Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a fondue pot. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour and cook on low for 2 minutes. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine and stir until thick. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups grated Swiss Cheese. Beat 4 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of thick cream and add to mixture. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and white pepper. Add a dash of Kirschwasser. Serve with cubes of your favorite breads and diced vegetables.
If copywriting were only as simple as this tasty cheese fondue, writing sales copy would be easy.
Alas, it’s not.
Copywriting is a craft. And those who excel at it do so only after years of study and practice. But once top copywriters attain a high level of skill, they often formulate their own secret recipes to add a kick to their results.
So here are 11 of the best copywriting recipes from some of the world’s greatest salesmen. It’s possible you’ve heard of the first. But it’s doubtful if you’ve ever heard of the other 10.
These are not magic formulas. They are advanced concepts for copywriters who want to add depth, polish, and selling power to their writing. None is perfect for all situations. Each can be useful as a way to guide and analyze your copy.
AIDA — In the copywriting world, this is the recipe most often quoted. It suggests that every successful selling message must attract Attention, arouse Interest, stimulate Desire, and present a compelling call for Action. If any of these elements are missing from your copy, your message will fail. Look closely at the copy of any good Web sales page, catalog, sales letter, or ad, and you will see AIDA at work.
ACCA — Awareness, Comprehension, Conviction, Action. This is similar to AIDA, but Comprehension stresses the importance of clarity and understanding, which is vital for any persuasive message. Also, Conviction is much stronger than Desire. It suggests certainty.
Attention-Interest-Description-Persuasion-Proof-Close — This is another AIDA variation by Robert Collier. Intended for sales letters, it outlines what he thought was the most effective sales sequence.
AAPPA — The eminent Victor O. Schwab suggested this commonsense, clear formula. Get Attention. Show people an Advantage. Prove it. Persuade people to grasp this advantage. Ask for Action.
AIU — This is my own formula that can be used for direct mail envelopes, e-mail messages leading people to a sales page, or postcards leading to a Web site. It stands for Attention, Interest, Urgency. Something about the message must get your Attention and make it stand apart from other messages. This should lead to Interest in the contents of the message and a sense of Urgency to open the envelope, click on a link, or type in a Web address immediately. Notice that it’s an incomplete formula—there is no close to the sale because the purpose here is to get you to find out more.
PPPP — This is a formula by Henry Hoke, Sr. It stands for Picture, Promise, Prove, Push. In many ways, it’s easier to implement than AIDA because it shows you four basic tasks you must perform to make a sale. Picture: Get attention early and create a desire. Promise: Make a meaningful promise or describe benefits and what the product will do. Prove: Demonstrate value and support your promise with testimonials. Push: Ask for the order.
Star-Chain-Hook — This is Frank Dignan’s charming and surprisingly fresh way to approach an advertising message. Hitch your wagon to a Star with an attention-getting opening that is positive and upbeat. Create a Chain of convincing facts, benefits, and reasons and transform attention into interest and interest into desire. Then, Hook them with a powerful call to action, making it easy to respond.
ABC Checklist — William Steinhardt’s formula is more detailed than most and very practical. Attain attention, Bang out benefits, Create verbal pictures, Describe success incidents, Endorse with testimonials, Feature special details, Gild with values, Honor claims with guarantees, Inject action in reader.
The String of Pearls — This is a particular method of writing sales copy. The idea is that you assemble details and string them together in a long line, one after another. Each pearl is complete in some way. Collectively, their persuasive power becomes overwhelming.
The Cluster of Diamonds — Similar to the String of Pearls, this formula suggests assembling a group of details under an umbrella concept. For example, an ad might have the headline “7 Reasons Why You’ll Save Money With XYZ.” The copy would then list these seven reasons. Each detail is a “diamond” in a particular setting.
The Fan Dancer — The analogy here is perfect, though a bit racy. The idea is to tantalize with specific details that never reveal any actual information. It’s like teaser copy or what one influential writer called “fascinations.” For example, let’s say you’re selling a book on reducing your taxes. Part of your copy might read: “The one secret way to pay zero taxes and get away with it — page 32. How the IRS uses your mailing label against you — page 122. Three clever ways to turn a vacation into a business tax deduction even if you don’t own a business — page 158.” As with a fan dancer, you’re left wanting more.
If you don’t fully understand some of these recipes, don’t worry. Keep them handy and be patient. Just as the fine points of cooking escape the novice chef, the fine points of copywriting escape the novice copywriter. But with time and experience you will come to appreciate and savor these recipes.