Starting out as a copywriter is the worst.
I remember my first sales page assignment for a big marketer. I labored over every single word. I put every tip and trick that I got from books and courses in it.
When I sent it back for review, I was ready to hear, “Great job on this! Just a few minor suggestions and we should be set to go!”
Nope. The boss — an experienced copywriter — ripped it to shreds. Those comment boxes in Microsoft Word still haunt me. “This part sucks. Cut this. Poor word choice. You need to rewrite this entire section.”
I went through multiple rounds of this. In the end, I spent the next 4 months writing and rewriting everything until it was finally good enough to test.
But I survived. And I learned more from that one project than I have from the thousands of dollars I spent on copywriting books and courses.
These days, I see business owners making the same blunders on their sales pages all the time. Even if they’ve gone through copywriting books and courses. And sometimes even after they’ve hired someone to write their pages. Ouch!
So today, I’m going to show you the top 3 mistakes people make on their sales pages. If you’re making any of these mistakes, it could be costing you hundreds of new sales every month. But the good news is they are easy to fix, once you know what to look for.
Let’s get started.
Mistake #1: Trying to talk to everyone, instead of talking to your customer
How many times have you come across a sales page where the writer goes on and on with copy like this:
You’re tired. You’re ready to make a change. You want more out of life. You just don’t know what to do.
You want to escape the grind and do great things with your life.
It’s trying to relate to the audience, but this copy could apply to anyone. It could be speaking to a guy going through a midlife crisis, someone in their 20s or 30s, a mom looking to re-enter the working world. Literally anyone.
If you want to relate to your reader, that doesn’t work. You must understand their hopes and pains. And how everything shows up in their everyday lives.
Here’s a great example from IWT:
Look at how much is packed into just a few lines of copy.
Hopes: Starting a business, working from the beach, traveling the world, and getting 6-pack abs.
Pains: Waking up and hitting snooze, morning jolts from websites, and feeling tired.
A 20-30 something in an office job reads that and thinks, “Wow! That’s me. This person really gets it. I want to know what else he’s got to say.”
That’s what gets you sales.
Let me show you what I mean with an example from my life. About a year ago, I budgeted $20 for a new hat, but ended up shelling out four times more. And I was happy to do it.
For background, I live in Florida and spend a good amount of time near the water where you pretty much need a hat. Otherwise, the sun bakes you and skin flakes off your ears and neck for the entire next week.
The problem is, any hat you buy is ruined within a month. The sweat stains start showing up, which shrinks it. The fabric fades and turns flimsy. It starts to look like you wore that hat on an archaeological dig for the past 6 months.
And at any moment, Mother Nature can send a gust of wind to take your hat and dunk it underwater.
So when I was shopping for a new hat (again) in Bass Pro Shops, I stumbled across Tilley Hats.
I saw their price tag, and thought, “$85 for a hat that’s going to get ruined in a month…Are you kidding me?!?!”
But then the copy grabbed my attention. I saw this label inside the hat:
As I thumbed through the hat owner’s manual, I just knew I had to buy. This was the first page:
Notice the exact words in bold.
- The Hat was conceived in frustration and born of necessity
- Float, stay on, be unshrinkable, last indefinitely, and look attractive
- Now don’t get the impression that the Tilley Hat is just for sailors!
Can you see how those can relate to my problem with hats in the Florida sun?
I also loved the story about testing the hats on a charter in Belize where they encountered trade winds. Those are the most extreme conditions I wear my hat in. It was like the folks over at Tilley read my mind.
I found my size and sprinted to the cash register with it. I didn’t even flinch at the $85 price tag. A year later, I’m really glad I bought that hat.
If you really understand your audience and what they’re looking for, the ball is in your court. You can charge what you want. The competition doesn’t matter. Your customers are happy. And your business takes off.
Mistake #2: Asking the reader to “take your word for it”
When you promise to solve people’s problems, they want to believe what you’re saying. They want solutions so that they can get on with their lives.
The trouble is, business owners make it hard for them with the sales copy they write. For example, common copywriting advice says you should include specific numbers and build urgency into headlines.
Business owners and rookie copywriters might follow this and write:
But then if you keep reading, they don’t mention 30lbs or the 60 days again. They don’t go on to prove it.
So readers call BS and keep searching for something better.
So how do you avoid this? The three easiest ways are:
Testimonials – This is the most straightforward way to prove something. If you have customers who have results because of your products, take the most impressive ones and put them in your headline. Make results a theme that runs all the way through your copy.
Then people will see that you aren’t full of it. They’ll see people just like them who got the results you claim. Believable.
Here’s a classic example from Beachbody’s P90X:
Notice how they’re saying it’s a 90-day program, and then showing the after photos on day 90?
This is an excellent example of using testimonials to back up a claim. And it’s helped P90X sell over 4 millions copies of their program.
Demonstration – If you have a product that you can pull this off with, this might be the best way to go. It’s the old, “You gotta see it to believe it” in action.
For example, we all know that Volvo has a reputation for safe cars. Their website shows outside authorities (another form of testimonials) singing their praise.
Volvo could’ve left it at that. But they didn’t want to take a chance. They wanted to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their cars are safe. Which is why they made this video:
Damn. After watching that I’m going to:
- Drive 25 MPH in the shoulder only from now on
- Make sure my first family car is a Volvo
Citing studies – Your customers aren’t dumb. People are more educated than ever. And they have so much access to information. A quick Google search can prove or disprove anything you write.
Which is why you should respect their intelligence by highlighting any studies relevant to your product.
For example, Ramit Sethi says that people know saving money is a good thing, but still fail to do it. He says it’s because information alone isn’t enough to change behavior.
He could have let the audience take his word for it. After all, he’s a New York Times bestselling author with major press cred. Instead, he comes in with proof with this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research:
The chart shows us that people boosted their savings rate nearly 50 percent after enrolling in automatic enrollment. Proof that what he’s saying is grounded in credible studies from outside experts. And it’s not just his opinion.
Mistake #3: Not giving vivid details
Fiction is fake and non-fiction is real, right? Wrong!
In fact, fiction writers are masters at making a story sound real. I mean, have you ever read a Stephen King novel and then wanted to sleep with the lights on? Have you ever read a romance novel and sighed, imagining you got fairytale ending like that?
Copywriters can take a page from fiction books to boost their sales. Because when you make things real for readers, they believe you. That’s a cornerstone of great copywriting.
Let me show you what I mean with some real examples.
Pretend you had to write about people waiting in a bar parking lot on the bad side of town. A novice might come up with this:
For two hours, they waited outside the bars on the rowdy side of town. They watched people come and go.
This isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. Fiction writers would add vivid details to bring it all to life.
Here’s how John Grisham wrote a scene outside a bar in his novel, A Time to Kill:
Notice all the details? It wasn’t just any group of people going into the bar. It was truck drivers, pulpwood cutters, factory workers, and farmhands.
People in the bars didn’t just hang out. They drank, shot pool, listened to the band, and looked for stray women.
These details paint a specific scene in people’s heads. In copywriting, this technique can take an ordinary product and make it seem extraordinary.
Consider the J. Peterman Company — the Kentucky-based retailer makes shopping for their products an experience through their vivid copy.
Here’s what they wrote as a product description for a white, button-up shirt:
This isn’t just cute copy, it’s strategic. J. Peterman knows their audience are adventurous types. A lot of their other product descriptions talk about safaris, jungles, and conquering the outback. They hammer home the point of how durable their clothes are.
The copy for the serious western dress shirt is a change from this. But they don’t just say, “This is a great shirt when you have a formal occasion or business meeting to attend.”
Instead, they tell the story of a man who has to come down from his horse to take care of business. And this is the shirt he wears.
This is meeting readers where they’re at. They’re saying, “Hey, we know you don’t like dressing up. But you can still do it in a cool way with this quality shirt.”
Let me show you how fiction-like details can create sales pages that really stand out. Suppose you’re selling a dream beach house for an affordable price.
Most copywriters would slap something like this together:
Live in a gorgeous beach town with stunning views for pennies on the dollar!
But here’s how Bill Bonner, an excellent copywriter and successful business owner, wrote about the same idea like a great fiction writer:
This was the headline for a sales letter that ran for over 30 years online and in direct mail. It raked in millions of dollars in sales for a travel publication. Lots of great copywriters have tried to beat this only to come up short.
Which is why it pays to take the time to write in vivid details on your sales page. Because if your copy proves you understand your customer, lets them know you feel their pain, and shows them a better life, you’ll reap the rewards of for years.