When you started your business, you might not have realized just how much copywriting you’d be doing. From social media captions to your website to blog posts to sales pages, the words you write are doing a lot of heavy lifting for you—or, they should be. That’s because most of what we write as entrepreneurs is conversion copy.
Consider this post your introductory in-depth guide to what conversion copy is, how it works, and the process behind writing it.
My first summer job was at a clothing retailer. I was excited about working there—hello, 30% employee discount!—and couldn’t wait to get started.
But on the first day of training, I found out that my job wasn’t really about organizing the clothing displays or helping customers find the perfect pair of jeans. My job was to get people to sign up for a branded credit card.
I hated pitching the credit card to customers. It felt disingenuous to sell something I would never sign up for myself, especially after having a two-second interaction with a stranger.
It didn’t surprise me that I wasn’t able to sign up a single customer for a credit card that summer. But it did feel pretty crappy to see my name in the “zero to hero” column on the breakroom whiteboard every week.
(Side note: what a terrible way to shame and manipulate a bunch of teenagers. This was such a gross tactic on the manager’s part).
There were three main reasons:
I didn’t know it then, but that first summer job was teaching me exactly what NOT to do when writing conversion copy.
Let’s dive into what conversion copy is, what goes into it, and how to write it with empathy and empowerment in mind.
Simply put, conversion copywriting is writing that convinces a reader to take action.
The action you want the reader to take doesn’t have to be sales-focused, though. You can use conversion copy to persuade readers to subscribe to your email list, fill out a form, go to another page of your website, buy a product, or book a service.
While the call-to-action (CTA) you use won’t always be sales-focused, it will be a step towards a sale. That’s because conversion copy serves one purpose: get the reader to (eventually) become a customer.
Conversion copywriting needs three things to turn readers into customers:
That might sound really complicated, but I promise it’s not! Let’s look at this example from one of my own opt-in forms for a free Notion template.
The value of the resource I’m offering is described in the headline, “Start your copy off right.” The resource isn’t just about organizing client and customer feedback, it’s about what you do with that feedback. I elaborate on this in the first sentence, “When it comes to communicating clearly with your audience, nothing can replace voice of customer research.”
The benefits of the resource are described in the last sentence: “Swipe my Notion template to organize, categorize, and utilize your customer feedback all in one place.” This tells the reader that the template will help them keep all their feedback organized AND help them implement it in their copy.
I’ve put “or VOC, for short!” in parenthesis to show that it’s okay if they don’t know this acronym. And the copy creates a shame-free connection with this sentence: “But it doesn’t have to be an intimidating process—in fact, you probably already have VOC in your business!”
I’m reassuring potential subscribers that something most people find intimidating—collecting voice of customer research—doesn’t have to be scary or difficult. I’m also reassuring them that they probably already have it and just haven’t identified it. They already have the tools they need, they just need a little guidance to put it all together.
CTAs work best when they start with a verb. Here, I’ve used the verb “get” to show how easy it is for them to access the resource. “Get” is a pretty low-stakes word in that it’s not super pushy and doesn’t sound like a ton of extra work.
One thing that many writers forget is to minimize the risk of taking the action for the reader. I’ve done so here by clearly…
The microcopy under the CTA also furthers the empathy-driven connection that I’m trying to establish with readers. It also shows my belief in what I’m offering—I’m pretty sure they’ll stay on my list because I send valuable emails, but if it’s not for them, then there’s no pressure to stay.
Now that we’ve talked about what goes into conversion copywriting, you might be wondering how we can write conversion copy.
Here are the three overarching steps to conversion copywriting:
For most copywriting projects, I spend the majority of my time in the Research & Exploration phase. That’s because conversion copy can’t possibly provide a clear explanation of value, empathize with our customers, or minimize risk without a deep understanding of the target customer and their problem.
The Writing & Editing stage comes together quickly once the research is in place. The clarity I get from the research means that the copy flows easily.
Lastly, Testing & Optimization involves waiting for the copy to be published, measuring how well it converts, and then tweaking the copy to see if we can do even better. This stage doesn’t necessarily happen all at once. I might make a small change, wait for more data, and then make another small change a few weeks later.
So what goes into each stage? Let’s look at each one more closely.
This initial stage varies depending on what you’re offering and what action you’re trying to encourage. Here are some of the research tasks you might take on:
For example, review mining is incredibly helpful for physical product offers. Checking out the Amazon reviews for the product you’re selling or similar products can give you insight into what customers like, dislike, and loath about the product.
But review mining isn’t as helpful when you’re writing conversion copy for a coaching program. The reviews you’ll have to look at will largely be glowing testimonials or in-depth affiliate review posts. Those won’t tell you as much about what customers actually think of the offer. For coaching programs, online courses, and digital products, voice of customer research and competitor research are far more valuable.
If you’re wanting to learn more about voice of customer research, including how to conduct it for your or your client’s business, my Voice of Customer Research Workshop breaks down my entire research process.
The exploration part of this stage is mostly spent thinking about what you’ve learned from the research. I’ve joked before that I spend 80% of my time thinking & researching and 20% of my time writing, and it’s absolutely true! It takes time to form a clear, compelling, and empowering message from your research.
Once I’ve got a clear understanding of who the customer is, what problem(s) they’re facing, and how the offer I’m writing about could be a great solution to those problems, the writing stage goes pretty quickly.
Traditional conversion copy often focuses on “pain points” via shame, manipulation, or aggressive sales tactics. Personally, that’s NOT the kind of copy I want to write! Instead of digging at the customer’s pain, I empathize with them and show how their problems aren’t their fault. I then empower them to take informed action if they feel the offer will help them.
The how of writing conversion copy that doesn’t rely on shame, manipulation, or scarcity tactics could be a whole other blog post. But my #1 editing tip for making sure your conversion copy is full of connection, empathy, and empowerment is to read your copy out loud.
If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it out loud to a room full of potential customers as the kind, friendly business owner you are—then don’t put it in your copy. Being miles away and tucked behind a screen doesn’t give you an excuse to manipulate your readers into buying from you.
Once the copy is published, I like to let it sit for a while—usually at least 100 visits to the page. From there, I take a look at the conversion rate to see how the copy is performing. I also like to review heat maps for the page if they’re available, so I can determine where readers are focusing and where they’re exiting the page.
Depending on the project, I’ll sometimes implement user testing. The information gathered from user tests can highlight what lines of copy are doing well, and which need to be edited.
I’ll take all of this information and either set up an A/B test of the page or edit the current page and wait for 100 more visits. That way we can compare the original version of the copy versus the edited version.
All of these testing options allow me to optimize the copy. For most projects in my own business, I’ll just take a quick look at the conversion rate and review the heat map. That’s usually enough for me to get an idea of what needs to be optimized. Larger client projects for high-ticket offers are a better fit for user and A/B tests.
Remember that clothing job I had where I hated selling credit cards? I learned a LOT from it, even if it was really uncomfortable.
When I started a new retail-focused job at a winery, I was able to sell wine club memberships really well. That’s because I had…
The same should apply to the conversion copy you write! Your understanding of your customers comes from the research you do, while the empathy and connection you cultivate will shine through how you explain the offer and show your belief in it and them.
You should check out Sales Page Success! It’s my signature course that dives deep into writing and designing a sales page that connects, empowers, and converts.
Best of all, you’ll never start from scratch again with the included sales page swipe copy bank, skeleton template, and Showit design template.
When it comes to communicating clearly with your audience, nothing can replace voice of customer research (or VOC, for short!). But it doesn’t have to be an intimidating process—in fact, you probably already have VOC in your business!
Swipe my Notion template to organize, categorize, and utilize your customer feedback all in one place.
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