Copywriting – Guiding Your Prospects Through The Ten Gates

So this week my main task is to complete a first draft of the copy for my membership site sales letter.

Copywriting is a massive subject in the direct response and internet marketing arena. You could enroll on several months long courses and then still spend years studying the subject. However here I want to give an overview of how I usually approach copywriting. I hope you find it helpful.

The way I was first taught copywriting was to imagine the sales page is like a path leading to a buy button. There are several gates along this path that you have to entice the reader through. Get this right and you convert a prospect to a customer, but if even one gate does not work as it should the sale is lost.

Gate 1: The Headline

The first gate you have to get your reader through is to simply get them to start reading. The rest of the sales page is wasted if you cannot manage this . The device we use to get their attention is the headline. This should be a simple, clear and understandable statement or promise that grabs their attention and makes them want to read on. Take a look at some sales pages and find the headlines that grab your attention. Another good place for headline ideas is the subject lines of emails. After all, they are also trying to grab your attention.

Gate 2: The Problem

The next gate down the sales page path is to engage the reader’s interest. You do this with content that is relevant to the reader. The product or service you are selling should be targeted at solving a problem that is of concern to them. In this part of the sales page you clearly show the problem.

Gate 3: Pain

Next you emphasise how bad the problem is. This part always reminds me of something a historian once wrote about Churchill’s first days as Prime Minister during the Second World War. He said that Churchill used to go to Parliament and deliver the bad news as if he was throwing hunks of raw meat into a lion’s den. I believe the historian meant that Churchill was trying to start a feeding frenzy, mounting the problems up so that when he presented a solution it would be grasped at thankfully.

This is what you need to do on your sales page. Emphasise the pain that the problem can cause, make the prospect realise just how bad the situation is, how worse it can get and that it is vital they find a solution. You can also  show some empathy here by mentioning that you have been in this situation and you know exactly how bad it can be. This is also where you can let the reader know that you have solved this problem yourself in the past and that what you have to say is worth listening to.

Gate 4: Your Solution

Now that you’ve led them through the gates into an area of darkest despair it’s time to present your solution. This is where you introduce your product and the benefits it can bring them. If you are working in a competitive area you should include the unique benefits of your product and why it is better than the solutions offered by your competitors.

Gate 5: Proof

If the reader is still interested the next gate to lead them through is the one that leads to independent proof about the benefits of your product. This may be in the form of testimonials, endorsements or case studies.

Gate 6: The Offer

Next, having built the case for your solution, you make the offer. This is usually done by telling the prospect how much your product is worth and then offering it for less. Ideally they will be able to see the value of your offer and find it irresistible.

If you have guided your prospect correctly through the gates so far they will be convinced of the benefits and value of investing in your product. From this point on the last set of gates is all about getting them to actually buy.

Gate 7: Scarcity

One of the challenges of selling on the internet is the perception that it is ever-present and all-knowing. By now the prospect should be convinced your product can help them solve their problem. However they’ll be under the impression that if your offer is online today it will still be there tomorrow, and next week, and the week after. It’s not as if the internet is going away or is only available for a limited time. They also might be tempted to research other products because they know the internet is a great source of information.

To counteract this you need to introduce some scarcity. This is usually done in one of two ways. You either say the product will be taken off the market soon as it is only available for a limited time , or you say there are only a limited number of copies available.

However you introduce scarcity the most important thing is that it is genuine. In the past many marketers have made the mistake of using automatic countdown software that resets once it gets to zero. Too often customers have returned to the sales page and found that the time or quantity was not as limited as it first appeared. This false scarcity has damaged this gate’s effectiveness, so make sure the limited availability is genuine.

Gate 8: The Guarantee

Next you introduce a guarantee. The whole point of a guarantee is to remove the risk of buying your product. Your prospect must be confident they will get their money back if they don’t get the results you have promised . A well worded guarantee will encourage more sales than demands for refunds, as long as you are selling a good product.

Gate 9: Call to Action

The next gate is often overlooked by those new to copywriting. It is the call to action. You may believe that by this point the prospect is keen to click on the buy button, but the fact is you can lose some sales if you don’t tell the reader exactly what they should do next. Tell them to click on the buy button and let them know what will happen after they do. Guide them through the process so that they will be comfortable and confident about getting out their credit card and purchasing your product.

Gate 10: The P.S.

If you have set up the gates correctly so far a number of your prospects will buy. However there will be some who are still hesitant. There is one more gate to set up and this is often presented in the form of a P.S.

There are a couple of ways you can present this. You could summarise the benefits of your product and emphasise the value, reminding your prospect of the reasons to buy. An alternative is to outline the consequences of not buying your product. This usually involves getting the reader to imagine how their situation will be unchanged if they do not buy and compare that with how much better life will be after they have used your product to solve their problem.

The P.S. is then followed by a repeat of the call to action.

So, a total of ten gates to guide your prospect through. It may seem a lot to work, but I have found that breaking down the sales page into these components and realising that each gate is important has helped to break up what can seem an overwhelming task.

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