4 Vital Elements of Appealing Copywriting Offers

4 Vital Elements of Appealing Copywriting Offers

Reader Comments (93)

  1. The purchase always becomes the only way that you know if you’re doing it right or not. The customer is the only one that gets to vote and in their own democratic way, they either open their wallets or they don’t.

    I think you make a great point Sonia, where you empahsize that it’s the “wants” that make the world go ’round, not the needs. There’s only a handful of people making money on toilet paper, but just look at the amount of entrepreneurs that fulfill wishes and dreams by selling hobbies, jewelry, opportunites, and quality of life enhancement.

    Never forget that the customer needs to have the product placed in THEIR living room, or in THEIR shoes. That’s where that little bit of sugar will help every time.

    -Joshua Black

  2. I think the most successful offers/products are the ones that do a great job at ethically selling the sugar to get people to take action and buy, and then once purchased they include motivational components that get people to take responsibility and consume the nutrition (which usually comes in the form of taking action and making a change in the way you’re currently doing things).

    But the sugar and the nutrition need to be aligned. The nutrition needs to have a benefit that speaks to people’s wants and desires and irrational passions. Broccoli does not have this.

    At least not for me 🙂

  3. This is ridiculous…

    I was just thinking about this awesome guest post for Copyblogger I was going to write about how to find what your customers want to buy from you…low and behold…it’s already written!

    Always 1 step ahead of the game Sonia 🙂

  4. the reason I love me some copyblogger is that posts apply to the way you talk to people. This post? Hell, you don’t need to do it in writing, it works roughly the same way when in a one-on-one selling situation.

    I see marketing as a way to get people to me, and then I sell them. Service keeps ’em buying more stuff.

    So far, so good.

  5. Hey, Sonia: I’m making a pretty big presentation today, and, lo-and-behold, here’s this perfect post!

    I feel like I’ve laid all the groundwork that you talk about here. I’m the smoothie salesman. And that’s what I’ll be thinking about in front of the board today.

    Helps a lot that I believe in the product 🙂

    Thank you.

  6. My folks had a system… My sister and I were expected to eat our supper. If we didn’t like it or refused, we had an option. We could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go straight to bed. It worked. Admittedly, we weren’t subjected to ultra-spicy vindaloo, but we did learn to eat and enjoy many things we wouldn’t have otherwise touched.

    Unfortunately, we’re not our clients’ parents. We can’t give them the PBJ and tell them to hit the hay.

  7. @Mark, I totally agree, I think you put it very well.

    @Genuine Chris, there’s an old definition of advertising as “salesmanship in print,” and (expanding “in print” to “in pixels, obviously) I subscribe to that. What works in good online salesmanship (or mail order, or classified ads, etc. etc. etc.) is usually exactly what works face to face.

    @Bencurnett, good luck with the presentation! I hope your audience finds your smoothie irresistible.

    @Jon-Mikel, we aim to be a well-rounded source of information. 🙂

  8. Ohhh a picture is truly worth a thousand words 🙂

    You started out with a very subtle, complex message. But this post makes it so clear, so simple, so concrete –we can’t help but GET it right away.


  9. Sonia,

    Right now I’m actually rewriting all the sales training courses for a retail sales company with 15,000 sales associates. (Or, at least I’m SUPPOSED to be writing it, anyway.)

    But, what you said about emphasizing the benefits over features can’t be understated. Many sales people identify features and will spell out a benefit after, but it’s very effective to put the benefits first.

    For example consider features BEFORE benefits…. “This widget features 300 horsepower to get the job done.”

    And, the benefit BEFORE the feature… “You can get the job done, save time, and make money because this widget has 300 horsepower.”

    The difference is subtle, in my mind, but does anyone else agree with this?

    I found we have a challenge helping our sales people actually differentiate between a feature and a benefit. Might be a worthy topic for a copyblogger post from one of ya’ll.

  10. Steve, you’re exactly on track. We’ve been saying for 4 years to lead with the benefit (emotion) and follow with the feature (logic). You always hear the sizzle first before the steak makes it to the table. 😉

  11. It takes ingredients (product materials), a recipe (business plan), proper cooking equipment (product manufacturing), a chef (project manager), a kitchen staff (manufacturing staff), a waiter (sales people), a menu (website), proper visual presentation (product aesthetic) and taste (product function) for customers to become a regular.

  12. Listen, listen, listen. Right?! I, too, do one on one sales for my bricks and mortar and it is the same. Make the offer delicious and time sensitive. The only benefit of one on one is the ability to listen to them as they ho and hum. And then being able to craft your offer based on the ho’s and hum’s.

    With copy, you have to listen in advance. Taking in feedback, filtering it and using what you learn to craft the best offer.

    It is definately harder, but not un-doable.

  13. Excellent article. The only thing more important than a great offer is talking to the right audience. Yolanda is spot on in that the offer should be both delicious and time-sensitive, or to put it another way, compelling with a sense of urgency.

  14. “With copy, you have to listen in advance,” that’s a great way to put it, Yolanda.

    @Steve, absolutely, 100%. Benefits first, then features to support, is such a cornerstone of effective persuasion, but it can be fiendishly hard to see in our own selling or copywriting, I’ve found. Simple but it takes practice to retrain ourselves. Good luck with your project!

    You’re probably right that we could use a really nuts-and-bolts lesson on features vs. benefits. I wrote a Squidoo lens on it ages ago (needs updating, but might still be of use), you can find it here: http://www.squidoo.com/benefits_not_features

  15. As a kid, I used to put A1 on my broccoli. With enough steak sauce, you can eat pretty much anything.

    My father also used to tell me that Hulk Hogan eats broccoli, and that he wouldn’t like me if I didn’t eat it too.

    The first is an example of selling the magic bullet.

    The second is an example of using storytelling to sell.

    In both cases, it worked. I guess copywriting really is like getting your kids to eat.

    Nice metaphor.

  16. Very munchable post Sonia. The French cook carrots and put them in the buttery mashed potatoes and sometimes hide cooked greens in too. I was served this as an adult. Katherine laughed and said cooking them that way was habit, from raising her son. To geet eem ees vey-ja-ta-bles. LOL. I ate them. They were way good. And I felt so much perkier after….
    What is it with sons?
    More men buy fine art than woman you know. Note to self: check offers for offending vegetables… 🙂
    Seriously, great concrete example. Love it.

  17. “Hey, I’m the expert, this is great copy – people are bound to flock to it, it will go viral, no question.”
    2 hours later “well, it’s early days yet”
    24 hours later “what, only 10 readers and 2 re-tweets, and one of those was from my mum! It was so well written; why don’t they listen to my erudite expertise… Philistines!”

    Most of us have done it at some time, and this is a timely reminder, Sonia, thank you.

  18. @Jon, I adore A1 beyond all reason, but on broccoli? You are insane.

    @Nic, yep, happens to the best of us. Except possibly Brian, but I’m not sure he’s 100% human. He actually puts this stuff into practice consistently, as opposed to the rest of us who forget about 3/4 of the time.

  19. Great analogy. I liked the timing portion. I always feel like winter comes earlier and earlier each year because of companies selling these kinds of products months in advance. Enjoyed reading. Keep it up!

  20. Love the feeding analogy. Reminds me of a question Mr. Know-It-All got in the latest Wired magazine.

    Someone asked if it mattered what music they played their baby because while they wanted the benefit music had to offer [read: Make my child a genius], but they couldn’t cope with the stupid lyrics and melodies of groups like The Wiggles.

    The reply was spot one:

    While it doesn’t really matter what music you play to help the cognitive development of your child, The Wiggles are popular with kids because, well…they LOVE them.


    Ever tried to get a child to listen to Phillip Glass? Astor Piazolla? Won’t work.

    Give them what they want and they’ll eat out of your hand.

  21. @Demian, ah, thank you for putting Piazolla into my head. That’s a good Friday afternoon brain-soundtrack.

  22. Sonia, how great to read something lighthearted but true. I don’t know about USA contract law but in English contract law it is the buyer who makes the offer not the seller. The seller makes “an intention to treat” and it is up to him/her to have something up for sale that the buyer wants and so is induced to make an offer to purchase. That’s interesting if you think about the psychology behind the legal definition of a contract – intention to treat (seller), offer (buyer), acceptance (seller), consideration (buyer, we hope). If what we sell is unwanted, unattractive, packaged incorrectly or too expensive, no one is going to make an offer.

  23. Sonia,

    It’s funny but my site (www.RaiseHealthyEaters.com) is all about effective ways to feed children. And I’m always talking about the division of responsibility of feeding that you wrote about. I’m gearing up to offer some products soon — so will take your advice. Thanks for the great post!

  24. Hi Sonia,

    Boy i hear of an offer before many many times but never put in the way you put it.
    I have a new approach to making offer to my customers.
    Great stuff Thanks

    Tim Lalonde

  25. Steven, you’re correct. Features don’t matter… Benefits matter. I’m pleased that I can clearly read this post on my iphone. I don’t care about the technical feature that makes it possible.

    People waste enormous amounts of our time rambling about their features when they should simply tell us how their product/service will make our life better.

  26. One comment “The purchase always becomes the only way that you know if you’re doing it right or not” contradicts “Yes, you can definitely (maybe even easily) sell a product that doesn’t actually do the prospect much good. But you’ll get the most recurring business (and satisfaction) out of selling good stuff, not junk food”.
    It’s easy to sell something that’s candy coated. Measuring success should be done by looking at a combination of sales, returns, repeat customers, and new customers via referrals not the ability to close a deal. Very respectable article as long as it’s used to sell products and services that satisfy. Hopefully that point is not lost.

  27. There is no shortcut to understanding the prospect. Too many creative professionals think they know what the prospect needs before they achieve understanding. To follow your metaphor, find out the cuisine the client likes when you cook the presentation dinner!
    Also, I think there is a distinction between buying a service or a product. Generally, you buy a service to solve a problem. But you buy products because you want them.
    Liane Sebastian, designer, editor, author, http://www.wisdomofwork.wordpress.com

  28. Are there vendors that sell a service like this?

    You get an idea for a product, but you’re not sure if anybody will really buy it.

    You turn your idea over to a company that 1) writes quality copy explaining the offer, and 2) runs Adwords ads pointing to this copy above a signup form.

    If you get X number of subscribers, you decide the offer will sell, and so you develop the product. If you don’t get X subscribers, you don’t develop the product, and go on to the next idea.

  29. Phil, there are numerous companies who utilize this approach. We do this for new ventures we’re considering. We build a site, construct basic marketing materials and put a little budget toward promoting the site. If we hit a predetermined interest level, we’ll pursue the venture. If not, we’ll table the idea to possibly revisit later. You spend a little money to save a lot of money. Or, you discover there is a market and you can make some money.

  30. Like a baby food product ads on TV, Shat and high nutritional ,…. funny but it made a major contribution to some authors lay, making the idea grew. Thanks!

  31. Hi Sonia.

    This is true about first giving people what they are more likely to want, and then following that up with what they are more likely to need. You can’t make juice from an orange until you have the orange in your hands.

    It is very true that the needs people have are not what our initial message should be about, because people often run from their needs, so they would then run from our message as well. It is sometimes counter-intuitive the way to try to guide someone into actually helping themselves with our service, product, or other output.

  32. I find that coming out and telling the customer whats in it for you is the best way to start a sales page or a heading. Many times I will even put “Here’s What’s in it for You:” and then give a short bullet list or 2 sentence answer.

  33. Right. People mostly want something that is cool and stuff than just something that is good for your health. You hit the nail on the head for sure. 🙂

  34. Hey Sonia, this post is absolutely awesome!

    To me the best bit was the end when you said not to take it personally when a sales offer doesn’t work. That is very profound.

    It’s so hard not to get emotionally involved when you believe you’re offering strawberries and cream at knock down prices but readers prefer their broccoli ice cream.

    And of course the persistence to keep trying until you find something that works.

  35. @Pat, that’s one that was hard for me personally, and I’m finding it’s often hard for my students and clients too.

    Perfecting your message and offer takes some time, and it’s easy to think, “This [pay per click/blogging/direct mail/&c.] stuff doesn’t work,” when actually it just needs some tweaking.

    If your reputation, relationship, and authority are outstanding, you can get better results more quickly. But the old-fashioned conversion work like tweaking the offer is still important and can get lots more prospects turning into customers.

  36. Sonia

    Excellent as always. When thinking benefits over features I believe that the benefits when showcased properly allows the reader/customer to draw that picture in their head of how they can use the product and that leads to sales. In this post, reading it we (or at least I as a visual thinker) get a vision of your child hating the broc and then think of mine loving it. This caused me to want to read on to see what is next. Albeit being a parent I was emotionally attached as I was able to get the vision of my son. In targeting customers that is the reaction that you want – the emotional pull to have to want to learn more which leads to feeling of need and then to purchase.

    Popsicles – my son would eat em inside or outside in the dead of winter. Would probably eat an entire box in 1 sitting if I let him. But at the same time, in the grocery store he proudly picks his fruits n vegi’s as he says “we never say no to fruit and vegi’s”! Now, if he only stays that way in 8 years when he becomes a teenager then I did good!

  37. People buy based emotion the n justify their decision with logic after.

    If you don’t trigger an emotion while presenting your offer… it will be “just another offer…”

  38. @ Phil

    Of course… The reason anyone does anything in life is to “feel” something… even if it’s on a subconscious level.

    Even if you’re considering buying something you don’t want because you perceive you need it… You are still going to make the decision to buy it based on emotion… (How would you feel if you thought you needed something and had the chance to get it… but you didn’t follow through?)

    Because you want to feel the best about the decision you are making… Regardless of your decision to buy it or not… You’ll have an internal conversation telling yourself “It’s the best decision I can make based on the circumstances…”

    Even if it turns into a bad decision later… You’ll come back to that internal conversation…

    An example is the headline to this post… “Does Your Customer Want What You Have to Offer”

    If you didn’t click through and read the post (buy it) for X reason; you would justify your actions by having the internal conversation of “It’s the best decision I can make based on the circumstances…”

    But you did… and aren’t you glad because Sonia did a great job?

  39. “Make sure you’re not talking too much about all of the “good for you” aspects, and that you’re instead emphasizing the yummy factor first and foremost.”

    Never a truer sentence written. I’ve been working on an email campaign to tempt non-gym goers into a gym, and it’s exactly the same sentiment. Every single one of our target audience knows that they’d get healthier in a gym, but the fact that they don’t attend already means that we need to give them a different, ‘tasty’ motive.

    Just another example of how starting with your audience and working backwards makes all the difference.

  40. BrianGuy, thanks for your reply.

    You said, “The reason anyone does anything in life is to “feel” something… even if it’s on a subconscious level.”

    That’s a powerful statement, with a lot of truth in it. I’d hope future articles might try to explore this in depth.

    Everything can be boiled down to either the needs of the body, or needs of the mind, with most purchases in developed countries in the second category. If we look at our consumer culture clearly, it’s truly amazing how needy our minds are. Incredible…

    It’s tricky though. I want income primarily for emotional reasons. But then I analyze business software that can help me do that with logic.

    If the seller insists on telling me how good I’m going to feel when I have more money (something I already know) a resistance builds, because I’m reading their copy to learn things I don’t already know.

    But anyway, what I’m hoping to get at is this.

    Copywriters have a tendency to do psychological analysis of “people”, “them”, “the prospect”, in other words, somebody else.

    Your first post is about “people”, and your second post uses me as the example (which I don’t mind).

    The question for you, me and other writers is…

    Do WE purchase based on emotion, and then justify it later with logic?

    Do you BrianGuy do this?

    Unless we can answer this with a resolute and honest yes, then the whole principle is brought in to question, because we are people and shoppers too.

  41. @ Phil…

    I’m part of everyone… so the answer is “Yes”…

    “You” is ambiguous… I agree with you wholeheartedly, with the 2 types of needs… of the body and of the mind…

    It all goes back to the Teaching Sells philosophy that Brian & Tony Clark preach… and I say “amen” to.

  42. >But the old-fashioned conversion work like tweaking the offer is still important and can get lots more prospects turning into customers.

    @sonia are you implying that work pays off? That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

  43. @BrianGuy, thanks. Ok then, imagine how good you’ll feel when you read another one of my posts!! 🙂

    Seriously. If we are buying for what are usually emotional reasons…

    …and we are writing to make money so we ourselves can buy…

    …then it seems to follow….

    … that we are writing for essentially emotional reasons.

    As copywriters, especially on blogs like this, we spend a lot of time psychologically analyzing the motivations of readers. We want to understand our audience, it makes sense.

    Perhaps we’d get even more leverage from a process of psychologically analyzing ourselves. Why are we writing, what motivates us? How do our real motivations affect our writing, relationship with readers, and our sales? This seems like a productive area of investigation, that maybe doesn’t receive a lot attention.

    I’ve been reading copywriting theories for 15 years, and it’s always the reader on the couch. How about we take a year off from that, and put ourselves on the couch?

    Now THAT would be interesting….

  44. @ Phil

    Exactly… We are all writing for emotional responses… That’s why people read our blogs, follow our ebooks and everything else… Because we stir up some emotion in them through our writing…

    What you said about us psychoanalyzing ourselves I totally agree with. That should be a part of everyone’s blog action plan…

  45. @Brian, ok cool, we agree on the importance of analyzing ourselves. But did you notice we’re still talking about the readers motivations, instead of ours?

    I apologize. I don’t mean to put you, or anybody, on the spot. I’m trying to point to something larger than you and me and this thread.

    Across copywriting culture in general, there seems to be endless interest, and genuine enthusiasm for, analyzing readers and prospects. Book after book, article after article, thread after thread, etc.

    Discussions about our psychology, the writer and seller’s motivations, tend to be ignored, or quickly dismissed with quips and jokes.

    A rhetorical question could be, would our businesses benefit more from analyzing ourselves than from analyzing others? And if yes, why don’t we spend most of our time doing that?

    If we’re avoiding analyzing ourselves for understandable human reasons, could readers and prospects be resisting our attempts to analyze and manage their psychology for similar reasons?

    In case it’s unclear, I’m not referring to morality and being a good person etc, which doesn’t seem relevant here.

    I’m referring to effective writing and selling. Would we be more effective if we studied ourselves with at least the same enthusiasm we study others?

  46. @Phil, I’m definitely all for self-knowledge, but assuming that you, the copywriter, have the same motivations & psychology as your buyer can be dangerous. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.

    Obviously there’s always a balancing act.

    As to the question about whether readers here buy on emotion first, then justify with logic, since that’s what most people do, I think that’s probably what most readers here do. Many people don’t know that’s what they’re doing, but there’s a massive body of evidence that that’s exactly how human beings make decisions of any kind.

    @Genuine Chris, agreed, I am a complete wacko.

  47. Uncovering visitor needs and wants in exhausting.

    How to create an offer that does not look like an obvious marketing ploy is a true skill.

    Thanks for your article – it helped me crystalize how to orchestrate our offers to be more effective!!!

  48. @Sonia, agreed, I’m not suggesting we assume anything. I’m offering a theory that investigating ourselves could possibly be a better business investment than analyzing the buyer.

    We’re trying to create an agreement, a meeting of the minds, between ourselves and the buyer. That’s the job.

    Which mind do we have more control over, ours or theirs? Where is the point of greatest leverage for this transaction?
    Where can we get the most bang for our analysis buck?

    Could changing ourselves be more effective at closing the deal than changing the buyer?

    Are we really motivated as writers by what we’re supposed to be doing, building trust and closing sales? Or is our own emotional need to feel clever and powerful getting in the way?

    Let’s say I have a clever plan to manage your emotions so that you’ll read my posts and buy my opinions.

    If that is my relationship with you the reader/prospect, am I really a clever enough writer to hide my plan from you, or make you enjoy my interest in managing your emotions? Am I?

    What would be the most effective way to win you over?

    An ever more clever plan to change your behavior?

    Or dropping my plan, changing myself, and communicating with you from a different point of view, a point of view that is more about you, and less about me?

    Copywriting strategies are all about how to get what we want. The only problem with that writing point of view is, the buyer could care less what we want.

    A theory to chew on, that’s all…

  49. This is a great post with a great analogy behind it. There is the need to ensure that people have products that mean something to them, not just a fad.
    You get your information across in a great way (as usual) so thanks Sonia!

  50. Having helped raise 5 children, I loved this analogy. I lived through this battle every meal time and your photo says it all.

    I resorted to the spoon-is-an-airplane trick to make a game of eating it. Playing that game ensured my child would eat more and sleep longer. Without the entertainment factor, they just got bored and stopped eating.

  51. Sonia,

    You have rapidly become one of my must reads! I’m still a newbie blogger and I enjoy learning from you. Excellent information ( and perfect picture too)!

  52. I found this post incredibly simplistic and what I would assume is taught in a marketing 101 class. I can’t get over how many posts there are revering this post as an epiphany in how to sell, anything. But then again I grew up with a mother that put sugar on broccoli, noodles, cottage cheese…and tomatoes.

    • Well, you’re right that it’s an extremely basic idea — but unfortunately, it’s probably the single most common mistake I see when people are trying to market their business. And unlike some other common mistakes, this one is fatal.

      9 times out of 10, when I talk with someone who’s not getting results in their marketing, it’s because one of these “obvious” fundamentals is out of whack. So yes, we publish posts on the basics, because we’ve found that’s extremely helpful to people.

  53. Thank you for sharing such useful insight and tips. But most of all thank you for a brilliantly applied photograph. They say a picture paints a thousand words (or so). This one certainly does. Also makes me chuckle everytime I scroll back up to it… it’s sooo funny 🙂

  54. Nutrition is key here Sonia. Make it meaty. Or filling and wholesome, for vegetarian readers 🙂 I seek to deliver helpful resources and then, stress that key nutritious benefit via my copy in clear, simple fashion. No need to fall over yourself with the offer is meaty enough on its own, with a little nutrient rich nudge. Thanks for sharing 🙂


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