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“People aren’t interested in you. They’re interested in themselves.” – Dale Carnegie

Over 5 years ago, I commissioned the below illustration for CopyPress:

This is Plutchik’s wheel of emotion. It is a great visual representation of where different emotions stand in relation to one another, but also the intensity of each. The more intense an emotion grows, the closer to the center of the wheel a person becomes. Further, the closer to the center of the wheel a person gets, the more likely they are to take action on their emotion. For example, a person feeling rage is more likely to act out violently than a person feeling annoyance.

The goal of great sales copywriting is to elicit emotion. Great sales copywriting elicits emotions that trigger sales activity. Fear, rage, ecstasy, and amazement are all emotions that can spark a reaction. The difficulty lies in tapping into those emotions and not falling somewhere on the periphery of the wheel; the place where sales copy goes to die.

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Combinations

The real power of emotions in sales copywriting is using combinations of emotions. A great movie doesn’t settle for one emotional reaction. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” we both fear Darth Vader and admire Han Solo. These two emotions play off of each other in the scene where Han is surprised by a waiting Darth Vader in a Cloud City dining room.

Great sales copywriting sets up a villian. The villain is the problem your customer has that your product solves. Your customer should loath, rage, or feel grief about the problem presented. In opposition to this villain, we present our hero; your product, the solution to all the problems the villain presents.

Bad Sales Copy

Bad sales copy just tries to build an entire story around the hero.

Star Wars with no Darth Vader.

Harry Potter with no Voldemort.

Karate Kid with no Johnny Lawrence.

Without villains, heroes are just normal people. They are uninteresting, and their stories lack an emotional pull.

Bad sales copy just tells the potential customer why you are great. It discusses all the features of the product and the reason you are better than your competition. Further, some bad sales copy goes as far to make their competition the villain in the story. This is akin to making a random stormtrooper the big bad in Star Wars; it is completely uninteresting. Having to focus on your competitors’ deficiencies may paint your product as the better of two options, but it is not going to move anyone to foil the villain who has caused such strife in their day-to-day life.

A Step by Step Guide to Million Dollar Sales Copy

Step 1 – Understand Your Customer’s Pain

Companies with huge followings of devoted fans can easily rely on the emotions like ecstasy or admiration to sell their products. For the rest of us (the majority of us), we need to build on negative emotions tied to the problems our products are looking to fix.

Our example product will be plain white tube gym socks.

What are the problems that consumers face that our unremarkable product can fix:

-Cold feet
-Smelly feet
-Blisters
-Foot pain

Step 2 – Create your Villain

From these problems, you can easily paint a clear picture of your villain.

My morning runs last January were brutal. Every morning I woke up at 5 a.m. with a jolt as my bare feet touched the icy tile floor. I would quickly run across my apartment to grab my running shoes and get relief from the cold. Unfortunately, the shoes were new, and because they hadn’t broken in, I was dealing with major blistering. After a 5-mile run, the lack of shock absorption from the shoes alone led to not only bloody swollen blisters but also plantar fasciitis. Adding insult to actual injury, my wife kept throwing my shoes outside due to the growing foul smell they left lingering in my apartment.

That paragraph isn’t going to win any awards, but the point is that we can craft a vivid reality of our villain around the main pain points our consumer has. This isn’t a single problem. The villain is a complex mix of issues that can cause intense emotional reactions.

Step 3 – Create Your Hero

Your product is your hero, but we need to show your potential customer how awesome the hero is in relation to the problems.

My morning runs last January were brutal. Every morning I woke up at 5 a.m. with a jolt as my bare feet touched the icy tile floor. I would quickly run across my apartment to grab my running shoes and get relief from the cold. Unfortunately, the shoes were new, and because they hadn’t broken in, I was dealing with major blistering. After a 5-mile run, the lack of shock absorption from the shoes alone led to not only bloody swollen blisters but also plantar fasciitis. Adding insult to actual injury, my wife kept throwing my shoes outside due to the growing foul smell they left lingering in my apartment.

That all changed this year when my wife got me a pair of plain white tube socks. Today, I am jumping out of bed at 5 a.m. with my feet feeling comfortable no matter the temperature. Blistering is a thing of the past. My plain white tube socks protect my skin from the wear of the road and protect my bones and ligaments in my feet from the shock of running several miles a day. The best thing? My running shoes get to stay in the house, and I don’t have to worry about being embarrassed about that terrible post-run smell.

Our product didn’t just make our fictional consumers’ lives better, it improved it in every way that had been plaguing them.

Step 4 – Add Believability

In his book, “Break Through Advertising,” Eugene Schwartz discussed a technique he called “Camouflage.” The technique is about borrowing the believability of already existing places in society to help back up your claims about your hero.

Here is a list of ways you can achieve believability:

1. Give proof to back up your claim – In our example above, we could show a picture of our fictional consumers’ blistered and swollen feet from last year compared to their pristine feet from this year.

2. Statistics – People love numbers. “96% of people that wear plain white tube socks say they have less blistering after using our product.”

3. Testimonials – Whether these are testimonials from famous users of the product or product reviews from the general public, these are amazing ways to validate your product’s value.

4. Quote from authority figures – “I’m a foot doctor and I won’t let my children go anywhere without wearing plain white tube socks!”

5. Tests – Test your product via a third party and share the results. “We put our product on robot feet at MIT and watched with awe as the feet ran 500 miles before the plain white tube socks showed any signs of damage!”

6. Trends – The power of the masses. “These 2000 people on TikTok sent out their #plainwhitetubesock videos.”

7. Seals of approval and authority – Every product industry has governing bodies that it can use to give it more authority. “Endorsed by the National Association of Odor Elimination.”

8. Awards – Is your product award-winning? Share it in your message.

Step 5 – Craft Your Battle of Good and Evil Into Multiple Messages

The tale you weave about your villain and hero shouldn’t be done in one shot. You should weave a tale that follows basic storytelling conventions and breaks it across multiple messages. This strategy is especially powerful in the B2B space where the consumer lifecycle can be long and filled with information gathering.

The reality, however, is that most products will take several consumer touches to initiate a sale. There is no better way to approach this than by building an epic journey for your customer that sees your hero vanquish the evil villain as the emotions slowly ratchet up over several marketing messages.

This build-in emotional relevance shouldn’t be channel-specific, either. Your website, emails, banner ads, retargeting ads, forms, ebooks, and social media copy should all be integrated in telling the story. This will unify the message and help build the emotional reaction through saturation.

Step 6 – Write MONSTER Headlines

Whether you are writing a sale letter, basic email drip, banner ad copy, or content for a webpage, your headline is the first thing your potential customer is going to interact with.

You should begin the interaction by getting as close to the emotional reaction you want to elicit as possible.

“Get rid of stinky, swollen feet with our new plain white tube socks.”

“My wife was ready to file for divorce before I purchased my plain white tube socks.”

“I used to deal with blisters after a 1-mile run. Now I’m running 5 miles a day pain-free.”

Play with your headlines.

A/B test your headlines.

Reutilize headline structures that get interaction.

Conclusion

Writing really great sales copy takes a great amount of skill and refinement. There simply aren’t any shortcuts. You need to focus on the pain points that your consumer feels without your product, and you need to paint your product as the only possible hope they have for relief. The pain points need to be real, and you need to paint them in vivid detail. If you’ve described your customer’s problem well your customer will feel understood. And because you understand their problem well enough, the customer will already look to you to have a solution for that problem.

The sales process is all about your customer and what they want. It isn’t about how great your product is, just whether it will make things better in their life.

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