Step-By-Step Landing Page Copywriting
The Web App Challenge | February 19th, 2013
Let me start by warning you: This is a long post. I want to take you through the process of writing and designing the ConvertKit sales page. As you’ll see, I had a huge amount of help from Amy Hoy. Throughout the process she gave great advice on copywriting that I’d like to share here. Besides, what’s better than an actual example?
The short version
The short version is a series of takeaways I learned throughout this process.
- Make your headlines speak to a pain your visitors have. A good headline should catch their attention and get them reading.
- Multi-column explanation graphics can be hard to read. Be careful of anything that breaks up the reading flow too much.
- Don’t be accusatory with your headlines or copy. How would you feel if a random website said you are doing everything wrong?
- Show, don’t tell.
- Write your copy first, then design it. It’s hard to write and design at the same time. Definitely don’t design first, then write copy to fill in the blanks. That’s really bad.
- Try this formula: First write out the pains, then write out the reversal of those pains (dreams).
From the beginning
To start I opened Photoshop and started writing and designing at the same time. Here is my first draft. There are a few filler elements like the planet icon.
I sent that draft to Amy and received some great feedback. Here’s what she said:
- The most effective way to convert your visitors into customers. “Generally, when people hit a landing page, they’re not already looking for a solution. Let’s say they just clicked a link in an email and they’re sitting at their desk sipping their coffee, not thinking of anything particular. Will this headline grab them by the nose and make them sit up straighter?”
- With most visitors you will never get another chance to engage with them since you don’t have a method to contact them. Plus, you didn’t deliver any value, so why should they return?
“This is a great pain point. But it’s hiding in the corner!”
- (Regarding the process illustration)
“I love the way these sketchy things look, but they are focused on the app and not the customer (before the customer is tempted to care), and they’re hard to read. I & my students have all had bad results with the multi-column “explanation” layouts. They are simply hard to read; and unless people are incredibly motivated, their eyes will just kinda drift around until they decide it’s not worth the investment, and stop reading.”
- The ConvertKit process helps you build trust with your visitors. Best of all, ConvertKit automates everything for you.
“Are people going “OMG I GOTTA BUILD TRUST” or “OMG I NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE SALES”? I’d say trust is a byproduct, but not the one they’re immediately looking for. You have to sell them on trust, too.”
With that feedback in mind I redesigned and partially rewrote the page. The main changes were that I worked on a new headline, changed the order of the elements on the page, and redid the illustrations so that they fit into a single column. Here’s the updated design.
The next round of feedback came in the form of a Skype chat. Here’s the transcript.
Amy: So about your new landing page. So much better.
It does still feels a bit forced. So I love questions as headlines and the one you have is very painful.
Good. I wrote out half a dozen headlines trying to get at the core pain.
How would you feel, though, if a stranger came up to you and said “You’re losing hundreds of sales.”?
Who the hell are you to tell me what’s wrong with my business…
Right, me too. Not because you’re not interested in getting extra sales, but because it SOUNDS like you’re being attacked.
I tell my students to be very careful with statements that might sound accusatory.
So how would you pull it back while still catching attention?
The pain itself — brilliant. just needs to be dealt with a little more obliquely. how about “How many sales are you losing? or… “Windowshoppers who never come back…” not that exact headline but the idea that they lose POTENTIAL customers. “What if you could double your sales?” is something you could use when you have statistics for a case study.
“Are you frustrated by the potential sales you are losing?”
I’m a fan of using emotion words but sometimes they can just be redundant.
“Does your conversion rate keep you up at night?”
I like that.
Generally show, don’t tell… don’t say “you’re frustrated”… SHOW the results of being frustrated. You can have it :)
Is it better to focus on conversion rate or sales?
Now that I don’t know. Depends on a lot of factors. A good target for an a/b test when you have traffic. You’re aiming this at self-described marketers/growth hackers etc. And they are probably used to using the term “conversion rate” instead of “sales”. That’s my guess. But I could be wrong.
Yep, that’s true.
I do know that accusatory-sounding copywriting doesn’t go down well, without having to test. :) Buying involves letting down some defenses so if you get people freaked out first thing, not gonna happen.
Yeah, I hadn’t read it from that perspective, but as soon as you brought it up I knew what you meant.
Yeah, everybody needs extra eyeballs on their copy :)
So running with the title: “Does your conversion rate keep you up at night?”… Does it need a subheadline?
Which brings us to the next bit of feedback I have! That’s a question you can’t answer without knowing what you’re trying to say & what the customer needs to hear to make a decision. You designed (or repurposed) this page layout before you did the copywriting, right?
I did them at the same time. But the copy has changed a lot, and the layout not so much.
Did you have more of your design hat on, or your copywriting hat?
I can tell :) which is the major mistake I made on http://letsfreckle.com ‘s redesign. but the content is what will sell your product, not the layout. The question isn’t, does it need a subheadline? but rather… what does the customer need to hear?
Agreed. Though that is a lesson I am still learning.
It’s tough. Clearly I am not immune to it. A very famous copywriter once said that the job of the headline is to get you to read the first sentence. And the job of the first sentence is to get you to read the second sentence. So the job of your headline is to get them to read the next sentence… or the subhead. Whatever makes sense, given the “conversation” you’re having with the customer in your copy.
Okay. So would you always write copy as a letter, then design from there?
Imagine if your sales page is a conversation, as it stands, and not a collection of design elements and copy bits. I would now, yes. And that’s the approach that works fabulously for my students, and the one I’ll be using to redo the freckle page as part of a 30×500 project. :)
And I would start with bullet points:
What it’d be like without the pains:
(which I call dream)
Fix: how this product will take the pains and turn them into dreams.
It’s a 3-act narrative structure and it works beautifully for sales, too.
The more immediate the pains are — the more vivid, and recently experienced, and detailed, and urgent — the stronger your persuasion is.
This won’t persuade somebody who doesn’t already experience that pain, however. That’s the beauty of it. They simply will go “Huh. Okay? Not for me.”
Is “I need to build trust” a burning pain? :)
No. At least not yet.
Example: “Does your conversion rate keep you up at night? Me too. After all, what’s the point of driving more traffic if you can’t turn that into sales?”
So the surface pain is poor conversion rates, so we need to get to what is driving that. I think two main issues that prevent sales are not understanding the product and not trusting the seller.
1 sec, I gotta taste the tomato sauce. Agreed, those are major reasons why people don’t buy. Also, they just get distracted and forget. Or you don’t immediately grab them… although that’s not something you can EASILY solve with software. I think those two things (in reverse order) are much bigger reasons.
ConvertKit helps with distraction and forgetting as well.
Yes it does :) “ConvertKit can’t write your sales page for you, BUT…” the question is, are you in the biz of selling them facts about sales, or persuading them?
Persuasion is better.
Poor conversion rates
- lack of trust from visitors
- not understanding the product
- getting distracted and forgetting
- Ability to gradually explain product
- Build trust over time
- Regular followup to stay top of mind
Is something like that what you are thinking?
Getting there! Sorry, then my friends arrived early. So under poor conversion rates, you switch immediately to THEIR *customer’s* reasons… not YOUR customer’s pains.
No worries. I’ll take another pass at it with these ideas.
From my perspective, as a serious potential customer, my pain points are… I know what I ought to be doing (capturing emails when people don’t immediately buy). I’m not doing it because the software is so irritating. Have you set up autoresponders? They’re a bitch.
I hate setting up autoresponders. That’s why I’m building this product.
Right. So what’s your potential customer more likely thinking… “****ing auto-responders,” or “Gee, I really need to build trust” :)
“You know what you should be doing, but you don’t because IT’S SUCH A ****ING PAIN!”
That’s how I feel.
Yep. Not “I need to build trust,” which is TRUE… but nobody is going around thinking that. Therefore it’s a weak sales proposition. The best way to gain trust, btw, is to show the customer you really understand them. Something I hear a lot is, “It’s like you wrote this just for me.” “It’s like you’ve been spying on me.” That == persuasion gold.
So should I explain the process at all? Or just focus on the people who understand drip marketing and don’t do it because of the pain?
Education is great, if you focus on the customer’s immediate pain. which is A) sales and/or B) software frustration. You could be like, “A lot of customers aren’t ready to buy right away. What happens to them? You lose them forever.” The key is to keep the focus on the pain until they’re like, “YEAH, that really IS a problem!”
And you still teach them to build trust but you kinda sneak it into something they REALLY care about. Like how I don’t pitch 30×500 as a big long research project. :)
I guess I’m still not sure which is more important, teaching them how to improve conversion rates through this process, or showing them how this process (which they already understand) is made easier with ConvertKit.
Though there has to be a way to do both, but I’m not seeing it.
They’re not two different things. :) If you go with “They’re not ready to buy right away… you lose them… what if you didn’t?” in a broader outline, you could easily pivot.
The pivot could look something like this: “Now I bet many of you already know this process works. So why don’t you use it? I know the reason I didn’t was because it is such a pain to setup.”
That leads beautifully into talking about a few features that make life easy. Easy landing pages, autoresponders, etc. Now I see it. (Also, I don’t want to keep you from your friends…)
Yup, no problem! I’m ALSO talking about furniture with my friend Ilya.
So if I were gonna give you homework, it’d be to work on an outline, vivid pain points, and that pivot in an outline… and then just write pure copy. Then let that show you how the page should be laid out.
Copy and furniture. Two of your favorite things.
TRUTH I’m in hog heaven. And they brought guac!
Happy to help you when you get that outline ready. You don’t need to go through the whole process before asking for more feedback. But, again, I’d just like to say that you did make huge improvements from the first design you showed me, to the second.
Perfect. I’ll write that and send it to you. Thank you very much.
I think to really make it perfect, you’ll just need to step back some.
You’re welcome! It really is a pleasure to help somebody who helps himself.
:) Have a good evening!
You too! ciao
Time for a rewrite
That was a long conversation. I learned a lot, but the major takeaway was that it was time to rewrite from scratch. Or at least, try a new format. This time I turned to Google Docs and wrote in plain text. By getting design out of the way I was left to focus on convincing the visitor with content, rather than getting caught up in the design.
Here is the version I wrote:
Does your conversion rate keep you up at night?
I constantly worry about the hundreds of visitors who come to my site and don’t make a purchase. Especially because most of these visitors will never come back.
If you don’t capture their attention on that first visit, you lose them. But what if you didn’t?
Your current sales process
I’m guessing your current sales process looks something like this:
1. Visitor comes to landing page and is asked to purchase a product.
2. A few are convinced and purchase, but most hit the back button and never return.
Ouch. That’s not good. Remember all those hours you spent writing blog posts and building traffic? Most of that’s wasted by poor conversion rates.
Luckily, there’s a better way.
Sales pages are like an awkward conversation
Imagine you and I met for the first time on the street. After a quick introduction I ask, “Do you by chance work with software?”
“Yes, I’m a developer.” you respond.
“Perfect! I just wrote a book about designing better web applications. Would you like to buy it?”
That’s awkward. Right then you are probably thinking that we just met 30 seconds earlier and you have no reason to trust me. What indications do you have that I even know anything about designing software? It’s probably a good time to say something noncommittal like, “I’ll check it out,” and find a way to exit the conversation.
This scenario seems completely ridiculous when described in person, but it actually matches the sales process I described above.
When selling products visitors often come straight to the product sales page. This could be from a link on Twitter, an ad, or something else where they have never heard of you before. So why are you asking them to buy right away?
A better way
Instead, let’s teach this random stranger something. Provide them value, help them accomplish their goals, and build trust before asking for anything from them. Here’s how it works online:
- Visitor comes to landing page and is offered a free eBook.
- The eBook is emailed to them. Clicking the link to the book confirms their email address.
- While subscribing they were also given an opportunity to opt-into a free 30 day email course.
- As you deliver more valuable content for free over email, your subscriber’s trust in you increases.
- Only after the subscriber has gotten to know you and understands the value of your product do you ask for the sale.
Using this process you capture more leads up front, have more time to talk to the visitor about your product, and only ask for the sale after they have a reason to trust you. Best of all, if they forget about your product, which is likely, you have the opportunity to remind them in a future conversation.
Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you read through that saying, “I already knew that.” If so, I’ve got one quick question: Why don’t you use it?
If you’re like me, it’s because it is really painful to set up, between designing the landing page, coding a way to gather subscribers’ information, automating the delivery of an incentive, and then finally creating and delivering a course. You can code your own solution or combine a bunch of different web applications to get it done.
No matter how you do it, the process is time consuming and very frustrating. What if it could be easy?
That’s why I made ConvertKit, to take this proven marketing process and automate it with a single tool.
- Start by creating a new landing page in seconds. We take care of the design and layout, so you can focus on writing compelling content.
- Once the page is in place, upload an incentive, like a guide or training video, to give your visitors for subscribing.
- Set up an email course that will teach your subscribers. Our interface makes it easier to write a course as a series of lessons. Easily refer back to what you said in the previous email, and move ahead to write the next one. Auto-responders and email sequences have never been this easy.
With all the technical challenges taken care of, you are free to focus on delivering value to your readers. This will increase your readership, build trust, and ultimately increase sales.
Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news for you. ConvertKit isn’t quite ready for you to use it yet. But trust me, I’m sick of implementing this process with clunky software, so I’m just as eager as you for ConvertKit to be ready.
In the meantime, I’d like to teach you other ways to improve your conversion rates.
I want you to be able to fall asleep at night thinking about happy customers and money in the bank, not crummy conversion rates. So I put together this short guide on 10 ways to improve your conversion rate. Download it now, and I promise I’ll let you know when ConvertKit is ready.
Want to be first?
If you’d love what I just shared and want to be very first to use ConvertKit, you can preorder it today. When you preorder your first 3 months I’ll also give you one month free. Plus you’ll get a 25% discount for life. Not bad, right?
[Followed by an FAQ]
Reworking the rewrite
I sent that off to Amy and she made quite a few more changes. She kept a lot of my ideas, but often changed out my plain words for something more meaningful. Watch for words like “sabotaged” and “drove.” Also note that she cut a lot of content. Mine was far too long and she got rid of the extra fluff.
Does your conversion rate keep you up at night?
Like you, I run a product business (with two ebooks and counting!). I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my conversion rates. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and researching.
Here’s what I see as the fundamental problem:
Your funnel has a hole in it
Imagine you and I met for the first time on the street. After a quick introduction I ask, “Do you by chance work with software?”
“Yes, I’m a developer,” you respond.
“Perfect! I just wrote a book about designing better web applications. Would you like to buy it for $39?”
How many sales do you think I could make this way?
This scenario seems completely ridiculous… but isn’t it exactly how we expect things to happen with our web-based sales pages?
We expect a stranger to buy from us the very first time we “meet.” Usually, they don’t. And that’s it. Then… you lose them forever.
Ouch. All those hours you spent writing blog posts and building traffic and tuning your landing page, sabotaged.
A way to fix a leaky funnel… and capture sales from wary visitors
But what if you didn’t lose them forever? What if you had the opportunity to persuade them over and over again, over a period of weeks? To build trust and demonstrate why your product is right for them?
Imagine if your sales process looked more like this:
- Your would-be customer hits your landing page. She’s not ready to buy, but look, what’s that? A free ebook? A set of tips? A recorded interview? Unsubscribe at any time? That’s not much of a commitment, she doesn’t lose a thing, and hey, free stuff.
- She receives your free goodie (ebook, report, tip #1). Clicking the link to the freebie confirms her email address.
- She enjoys the freebie. And so you email her a few more useful tips, here and there. Every email shows her that your advice is good, and you know what you’re talking about.
- Once she’s tried your free advice for herself, and she’s seen the quality of what you create — you ask for the sale. You’re not a stranger anymore, you’re an advisor. She is five to 10 times more likely to buy.
Do this, and you’ll have managed to turn a potentially creepy sales scenario into a valuable, trust-building conversation. This also means your would-be customer won’t simply forget about you (which I believe is a major reason for low conversion rates!).
“I already know that.”
You probably do already know this is what you “should” be doing. You also know that this kind of process can be a pain in the butt to implement.
You’ve got to design your landing page, code a way to gather your would-be customer’s information, automate the delivery of your first incentive, then finally write (or record) and deliver a set of follow-up tips, lessons, or sales pitches.
Whether you custom-roll a solution or try to integrate with existing tools (which don’t handle email courses very well), you’re going to spend a lot of time and annoyance on setting this all up.
So you haven’t. Yet.
What if it all you had to do was supply great content?
All of the above drove me to design ConvertKit.
I knew I should be using that sales process. But setting it up was a major pain.
I wanted to make it as easy as writing the content, to implement this proven marketing process.
When you use ConvertKit, all you have to do is…
- Create a new landing page in seconds. We take care of the design and layout, so you can focus on writing compelling content.
- Upload an incentive, like a guide or training video to tease your visitors into subscribing.
- Write a few helpful emails that’ll teach your subscribers (and one or two that ask for the sale!). Our interface makes it extremely fast to set up a sequence of emails to deliver an email course, or set of tips, in order. Auto-responders and email sequences have never been this easy.
With ConvertKit taking care of the technical challenges, you can focus on delivering value to your readers. Capture drive-by visitors. Build trust. Create sales. Double or triple (or more!) your total conversion rate.
Be the First to Fix Your Funnel with ConvertKit
ConvertKit is currently under heavy development (not quite ready for you yet!). I’m just as eager as you for ConvertKit to be ready… and sick of the tedious work of setting up this sales process with other generalized tools.
While you wait, I’d like to teach you 10 other ways to improve your conversion rates.
I put together this quick guide to help you get started making more sales today. It’s free. All you need to do is enter your email address and it’ll pop straight to your inbox:
There’s no obligation, cancel at any time, never spam you ever, etc.
(And you’ll be among the first to know when ConvertKit is ready!)
And… a special opportunity for a lifetime discount.
First; try my free conversion rate optimization guide. See what I’m up to.
If you love the the idea of making your sales funnel leak-proof with ConvertKit, and if you want to be very first to use ConvertKit, you can preorder it today.
Preorder just your first three months and you’ll get one month free. Plus, as a thank-you for your support, you’ll receive a 25% discount for life. (Starting at $x per month, forever!) Making more money and saving money? Not too shabby, right?
[Followed by an FAQ]
As I read through Amy’s changes I found myself nodding my head with each change. The new order made a lot more sense, the sentences she removed were redundant, and the length was perfect. I recommend reading through them both side-by-side to compare!
With a few minor changes that is the version we went with. You can see it live on ConvertKit.com. If for some reason the page has changed when you are reading this you can find a version of the design below.
Looking at this page now it still has a few issues, but in the interest of shipping software, I decided to go live with it anyway. Amy pointed out that my design of this page breaks up the reading flow. So even though I wrote it first as a letter, people may not read it that way. The solution would be to add fewer lines, font changes, and other designy elements. I mostly agree…
So far 6,397 people have visited the page and 228 people have subscribed to the email list. So a 3.6% conversion rate. Not as high as I would have liked, but a lot of that traffic was from Hacker News, which always converts a bit lower.
I hope you enjoyed reading through this process. Since you made it all the way to the bottom of this post you obviously care about marketing and copywriting (or you’re just obsessed with me… which is weird), so you should sign up for the mailing list on ConvertKit.com. I’ll be sending out a lot of great related content.
If this resonated with you and you want to improve your marketing, preorder ConvertKit. Seriously, you’ll love it!