. Your copywriting has to lead your prospect by the hand, from awareness to the final sale.
  • Use positive calls to action. Start the call to action with a verb (‘Try’, ‘Join’, ‘Grow’, ‘Smash’) and finish the reader’s question that starts with ‘I want to…’

All that’s left for you to do is get out there and get converting.

Guide

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About the author

Benjamin Edward Fitton

Benjamin Edward Fitton is a copywriter who puts words in the right order for money and who uses his middle name in biographies to sound more important than he is. He works for some of the world’s biggest brands but is just as proud of the work he does for some of the world’s smallest. This blog was a guest submission by Turncoat Marketing.

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