80-20 in Copywriting

by Tim Francis on November 12, 2013

Today we’ve got a guest post from the one and only Perry Marshall.

You may know Perry – he’s arguably the world’s #1 expert on Google Adwords.  Thousands of businesses have studied his methods and saved millions is silly Adwords mistakes.  Perry has written an excellent book on Adwords called The Definitive Guide to Google Adwords.

Perry asked me if he could guest post on my blog.  Read his article below, or listen to an audio version in the podcast player.  And if you like what you learn, check out his latest book, 80/20 Sales and Marketing.

An 8020 Approach To Persuasive Copywriting 

by Perry Marshall

Whether you’re competing to get an opt-in for your email list or just trying to make a sale, a solid copywriting strategy will take you far. Every marketing agency and copywriter will tell you his or her favorite formula for creating the most compelling pitch to readers. But what you need to know is that, as long as you’re aware of your target audience or consumer segment, there’s no need for outsourcing; the formula for persuasive copywriting is quite simple.

Know your audience and their most disconcerting needs. Agitate their problems in your copy—this is a huge step. Finally, create an answer that will solve their urgent dilemmas.

This is one of the subjects in my latest book, 80/20 Sales and Marketing, and what I call the “Problem—Agitate—Solve” formula. It is one of the most persuasive and straightforward ingredients to compelling copywriting.

One primary example ripped straight from the pages of my book references a case study of the copy I’ve used on my website for years. Here, I’ve highlighted only the 20 percent that contains key persuasion elements—this 20 percent produces 80 percent of my leads.

The headline starts with what I refer to as a bleeding neck—an urgent problem that must be solved now. “Stop Cold-Calling Business Prospects, Battling Voice Mail,” it says. “And Make Them Chase You Instead!” Here, I’m not focusing on my product. Instead, I’m directing readers’ attention to their biggest problem and following up with a benefit statement and solution. All in one headline!

But to develop this formula to its fullest potential, you must go beyond headline writing. In your body copy, be sure to connect with your consumers on a personal or emotional level. You’ve done your research and checked your analytics. Take advantage of everything you know about your target audience.

Empathize with your customers and convince them that a page out of your own diary looks quite similar to a page out of theirs. This thread should continue throughout your marketing campaigns. 

Once you’ve offered up your reader’s most troubling problem, don’t be afraid to hammer it in. You’ve already connected with your audience at a vulnerable state, now it’s your job to agitate and remind them how awful and urgent this dilemma is. This is persuasive writing, people. Position yourself as an expert, one who has dealt with the same problem many times before.

Now it’s time for the solution. Make the distinction between features and benefits. Tell your customers what this service or product is going to do for them. How is it going to solve their problem? This is the “after” picture that you’re trying to create. Make them a big promise and provide an even bigger benefit.

And like every successful sales message, a call-to-action is the final element. “Fill out this form.” “Click here for ___.” Don’t just include a link. Tell your readers what to do.

This “problem—agitate—solve” formula works in hundreds of different markets because you’re reading people a page in their own diary and enticing them with a solution that is genuinely beneficial. Personal relationships sell.

Perry Marshall

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