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Sales copy

Why read this? : We explore the role and execution of sales copy. Learn the key marketing jobs it has to support. Learn when to focus on facts and when to emphasise emotions. And learn where psychology comes into play with sales copy. Read this to learn how to write copy that supercharges your sales. 

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Sales copy

How this guide raises your game :-

  1. Understand the role of context in writing sales copy.
  2. Learn where and when to use facts and emotions in sales copy.
  3. Read about key psychological triggers which boost the impact of your sales copy. 

Writing sales copy sits at the sharp end of business writing

Your advertising copyblogs and SEO writing move customers down the customer journey towards a sale. They drive awareness, build consideration and “warm” customers up to think about buying. 

But your sales copy drives trial. It closes the deal. It persuades customers to act. To buy. Sales copy convinces them that buying your product will meet their needs. 

As David Garfinkel puts it in Breakthrough Copywriting, sales copy is something you do for the customer, not to them. (See our books about writing article for more on this). It’s about helping them make the right decision. 

Person paying for an e-Commerce purchase as they hold a credit card up in front of a laptop

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Sales copy context

But driving this action via your writing is tough. You have to consider different contexts for the sales copy such as the :-

Involvement and information

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to writing sales copy for every category. But you can use advertising planning models like the Rossiter Percy grid to shape your writing. 

This grid suggests that customers will have different levels of involvement in buying decisions.

They’ll spend more time and be more interested in irregular and high-ticket purchases. Choosing a new bank or buying a new car, for example.

They’ll spend less time and be less interested in everyday and low-value purchases. For example, when buying groceries or alcohol.

Sales copy - advertising and sales planning grid

But within these high and low involvement purchases, there will be some purchases that are more fun and engaging (the car and the alcohol, for example). And some will be more serious or habitual (the bank and the groceries).

Knowing where your category sits on this grid helps you decide how much information to share, and shapes your tone of voice. You focus on attention-grabbing headlines for low-involvement categories, but longer-form copy with more details for high-involvement categories. You use logical and functional benefit-driven copy for categories with high information needs, and more evocative and emotional benefit-driven copy for categories with more transformational needs.

Brand choice funnel

The next consideration with sales copy is to look at where the customer sits on the brand choice funnel. 

Most sales copy focuses on driving trial. You get the sale when the customer tries the product.

But for low-involvement products, when the customer spends little time deciding, the sales copy might also cover awareness, consideration and trial at the same time. 

For example, direct response adverts where a promotion may only run for a limited time. (See our advanced e-Commerce techniques article for more examples of this). That sales copy has to drive awareness, consideration and trial simultaneously.

The brand choice funnel - trust - aware - consider - trial - loyalty - repeat purchase

Some categories will have a long gap between the stages of the brand choice funnel. For example, you might see a car advert, but not check out their website till 6 months later. And it might take another month after that to decide to buy. 

These types of categories need advertising headlines to build awareness, and website or brochure copy to drive consideration before the customer ever sees the sales copy which will ‘seal’ the deal. 

Media context

This brings us to our final context area for sales copy. That’s where and when the customer will see it.

You have to consider the media plan which defines the location and time the customer will ‘experience’ the copy. 

For example, is the message delivered using tangible, traditional media formats such as billboards or magazines? Do you place those near locations where the customer is most likely to be thinking about buying?

You also want to make the process of completing the sale easy and part of the copy. Your call to action tells them how to buy, and what you want them to do.

Young man standing in Times Square at night looking up the bright media advertising billboards

Or, is the sales copy being delivered digitally via a website or CRM program email? If so, you have to consider the timing of the sales copy. You can use your digital data and insights to understand when the customer will see it. You can target specific times in the customer’s journey. And because online activity is interactive, you can also have your call to action link directly to the check-out. To Buy Now. 

It’s important to identify how, where and when the customer will see the sales copy. Are they just browsing, or are they ready to buy? This clarifies what you should focus on, and how to keep it relevant and motivating.

E-Commerce example

For example, in e-Commerce, there’s a lot of research about what online shoppers want from online shopping.

The broad needs normally cover areas like ease and convenience, range and price comparisons

You can see these in this eMarketer chart on why US shoppers use Amazon, for example. 

You can use these insights to write more relevant online sales copy. It makes it sharper and more effective because it’s based on what customers are looking for.

You use it to decide how many and which selling messages to cover. It helps you work out the order in which to write them. It makes your sales copy punchy and persuasive.   

E-Commerce is a great area to learn how to write sales copy.  When you manage your own online store, you can test different copy options. You can check the data to see what type of sales copy works best with customers. 

e-marketer amazon shopper driver study

Types of sales copy

These different contexts require different types of sales copy.

The simplest is sales copy which gives factual information about the product. This type has the most impact with low involvement and rational purchase decisions.

Then, there’s sales copy which creates a more emotional connection. Sales copy which evokes an experience to connect with customers and drive them to buy. 

And finally, there’s sales copy which uses psychological triggers. These come from behavioural science which looks at what drives buying decisions. You apply these to your sales copy, to make it more likely to drive a sale. 

Factual information-based sales copy

When you share detailed information about a product with a customer, it’s a way of building trust that the product will do what you claim it’ll do. 

You can make this factual information available at different parts of the customer experience as it’s needed.

It’s mandatory in areas like packaging, and on product pages with e-Commerce retailers, as you fill this detail in on their product information management systems. 

Amazon Item Template screengrab

You can also include it on your website and highlight it in your advertising or social media.

When shoppers look for specific features in a product, it’s a way for them to validate that your product has those features. How much of an influence this information has, depends on the category and the customer. 

In some categories, it’s a hygiene factor. Customers want to know it’s there, but won’t check it. But in other categories, it’s needed so customers can fully evaluate your products, and compare them to competitors. 

You need to be clear, consistent and comprehensive when you write factual information-based sales copy. 

Clear

Clarity comes from how you show the key points. Don’t aim for fancy or clever. Use words customers understand. 

For example, on your packaging or website product pages, create a short list of key bullet points of what the product does. Include any relevant specifications which help make the sales copy clearer. 

The specifications depend on the product, but could include :-

  • size and weight
  • colours
  • flavours
  • ingredients and materials. 

Other typical information you should include, especially in e-Commerce, is the Manufacturer Name, the Brand Name, the category the product should appear in (e.g. ‘baby food’ or ‘biscuits’), the EAN barcode number, and some limited descriptions of the product.

Depending on the category, you may also need to provide other information like shelf life, whether the product is affected by temperature, if the product is glass or fragile, and if there are any usage warnings or restrictions. e.g. allergy restrictions for food products.

Consistent

Consistency means applying this information in the same way on all its different touchpoints. 

It’s especially important with product information. You should make it easy for customers to find the right product. For example, if your product comes in different colours or sizes, make sure these are clear.

Consistency helps the shopper find the right product and be sure it’s the right one when they buy it. Online shoppers expect to be able to find the right product right away. If you aren’t consistent, you may lose the sale.

Comprehensive

Finally, comprehensiveness comes from making the widest range of information available. Not every shopper will want every detail, but you can progressively disclose the information, so they find what they need. (See our design psychology article for more on progressive disclosure). 

Information gaps run the risk of losing the customer. For example, think about, allergy information on food products. Or material sourcing information for customers worried about environmental impact. If you miss these out, the customer assumes you’re hiding something, and you won’t get a sale.

The good news about this type of sales copy is that :-

  1. you probably already have the information, so don’t need to create it from scratch. 
  1. you can automate much of the process of managing it, especially for e-Commerce. 

For example, in our product management information systems article, we cover how the likes of Amazon and Google set up standardised templates to hold product information for individual products. 

Their systems are set up so you can access and manage the information directly.

This also means you can make this product information available to the shopper just when they need it.

It’s also worth checking out this great article on how to write better product information for Amazon.

Samsung mobile phone with amazon logo on screen

Emotional-based sales copy

Though most people say they make purchase decisions based on fact and logic, it’s often more emotional and irrational factors which drive their decisions. Tapping into this helps you write better sales copy to influence customers.

This is because emotional connections usually go deeper and last longer than rational ones. We remember feelings more easily than facts.

So we feel happy seeing pictures of cute puppies on packaging. That’s why we choose the branded toilet paper over the supermarket’s own-label choice. 

We feel refreshed seeing people enjoying that ice-cold soft drink. That’s why we choose it rather than just drinking water from the tap.

And, it’s why we’re willing to pay so much more for that stylish, exciting, luxury car, rather than the more practical and unexciting one. Even though we know they can get us from A to B in one piece. 

White round badge with a read heart symbol against a dark grey background

Use your market research

What goes into your sales copy should draw on market research you have about drivers of purchase decisions. You aim to tap into the most relevant mix of functional and emotional drivers. 

In categories where customers think product functional benefits are similar, using the right emotional factors in your sales copy is the best way to influence the sale. 

Your market research helps you identify key motivations, drivers and feelings of your target audience.

You can create a customer persona as part of your customer experience plan to guide how to use sales copy to appeal to emotions and feelings. 

Use this to show how you want the customer to feel when they buy the product, beyond the rational product features and benefits.

Will it make them happier and feel more fulfilled? Will the purchase only benefit themselves, or will it benefit a wider group like family, friends or work colleagues? 

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

It’s harder to write this type of sales copy, as you need a deeper understanding of what makes customers tick. But this deeper connection helps you write sales copy with more impact. Sales copy that attracts and engages customers, and persuades them to buy your brand.

Link with brand identity

The emotions you build into your sales copy have to be consistent with the brand identity.

For example, your brand essence, values and personality often tap into emotions. Is the brand about happiness and joy? Courage and daring? Excitement and inspiration? 

Your sales copy should use an appropriate tone of voice to bring these brand assets to life. It’s what your brand says and how it says it. 

For the customer, it helps bring to life the outside of your brand wheel. How the brand makes me feel and what it says about me.

Brand identity wheel showing elements of brand identity including essence, values, personality, and benefits

You aim to convince the customer your brand can satisfy the need they have, be that a functional or emotional need. Your sales copy benefits should make the customer think and feel, this is the right brand for me. 

Psychological triggers and sales copy

The final sales copy area to consider is how psychological insights can influence purchasing behaviour. Using these amplifies the impact of your factual and emotional sales copy. These are sales copy trigger words or concepts you can use to nudge a customer closer to a sale. 

They’re especially useful when when you control the message and where and when it’s seen. For example, in your advertising campaigns and on your product pages. These mainly come from the world of behavioural science. There are many books and articles on this topic, though if you’re new to the subject, Richard Shotton’s The Choice Factory is a great place to start. (See also our business books that stand out article). 

“How” is the message presented in context?

First thing to consider is that sales copy normally refers to the words you use to sell. But the selling experience is more than words. For example, you can use insights from colour psychology to enhance the selling message.

If you want to reinforce the excitement or energy of your offer, use bright, warm colours like orange or yellow around your sales copy. 

But if it’s a more considered decision, use calmer, more authoritative colours like blue or purple.

The right colour choice reinforces the impact of your sales copy message and benefits

Colour psychology - an applied use of colour in marketing

Remove the pain of payment

Another sales copy context consideration is how you frame the price and offer. 

When you spend money, there’s a small feeling of “pain” as you give something away. Psychological insights in sales copy suggest you try to remove some of this pain. To make the customer feel less bad about spending money. 

Charm pricing

For example, think about “charm pricing”, where the price ends in a $-.99.

Hand holding a VISA card in front of a laptop

Rationally, taking $0.01 away from the price shouldn’t make much difference. But it’s been repeatedly shown, that the $-.99 effect has a disproportionate effect on sales. It’s believed customers focus on the first part of the price. They pay less attention to the second part.

So, comparing a $9.99 and $10.00 option, the brain focuses on the “9” and the “10”, not the “.99” and “.00”. Many people’s brains wrongly read it as a 10% cheaper signal, even if it’s only 0.1% different.

Range pricing and primacy

This also has implications for when you list a range of prices. Customers tend to judge prices by the first price they see. This is known as the primacy effect. The first number anchors those that follow. 

If you want customers to think “good value”, you start with the lowest price and work up. But if you want them to think “premium and high quality”, you start with the most expensive and work down.

Note also, that most people don’t pick the most or least expensive option, and tend to pick from the middle. You can deliberately set your most and least expensive options to make your middle options seem more attractive. (very common with wine lists in restaurants, for example). 

You can also highlight convenient payment options in your sales copy to reduce the pain. For example, it’s less ‘painful’ to pay by card than with cash, as you don’t see the money when you buy. If you offer instalment payments, try to get the payment per instalment as low as you can. People focus more on the amount to pay each time than how often or how long they need to pay. Low amounts feel less painful.

Positive and honest sales copy sells more

Another way to remove the ‘pain’ of a purchase is to highlight the positive aspects of the sale.

Quick and easy access to the product’s benefit, for example. The closer the gratification moment, or the more positive the customer feels as they buy, the less ‘painful’ it is. 

Think also about when the customer sees the sales copy. Will they see it when they’re stressed and in a rush? Or will they see it when they’re relaxed and feeling good? 

Share relevant sales stories about why a product is on price promotion. But be 100% honest about this. People are wary of sales offers which seem “too good to be true”.

Close up of a hand with thumb up

Admit flaws if you have them (sometimes called the Pratfall effect), as this helps boost sales. It makes you seem more trustworthy. With online reviews, for example, people rarely trust 5-star ratings. But a few bad reviews which knock you down to a 4.5, for example, are more likely to be believed.

Sense of urgency

Another common psychological sales copy technique is to add a sense of urgency.

You put a timeframe on the sale. 

Days
Hours
Minutes
Seconds

This is what drives those “this offer only valid for the next 15 minutes” messages you see when buying something online. Usually, there’s no rational reason for the offer to only be valid that long. But psychologically, it compels people to buy, as they feel like they might miss out if they don’t. So, you set hard deadlines in the sales copy or use a countdown timer to trigger this urgency, this fear of missing out. 

Scarcity

For similar reasons, making an item seem scarce also increases the chances of a sale. If there are not many left, you again feel like you might miss out if you don’t buy now. The more of something there is, generally the less we want it. But the less of something there is, the more we want it. 

Travel websites use this a lot. “Only 2 rooms / flights left at this price”. That’s using scarcity in sales copy to close the sale. (See our advanced e-Commerce techniques article for more on scarcity). 

Social proof

Social proof is another psychological technique used in sales copy. Most customers don’t want to be the first to try a product or service. 

But if you can persuade early adopters and loyal customers to review or rate your product, it helps convince more hesitant customers to give your brand a go. 

When they see others have bought and liked your product, they feel more confident about buying it. It gives validation by others and reduces the perceived risk of buying. 

(See also social proof in our behavioural science article).

Red neon sign on a black background showing a heart illustration and 0 next to it, symbolising no likes

Specific online store offers

If you manage your own store, you’ve even more places to use sales copy to drive the customer journey

For example, in your order to delivery system. Can you get a product to a customer faster, particularly with the last mile of the delivery?

Can you offer free shipping if they order over a certain amount, or commit to buying with a subscription model?

You need clear and compelling sales copy to persuade customers of the value of these types of offers. 

This can help close the sale. And it makes the customer feel more confident you’re the right seller to meet their online shopping needs.

Screengrab of Three-brains Shop - headline says "merchandise to raise your game"

Build the customer’s confidence

Your sales copy has to build the shopper’s confidence and reduce any sense of risk they might feel.

For example, make refund guarantees obvious just before the purchase point. Ditto, if you offer free after-service and support. Make sure the customer knows how to access your customer service, and what to expect from it. 

Customers like feeling they’re getting something ‘extra’ when they purchase. So if there are any upgrades or extra services you offer, build these into your sales copy.

Conclusion - sales copy

Writing great sales copy helps drive your brand’s growth. But, it’s a hard skill to get right. You have to get into the customer’s head. Whether you’re giving feedback on copy you’ve outsourced to a copywriter, or writing it yourself. 

Well-written sales copy feels like you’re having a great conversation with the customer. As if they were an old friend. Customers must feel they trust you and believe what you say before they will buy. 

You enhance this trust by making your sales copy reflect your brand identity. That it’s in your authentic and genuine tone of voice with clear functional and emotional benefits. Successful sales copy creates a win-win for you and the customer as part of your overall customer experience.

Three-Brains and writing

We’ve a lot of expertise and experience in business writing, including writing great sales copy. From creating and commissioning it to editing and refining it to make your marketing and e-Commerce words sing.

Our coaching and consulting services can help you raise your business writing skills. Whether you use writers, manage it in-house or want to build your own writing skills. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help you.

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