Sales copy

The sales copy your potential customer sees at the point of purchase is important. It persuades the customer to buy what you’re selling. In this guide, we cover consumer decision drivers that come into play at the point of purchase. And, we cover how you can write more impactful and effective sales copy to increase your sales conversion rates. 

$

Sales copy

How this guide raises your game.

  1. Understand key contextual factors to consider when you write sales copy.
  2. Learn about factual and emotional sales copy writing.
  3. Read about key psychological triggers you can use to boost the impact of your sales copy. 

Sales copy writing is the end result of all the different types of business writing you carry out.

Your advertising copy, your blogging and SEO writing work at stages of the customer experience journey to move potential customers towards a sale. But the sales copy is what you write at the end destination for the journey, the point of purchase. 

It’s important to remember that sales copy is part of a journey. Consumers will rarely come “cold” to the sales copy that you write.

The writing that created awareness and consideration will have “warmed” up your potential customer. But it takes great sales copy to persuade them to actually buy something from you. 

So, it’s also important to know what makes convincing and actionable sales copy.

The key focus on sales copy is to convert those consumers who are considering your brand to move forward and buy your brand.

Your sales copy needs to drive action!

Three brains e-Commerce online purchase with credit card

Ready to test your knowledge?

What’s your starting level of knowledge about sales copy writing?

Take the 2 minute, 5 question Three-brains sales copy writing quiz and see how much you know about sales copy writing already.


The importance of context in sales copy

But driving action through your writing can be a tough challenge.

You need to consider the context in which potential customer will see the sales copy. This context will relate to the level of involvement and the informational needs of the target audience.

But the stage of brand choice funnel in the customer experience journey is also an influencing factor.

And the media plan context in which the potential customer will experience the sales copy also plays a role as part of the context..

Let’s look at each of those three context areas in turn.

Sales copy and level of involvement and information 

The first context question when it comes to sales copy, is what role the product or service itself plays for the potential customer. 

The amount of information you need to include in the sales copy will vary based on the value and level of involvement needed. This will vary based on the types of needs that are satisfied by the purchase.

Some types of products or services are better suited to rational and factual based decision-making. While others work better when they appeal more to emotions and experiences. 

Sales copy - advertising and sales planning grid

Rossiter and Percy as you can see in the image above, classified industries and purchases into four key groups, based on these factors of information needs and involvement.

Low involvement and informational 

These are products that are everyday or regular purchases, likely to be relatively low value per spend and products that you need to buy. They are not “fun” purchases. 

So, a lot of typical grocery purchases like cleaning products, food staples like bread, milk, fruit and vegetables and basic medicines like aspirin would fit in here.

When you write sales copy for these types of products, you need to land simple, clear functional messages that are easy for the consumer’s brain to process quickly. In these types of categories, advertising copy and sales copy are more or less the same thing. There’s no real time between the message and the purchase decision. 

You want to land the functional benefit clearly and directly from the start because the consumer wants to make a quick decision. The headline based on a clear fact is what makes this type of sales copy work.

So, think for example of sales copy like these as good fits for these types of products. 

“Removes 50% more stains than competitor A”

“Fresh baked every day”

“Maximum strength pain relief”

Low involvement and transformational 

The products that fall into this type of category, are fairly regular purchases and still relatively low value.

But, they have associations with more emotional and enjoyable actions and activities.

They are generally less “necessary” purchases. But, they come with a ‘feel good’ factor. The purchase and consumption associations are positive. 

So, for example, snacks, alcohol, skincare and perfume fall into this group. 

For these types of products, your sales copy needs to play more to perceptions and emotions. Try to create more emotional benefits that connect with an occasion, an experience or a feeling.

There’s more opportunity to engage beyond the headline. And obviously, the sales copy needs to work with any photography or video content which also help to boost emotional engagement. 

 

Casillero del Diablo - Red wine bottle label

So for example, consider these famous advertising copy headlines and see how they differ in focus from the previous group.

“Helps you work, rest and play”

“Good things come to those who wait”

“Because you’re worth it”

High involvement and informational

For products where there is a high level of involvement, this is generally driven by the value and impact of the purchase. The consumer perceives a risk that they may make a bad decision. So, they take more time and look for more information to justify or rationalise their purchase. However, the actual product or service itself generally performs more of a functional role in their lives. There’s no real positive “fun” association. 

So, categories that fall into this group include household appliances, computer equipment and financial services like insurance and pensions, for example. 

While, there will be a fact driven headline that sits behind these products – think, “5 year guarantee” or “Delivers x% better return over the next 5 years”, there will also have to be sales copy which rationally details the benefit, the reason why and the reason to believe from the positioning statement.

High involvement and transformational

The final group of products in the classification then are those products where there is a high level of involvement in the purchase decision AND there are positive and emotional associations linked to the purchase decision.

Classically, cars fall into this group, since they are a high value purchase, that play an important role in people’s day to day lives.

And while there are rational and factual considerations that go into the purchase of a car (like fuel efficiency), there are also a large amount of emotional and non-rational decisions.

 

Mercedes logo

So for example, the status associated with the car brand, or the style and aesthetic design of the car itself. There’s a big difference between sales copy you’d use for Mercedes and for Ford, for example. 

The sales copy that you write for these types of products needs to understand the key decision making criteria used by the target audience.

You need to use market research to shape the direction of this type of writing. You need to get under the skin of the consumer to understand the deeper psychological drivers of the decision.   

The brand choice funnel

The level of involvement and whether the consumer needs are informational or transformational is not the only thing to consider with writing sales copy however.

It’s also important to understand at which stage of the brand choice funnel the consumer sits. 

Traditionally sales copy is most directly associated with driving trial. It’s when the consumer actually tries the product that generates the sale, after all.

But for low involvement products as we covered above, where the consumer will not spend a lot of time on the decision, the sales copy might have to cover awareness – consideration and trial at the same time. 

The brand choice funnel - trust - aware - consider - trial - loyalty - repeat purchase

Direct response advertising for example, where a promotion or offer might be “new” and only run for a limited time. The sales copy requirements here need to drive awareness, consideration and trial at the same time. 

But other categories might have a much longer gap between the stages of the brand choice funnel. You might see a car advertisement, but not check out their website for another six months. And it might take another month after that to decide to buy, for example. 

These types of categories need advertising headlines that grab attention, and website or brochure copy that drive consideration before the consumer ever sees the sales copy that essentially ‘seals’ the deal. 

Sales copy and media context

Which brings us to our third and final context area for sales copy, which is where and when the consumer will actually see the sales copy.

You need to consider the media plan which will define the physical location and the time the consumer will ‘experience’ the sales copy. 

For example, is the message delivered in a tangible and traditional way such as being rolled into advertising copy on a billboard or in a magazine?

 

Nighttime advertising billboards

If so, you need to make the process of completing the sale obvious and part of the copy. How do they actually buy and what do you need them to do?

Or, is the sales copy being delivered digitally through a website or through a CRM e-mail? If so, you need to consider the timing of the sales copy. Will the consumer read it at a certain time of day or day of the week. For digital channels, you also have to consider that you can apply digital data insights. You can narrow down and specifically target a key moment in the consumer’s journey.

From a sales copy point of view, because online is interactive, you can also link the sales copy directly to the sales check-out.

It’s important to identify how, where and when the potential customer will see the sales copy. Are they just browsing or are they ready to buy?

This helps clarify how much you can say. It clarifies what you need to focus on. And how best to write the sales copy to be relevant and motivating.

E-Commerce example

For example, in the growing world of e-Commerce, there’s a lot of research about what online shoppers need and want when they shop online.

As you can read about in our article about what online shoppers really want, there are certain benefits like ease and convenience, range and price comparisons that you can tap into. These insights help sharpen and focus the sales copy you write to sell online. 

This sort of insight can help you choose how many and which selling messages to focus on. It can help define the order in which you should write them. 

Online shopping is a great area to try out sales copy. Because when you run your own online store, you can easily test different options. You can check the data and insight they generate to see what sales copy works best for your audience. 

e-marketer amazon shopper driver study

Types of sales copy

So, with these three different types of context, you need to be able to use different types of sales copy to meet the different needs based on context. There are three main types of sales copy. 

At its simplest level, there is sales copy that provides factual information about the product itself to the potential buyer. This factual information has the most impact with low involvement and rational purchase decisions.

But, then there’s sales copy that can create a more emotional connection with a brand and a purchase. Sales copy that can evoke a feeling or an experience that resonates more strongly with a consumer and drives them to a purchase. 

And then finally, there is also sales copy that pulls on psychological triggers associated with buying decisions that come from the field of behavioural sciences. These can be applied to both the factual and emotional sales copy you use, to maximise the chances of a sale. 

Factual information based sales copy

When you provide detailed information about a product to a consumer, it’s a way of building trust that the product will do what you claim it will do. 

You can make this factual information available at multiple parts of the customer experience. It’s mandatory in areas like packaging and with e-Commerce retailers, you can’t sell without it. 

 

Amazon Item Template screengrab

But you can also choose to include it on your website and include selected highlights in your advertising or social media.

When shoppers look for specific features in a product, it’s a way for them to validate your product has those features. How much of an influence this information has, depends on the category and the consumer themselves. 

In some categories, it works as a hygiene factor. Consumers want to know it’s there, but won’t check it. But in other categories, it will be required as a way to help consumers fully evaluate your products and compare them to competitors. 

The aim when you write factual information-based sales copy is to be clear, consistent and comprehensive. 

Clarity

Clarity comes with the way you lay out and articulate the key points. The aim is not to be fancy or clever. Use words that the consumer will easily understand. 

For example, on your packaging or website product pages, create a short list of key bullet points of what the product does. Include any relevant specifications which helps make the sales copy clearer. 

The specifications depend on the product itself, but could include size and weight factors, colours, flavours, ingredients and materials used for example. 

Other, typical information you need to include, especially in e-Commerce, include the Manufacturer Name, the Brand Name, the category the product should appear in (e.g. ‘baby food’ or ‘biscuits’), the EAN barcode number, and usually some limited descriptions of the product which would normally be lifted from the packaging.

Depending on the category, you may also need to provide other items of information like shelf life, whether the product is affected by temperature, if the product is glass or fragile and if there are any usage warnings or restrictions. e.g. in the food world, these could be allergy restrictions.

Consistency

Consistency comes when you are able to apply these details in the same way and in the same detail on all the different touchpoint where they appear. 

It’s important with product information to be consistent. You want to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to find the right product. If your product comes in different colours, make sure these are clear in the product name. If your product comes in different sizes, then the same thing applies. 

Consistency helps the shopper find the right product and be sure it’s the right one when they do find it. Online shoppers expect to be able to find the right product right away. If you haven’t set the naming up properly, you run the risk of losing the sale.

Comprehensiveness

Finally, comprehensiveness comes through when you are able to make the widest range of information available. Not every shopper will want every detail. But every time you leave an information gap, you run the risk of losing a consumer by not making that information available. 

Think about for example, allergy information on food products. Or material sourcing for consumers who are worried about environmental sourcing. If you miss this information out, the consumer will assume you are hiding something and you will not get a sale. Every time you can credibly and legitimately provide this sort of information, you reduce the risk of losing a sale. 

The good news about this type of sales copy is that 

  1. you probably already have the information available so you don’t need to create it from scratch and, 
  1. it can often be relatively automated and put into a system, in particular in e-Commerce channels. 

For example, in our article about product systems, we cover how the likes of Amazon and Google set up standardised templates to hold these types of key product information details per key SKU. 

This means that you can manage them directly.

This also means you can make this product information available to the shopper just when they need it.

It’s also worth checking out this great article on how to write better product information for Amazon.

Amazon logo on phone

Emotional based sales copy

Though most shoppers would argue that they make purchase decisions based on logic and rationality, in actual fact, there’s a lot of more emotional and irrational factors that typically also come into play. This is an important factor to consider in sales copy. If you can tap into emotions, you make it more likely a consumer will choose you over another similar brand. 

 

Emotions and irrationality are part of what makes us who we are. When you connect with emotions, it’s a much more human connection than the almost robotic connection that happens with factual and logical sales copy.

It’s why toilet paper that has pictures of cute puppies, sells better than supermarket own label toilet paper that’s essentially the same product. 

It’s why people buy expensive bottled waters, when it’s the same product they can get for free from their taps. 

And, it’s why some cars – basically hunks of metal with wheels, seats and engines – sell for three or four times as much other hunks of metal that fulfil the exact same rational purpose. 

Heart pin button

Use your market research

It’s important that the sales copy you write links in with any market research you have about what drives purchase decisions beyond the purely functional choices. Because in almost all categories, purchase decisions are a combination of functional and emotional drivers. 

In categories, where consumers perceive product factual benefits to be similar, then how you bring in emotional factors to your sales copy can be what swings the purchase choice to your brand from a competitor. 

You should use market research to identity key motivations, drivers and feelings of your target audience. 

If you have developed a Customer Experience Persona as part of your customer experience development, this will give you direction on how you might use sales copy to appeal to emotions, feelings and experiences. 

Beyond the rational features and benefits of the product, how do you want the potential customer to feel after they buy the product?

Will it make them happier and feel more fulfilled? Will the purchase only benefit themselves or will it benefit a wider group of people like family, friends and work colleagues? 

 

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

This is much more challenging to write because it needs you to understand the potential customer at a much deeper level. But when you can connect at this much deeper level, the impact of the sales copy can be much stronger and longer-lasting. The sales copy can build a much stronger connection to the brand.

Link with brand identity

When you write sales copy that taps into emotions, these emotions need to be consistent with the brand identity.

For example, look at the essence, values and personality of the brand.

How do you use your sales copy to bring these to life at a more emotional level? Is the brand about bringing happiness and joy for example? Or is it more about courage and daring?

These will impact how you write the sales copy. 

Brand identity wheel

Consider the outside of the brand wheel where you will already have done some work on how the brand will make the consumer feel. And what buying the brand says about the consumer. Try to make the sales copy “fit” to these type of key messages that you’ve already worked on.

Your aim is not to persuade the consumer to buy something they don’t need. Your aim is convince them that your product or service can satisfy the need they have. They need to recognise the sales copy as selling benefits that are relevant to their needs. And ideally, they will feel a connection to what the emotional benefit will be.

Psychological based triggers and sales copy

The final area of sales copy uses more psychological insights into what drives purchasing behaviour. These psychological insights can act as ‘multipliers’ on the impact of factual and emotional sales copy. These are sales copy trigger words or concepts you can build in to your writing to nudge a potential customer closer to a sale. 

These types of sales copy triggers are easier to apply where you have control over the message and where and when it’s seen. If you have to go through a third party such as selling though an e-retailer, you can still use these. But you may have to pay or be limited to how and where you can use them.

However, when you run your own online store, they can be a powerful way to boost your sales copy. There are many books and articles about these types of psychology triggers that come from the world of behavioural science. If it’s a topic that interests you, we recommend The Choice Factory by Richard Schotton as a great place to start. 

“How” is the message presented in context?

So, first thing to consider is that normally when we talk sales copy, we mean the words you use to sell.

But the selling experience is much more than words. 

So, for example, you can tap into associated areas like the psychology of colour.

If the words appear in print or on screen, can you tap into mental associations such as using Red to indicate danger. 

 

Colour psychology - an applied use of colour in marketing

So, when a sale offer is about to expire for example, have it flash in red to capture attention. If your sales copy talks about the environmental benefits of the purchase, have the signature colours and buy now buttons be green to tap into those psychological associations.

Remove the pain of payment

A big part of sales copy writing is then often how you frame the price and offer. 

When consumers spend money, it’s essentially like a small “pain” they feel when they give something away.

So aim to use psychological factors to try to remove some of this pain. And a lot of that pain relates to the price and payment. 

Charm pricing

For example, think about “charm pricing”, where the price ends in a .99. Going back to the rational and emotional parts of the buying decision, rationally, taking .01 away from the price should not make a big difference.

But it has been repeatedly shown, that this has a disproportionate impact on the chances of a sale. 

When it comes to charm pricing, it’s believed that consumers prioritise the first part of the price. And pays less attention to the second part.

So, when comparing a $9.99 and $10.00 price option, the “9” and the “10” are what the brain focus on, and not the “99” and “00”. The brand sends a 10% cheaper signal, even if the reality is a 0.1% difference. 

Credit card payment

Range pricing and primacy

This can also be used when you have to list out a number of prices. Consumers will judge prices by the first price that they see. This is known as the primacy effect, where the first number becomes an anchor for all the rest.

If you want to have a range of prices perceived as good value, start with the lowest and work up. But if you want to have a range of prices perceived as premium or high quality, do the opposite.

Consider also, that most people rarely pick the most or least expensive option, and tend to go somewhere in the middle. You can deliberately choose the most and least expensive options to make your middle option seem more attractive.

You can also use factors like highlighting convenient payment options in your sales copy. It’s less ‘painful’ to pay by card than it is with cash, because you don’t see the money during the transaction. If you offer options to pay in instalments, focus on getting the payment per instalment as low as possible. People tend to focus more on the amount they need to pay each time. Not how often or how long they need to pay.

Positive and honest sales copy sells more

Another way to remove the ‘pain’ or a purchase is to focus on the positive elements of the sale.

Quick and easy access to the product, or the benefit of the product for example. 

The closer the gratification moment is, or the more positive the consumer feels when they make the purchase, the less ‘pain’ they feel. 

Honest

Think about the context of when the potential customer will see the sales copy. Will they see it when they are stressed and in a rush? Or will the see it when they are relaxed and feeling good? Because they are more likely to buy in the latter situation.

If there’s a sales story as to why a product is on promotion, be honest and share that. People are intrinsically wired to be wary of sales copy that seems too polished, that’s “too good to be true”.

If you can admit any flaws (sometimes called the Pratfall effect), this actually helps to boost sales. It makes you come across as more trustworthy. For online reviews for example, people rarely trust 5.0 star ratings, and a few bad reviews that knock you down to a 4.5 for example will actually help you drive more sales.

Sense of urgency

One of the most common sales copy techniques is to create some sort of timeframe for consumers to buy. This create a sense of urgency. 

 

Days
Hours
Minutes
Seconds

We’ve all had that experience of “this offer only valid for the next 15 minutes” when buying something online. If you think about it, there’s no real reason for the offer only to be valid that long. It’s an effective sales copy technique to close a sale though.

It plays to a psychological driver that what the consumer “has” now, (the temporary offer), won’t be available in the future, and that they will somehow have missed out if they don’t buy. A countdown timer or a hard deadline is a strong way to trigger action. 

Scarcity

Similarly, when you stress the scarcity of an item, this also increases the likelihood of someone buying. No-one likes to feel that they are potentially missing out on something. 

Travel websites use this a lot. “Only 2 rooms / flights left at this price” is a good example of businesses using scarcity in their sales copy as a way to finalise a sale. 

It’s another psychological trigger, that when something is in abundance, we want it less. But the less of something there is, the more you want it. Clever sales copy writers can often build this in to their message to increase the chances of a sale. 

Social proof

Similarly, if you are able to generate reviews or endorsements for your product, these can help build up a sense of social proof in your offer.

Consumers rarely want to take the risk to be first to try a new product or service. 

But, when they see that others have bought your product and service, consumers will feel more confident in buying it themselves. It gives a validation and reduces the perceived risk to buy. 

Zero likes - Advertising evaluation and social media

Specific online store offers

If you run your own store, rather than selling through an online retailer, you have even more scope to influence the sale.

Think about how your delivery mechanics work. Can you get a product to a consumer faster? Can you get them free shipping if they order over a certain amount.

These are the sorts of ‘offers’ you can write great sales copy about.

They can help finalise a sale and make a consumer feel confident you are good online seller.

Three-brains online shop screenshot

Build the consumer’s confidence

You also want to build the confidence the shopper has in the purchase. You want to reduce any sense of risk they might be feeling.

If you have money back or refund guarantees, make sure these are clear just before the purchase point. If you offer free after-service and support, make this clear too. Everyone likes to feel like they are getting something ‘extra’ when they purchase, so if there are any upgrades or additional services you can offer, consider how you will build these into your e-commerce writing.

Sales copy writing conclusion

Writing good sales copy can massively impact the growth of your business. But, it’s a challenging skill to get right. It means you really be able to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. When you write sales copy, it needs to be as if you are having a direct conversation with them. As if they were an old friend. They need to feel they trust you and believe you before they will buy. 

This high level of trust means you need to make sure the sales copy you write fits with your brand identity. Aim to make it authentic and genuine. While some of the more psychological techniques we cover here might feel manipulative and therefore not authentic, bear in mind that your target audience is not stupid. 

If the consumer sees a relevant benefit for themselves that is clear through your sales copy, that’s what really matters. Ideally sales copy drives a transaction that is of lasting benefit to both the consumer and your brand. 

Good sales copy is an important part of the customer experience. That includes packaging, advertising, websites and in online stores. Writing sales copy that drives a purchase is a key way to raise your creative game. 

Three-brains and writing

We have a lot of experience and expertise in business writing, and especially in sales copy writing. 

From creating and commissioning writing to the editing and refining of it for marketing and e-Commerce purposes.

We specialise in coaching and advising on how to raise your business writing skills. Whether you use writers, manage it in-house or want to build your own writing skills. We can help. 

If you want to know more about how we can support your business writing needs  through our coaching and consulting services, click the button below to get in touch.

Latest Writing blog posts